Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Thirty-Nine

Dear Readers,

As promised in my last pandemic journal entry, this latest entry is a bit more exciting. In case you haven’t seen the news yet, Molly’s Song is available for pre-orders now! You can find the eBook here and the paperback here on Amazon. If Barnes and Noble is more your thing, you can find it here. And, if you like to support independent bookstores as I do, you can find it on Indiebound here. The release date is July 29, 2021. At some point, I hope to be able to offer signed copies through my website, but that will be some time after the release date.

I survived all the doctor appointments that I mentioned in the last entry. My lung scans came back fine, with nothing there that we didn’t already know about. (I have fibrosis of the lungs from occupational exposure as a firefighter coupled with the fact that I smoked for twenty years). I’m lucky now because I don’t have another doctor appointment for an entire month! I swear my life now is marked my doctor visits rather than “normal” benchmarks. That’s how I measure time.

Initially, I had planned on getting back to the sequel of Molly’s Song tentatively titled Molly’s War on Monday the 17th. However, after the overly taxing semester that I just finished, I decided to let myself take a week and do whatever I wanted, which involved playing RDR2 and Madden 20 on the PlayStation, going for a daily walk on the beach, and sitting on the porch listening to radio episodes of Gunsmoke and Dragnet. I’m writing this on Saturday the 22nd, and this coming Monday, it’ll be back to the salt mines.

Looking back over my early entries in the Pandemic Year series, I referenced several times that I was having trouble sleeping last spring. I guess that must be a seasonal thing as I am back there now. No matter how tired I am, as soon as I turn out the lights, my brain says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Mambo Number Five!” Not even NyQuil can knock me out. I toss and turn all night until around 0430 when I crash out hard and sleep until 0730. This is probably the reason why my back has been giving me more trouble than usual of late.

It has rained every day this past week. Sometimes heavy. Sometimes light. And there is more rain predicted for today. Given that I live in a mosquito infested swamp, the added rain means if we dodge the Rona, we will get West Nile. Hopefully the county will come out and spray soon, but I doubt it. After steady rain, we get swarms of mosquitos. Think a cloud full of the blood sucking vultures. Typically, they don’t bother me too much as having grown up in the bayou country, I think I have a certain immunity to them. My wife, however, is their preferred target. I swear one of these days they are going to pick her up and fly away with her.

I bought Madden 20 for my PS4 right after it first came out, but I hadn’t played it yet until this week. I’m kinda starting to wish I hadn’t though, as now I am anxious for football season to get here. I want to know what is going to happen with my Saints now that we are entering the post-Drew Brees era. Given how putrid the pre-Drew Brees era was, I’m not optimistic. Truthfully though, I’m a bigger fan of high school and college football. And speaking of college football, my alma mater, Sam Houston State University won the FCS National Championship on Sunday, May 16th. Yes…you read that right. We are FREAKING NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! We’ve been close before, but now the trophy is ours. (“We’ll fight and fight with all our might for Sam Houston’s orange and white!”). If you missed the game, you can watch the full replay here. I have ordered my official national champions t-shirt which should be in sometime this week. Sadly, I did not get an alumni discount.

Well, friends, I will leave you now as I have to get back to sending out press releases and doing some other publicity things for Molly’s Song.

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


Molly’s Song Book Trailer and Pre-Orders!


I am positively chuffed to announce that Molly’s Song is available for pre-orders and to share the book trailer with you! The official release date will be July 29, 2021. I’ll include the book blurb below, but in the meantime, you can pre-order the Kindle version here, you can find the Nook and paperback pre-order here, and if you live across the pond, Amazon UK has the kindle pre-order here and the paperback pre-order here. As an added bonus, if you have not yet had the opportunity to read my first novel, So Others May Live, I have dropped the Kindle price to a mere 99 cents! I am truly thankful to have shared this journey with all of you and I hope you will fall in love with Molly O’Sullivan as I did. And to think…this all came from me looking at a photograph of a 19th Century sex worker.

Amidst the turmoil of Civil War era New York, a young, immigrant woman seeks to escape a life of prostitution so that she may rescue a child from a terrible fate.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Cast adrift in an unfamiliar city, a young Irish immigrant named Molly finds herself forced into prostitution and has a child stolen out of her arms. With the city descending into the chaos of the Draft Riots, Molly must save herself before she can save the child.

