Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Five


“Rain damage according to the insurance…”

April 10th

 The adjuster came out yesterday and met with us and our roofing contractor. He gave everything a thorough going over and took a lot of pictures. We largely stayed out of his way and let our contractor handle it. When the adjuster left, the contractor said that the adjuster told him that he was going to recommend that our windstorm insurance pay to replace the entire roof. 90% of the time, they go with the adjuster’s recommendation, so our fingers are crossed that they will do that this time. We should know something by early next week. Later in the day, someone else from the roofing company came out to put a better tarp over the holes (they are basketball sized), but we had storms last night and severe weather forecast for tomorrow night into Sunday morning.

This morning while I was sitting on the front porch having my coffee, I saw a CNN article on The Twitter about people having what are called “pandemic dreams”…probably stress induced. I found this interesting. Other than my dream about the Alamo, I haven’t done much dreaming but that’s because I haven’t done much sleeping. Last night, I went to sleep at 11:00pm. I awakened suddenly at 11:59pm and I’ve been up ever since. I am typing this at 9:30am. I woke up because we had a big storm come through and I was worried about whether or not the new tarp on the roof would hold. It did, so far. However, they are forecasting heavy winds and severe storms and rain later this weekend. If we can get 72 hours with no further damage, then we will be okay as it is going to dry out next week. No sleep, of course, means that I’m stiff and in horrific pain today. Lucky me.

April 11th

 The lack of sleep on Thursday night meant that I actually slept okay last night. And now, Saturday, I have to admit that I’m struggling with a serious amount of lack of drive to get things done. I checked the stats on the videos that I had made for class and found that for the previous week, the most viewed video only had 14 views. (In my four face to face 1302 classes, I have around 140 students, just to give you an idea). So why spend hours putting videos together if no one watches them? I guess I can just use premade videos from other sources. That seems to be what a lot of faculty are doing anyway. It is frustrating to put a lot into a class and making sure the Great Online Course Migration doesn’t negatively impact students when they don’t give a shit.

I think instead, I’ll spend the day playing Silent Hunter Four and sinking the Imperial Japanese Navy. Incidentally, a few days ago I ordered a collection of World War Two era radio broadcasts, news program, and radio shows. It totals around 1,250 hours of wartime programming. It is coming on MP3 discs, but it is also available via digital download and so I’ve downloaded about 1/3rd of the material so far. It is kind of cool to listen to the news broadcasts in order and follow the war as it unfolded in real time.

Tonight, we’ve got major storms in the forecast which does not bode well for the tarp on our roof. I’m not sure it can stand up to the predicted strong winds, hail, and heavy rain. It might be another sleepless night trying to make sure we don’t spring any more leaks.

April 12th

 We got lucky. I feel asleep last night full expecting to be awakened by storms. Instead, I was awakened at 0245 by my bladder. I checked the radar and saw that the strong storms were staying well to our north and were predicted to do so through the morning on Sunday. When I woke up for good at 0645, I saw that the ground was dry and the radar again showed the heavy stuff well away to the north, though we may get the occasional stray shower this morning. So we dodged a major bullet. I’m hoping to hear from the insurance company tomorrow as to whether or not they will cover the repairs. With this past Friday being a state holiday, it no doubt slowed down their response and so I’m not sure if it will be Monday or not. It could be Tuesday/Wednesday. My contractor indicated that if the insurance covers it, they can start work very quickly and if it is Monday, it is possible they could be done with the roof by the end of the week. The less time with a tarp the better, but at this point, I’m honestly just hoping that the insurance company decides to cover the damages.

Today, I have to do some more work related to the edits on my novel in preparation for my meeting with my editor tomorrow. I want to have my plan put together to go over with her. It helps to have someone to bounce ideas off of, that’s for sure. Then I’ll probably give it one more week of not touching the manuscript before beginning my edits, one chapter at a time, on April 20th. I plan on editing at a rate of 10 chapters a week. That’s put me finished around May 3rd. At that point, I’ll set the book aside so that I can begin work on novel number 3, Dark Raven. Then, I’ll pull Molly’s Song out again for another pass around June 15th in preparation to send back to copyedits on June 22nd. Sometimes, I confess, I wish that I could write full time. My sales are nowhere near enough to make that a reality though, probably because I suck at marketing. The odd thing too is that all the awards that So Others May Live has either won or is up for haven’t actually translated to an increase in sales either. Kind of makes you wonder what the point of awards is if they don’t increase sales. I guess they are good for the ego, but perhaps not much else.

April 13th

 It’s a Monday that doesn’t feel like a Monday since every day is now a Monday or a Saturday, depending on whether or not you are an optimist or a pessimist. Yesterday evening, I got some material posted for my classes for this week. I did not shoot any videos myself though. Part of it is that I am suffering from a severe lack of motivation, part of it is that we are still dealing with damage to the house, and part of it is that my students weren’t really watching my videos anyway. I spent of most of yesterday doing very little of use apart from checking emails, working on my edits, and watching TV. Speaking of TV, yesterday evening, I watched an amazing movie called One Day. It’s based on a novel by the same name which I’ve read part of, but since I didn’t finish it, I didn’t know the ending until I watched the movie. It’s an amazing movie and I highly recommend it. However, if you prefer every movie to have a happy ending…you might want to give this one a pass. Personally, I think movies/novels should have realistic endings, which aren’t always happy. Lord knows, I’ve been chastised by several readers for the way So Others May Live ended. As far as that goes…World War Two did not end happily for tens of millions of people. So I’m not sorry for ending it the way I did.

I don’t have much on my plate for today apart from paperwork this morning and at 1400 hours, I have a video conference with my editor to go over my revision plan for Molly’s Song. It’ll probably be next week before I actually start putting fingers to keyboard. This morning, I listened to my favorite podcast while I drank my coffee on the porch with Cravat Cat, the feral cat who is trying to steal my wife. They are saying on the news that we are two weeks away from seeing our peak case numbers in Texas. I don’t doubt the accuracy of the statement but seeing as how we rank near the bottom in per capita testing and the governor wants to reopen businesses, I fear that this will go on far longer than people think. It has gotten to the point that I now know a couple of people personally who have been infected, though thankfully they are not in critical condition. Before all this is over, I think we will all be touched by it in some way.

