Restoration Update

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Friends,

Last week was…crazy. We had the house rewired. They are 98% done and will be out tomorrow to take care of a few smaller things left to do. While that work was going on, we uncovered some interesting things about the house. And did some other restoration work in two rooms. It’ll be a while before we are completely done, but we have some ideas on how to return it to its original 1930s appearance inside. I think when we are done with all the work, I’m going to write the whole story of how we came to buy the house, what work we’ve done to it, and what we’ve learned about it while living here. It’ll be short story length, most likely.

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend.

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

L.H.

Human Trafficking Awareness

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Friends,

As those of you who’ve followed the progress of my novel Molly’s Song (hopefully out this winter), you know that it touches on human trafficking in the 19th Century. As a firefighter, of course I knew a little bit about human trafficking, but we weren’t provided with much training at all back then. As a person with an academic background in history, I knew a little bit about the historical context, especially in the 1800s. However, I had no idea how prevalent and pervasive an issue it was until January of 2018. It was my first semester at the college and we had a professional development day prior to the start of the semester. One of the sessions I attended was on human trafficking. I had no idea that the area that I had lived for the past several years was one of the major hubs in the country. It was taught by a colleague who, apart from being a professor and a truly kind and caring human being, is also the President of the Restoration Life Project. You can find more about the organization here. It is dedicated to helping survivors of human trafficking rebuild their lives. This is such an important mission. Survivors need advocates like this who are willing to extend a helping hand.

And lest you think that trafficking is only an urban problem, please understand that it happens everywhere. It happens in rural communities. It happens in upscale neighborhoods. It happens in the suburbs. It is all around us and if we don’t know what to long for, or if we are willing to turn a blind eye, then it will persist forever. The victims are not nameless, faceless entities. They are our sisters, our brothers, our husbands, our wives, our sons, and our daughters.

So what can you do? Get involved. Educate yourself about the issue. Learn the signs to watch for. But how can I do that, you ask? The Restoration Life Project offers awareness sessions that are now online due to the ongoing issue with COVID-19. I’m going to quote from the email below:

“Restoration Life Project is still on its mission!  Sadly, even a pandemic is not enough to put an end to human trafficking. Therefore, we are moving our awareness chat sessions online until at least August 31st, 2020. If any church, community organization, employer or family would like to schedule an online chat session to learn more about human trafficking to be provided by RLP members, please send an email to therestorationlifeproject @ gmail.com (just remove the spaces). Chat sessions are free, but donations are needed and appreciated.  Stay safe and remember the RLP slogan… Love restores!”

So please, friends, consider getting involved in the fight to end this scourge upon society. There are ways to get involved in every community, but it all starts with an email or a phone call. Let’s all work together to make this world a better place. And what better place to start than our own communities.

Until next time, friends, stay safe.

Lee Hutch

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Five

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“Rain damage according to the insurance…”

April 10th

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

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

April 11th

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

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

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

April 12th

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

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

April 13th

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

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

April 14th

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

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

April 15th

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

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

April 16th

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

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

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

L.H.

Just a Bum

Me

Just a Bum

I know I don’t look like much now. I’m a hollowed out wreck of a human being. But I used to be someone. I was the person who came to help you on your worst day. I was the person who held your spouse’s hand while they were dying, so they wouldn’t be alone. I was the person who performed CPR on your child, hearing you screaming behind me as I tried to choke back my own tears. I was the person who sang to your daughter to keep her calm while we worked to cut her out of a mangled car. I was the person who told you everything would be okay, and that you’d be just fine, even as I knew you were dying because I didn’t want you to be afraid. I was the person who saved your family Bible when your house burned. I was the person who sacrificed my relationship with my own wife and son so that you could be with yours. I was the person who always came when you called. I was the person who gave up my own health and sanity because of the love I have for my community. I was the person who took an oath to serve my fellow man. I’m no hero. I just did my job. I was a fireman. Yeah…I’m not much to look at now. I’m just a bum. But I wasn’t always that way. I used to be someone.

L.H.

Remember friends, words can cut you to the bone.

Audiobook Tour Reminder

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Friends,

Just a reminder that my audiobook and I will be taking a virtual book tour from Feb. 20-26th. If you click here, you can see the tour page that will link to each of the “stops”. There’s multiple visits each day, with author and character interviews, dream cast lists, guest posts written by me, and reviews of the book. So mark your calendars!

L.H.

I’m Going On Tour! (Sort Of)

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Dear Readers,

I am pleased to announce that I’ll be doing a virtual book tour to coincide with the release of the audiobook version of So Others May Live. Along the way, I’ll make virtual stops at a several websites where you can find author interviews, soundbites, character profiles, and character interviews. It should be fun! The tour will run from Feb. 20 – 26. Book mark this page and you can join in the fun when the tour commences. If you’ve got friends that like WW2 and/or historical fiction, invite them to partake in the festivities.

L.H.

My Halloween Tradition

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Dear Readers,

What do you do for Halloween? I have my own little tradition that I’ve done for the past few years. On Halloween night, I get in bed, turn out the lights, and listen to the original War of the Worlds broadcast on CD via my retro looking radio/CD player. Given the fact that my house was built in 1932, it’s quite possible that the original owner may have listened to the live broadcast back in 1938! The original air date was October 30th, not the 31st, but I prefer to listen on Halloween. It gives me something to do, and by having all the lights out and being in bed in the back of the house, I don’t have to deal with trick or treaters. An added plus! If you’d like to join me on this Halloween night, you can listen to the broadcast on YouTube where, thankfully, it hasn’t been pulled by the YouTube police!

Though the stories of mass panic and hysteria because of the broadcast were greatly exaggerated by the newspapers, this does still stand as one of the most significant radio broadcasts of all time. If you haven’t heard it yet, why don’t you give it a listen?

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

L.H.

Fiction on Fire

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Dear Readers,

You’ll notice a tab to a new page on the blog called Fiction on Fire. I want to assemble a collection of every novel about firefighter written by firefighters that I can find. There are a whole bunch of non-fiction books about the job written by those who do it, but there are not many firefighters who write novels about firefighting. That’s why I want to come up with a comprehensive list of them. I do have quite a few already that I will be adding over the next couple of days, but if you know of any, please leave them in the comments or email me at leehutchauthor @ outlook.com (no spaces, of course). Again, I’m looking for FICTION about FIREFIGHTING written by FIREFIGHTERS. Let’s see how big a list we can compile!

L.H.