A Writer’s Retirement

Dear Readers,

It is with a heavy heart that I take pen in hand to address a few lines to you. The past few years have been very rough on me physically. I live in constant pain and my life consists of surgeries, complications, more surgeries, and more complications. I am constantly shuttling off from one doctor’s appointment to the next, or at least that is how it seems. I’m 43 but now look like I’m 65 from the strain. Truthfully, this has been a long time coming and I’ve had a draft of this post typed up for several months now as I waited to see if things would improve. They didn’t.

Once upon a time, writing was my escape. It is how I managed to mentally distract myself from all that was going on. This is no longer the case. The outside world has intruded to the point that I no longer have the focus required to do it. In a way, that’s probably a blessing in disguise. I poured everything I had into Molly’s Song, but sales have been disappointing, and it has not been nearly as well received as I thought and hoped it would. With my health deteriorating more with each passing month and the number of good days I have in a month being in the single digits, I do not want to spend it standing in front of my computer typing words that no one will read anyway.

The pandemic masked how bad off I truly am. Going back to work in person this semester, I was immediately able to see the difference in my physical condition between the start of the pandemic and now. And this was before the three surgeries I had in the past six months. Naturally, that has only made it worse. When I get home at the end of the day, I am so utterly exhausted that I have a hard time getting out of the car without help and all I can manage to do is sit in bed and stare at the television without even being able to comprehend what it is that I am watching. I can’t even read anymore because I can’t focus long enough to get through one page.

For years now, I’ve tried to hide my true condition. I got really good at faking it so that I could go to work and smile and joke with people like nothing was wrong, when truthfully all I wanted to do was scream from the pain. That takes a toll on you over time. Eventually, you’ll reach the point where I find myself now, where you have to admit that you can no longer control your health problems and that they have taken over your life. And there’s nothing to be done about it. There’s no “fix” and no “cure” for my injuries and the conditions they have caused me, so none of this is going away. It isn’t simply a matter of waiting it out or getting treatment and then magically getting better again. That’s not going to happen.

Admittedly, I suppose I had a somewhat aborted writing career. However, I think two novels to my credit isn’t bad. I will always have that. I’ve met some wonderful people through my writing whom I hope to stay in touch with even though I have officially put the proverbial typewriter away. Please understand that I absolutely would keep writing if I were physically able. This is more of a question of me not being able to write rather than not wanting to. I imagine I will always want to, just like I wish every single day that I had not gotten hurt to begin with and could still be on an engine company responding to calls.

Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I’ll be spending as much time as I can with my wife and my cats. There are some less physically/mentally taxing hobbies I have that I can focus on. I regret that I won’t be able to write my epic Russian Revolution novel and dedicate it to my Mashka. But I know she’ll understand. And, of course, I feel bad that I won’t be able to finish Molly’s story. She deserves far better than I gave her and I hope she’ll forgive me.

The website will still be around for a while. I may do a final year in review post on New Year’s Eve if I feel up to it.

I thank all of you who have followed me on this journey through writing and publishing two books. Thank you for reading my posts and the books themselves. No matter where life may take you in the future, I hope you have the time of your life.

And remember, friends, take care of yourselves. And each other.


Another (Unplanned) Surgery

Dear Readers,

When we last left off, I was well on my way to recovery from my bladder surgery. I returned to work on Monday, Oct. 4th and was feeling great. On Tuesday evening, I started getting some sharp abdominal pains. This isn’t really unusual for me, since I’ve had two surgeries for bowel obstructions. Usually, when I get these pains, I wait it out for a while and they pass. On Wednesday morning, I was still hurting when I got up, but was feeling a little better. I ventured forth to teach my classes, but the pain got worse as the morning wore on. That afternoon, I had an appointment with the surgeon who operated on my bladder. He took one look at me and sent me down to the ER since his office is attached to the hospital.

