Mi Vida Loca: My 2019 Year in Review

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Well, Dear Readers, it’s time for my third annual Year in Review blog post. (If you are new, you can check out 2017 here and 2018 here).  Time has sailed by since I wrote the last one on New Year’s Eve, 2018. Yet here we are. I called the 2018 post “The Wildest Ride Yet” given my long hospital stays and surgeries in the winter/spring of the year. Buckle up though, because 2019 was just as crazy. We’ll tackle it in chronological order, as that way makes the most sense to me.

In my 2018 post, I ended by discussing the Red Sox winning the World Series and opining about my Saints chances of winning the Super Bowl. Well, as we all know, they were derailed by the worst no call in NFL history (as if we need any more proof that the NFL is rigged….). But I digress.

The year started out with a very big bang, one that I could have really done without. On January 7th, I fell while in the bathroom. Landing in a seated position (and keep in mind, I’m 6’4 so that’s a long way down), I immediately knew something was wrong. The next morning, when I woke up, I was in excruciating pain (worse that I normally am from my pre-existing back injuries). I was afraid I’d broken my tailbone. After about a week, I went to see my GP. He did some x-rays of my tailbone and my lumbar spine and said everything was fine. But the pain didn’t go away.

The same week, I had to teach a professional development course at the college using my cane and the wall for balance. People said it went well, but I was hurting too bad to know if they were bullshitting me or not. And then the semester started. I had a great schedule, and was able to actually use the office I moved into in December as I started teaching two days a week at the campus where my office is. (My college has three campuses). But Jesus Christ and General Jackson! I was hurting bad.

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Finally in February I broke down and went to see my orthopedic surgeon. He ordered an MRI and told me that when I fell, I’d suffered a compression fracture of the L3 Vertebrae. (My other problems are at the L4/5 and L5/S1 levels). There wasn’t much I could do other than let it heal on its own. I did have a series of injections that helped some, and by late March, most of the pain had returned to normal. At that time, I was also serving on a hiring committee and so I had a lot of very long/late days at the college. But I soldiered on.

While all this was going on, I was also working on publication of my novel. I finished my final round with my editor in mid-January. Then I set the book aside to focus on school stuff for most of February. In March, I sent it out for formatting and cover design. I ended up with a kick ass cover, that’s for sure. On March 29th, the book hit the virtual storefront as an eBook, paperback, and hard cover. It’s a strange feeling to hold your book in your hands for the first time. Rather like holding your firstborn child. This was the culmination of 18 months of work and the help/support of lots of people, including you, Dear Reader.

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The semester ended without much fanfare and, unlike 2018, I didn’t have to have a major surgery as soon as it was over. I had been kicking around an idea for a second novel but wasn’t sure about it. And then I found my inspiration. While looking at some photographs taken of prostitutes in the 19th Century, I came across one in particular that really grabbed me. As I gazed at the young woman in the photo, the lyrics to Runaway Train by Soul Asylum came to mind which is odd because that was never a favorite song of mine.

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Now, initially, the book was supposed to be quite different than how it turned out. The original manuscript followed two viewpoints. I knocked out a steady 3K words (one chapter) a day and soon I had 2/3rds of the book written. Then it hit me! In that form, the book would have an unworkable conclusion. I decided to ditch one of the viewpoints and focus on the Irish immigrant turned prostitute instead. This necessitated a complete re-writing, as in starting over from scratch, but from the ashes of the initial draft, Molly’s Song emerged.

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My happy place.

I made good progress at first, but eventually I got sidetracked and, to be honest, a bit exhausted from it. At this point I had written, between both drafts, around 140,000 words over the course of consecutive days. I decided to take a couple of days off to recharge my batteries, but two days turned into a week and then a week and a half. Before I knew it, I’d hit mid-July and it was time to teach my Summer 2 courses. So Molly’s Song went on the shelf for what I thought would be a short time, but it turned out to be a lot longer that that.

