Molly’s Song Dream Cast

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

Molly O’Sullivan:       Ann Skelly

Lord Sanderson           Tobias Menzies

Patrick McMahon       Barry Keoghan

Frank Lynch                Liam Ainsworthy

Miss Cecilia                Diane Lane

Madame Delacroix      Sasha Higgins

Dr. Howard                 Ryan Gosling

Daphne                        Dakota Fanning

Liza Randolph            Maisie Williams

Katie                           Abigail Breslin

Timothy Warlow         Nicholas Hoult

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

L.H.

Hurricane Nicholas

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L.H.

Back to Work

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

L.H.

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Forty-Six

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L.H.

Molly’s Song: RELEASE DAY!

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

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

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

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

L.H.

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Forty-Five

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L.H.

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Forty-Four

Dear Readers,

My summer courses ended with a whimper rather than a bang. I’m officially a free man for the next five weeks. Towards the middle of this week, I’ll be getting the audiobook files for Molly’s Song to proof, so I am definitely looking forward to that. The book also got a good review from the US Review of Books which you can read here. Stay tuned for more information about in person and virtual events connected with the book’s release.

I had my visit with the surgeon last week and I am now booked for an operation on September 14th. I’ll have to miss a couple of weeks of class, but since I have all my lectures recorded now thanks to the Rona, my students will not actually miss any content. I’ll just post the videos for them to watch on their own. There are a variety of factors that could interfere and cause either a postponement or cancellation of the surgery, but assuming all goes as planned, I’ll head down to Galveston for the operation on the 14th.

Aksinia and Olga are recovering from getting fixed. They didn’t like the cones of shame, which were really too large for them, so we dressed them in onesies instead. While not exactly enthusiastic about wearing them, they do tolerate it. They will be able to take them off on Tuesday. So far, both appear to be happy here. There’s windows for them to look out of, toys to play with, and plenty of mischief to get into.

My grades were due on Friday morning. I took the rest of that day and the weekend to relax before jumping into my writing schedule tomorrow morning. Molly’s War needs to be finished in five weeks. Or rather, the first draft has to be finished in five weeks. Editing takes me a whole lot longer than writing the initial draft. Books aren’t written so much as they are re-written, but completing the first draft is the first step.

Recently I have gotten a bit hooked on watching Murdoch Mysteries on Amazon. With 14 seasons and over 200 episodes, that’s plenty of watching. Truthfully, I have a very short attention span when it comes to watching a series and it is unusual for me to finish one on the first attempt. Ordinarily it takes me a few years to work my way through an entire run. With this series being so long, I doubt I’ll ever finish it. The series is good though. The time period in which it is set (late Victorian period) is truly a fascinating one with lots of technological innovations, which make their way into the series.

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

L.H.   

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Forty-Three

Maria and Anastasia both had birthdays in June.

Dear Readers,

Another week of feeling like I’ve been beaten with baseball bats every second of the day has come and gone. This morning we dropped Aksinia and Olga off at the vet to get spayed. They will no doubt be rather upset with us for the next few days, but I’m sure they will get over it. I have to say, they are a bit of a handful and seem to think that humans are a combination of a play toy and a jungle gym, particularly around 0300. I am glad we got both of them though, as they do play together quite a bit. They enjoy watching The Price is Right and Family Feud with me every day.

The baseball season has reached the halfway point. The Red Sox are the first team in the American League to hit the fifty wins mark, I do not hold out much hope of them reaching the World Series, or even the ALCS, due to their lack of quality starting pitchers, though Sale is projected to return later in the season. Having solid hitters is great, but you also kind of have to keep the other team from scoring runs to win. They also lead the league in come from behind wins, which, on the one hand, is good, but on the other hand, it makes you wonder why they keep having to come from behind in the first place.