They ran some tests and told me that I had gallstones. I was in the hospital overnight and they released me on Thursday afternoon. The reason they did not want to operate right away was that, due to all the previous abdominal surgeries, it would not be a straightforward gallbladder removal and would come with a high risk of complications. We decided it was best to just wait and see if the problem returned.

Well…it did. The next day. Friday evening I went back to the ER. More tests indicated that I now had a stone lodged in my common bile duct and was developing pancreatitis. I was admitted again, of course, and they told me to prepare for a major surgery on Monday or Tuesday. I ended up having two operations; a small one and a big one. On Monday morning, they went in and removed the stones lodged in my bile duct. Tuesday, they took out my gallbladder.

Before they took me into surgery, they said that there was a 90% chance that they would not be able to complete the surgery laparoscopically and would have to open me up…a big deal when you’ve been cut open as much as I have…and I’d be looking at a 4-6 week recovery and at least a week in the hospital post-op. I told them to do whatever they had to do. When I woke up, I was surprised and happy to find that they had been able to stick with the scopes! They had to make a few more ports than they do for a normal gallbladder removal, but they didn’t have to convert to an open procedure.

I even got to go home the next day! I’m not in a lot of pain, it’s more just surgical soreness now. My energy is practically zero having gone under general anesthesia twice in under twenty-four hours (not to mention the bladder surgery three weeks earlier), but it is slowly coming back to me. I’m taking next week off to continue to recover, of course, but barring any complications, I hope to be back to work the next week. I hate to say that though, because I feel like I’m probably jinxing myself by doing so. It seems like medical complications are just a fact of life for me. Added to this is the worry that I got exposed to COVID while in the hospital. I mean, I don’t know that I did, and I wore a double mask at all times, even when in my room alone, and even while sleeping, but you never know. They tested me three times while I was there and all came back negative, so if I do get sick in the next couple of days, I’ll know it came from the hospital. Honestly, right now that is my biggest fear.

Until next time, friends, take care of yourselves. And each other.


Post-Op Update

Dear Readers,

I am coming up on a week and a half post-op. It has been a rough road so far. I, truthfully, was not expecting such a painful recovery. And I’m used to pain since I live with it every day as it is. Still, I can feel an improvement over where I was at this time last week, so I’m getting there. I’m not at 100%, of course, more like 70%. I’m still planning on going back to work on Monday, though that is subject to change.

The biggest problem is that the pain tends to set in more at night, which makes sleep difficult. Since the day of the surgery, I’ve averaged only about four hours of sleep a night. I have been able to be up walking around though, and I’m up to walking about 1.5 miles a day, though not all at once. This morning, I went for my first post-op drive. Not far, of course, just down to the beach to drink my morning coffee like I used to do every day when I was working from home.

This week, I watched the excellent four part Ken Burns documentary on Muhammad Ali. I was three years old when he fought his last bout, so I never got to see him fight live, or rather, I have no memory of having done so. I have, however, seen many of his fights by way of the YouTube. I thought the documentary did a great job talking about Ali the man, Ali the fighter, and Ali the activist. It really does place him in the context of the Civil Rights era as a whole. He’s still, in my opinion, the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time and definitely in the top five pound for pound boxers of all time.

I’ve managed to listen to quite a few audiobooks during my convalescence as well. Some fiction. Some non. The topics range from baseball to boxing to World War Two to Prohibition. I actually thought I would probably spend more time playing Red Dead Redemption or Assassin’s Creed on the PlayStation, but I haven’t much felt up to that. It requires to much focus when you are in a lot of pain.

Speaking of baseball, the season is winding down. The Red Sox had a weekend series at Fenway against the Yankees. They only needed to win one of the games to put themselves in excellent position for the first Wild Card spot. Being the Red Sox, of course, they got swept. They had a day off, then took on the hapless Orioles and blew a lead and lost that one too. Still, they won last night, so they are still in the hunt. But any more such late inning bullpen meltdowns or cold bats will ensure they do not advance to the playoffs. Let’s be honest thought, it ain’t like they would go far in the playoffs anyway.