From the green fields of Galway to the crowded streets of New York and the ornate parlors of New Orleans, Molly never stops fighting to free herself and the child she hardly knows from a terrible fate.

I thank all of you for the support and encouragement as I wrote, edited, submitted, and then eventually found a publisher. It is kind of fitting that two years to the day that I wrote the first word, the book is now out there for you to order.

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


Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Thirty-Eight

Dear Readers,

Another week done gone. It was a rather slow week for me, marked only by a regularly scheduled doctor appointment on Friday. Next week will be a little busier as I have two CT scans on Tuesday, a doctor appointment on Thursday, a doctor appointment on Friday, and on Saturday I am attending an Air Force commissioning ceremony at a nearby university. I’m sure my next entry will be more exciting than this one for those reasons.

I’m still waiting to find out when the release date for Molly’s Song will be along with when the pre-order date will be. I hope to learn something soon. Obviously, you’ll be the first to know as I think that calls for a special post unrelated to the pandemic year series. As soon as this semester ends, I’ll go back to working on the sequel (I’m already six chapters into it).

Last spring, when all of this was relatively new, I was beset with crazy dreams at night. Apparently, I was not the only one, as I came across an article back then about “pandemic dreams.” The dreams only lasted for a month or so, but here I am a year later having crazy dreams again. They aren’t bad dreams, nightmares, or anything of the sort, just bizarre, very vivid dreams. I have had some very bad allergies all week and have been taken allergy medication which could explain it, but that doesn’t explain last year when I wasn’t taking the medication. I can’t complain about the dreams though, because it means that I am actually sleeping rather than being plagued with insomnia like usual.

Last night I stayed up to watch the Canelo fight. It was held in Arlington at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. It was weird to see 73,000 people inside an arena. I hope that doesn’t turn into some kind of super spreader event. It was a good fight though. Canelo won by TKO in the 9th Round when his opponent was unable to answer the bell for the next round. And speaking of sports, the Red Sox are doing pretty well though I fear that the bullpen issues will overshadow their ability to score runs as the season progresses, but it is still early.

Virtual final exams start this morning (Sunday) and will run through noon on Wednesday. Then, I have to enter grades and complete all of the end of the semester paperwork all while being bombarded with student emails wanting to turn in missing assignments after the semester is finished or wanting me to round their 76 average up to a 90. Typically, this is the only week of the semester that I am in a truly bad mood. When I am working on school stuff on the computer, I like to have something on TV for background noise and the occasional distraction. This week, I am planning on binge watching Big Sky which is based on a novel by CJ Box, which I have read. He is also the author of the wonderful Joe Pickett series. That said, the final episode won’t air until the following week, so I will have to finish it then. Assuming I get through all of those episodes, I then want to watch The Nevers on HBO.

Once my grades are submitted and the paperwork completed, I plan on sitting on the porch and enjoying a small glass of brandy and a fine maduro cigar.

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


Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Thirty-Seven

Dear Readers,

This week I received a print proof of Molly’s Song! Though the actual cover will be a little different from what you see pictured above, this marks the first time that I have gotten to hold the final product in my hands, almost two years after I wrote the very first word. The secret of being a writer is that very few of us make a living from books alone, primarily because it takes a long time to write, edit, submit, and publish a book. Though I have read the manuscript dozens of times with an eye towards editing, I had not read it for enjoyment, so when I got the copy in the mail, I poured myself a Dr. Pepper and sat down on the porch, book in hand. It’s not a bad story, if I may say so myself. It should be available for pre-orders soon, so stay tuned for further updates.

We are coming up to the end of the semester. Virtual final exams start next week and grades are due by May 14th. Then, I’ll have a few weeks off before teaching a couple of online classes during the Summer 1 semester which starts on June 7th. Those classes last five weeks, and once they conclude, I will be off until late August. Right now, it is looking like we will be back to normal college operations for the fall semester, though a lot can change between now and then. It will certainly feel strange to be in a classroom full of people again. I know that once I go back to teaching face to face, my voice will struggle. After a year of not using it for hours each day, it will take a while to gain strength back. But we have a while before we have to worry about that.