April 14th

 I’m having an increasingly difficult time remembering what day it is. I always know the date, but I can’t remember the specific day of the week. This is the opposite of how I normally am. In non-COVID times, I always knew if it was a Tuesday or a Wednesday, but I couldn’t tell you the date without looking at the calendar. That’s rather amusing if you think about it. Isn’t it odd how quickly people can adjust to new circumstances? I think that in the aftermath of this virus, things will probably never go back to how they were before. There won’t be any “getting back to normal.” What I think will happen is that we will find a new normal. We will date things as pre-virus or post-virus, in much the same way as those of us that live on the Gulf Coast tend to use major hurricanes as benchmarks (pre or post-Ike, Katrina, Harvey, Rita, etc, etc). And, of course, until we have an effective vaccine, we face a risk of a resurgence of the virus thus necessitating us doing this whole thing all over again. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is what it is.

I’m Catholic, but I’m not overly religious. I tell people I’m a practicing Catholic…practicing because I’m not very good at it. I’d say I’m more spiritual than religious, though I still recite the Rosary from memory every night before I go to bed and, prior to the virus, recited the prayer to Saint Michael before leaving the house every morning. That’s more out of habit than anything else. In life, I’ve always taken comfort in music, including old hymns. Two that I find particularly comforting in times of trouble are Abide With Me which was a very popular hymn with British troops in World War One. “Where is deaths sting? Where grave thy victory? I triumph still if thou abide with me.” Go here to listen to it being sung at the 2010 Festival of Remembrance. The second one is the hymn It Is Well With My Soul. “Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.” There’s a tragic story behind how it came to be written which you can read about here. And this is the best performance of it I’ve ever heard.

April 15th

 Still no word as of yesterday evening from the insurance. Part of me is of the mind to think that no news is good news, however, the pessimist side of me thinks that the longer it takes, the more likely it is that they are trying to come up with a way to deny coverage. After all, there’s no profit for them in paying claims. But maybe that is just me being cynical. Today is a Wednesday. I double checked on my phone before I got out of bed. In the pre-COVID days, I’d get up at 0630. By 0745, I was on the road headed to the Sugar Land campus. I’d arrive around 0900 and have an hour in the shared office space (my actual office is at the other campus). At 1000, I taught a 1301 class. At 1100, I had a 1302 class. Then I had an hour off in which I would eat lunch and check my emails. Then I would have another 1302 class at 1300. After class, I’d go upstairs and check my emails again, then I’d be on the road for home around 1415. Fun times. Now I don’t have a set schedule and I think that is part of what is causing me such problems. I allow my body to dictate my tempo and schedule rather than forcing it to adjust to one. I think starting next week, I might start setting my alarm for 0630 or 0645 and trying to work on a similar time system as before The Rona. Of course, that is all well and could to type that now. Come Monday morning, I may have a different opinion.

My wife is in the other room running a department meeting on Zoom. She’s the chair. It is amusing to listen to her run her meetings. Very German. “You vill listen to ze information und den you vill do ze the verk!” (She doesn’t have that accent, but it still basically goes like that). This morning, I have the 1952 John Ford film What Price Glory on the TV. It stars James Cagney and the lovely Corinne Calvet. You can watch it on YouTube here. I think it is one of the better World War One films, especially from the American perspective, but it is largely forgotten today. Speaking of James Cagney and World War One films, The Fighting 69th is another classic. The best documentary on World War One, a multi-national project which was released for the 100th anniversary of the start of the war, is 14: Diaries of the Great War. It is phenomenal. It was on Netflix for several years, but is no longer. Likewise, it isn’t available on YouTube either, at least not in a watchable format. It hasn’t been released on DVD anywhere but Australia either. I was able to get an Aussie copy and, since I have an all regions DVD player, I can still watch it. It is frustrating that such a great documentary isn’t widely available. I’m not sure why I am on a rambling World War One rant this morning. Probably because I’m planning on finally watching 1917 tonight on Amazon.

April 16th

 My hunch was correct. The insurance denied the claim. They say it was water damage and not wind. The fact that the wind lifted the shingles which then caused the water intrusion was conveniently ignored. And they also claimed that water dripping from an electrical outlet does not cause electrical damage. Since we live on the coast where insurance companies won’t write windstorm policies due to hurricanes, we have to have our windstorm coverage through the state risk pool. This means you cannot appeal their decision. All you can do is file a lawsuit, but you have to give them advance notice of your intent to sue. In the meantime, we still have holes in our roof and now, if another storm were to come before it is fixed and it suffers more damage, they will refuse to cover it and claim it is due to the pre-existing damage. Furthermore, with the damage, our roof is out of compliance with windstorm codes and I’ll give them about a week before they start threatening to revoke our coverage completely. I fucking hate insurance. Medical. Dental. Homeowners. They are all evil bastards. After all, you don’t make a profit and CEOs don’t get million dollar bonuses if you are paying out claims. Keep in mind, the premiums we’ve paid for windstorm coverage in the twelve years we have lived in this house are more than enough to cover the cost of a new roof with a tidy profit left over for the company, and that’s not even factoring in our $1900 deductible. Part of the reason they are so stingy on claims is all of the lawsuits they’ve lost.

In the meantime, let’s hope it doesn’t rain.

P.S.: I ended up not watching 1917 last night.


Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Four


(Part Four of my Quarantine Diary)

April 3rd

 Today is D-Day on numerous fronts. First of all, and the thing I am most excited/nervous about, Molly O’ returns from my editor this afternoon. Of course, this means I’ll have a lot of work ahead of me as I sort through all of her suggestions, but it’s work of a positive nature. Then she will go back for a copyedit in late June. After that, I enter Query Letter Hell. On the other front, I figure that today should be the day that I know if I have The Rona or not. This afternoon will mark 72 hours since the onset of my sore throat. As of yet, I don’t have a fever, so I am assuming that if I don’t have one by bedtime tonight, then I can chalk this up to allergies. And then…at 1300 hours, I have a live “drop in” hour for my students on Zoom, mainly for those who would like to feel connected. I’m not doing a live lesson or anything and it is optional. Then, at 1700 hours, we are having another Zoom Happy Hour! The last one was fun, so I’m looking forward to this one too. Funny how in the space of just a couple of weeks, I’ve become a Zoom devotee. On the downside, I had some really good days pain wise, but the past couple of have been rough. It comes and goes in cycles, so that’s to be expected, I suppose. But the pain kept me up a good chunk of the night and I needed to be on my toes today given the live meetings.

April 4th

 It is the weekend, but it doesn’t much feel like it given how all of the days run together. I have a lot of school stuff to do this week. Today, I have several videos to upload to YouTube for my 1302 classes. That will get them set for the upcoming week. Tomorrow, I have to record videos for my 1301 course. I’m still fever free, but I woke up this morning feeling generally shitty. My sore throat which had improved to the point of being unnoticeable yesterday evening is worse this morning than ever. My sinuses feel full. I’m checking my temperature every hour and so far, so good. My back is still killing me. It’s the lack of activity. I know it sounds counterproductive, but with my damaged spine and constant pain, I actually feel better the more active I am. Being more or less confined to quarters as I have been for weeks now isn’t good for me. I don’t have a choice though.

There’s some good news though. Molly’s Song has returned from the editor! I have a lot of suggestions to work through and digest in order to come up with my edit plan. It can seem kind of overwhelming at first, but I make lists starting with the big picture stuff and then working my way down to chapter lists. The book is already pretty good, I think I can say that without sounding like too much of a braggart, but it will be even better once I’ve made the revisions. Molly O’ is the kind of character that publishers like…the kind that end up on bestseller lists and she would be great on the big screen. I have no idea who could play her though. She is 18 when the story starts and 20 when it ends. She would have to be played by a young redheaded actress in the 17-24 range and that is pretty specific. I’m sure if we make it to that point, the studios could come up with the appropriate person. In a way, I wrote her as a tribute to all of the strong Irish women in my family that I grew up around, and the strong(willed) German redhead that I married.

Today, my wife also had to go pick up some groceries. I did not help put them away this time, even with gloves, as I am already not feeling great and if I do have The Rona, then it is from the groceries. After she finished, she wiped down everything with Lysol wipes, but we are dangerously low on them now and the stores are still out of them. (Along with toilet paper). Perhaps one day, we will sit around and talk about the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020. Frankly, I think all this stems from the day they shot Harambe. It’s been downhill ever since. But that’s just my opinion.

April 5th

 As if COVID-19 wasn’t bad enough, last night around 4:45pm, two large holes opened up in my roof which led to a flood of rainwater into the bedroom. I’m not sure exactly what caused it. From appearances, it looked like something hit the roof (we had been having rain all day), but I didn’t hear anything. So who knows? We’ve got the roof damage and since water was dripping from a light fixture, electrical damage as well. I filed a claim with our Windstorm Insurance, but I don’t know if they will cover it. If they don’t, we are looking at extremely expensive repairs…all for a house that is only worth 70K. Thankfully, I’d already shot my videos for this week’s courses and so I was able to get them uploaded this morning. I’m comforting myself today by watching my favorite detective series, True Detective Season One. (Season Two sucks. Season Three is a little better than Season Two but not up to Season One standards). Obviously, the damage to the house will impact what I’m able to do moving forward for my classes, but I don’t know exactly how all that will play out. Time will tell.

I’ve also been going through the suggestions from my editor chapter by chapter and making my own revision notes. Just to give you an idea the amount of work that goes into revisions, I’ve made two pages of notes for the first six chapters and there are 33 chapters total. Great books are not written. They are rewritten. I think most authors dread the revision process, but we all know how important it is. Banging out a first draft is great and obviously the important first step, but the true work comes when you go through it time and time again to make it perfect. Or as close to perfect as you can. Thankfully, Molly is a fun character to work with. She’s kind of mouthy. Just like me.

April 6th

 I woke up at 0500 this morning because I was eager to listen to today’s episode of All Bad Things. It is my favorite podcast and today they were doing my episode script. I ended up listening to it twice. After that, I had to do some grading since I had assignments due by 11:59pm last night. It didn’t take that long as basically everyone who turned it in got full credit. To me, that’s the fair thing to do given the circumstances that The Rona have forced upon us. None of us wanted this mess.

Yesterday, I decided I want to go and re-read the complete Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke in preparation for the release of the next book in the series which will be in May. There are currently 22 books in the series, so it is quite a bit of reading. But it makes for good reading. And I have also decided to binge watch all five seasons of Bosch on Amazon in preparation for the release of Season 6 later this month. I’ve previously seen the first two seasons, but I have not seen 3-5. I’m starting from the beginning though. Watching Bosch has proven quite useful. I think I know who could/should play Molly if her story gets made into a series. The young actress Madison Lintz who plays Bosch’s daughter in the series might just work. She’s 20 years old, which is the right age. She has freckles. And though her hair isn’t truly red (it does have a reddish tint), I’m sure they could touch it up for the show. Alright. There you have it. Now all I have to do is land an agent/book deal and have someone option the film rights. Truthfully, her story would work best as a Netflix/Amazon original series, especially since I envision her story being a three book series.

