Aug 032020
 

We had not expected much from Hurricane Isaias, and as it turned out, we were right. When we went to bed about 2 a.m. Sunday morning, they were still calling it a Category One hurricane. But when we woke up yesterday morning, it had been downgraded to a tropical storm.

We got a little bit of rain in the early afternoon, and it was breezy, but by 5:30 p.m. there wasn’t really much to talk about.  Looking out the window after dinner the light was yellow. We decided to go outside and the clouds overhead were dramatic.

The wind picked up again about 11 p.m. but was nothing to worry about. As I write this at midnight, we are still getting some wind gusts, but that’s about it.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’ve had enough adventures in my life without being in a hurricane. Of course when you live on the Florida coast, they are a fact life, and sooner or later I’m sure we will have one come by that isn’t nearly as nice as Isaias was.

I spent much of the day writing, knocking out another 4,000 words in the sequel to Tinder Street. This puts me about a third of the way done. As with the first book in the historical family saga, I spent some time researching as I wrote, double-checking some facts.

For some reason, I always assumed that CPR had been around for a long time, and was surprised to find out that it was only in 1960 that resuscitation doctors first combined mouth-to-mouth breathing with chest compressions to create cardiopulmonary resuscitation to save someone felled by a heart attack or injury.

I also spent a couple of hours on my BookBub author’s page. I had heard it before but had forgotten that authors can list all of their books there until my friend and fellow author Mona Ingram reminded me. It took me a while to figure out how to get all my books added to it, and two or three hours more before they all showed up on the site. Hopefully, they will start to get some more reviews. You can look for them at my author profile on BookBub at this link.

My friend Patrick O’Donnell, a recently retired police officer and the author of Cops and Writers – From the Academy to the Street, posted this graphic on the Cops and Writers Facebook page the other day, and I wanted to share it here.

When we were living and traveling in an RV fulltime I saw lots of rigs in campgrounds with signs saying Protected By Smith & Wesson. What a great way to let criminals know you have guns. They will wait until you get in your car and go exploring to come and rip you off. And yes, criminals do cruise through campgrounds. And for that matter, what do you know about the guy parked next to you?

I have to laugh when I see people on social media warning people that getting a vaccine is going to put an imaginary microchip into their body so the government can track them, but they tell the whole world everything about themselves on Facebook and with the stickers plastered on the back of their cars. But yeah, let’s worry about a microchip.

Congratulations Robert Moritz, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. We had 61 entries this time around. Stay tuned. A new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – I’m going to cut out a bunch of newspaper articles about one unsolved murder and keep them in a box in my closet to mess with my kids’ heads after I die.

Aug 022020
 

Several readers have commented on my new book Tinder Street and the historical facts mentioned in it, saying they learned something new. One reader noticed I used the expression “Hun” and was curious where I came up with that, since only a limited contingency  Hungarian regiment was involved in the Western Front in WW I, and he wasn’t sure how much of a chance American troops might have had to face off with them. In actuality, the term Hun was a common derogatory name for the German army during that conflict, just as Krauts was in World War II. Here are pictures of a couple of WW I posters as an example.

I love doing research, and I spent a lot of time on it for this book. Most of a day was spent on studying how to start and drive a Model T Ford. Two readers who are old enough to have owned or driven Model Ts wrote to compliment me on getting it right, saying a lot of people did not know about turning the crank half a turn to prime the engine, or that some of them had an electric ignition besides the old hand crank, or that the “accelerator” was not a pedal on the floor like modern cars, but instead a lever mounted on the right side of the steering column.

In a past blog post, I mentioned that during my time at West Point, I spent a winter cataloging and test firing the guns in the Army Museum there. Among them was also a WW I Springfield sniper rifle with a Winchester telescopic sight and double set triggers, like Lucas used in the book. Very few of them were customized that way, and even fewer original ones still exist.

I also acquired an employee badge from the Toledo Shipbuilding Company with the same number I assigned to Lucas in the book.

Someone did object to my use of the word Negro in the book. But that was the common term used for people of color in these days. Well, at least the most acceptable one.

In other news, CNN recently released a news story dealing with overnight RV parking at Walmart and other places. This is something we did many times during our days as fulltime RVers. The reporter covering the story interviewed my friend Jim O’Briant, who runs the Overnight RV Parking program and mentioned www.OvernightRVParking.com in the article. If you are an RVer, this is a program you really need to be a part of. It lists over 14,000 places nationwide where RVers can park for free, and will save you a fortune. Tell Jim I sent you, he’ll treat you right.

Speaking of RVing, if you enjoy a good mystery story, for the next few days by my friend Jinx Schwartz is giving away the e-book of her RV mystery Just A Happy Camper on Amazon. Jinx is a prolific author with a large following, and I bet you’ll become a fan, too.

And finally, after almost four years, I think we are becoming real Floridians. There’s a hurricane coming? We live 800 yards from the water where the blue dot is. Well, damn, guess I’ll put the garbage can in the garage so it doesn’t blow away.

Today is your last chance to enter our new Free Drawing  for an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – After years of wanting to thoroughly organize my garage, but always lacking the time, I have now discovered that wasn’t the reason.

Back To My Roots

 Posted by at 12:53 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 012020
 

I grew up in a very different world than the one we live in today. Before I was 10 years old I already knew what I wanted to be. Not a jet pilot or an astronaut or a professional baseball player. No. All I ever wanted to be was a newspaperman and to write books.

Somewhere around my ninth year, as I recall, I convinced our local newspaper publisher to give me a job. But not just any job. I didn’t want a paper route or to stand on the street corner hawking newspapers. I wanted to work in the shop. I wanted to be one of the first to see each new edition come off the press. After I nagged the gentleman enough, he talked to my father, who agreed to let me work a couple of hours after school two or three days a week.

I became what was known as a printer’s devil. This was in the days when printing was done with lead type, and my job was to clean the old handset type with a rag and gasoline, and then put each letter and space into the proper place in the type cabinets. I know that sounds unbelievable now, and even then I’m sure it must have violated some kind of child labor laws, but as I said, it was a different world back then. Besides, who was working? I was having a ball!

I’m not a mechanical person at all, but I fell in love with the old letterpresses the shop used, everything from massive things almost as big as an automobile that printed newspaper pages, down to small hand-operated job presses that were used to print business cards, letterheads, envelopes, and things like that. In those days a big part of a newspaper’s income was from job work like that. Eventually I learned how to set type by hand, one letter at a time in reverse, and to run the job presses. And I went on to own several small town newspapers in my career, and my 41st book came out last week.

A few years ago when Terry and I went to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, the person who usually worked in their print shop was out sick, and the young man filling in for him had no idea how type was set by hand and was doing a very bad job of explaining it to visitors. So, I offered to show them. It had been close to 50 years since I had set type by hand, but somehow I managed to remember enough to get it done, and I impressed the young man, the people watching, Miss Terry, and even myself!