The other day, I was thinking about how I’ve basically spent over a year now (since March 6, 2020) watching a pandemic year pass by from the confines of my front porch. Sure, I get out every now and then to go to doctor appointments, but weeks will go by without me leaving the house apart from driving down to the beach to drink my coffee when the weather is nice. As I don’t watch the news or even much in the way of live television, this whole experience has been on the surreal side. Living in a pandemic year is akin to living in the Twilight Zone without the aliens. Still, as far as these entries go, it will be nice to one day read back through them and remind myself of what all I had going on. Who knows? Maybe some historian, long after I am dead and gone, will stumble on it and use it as a basis for a dissertation or something. It could be called, “The Great Pandemic Of 2020 As Experienced By The World’s Most Boring Person,” or something like that. Maybe that way, I could retroactively make some great contribution to humanity.

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


Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Thirty-Six

Dear Readers,

Another week has come and gone. Last week I mentioned having a stiff neck. That cleared up within a few days. This week, it is something else. A few days ago, my upper back locked up so tight that it nearly doubled me over with pain wrapping around my rib cage. Copious amounts of ice packs are helping somewhat. It’s pretty rough going, though. The story of my life is all too brief periods where I feel semi-normal followed by debilitating episodes of severe pain that come with increasingly frequency and last longer and longer with each flare up. Everybody has their own cross to bear. This one is mine. Though chronic pain won’t, in and of itself, kill you, the strain of eight years of dealing with this has, besides giving me gray hair, put my heart under considerable strain. That’s the unfortunate side effect.

This week I read an interesting book titled War Fever by Randy Roberts. It looks at the final year of World War One through the eyes of three people in Boston; the German born conductor of the Boston Symphony who finds himself accused of being an enemy spy, a graduate of Harvard Law School who becomes a hero serving with the AEF on the Western Front, and the most famous baseball player of all time, who happened to be of German heritage. 1918 would see Boston decimated by the Spanish Influenza. The Red Sox won the World Series that year, their last for the next eighty-six years, and it would be the final season Ruth played for the Sox. These events play out while a deadly virus stalks the city’s inhabitants. All of these separate strands are woven together through the course of the book.

Baseball shortened the season in 1918 to comply with a government order that all able-bodied men had to either find employment in an essential industry by a certain date or become eligible for the draft, though the league was granted an extension so that the World Series could be played. Six weeks after the deadline, the war was over. Eight Major League players died during the military service in World War One. Three were killed in action or died from wounds. Two died in training accidents. One died from pneumonia and two from the Spanish Influenza. Three Negro League Players also died during the war, all from the Spanish Influenza.

In a similar vein, FDR famously declared in January of 1942 that it was important for the country that baseball continue during World War Two. In 2020, though shortened, I saw the same type of idea play out as baseball was eventually able to resume operations during the midst of a pandemic. I would venture to say, however, that baseball was more popular nationally in the 40s than it is now. And thankfully, we are getting a full season this year, baring any complications.

I have long found World War One to be more interesting than World War Two, though I think most people would disagree with me on this point. The Great War as it was known at the time ushered in a new order. It completely swept away the old world. Empires fell. Kings were toppled. Spasmodic violence has wracked the globe ever since. The war made the modern world, for better or worse, and most of the issues the world grapples with today were born out of that war, or the peace that followed. You can trace a straight line from the two bullets fired in Sarajevo in June of 1914 to the events of 9/11, for example. If you want to understand the world today, you really have to look at how World War One ended, how the world map was redrawn in the aftermath, and how those ripples continue to resonate now, over one hundred years later.

Speaking of World War One, today is ANZAC Day which commemorates the Gallipoli landings in 1915. I would be remiss if I did not include a link to one of my favorite songs, “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” You can listen to it here. One day, I’ll turn my writing attention to World War One, though there are already too many good novels set on the Western Front. Eventually, I do plan on writing my Russian Revolution epic, or should I say, finishing it.

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


Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Thirty-Five

Dear Readers,

I hope you are all well or well enough. First, I have a few updates on the book. I have taken delivery of the book trailer! I cannot show it to you just yet, as we are holding it to release on the day the book is available for pre-order. And, friends, that should be soon as well! This coming week, I will get to see an actual printed proof from the publisher. This is basically what the book will look like physically and I will have to go through it to make any last minute edits (of which there will hopefully be none). After that, it’ll be set up for pre-orders! I am hoping that this will be some time within the next few weeks. I know many of my readers here have followed this journey from the day I wrote the first word, followed me through multiple drafts, editing, submission, and now, soon, publication! The encouragement and support I have received from all of you has kept me going through bouts of self doubt and those days when I wondered if writing the book was worth it. No matter how well it sells (or doesn’t sell), I can stand here today and say, “Hell yes it was worth it!” And I have all of you to thank for that.