My Summer 2 schedule wasn’t bad. I taught a 1301 course followed immediately by a 1302 course. I was in class from basically 10:30 to 2:30 Monday through Friday. I’d leave the house around 9 and get home around 3:30. In a way, it was a good warm up for the fall semester. Summer classes always seem to be good as they tend to be a bit smaller and have motivated students. I think it was in the second week of class when tragedy struck the family. My cousin Marty died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. My wife and I made the drive home for the funeral which was standing room only, a testament to the impact he had on the lives of all who knew him. While there, I stopped by a visited the grave of my grandparents and left a copy of my book for them. This was the first time I’d visited the grave since we buried my grandfather in 2009. A few days after we got back home, I got word that a friend from back in the day had also passed.

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Rest easy, Marty.

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The copy I left for my grandparents

Indeed, the hits just wouldn’t stop coming. I still remember the day quite clearly. It was Sunday, July 28th around 4:30 pm. I was sitting on my front porch, as I like to do for short periods in the summer. I felt a slight twinge in my left knee while sitting down. When I went to stand up, my entire left leg had locked up and I could barely walk. The problem, Dear Readers, is that any change in my walk from stiff knees, etc, puts me in excruciating pain as it throws off my balance, thus affecting my spinal injuries. Difficult doesn’t begin to describe the rest of my summer as I had to hobble to class and back home again. To top it off, on August 14th, my 41st birthday, I broke my pinkie (again) when I tried to grab something that was falling off the podium in the classroom in the middle of a final exam. I finally got in to see a knee specialist on August 19th and, though I wasn’t overly impressed with having to wait two hours for a ten minute consultation, I did get a prescription for a steroid cream and also a lidocaine cream that I use, though the knee pain itself never truly went away.

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This is what I look like on a bad day

There was some good news this summer though. So Others May Live won the War & Military category of the American Fiction Awards and is currently shortlisted for the Goethe Award in post 1750s Historical Fiction. In addition, the audiobook was completed in the fall and should be available for purchase sometime after the first of the year. So that’s something to look forward to, at least. There are two more awards that it is being considered but they won’t be decided until June of 2020, by which time I’ll be working on my third book.

Now we arrive at the start of the fall semester. In Service week passed with little fanfare. I attended two professional development sessions, both good. The department/division meetings went as they always do, as did convocation. Normally, I am excited to start each new semester, but this one I was filled with an overwhelming sense of dread. Since mid-summer, my own mind had spiraled into a black whole of nightmares, despair, and general darkness. That coupled with how much pain I was in signaled what I knew would be a rough semester. And it was. For the first time in my post-injury teaching career, I had to leave work early due to pain (on two different occasions). Given that I suffer in total silence every second of every day, for me to admit defeat and go home should tell you how rough it has been. There were several times over the ensuing months where I seriously doubted my ability to make it to the end of the semester physically.

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Two things kept me going. My students, as they always do, and my co-workers. From keeping me distracted by talking to me about anything but pain to asking how I was feeling when I looked particularly rough, I made it through the semester because of them. I also decided, for the first time in five years, that given my mental state I needed to seek counseling again, which I did. I wish I could say that my pain has diminished, but it hasn’t. I am having a few good days every now and then, which is excellent, but my good days now are what my bad days used to be, and that makes me fear the future.

My wife asked me if I would mind if she went to visit her sister over Thanksgiving, as that would leave me home alone for several days. I said no, as I had plans of my own. What I had, Dear Readers, was a date with Molly. For four consecutive days (11/27-11/30), I did nothing but write. As soon as I woke up, I’d gulp down some cereal and a cup of coffee before hurrying over to the computer. Other than three breaks during the day, I’d write up until it was time to get in bed. Over that four day period, including Thanksgiving Day, I did not leave the house, did not shave, and did not shower. I did nothing but write (while suffering severe back spasms and knee pain, of course). Finally, that Saturday, I emerged with a complete manuscript. I’m not sure exactly how much I wrote, but it was something like 24K words. Obviously, there is still editing and revisions to be done. I have a lot of work to do before it goes off to my editor in March for a content edit with a copyedit to follow in July, but it should be published mid to late fall of 2020. Originally I was hoping to have it out in the Spring of 2020, but alas, life had other plans.