April 7th

 Not much sleep last night. I went to sleep at 11 and was up at 1 and 3:30. From 3:30, I stayed awake until 5:30 and then slept until 7:45. So I’m tired and in a lot of pain today. As I was sitting outside this morning enjoying my coffee and a conversation with Nick O’Tine, I read an article about plans (admittedly in the very early stages) for baseball to resume in May (or possibly June) with all games to be played in Arizona with a lot of concessions due to social distancing, etc. I have mixed feelings about it. As much as I’d love to have baseball to listen to on the radio again, which I greatly prefer over watching on television, I’m not sure it is worth the risk. No matter what controls are put in place to prevent infection, it would just be a matter of time before someone gets sick and if you end up having to quarantine a whole team shortly after the resumption of the season, then what? I get that baseball is important to the country, though arguably less important than it was when FDR made the decision to keep the league going during WW2, but is raising the spirits of people at home worth the risk to the players, managers, and team staff? Personally, I don’t think it is. However, I admit a certain bias since I have no doubt that the Red Sox were going to be positively putrid this season anyway.

The adjuster called me yesterday and he will be out to take a look at the holes in the roof on Thursday morning. I’m hoping that the insurance covers it. If they don’t, I’m not sure we can find the money to fix the roof and the electrical system. That’s a lot of cash to come up with at once if you aren’t expecting it. But we’ll see. It may work out in the end. And my roofing contractor will be here when the adjuster is here to advocate for us and I’m hoping that proves to be the difference. Yesterday I also finished working my way through the editor notes and I’ve made 6 pages worth of detailed notes to myself about the manuscript as well. I won’t start the actual revisions until next week sometime, as now I have to craft a plan for how I am going to tackle it.

The next couple of weeks will be big on the awards front too. On April 13th, I’ll find out if So Others May Live is a finalist for the First Horizon Award which is part of the Eric Hoffer Awards and is specifically for the best first novel. It is awarded for multiple categories, including historical fiction. On May 4th, they will announce the winners. On May 11th, the short list for the Hoffer Awards Grand Prize will be announced, followed up on May 18th with the Grand Prize winner and also the category finalists and winners. Then, on June 17th, the category winners for the Foreward Indies Awards will be announced. (I’m a finalist in the War & Military Category). It is kind of odd when you have one published book in the running for awards while you are working as hard as you can to finish your second. I had actually hoped/wanted Molly’s Song to be out this spring, one year after the release of So Others May Live but it is looking like a late 2020/early 2021 release instead. Oh well, life happens and our best laid plans often don’t come to pass like we had hope or wanted.

April 8th

 I slept a little last night…enough to have a dream that I was at the Alamo, but I’m in a lot of pain today. My whole spine feels like it is being jabbed with ice picks while I am simultaneously being beaten with baseball bats. I have some college work to take care of today. I also need to record some videos for next week, but I don’t feel up to that right now. Maybe tomorrow. My plan is to tackle the paperwork today and the videos tomorrow. But we’ll see. While I work today, I figure on binge watching some old Alamo movies since it was the subject of my dream last night. Available in my video library are The Last Command (1955), The Alamo (1960), 13 Days to Glory (1987), and The Alamo (2004). That’s enough to kill a whole day, and probably a bit more. Alamo movies tend to be on the long-ish side. I suppose that is because it is such a vast story that it isn’t easily contained in 90 minutes. I’m out of audiobook credits for the month, so I had to buy three more. The more distractions I have, the better.

I’m not going too stir crazy yet. I tend to be mostly a home body these days anyway and don’t tend to get out much unless it is to go to work. Otherwise, I’m happy enough staying home. Obviously, before I got hurt, I enjoyed going places and doing things, but with my injuries being as painful as they are, sometimes it is all I can do to even make it to work. Doing that five days a week (during non-pandemic times) takes every ounce of strength and energy that I have, so I assume that I can be forgiven for being somewhat sedentary on the weekends or when I’m socially distancing…which I guess I do all the time anyway, now that I think about it. Despite what I’ve just said though, remember, I tend to feel better the more active I am, so it is a bit of a paradox. Every couple of weeks during this time, I have a telehealth appointment with my therapist and that also helps take some of the edge off.

April 9th

 As planned, I had my Alamo movie marathon yesterday. Funny…they all ended the same way. Typically, at the end of every spring semester, I have a Sharpe’s Rifles movie marathon. (While binge playing Napoleon Total War on the computer). The semester is still one month from its conclusion…we are staggering towards it slowly but surely…yet I’m tempted to dive into the marathon anyway. (While still fulfilling my duties, of course). It is definitely an attractive option. Chosen Men, to me!

This has been a shit semester since before it even started. The fall semester was a constant battle with severe pain, but I genuinely started to feel better over the Christmas Break and was looking forward to returning in the spring. And then I ended up in the hospital and missed the first week of class. It was down hill from there. I just felt off all semester. Then, I had a very bad experience in Feb that I do not wish to describe other than to say it brought up a lot of baggage that I thought I’d kept long buried and for the first time, really, made me question whether or not I wanted to continue teaching. In a way, the Great Online Course Migration has given me something of a reprieve. I’m not sure I would have made it through the semester otherwise.

In order to dive into my Sharpe’s Marathon a bit early, I will first have to go ahead and record the remainder of my video lectures for the duration of the semester. That will take several days. Granted, it isn’t 6 hours worth of lecture material for each week. More like 1.5 hours per prep, so 3 hours total instead of six, broken into 20 minute chunks. Since the adjuster will be out around 11 am today, I can’t get started until this afternoon. I’m going to try and get one week worth of material for one class recorded today. Then, over the weekend, I can probably get a couple more weeks done. I did sleep last night too, so that is a plus. I feel a bit more rested today.

And now we await the adjuster.

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

(From a distance of six feet)


Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Three


March 27th

 Today was a full day, even though I decided to step away from working on my classes for the day, apart from sending and replying to some emails. It’s a funny thing, this switch to virtual classrooms, I’m actually busier now each day and indeed, I have longer days, than when I’m teaching a normal semester. But normal this semester is certainly not, so I rewarded myself with having a bit of a free day. I started watching the AMC series The Son. It is pretty interesting. Granted, I’ve read the book before (technically, I listened to it on Audible) and so I roughly know how it is going to play out, but it is nice to see how they converted it to the screen.