If you haven’t caught it yet, head over to the Old Flames tab here and listen to me talk firefighting and writing with my fellow firefighter/author Greg Renz. You can find out more about him and his novel Beneath the Flames here. It was nice to spend a morning swapping stories with him.

The semester marches on towards its inevitable conclusion. I’m teaching online during the Summer 1 semester, which is a slight break with how I usually do it, since I typically teach Summer 2. I’m actually okay with this since it lets me be online instead of in person, though we will (allegedly) be back to full face to face instruction with no social distancing and no masks in August. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about that, even though I am fully vaccinated. Part of me thinks that putting 35 adults in a classroom with no masks and no requirement to have been vaccinated is just asking for problems. But a lot can change between now and August. If anything, 2020 taught us how quickly things can change.

Baseball is in full swing. The Red Sox started off positively putrid, losing their first three games, but have roared back with a vengeance. Anastasia and I have had fun listening to all their games on the radio. My wife is the commissioner of the family/friend fantasy baseball league and I have to endure her giving me hourly updates on the progress of her players. My fantasy team is solidly average, which suits me just fine. The past few days I have been suffering from a very stiff neck which has necessitated the use of ice packs and heating pads (on a rotating basis) and some extra medication. Hopefully it will start to ease up soon as it makes it difficult for me to be on the computer or do much of anything.

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


Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Thirty-Four

Dear Readers,

I hope everyone has had a pleasant week or so. Hopefully soon, I’ll have some exciting news for you. Molly’s Song “should” be available for pre-order in another few weeks. I will also have a book trailer to show you! Technically, it is ready now, but I am holding it to release on the day that the book is available for pre-orders. The past week has seen me busy with school stuff along with putting together a media kit to send out for the book. Last week, I also had a virtual chat with retired firefighter/author Greg Renz. You can catch the interview on my Old Flames podcast. To find the latest episodes, just visit the tab at the top of the page that says, well, Old Flames.

My wife got her second dose of Rona vaccine on Wednesday of this week. Unlike me who was ready to call a priest for Last Rites the day after my second shot, she did fine. However, she had gotten slightly ill after her first shot, which I did not, so that might be why. Now, she just has to make it two weeks or so without catching the virus to reach full protection status. It is amazing, really, that a year ago, we had just entered lockdown mode and here we are today vaccinated. Talk about Operation Warp Speed!

Did anyone catch the Ken Burns documentary on Hemingway that aired on PBS? It is three episodes and about six hours total length. Ken Burns does tend to be on the verbose side. I’m pretty sure his Civil War documentary lasted longer than the war did! Still, his Hemingway film is really good. Of course, as a writer, I’m inclined to like in depth biographies of other writers, so maybe I’m predisposed to like this film. It’s really worth watching, though. I’m sure they will air it again and you can probably catch it on some on demand services too. Hemingway was definitely an interesting fellow. I know his has fallen out of favor in some literary and academic circles because of his testosterone fueled machismo, but he truly was a gifted writer. His novels are good, but the newspaper and magazine stories he wrote are top notch as well. Plus, as a person who has battled mental illness for the past seven or eight years, I can sympathize with Hemingway’s own struggles. We have a few things in common. Like him, I have great affection for Cuba, though I’ve never visited. The reason is because my Spanish teachers were all Cuban, and so I speak the Cuban dialect of Spanish and came to appreciate the culture. And, of course, Hemingway loved cats, just as I do. He lived in a home in Key West filled with cats and I live in a home in La Porte, just a few blocks from the water, likewise filled with cats. Hemingway longed to have a daughter, just like I did. It did not work out for him, and that ship has sailed for me too. It is my only regret in life. Finally, I am a huge boxing fan, as was Pappa Hemingway. He was a better writer than I am, though, and I’m okay with that. He did the best he could, just as I do the best that I can. It is good enough for some people and not good enough for others, but that is the nature of the game. World War Two jokes aside, I do treat my wife a hell of a lot better than he treated (all) of his. And I like to think I treat my son better than he treated his sons.