Well, friends, that is about all I can manage for now. Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.


Molly’s Song Dream Cast

Dear Readers,

I had my surgery on Tuesday the 21st. It has been a painful recovery thus far, but I’m getting through it. I’m walking as much as I can without overdoing it, of course. And using lots of ice packs. I won’t be running any marathons for a while, but then again, I wasn’t running any to begin with. I’m hoping to be relatively back to normal in another couple of weeks, if everything goes well.

I haven’t really given a writing update in a while, so I thought I would fill you in on what I’ve got going on. I’m juggling several different projects. The first, and probably the most important, is the sequel to Molly’s Song, tentatively titled Molly’s War. Second, I am working on scripts for a TV/streaming series based on Molly’s Song. That’s actually been a fun exercise trying to adapt the story for the screen. I already have the treatment and look book done, so if you know anyone with HBO/Netflix/Amazon/STARZ/BBC/ITV, etc, send them my way! Finally, I am working on a submission for a writing contest that will award a five book contract to the winner. This is the first time I have ever really worked on multiple projects at once. It isn’t nearly as hard as I feared it would be.

As I’m working on the script, I have been indulging in a common fantasy among others; mentally casting the show. Keep in mind, more often than not, writers get zero say in this sort of thing anyway, but it is fun nonetheless. I figured I would share my musings with you here. To start with, every show needs a readily identifiable theme song, am I right? Something that really stands out and blends in with the program, like the Skye Boat Song does for Outlander or I Don’t Want To Wait does for Dawson’s Creek. You get the idea. Although Runaway Train by Soul Asylum helped inspire my novel, it is too modern to be the show’s theme, so I say it can run over the closing credits. Instead, I think this one would be perfect. Ar Éirinn Ní Neosfainn Cé Hí by Dervish. You can listen to it here.

So with further delay, here is my dream casting list. (Note this is not all the characters, just the major and major-minor characters).

Molly O’Sullivan:       Ann Skelly

Lord Sanderson           Tobias Menzies

Patrick McMahon       Barry Keoghan

Frank Lynch                Liam Ainsworthy

Miss Cecilia                Diane Lane

Madame Delacroix      Sasha Higgins

Dr. Howard                 Ryan Gosling

Daphne                        Dakota Fanning

Liza Randolph            Maisie Williams

Katie                           Abigail Breslin

Timothy Warlow         Nicholas Hoult

So there you have it. Until next time, friends, take care of yourselves and each other.


Hurricane Nicholas

Dear Readers,

Remember how in April of 2020 we had storm damage to the house that resulted in something like 30K of repair/renovation work and the insurance denied the claim? Well….

On Monday, I went to have my pre-op Covid test, which I passed. I had only been home for an hour when my surgeon called to tell me all surgeries for the next day were canceled due to Hurricane Nicholas’ expected arrival Monday night. I was half expecting that, so we rescheduled for first thing in the morning on Tuesday the 21st.

The rain and winds started up that evening, but it wasn’t too bad. I got in bed at 10:15pm and around 10:30, I heard a low rumble and the house jolted for a second. At first, I thought one of the refineries had blown up because that’s what it sounded/felt like. My wife went outside and discovered that the massive tree in the abandoned house next door’s backyard had fallen on us.

Thankfully, my 1930s home is built solid. It’s like the Mike Tyson of houses. There was no structural damage, but the branches punched some holes in the roof. Given that the wind was gusting over 60mph with heavy rainfall, we took some water damage inside.

We were able to get the tree cut off the house Tuesday evening and a tarp over the holes in the roof, but we were without power from Monday night through this morning. When the tree fell, I shut the power off at the breaker (my firefighter instincts are still there), and we waited to turn it on until my electrician could check it out this morning.