At 4:45pm, we had our first virtual happy hour. It was fun. A colleague and I intentionally dressed alike (white shirts with red ties). I think we had 5 or 6 people there at varying points. Hopefully we will do it again soon. It’s nice to see colleagues, even if it is on a computer screen. I’m lucky because I’m not along at home. My wife is here, and most importantly, my little girl Anastasia Colleen. I went to bed around 2300 hours, but I woke up every two hours all night long. Probably because I’d drank more water (and kool-aide) during the day than normal, so my bladder was a bit more active than is typical.

March 28th

Though perhaps best known for their song Eye of the Tiger which plays on an endless loop in boxing gyms across the country, Survivor has another song called Moment of Truth (which, if memory serves me, was used in the Karate Kid movie). There’s a line in the song that says, “Deep in the night, a dream is born. One that you can’t ignore.” Why am I quoting that here? Well, Dear Readers, while I was laying in bed around 0130 this morning, I got to thinking about something. I was mulling over the plot of my third book, which I planned on starting to write here in a few weeks’ time. Everything is sketched out from characters to plot outline to chapters. I have it set during the Russian Revolution, at least I thought I did. As I stared at the ceiling, I got to thinking. What if I lifted my plot out of Russia and transported it to our side of the world, and dropped it into the Mexican revolution? It would work. Both revolutions were happening more or less simultaneously, though Mexico’s started earlier. Other than the setting, the plot would not need to be changed all that much, only tinkered with a bit. Revolutionary Mexico is as fascinating an era as Revolutionary Russia. In fact, my minor field in graduate school just so happened to have been Revolutionary Mexico, which is why I speak Spanish in addition to Russian. And, since I live in Texas and it comes in handy, I speak Spanish a whole lot better than I do Russian. I haven’t decided for sure, but I’m leaning heavily towards shifting the setting.

March 29th

 Today is the last day before the Great Online Course Migration begins, or rather, the first day of virtual classes begins. I had to do some last minute preps that stretched into the entire day, mainly because after two weeks of working to get all this shit set up, I’m tired. One of the reasons I don’t much care for teaching online classes is that they take three times the preparation compared to face to face classes on the instructional end. In a typical semester, I only teach one online section, out of six classes, but now all six will be online for the duration. I’m also scheduled to teach two sections during the Summer 2 semester, but the jury is still out as to whether or not those courses will be in person, online, or even held at all. I have a sneaking suspicion that they will be online, but we’ll see. The cats are enjoying us being home. Or at least they appear to be enjoying it.

March 30th

 Today is D-Day. Classes have resumed. When I checked my email at 0930, I already had four messages from students. For sake of comparison, I’ve had three student emails total from March 6th through the 29th, so I guess this is a harbinger of things to come. Of course, the college is bombarding us with emails this morning too. As if they don’t know that we are getting lots of student emails today and the demands the college keeps sending out could wait a day or two…it isn’t urgent. But those who aren’t instructional, have time to send emails out in a constant stream all day to make it look like they are working, and so I have no doubt this will continue unabated until the end of the semester.

On the writing front, this is a big week. Molly’s Song will come back from the editor on Friday. I’ll take a look at her feedback and then start on revisions. It’ll go back for a copyedit in June. Right now I can’t give a firm timeline for when the book will be published. It could be late fall…or even later. So stand by for information on that as I will keep you updated as things go along. And now I must go back to checking emails.

March 31st

 There’s a wrinkle in the self-isolation plan…the pharmacy. I had to submit my refills this morning via the Walgreens app, but I’ll have to go or get my wife to go to pick them up. I can go through the drive thru, of course, but I still have to give them my card and, of course, they’ve touched the bottles. I can wear gloves, I guess. I’m not sure how many cases we have in the immediate area, since the news doesn’t say specifics other than over 1000 cases in the Greater Houston area. But the Greater Houston area encompasses quite a few counties and the total population is larger than many states.

I’m not suffering from cabin fever, quite the contrary. There’s plenty to keep me occupied by work related items and stuff on TV to watch. I had a nice surprise this morning. The SyFY Channel is hosting a 24 hour Twilight Zone marathon! Normally, my New Year’s Eve tradition is to watch the 48 hour marathon they host at the close of every year, so it is nice to have a 24 hour mini marathon. I know what I’ll be doing today apart from replying to student emails! At 0830, they showed “Time Enough At Last” which is one of my favorite episodes. That bodes well for the rest of the day. In the spirit of quarantines, I think they should also show “The Shelter” and “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.”

April 1st

 I’m afraid it has happened. Yesterday afternoon, I developed a nagging sore throat. I took various sore throat remedies to no avail. Overnight, I had a hard time getting to sleep. When I woke up this morning, my throat was still sore, though perhaps not as pronounced as last night. However, I feel kind of weak and shaky. I am not running a fever as of yet. The thing is, for me to have caught The Rona, it would mean that it travelled in on bags from my wife’s last trip to the store. She wore gloves when she was there and I wore gloves when I helped put everything away. All the plastic bags went straight into a trash bag. And when we finished putting things away, we wiped down all the surfaces with Lysol, including the doorknob. So if I have it, then it is truly a durable virus. I guess time will tell. Either I’ll develop a fever or I won’t. That will be the telling symptom.

In the meantime, after much reflection and a few sleepless nights, I’ve decided to keep my third novel set during the Russian Revolution as previously planned. This epiphany occurred to me as I was laying in bed last night looking at the photo of Maria Nikolaevna that I keep by my bed. I don’t think my guardian angel would approve if I moved the location, especially seeing as how she was to make a cameo appearance in the book if it were set in Russia. I think I owe it to her to keep her there. I’m planning on starting to write it on Monday (it’s already plotted out), assuming I don’t have The Rona, that is. If so, all bets are off.