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The completed draft

On November 29th, I received the audio proofs for So Others May Live. I binge listened to it (with Anastasia’s help, of course) and it is presently going through Audible quality control and should be out shortly after the first of the year. Even if you’ve read the book, I urge you to give it a listen too, as it is almost like listening to a radio drama given the talents of the narrator. When Christmas Break arrived, I had my regularly scheduled Sharpe’s Rifles marathon at the very beginning, and then turned to binge watching episodes of Cold Case on my wife’s Roku stick. (The series isn’t available in any other format owing to royalty issues connected with the music). And, of course, New Year’s Eve and Day will be spent in my annual Twilight Zone marathon courtesy of the SyFy channel. It’s been my tradition since I no longer have to work holidays. Also, over my break, I taught myself how to edit videos so that I could make one for my wife for Christmas. It tells the story of our relationship. You can find it here. Naturally, I also had to make one for my history crush as well. That video can be found here.

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So what’s on tap for 2020? Well, I don’t much care for the “new year, new me” crap. I’m not setting any personal goals, as each year brings me more complications from my injuries and more health issues. That isn’t going to change. However, I do like to set professional goals. I have three for 2020.

  1. Edit Molly’s Song
  2. Publish Molly’s Song
  3. Write the first draft of Dark Raven

And, Dear Readers, if you truly want to start the New Year off the right way, start watching the 1970 film Waterloo at exactly 10:08:45 (pm) on New Year’s Eve and as the clock strikes midnight, Wellington will say, “Now Maitland! Now’s your time!”

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Anastasia still keeps watch over me

And now, as the year draws to a close and a new one begins, I would just like to say thank you to all of my friends, both old and new, and my readers. I wish all of you the best in 2020. I don’t know how many years that I have left, but I think that 2019 will go down as being one of the most momentous of my life.

L.H.

Christmas Break

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Dear Readers,

The nice think about teaching college is the generous amounts of time off. My fall semester ended with little fanfare on Dec. 12th. I do not have to report back until January 14th, with students to follow on the 21st. I’m teaching a professional development session to faculty on the 14th, so I do have to spend some time working on that, but the rest of the month is mine to use or waste as I see fit. Obviously, I have my Sharpe’s marathon to keep me occupied for a bit. But I’m also attempting a new writing venture.

As I’ve said quite a few times, I’m a big fan of Old Time Radio programs. Sadly, these are a thing of the past in the US, though in the UK, new shows are produced and air every year. The BBC hosts an International Playwriting Competition in which the challenge is to write an original 53 minute radio drama script. Given my enthusiasm for the spoken word over the airwaves, I have decided to give the competition a go. The deadline is 31 January, though I hope to have my play finished by New Year’s Day. At the time of this typing, I am 20% done with it. As it has to be formatted a script and not a manuscript, it is slow going. But I’m making steady progress. Is it any good? Who knows? That’s for the judges to decide.

It’s not all typing though. There’s plenty of time to play Napoleon: Total War, which I like to play while I’m having my Sharpe’s Marathon. And, when the Sharpe movies are finished, well, then we have the 8 Hornblower movies to follow! On New Year’s Eve, I’ll be watching the epic 1970 film Waterloo. If you start the film at a precise time, then as the clock strikes midnight, you’ll hear Lord Wellington shout, “Now Maitland! Now’s your time!” That’ll start 2020 off the right way!

L.H.