My Summer 1 semester is almost over with. It will end next week. Then I have five or six weeks before I have to start back in person. I’m not looking forward to being crammed into poorly ventilated, crowded classrooms with no masks, unvaccinated people, and the Delta strain which spreads particularly easily among the college age demographic. Also, next week I have an appointment with the surgeon to go over the details of the surgery so I can make a final decision, though to be honest, I’ve already made my decision. Unfortunately, I don’t see any way that I can avoid having the surgery in the middle of the fall semester which will be a gigantic pain in the ass, not to mention a pain in the parts I’m having operated on.

By August I will have spent basically 18 months isolated from the world, apart from doctor appointments during which I always have a mask on. I figure that being back in crowded conditions in the fall will mean that I will suffer from a variety of colds and my usual fall bout with bronchitis which, oddly enough, I did not have in the Fall of 2020. Having to determine if said symptoms are benign or the Rona will be interesting to say the least. I daresay I will not be the only one playing the “Is it a cold or is it Rona” game.

I am hoping that once Summer 1 is over, I can turn my full attention to Molly’s sequel. I also have a semi-creative way to celebrate the July 29th release date of Molly’s Song. I am going to get a new tattoo (it’ll be my fourth). This one will go on my right forearm. Then I’ll be balanced out with one on my left bicep, left forearm, right bicep, and right forearm. I abstain from alcohol, so there will be no celebratory champagne or the like, though I probably will enjoy a Maduro cigar.

I do plan on keeping the Pandemic Year series of entries going until I start back to work in person in late August. After that, the website will shift back to what it was before the Rona…mainly a place where I talk about writing, history, and writing about history, with occasional forays into Russian Literature and history crushes, of course.

Speaking of history crushes, on July 17th I will be attending a vigil mass for Maria and her family at a nearby Russian Orthodox Church. Nearby is relative as it is about 45 minutes away. It is a beautiful church though. I’ve attended the occasional service there in pre-Rona times. This will be my first time there and only my second in person service at all since the pandemic started. The good news is that I also haven’t had to go to confession this year! Then again, having spent a year and a half in my room, it’s not like I have much to confess in the first place.

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

L.H.  

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Party Forty-Two

Dear Readers,

It’s hard to believe that it has already been a month since the spring semester ended and that we are now halfway through June. I’m teaching during the first summer session, and I had a whole lot of things I needed to get done during the first half of the summer as well, but apart from the teaching, little else has been done. I wonder if I am the only writer who has run into such a stonewall of writing during the pandemic, despite it giving us what we all long for, time at home to write. It’s just so hard to focus, not to mention my own body waging war on me on a constant basis.

Aksinia and Olga are settling in. We still haven’t introduced them to the others yet, as they half to finish their medicine first, but I will probably let Anastasia meet them later today or tomorrow. She knows they are in the bedroom and she has been laying down in front of the door, so I think that she is eager to introduce herself. She loves kittens. They have two very different personalities. Aksinia is a little on the wild side and quite fearless while Olga is a bit more reserved. Aksinia is happy entertaining herself with various and sundry toys while Olga is turning out to be quite the Daddy’s girl. She just wants me to hold her whenever I’m in the room, though she does get up to play several times a day.

It is almost a certainty now that there will be another surgery in my near future. I had a fairly uncomfortable test done on 6/11 that confirmed the need/benefit of the surgery. My wife and I have an appointment with the surgeon on July 7th. However, given that he is a department chair at the Med School and also the Chief Surgeon for his specialty at the large teaching hospital system, his schedule is pretty booked and it is unlikely that I’ll be able to have the operation done prior to the start of the fall semester. I really don’t want to have to potentially miss three to four weeks of class mid semester, but I may not have any other option. Then again, it is also possible that despite the objective medical tests and diagnosis, the insurance might deny the surgery anyway.

There is a possibility that I’ll be doing an in-person book launch event/signing at a local library later this summer. It won’t be on the actual day that that Molly’s Song releases, July 29th, but rather a month or two later in August or September. I guess that is the benefit of coming out with a book in the Summer of 21 instead of the Summer of 20. Things are slowly returning to normal, though it won’t be completely normal for quite some time, I think, if ever. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I even remember what normal is. I never actually did a book signing event with my first novel, so if we can pull this one off, it’ll be a new experience for me.

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

L.H.