April 2

 Yesterday, I admit I was a bit lazy and did very little other than reply to emails and watch funny YouTube videos. As of yet, I have not developed a fever and, assuming I can make it through the next 24 hours without getting one, then it is likely that I do not have The Rona. Today, however, I have been sneezing up a storm this morning which does tend to reinforce the notion that this is allergy based. I have some more videos that I need to shoot, but I don’t want to risk a sneezing fit on camera, so I am probably going to put that off until the weekend and then do some binge recording.

I was planning on doing a giveaway when my Instagram account hit 400 followers (you can find me @LeeHutch_author ). However, due to the virus, I can’t mail out the books even though I’ve surpassed that number. In fact, the author copies I had ordered to send out won’t even arrive until today due to Amazon shipping delays. I’ll have to put gloves on to open the package, then wipe the books down with Lysol, and then place them in quarantine until such time as I can get to the post office. And Lord knows when that will be.


I don’t have a whole lot on tap for today other than to keep up with some work-related items and at 3pm I have a therapist appointment. (It is a telehealth appointment, so I’ll be socially distanced). I neglected to mention this earlier, but on March 30th I learned that So Others May Live is a finalist in the General Fiction category of the Independent Audiobook Awards. That’s kind of a big deal. It’s the small/indie press equivalent of The Audies which are like the Academy Awards for audiobooks. I had a stellar narrator, of course, and all the accolades on this one go to her.

And I’m counting down the hours until I get Molly O’ back from my editor. It is, of course, amazing to me that seeing early drafts of my novels haven’t driven her into early retirement.

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

(From six feet away, of course!)


Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Two


Dear Readers,

This is the second installment of my Journal of a Pandemic Year series. If you missed the first one, you can find it here.

March 19th: Night

My wife and I sat on the porch tonight between the hours of 8pm and 9pm, as we do every night, pandemic or not. The internets is rife with rumors of martial law (which people misspell as “marshall law”. I don’t believe the rumors. That’s the negative thing about social media. These things spread like wildfire. Still, we only have enough supplies for one more week. If people are believing the rumors, it might cause another run on the stores, so my wife and I decided that she would venture out to Dollar General in the morning. (I can’t go out due to my health and with my damaged spine being what it is, I can’t lift groceries anyway). When I got in bed an 9pm, I decided to watch the movie 28 Days Later. I’ve seen it one time, many years ago. The scene in the church when the infected priest appears still scares the shit out of me. I only made it halfway through it. I’ll finish it tomorrow. I went back outside at 10:15pm or so until around 11pm, and then it was time for bed. I’m having a hard time falling and staying asleep right now. Inevitably, I toss and turn until around 2:30, then I’ll manage to sleep for a couple of hours. I get up and go to the bathroom, but then I lay awake until around 7am when I crash hard for an hour and wake up groggy at 8. This is an every night thing and has been since I started Spring Break back on March 9th. What’s odd is that I normally don’t have this issue during breaks from school. I’m not sure if it is stress or something else. My back is killing me, so it could be due to that, but I think it is something more.

March 20th

I made it out of bed around 8:15am. I had an Ensure and a big slice of red velvet cake for breakfast. The pandemic breakfast of champions! My wife left around 9:30 to run her errands, returning home at 10:15. She wore gloves. While she was out, a friend sent her a text message of a grocery store in a nearby town with people lined up around the corner. That’s why she went to Dollar General instead of Kroger. She was able to get most of what we need and top off our supplies. We can make it around a month without leaving the house again. When she got home, I wore gloves to help put the food away and the empty bags went directly into a trash bag that we then placed outside. Then we wiped down the cabinet door, the front door, and the fridge door. I washed my hands all the way up to my elbows under water hot enough to be scalding for around four minutes and my wife got in the shower and put her clothes directly in the washing machine. If the virus finds access into our house, it’ll be through this but there was nothing else we could do. So we tried to be as safe about it as possible.

California has ordered the entire state into lockdown according to the news which broke last night. Governor Newsome announced it. I’m in Texas and though we are urged to do the same, it isn’t really mandated yet. With those measures taken by California, I wonder if other states will follow suit. Probably. I had to check my work emails this morning and didn’t have much that needed my attention. Now it sounds like New York is doing the same as California. I turned on the radio and there was a press conference on, but I missed the beginning of it.

This afternoon, I started working a script for my favorite podcast, All Bad Things. I won’t tell you what it is about as I do not want to spoil the surprise, but I hope it will be good. I also binge watched Season 8 of London’s Burning on Amazon. I replied to a few emails and did very little else of value. I have a rough plan of how I’m going to proceed with the semester and I will start working on the details next week since technically the college is still closed this week. Around 7;45pm, my wife and I sat outside for an hour and fifteen minutes or so. I didn’t listen to much in the way of news this evening, as I figured it wouldn’t be anything good anyway. I did, however, get an email that informed me that my novel, So Others May Live, has been selected as a finalist in the War & Military Fiction category of the Forward Indies Book Awards, so that’s one piece of good news!

March 21st

Last night I tossed and turned until the wee hours of the morning. I really don’t know what is wrong with my sleeping patterns. My back felt okay yesterday, but it doesn’t today. I had an Ensure and some yogurt for breakfast, a bit healthier than what I had yesterday. Today, I’m planning on working on the script a little more. My co-worker set up a meeting on Zoom for us scheduled for 1:30pm to test out and see how it works. I spent around 30 minutes this morning setting up an account and I made a virtual background with a photo of my history crush Maria Nikolaevna. 😊

In the afternoon, I had my Zoom conference. Everything worked fairly well. I then checked my emails, talked on the phone to a colleague, and watched funny YouTube videos. That evening, I decided to go back and play one of my favorite PlayStation games, Red Dead Redemption (the first one). I am a creature of habit and I take comfort in familiar things, so I often watch the same movies/shows over and over again. And I play the same games religiously too. I’ll probably keep playing it for the duration of the crisis.