November, November

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Dear Readers,

November is my least favorite month of the year. It’s that point in the fall semester where, though the end is in sight, paperwork, grading, and emails tend to pile up. It’s also the month where we get our first cold spells of the year. As I type this, what we call in Texas a “norther” is on its way. Tomorrow the high will be in the 70s before plummeting 30 degrees in a matter of hours. And Tuesday? Best not to think about that as our low will hover near freezing. The cold is very hard on my damaged spine, and it makes me very stiff, swollen, and in pain. But at least I have a heating pad, right?

November is also National Novel Writing Month which I have taken part in from time to time. I’ve only ever won it once, and that is when I finished So Others May Live two years ago….that’s right two years! I finished the first draft the day before Thanksgiving, 2017, and then ended up in the hospital Thanksgiving night, the first of many visits during that nightmare nine months of surgeries and accompanying misery. Of course, editing, cover design, etc, took time, and so that’s why the book wasn’t published until March 29, 2019. The problem with National Novel Writing month is that you go into it with high hopes of success, and then feel like an abject failure if you can’t get 50K words written by November 30th. Or at least I feel that way.

That said, I do not need 50K words to finish Molly’s Song, and I hope to have the first draft done by the end of the month. Then it’s time for my own edits before it goes off to my editor in March for the first pass, copyedit in July, and I hope to have it out next fall. That’s about six months behind where I originally anticipated releasing it, but still, it’ll go from first draft to print in just over a year, which is faster than my first book. Let’s hope, anyway. As I am well aware, life has a funny way of interfering with our best laid plans.

Though I am plotting my third novel, which I will start writing in May, I actually have a smaller project lined up for December. A short-ish noir novel set in a fictitious town in Texas during the Great Depression. (I am a huge fan of both film noir and noir writing, so it is an experiment I want to try). Since this will come in at around 60K, I can get it written during the month off between semesters.

So I’ll keep muddling along and counting down the days until the semester ends and I can go back to living the full time writer’s life for a month.

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

L.H.

More Than A Feeling

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In my opinion, the pole was the best part of the job. Sadly, they are slowly disappearing. A travesty, in my opinion. I was just as excited to use it on my first call as on my last. 

Dear Readers,

One day in class, a few semesters ago, I was teaching about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire when a student raised his hand. As students rarely tend to ask questions (or stop by to visit during office hours), I stopped mid sentence and bid him to speak.

“What’s it like being a firefighter?” he asked.

I started to give him my usual stock answer which doesn’t actually the question because it’s a difficult one to put into words. He interrupted me and said, “No! I don’t mean the bullshit answer you give everyone. I want to know what it’s really like.” And that got me to thinking. The feeling itself is what it feels like. I’ll explain:

It’s the feeling you get when the house lights kick on at 1:58 in the morning. You hear a bit of static from the loudspeaker and then three beeps. You leap out of bed and stagger to the pole, wiping sleep from your eyes, as you hear the dispatcher’s deadpan voice reading the assignment. “Battalion One, Engines 1, 3, and 5, Ladder 1, Rescue 1, Medic 4. Respond on Box 415. 5th Street at Franklin Avenue. Box Alarm Assignment. House Fire.” You slide down the pole, step into your boots, hitch up your pants, and shrug your arms through your suspenders. The engine coughs to life as you climb into the cab and throw your coat on. You can smell smoke in the cold night air as you pull out of the station, threading your arms through the straps of your air pack and placing the helmet on your head at an appropriately jaunty angle. In the distance, you can see a dull glow against the night sky as the radio crackles to life and you hear the dispatcher say “Confirming stills on Box 415. Report of occupants trapped.” Now, in this exact moment as you speed through the darkened streets with siren howling as you catch the reflection of your emergency lights in the vacant store front windows, there is nowhere else you would rather be than right there in that seat headed to that fire.

That feeling, Dear Readers, is what it’s like to be a firefighter. It’s the same feeling, no matter if you worked in 1819, 1919, 1999, or 2019. It’s the same feeling, no matter if you work in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Houston, New Orleans, or the myriad of cities and towns in between. It’s the same feeling, no matter if you work in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, China, Australia, or Antarctica (yes, there is a fire department in Antarctica!). It’s this feeling that creates the bond that transcends time or distance, and binds all firefighters together, no matter where or when we worked. It’s a feeling we crave, and a feeling we desperately miss when we retire.