As I’ve mentioned before, Terry and I like antiques, and we are always looking for something interesting or unusual to add to our collection. So when my neighbor Chris Fisher, who happens to be an auctioneer, called me over one day to show me something he thought I might like, I immediately began drooling. He had acquired an old Baltimorean self-inking letterpress. There was also a cabinet full of lead type, which I didn’t really care that much for as I don’t plan to use any of it, and the cabinet was falling apart. But I definitely wanted that printing press! From everything I’ve been able to research about it, this model was built about 1886 and sold for somewhere around $40 – $60, depending on the market.

Well, the auction ended Thursday night, and this is my new baby. It’s rusty and frozen up, and the rollers are shot, but I don’t care. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this thing, but I’d like to clean it up a little bit and display it somewhere, just a little reminder of my roots.

Besides going to the auction house in Daytona Beach to pick up the press yesterday, we also went to the dealer where we bought Terry’s Chrysler Pacifica minivan. When we bought it, we also got an extended warranty that includes free oil changes, filters, and tire rotations for 100,000 miles. The van has just over 30,000 miles on it now. The dealership lied to us about several things and failed to follow through with things they promised, so even though I have to drive out of my way to get the oil changed instead of using my local shop that does all of my other mechanical work, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let that stop me from getting what I have coming.

I cannot count how many emails and messages I’ve received from people worried about us, with Hurricane Isaias headed our way. We do appreciate your concern, but we’re not too worried about this one, folks. We are 800 yards from the Intercoastal Waterway, and about a 1½ miles as the crow flies from the Atlantic. But the Canaveral National Seashore and the mangrove hammocks of Mosquito Lagoon are between us and the ocean, and they do a pretty good job of slowing storms down. Every weather report says that it’s going to be here sometime early Sunday morning, but they say it will most likely stay offshore.

We will still get some pretty strong wind, lots of rain and things like that, and possibly some power outages. But we are well-stocked with provisions and plenty of bottled water, we have two Honda generators and lots of fuel, sandbags, and everything we need to get by.

Some friends have asked me if we didn’t think it would be a good idea to evacuate. I really think this is going to be a non-issue. Of course, I could be wrong. But lots of hotels are still closed in the places we would want to go, so we will ride it out. Come Monday, we might wish we had made another decision, but that’s where we’re at at this point.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing, and we’ve got another great prize this week. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Work is precious. Save some for tomorrow.

Shutters And Decks

 Posted by at 12:04 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 312020
 

Living on the coast in central Florida, we have wanted to get hurricane shutters or some type of window protection installed on our house for quite some time now. We first talked to a local company with excellent reviews about it back in November, but then Terry had to have surgery for her Interstim implant, so we delayed having them come out to give us an estimate.

We got busy, and they got busy, and finally, it worked out for the owner of the company to come yesterday. We talked about the different options, from Lexan panels that we would store in the garage and put on and take off ourselves, to motorized covers, and everything in between.

I think we have settled on accordion-type metal shutters that are permanently mounted on the house and fold together and lock into place when needed. He said it would take us fifteen or twenty minutes to close everything up if a storm was coming, instead of a couple of hours of getting up and down off a ladder to install the Lexan panels. As we get older, that might become an issue.

I was hoping to get them installed before the storms start hitting us this year, but they are already booked out through January of next year. He said with people sitting home with nothing to do and not taking vacations, a lot of folks are getting home remodeling projects out of the way.

Another project we have wanted to do was to build a deck onto the front of our house. But I’m finding out that it’s almost an impossible task. Not because of the physical part of doing it, but because Volusia County does not seem to like homeowners doing their own projects. I’ve called four times now to find out what the building code requirements are and can never speak to anybody.

The gentleman who was here for the hurricane shutters is a licensed contractor, and he said the county would require architectural drawings and a lot of other things in great detail, and that we could expect to spend at least several hundred dollars on the plans alone before I could ever start the process of asking for a building permit. So, I guess if I don’t want to hire someone to do the job, we may have to put that on hold for a while.

In other news, Tinder Street is still doing very well, and I appreciate all the reviews people post for it on Amazon and telling your friends and family about it through social media or however. I am closing in on 30,000 words in the next book in this series already and having a good time with it.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – When killing them with kindness doesn’t work, try a baseball bat. Results may vary.

Jul 302020
 

In my last newspaper days column, titled Cinderella, I wrote about how small town politicians and bureaucrats always tried to avoid me because they knew I would ask questions they didn’t want to answer and print stories they didn’t want the public to read. I also mentioned that the school superintendent in our little Arizona mountain town refused to take my phone calls.

That’s right, in the seven years that he was school superintendent, not once did he accept a phone call from me. Several times I went to his office, and I could see him through the open door when I walked in, but he would quickly close it and the secretary would tell me he wasn’t there. I’d tell her I had seen him and I knew there was no back door, so he had to be there, and maybe she should check. The response was always the same. She would smile sweetly at me and say, “He’s not here.”

I don’t know what they were so afraid of, but they resisted having anything to do with the newspaper. And, of course, being the suspicious kind of guy I am, my immediate reaction was that if you don’t want to talk to me, there must be something you want to hide.

One year there had been a major remodeling project in the primary and middle schools during the summertime. When school started on the first day, the telephones in our office started ringing off the wall with phone calls from concerned parents asking if we knew what was going on at the school campus because there were a bunch of ambulances lined up there, some from towns as far as 30 miles away.

When nobody answered the telephone at the school district office or at any of the schools, I sent a reporter over to check it out. By the time she drove the two or three miles to the campus, they had pulled up several school buses and were loading kids and staff onto them and taking them to the hospital. When my reporter, a very sharp young woman named Tracy, asked what was happening, the school superintendent said. “Nothing. There’s nothing going on here.”

She asked him why there were so many ambulances and school buses there and where they were taking everybody on the first day of school. I swear to God that small town bureaucrat looked Tracy dead in the eye and asked, “What buses? What ambulances? Nothing’s happening. There’s nothing to see, so why don’t you just go away?” It was one of those “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes” situations.

Getting nowhere with him, Tracy started talking to parents who had come to pick up their children, and they all reported symptoms that included burning eyes and throats, and some kind of minor respiratory distress in staff and students alike. Someone from the school told Tracy she had to stop talking to people and leave, and she told him that it was public property, and she was a news reporter covering the story. He threatened to call the police and she asked him to please do so, because she had her camera with her and she was sure she could get a parent to take a picture of her being escorted off school property.

We never did find out what was happening, even though I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any records. The school system said there were no records because there had not been a problem. The hospital told us that under HIPPA they could not give us any information. And the same parents who are were picking up their kids and telling us that there was a problem had all clammed up by the next day. A few would talk off the record, but insisted we not identify or quote them.

Unfortunately, sometimes that happens in small towns. People get intimidated because the folks who run the schools and the Town Council and things like that all own local businesses or have connections with people in the business community. And if you’re a working stiff, it’s never a good idea to make waves.

I guess I must be a surfer at heart because I love waves. We didn’t get much out of that story except a good picture of all of those ambulances and school buses on the front page, with the school superintendent standing in front of them with his arms outstretched like he could block Tracy’s view, and some incredible quotes of him denying that what was shown in the picture was actually there.

