Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Forty-One

Dear Readers,

The unrelenting back spasms have not let up over the past week, though I am able to get up and move around, albeit slowly. Apart from that, it is icepacks, Netflix, and pills. This current flare up started on Thursday the 3rd, so I ended up being unable to attend the fully vaccinated outdoor reunion that was planned for the following day. Truthfully, I’m not much fun at social events anyway, especially when I am in the middle of writing a book, so I’m sure everyone had plenty of fun without me.

Yesterday I had a doctor appointment for an issue unrelated to the spasms. I had to drive an hour for an hour long appointment, and then drive an hour home. And, of course, since I was driving, I couldn’t take any medication. So yesterday evening and this morning are pretty rough to say the least. They did some (painful) testing to see if I would potentially benefit from another surgery. I “passed” the tests, and so it looks like another operation in the future. I’ve had so many now that they all kind of run together, but I’m not really looking forward to another one. This won’t address any of the extreme pain from my spinal injuries, but it will address a quality of life issue with a good chance of improvement. That said, I’m not a hundred percent sure that I will go through with it. Next month, on July 7th, my wife and I are going to meet with the surgeon again to go over all the pros and cons of the operation to make sure that we are making an informed decision.

My two online summer courses started this past week and so that takes up a few hours each day with emails, etc. I’m starting to genuinely worry about going back in person in August. Not because of the Rona, really, since I’m vaccinated and as protected as I can be. It’s because over the course of the past eighteen months, my bad pain spells come more frequently, and when they do come, they stick around for longer than they did in the past. Once upon a time, I had more good days than bad. Now, I rarely have a good day. They range from average to bad. It is possible though that a more active schedule will actually help me feel better, so I’m hoping that turns out to be the case.

I do not have anything exciting on tap for next week. I’m hoping to be more mobile by the time that Monday roles around. The spasms have prevented me from working on Molly’s sequel and I really need to get back to it. If I’m not careful, August will get here, and I won’t be finished with it. And that, Dear Readers, just won’t do. I’m sure I’ll be able to suck it up and get back to work.  

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

L.H.

Molly Goes to the Movies…Well, Not Really…But Maybe…

Dear Readers,

The back spasms that laid me low last week have not let up and I’ve been more or less bedridden for the past several days. And, of course, my knee and ankle decided to join in on the party, so I’ve spent a few days encased in icepacks. Such is life, or rather, such is my life.

Molly’s Song is making its way towards the approaching release date of July 29th! Recently, I listened to a whole bunch of audition samples to select a narrator and, as I hoped, I found the perfect one. She’s a talented actress and has experience playing characters similar to Molly on screen. Specifically, you can see her in a couple of Indie Westerns here and here. As I am a big fan of westerns, specifically indie westerns, I recognized her name when I saw it in my audition box as I had already seen and enjoyed the above mention films. If you don’t do westerns and if audiobooks, particularly thrillers, are more your thing, check out the incredible job she did with this one. When I listened to her audition, Molly’s voice sounded exactly like it did in my head as I was writing the book, so I’m really looking forward to the finished product as I hope you will be as well.

Books face very long odds of ever getting turned into a feature film or series, be it steaming service or television, but you never know if you’ll make it if you don’t try. To that end, here is the pitch page to go along with the book. If you know any Hollywood producers or directors, feel free to pass it along. Though I am working on the sequel, of course, I am also, in my limited spare time, putting together a treatment and a pilot script to go with the pitch.

So, you ask, who should play Molly on screen? Have any of you seen the Bosch series on Amazon? If so, you’ve seen the actress I think would be perfect to play Molly, assuming she doesn’t mind dying her hair red for the role and can also do a decent Irish accent. That would be Madison Lintz. She’s the right age, which is also important, and I think she is talented enough to pull it off.