And so there you have it. That’s what it feels like to be a firefighter. I’m happily retired, but I’d give anything to slide the pole one more time. Just one more time…..

And…..apparently this is my 100th Post! Thank you to all my old and new friends! 

L.H.

 

The Salt Mines

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Dear Readers,

I can’t believe the first two weeks of the semester have already gone by. That means only fourteen more to go! It’s odd, really. Given how much pain I was in over the summer, I dreaded going back to school this fall, something I’ve never done before. As it turns out, I was so busy that first week to feel much of anything other than exhaustion. Then we got a three day weekend owing to the Labor Day Holiday. I woke up hurting that Saturday morning and have ever since. Still, being in front of a class does provide me with a needed distraction, so I’m making due as always.

So what’s on tap for the future? Well, my work in progress Molly’s Song got rather badly stalled for over a month. I’m starting to buckle down and work on it again though, albeit at a slow pace owing to my other commitments. Currently, I have written 19/32 chapters. I hope to have it finished by Christmas Break. I’m also working on something kind of fun, though to what end I have no idea. I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing a radio adaptation of So Others May Live. I don’t know why, really, since we don’t really do radio dramas in the United States anymore. But who knows. Maybe BBC4 Radio might be interested since they still produce new radio programs.

In November, I’ll be giving a public lecture entitled A Terrible Beauty: Ireland in the Great War as part of a local library’s Friday lecture series. I previously gave a presentation about the Romanovs a couple of years back and over one hundred people showed up to listen to me beat my gums for an hour! It made me feel kind of important. Or maybe the people were so bored that day that hearing my lecture actually sounded like it might be fun. But Ireland and World War One are both subjects I enjoy talking about, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity. If any of you are in the Greater Houston area and would like to come meet/hear me, I’ll post specific details in another month or so.

I’m waiting for the final audio files of So Others May Live to approve and submit to Audible, so hopefully in the very near future the audiobook will be available for your perusal. It’s going to be really good. I can assure you of that fact. In the meantime, if you are looking for something to listen to, try the series Inspector McClevy, a radio drama set in Victorian Edinburgh. It ran for 12 seasons (though they call them series across the pond) and it is available on Audible in 2 series sets. I binge listened to it this summer. My wife listened to some of them with me, but refused to hear any more after one episode ended with the line “Never trust a red haired woman.”

If it seems that I am blogging infrequently during the semester, it is because I am. Given all my limitations, the long days I put in make it tough to come up with new content. That said, I will do my best to have a new post up every weekend. And, of course, any special announcements will garner their own post too.

Until next time, friends,

L.H.

Summer’s End

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Dear Readers,

I have reached the end of the summer, at least for me. I start the fall semester on Monday morning. Up at 0500 home around 1630. Five days a week. Two hour round trip commutes. Five face to face classes. One online class. Ten office hours (which I spend in vain waiting for a student to visit). Paperwork. Committees. Grading. You get the idea. Back to the salt mines it is! I enjoy it because it keeps me busy. I’ll blink and it’ll be Thanksgiving. I thought now that the summer is over, I might reflect on how I spent my time off.

Starting on the Monday after final exams in mid-May, I embarked on writing the first draft of Molly’s Song. Initially, it was to go to my editor in mid August. I was making tremendous progress writing 3K words a day every single day of the week. I hit the 2/3rds point and only had seven more days of writing left when I realized there was a fatal flaw. A flaw so fatal that all that I could do was ditch the entire draft and start over from scratch. I took one day off to refocus and then started anew. For a while, I made steady progress and was only a couple of weeks behind schedule. Then I hit a snag more due to exhaustion from so much writing. I took two weeks off and planned on getting back to work, but then my summer classes started.

