A Waiting Game

 Posted by at 12:09 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 242021
 

Everything is on hold, waiting for my last proofreader to do the final read-through of my new John Lee Quarrels book, Ka-Bar Karma. The book is formatted except for any last-minute changes, the cover is ready to go, the teaser chapter of the next book in the series is written and attached to the end of this one, and my author’s newsletter is completed and just waiting for the book to be live so I can include the links to it. So it’s a waiting game at this point, and I’m eager to get it out.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide on my next book. In the normal progression I have been writing on, it should be the fourth book in the Tinder Street series. However we had planned to take a trip up to northern Ohio to do some more research for this book in the series, and Covid has kept us from doing that. I’ve been doing as much research as I can online for it but running into some roadblocks. So I may jump forward and do the next Big Lake book first and then the Tinder Street, once I can get enough of the information I need. You would think most everything you are looking for can be found online these days, but sometimes you have to go to historical museums and places like that to find what you need if you want your book to be accurate. I’ll give it a couple more days before I make a decision on which way to go on that.

I mentioned that Terry and I have been binge-watching Jamestown, and we are about midway through the third and final season. I’m going to be sorry to see this one end because it has really captured us, being the history buffs that we are.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. We see this truck parked on US Highway 1 here in Edgewater, Florida all the time. Is this what happens when Fed Ex and UPS merge?

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I don’t like making plans for the day ahead of time, because then the word premeditated gets thrown around in the courtroom.

Sep 232021
 

Thank you to everyone who sent good wishes for my appointment with the neurologist yesterday. We still really don’t know much more than I did when we went in, except that the headaches I have been having are not signs of another stroke. The nurse practitioner we talked to said that strokes take things away, such as blurred vision or loss of mobility or speech. Not always much, but at least some during the episode. She said they do not present with pain.

So what is causing the head pain? She said she didn’t know. It could be migraines, it could be a small bit of shrapnel touching on a nerve, as one doctor at the VA said, or it could be something undetermined as of yet. They are scheduling me for an MRI of my head since they couldn’t find anything from the CT scan I had done recently.

As for the previous stroke, which we just learned about from the CT scan, she said that could have happened anytime in the last two years. We have pretty much narrowed it down to the dizzy episode I had back in the summer of 2019 that precipitated the temporal arteritis biopsies. She said it might be a one-time thing, or it might happen again, and there’s really no way to determine that.

I will admit that I’m somewhat concerned, because at the end of her life my mother had a series of strokes, and each time, less of her came back until there was nothing left and she was in a vegetative state. But I’m not going to dwell on it. I’m going to do everything I can to stay healthy and happy.

Speaking of staying healthy, we have been looking forward to getting our COVID booster shots as soon as they become available. The VA has already been giving them to some veterans with compromised immune systems and things like that, and while we were at the doctor’s office yesterday, they asked if we wanted the boosters. Apparently, our age and health issues make us eligible right now, so we have an appointment to get them on Saturday morning. We are definitely looking forward to getting that done.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Don’t waste your time on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing.

What’s The Point?

 Posted by at 12:03 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 222021
 

The other day I got a message from someone who said that she has read my blog comments before about how Terry and I cuddle for half an hour or so first thing every morning and again every night before we go to sleep. She said, “I don’t mean to be too personal, but I guess I am, because I have to ask if you are bragging or if you are taking some kind of super Viagra that has you two having sex that often? My husband and I are a year or two younger than you, and we don’t have that kind of stamina.”

I replied that we cuddle and kiss and talk and enjoy being together, but that doesn’t mean we’re having sex each time. Usually, we are not. Her response blew me away when she asked, “Then what’s the point?”

What’s the point? I wasn’t sure what to say to that. The point is that we love one another and we love being close. The times we spend together like that are very intimate, but intimacy doesn’t have to be sexual. Terry and I both have always believed that there’s a lot more to making love than the physical act of having sex.

Holding hands in the car or as we walk through a parking lot, or in bed at night, opening doors for her, the caresses she gives as she passes me while I’m sitting at my desk or in my recliner, the hundred times a day we say I love you, the compliments and the little looks we exchange, those are all part of making love and always will be for us, no matter how old we are.

We have been together for 24 years now and it has been that way from the start. I feel sorry for anybody who doesn’t have that in a relationship. And I really feel bad for anyone who thinks that the only time for intimacy and cuddling is when they are having sex, because they have no idea what they are missing. Keep in mind that our largest and most powerful sex organ is our brain.

On another note, I have an appointment with a neurologist today to see if he can give me an answer to my ongoing head pain. It’s not nearly as severe as it was a few weeks ago, but it’s been there to some degree about 60% of the time since the onset. Send some good vibes my way, if you have any to spare.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – You don’t need someone to complete you, you only need someone to accept you completely.

The Ocoee Massacre

 Posted by at 12:12 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 212021
 

A marble memorial at the site of a former African American cemetery in Ocoee, Florida, is a reminder of a shameful time in our history when good men and women perished in the face of bigotry and hatred.

1920 was a very tense time in America, especially in the South. Racial tensions were running high, injustices were commonplace, and violence was an everyday threat. It was a dangerous time to be an African-American.

Black men had served in World War I and returned home thinking they had earned a place in society, only to learn that the civil liberties they had fought to ensure for people overseas were denied to them in their own country. At the same time, the racist movie Birth of a Nation was touring the country to sell-out audiences of white citizens who felt threatened by both the emerging role blacks were playing and by foreign immigration.

A series of race riots and lynchings had taken place during the summer of 1919 in many American cities, known as the “Red Summer” for the blood that was shed. The Ku Klux Klan was experiencing a resurgence as bigoted whites tried to hang onto the status quo. Florida was a hotbed of activity, and it has been reported the state led the nation in lynchings per capita.

In 1920, the unincorporated community of Ocoee, near Orlando, was home to about a thousand people, slightly less than half of them black. These African-Americans lived in two neighborhoods, Methodist Quarters on the northern side and Baptist Quarters to the south. While many of the black members of the community were laborers or field hands in the local orange groves, several were businessmen and landowners who had attained some degree of affluence.

Many local whites were angered by this success and felt threatened by the prospect of blacks challenging the white supremacy that had reigned in the area forever. They knew that land equaled power and did not want blacks owning property or moving forward.

The campaign for the United States Senate seat in the area added greatly to the aura of danger that was hanging over Ocoee as the summer drew to a close. Traditionally, the white population had supported the Democratic party and maintained control of the voting process to make sure nothing changed. Very few black citizens voted, if any.

That year a Republican judge named John M. Cheney made a bid for the Senate, and the Republican party began to organize the black community to vote. Two strong supporters of Judge Cheney were Julius “July” Perry and Mose Norman, both prosperous black landowners. The two encouraged their fellow African-Americans to register to vote, even paying their poll tax.