Honestly, I’d be thrilled if the book even got optioned, much less made into a movie or series. Just being able to say your book was optioned by a producer or studio would be cool. But if you’d like to see it turned into a series or film, there is an easy way to help. Buy. The. Book. And get your friends, and even your enemies, to buy it too. The more copies it sells, the more attention it gets from producers, directors, and studios. Maybe we’ll get lucky and get to see Molly on screen one day!

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

L.H.

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Forty

Dear Readers,

This is my 40th entry in the Pandemic Year series. I’ve been writing them since March 2020. Sometimes it seems like I’ve aged ten years during the past sixteen months. It has been an eventual week and a half or so, which I will describe herein.

If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy of Molly’s Song, you may do so here, here, or here. And speaking of the book, last week I took auditions for the audiobook version of the novel. I wasn’t quite sure how many to expect, but I got over thirty! All of them were good, many of them were excellent, and one of them was perfect. So now I am happy to say that I have contracted with a talented actress to record the book. Yesterday evening I got to listen to the extended fifteen minute sample and it was truly stellar work. Even in pre-Rona times, I listened to a lot of audiobooks, usually 6 or 7 a month. As I have barely left the house during the pandemic, that number is closer to 10-12 for the past year. It is probably due to the fact that I am such a devotee of audiobooks that the most exciting part of the writing process for me is when I get to listen to and decide on a narrator for one of my own books. Getting to hear an actress give voice to a character you created, particularly when the character’s voice sounds exactly like it does in your head, is one of the grandest feelings in the world. I already can’t wait for you to be able to read the book and share in Molly’s story, but I am especially eager for you to be able to listen to the book.

And speaking of Molly O’, I have been hard at work on the first draft of the sequel, tentatively titled Molly’s War. Thus far I am eight chapters and 25K words into it. It is going fairly well. The hard thing about being a writer is that you have to create a character that you love and then put them into terrible situations. Nobody would read a book that had no real conflict and only consisted of happy things happening to happy people. In the chapter I just finished, Molly meets the man in the picture that accompanies this post. If you are up for a little detective work, figure out who he is and then you’ll figure out where she is and what she is about to experience. Sometimes I wonder if she thinks, “I wish someone else would’ve created me instead of this demented gobshite!” Ah, but our Molly is a survivor, and she’ll be okay no matter what the world throws her way.

Tomorrow, Friday, I am supposed to go to an outing with some other fully vaccinated people…former co-workers from a college where I used to teach. I hope I can make it, though at this exact moment, I am unsure if I will. After several weeks of feeling as good as I ever feel these days, today the back spasms came calling again. It always starts the same way. There is a brief, almost fleeting twinge of pain. As soon as it dissipates, I have just enough time to grab my three large ice packs from the freezer, throw them onto the bed, and lay down on them before the full on wave of spasms hits about five minutes later. If I am lucky, it only lasts for a day. If I am unlucky, it can last for a week or two. The jury is still out on how long this latest bout will last.

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

L.H.

Molly’s Playlist

Dear Readers,

As you (eagerly, I hope) await the July 29th release of Molly’s Song, I thought I would put something together for you to fill the days between now and then. As I’ve said before, I write with music playing in the background. As I plot a novel, I also consider songs that evoke the feeling of the book. Since I write historical fiction, some of the songs are obviously period songs from the era in which the book is set, but I also include modern songs that fit with the overall tone/theme that I am going for.

I think back in November 2019, around the time that I finished the first draft, I made a post in which I talked about the songs I listened to while writing it. I decided to go one better than that and put together a YouTube playlist with the songs. If you want to “listen like Lee,” just click here. Some of the songs are modern, some are 19th Century period songs, there’s a few shanties, and a Scottish tune. I’d say there’s something there to tickle every fancy.

And don’t forget, if you haven’t pre-ordered your copy of Molly’s Song, you can find the links here!

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

L.H.

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.

L.H.

Molly’s Song Book Trailer and Pre-Orders!

Friends,

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.

L.H.

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.

L.H.

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.

L.H.

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.

L.H.

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.

L.H.