That didn’t stop us. We were back every time something happened at the school, and just like always, the school superintendent always told us that there was nothing happening. Nothing to see at all. I was glad that my kids went to school in the next town over. Because, just like what we are facing nationwide today with COVID-19 and insane talk about reopening schools, it seems that the welfare of children doesn’t really matter much when it comes to the big picture.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing, and we’ve got another great prize this week. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

For The Day – If lying was a job, some people would be billionaires.

Jul 292020
 

Traveling down Claremont Road in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, one could easily miss the small cemetery with its rows of uniform white headstones on the grounds of the Army’s Carlisle Barracks, and if you did notice, how many of us would know the tragic story these grave markers tell? For these are not the graves of soldiers who fell gallantly in combat, or veterans whose brave service earned them an honored final resting place.

The stark white gravestones bear the names of children, 186 American Indian children, who were torn from their families and their culture and transported across the country in the government’s great experiment to destroy the Indian culture and turn Native American children into Anglos. These graves are all that remain of the old Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

Located on an old cavalry fort, the Carlisle school was founded by a U.S. Army captain named Richard Henry Pratt, whose goal was the total assimilation of Native American children into the White man’s culture. Pratt, who had commanded a prisoner-of-war camp for Indian captives in Florida, and later a unit of African-American soldiers and Indian scouts in Dakota Territory, was vocal in his belief that it was necessary “to first kill the Indian to save the man.”

To achieve this goal, Indian children from tribes all over the nation were taken from their families and brought to Carlisle, which would become the first of a network of Indian schools around the country. Once they arrived, the children were quickly stripped of their Indian identity and any vestiges of their culture. They were given Anglo names, dressed in the clothing White men wore, their braids were cut off, they were forced to attend White church services, and forbidden to speak their native languages. Harsh punishment awaited any child who dared to utter an Indian word or in any way exhibited any sign of his or her true heritage.

The first Indian children to arrive at Carlisle, 82 children from the Lakota people, known to Whites as the Sioux, were delivered by a train from Dakota Territory on a cold October night in 1879. This was just a few years after George Armstrong Custer led his 7th Cavalry into a massacre at the Little Bighorn, and as the hungry, tired children shuffled onto the station platform they were greeted by a sideshow atmosphere as hundreds of local residents came to see these “wild Indians” they had heard so much about. Typical of any government operation, neither food nor bunks were available for the new arrivals. Marched inside their barracks, the children slept on the floor, their empty stomachs only adding to their misery.

Indoctrination was swift at Carlisle, and it must have been a confusing and traumatic experience for these poor children to be suddenly transported into a world so alien from all that they knew. There was no time for acclimation; they were immediately immersed into a curriculum designed to change their very existence and completely erase their past.

Half of the students’ days were spent learning English, writing, and arithmetic, and during the other half, boys were taught mechanical skills such as blacksmithing, carpentry, and agriculture; girls were introduced to domestic duties such as cooking, laundry, sewing, and housework. English was the only language the Indian children heard or were allowed to use. Boys were dressed in military uniforms, and girls were given dresses typical of White girls. During the summer months, the students were housed with White families to further destroy their ties to home and tribe. Teachers and the headmaster, Henry Pratt, drilled into the children’s heads the need to seek employment in the White man’s world and to build new lives for themselves far away from their homes and families.

Records show how the program affected the children’s thinking. Early on, they drew images of things they knew from home – warriors on horseback and buffalo hunts. Over time, drawings of farms and children dressed in White clothing began to reflect their new lives.

The best-known student from Carlisle was Jim Thorpe, the legendary Indian athlete who is still remembered and worshiped in Carlisle. However, to most of the townspeople, the great majority of the students were considered nothing more than a curiosity and an occasional inconvenience when they would try to run away and make their way home. These flights to freedom never lasted long, and punishment was swift and sure, including being held in solitary confinement for up to a week in the fort’s old stone powder magazine.

Carlisle and the other Indian schools showed some signs of success, as measured by the government, and from 1879 to 1918, approximately 12,000 Indian children from 140 tribes, from Puerto Rico, and even the Philippines, attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

A number of children died while at Carlisle, usually of common childhood diseases and tuberculosis, though it is not hard to believe that broken hearts may have taken their toll. Even the strongest man would find it difficult to summon the will to go on when ripped from home and family and deposited into such a strange new world. Some of the deceased students were returned to their reservations and families, but others who came from too far away were buried in a small cemetery set aside for the Indian children. Today those graves are the only tangible reminder of the shameful experiment that took place here.

For Native Americans, Carlisle’s legacy continues to affect their lives and cultural identity. Most Native Americans living in America today have some link to Carlisle or one of the boarding schools it spawned. While some say it may have done some good in preparing Indian children for a world that was rapidly changing around them, most agree that the benefits are greatly overshadowed by the harsh way much of the Indian culture was erased from so many.

The rising costs of operating Carlisle, a preference for schools closer to Indian reservations, and the government’s focus on World War I led to the closing of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in September, 1918. After the school closed, the property reverted to the United States Army, and today Carlisle Barracks is an advanced training center for military officers. All that remains today of the old Indian School are these lonely headstones and a sign that gives a brief history of the school. It seems too small a reminder of the great tragedy that took place here.

Thought For The Day – Sometimes I wonder if my brain’s hard drive is full.

A Proud Grandpa

 Posted by at 12:09 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 282020
 

My granddaughter Haley Robinson made this old man proud yesterday when she registered to vote. This will be her first time being old enough to do so, and I am glad to see that the younger generation is willing to be involved in the future of our country. Us old dinosaurs may be nearing the end of our time, but young people who have a say in what will happen are going to change the course of history, just as we did in our own youth.

I remember how much it angered me back when I was a youngster that I could join the Army and be sent to fight a war at 18, but back at home, I wasn’t old enough to vote for the people who made that decision. Nor could I buy a drink.

As a matter of fact, my first wife and I were both 19 when we got married. This was when I was stationed at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Under New York law, she didn’t need anybody’s permission to tie the knot. But even though I was qualified to teach people how to use machine guns and hand grenades and things like that, or to lead a platoon of infantrymen, I wasn’t mature enough to make that decision. I had to have my mother send a notarized letter from Ohio, giving her consent, as well as having my commanding officer’s permission. That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

At any rate, Haley, I’m proud of you.

I received some sad news yesterday. Coleen Sykora, who ran the popular Workers on Wheels website, has passed away. Her husband Bob told me that she died of a sudden massive heart attack. While we never met in person, Coleen and I corresponded back and forth for over 20 years. I always enjoyed her intelligence and her sense of humor and respected how much she did to help RVers find ways to make a living on the road. Rest in peace, sweet lady.

I spent most of yesterday going over the last few chapters I wrote for the next Tinder Street book, then printed them out for Terry to proofread. As I have said here before, this new historical family saga is so different from my mysteries that I was not sure how my readers would accept it. But based upon the feedback I have been getting, they seem to like it. It really warmed my heart when my mother-in-law called Sunday night to say that she had read it in two days and is already looking forward to the next book in the series. She’s not into mysteries, and I believe this is the first of my books she has ever read. Thanks, Bess. You made my heart smile with your kind words.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – There is no better moment to postpone something you don’t want to do than right now.