Mose Norman had already earned the enmity of the local white population for his success. He owned a nice house, a farm, an orange grove, and drove a fancy convertible. Realizing how important his land was, he had rejected an offer of $1,000 an acre from a white businessman.

This activity did not go unnoticed by the local Ku Klux Klan, who sent a threatening letter to Judge Cheney. When that did not stop blacks from registering to vote, the Klan held a march through the community in full regalia, 500 strong, to send a message to the blacks to stay away from the polls.

On November 2, 1920, Election Day, Julius Perry and Mose Norman defied the Ku Klux Klan and went to the polls to vote. They were turned away and sent a message to Judge Cheney, who encouraged them to try again and to get the names of the black voters being denied their right to cast their ballots and the names of the precinct workers refusing them.

The details of the events that followed are debated even today along racial and political lines. Though newspaper accounts of the day give one account, it must be remembered that the newspapers, policemen, poll workers, and others supporting this version were all white, and many belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, as was expected at that time. The black community had a different story to tell.

All agree that later that afternoon, Mose Norman returned to the voting precinct, possibly accompanied by Julius Perry and a handful of other blacks. Some claim that Norman waved a shotgun in the air, demanding to be allowed to vote. At any rate, he was pistol-whipped and managed to flee in a car. Some reports say a group of Klansmen, deputies, or both, stopped the car a short distance away from the voting precinct and that Norman was again beaten, possibly killed. Others say he escaped.

Word of the clash at the voting precinct spread, and Klansmen from as far away as Georgia rushed to Ocoee. That evening a “posse” of whites led by Colonel Samuel Salisbury entered the black neighborhood, searching for Mose Norman and Julius Perry to punish them for attempting to vote, lynching being the common punishment in those days.

As the group stormed into Perry’s house, he shot and wounded Salisbury, and then turned to shoot another intruder coming in the back door, missing and wounding his daughter Coretha in the arm instead. By the time the shooting was over, two whites were dead, possibly killed by Julius Perry, possibly caught in the crossfire and shot by their own men. Perry was wounded at some point in the gun battle.

Perry was taken to the jail in Orlando, where the white sheriff then handed the keys over to the growing lynch mob. The prisoner was taken outside and hung from a lamppost near present-day Lake Concord and Judge Cheney’s house, and his body was riddled with bullets. A newspaper in Chicago later reported that a sign was hung from Perry’s body that read “This is what we do to niggers who try to vote.”

The rest of the night was a bloodlust of looting, arson, and murder as hundreds of Klansmen moved through the black community, torching homes and businesses and killing any blacks they encountered. Many were burned to death in their homes or shot as they tried to flee the flames. The blacks who could escape fled into the orange groves and swamps.

When the sun rose through the smoke the next morning, out of 495 African-Americans who had lived in Ocoee the day before, only two remained. As with so much that happened that terrible day, accounts vary depending on who is telling the story. But it is believed that as many as 60 black citizens were killed, though the newspapers reported that only seven people died, including the two white men killed at the home of Julius Perry. Twenty-five homes, two churches, a black school, several black-owned businesses, and a lodge were all burned to the ground.  No African-American would live in Ocoee for over sixty years, until 1981.

For the next week, 250 deputized Klansmen occupied Ocoee, and nobody could enter or leave the town without their permission. The land belonging to the black citizens was divided up and sold to whites for $1.50 an acre. For years whites disputed this fact, claiming fair prices were paid for the land, though there are no records to support this.

No one really knows what became of Mose Norman. Many believe he was killed sometime during the violence of Election Day, either when his car was stopped following the confrontation at the voting precinct or later during the attack on the black community that night. However, one report has him escaping to New York City, where he supposedly went to work for the post office and died in Harlem in 1949.

Ironically, the other three key players in this tragedy would continue to be linked in a twisted act of fate. Today Julius Perry, the lynch mob victim; Samuel Salisbury, who led the attack on Perry’s home; and Judge John M. Cheney, whose Senate race precipitated the violence, are all buried in Orlando’s Greenwood cemetery. Salisbury, the white man who resisted the black vote and was committed to the separation of the races, lies for eternity in a grave only 100 yards away from the black man who lost his life in the struggle for equality.

Thought For The Day – The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Sep 202021
 

We love getting off the interstate highways and taking the two-lane roads whenever we can. As I have said many times before, a Denny’s or a chain hotel at an interstate exit in Kansas is no different than one in Michigan or California. But the two-lane roads will take you to the real America. Small towns where you can sit in a diner on Main Street, where the waitress will call you honey or dear, and by the time you finish your lunch, you will know who is cheating on who, who just bought a new pickup truck, and who’s out of work. You will meet friendly people, see things you never imagined, and learn a lot about history in these small town gems scattered from border to border and coast to coast.

When we decided to hang up the keys and quit the fulltime RV lifestyle, we spent a lot of time deciding between the Pacific Northwest coast or somewhere on the Florida coast. Both had things we liked a lot about them, but Florida won out because our arthritic old bones couldn’t handle the cold and dampness of the Pacific Northwest winters. That decision made, we spent a long time researching different areas in Florida before we settled on the area around New Smyrna Beach. After five years, we still believe it was the right choice for us.

The first Europeans came to the area in 1768 and recruited about 1,300 settlers from the Mediterranean island of Menorca to work a massive plantation that grew sugarcane, hemp, and indigo. The original colony failed due to bad management, insect-borne diseases, and Indian attacks. Many of the settlers moved north to what is now St. Augustine. Fierce battles between whites and Indians occurred in the area during the Seminole Wars. Today, the beautiful and haunting Sugar Mill Ruins are a reminder of those early days.

During the Civil War, Union gunboats shelled the wharves at New Smyrna to prevent Confederate blockade runners and smugglers from using them, but the smugglers were back during the Prohibition years of the 1920s, bringing in rum from the Bahamas.

All of this is preserved at the New Smyrna Museum of History, located at 120 Sams Avenue. Here you will find displays of Native American artifacts, exhibits on England’s largest colonial plantation, railroad memorabilia, surfing, and even a lifeguard flag stolen by college pranksters and returned by a guilty conscience after 50 years.

These days New Smyrna Beach is a resort town of over 20,000 permanent residents and a large population of tourists who come to enjoy the beach and all that the small town has to offer.

And it definitely has a lot to offer! The Canal Street Historic District, with its small mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, will have you thinking you went back in time to the days before chain stores and mega-malls. It’s a great place for window shopping, and the few short blocks are often closed for arts and crafts fairs, classic car shows, and other special events.

Of course, the beach is the biggest attraction here, with miles of white sand you can drive on, look for seashells, surf, fish, or just enjoy the sun. Surfing is popular here, even though New Smyrna Beach is known as the Shark Bite Capital of the World. Fortunately, the sharks doing the biting are relatively small and are searching for baitfish. The bites are seldom very serious, though they do require medical attention.