March 22nd

I slept…okay…last night. I fell asleep around 11pm and slept until 3:30am. I woke up and got out of bed to go to the bathroom and sat outside for a little bit. I fell back asleep around 4 and slept until 6:45am. I didn’t want to get out of bed that early, so I messed around on my phone and fell back asleep around 7:30 only to wake up groggy and confused at 8:30. This has jacked up my whole schedule for the day. For breakfast, I had ham and eggs, though the eggs were regular colored and not green. I worked on the podcast script until lunchtime. I’m getting close to finishing it. I am hoping to get it done this evening some time. Tomorrow I have to start back to work on my class stuff and try to get everything set up for the students when they virtually return to class on March 30th. I have a pretty good plan for what I’m going to do, now I just have to do it.

The Zoom conference went well. We are going to try and have a weekly get together (virtually) with some other co-workers. It should be fun. I didn’t do much in the afternoon/evening other than play my game. Tomorrow, Monday, I have to get back to work for the college (at home, of course). I also finished up my script this afternoon and sent it over to the All Bad Things podcast.

March 23rd.

Well…shit. I flat out could NOT fall asleep last night again. I tossed and turned until around 3am, so on the day I really needed to buckle down and do shit, my back was killing me again. I soldiered on though. Using Zoom as my recording platform, I pre-recorded three lectures for my 1301 class for when they start back next week and also got their syllabus adjusted and updated the course Blackboard page, so they are all set to go. It took me most of the day to do it, but I also got a head start on setting up my 1302 courses so that their Blackboard is done and all I have to do tomorrow is record three videos.

I’ve found that recording the videos on Zoom is kind of fun. I don’t have much to say for today, since I was mostly working. I wanted to record a video with me standing in front of a planet so that I could say to the class, “Look, everyone! I’m lecturing in from Uranus!” My wife wouldn’t let me do it. I made it to the missions which are set in Old Mexico on Red Dead Redemption, so that is where I’ll be tonight. And hopefully I can sleep some too. I also decided to shave off my goatee tonight. It was starting to turn white. This is what happens when you marry a redhead.

March 24th

Thank God for small miracles. I managed to sleep from 11:00 – 0200 and then again from 0215 until 0600. So I’m somewhat rested. Tomorrow morning we have a Zoom coffee hour and today I have to record 4 mini lectures for my 1302 students. The first one will be a short introduction to the new way the course is structured. The second one will be about prostitution in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The third one is about Prohibition and the Jazz Age. And the fourth one is about the Great Depression, which is depressing. But at least I’ll get to do WW2 lectures after that! Yay! I might share some of my WW2 lectures on my blog. We’ll see.

I’ve been too busy to follow much on the news, but I hear that in the US we are inching closer to 50K identified cases in the United States with close to 1K in my state. (I say identified cases because of the issues with testing that have no been resolved yet). There’s a lot more of it out there than we know. I’m happily getting my work done, though I wish I had time to start writing my next novel. (Molly’s Song is out with the editor at present). I’m going to try and get as much done for setting up my classes for the duration this week so that I can have time to write moving forward. We’ll see how that goes.

It’s 5pm and I can now say that my classes are all set for the first week back (March 30th). I’m going to spend the rest of the week trying to get two more weeks done so that I’ll have half of the remaining weeks covered. That’ll buy me a little time in which to work on writing. That’s the plan, anyway. We’ll see how it goes. I think that this evening, instead of playing my game on the PlayStation, I’m going to read a book and listen to an old time radio drama or something. And enjoy a cigar out on the porch.

March 25th

I listened to part of a radio drama as planned. Instead of one from the 40s or 50s, I listened to the BBC radio adaptation of Bomber by Len Deighton (you can find the radio version here) as I am about to start recording my WW2 lectures. (Some today and some tomorrow). Last night I slept like the dead, though I guess that isn’t an appropriate analogy to use during a pandemic. I ate some cereal for breakfast and at 9:30, had a coffee hour with some colleagues from the Sugar Land campus on Zoom. After that, I set up the Zoom Happy Hour for Friday. I hope people show up. It would be kind of awkward to host a happy hour for co-workers and have no one show up! But I’m sure enough people will to make it worthwhile. I enjoy talking to my colleagues, even if it is through a computer screen. On tap for today, I have to do some small detail oriented things for my classes before lunch, and then I’ll do some recording in the afternoon. Oddly enough, I’m having a blast recording these mini lectures. I plan on using them for my regular online classes in the future. One challenge is making sure I change shirts in between videos so that it doesn’t look like I’m wearing the same thing every day. (I’m not, but honestly I’m just wearing an undershirt around the house, but that wouldn’t look right in a video!)

March 26th: Day

Last night I fell asleep watching TV. It was around 10:15 or so. I awoke to my wife taking my glasses off and covering me up with a blanket. Needless to say, I ended up sleeping fairly well. I woke up at 0645 fairly well rested and didn’t fall back asleep. That’s the good news. The bad news, and it is a wicked trade off, really, is that when I sleep well, I’m in more pain in the morning than if I tossed and turned, so today will end up being an extra medication day.

My wife has a bunch of video conferences today, so I’m taking advantage of it to record some more lectures. I got half of the WW2 lectures done, which means I now have two weeks of material for my 1302 courses. This afternoon, I’ll start recording the rest of the WW2 lectures. That will carry me into tomorrow when I’ll handle weeks two and three of my 1301 course. It’s a brave new world we have entered into, and I’m not sure how all this is going to play out in the end. I’m going to stop this diary entry here so that I can post it.


So Others May Live Named A Finalist!


Dear Readers,

Allow me to make a brief announcement. I am chuffed to announce that my first novel, So Others May Live, has been named a finalist in the War & Military category of the 2019 Foreward Indies Awards! You can see the announcement and the list of my co-finalists here. If you are suffering from boredom during our current situation, consider reading one of their books. I particularly suggest No Common War by Luke Salisbury. It’s a novel set during the Civil War and is a very good story. The winner will be announced later, June, I think, and I wish all of the others (in every category) the best of luck.