It’s Off And Running

 Posted by at 12:16 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 272020
 

My new book Tinder Street went live about 9 p.m. Saturday night, and by the end of the day on Sunday, it was already at #32 on Amazon’s Hot New Release list for Historical Fiction. And, strangely enough, at #3 in German Fiction. I guess because one of the main characters has a German last name and is facing discrimination about that just before World War I. Thank you so much to all of you who purchased it and told their friends about it.

 

With the new book out, I spent much of yesterday finishing the latest edition of my author’s newsletter, which includes a sample of the new book as well as a short story by one of my favorite authors, George Wier. After Miss Terry proofread it and I made a few corrections, I sent it out to the subscribers. If you would like to be added to the mailing list for the free newsletter, just send me your e-mail address at editor@gypsyjournal.net I promise never to share your info or to deluge you with spam.

With all of that out of the way, it’s back to writing. I am already over 18,000 words into my next book, and it’s going well. I usually release four books a year, and Tinder Street was my fourth one so far this year. But with COVID-19 keeping us at home, I am taking advantage of the time to get a lot of writing done. I am aiming for two more books by year’s end.

In other news, some people just suck. I talked to the widow of a friend who died a few months ago. He had several guns, all top-quality firearms, and she has no use for them. His brother contacted her wanting to buy all seven of them for $500. Any single one of them is worth twice that. Her husband and his brother never had a close relationship, and he told her that’s all they are worth, and besides, they should stay in the family. Several “friends” also wanted to buy them for next to nothing to “remember him by.”

Knowing I’m into guns, she asked if I could tell her what they are really worth. When I said easily $4,000 for a quick sale, she was so mad that this jerk who is “family” and others who are “friends” are trying to take advantage of her like that. If you need to rip someone off to get something to “remember” somebody, they obviously didn’t mean much to you in the first place.

I live on the other side of the country and have no way to go buy them from her or to try to sell them for her, and I already have more guns than I can shoot, but I referred her to a reputable gun shop that will sell them on consignment for her.

A friend of mine is a retired funeral director, and he has told me more than once that after a death in the family, whether they are well off or just getting by, the vultures quickly show their true colors. I know that to be true from personal experience.

Congratulations Sue Cates, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. We had 64 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon!

Thought For The Day – What will happen when the conspiracy theorists find out that they are part of a conspiracy theory to use conspiracy theorists to spread disinformation through conspiracy theories?

Tinder Street Is Live!

 Posted by at 12:36 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 262020
 

If I had any hair I probably would have pulled it all out yesterday. Yeah, it was that frustrating. With all of the final changes made to my new Tinder Street book, I formatted the e-book version to get it ready to upload to Amazon. I’ve done this many times, and it’s not very hard to do. However my other novels do not have a table of contents and this one does. That made a big difference.

There are half a dozen things I can do adequately in this world, but a whole bunch more that I stumble over myself trying to get done. Pretty much anything to do with computers falls in that latter category.

I went to the Amazon Kindle bookshelf page where they have a program called Kindle Create, which is supposed to be quick and easy. Maybe it is for someone with half a brain, but for a lunkhead like me, it was neither quick nor easy, and two hours later I finally gave up in frustration.

Then I went to Microsoft Word’s help page, which is the program I use to create my books, and tried to follow their instructions for setting up the table of contents. That was three hours of my life I’ll never get back.

I’m sure glad that nobody took my blood pressure during that time, because it had to be somewhere in the stratosphere. No matter what I did, I could not get the table of contents links to work, and the more I tried, the more I messed it up. Fortunately, I always save two or three copies of a manuscript in different places when I’m working on it, just because of problems like this.

Sometime in the late afternoon I gave up and sent a message to my friend Scarlett Braden Moss, who formats my print books, asking for help. Scarlett is a wizard when it comes to these things, but unfortunately she was not home and didn’t get the message for another couple of hours. But as soon as she did, she messaged me right back and said to send the file over to her, which I did.

She told me not to be mad at her because it would probably take a half hour to do what I had been trying to do without success all day long. Mad at her? I wanted to crawl through the computer screen and kiss her! Not just because she had my book ready in no time at all, but also because Scarlett is a good-looking lady. Does that make me a male chauvinist pig or just a dirty old man? Probably both.

At any rate, she did her thing and sent it back to me and I uploaded the book to Amazon. It was live in less than an hour later, and you can order Tinder Street at this link.

Speaking of pretty and talented ladies, that pretty lady I live with was busy yesterday, too. She started out by doing a bunch of paperwork, then she made three loaves of her oat and flax bread. She has all kinds of kitchen appliances but prefers to knead her bread dough by hand. She says it helps her work out her frustrations when she is twisting and pounding it. I still can’t figure out why she calls every batch of dough by my name.

And while that was baking, she made a wonderful dinner of Chicken Linguini Alfredo. Yes, I know, I’m a very lucky man. Yes, I know I don’t deserve her. No, none of you can have her. I may be fat, dumb, and stupid, but I know a good thing when I’ve got it

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – The CDC says to put disinfectant on the places you touch the most. Don’t do it. It burns like hell!

 

The Long Gray Line

 Posted by at 12:10 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 252020
 

Note: It was a busy day, and I ran out of time and energy, so I am reposting a blog from July, 2016, about one of my favorite places in the country, one that will always hold a piece of my heart.

We spent a couple of hours Monday evening watching the old 1955 movie The Long Gray Line, starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara. It’s the story of Martin ‘Marty’ Maher, who is a legend at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Maher was an Irishman who immigrated to America in 1898 and found work as a waiter at West Point. He later enlisted in the Army and remained at the Military Academy until he retired from the Army in 1928, after nearly 30 years of service. During that time he served in various capacities, including as an athletic and swimming instructor.

He was beloved by generations of cadets, so much so that he was named an Honorary Graduate of three different classes, the Class of 1912, 1926, and 1928.

He was instrumental in helping train the Class of 1915, known as “The Class the Stars Fell On.” Among the 164 graduates of the Class of 1915, an amazing 59 of them rose through the ranks to become generals. Two members of the class would go on to earn the rank of 5 Star General of the Army; Omar Bradley and Dwight D. Eisenhower, with Eisenhower later becoming President of the United States.

But Marty Maher wasn’t ready to leave the Gothic fortress on the bank of the Hudson River, and after retiring from the Army, he became a civilian employee and put in another 20 years before retiring a second time. In total, Maher spent more than fifty years at West Point!

And he never left. When Marty Maher died in 1961, he was buried at the West Point Cemetery, the final resting place of such luminaries as Winfield Scott, George Armstrong Custer, and William Westmorland.

The Long Gray Line was one of the first movies I ever remember watching. Even then, as a little kid, I was fascinated by the beauty of the Academy, with its beautiful granite buildings and long traditions, and made up my mind that someday I was going to go there and see it with my own eyes.

Of course, back then I had no idea that one day I would actually be a young soldier assigned to West Point and have the opportunity to help train cadets there myself. And it was everything I expected and much more. You can literally feel the history when you walk the same hallowed ground that so many American heroes have. If I could have stayed there throughout my career as Marty Maher did, I would have made a career of the Army.

I’ve been back to the Military Academy a couple of times over the years, and it always feels like I’m coming home. If you ever get the opportunity to visit, do so. You will come away with a whole new perspective on the young men and women who are training to become tomorrow’s military leaders.