The nearby Canaveral National Seashore and Apollo Beach Visitor Center are great places to get away from the crowds and enjoy unspoiled beachscapes and see native wildlife, from armadillos to foxes and manatees.

New Smyrna Beach is home to the Indian River Lagoon, where you can find more than 4,000 diverse species. Programs at the Marine Discovery Center are designed for all ages and offer “hands-on, feet-wet” learning opportunities that include lectures, boat and kayak eco-tours.

The Atlantic Center for the Arts is a non-profit artist facility located with programs that include a popular Children’s Art Camp, artist Lectures, exhibitions, and other events.

Millions of television viewers loved artist Bob Ross, and the Bob Ross Art Workshop & Gallery, opened by Ross in 1993, can be found at its original location at 757 E. 3rd Avenue. The workshop hosts a large collection of the artist’s original oil paintings visitors will recognize from his Public Television series, The Joy of Painting. The workshop offers classes in the Bob Ross unique style of oil painting taught by Ross Certified Teacher Trainer Nicholas Hankins.

Whether you prefer flying kites or sunbathing on the beach, kayaking or paddleboarding in Mosquito Lagoon, angling for the lagoon’s trophy redfish, or a relaxing day browsing small shops and galleries, New Smyrna Beach has so much to offer, as well as restaurants serving first-class seafood, nightlife, and laid back RV parks. Come visit our special place on Florida’s Atlantic coast. I think you will quickly understand why we decided to call it home.

Congratulations Jeannine Sheridan, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of The Islet of the Virgin, book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s – Famous Murderous Pirates book series. We had 23 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.  Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I enjoy taking long romantic walks to the kitchen.

Writing Q&A

 Posted by at 12:19 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 192021
 

After posting two recent blogs on my writing and self-publishing activities, A Day In The Life and The Mechanics Of It All, some readers had questions that I thought I would answer today.

Q. How many copies of your own books do you keep on hand, and when you order copies of your own books from Amazon, is there a minimum order, and do you get a discount?

A. I usually try to keep two or three copies of each book on hand, in case somebody wants an autographed copy or I give one to somebody as a gift. If we are going to be going on a trip and calling on bookstores and libraries to promote my books, I order more. My books are produced by the print-on-demand process through Amazon, so I can order as few or as many as I need at a time. Authors do get a discount on the price of their books when ordered through Amazon.

Q. How do you keep track of all the characters in a series?

A. As I add more series and more characters, it becomes harder and harder to keep track of everyone. I have a Word file for each series that lists the main and recurring characters and a short paragraph about each one, including their backgrounds, physical descriptions, and little quirks. It makes me glad I only had two kids.

Q. Does your mind ever rest, or is it always thinking about writing?

A. I don’t think my mind ever rests. I will be in the grocery store and see someone and make a mental note about them to use as a character description, or overhear someone say something and file it away for future use, or see or read a news item that I later use as a basis for a story or a scene in a story. Sometimes I will be driving, or in the shower, or falling asleep at night, and an idea for a new book or a book title will hit me, and I have to make a note about it for the future.

Q. A couple of years ago, you ordered an expensive office chair to help with your back problems. Has that been worth the investment, and would you spend that kind of money again?

A. Yes, and yes. the Lifeform chair I purchased has been one of the best things I have ever purchased to make my writing life easier. I routinely spend anywhere from 8 to 10 hours a day and sometimes longer sitting at my desk, and I’ve never had a chair that stayed so comfortable for so long. I would definitely buy it again. It was most certainly worth the investment.

Q. Do you back up your book files in case of a computer failure or something like that?

A. After losing two or three years worth of work and saved files to a virus many years ago, I am fanatical about backing things up. During the day when I’m writing, I will manually save the manuscript several times even though I have it set to autosave. Then, when I stop writing for the day, I back it up to two different places on my computer, to an external hard drive, to two separate USB drives, and also to Dropbox. About once a month, I also back everything up to a second external hard drive, which is stored in my fireproof safe. I realize that’s probably overkill, but it makes me feel more secure.

Q. Occasionally, I see books, even some of your books, listed as a free PDF download on some oddball website that I’ve never heard of. Are these authorized, and how do the outfits doing it make any money if the books are free?

A. No, those are pirated copies of the books, and it’s something authors deal with all the time. The websites offering you those books are not doing it because they love books and want to share them with the world. They are usually attaching nasty things like viruses and spyware to the file that you download, as well as harvesting your e-mail for nefarious reasons. Authors can file a DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint against them and supposedly make them take the book down, but it pops up three more places the next day, and pretty soon, you’re spending all of your time chasing these crooks down. None of them ever last long, and as frustrating as it is, I’ve learned to just ignore them, figuring that if anybody is foolish enough to download books that way instead of paying for them, whatever viruses their computer or if they get hacked, it’s their problem.

Q. You have mentioned before that you have three proofreaders for your books. I would love to be a proofreader. I don’t care about making any money. Just the idea of being able to read so many new books would be great. How can I become one of your proofreaders? Do you know of any other authors who use proofreaders like that?

A. I really don’t need anybody else at this point, but I appreciate the offer. Many authors I know use proofreaders or beta readers to go through a manuscript and give them feedback before it’s published. The best way to go about that is to make yourself known to different authors through social media. Follow their Facebook pages and their blogs, and ask them if they are interested in you helping out. But if you’re going to be a proofreader, you need to be very skilled in English and grammar and punctuation. You also have to understand that your job is not to re-write an author’s book for him or to judge the story he or she is telling. I had one proofreader who lasted halfway through one of my books because she did not like the way I portrayed Native Americans in my Big Lake series. She objected to terms like the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, which is the official name of the place, or me saying that alcoholism and crime are problems on Indian reservations. Both of those are facts, just like they are in many communities, not racist statements.

Q. I attended a seminar you did on self-publishing back during your RVing days. Are you still doing those anywhere?

A. No, COVID has pretty much kept us close to home and away from any kind of events for a while now. I have been asked to speak to writing classes at our local Community College and to a couple of local writing clubs, but won’t be doing anything like that until the pandemic is under control.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of The Islet of the Virgin, book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s – Famous Murderous Pirates book series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Facts don’t care about your feelings.

I Asked For Lemonade

 Posted by at 12:39 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 182021
 

Yesterday was one of those days when I probably should have just stayed in bed. But like a fool, I got up and tested fate. That’s never a good idea, is it?

The day started with a series of phone calls about a referral for an appointment that I was supposed to have to see a neurologist about my continuing head pain. There was some kind of miscommunication, so a different doctor called me than the one I was expecting, and I told them that I had already called and made an appointment with somebody else because I never heard back on the referral and didn’t know who I was supposed to see. It took a few phone calls back and forth with my primary care provider to find out they had sent the referral to the doctor’s office that called me, not the one they said they were going to. So I have to make some more calls Monday morning to get that sorted out.