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

(From a distance of six feet)


Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part One


Dear Readers,

This semester was well and truly f—-d from the beginning. I missed the first week of class due to being hospitalized for a complication stemming from the disease I was diagnosed with a couple of years ago. When I returned to class, it felt like I was struggling to get my feet under me. Then an incident happened that made me question my whole decision to teach in the first place. And now? Well, now I’ll be confined to quarters for the duration of the semester as we have switched over to online instruction for the balance of it owing to the virus. It is the right decision. But it still kinda sucks. Now, I’m not Daniel DeFoe, but he wrote a wonderful book called Journal of a Plague Year which is technically a novel (though it is often seen as non-fiction) about the Great Plague of London in 1665. I decided to do something a little similar. Not in book form, but in blog post form. While this plays out, I shall record my weekly record of my experiences here. In this first post, I will talk about everything that happened from when I first learned about the virus to now, so it might be a little longer than the subsequent posts.

CAVEAT: I am not a medical doctor. Nor do I pretend to be a doctor in bars. This is due to the fact that I don’t drink alcohol and so I don’t go to bars. And even if I did, I wouldn’t pretend to be a doctor. I’d pretend to be an attorney. So nothing that follows is medical advice. It is merely the pandemic as I have experienced it.

I first became aware of the novel coronavirus during the last week of January. Now, I’ll confess that viruses, plagues, and pandemics have always fascinated me. I’m not sure why. Part of it is professional, as I helped draft my FD’s pandemic response plan back during the whole bird flu mess. At that time, I wasn’t much worried about it, though some of the leaked video and images out of China were fairly alarming, frightening even. I think I referenced it in class for the first time either that week or the next when talking about the Bubonic Plague in my 1301 class.

Around Valentines Day, I discovered a podcast that posted daily updates on the virus. It was pretty in depth and scientific. Often, they’d discuss some new conclusion reached by the doctors several days before the mainstream media did. I’ve continued to listen daily. It was around this time that I had my first twinges of alarm. Given how interconnected the world is, I knew it was just a matter of time before it reached my state.

I was kind of amazed over the next couple of weeks how not many people seemed to care of the looming threat it posed. I wasn’t afraid, necessarily, but as a person who is immuno-compromised with s–t for lungs, I knew I’d be at high risk of contracting it should it result in a large outbreak. Better to be safe than sorry? Right? Well, apparently not. Late February into very early March, we had troubling news out of Washington state. An outbreak in a nursing home. Firefighters exposed. Patients dying. Nurses exposed. What a s–t storm! Coming soon to a town near you!

And then, the first week of March, I think, the City of San Antonio said that the CDC let a patient (from a cruise ship) who had been quarantined there was allowed to walk out of the facility and even visited the freaking mall when still positive for the virus! What a clusterf–k! And then, Dear Readers, it happened!

The first case in Texas (not connected to the cruise ship passengers quarantined in SA) was reported on the evening of March 4th. It was in Fort Bend County, where my college has two of its three campus and I teach at both of them! Within a couple of days, there were six cases in the county all connected to a trip to Egypt. The college where I teach was supposed to draft a pandemic response plan back in 2006 (probably in response to the bird flu), but it was never completed. On the morning of March 5th, I sent a lengthy email to one of our VPs outlining the specific questions we needed to be thinking about. Yes, in a way I was exceeding my brief, but at the same time, I do have experience with this type of planning. She agreed and had some questions of her own. As I understand it, the issue was discussed at the cabinet meeting that day, but I know of no specific measures that were taken at that time.

We were on Spring Break the week of March 9-13, and that is when the bottom dropped out. NBA player testing positive. Tom Hanks testing positive. Baseball suspending Spring Training. The NBA suspending the season. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo cancelled, despite the Mayor having said a day or two before that it wouldn’t. And then the school closures. Wave after wave of colleges and public schools began to announce closures. My college sent an announcement on Thursday, March 12th that said we would be extending Spring Break by a week (March 16-20). Rumor had it, we were going to be switching to online instruction like virtually all of the schools around us.

My wife and I had enough groceries and water that we were able to stay more or less isolated during Spring Break, but with the extension of the break, we made a a double grocery order on the 14th which will last us for a while. We used Kroger’s click list so we don’t actually have to go in and shop for it ourselves.

The college sent out its official notice to us on the evening of Monday, March 16th. (Word was sent to students two days later). Full time faculty/staff were to report back on Monday the 23rd, but the college would remain closed until March 29th. Classes would resume, in an online format, on Monday, March 30th. I teach at least one class online each semester, so it isn’t a huge deal for me to make the switch, but that isn’t the case for everyone. Given my health issues, I do not have to report to work on the 23rd, and, to be honest, I doubt very many people will.

It was a greatly subdued St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t drink, but I do pour out shots for my absent friends and relations. Pouring out liquor is kind of a hood thing, but that’s where I grew up, so I merged it with my paddy ways. Sadly, I had to add a glass this year for my cousin Marty who passed away unexpectedly last summer. Apart from that, it was a day filled with Irish music and Irish movies.

My wife is a high school teacher and she’s working from home now too. It’s funny, really. Yesterday, she woke up at 0600 and pretty much worked all day (phones, Google hangout meetings, emails) while I played video games in my room. When she noted that we will basically be together all day until August, my response was, “Sweet Mother of God! Somebody infect me now!”

But now we are headed into a brave new world. I worry for my students who don’t have reliable internet access or technology. I worry about the ones who might lose a family member. I worry about my brothers and sisters in the fire service knowing that they will take casualties from this as well. I don’t worry about myself. As I write this, we are at nearly 9,000 cases and 150 deaths when just a week or so back, it was 100 cases. My back is f—–g killing me. I can’t sleep. And I’m bored out of my mind. I don’t know what the future holds for me, or for any of us. But I do know that we can get through it. We’ve survived terror attacks, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and pandemics before, and we can do it again.

And for all you teachers and professors out there, this is our new anthem!

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

(But do it from six feet away)