Be sure to enter our latest  Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – If you find me offensive, maybe you should stop finding me.

My Rotten Kids

 Posted by at 1:21 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 242020
 

Every parent wants to raise children who become adults they can be proud of. Adults that they can look at and say to themselves with a smile of self-satisfaction, “Yeah, that’s my kid!” Unfortunately, I don’t do that. As much as it hurts me to admit it, I raised two rotten, selfish kids.

My son Travis, the older of the two, lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and among his many talents, which includes folding origami and being an amazing photographer, he also has a green thumb. He can grow anything. I think if you gave him a handful of seeds and a garden hose with a sprinkler head and turned him loose in an asphalt parking lot, a week later, he would have a crop of corn, tomatoes, and squash growing. He’s always sending us pictures of his produce, picked fresh from the garden.

My daughter Tiffany, who lives in our old hometown of Show Low, Arizona, also has a garden at her place, and she’s even got chickens. And while she might not be as prolific a gardener as her brother is, she also sends us pictures of eggs and the things that she has grown.

Now, here’s their mom. Can you believe that? While they are eating fresh vegetables right from the garden, Miss Terry is forced to buy her veggies at the supermarket. Yeah, I know. It breaks my heart, too.

But what can you do? You try to raise them right, and then you send them out into the world, and they become what they are. I mean, really, how hard would be for either one of them to uproot their lives and move here to plant their gardens and bring their mom fresh veggies every day or two? Is that too much ask?

By the way, I was only joking. I kind of like my rotten kids. Not a whole lot, but a little bit.

I said in yesterday’s blog that I needed to replace the battery in my Ford pickup and install a battery disconnect. With my bad back, I wasn’t looking forward to lifting it out of the truck, but Chris Fisher, one of my neighbors who is a great guy, saw me with the hood up and came over and disconnected the old battery and took it out of the truck and put it in the back of the Explorer for me. I picked up the new battery and the battery disconnect at O’Reilly Auto Parts yesterday afternoon, and back at home Jesse Bolton another neighbor and a great guy came over and installed it all for me. Thanks again, guys. It’s good to have nice neighbors, even if I do have rotten kids.

There is a little drainage canal that runs alongside our property, and there was a doublewide manufactured home on the other side of it that got torn up when Hurricane Matthew hit our area a few years ago. Yesterday they moved in a new doublewide to replace it, and Terry told me to come and look at how they were doing things. They were using a little tractor to move the two halves into position on the lot, and the cool thing was there was nobody driving it. It was all done by remote control by a man standing there with a joystick. He said he could get within inches of where it needed to be, and then it was a simple case of sliding it on some special wheels to match the two halves and connecting it all together and setting it on the foundation. How cool is that? Isn’t technology amazing?

My last proofreader finished Tinder Street yesterday but ran into difficulty when she was trying to send it back to me. For some reason, there was a problem on her end, and instead of being a Microsoft Word DOCX file, which it said it was when I tried to open it, all I got was some kind of a scrambled hodgepodge of letters, numbers, and symbols. It took us a while to get it right, but after a few attempts, eventually, something clicked and it came through okay. But by then, it was late in the day. So I will start making the corrections this morning before we have to run into Port Orange for Terry to get a couple of ultrasounds in the afternoon. If I push hard enough and don’t run into any difficulties, I still think I’ll have it uploaded to Amazon this weekend. And don’t worry, as soon as I do, I’ll be telling the world all about it

Be sure to enter our latest  Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Enthusiasm changes attitudes and becomes the fuel for change.

A New Lease On Life

 Posted by at 12:16 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 232020
 

Friday will be five weeks since I had three RF nerve ablations done on my lower back, and for those who have asked about the results, it has been nothing short of amazing. I can’t believe how much relief you can get from a relatively simple outpatient procedure.

Since the day of the procedure, I have not needed to use a cane, have not taken a pain pill or the medical marijuana oil, nothing at all except a couple of Tylenol the one time I did something dumb. No more waking up two or three times a night from the pain, no more crying out with pain when I stand up or sit up in bed, or going up the three steps from one level of our house to the other. It’s like I have a whole new lease on life.

The something dumb I mentioned above was picking up a box that came from Amazon that weighed 33 pounds. As soon as I lifted it, I knew it was a mistake. But fortunately, the Tylenol took care of it, and I won’t make that mistake again

They say it may only last six months, or it may be years before it has to be redone. Either way, I don’t care, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I still have other back problems, and if I sit or stand for a long time my back begins to ache, but when it does, I get up and move around a bit, and that helps. Fortunately, I can use my Sony digital recorder to narrate my books anywhere, so some days I move from my office chair to my recliner a few times. But I can live with that. Now I can’t wait for it to cool down so we can get back out in our kayaks or on our boat.

In other news, I seem to have an electrical problem with my 1999 Ford pickup. I don’t drive it often, and last summer I had to replace the battery. Since then, it has killed two other new batteries. Killed them stone cold dead. My mechanic checked out the charging system a while back, and it was good, and he could not find a short anywhere in the electrical system that was draining the battery. But as anyone who has tinkered with cars knows, tracing electrical problems can be a bear.

In talking to the mechanic and the nice folks at O’Reilly Auto Parts, who graciously keep replacing the battery under warranty, I think I will install a battery disconnect switch in the negative cable and see if that solves the problem. I have them on my pontoon boat’s twin batteries and they work well.

And finally, it’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Saying “Have a nice day” somehow seems friendly but saying “Enjoy your next 24 hours” sounds threatening.

A Good Report

 Posted by at 12:45 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 222020
 

As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, Terry had an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville as a follow-up to her Interstim implant. We timed it just right, scoring a parking spot in the often crowded campus just a few feet from the door, stopping in the lobby to have our temperatures taken and answered no to a series of questions about any exposure we might have had to coronavirus, then up to the second floor of the Canady Building building to check-in, and less than five minutes later she was in the room seeing the doctor.

Everything looks good, and they are pleased with how things are going. Terry has to go back in five weeks for another follow-up on some of the other issues she was having when she first went to Mayo, but it’s all good. Every time we go there, we are more and more impressed with the professionalism of the staff, and the fact that they don’t just rush you in and rush you out so they can get to the next patient. They take the time to explain things in terms you can understand, to ask if you have any questions, and to answer them fully.

I also said yesterday’s blog that we were supposed to have some thunderstorms that might impact our travel, and while it was very cloudy when we left the house, about halfway there, the sky cleared up nicely and we had good weather all the way up and back. Well, if you can call 95° and 72% humidity good. Hey, it’s Florida in July. What more could we expect?

When we got back to town, we stopped at Publix grocery store to pick up a few items, and they’ve now implemented a mandatory mask policy, with signs saying that all customers have to wear a mask while in the store. They also make that announcement rather frequently on the store’s PA system. But, of course, a lot of people ignored all of that. There were people walking all over without masks on. I saw a manager we know from shopping there and I and asked him what good it did have a mask policy if they don’t enforce it. He said they try, but some people do what they want anyway. It reminded me of something I was told when I went to NCO school in the Army – rules without consequences are merely suggestions

Back home, we put the groceries away, changed clothes, cleaned up, and had a quick dinner. Then we spent the rest of the evening watching TV. Not a bad way to spend your life, if you have to be an old fart and live in Florida.