Later on, we had an appointment for something else up in Palm Coast, which is about a 45-minute drive, sometimes a little more depending on traffic. We made good time arriving at our destination, but before I could even shut the engine off on the Pacifica I got a phone call saying, please don’t come in because someone there had just tested positive for COVID. Well, that sucks! Hopefully, everything will be okay for them.

On the way back, we stopped at a couple of places in Daytona Beach to run some errands and then decided to go to Red Robin for an early dinner. We were seated quickly and soon got our orders, and everything was going fine. After a while, the waitress came by and asked if I wanted a refill on my lemonade, and I said sure. A few moments later, another employee came up with a tray with my lemonade and several glasses of soda on it. She sat the lemonade on the table in front of me and promptly spilled the sodas all over me. The poor girl was mortified and kept apologizing, but I told her it was no problem. I’m usually the one that does the spilling.

Back at home, we spent some time answering e-mails and then settled in to watch three more episodes of Jamestown. We’re almost through the first season and really enjoying it so far.

Later on, our daughter Tiffany sent us a couple of videos and pictures of granddaughter Hailey and her horse, Six. They’ve been training to do some barrel racing, and the first couple of times weren’t all that smooth. But this time around, it looks like they’re getting it down to a science and we were both impressed. Terry did some barrel racing in her younger days, and she knows what to look for. She thinks Hailey and Six are doing just fine and will only continue to get better as they work together.

If you like reading mysteries and police procedurals, New York Times bestselling author P. D. Workman just released a blog with links to quite a few very good books that you will enjoy. You can find it at this link. And be sure to check out some of P.D.s books, too. She’s a heck of a storyteller.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Islet of the Virgin, book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s – Famous Murderous Pirates book series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – If you have been fortunate in life, build a longer table, not a higher fence.

 

Looking Pretty Again

 Posted by at 12:25 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 172021
 

We have had our 2005 Ford Explorer Limited for about eleven years now, and it has always been a good vehicle for us. We set it up to tow behind our motorhome, and in addition to the 133,000 or so driven miles that it has on the odometer, we probably towed it another 75,000 miles. But we always took care of maintenance, and I wouldn’t hesitate to get in it now and drive across the country and back.

However, it definitely needed a bath, so the other day, I took it to a place in Edgewater called Splash N Dash Car Wash to get it cleaned up. I was really impressed with the job they did, and the Explorer looks like new again. In fact, another customer asked me what year it was, and when I told her and said that we would eventually be selling it and our 1999 Ford F-150 whenever my new Ram pickup arrives, she wanted to buy it right then for $4,500. I was tempted, but since I have no idea if or when the new truck is ever going to actually get here, I said I would have to pass for now. With the demand for used vehicles these days, I’m sure we won’t have any problem finding a new home for it or the pickup when the time comes.

For some time now, the paint at the front edge of the hood has been bubbling, and I took it to a local body shop, where the owner said that it was not uncommon for Fords with aluminum hoods to do that. When I asked about painting it, he said that it would cost more than the vehicle was probably worth, given the price of paint these days, and suggested we just get a bug guard and put on it. So I ordered one, and after I came home from the car wash, Terry and I installed it. I think it looks pretty darn good.

I sometimes joke with Terry, telling her that the Amazon driver came to the door to find out if we were okay because we hadn’t had a delivery in two days, and he was worried about us, but that’s really not all that far from the truth. These days we avoid leaving the house any more than we have to, and we have been ordering a lot of stuff from Amazon. Yesterday’s delivery brought two Waxed Canvas Foraging Pouches, and I can see a lot of ways we will use these, from picking up shells on the beach to holding spent brass if I ever get any time to go shooting again, to geocaching. The pouches fit on your belt and open up to 9.25 in height and 8.25 inches in width, then fold back down to a small size when not in use. I knew when I ordered one for me that  I might as well order one for Terry, too, because I was sure she would like it, and she did.

We’re always looking for something good to watch on television and have no patience for stupid reality shows and such. Lately, we have been watching quite a bit of stuff on Amazon Prime, and last night we watched the first episode of Jamestown, which is the story of the first English settlement in the New World. Later episodes are airing now on PBS, but I wanted to watch it from the start, and so far, we were both impressed with it. If you like historical dramas, you might want to check it out.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Islet of the Virgin, book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s – Famous Murderous Pirates book series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria. 

Historic Launch

 Posted by at 12:55 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 162021
 

Yesterday was a busy day for me. My third proofreader, Roberta, sent back the last chapters of my new John Lee Quarrels book, Ka-Bar Karma, and after I made all of her changes and tweaked a couple of things that seemed a little flat, I printed out the entire manuscript for Terry to start proofreading one more time from start to finish. When she’s done with that and I make any corrections still needed, it will go back to Roberta for the final proofreading.

I try never to give an exact date when a book will be released because every time I do something comes up to get in the way, but I will say that it should be no more than a week or so now.

Terry made calzones for dinner, one of her specialties and one that I enjoy very much, and they were delicious, as always.

Then we went outside to watch the launch of Space X’s Inspiration4 rocket from nearby Cape Canaveral. We’ve been here so long and seen so many launches that sometimes we take them for granted, but this one was historic because it was the first time an all civilian crew went into space.

We’re about 25 miles from the Cape, and the rockets’ flight path usually takes them north over us when they launch. It starts with a glow on the horizon and then it seems like the sky is on fire as the rockets lift off.

Terry was using her Canon SX40 digital camera to take pictures and got some excellent ones, including this one of the rocket as it soared into the sky.

Then she got some pictures of the booster rocket (top right) as it separated, and about eight minutes after liftoff it landed on a drone ship out in the Atlantic Ocean. How cool is that?

Civilian astronauts are not the only people having a good time right now. I received an e-mail from the Veterans Administration yesterday saying that all active-duty military, honorably discharged veterans, and Gold Star families can now get free entrance to national parks, historic sites, and recreation sites administered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sites. Click this link for more information.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Islet of the Virgin, book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s – Famous Murderous Pirates book series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.

Sep 152021
 

In response to questions about my writing, I posted a blog titled A Day In The Life a while back describing a typical day in my life as an author. That blog led to other questions about the process that goes into it all, getting a book from concept to finished and available for my readers. So let’s talk about that today.