We are probably looking at 10-15K in repairs this time around, but thankfully since it was a tree falling during a hurricane, the insurance is going to have a harder time denying the claim. It sucks, but that’s the trade off when live on the Gulf Coast. I’m a few blocks from the Bay, with great scenery and a beach within walking distance of the house, but all that comes with the risk of hurricanes.

The important thing is that we are okay, the cats are okay, and the house is still standing. And surgery next week is as good as this week.

Until next time, friends, take care of yourselves. And each other.


Back to Work

Dear Readers,

I completed my first week of Rona College. We are not allowed to require masks, just recommend them, but the overall mask rate in my classes is around 80%. I make sure to wear mine to set an example. But we are already hearing about cases among our students, which brings me to my next topic. I am scheduled for surgery on Sept. 14th. They called me on Friday, Sept. 3rd, and confirmed the operation and went over the pre-op instructions with me. I must get a COVID test on Sept. 13, the day before surgery. My fear is that I was either exposed last week or will be this week, thus testing positive on the 13th, whether symptomatic or not, and then having to delay the surgery again. I should’ve had it originally in May of 2020, yet here we are. Given how campuses are basically COVID factories right now, it’s just a matter of time before we all get it anyway.

I will say this though, it feels good to be back. It is funny how quickly I resumed the daily rhythm of teaching in person, office hours, and meetings after spending 18 months at home. Being back in front of the classroom feels good too. I was worried that I had forgotten how to do it and that I’d be like the Old Lady Rose character on Titanic walking in like, “It’s been 84 years,” but it all came back to me. When I’m there doing my job, the thought of risk never enters my mind. It is when I make my hour long drive home that I wonder if that will end up being the day I got exposed. Truthfully, I worry more for our students, some of whom live at home with vulnerable family members, then I do about myself. I came to terms with my own mortality years ago.

It is a similar mindset to what I had during my career in the fire department. Sure, it is a dangerous job, but if you dwell on the dangers, you can’t do the job. So, you take what precautions you can and put the rest out of your mind and go to work. There’s one big difference though. I took an oath for one job, and it is not the one I have now.

This will be the last Sunday without the NFL, which is nice. We are doing a family/friends fantasy football league this year (in addition to the baseball one that we have done for several years). Draft Day was yesterday. Patrick Mahomes is my wife’s favorite player, her being a Chiefs fan and all, but I had the number one pick in the Draft. I took him and have been yelled at ever since. High school and college football have started too. High school football is a very big deal down here in Texas, as I’m sure you’ve heard.

Right now, I’m working on a submission package for a writing competition; the winner to receive a five-book contract to write a series. It frustrates me to no end that despite spending 18 months at home, I got nothing of any value accomplished. I could have written my third novel during this time, but I didn’t. Though Molly’s Song came out in July, I have no idea when my next one will be out because I haven’t written it yet. Since I work best the busier I am, I’m hoping that being back to work in person might actually make me more productive. We’ll see.

Until next time, friends, take care of yourselves. And each other. L.H.

Journal of a Pandemic Year: The 47th and Final Entry

Dear Readers,

This will be the last entry in my Journal of a Pandemic Year series. When I started the series, I said that I would keep it going until we reached the point that I returned to in person instruction. Well, after eighteen months, the day has arrived. Tomorrow, Monday, August 30th, I will walk into a classroom for the first time since March 6, 2020. Is it a good idea that we are doing this with Delta raging out of control and mask use purely voluntary? I doubt it. In fact, other colleges around us have moved online for the first month, but not mine. It is as if we think we can just wish the pandemic away. You may not be interested in the Rona, but the Rona is interested in you.

I hasten to assure you that this will not be the last post ever on my website, just the last in the series. My plan is to continue to make 2-3 posts a month on various different things, basically, whatever suits my fancy at the time, which is what I did prior to the pandemic year entries. Keep in mind though, that I am still scheduled for surgery on Sept. 14th and so I will probably be out of pocket for a few weeks after that.