I’m having a recurring problem with the blog, and I really don’t know what to do about it. The way it is set up now, when someone makes a comment for the first time, or hasn’t made a comment or entered one of our weekly free drawings in a while, it goes on hold until I can approve it. After that, any comments from that person are automatically approved. But for a while now, I’ve been getting spam comments for investment schemes, Viagra, and comments for things like hot Russian chicks looking for someone to hook up with them, and pictures and links to porn sites. They’re coming in under names that have either entered one of our drawings or made a comment previously, and sometimes names of people I know and who have made comments for years. I even saw one yesterday that said I posted it!

I’m not sure how they are getting that information, or how to stop it. I called Go Daddy a week or so ago about it and their only suggestion was to set it up so that all comments have to be approved each and every time. That’s kind of a hassle for myself and for blog readers, and I really don’t want to do that. But it may come down to it. In the meantime. if you see in an inappropriate post in the blog or on the Free Drawings page, please let me know so I can delete it as soon as possible. And to of those who were exposed to the pornographic images yesterday and Monday, my apologies.

Thought For The Day – Many people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they are 75.

Rockets And Idiots

 Posted by at 1:08 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 212020
 

It’s always a thrill to see a rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral but we have lived here long enough that we don’t always keep track of when the launches are scheduled. I knew that there was one planned for sometime this week that had been delayed earlier because of weather, but it wasn’t until I heard the rumble of the booster rocket as it made its reentry. that I realized it had happened.

As I’ve said before, we can see the rockets taking off from our yard or our dock, but there’s no way except on television to watch the boosters when they land on a ship out in the Atlantic Ocean.

It amazes me that they can send something so high into the air and come back and land so precisely. Heck, half the time I get lost just going to the post office! This was a Falcon 9 rocket, sending satellites into outer space. I think someone said one of the satellites was for the South Korean military, but I’m not sure about that.

We have all heard the term rocket scientists, and obviously, we have a lot of them working just south of us at the Kennedy Space Center, but here is someone who is not a rocket scientist. In fact, he’s an idiot. On the news last night, Missouri Governor Mike Parsons was talking about sending kids back to school. And because I think some people wouldn’t believe it unless they actually saw it, here are his words on the screen. He is acknowledging that sending children back to school is going to result in them getting COVID-19. So why the hell are they sending kids back to school? This idiot doesn’t seem to realize that he has now opened his state to lawsuits from the parents of those kids who do get the virus at school and then come home and give to their rest of their families.

I wish I could say that Ron DeSantis, our governor here in Florida, is any better, but he’s just as much an idiot. He is still insisting that the virus is going to just magically disappear sometime. Gee, I wonder where he got that idea from.

And speaking of idiots, these flyers are appearing around our county. If you’ve never heard of them, the Proud Boys are a hate group. It’s sad to think that in this day and age clowns, like this still exist. But this is what happens when cousins marry and have children.

While waiting for my last proofreader to finish the first book in my Tinder Street family saga, I was busy working on the second book in the series yesterday. I knocked out about 6,000 words, which puts me somewhere over 16,000 words so far in this book, and the words are flowing out just as easily as they did for the first one.

In other news, apparently, the letters from my doctors worked, because I got an email yesterday from the Clerk of Courts for Volusia County saying that I’ve been permanently excused from jury duty. Someone asked me if I didn’t feel at least a little bit guilty that I didn’t want to do my duty as a citizen. When I was a teenager, I volunteered for the Army during the Vietnam War and volunteered to go over there, leaving home the day after high school. In civilian life, I’ve served as a Town Councilman and a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission in my town, I helped organize and was on the board of directors of our battered women’s shelter, and served in other volunteer positions for communities where I lived. So no, I feel no guilt whatsoever. I’ve done my part.

Today is a road trip day for us. We have to go up to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville for a follow-up from Terry’s Interstim implant that was done late last year. There are supposed to be isolated thunderstorms during the day, but hopefully, we will get up there and back without any difficulties.

Thought For The Day – A person cannot be reasoned out of a position they did not use reason to arrive at.

Monday Q&A

 Posted by at 12:05 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 202020
 

I’m back with more questions from blog readers about RVing, what’s happening in our lives since we hung up the keys, and all kinds of other things. While I try to answer all questions individually, I also share some here occasionally.

Q. Our motorhome broke down in a suburb of Detroit and we called our roadside service. It took them over five hours to get somebody to tow us to a diesel repair shop. Is this common, or do we need to be looking for another roadside service company?”
A. That is not uncommon at all. You have to keep in mind that not every tow truck can come to the rescue of a full-size motorhome. It takes a specialized rig to tow something that big. When we were broken down, our wait times ranged from as little as an hour to over 12 hours. And I really don’t think any company is better than others. They all do good sometimes, and they all seem to drop the ball now and then.

Q. Please, please tell me your new historical novel will be out soon, Nick. I am drooling, waiting for it. Do you have a release date yet?
A. It is with the last proofreader now. Once she is finished and I make her corrections, it has to be formatted and then uploaded to Amazon. I am shooting for sometime toward the end of the week, or maybe the weekend, if all goes as planned.

Q. We sold the house we lived in for over 20 years to become fulltime RVers. We are back in the old hometown and drove by it yesterday, and we are just sick with what they have done to it. It was white with blue trim, and they painted it some kind of light green. The rose bushes I planted along the front and sides and spent hundreds of hours nurturing are all gone, as are the fruit trees we had on one side. Those are just some of the changes. I know it’s not ours anymore, but I want to knock on the door and tell them they ruined it. My sister tells me that we made the choice to sell it and travel, and I know she is right. But we are still upset. Is this a normal reaction, or are we being weird?
A. I once had a friend who was a very successful real estate broker. He never wanted home sellers and prospective buyers to meet because he said more than one deal fell apart when the buyers were describing the changes they planned to make, and the sellers became upset. Did the check clear the bank? If so, it’s theirs to do with what they want.

Q. My husband wants to buy an inflatable boat or inflatable kayak or something like that to take in the RV, and I seem to recall that you have had some, but I can’t remember the name of models. Can you remind me, please?
A. I have a Sea Eagle 435 PaddleSki, and Terry has a Sea Eagle 385 Fastrack. They are rugged and stable and an excellent choice for anybody traveling in an RV or living in a house because they are the size of a duffle bag when deflated. Even though we now have three hardshell kayaks, we still have our Sea Eagles and would never part with them.

Q. We have two large dogs, one is a mastiff/Dane mix and the other is a Heinz 57, and each of them weigh over 100 pounds. They are big goofy kids, but they do bark and intimidate people because they want love and attention from everybody they see. We tried to go to a couple of campgrounds last summer that would not allow us to come with the dogs. Now we’re talking about going fulltime, and we’re wondering if it’s going to be an issue for us. What are your thoughts?”
A. The hundred-plus pound dogs that you refer to as big rowdy kids can terrify people who don’t know them, and understandably so. When your dog comes running at them, they don’t know if it wants attention or dinner. I’m a dog lover, and I’ve always liked big dogs, but I also understand where people are coming from when they are cautious about animals that size. I would strongly suggest you look into training those animals, keeping them on leashes, and understanding that some campgrounds may not welcome you to be there due to insurance restrictions and/or customer protection. It comes with the territory when you own a large dog.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Congratulations David C Schumaker, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of undone, the first book in my friend Jason Deas’ Burt Bigelow mystery series. We had 42 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – My housekeeping style is best described as, “There appears to have been a struggle.”