I enjoy teaching summer courses at the college. Usually, I teach during Summer 2 so that I get the first half of the summer off, which is what I did this time around. Summer classes are always good and so are the students. It’s a bit more laid back an atmosphere than what you see during the fall/spring semesters. Some of the students are ours (by that I mean the community college where I work) and others are visiting students from universities who are taking advantage of our cheaper tuition and stellar faculty. I usually have some familiar faces in class who took a different course from me in the previous spring. This summer was no different. I thoroughly enjoyed my students and the courses and they all did very well.

I got very little writing done due to the teaching load during Summer 2, but I did manage to take Molly’s Song past the halfway point. I had to push my editorial deadline back to mid September. And then it happened. Mid-way through the summer course, I developed severe, crushing pain in my knees. Given my existing destroyed spine, any time something happens that affects how I walk (like damaged knees), it sets of a cascade of pain that eventually makes my back lock up. It was bad. Very bad. To make matters worse, the mental demons I fight grow stronger when my pain does. On the day of final exams for the summer, I broke my pinkie finger. For the next week, I moved as though I was in a fog. I completely shut down and I didn’t so much as say a word to my wife despite sharing a small (900 sq foot) house with her. She understands and so when I get like that, she gives me my space.

I managed to get out for our bi-annual before the semester lunch with my best friend (really more like a brother) AJP. He always manages to make me feel better. Usually by sending cat pictures. The following Monday, I went to a knee doctor who prescribed some anti-inflammatory creams for knees which does seem to be working a little. Tuesday was an in-service day at the college, so I spent the morning listening to some presentations. One was on positive professional and personal pathways which I badly needed to hear. I determined to take that to heart and slowly the cloud over me began to dissipate. Wednesday we had division and department meetings which are always fun because we have some good people in both. Thursday was a work day and so I prepared my stuff for the upcoming semester. Friday was a two hour drive down to the main campus for convocation followed by a two hour drive home, with a pit stop by my office along the way. Which brings us to today.

I’m still in a lot of pain (usually my pain levels range from moderate to murderous and I’ve been on the murderous end of the spectrum for several weeks now). Each night I have to encase myself in ice. I liberally apply my prescription cream in the morning and again in the evening. I have some medications too which I take at night. It takes the edge off, but nothing more. That’s okay because the pain reminds me that I’m still alive. I’m trying to stay focused on the good and not the bad. I’ve dove into a huge Turkish historical drama called The Magnificent Century on YouTube in the evenings. (It has a hot redhead in it). Of course, I have Anastasia to help me in the evenings. My wife Elizabeth also helps. I will refrain from answering if I love my cat or my wife more.

My spring semester was very difficult since I fractured another vertebrae right before the semester started, though it was six weeks before I finally found out why I was in so much pain. This time around, it is my knees and back. It seems like there is always something before each semester starts. However, I’m going to try my best to keep a positive outlook. I’ll try to get through one day at a time. Given how busy the long semesters are, I probably won’t finish Molly’s Song until Christmas Break and will send it to the editor after the new year. I’m probably looking at a release in the Fall of 2020 rather than in the Spring of 2020 like I originally intended. That’s okay though because it is going to be a damn good book. Better even than So Others May Live.

Oh, and the Red Sox have played like chicken fried crap this summer too, which also sucks. No World Series for them this year. Ah, but football season is here! My Saints have a preseason game tonight. High school football (my true love) starts next week. And also tonight, we have college football start. Football….how I’ve missed thee! My wife is a Kansas City Chiefs fan. So y’all pray for me.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to meeting my new students on Monday and Tuesday, seeing some of my former students, and hanging out with my co-workers who are seriously kick ass people to be around. They, and my students, make going to work fun. I don’t think of teaching as a job any more than I think of my fire service career as a job. They say if you do what you love then you’ll never work a day in your life, and I haven’t worked since I was a kid sacking groceries at the Krogers.