As I have shared with you before, when I am writing a book, I print out several chapters at a time for my wife, Terry, to edit and proofread, and when she is done, I make her corrections and then send those chapters on to a second proofreader. When I get her suggestions back, I make corrections and then send everything off to yet a third proofreader. This person is blind and listens to the chapters on her computer. It is amazing that she picks up things that we miss, especially punctuation. Once a manuscript is completed, I print it out and Terry reads through the whole thing, and I make any further corrections she suggests. Then I send it back to Roberta, the blind woman I mentioned, and she goes through it again. It always surprises me how much she finds, after myself, her, and two other competent proofreaders have already read it. But all those years in the small town newspaper business taught me that you can never have enough sets of eyes on something, and even then, typos do slip through.

At some point along the way, Elizabeth Mackey creates the book cover. Elizabeth is a very talented graphics artist who is married to a Coastguardsman and lives on Kodiak Island, Alaska. She does covers for many bestselling authors, and I have never worked with someone as gifted as her. I can simply suggest what the theme of a book might be, and more times than not, she immediately sends me back exactly what I had in mind, even if I didn’t know what it was myself.

When a manuscript is finally done, I format the e-book version and upload it to Amazon. Then I wait a few days for sharp-eyed readers to find any typos that slipped through. Unfortunately, that sometimes happens, but I’m able to correct them quickly and re-load the e-book. Once I know it is as good as anybody can make it, I have a person who formats the print book for me, and I upload it and it’s ready to go. I could format the print book myself, but I am not good at it and I find it a tedious process. My time is better spent doing other things.

The next step is promoting, and that is an ongoing effort. As I tell many new authors, writing the book is the easy part, the real work is in the promotion. I actually begin promotion on a new book with the publication of the previous book in the series because, I always include a teaser chapter for the next one at the end of a book when I release it. Then, when I’m working on the book, I occasionally tell blog readers and my followers on social media how things are going with it. This is no different than television shows that give you a preview of what’s coming next, and it works. I’ve only done one or two paid ads in the ten years I have been self-publishing my books. All other promotions are through social media, on my blog, in my free author’s newsletter, and by word of mouth from my many wonderful readers.

While many authors I know are widely distributed through many online venues, I am exclusive with Amazon because all of my books are available in their Kindle Unlimited program. Over 90% of my income is from e-books, and at least 75% of that is from Kindle Unlimited page reads. With that program, subscribers pay something like $10 a month and can read as many books as they want. Authors don’t get paid per book, but we do get paid a certain amount of money for each page read by Kindle Unlimited members. It really adds up.

Other authors ask me what the key to success is, and I believe it is writing books that readers enjoy and creating characters they can relate to. Many readers have told me that they feel like my characters are people they know, and they care about them.

To me, writing a series, as opposed to individual standalone books, is another key to success. I have several series out, including Big Lake, with 20 books so far, the John Lee Quarrels series with ten books so far, the two-book Dog’s Run series, and the Tinder Street series, with three books so far. I also have one standalone mystery, Black Friday, and several nonfiction RV and travel books out. The series books outsell the nonfiction by well over 50 to 1. The great thing about a series is that you create a backlist of books over time. That backlist is like having money in the bank. Once readers get invested in your series characters, they usually read all of the books. It is not uncommon for me to hear from someone who picked up a book in one of my series and enjoyed it and then went back and read every book from the very beginning.

Many authors think they need an agent and a publisher to succeed, and while that was true ten years ago, today nothing could be farther than the truth. There is nothing an agent or publisher can do for me that I can’t do myself or pay someone to do for me, and I have total control of what I am doing and keep all of the profits from my books. When my first novel, Big Lake, hit the New York Times bestseller list, I was contacted by several agents who wanted to represent me.

Over the years, I’ve been approached by agents and by Amazon’s publishing house wanting to handle my books. Every time, I’ve looked at the numbers and laughed at them and said thanks but no thanks. What they offer is so little that I would be a fool to even consider accepting.

For those who think they need an agent and a publishing company behind them if they ever want to go anywhere with their careers as authors, all I can say is that sometime by the end of this year, I will hit $1 million in accumulated royalties for my books on Amazon. I don’t know how you define success, but I believe it’s more than just money. I’m happy with my life, with the way I work, and with what I have accomplished so far, and as long as my readers keep buying and enjoying my books, I’ll keep at it.

Thought For The Day – Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.

Sep 142021
 

Note: This story is from my book Highway History And Back Road Mystery, available on Amazon.

Have you ever heard the term “worth more dead than alive”? For one Oklahoma outlaw, the words could have been changed just a bit to “more famous dead than alive.” We learned the strange story of his life and death while touring the Oklahoma Territorial Museum in Guthrie. While Elmer McCurdy didn’t amount to much when he was breathing, after he died he became quite a well-known personality.

McCurdy was a small-time petty thief and bumbler who turned to train robbery, hoping to increase both his take and his reputation. With a gang of equally inept cohorts, McCurdy robbed a passenger train but the pickings were slim. The outlaws got away with only a passenger’s revolver and a few dollars.

Determined to do better the next time, McCurdy and his pals held up another train a few days later, on October 4, 1911. The train was supposed to be carrying over $400,000 in cash. But again, the outlaws goofed, robbing the wrong train. Only after blowing out the entire side of the baggage car with a too-heavy charge of nitroglycerine and dynamite did the robbers realize their error. Their loot from this heist was only $40, a coat, a pocket watch, and two gallons of whiskey.

Drowning his sorrows in stolen booze, McCurdy was drunk when a posse caught up with him three days later and killed him. That was when the bizarre odyssey of Elmer McCurdy really began.

The outlaw’s body was taken to a funeral home for embalming, but nobody came forward to claim it. So for the next five years, McCurdy’s remains stood propped up in a corner of the mortuary, where people frequently used him as a hall tree to hang their hats and coats on.

Finally, sometime in 1916, five years after his death, a man showed up at the Oklahoma mortuary claiming to be a relative of Elmer McCurdy, coming to take his remains home for a proper burial. But the long lost relative was actually a con man, who put the outlaw on display at carnival sideshows around the country. For many years McCurdy toured the country as the “Oklahoma Outlaw,” the “Dope Fiend,” and the “1,000 Year Old Man.” Carnival crowds in small towns from border to border viewed the body, coming away thrilled and titillated with their taste of the “wild life.” McCurdy even made the big screen as a prop in the 1950s movie She Freak.

Sometime after that, the outlaw’s body seems to have dropped out of sight. Years later workers were renovating an old California arcade-style funhouse for the 1970s television program The Six Million Dollar Man, when a crew member accidentally knocked the arm off a dummy. When he attempted to repair it with electrical tape, he noticed a bone sticking out of it. The police and coroner were called, and further investigation revealed the “dummy” was our long lost outlaw friend, Elmer McCurdy

California authorities contacted Oklahoma, and only after it was promised that McCurdy would be given a respectful burial was the body released. On April 22, 1977, outlaw Elmer McCurdy was buried with full honors in Guthrie, Oklahoma’s Summit View Cemetery, his long years as a celebrity on the road finally over.

Thought For The Day – It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand.