I was actually back on campus this past week for meetings that could have been emails. This is the norm for us even in non-pandemic times. A matter of fact, college faculty all over spend a lot of times in meetings that could be emails. Still, it was nice to see people in person whom I haven’t seen since the beginning of this year and a half long nightmare. And speaking of nightmares, here I am on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina watching yet another major hurricane pummel the state I love. The good news is that Alex Wilson is on The Weather Channel right now, and I have a major crush on her.

I don’t know what this semester will hold. Hopefully, we will emerge on the other side unscathed. It’s going to be hard on the students. Those who had never attended college online before had to learn to adjust to that, and now they will have to adjust again. For me, walking into a classroom makes me feel like the old lady in the Titanic movie. ”It’s been 84 years.” That’s about how long it feels like I’ve been out. I’m not nervous, more like resigned to whatever may come.

Until next time, friends, take care of yourselves. And each other.


Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Forty-Six

Dear Readers,

It has been a little over a week since the official release of Molly’s Song. Having lived with this story in the two years since I wrote the first words, obviously there was some excitement with the day that the story was finally out there for the world to see. It has been replaced with a sense of emptiness. So much of my life was wrapped up in the book that now that it is published, it is like I don’t know what to do with myself. Obviously, there is a sequel in the works, but that is just enough to take the edge off the restlessness I feel. I wonder if other authors feel the same way or if I’m just not right in the head. I mean, I know I ain’t right, but I meant in this specific instance.

My wife starts back to school tomorrow (Monday). Last year was bad. This year will be worse, as no one will have to wear masks and the county where her school is has the lowest vaccination percentage in the whole state. I’ll be back to being crammed into overcrowded classrooms with unmasked adults in a few more weeks. Honestly, I’ve just accepted the fact that I’m going to get sick and there’s nothing I can do about it. That makes it easier to deal with. People think all this is over because they want it to be over. We all want it to be over, but it won’t be unless people take precautions. Instead, we are all going to suffer from their poor decisions and from government officials and school administrators who put politics over the lives of educators and students.

I’m scheduled for a surgery on Sept. 14, but that may not happen since the rapid rise in case counts are causing some hospitals in the area to cancel non-emergent surgeries. I’ve already put this surgery off for 18 months. I don’t want to wait any longer, but I might very well have to wait. The jury is still out on that, or rather, the Rona is still out on that. We’ll see what happens.

I’m turning 43 on Saturday the 14th. My body is 43 in age years but 90 in mileage years. My spine is barely held together. My knees don’t work. My shoulders don’t work and I can’t raise either arm above my head. My intestines don’t work, and I get bowel obstructions. There are days with crippling migraines. I can’t walk very far without stopping to rest. My lungs are heavily scarred. There are days when I can’t get out of the car without help. I’m in pain every second of every day. I no longer remember what it was like to live without horrendous pain. I know we all have our crosses to bear, but there are times when I wonder why mine had to be so heavy. I’m serving a life sentence, held prisoner by my own body.

I truly don’t like talking about my physical condition because no one wants to hear it. I go through great lengths to hide it from people because I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me and I don’t want to be treated like I’m any different than anyone else. I’m a fighter, and this is my own personal war to wage. I’m not going to draft anyone else to fight it for or with me.

I didn’t mean for this post to be so negative, but it is what it is. Sometimes, you just have enough and want to set out your feelings in writing, which I have done here.

Until next time, friends, take care of yourselves. And each other.


Molly’s Song: RELEASE DAY!

Well, friends, the long awaited day has arrived. Many of you have followed along on this journey since I typed the very first word of the novel that would come to be Molly’s Song. It has been a long and exhausting trip, but we have reached the finished line. Molly’s Song is officially released today! I will include the purchase links below.