So for all you teachers or students following me, I’d just like to say “May your classes be good or your detentions short.” Stay tuned for updates concerning the audiobook version of So Others May Live. In the meantime, for those of you who like to listen to novels, the greatest novel ever written, which I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog, Quiet Flows the Don, is finally being released on Audible! I think it is the abridged version, based on the length, but it will be out on Monday and you can find it here. Some Sholokhov is better than no Sholokhov! You better believe I’ve already pre-ordered it.

If you’d like more regular updates than you’ll probably get on my blog over the next couple of months, follow me on Instagram. Or Facebook. Though I am also on The Twitter, I really don’t use it to post very much. Instagram and Facebook are your best bet. Also, if you’ve read So Others May Live, I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d consider leaving an honest review on Amazon. Even if you hated it, that’s fine too. Tell me why. I’m a big boy. It won’t hurt my feelings. Should you enjoy podcasts, I urge you to check out All Bad Things. It’s a podcast about disasters.

Until next time, take care of yourself. And each other.

L.H.

The Wildest Ride Yet: My 2018 in Review

Dear Readers,

New Year’s Eve is the time to reflect on the previous year and, in my case, it was perhaps the most momentous year of my life. If not that, it was certainly the biggest roller coaster that I’ve ever ridden thus far in my 40 years. I’ve struggled with trying to find a way to sum it all up, but I think I’ve gotten it down. So without further delay, here is my 2018 Year in Review, presented in word and picture.

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The morning after surgery. One word. Pain.

If you read my 2017 Year in Review post, I referenced having been hospitalized on Thanksgiving with an obstruction in my small intestine. As they did not know the exact cause, they could not say with certainty if it would return. Well, as you can probably guess, it did. In mid-January I did the usual in-service week stuff for the college before starting my temporary full time professor job. It was the usual meetings, professional development, and convocation. The weekend before classes started was a long one, with Monday being the MLK Day holiday. Everything was set for me to start classes on Tuesday. Sunday, however, I began to feel the familiar pressure/pain in my stomach. I gave it some time, thinking it might ease up on its own. It didn’t. By 2 a.m. I was vomiting and so back to the ER we went. The diagnosis didn’t take long. It was another obstruction. Owing to a flu outbreak, I was unable to get into a room until Wednesday morning and spent the time in the ER instead. On Wednesday, the surgeon saw me and said I was booked for a rather large operation on Tuesday. I spent the time in between roaming the halls with my IV pole and visiting with the nurses. I was unable to eat anything, but that had me on TPN through a Picc line, but I still dropped a massive amount of weight, bad because I’d already lost a lot due to the issue in November. The surgery turned out to be a shorter operation than they thought it would be. I had a few complications post op, and so it was quite a while before I got to go home. On the day of my discharge, I had been in the hospital for nineteen days.

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My first “meal”. Forgive the skeletal appearance. This is what happens when you drop fifty pounds due to stomach/intestinal issues!

I started to work officially on Monday, February 5th. I think my students were surprised to see that I actually existed. I owe a big thank you to my colleagues who covered my classes for me until I was able to healthy enough to come back. Throughout the month of February, I never felt entirely “right”. My stomach still bothered me from time to time. I was still dropping weight. Finally, by February 28th, I felt more normal than I’d felt since November. So imagine my surprise on March 2nd, our tenth wedding anniversary, when I ended up in the ER with, you guessed it, another bowel obstruction. I was only there for a week this time, but I was told that I needed the big surgery now. My surgeon agreed to let me try and make it until the semester ended. Also, while in the hospital I had a phone interview for a permanent position at the school and the week after I got out, an in-person interview. Luckily, I got the job.

5

Professing…..1940s style!