On To Stage Two

 Posted by at 12:04 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 132021
 

I finished all of Terry’s suggested corrections for my new John Lee Quarrels book yesterday and then sent it off to Judy Rinehimer, my second proofreader, to begin stage two of the process. And then, when she’s done and I make her changes, I will send it off to Roberta for stage three.

When those changes are done I will print out the entire manuscript for Terry to read through one more time and then send it off to Roberta for a final read-through. I know that sounds like a lot of redundancy, but that’s what it takes to get it right. And even then, I know that the gremlins may slip in during the middle of the night and pull their shenanigans, and somebody will find a typo. I appreciate it when they let me know so we can correct that, too.

Our friend Jennifer’s daughter Ashley, from across the street, had a problem with her Mercury Marquis the other day and had to have it towed home. It would turn over but not start, and we couldn’t figure out why. Because the tow truck left it sitting in their front yard, we pushed it into our second driveway, and yesterday Jesse and his friend Scott were over here troubleshooting the problem and a code reader said to reset the fuel pump.

The problem was, nobody knew where the reset switch was, so I Googled it, and Google said it was in the trunk, near one of the taillights. Jesse opened the trunk, and while he and Scott were trying to figure out how to get the liner out of the trunk to access the taillights, I suggested that first, they should push the reset switch on the inside sidewall of the trunk, where the big yellow sticker said Fuel Pump Reset Switch. Jesse did and the car started right up. I may not be much of a mechanic, but I do know how to read.

During the afternoon, Jesse and Jennifer came over to visit for a while, and we spent a couple of hours chatting about this and that and everything in between, basically solving all the problems in the world.

After they left, Terry made homemade biscuits and sausage gravy for dinner. Then she baked a batch of peanut butter cookies and shared them and the leftover biscuits and gravy with Jesse and Jennifer, since he had said that sounded like it would make a wonderful breakfast. I figure people who put up with me on a regular basis deserve some perks, right?

Congratulations Norma Heck, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Overlooked Florida. We had 103 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.  Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Behind every successful man is a woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

What Happened To Us?

 Posted by at 12:34 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 122021
 

As a baby boomer, I grew up surrounded by World War II veterans. My dad and most of my uncles on both sides of the family enlisted and served, many of them in combat. One uncle was with Patton and helped liberate the concentration camp at Buchenwald. One of my dad’s brothers was a navigator on a B-17, the famous Flying Fortress, bombing Germany, and another was a Navy pilot flying in the South Pacific. My mom’s brother Chuck was an infantryman who was killed in North Africa, and my dad and other uncles were in island hopping campaigns in the South Pacific. None of them talked much about it, at least to us kids when we were growing up, but I heard enough to know they were all everyday men who stepped up to the plate and did their duty.

For the last couple of days, Terry and I have been watching documentaries on 9/11 and the sacrifices so many first responders and civilians alike made as they came together to help others survive. Then I started thinking about all of the division and hatred in the country today, and I have to ask myself which day is worse? What happened to us?

1941 – My country needs me. I will enlist and sacrifice my life for her if it comes to that.
2001 – My fellow Americans are in danger. I will run into those burning buildings to save them, even if it costs me my life.
2021 – I WILL NOT get a vaccination that can end a pandemic that has taken more than twice as many American lives as World War II and 9/11 combined.

These last few days, my heart has been heavy with the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that we suffered, and even more heavy that while we all came together in the aftermath to act as one, as Americans have done throughout our history, now we have people storming the Capitol because they didn’t like the results of a free and fair election, and trying to overturn the legal process of certifying the election. People making the simple act of getting a vaccine into a nonsense debate about their rights. What happened to us?

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. Knowing what I do about my imaginary friends, they might regret this.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an autographed copy of my book Overlooked Florida, featuring more than 30 interesting places in the Sunshine State that most tourists miss. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – People want to take your spot until they realize what it takes to play your position.

Another Book Done!

 Posted by at 12:31 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 112021
 

Before I do anything else today, I do want to remember the tragedies of September 11th, 2001. I don’t think any of us will ever forget where we were when we heard the news about the first airplane hitting one of the Twin Towers. We were in our motorhome in Traverse City, Michigan, where Terry was undergoing her cancer treatment. She was still in bed when I saw it on the news and I thought what a terrible thing to have happen. A few minutes later, when the second plane hit the other tower, I went to the bedroom to tell Terry that something very bad and very scary was happening in our country.

For the last two days, we have been watching documentaries on 9/11 and the sacrifices so many first responders and civilians alike made as they came together to help others survive, and then thinking about the division and hatred in the country today. And I have to ask myself which day is worse.

I also want to thank everybody who made blog comments and sent me emails or messages about my news in yesterday’s blog about having a stroke. I am fine and intend to keep on being fine for a long time yet, but it’s comforting to know I have so many friends out there who care.

Yesterday was another 6,500 word day for me, and Ka-Bar Karma is now done. It’s my fourth book for the year and I started it one month ago to the day I finished, and it came in at a little over 88K words. I will spend today reading through those last chapters I wrote and making corrections to them before I print them out to give to Terry to add to the stack she is already editing and proofreading. When she’s finished, I’ll make her corrections and send them off to Judy, my second proofreader. It’s always a satisfying feeling to complete another book. Though it may seem like I wrote this one pretty fast, which I did, I’ve been going over the story in my head for a long time, so it flowed out easily.

Besides editing and proofing previous chapters of the book yesterday, Terry also made a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs from scratch which made me understand what people are talking about when they say that food is so good it’s to die for. It was amazing. I won’t even tell you about the fresh hot peanut butter cookies we had later as we watched TV. You’d just get jealous.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. I think these days teachers need this message more than ever.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of my book Overlooked Florida, featuring more than 30 interesting places in the Sunshine State that most tourists miss. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.


Thought For The Day – How long will it take before we reach herd intelligence?

Not The Best News

 Posted by at 12:13 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 102021
 

Thank you to everyone who made blog comments or sent me messages wishing me well with my visit to the doctor yesterday to get the results of the CT scan of my brain. As it turns out, I really do have a brain. But the rest of it was not necessarily the best news.

Some of you may recall that in mid-July of 2019, I experienced an episode of dizziness and tingling all through my head that the doctors thought might have been a TIA, also known as a mini-stroke. At that time, I had MRIs and CT scans done, neither of which showed any problems, so then they did biopsies of the arteries in my temples, looking for any kind of blockage or narrowing. Again, everything seemed normal.

But after my recent headache that lasted for hours and getting another CT scan done, the results show that at some point in the past, I did indeed have a small stroke. I asked why nothing showed up on the MRIs and CTs from 2019, and the doctor said that things like that don’t always show up right away. So now they think there’s a possibility that the headache I had was another small stroke.