However, before I do that, I wanted to take the time to thank all of you for accompanying me down the tortured path to publication. I do hope that you will fall in love with Molly’s character as I did.

Amazon, Amazon Ebook, Audible, B&N, and IndieBound.

Until next time, friends, take care of yourselves. And each other.


Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Forty-Five

Dear Readers,

My name is Hutch, Lee Hutch, and I’m having a James Bond marathon this week. I’m on my summer break, so it gives me something to watch in the afternoons/evenings. (Mornings are for working). James Bond is always good for mindless distraction. Oddly enough, I’ve only read a couple of the novels, probably because I was raised on the movies and just never really got all that interested in reading the books. Maybe I should.

As I reflect back over what all has transpired since I first heard the word COVID in February of 2020, I sometimes wonder what the world has learned. What lessons will we take away from all of this? A pandemic should not have come as a surprise since that is something that both doctors, scientists, and historians have been warning of for a long, long time. I remember the bird flu scare in (I think) 2004, the swine flu scare in 08 (or was it 07?). We can’t say we didn’t know it was possible.

I think sometimes we find ourselves guilty of something that I saw time and time again during my time in public safety. We only want to plan for best case scenarios, not worst case scenarios. Sure, we’ll drill for a response to a Category Five hurricane, but when one is bearing down on us, local governments prefer to assume that it will turn away at the last minute. Sure, sometimes it does, but what if it doesn’t? Granted, the world is fortunate that COVID-19 doesn’t have the mortality rate of something like Ebola, but that is of precious little consolation to those who have lost a family member or friend.

During the early days of the pandemic, I would hear people say over and over again that it “only” kills the elderly or people with pre-existing conditions. At that time, the statement certainly appeared to be true. You can imagine the looks on their faces when I pointed out that I was one of the “only” ones. Looking at me from the outside, you cannot tell that I have chronic health issues that put me at high risk. I’m glad to know that so many people felt, and still feel, that people like me are disposable.

Even though I’ve called this whole series “Journal of a Pandemic Year” (even though we are well beyond a year now), I haven’t talked much about the pandemic itself as I wrote these missives. The virus was always in the background, occasionally popping up when I had to get tested or something. Maybe that was a mistake. Maybe I should have been talking about it all along. I just figured that there was so much of it on the news, especially a year ago, that people would prefer to read anything but my repetitions of what I was seeing on the news, especially since I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one in bars. (I pretend to be an attorney). I’m kidding, of course, I didn’t go to bars before the Rona and now that they are all open again, I have no desire to.

I worry about what is going to happen this fall as it relates to schools. Children under 12 cannot be vaccinated. The majority of 16-25 years old’s are not vaccinated. Classrooms are overcrowded on a good day. And we are forbidden from requiring masks. As a college professor, I cannot even ask a student to wear a mask when they come into my office, even if they are visibly sick. Add to this, a more contagious strain that is able, in some case, to defeat the vaccine, and it is a recipe for disaster. (We are seeing increasing breakthrough cases in my area. Not a large percentage, but enough to raise questions, at least for me). Even though I am fully vaccinated and have been for quite some time, the vaccine was never tested in people with auto-immune diseases, and so it is unknown how much protection I actually have. For this, and an abundance of caution anyway, I have not altered my pre-vaccine activities at all. I rarely go out and I always wear a double mask. However, I am going to be forced into what is essentially a COVID breeding ground in exactly four weeks.

Maybe we’ll be lucky. Maybe it won’t get that bad. Maybe they’ll be booster shots. That’s a lot of maybes. And, if we are going down that road, with so many unvaccinated people and rampant spread of a new strain, maybe we’ll see the evolution of a variant that can elude all vaccine protection, thus putting us back at square one.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist or pessimistic. I just wanted to get some of my thoughts on what we’ve seen and what might be to come written down. Hopefully one day, I can look back at this post and say that I was scared for no reason.

Until next time, friends, take care of yourselves. And each other.