Partly due to great writers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc, young people who aspire to be writers are often left with a false impression of what it is like to be a writer. When I was a teenager and first realized that I might like to one day be a writer, I envisioned myself leading a life filled with travelling the world, consuming copious amounts of booze mingled with generous dollops of sex, and occasionally writing a book that would be an instant bestseller. The true writer’s life is quite a bit different. We spend thousands of hours alone, staring at our computer screens and trying to string words together in a coherent form. Many of us are frequently crippled by self-doubt. Far from writing bestseller after bestseller, most of us could wallpaper our entire house with the rejection slips we get. Success, if any is to be had, often comes late. In my case, I had always dreamed of writing my first novel before I turned 30. However, So Others May Live was published when I was 41 and Molly’s Song “should” be out just before my 43rd birthday. Better late than never, though, right? And I don’t consider myself to be an overly “successful” writer, though I have no complaints about my sales or awards. I consider myself to be more of a journeyman writer than a successful one. That’s fine by me. I’ve been truly fortunate to be able to write two books and to have found people who, as crazy as it still seems to me, actually enjoy reading my scribblings. And that, Dear Readers, is all I need.

I’ll leave you with this question, if you have read much Hemingway, what is your favorite novel of his? Mine is A Farewell to Arms and my favorite short story he wrote is Snows of Kilimanjaro.

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

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Thirty-Three

Dear Readers,

Another week has come and gone. Having not set foot in a classroom for 55 weeks now, it seems to me that every day is like the movie Groundhog Day. My daily routine is broken up only by the weekends when my wife is home with me all day. Early on in my pandemic year posts, I commented several times about how I was having a hard time sleeping. That is no longer the case. In fact, I am having the opposite problem. I turn out the lights at 11pm every night and, apart from waking up a couple of times to reposition during the night, I am sleeping like the dead. I’m having a hard time forcing myself to get out of bed before 0800 and when I do get up, I am groggy as hell. I don’t miss the days of waking up at 0515 to drive an hour to campus, but those days will be returning again soon and, truthfully, I worry about how I’ll be able to handle it. I’m sure it will take me a few weeks to get my body sorted out.

There are a few exciting things on tap for this week. On Wednesday, look for a two part episode on the Winecoff Fire on my podcast, Old Flames. And Thursday is OPENING DAY! I don’t know why I am so excited given that the Red Sox probably won’t be very good this year. But it will give me something to do every day. My wife is the commissioner of our family/friend fantasy baseball league and we had our draft yesterday (Saturday). Also on Thursday morning, I will be interviewing retired Milwaukee Fire Department Captain Greg Renz for my podcast. The episode will drop on April 7th. He is not only in the Wisconsin Fire and Police Hall of Fame, but he is also the author of an amazing book. On Wednesday the 31st, I have a surgical consult, but I would not rank that among the exciting events for the week.

This past week, the literary world mourned the passing of Larry McMurtry, the author of what in my opinion is the finest American novel, Lonesome Dove, among other books. His characters, Captains Woodrow F. Call and Augustus McCrae are so vividly described in the novel that they have become real to us. That, Dear Readers, is the mark of a great writer. I can only dream that my character, Molly O’Sullivan, will become real to you as well. I think she’d get along with Captain Call, especially when he says, “I hate rude behavior in a man. Won’t tolerate it.” She likewise does not suffer fools gladly. Given Augustus’ eye for the ladies, I’m sure he’d be chasing after her.

And speaking of Molly O’, stay tuned for some exciting information later this month. There’ll be a book trailer, and (fingers crossed) the novel might be up for pre-order in late April! It has been a long, hard, rough slog to get here, that’s for sure. And I’m trying to work to make sure you don’t have to wait too long for the sequel either!

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


Tell Me Their Names: The Victims of the Triangle Fire

Dear Readers,

Today marks the 110th Anniversary of one of the more significant fires in American History. Though other fires, both before and after, killed more people, the Triangle Fire, taking place during the Progressive Era, would spark serious changes in labor laws and workplace safety laws. If you watch a documentary or read a book about the fire, you might hear the names and stories of a a few of the victims, but what of the rest? Join me here as I read the names and ages of all 146 victims. May they rest in peace.


COVER REVEAL for Molly’s Song!


Today you get two posts for the price of one! I got the green light from my publisher to share the cover for Molly’s Song with you, my loyal readers. We are using the photo that inspired the novel. Right now, it looks like possibly a mid-summer release which would mean it will be available for pre-order in a couple of months.

So stay tuned!