I can write a halfway decent mystery, but I can’t read a medical report worth a damn. Fortunately, our daughter-in-law is an RN with many years of experience, so we got copies of the report and shared it with her, and according to her, it means that a very few small cells in the brain died as a result of the earlier stroke. So there you have it. We have confirmed what we all suspected all along. I’m brain dead!

This news doesn’t really surprise me, since my mother experienced a series of strokes before she passed away in 1991. But don’t worry, I have no intention of leaving you all anytime soon. There’s too much mischief I still need to get into.

My doctor referred me to a neurologist that I saw before, and we are waiting to hear back from him on scheduling an appointment. In the meantime, I’ve got a book to finish!

If you are one of the people who enter our weekly free drawings, I need to ask you to do me a favor. Sometimes when you enter the drawing, it takes a few minutes for your name to show up. And occasionally, it won’t show up until I approve the post. I’m not sure why that is, but it is.

Every week we have people who enter the drawing and don’t immediately see their name, so they enter again, and again, and again, all in a row. Quite often, as many as five or more times, and I think the record was 17. When we got home yesterday, I had three people who had submitted multiple entries.

When you do that, three things happen. First, the computer automatically kicks out all of your entries because only one entry is allowed per contest. Second, I then have to go through and manually delete all of those pending extra entries except one, which I have to manually approve. And third, many times, the computer program automatically assumes you are a spammer, and your entries go straight to a spam file, and I never see them. So please, exercise a little bit of patience. If you enter, your name will get put into the drawing. But it’s not like instant oatmeal and instant coffee; sometimes you have to wait a little bit. Thank you for your patience.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of my book Overlooked Florida, featuring more than 30 interesting places in the Sunshine State that most tourists miss. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Be happy with what you have while working for what you want.

Weaving Away

 Posted by at 12:39 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 092021
 

Now that Terry has finally gotten her Glimakra loom set up, she is weaving away on her latest project, a blanket for our son-in-law Kenny. Kenny is a big guy. I don’t know exactly how tall he is, but he has to duck his head when there’s a full moon outside. Terry said the finished blanket will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 feet x 8 feet, and I know he’s going to appreciate snuggling up under it on the couch when he is watching television on those cold winter evenings coming to their home in Show Low, Arizona within just a few months.

Terry is a self-taught artist, and she always amazes me with how she can figure out something like this through trial and error, sometimes referring to online resources until she gets it right. And as frustrating as it can be setting in a big project like this one has been for her, I also know how rewarding it is once it’s ready to go and the shuttle starts flying, bringing it all together.

Besides that, she also made an amazing dinner of pork tenderloin with wild rice for me, and a sweet potato for her. Absolutely delicious.

As for me, I spent all of yesterday reading through the last six or seven chapters that I narrated of my new John Lee Quarrels book and making changes to them. After dinner, while Terry was doing the dishes (I always offer to help and she always tells me no and shoos me out of the kitchen), I printed all of those chapters out so Terry can start the editing and proofing process on them. I think I probably have two or three more chapters to go before I wrap this one up.

I don’t know if I’ll get any writing done today because I have an appointment at the doctors to go over the CT scans of my facial bones and brain that were done last week, trying to find the reason for the severe head pain I’ve had occasionally for years, but recently have become more frequent and last longer. Wish me luck on that, because so far nobody has come up with anything.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of my book Overlooked Florida, featuring more than 30 interesting places in the Sunshine State that most tourists miss. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Don’t you hate it when you clean out your freezer and find people you don’t even recognize?

Sep 082021
 

At least it seems that way around here sometimes. As I’ve said before, since I’m a slow two-finger typist and I narrate my books into either a Sony digital recorder and then transcribe them with Dragon software, or else I dictate directly into Dragon. Neither of these are perfect, and I wind up with lots of errors. So while I can easily crank out 5,000 words in a day, and some days as much as 10,000 words, I then have to spend a day or more going through and making corrections because of the words Dragon got wrong or mangled. That’s a long and frustrating process.

I started out using a headset microphone and then some people on an online Dragon Dictate forum suggested getting a better microphone, either a Blue Yeti Nano or a Zoom H4n Pro. I took their advice and bought both, hoping they would eliminate some of the problems I was having, but they really haven’t made that much of a difference.

Then someone suggested I skip Dragon altogether and use Microsoft Word’s built-in dictation feature. I’ve done that but have not had any better luck with it. Maybe I just don’t enunciate clearly, I don’t know.

On Monday, someone suggested that the problem might be the fact that I am using an external microphone plugged into a USB port and suggested I use the computer’s built-in microphone instead. His theory was that maybe I was losing something because of the USB connection. I decided that might be a possibility, but the problem is, I use a Dell desktop computer, which does not have a built-in microphone.

So I borrowed Terry’s new Surface Book Pro and tried dictating with it, and the first paragraph or two were fine. But the more I dictated, the slower the words appeared on the screen, and I started getting more and more garbled words or the wrong words in the wrong places, which is what I’ve been experiencing all along. I also dug out my Dell laptop and tried using it with its built-in microphone, getting the same results.

All of that was very frustrating and wasted a lot of time, but I still managed to get in about 4,000 words on Monday in my new John Lee Quarrels book. I was back at it again yesterday and got just over 5,500 more words. Of course, those will still need to be gone through and corrected, but that puts me at about 82,000 words in the manuscript. I’m getting very close to the end of this book now!

Terry’s been dealing with her own frustrations, trying to get the pedals and lamms tied up correctly and everything balanced on one of her Glimakra looms so she can get going on a blanket weaving project she’s been eager to do. After days of crawling inside of the loom’s frame trying one setup after another, she said yesterday that she’s finally got it pretty close, and she was able to get about a foot of actual weaving done.

She told me she’s come to realize that the big Glimakras just might be too much for her, in terms of setup and just physically using them. She’s not a big woman, and she has to stretch to get the shuttle from one side to the other or to reach the pedals and the beater bar and everything that needs to be done.

She is mulling over her options as to what to do about that, but in the meantime, she ordered a new Louet Spring II loom, which is somewhat smaller but much easier to use, and a brand new design as opposed to the 70 plus-year-old technology of the Glimakras. The only problem is, there is a long wait between the time you order one and the time it is delivered, so it won’t arrive until sometime after the first of the year. Meanwhile. she will keep plugging away at it, one shuttle throw at a time.

Speaking of things that get ordered and take forever to receive, when I ordered my new Dodge Ram Laramie pickup, I was told they would start production of the 2022 models in early June, and it would take four to six weeks for the truck to be built to my specifications and delivered to the dealer. Then that changed to July. Yeah, right. Several people told me not to believe that nonsense, but I was optimistic.

As it turns out, we’re into September, and they haven’t even started to build the Laramie model trucks yet, and no one really knows when they will. The dealer keeps texting me telling me that I can expect it any day now, but when I go online to the Dodge customer chat line and give them the VIN of the new truck, all they can tell me is that production hasn’t started yet and they don’t know when it will. Just more frustration, right?