The rest of the spring passed in a blur. I spent the time teaching, watching TV in bed at night, and editing my novel which I completed in 2018 in preparation for sending it to a professional editor in August. Before I knew it, final exams were over and it was time for the surgery. They weren’t lying when they said it would be a big operation! I was in the hospital for 8 or 9 days afterwards, but did okay. I was up walking around as fast as they’d let me, though it hurt like hell as I had a six and a half inch incision in my abdomen. I weighed 130 pounds upon discharge. Keep in mind, I’m 6’4 and weighed 185 before this all started back in November! Thankfully, as I’m writing this, I’m back up to 160, though gaining weight has proven to be difficult. All these months later, I feel decent. I’m sincerely hoping I never half to go through anything like this again. But only time will tell.

4

Your’s truly on TV.

Enough of the health stuff! In June I visited the Metropolitan Research Center in Houston to delve into the archives they had on the Gulf Hotel Fire of 1943 which killed 55 people in Houston. I was able to successfully track down the mass grave where the unidentified victims were buried, and set out to see if I could get funds to place a marker. A reporter from KPRC was kind enough to air a story on it close to the anniversary of the fire. I was able to get a little support, but what I’m doing now is exploring the process for getting a historical marker on the site of the grave. That will be an easier and cheaper option.

In August, my book went off to the editor for a developmental edit. I spent much of the fall semester working on the revisions she suggested. It took a bit of time and a few more drafts, but in December I sent it back in for the copy edit. Those revisions have been done and round two of the copy edit is scheduled for Jan. 7th. Once that is complete, it will be submission time. I have a small number of indie presses to query and if I strike out, then I’ll go the self-publishing route. Be warned. I’m planning to throw one hell of a 40s themed launch party when the book hits the market, whenever that might be. (Sooner if I do it, longer if a press does it.) Also on the writing front, I’m halfway through my second novel which is set during the Civil War. That one should be ready to publish by early 2020.

Anastasia

Anastasia provided editorial “assistance.” 

As a Red Sox fan, I would be remiss if I did not mention their having won the World Series. It was an exciting summer for sure. On those long summer evenings, my wife and I always sit outside and listen to a game on the radio. Thankfully with SiriusXM and their handy app, I can get the Red Sox home radio feed on my phone or in the car. That’s useful when you live in Texas and not Massachusetts. Given the tendency of the Sox bullpen to blow saves, my sense of delight at winning the Series was only exceeded by my sense of shock. The New Orleans Saints are having a banner year too. So let’s hope at this time next year, I can talk about how they won the Super Bowl.

7

Votes for women!

When the new semester started in late August, I got to teach an in-service session on how to communicate emergency procedures to your students. I think it went pretty well. Or at least I didn’t get any feedback that said “you suck”, so I’ll take that as a win. It was kind of an odd semester, and I never really felt like I’d hit my stride. I’m not sure why, exactly, but that is how it was. In December, my wife and I attended Dickens on the Strand in Galveston with a friend of mine. We drank beer, got our picture with a suffragette, ate fried food, and had to have my wife drive us home after having too much fun. At the end of the semester, I got a “present” of sorts from the college. A new office!

8

An office with a view.

My back injuries still hurt, and always will. A little more with each passing year, but such is life. I would say I’ve gotten used to it, but there really isn’t a way to get used to living with severe pain, though you can learn to cope with it. So I’ll still enjoy my New Year’s Eve brandy and cigar on my front porch as I ponder the past year and wonder about what the upcoming year will hold. I’ll spend New Year’s Eve and Day watching the Twilight Zone marathon on the SyFy Channel, which has become a tradition since I no longer have to work holidays.

9

A brandy, a cigar, and a dream of the future.

So there you have it, Dear Readers. My wild and crazy year. I don’t do the whole “New year, new me” thing. In 2019, I’ll be the same profane, sarcastic prankster that I’ve always been. I do have some goals, though. Fortunately, they are all obtainable. They are as follows:

  1. Publish So Others May Live
  2. Finish Book Two (as of yet, untitled)
  3. Edit Book Two

Here’s wishing you a safe and happy New Year.

L.H.