Jul 192020
 

Have you ever eaten alligator? I have heard people say that the idea of eating a reptile is enough to make them gag, but the way I look at it, if gators eat people, turnabout is fair play.

I have eaten it many times and it’s usually been pretty good, although at a couple of places it has had a consistency of an eraser. But if it is prepared and cooked right, it can be delicious. There are a few restaurants around here that serve it, including Goodrich Seafood, which is a local favorite. It’s my go-to dish when we dine there. But since we haven’t gone out to eat for months now, I really wanted some.

On our last grocery shopping excursion, we stopped at Gary’s Meats in Edgewater, a small family-owned meat market where we get most of our meat. The quality is always better than you’re going to get in a supermarket, and the price isn’t that much different. Besides which, we love supporting small local businesses whenever we can. Terry had never cooked alligator before, but she found a couple of recipes on the Internet and decided to give it a try for dinner last night. It was absolutely delicious, tender, and cooked with just the perfect amount of seasoning. I can say with no hesitancy that it was the best alligator I’ve ever had. I told Terry we definitely need to do that again.

I mentioned a while back that I was called for jury duty in early August and was not looking forward to driving all the way to DeLand to sit in a room full of people waiting to get selected from the pool of potential jurors. Especially not with COVID-19 racking up higher numbers on an almost daily basis here in Florida, and masks not required or allowed during the selection process for security reasons.

After seeing that blog post, my chiropractor, who has been treating me for over three years now, wrote a letter to the court asking that I be permanently excused from jury duty due to my back issues. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can be very painful for me. When I am working here at home I can get up and move around when I need to, but you can’t do that during a court trial. That was followed up by a second letter, this one from the surgeon who did my nerve ablations, which included copies of my MRIs and the same request that I be permanently excused. I’m not sure the judge will accept them, although I don’t know why he wouldn’t.

But it may be a moot point anyway since just yesterday I received word that all jury trials here in Volusia County are on hold for the foreseeable future. That’s just fine with me.

My friend “Cool” Judy Rinehimer is my second proofreader, and she spent the last couple of days working her way through Tinder Street, the first book my new family history saga. She finished it last night, and added this note with her final edits: I think your readers are going to LOVE this series. Your storyline carries so much strength, emotion, and historical facts. It is obvious your research was so thorough. Congratulations on this and future books in the series.

That makes me feel really good. I’ll have it to the last proofreader today, and by the time she gets it, there won’t be that many corrections. Then it will be on to formatting. Unless something totally unexpected turns up, the e-book version should be out pretty soon. Meanwhile, I am already over 10,000 words into the second book in the series.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – Remember, don’t insult the alligator until after you cross the river.

Jul 182020
 

In my last Newspaper Days blog, titled The Pecking Order, I wrote about a U.S. senator who paid us a visit when he was making a run for the presidency. While we didn’t hear from candidates for the highest office in the land every four years, local politicians did seek me out. But usually only at election time.

Being a small town newspaper publisher sometimes means you make enemies in high places, even if they are just local high places. Especially if you have a reputation for stepping on toes that need stepped on or reporting when some politician’s hand was caught in the cookie jar, or under his secretary’s skirt. Yeah, I was that kind of newspaper publisher. So it was no surprise to me that, for the most part, people in local and county government avoided me whenever possible.

Except for election time. I once wrote an editorial in my newspaper about how I sometimes felt like Cinderella wearing her glass slipper to the ball. Because even though the office of the accounting business that our mayor owned was next door to my newspaper, he seldom spoke a word to me, and if he saw me coming, he was always too busy to talk. Depending on what I had written in that week’s editorial, sometimes he ignored me completely.

In the same editorial, I said that more than one town councilman or county supervisor went the other way in the grocery store when they saw me coming down the aisle toward them with my cart, and the school superintendent refused to ever take my telephone calls.

All except during election years. During the last couple of months before the election, they all wanted to take me to dinner, invite me to lunch, or just drop by to chat. And, of course, those chats always revolved around what a good job they were doing and how my newspaper should support them in their bid for reelection. As I said in the editorial, I might be Cinderella right now, but come midnight on Election Day, I knew I would once again be the stepchild nobody wanted anything to do with.

But as I wrote back then, that was only a few weeks every two years and I could handle their pompous asses that long. The rest of the year, they left me alone, which gave me more time to concentrate on being a thorn in their sides. Or a pain in their posteriors.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Be sure to enter our latest  Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Sophomania is the delusion of your intellectual superiority to others. Pfffft. “Delusion.”

Jul 172020
 

Since I don’t have much to talk about today I thought you might enjoy doing some time traveling, back to a blog in July,  2016, when a vintage travel trailer rally to Elkhart, Indiana while we were there.

Today’s blog is going to be more show than tell because I’ve got some really neat old RVs to show you! The Northern Indiana Vintage Trailer Rally is going on here at Elkhart Campground, and yesterday Miss Terry and I, along with our friends Ron and Brenda Speidel, spent most of the afternoon wandering around the campground admiring the neat old rigs.

It was kind of like my old car show days; everybody brought their cars out and sat around and enjoyed being together, and the crowds came by to admire their rigs. There are some amazing old trailers here, and their owners have done awesome jobs of restoring them or customizing them to fit a theme. Here’s one with a log cabin theme to it.

Log cabin trailer

And this yellow and black beauty has a bumblebee theme. How cool is that?

Bumble Bee

A lot of the owners were gracious enough to invite us in to see what they had done inside. Here’s one with a 1950s diner theme. It felt like Fonzie could walk in at any moment.

Diner theme

A number of people had fires going with Dutch ovens and things cooking on them or kettles of water heating up for coffee. Some even brought their own portable fences!

Small Stuff

My buddy Ron was like a kid in a candy store. Or maybe a pinball, bouncing from one side of the park to another, drooling over all the wonderful old rigs on display.

Besides the trailers, there are some beautifully restored classic cars towing them, including this 1955 Pontiac station wagon.

1955 Pontiac

This is an amazing car, and truly one-of-a-kind. Somebody had told me it was a hearse, but that wasn’t true. It started life as a Lincoln sedan, then the owner had it stretched 7 inches at each door, and put a lift gate in the back. And trust me, the inside is as beautiful as the outside.

Lincoln

And here is his trailer, a 1953 Spartan Manor, painted to match.

1953 Spartan Manor

I spent about an hour talking with him, as he pointed out the details of the customization. I also got to meet his beautiful great Dane, Jill, who is just a little bit bigger than a pony, and as gentle as a lamb.

This 1963 Shasta looks like a fifth wheel, but it’s a bumper pull trailer. The design is kind of like a forerunner to today’s fifth wheels.

1963 Shasta

Here’s another neat old Shasta, a 1959 model.

1959 Shasta

If you’d like something a little bigger, check out this old Vagabond.

Vagabond

I bet it takes a lot of elbow grease to keep this 1961 Holiday House looking so good. While Indiana is the capital of the RV world, these were made in Medford, Oregon.

1961 Holiday House

For a moment I thought I took a wrong turn somewhere and wound up in Florida when I saw the Flamingo Trailer Park.

Flamingo trailer park

Now here’s an oldie for you! This is a 1932 Gilkie. The couple who have it had just located it on Craigslist and bought it a few days ago. This is only the second one of these I have ever seen, the other is on display at the RV Museum here in Elkhart. They were made in Terre Haute, Indiana.

1932 Gilkie

There’s a lot more to see here, something like 125 units, and a few were for sale. I guess I could tow one behind the motorhome as a mother-in-law quarters. What do you think? Everybody is very friendly and I’m glad we got to see so many wonderful old trailers and meet so many nice people. If you ever have the opportunity to be anywhere near where these folks are having a rally, make it a point to stop in.

Be sure to enter our latest  Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – They say with age comes wisdom. So I don’t have wrinkles, I have wise cracks.

I’m Just A Kid

 Posted by at 12:43 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 162020
 

In response to my mention in yesterday’s blog that I have been called for jury duty in August, several people asked if I was to try to get out of it because of COVID-19. I don’t know that I can get out because of that, but since they are holding trials, apparently not.

I tried calling the Clerk of Court’s office in Deland yesterday to find out what precautions are being taken due to the virus, but all I got was a recording saying someone would call me back. So far, no response.

Another person asked if there was an age limit at which one does not have to appear for jury duty in Florida. Yes, there is. Age 70. But apparently, I’m just a kid, since I won’t turn 68 until October, so that’s not going to do me any good,

I really don’t mind being on a jury, Who knows? It might even give me an idea for one of my books. It’s just the issue of exposure to Coronavirus that concerns me. Of course, even though they’re called in, sometimes people don’t get picked to serve on a jury anyway. I guess all I can do is wait and see what happens.

Terry is finishing the first round of editing and proofreading Tinder Street, the first book in my new family saga, and sometime today I will send it to my second proofreader. Meanwhile, I started the second book in the series and have a couple of chapters done so far. I would like to bring the first two books out fairly close together to get the series off and running before I jump back into my John Lee Quarrels and Big Lake mysteries.

I got an e-mail from someone yesterday asking me if there is a possibility of me coming to any RV rallies in the future and presenting some of my seminars on RVing and the RV lifestyle as I did for so many years. I don’t know of any rallies that are taking place now with so much shut down, but I think that part of our life is in the past. If someone was holding an event close enough, I might go and do a seminar, but without an RV, I don’t want to do a lot of traveling and staying in hotels for a rally. But, as always, I’m open to suggestions and will take them on a case-by-case basis.

On the subject of e-mails about RVing, someone else asked me if we have maintained memberships in any RV clubs now that we are off the road and have hung up the keys. We are lifetime members of the Escapees RV Club and Passport America, but that’s all. We do enjoy getting the Escapees magazine every month and reading about what’s happening in the RV world, occasionally seeing a comment or an article referencing some of the many friends we made in our years on the road. We dropped our FMCA membership years ago because of the shoddy way they treat vendors at their rallies.

Life is always about change, and time marches on whether we march with it or stand by the side of the road and watch it pass.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – The fastest way to a man’s heart is not through his stomach. It’s through his chest, maybe with a rib spreader or a chainsaw. Geez. Learn some anatomy.

Doctors And Duty

 Posted by at 12:10 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 152020
 

Yesterday Terry and I both had appointments with our civilian doctor for our semi-annual checkups. Even though I remain in the VA health care system and see my doctor there twice a year, I use Island Doctors in New Smyrna Beach for most things because it’s easier to get into them than dealing with the VA.

They were very good about taking precautions because of COVID-19. We had to call from our car in the parking lot to tell them we were there, then when we went inside they immediately took our temperatures and had us fill out paperwork asking if we have been exposed to anyone with the virus, been out of the country or state, and those sort of things. We were the only two people in the waiting room and we only had to wait a couple of minutes before we were taken back to an exam room.

The good news is that the doctor, as always, was surprised at how good all my numbers from my lab results are. Sugar levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, you name it, they tested me for it a week or two ago, and everything was well below any numbers for concern. He said that except for my weight, I am in excellent health.

Unfortunately for Terry, her cholesterol levels are elevated, and they are scheduling her for a couple of ultrasounds, one of her thyroid and one of her gallbladder as possible sources for the higher levels, which will be done in the next week or so. All in all, it was a quick and easy visit, and it looks like we’ll both be kicking around for a while longer.

Terry broke the chain on her necklace a few days ago, so when we left the doctor’s office we stopped at a jewelry store to drop it off for repair. Then it was to the post office to mail off a book order, and then to Publix to pick up a few things on the way home.

When we got home, I had a letter from the Volusia County Clerk of Courts telling me that I have to be in DeLand, about 35 miles from here, in early August for jury duty. How fun.

I’ve only been called to jury duty once in my life, and that instance was beyond bizarre. It was a DUI case, and at the time I ran the local newspaper in our small town in northern Arizona. As they were questioning the potential jurors, they asked if anyone had a background in law enforcement or knew anybody in law enforcement. I raised my hand and said yes. The next question was if anybody ever lost a family member or friend to a drunk driver. Again I raised my hand and said yes, my neighbor had been killed by a drunk driver, and when I was a kid, one of my cousins was killed by a drunk driver. The next question was if anybody had spoken out in public against drunk driving, participated in a protest against drunk driving, been a member of MADD, or anything like that. My hand was back up again. Yes, in my newspaper, I had written several editorials saying that there should be no leeway for anybody convicted of a DUI, that they should lose their license and go to jail. The last question was, did anybody know either the defendant or the arresting officer. Yep. Me again! The arresting officer was a friend of mine. They asked if that would influence my judgment in the case, and I said yes, if he told me it happened, it happened. Guess what? They chose me for jury duty in that case because my answers were so honest!

The whole thing was beyond ridiculous. The dash camera showed the defendant pulling out of a bar right in front of the police officer, who had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting him. The cop made a U-turn and followed him, and twice the dashcam showed him driving up onto the curb and back down before John got him stopped. When he did get stopped, he got out of the car and fell on his butt in the street and said, “Damn. I’m so drunk!” All of this on camera,

Then, after a five-day trial, on the very last day, while the judge was giving instructions to the jury, the defendant stood up and said, “I’d like to change my plea to guilty.” The judge asked him why he wanted to plead guilty now, after going through a week’s trial. He said it was obvious he was guilty, but that it was his third DUI, and he knew he was going to lose his license and go to jail, so he figured why rush it? Maybe the officer wouldn’t show up, maybe the courthouse would burn down, anything might happen. Well, it didn’t, and he wound up getting the maximum sentence.

Good news for those who prefer printed books instead of e-books! The print version of Big Lake Massacre is now available on Amazon.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – My drug test came back negative. My dealer has some explaining to do.