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Never argue with someone whose TV is bigger than their bookshelf.

A Lot Of Tractors

 Posted by at 12:18 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 072021
 

Note: Yesterday was long and frustrating dealing with computer and dictation issues, but I still managed to get another 4,000 words done in my new John Lee Quarrels book. However,  I ran out of time and energy, so here is a repeat of a blog from our days as fulltime RVers.

While Terry and I don’t miss the hectic schedule we had to keep to make them happen, or all of the work of putting on our RV rallies, we do miss seeing so many of our good friends whom we could count on showing up at every rally. It was like a big family reunion.

Two good friends and faithful rally attendees are Dave and Thelma Middleton, and as it so happens, they only live about eight miles from Gettysburg Farm RV Resort. When they read in the blog that we were so close they invited us up for a visit and yesterday was a good day for it.

After seeing the new modular home they are having erected on their property and visiting for a while, they took us to dinner at a local restaurant and then to a tractor show in Wellsville. I know Pennsylvania is an agricultural state, but who knew that there were so many tractors here? Big tractors, little tractors, old tractors, new tractors. More darned tractors than I’ve ever seen in one place!

MM display

Allia Chalmers

Things started off with a tractor parade, with garden tractors leading the way.

Custom garden tractor 

Garden tractor parade

Then came the big tractors. Most of them are antiques, some dating back to the 1930s. Apparently restoring tractors is kind of like restoring old cars, but I’d prefer a Sunday cruise in a vintage Mustang or T-Bird than this old John Deere.

John Deere 66

Old International

Red Farmall

And tractors are a family thing. There were a lot of kids riding and even driving tractors in the parade.

Dad and kids 

Dad and kid

Boy driving wiht dad

Boy on Frmall

And the girls weren’t too shy about it either!

Girls drivign tractor

Woman John Deere

There were a lot of tractors and steam engines on display.

Case 

Steam locomotive

This looks like a railroad locomotive, but it’s actually built on a truck frame.

Locomotive

Thanks for making time for us and showing us around, Dave and Thelma!

Thought For The Day – Stop looking for formulas. Start looking for ideas.

Labor Day Hurricane

 Posted by at 1:02 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 062021
 

In the summer of 1935, much of the world was suffering through the Great Depression, an economic collapse that had begun in the fall of 1929. In the United States, men who had earned good wages just a few short years before during the Roaring 20s were lucky to get jobs paying $5 to $7 a week, and those who couldn’t find work stood in breadlines or begged for handouts on city sidewalks.

So when the government announced a massive road and bridge-building project in the Florida Keys to link Key West to the south with the mainland on the north, hundreds of jobless veterans of World War I were thrilled with the offer of $30 a month wages, along with free room and board.

The work was hard, and dangerous in the hot Florida sun, but the men were happy to get anything and considered themselves fortunate. But that good fortune would not last long and would end in tragedy for many of them.

In late August, a series of thunderstorms originating off the west coast of Africa made their way across the Atlantic Ocean on a beeline for the Florida Keys. What happened next was the stuff of nightmares. On Labor Day, September 2nd, the strongest hurricane to ever be recorded in American history came ashore as a Category 5 with winds of over 200 miles per hour, obliterating the temporary labor camps in the Keys and destroying everything in its path. With no shelter except for canvas tents or flimsy wooden barracks, the hapless veterans were impaled by pieces of flying debris and crushed by collapsing walls, and hundreds died in the storm surge that raked Islamorada.

A relief train that was sent from Miami to evacuate the workers wasn’t dispatched until it was too late, and then was delayed on its trip south as debris littered the tracks. When the full force of the storm hit, the passenger cars were tossed about like toys, only the heavy locomotive staying on the tracks.

When the storm finally cleared, the survivors looked around themselves in horror. Nothing they had seen on the bloody battlefields of France could compare to the terrible landscape in front of them. So many dead, so many maimed, so many missing. The stench of bloated bodies overpowered the island. An estimated 425 people perished in the storm, some 260 of them veterans. It would take months to clean up in the aftermath of what became known as the Great Hurricane of 1935, and many bodies were never recovered.

On November 14, 1937, the Florida Keys Memorial, known locally as the Great Hurricane Memorial, was dedicated in Islamorada, with the cremated ashes of over 300 victims of the disaster interred within it. A plaque at the memorial honors the lives lost in that terrible Labor Day tragedy.

Congratulations Bridget Wiemken, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series. We had 30 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.  Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – When a butterfly flutters its wings in one part of the world, it can eventually cause a hurricane in another.

Sep 052021
 

It took a long time and a lot of digging and frustration, but I finally got the last of the root balls from our banana palms dug out, and no more shoots were coming up over the last month or so. Now it was time to plant something else where those nasty, shedding things were.

Terry had been doing some research and decided that she wanted pygmy date palms, so we went to Lindley’s Nursery this past Wednesday and looked at their selection. They usually come potted with three trees and grow as much as nine feet tall. Most of the larger ones were already spoken for, but we found one the size Terry wanted and bought it. They said it would be ten days to two weeks before Jake could come out and plant the tree, and we said that was fine. Just let us know when it worked for their schedule.

As it turned out, Jake called Friday afternoon saying he could be here yesterday morning, and right on time, he rolled up with a truck and trailer and dug a hole and planted the trees. We were surprised to find that ours actually has four trees instead of the usual three, and Jack spent a lot of time getting the hole prepped and placing the trees where they would look best.

Jake is a very nice young man. In fact, he’s the one that planted our three citrus trees on the other side of the house last November. While he was here, he checked on them and decided that they needed the grass removed from under them and the dirt berms rebuilt to hold water better, so he did that, too.

It’s really nice when someone takes it upon themselves to do something like that for you months after they were planted, but that’s why we like dealing with Lindley’s. They don’t forget about you as soon as the sale is finished.

And here are the trees, planted and looking nice. Thanks, Jake, you did a great job!

For some reason, I wasn’t feeling great Friday, and after writing about 2,000 words, Terry told me to go take a little nap in my recliner, and I did for much of the afternoon. Yesterday I felt much better, but I hit the same wall about the same time and spent a couple of hours in my recliner again. I guess all that time I spent along the Mexican border in my younger days has programmed my body for taking siestas. I just don’t know why they started this late in life.

Even with that, I got another 2,500 words done in my new book yesterday, along with doing quite a bit of research to make sure I had some things right in a couple of the chapters. Then I proofed the chapters I had written so far, making some corrections as I went. Today is another day, and I’ll be right back at it.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. Thanks for this one, Jim Harper.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening. Note: Due to the high cost of shipping printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Just because you value them doesn’t mean they value you. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn.