Finally, I have a minute, with no other posts pressing on me, to write about what I’m working on in my writing career. I’ve been trying to get to this for several weeks, and another thought for a post keeps popping up and pushing this aside. Not today.

My main work-in-progress is a short story. Titled “Hotel Whiskey Papa”, it’s the fourth in my series about Sharon Williams Fonseca, an unconventional CIA agent. The Agency has another, junior agent who shows great promise, dogging her, for they are concerned that she steps over the line from time to time, doing Agency work in an illegal, or at least unethical, way. In a twist, I’m writing this on manuscript, not on computer in The Dungeon. I sit in my reading chair, with only an end table between me and Lynda, and write on the back of already used papers. I typed what I had last weekend, and some on one other day. On my computer the document stands at about 3,800 words. Since then I’ve written another thousand in manuscript, and am approaching the end of the story. I had in mind that these stories should be 4,000 to 6,000 words, so I’m on track. As soon as it’s finished, proofed, edited, and proofed again, I’ll publish it. I’ll make my own cover for this one.

Then, yesterday I actually wrote a poem, something more than a haiku that is. And I’m not denigrating the haiku form or saying it’s easy, but something longer? I haven’t written one in a couple of years, or maybe even five years. I’ve written some song verses in that time, but no stand-alone poems. This one is for an anthology being put together by the present poet laureate at the on-line writers group  Absolute Write. It will be a themed anthology of contributions by AW members, the theme being a traveling carnival. I told her I would contribute anything I had already written, but that I had no inspiration or energy to write something new. When the theme was announced, I had my poem “Magic”, which sort of fit, so I submitted it. But sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday a phrase and plot came to me that would fit the theme. I quickly forgot the phrase, but it came back yesterday morning. As the morning went on I saw a way to write the poem. During the noon hour I started it, and finished it off and on by mid-afternoon. I quickly posted it to the anthology critique forum before I lost my nerve. I’m not saying it’s good, but it’s done, subject to improvement, of course.

What else? I’m trying to get In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People published in print form. I have the book formatted, and am waiting on the cover. Two different people have given me photos of Wrigley Field to use, and two others have said they would do the cover. Alas, when you’re having people work for free, other things get in the way. Hopefully I can get this done next week some time. I may cobble a cover together myself this weekend.

I’m also improving some e-book covers. Recently I received a notice from Smashwords saying that four of my e-book covers did not meet their minimum standards. These are my older covers, made and posted before they had minimum standards. I guess they are just now getting around to enforcing. that. I completed one of them last weekend, or maybe last week some time, and uploaded it. Yesterday I got the word that it was acceptable, and the book—actually a short story—is back in the premium catalog. Only three to go. I’ll hopefully get one done this weekend.

That’s it as far as writing work. I’ll post something here and elsewhere when HWP is published. And, once things change, I’ll write again. Actually, I just thought of one other thing. I’m working on a Bible study to teach in our adult Life Group. But it deserves a post by itself. Maybe that will be next.

Noon Hour Musings

Saturday, August 20, 2016, writing about Friday

The morning suggested we would get rain. Radar showed it close at hand. But, when I looked outside the windows at noon, the sky seemed lighter than it had an hour ago. I went outside, walked to the north side of the building, where the break room is, and got my bag lunch out of the fridge. Our building is being remodeled, and right now the middle of the building is closed to us. So we have to go outside to go between the north and south parts of the building.

Lunch eaten, I decided to risk the rain and take a walk. One circuit up and down the commercial subdivision road is a half-mile. On days when it’s not too hot I like to do a mile. In these hot days of summer, I walk less, and stay on a shorter route that has more shade than direct sunshine. But on Friday I decided to take the full route. Naturally, as soon as I get a ways away from the building the sun breaks through the clouds. I should have taken the shade route.

I enjoyed the walk, Normally I sing as I walk at noon. The sight distance is good. I can see if anyone is up ahead, and can quit when I need to. Some days I sing oldies; some worship songs; some hymns. I tend to sing songs I’ve written lyrics to. To clarify, I don’t write songs. But from time to time I’ll take the lyrics of a song and either add a verse or improve on them. I like to take secular songs I like and write Christian lyrics to them. Every now and then an idea comes to me on how to improve them, or even for something new. I guess I’ve changed or completely rewritten the lyrics on between 5 and 10 songs.

But on Friday I didn’t feel like singing. I walked in silence, my mind full of the many things I have to do in life, how some were going well, some not so well, none seemingly ever finished. A scheduling problem that needs to be worked out over the next three weeks was up front, dominating my thoughts. I was hoping another person was going to step up and take care of this, but it seems like that’s not going to happen. So the things that will need to be done presented themselves like a to do list in my mind.

I didn’t take time to sing, or to watch the birds go by, or to observe the condition of the vegetation all around me. I suppose work was going on at the large construction site right next to our office complex, but I wasn’t aware of what was going on, so all consuming was the problem I was working through.

But the sun came out more fully, about the time I was on the part of the loop farthest from any trees. I decided I’d just do a half mile. The temperature wasn’t too hot—in the upper 80s, but I still didn’t feel like doing the whole mile.

I got back into the building and immediately had a large cup of cold water, to re-hydrate. The scheduling problem wasn’t fixed. I still had a full afternoon of work at the office, with more work to do when I got home in the evening. But I felt better for walking. I’d burned a few calories, worked my brain.

So what was the point of this blog post? I haven’t added to the collective wisdom of the world. I guess I worked my brain, on a day when I was working my body with menial, occasional tasks. So that’s good.

The 2016 Presidential Election in Lightbulbs

I should be posting something today, and had intended to post about what writing I’m doing. But honestly, I’m rather brain weary right now, so instead I’m going to post something I posted on Facebook, something I wrote that I find funny, about the 2016 presidential election. You may not find it funny, but I do.

How many Donald Trumps does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: One: He holds the light bulb and waits for the world to revolve around him.

How many Hillary Clintons does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: 45,000,548: one to change the light bulb; 10 to make sure they’re doing it right; 535 members of Congress to enact laws to govern light bulbs; 1 president to sign the bill into law; one vice president to stand around looking stupid during the signing ceremony; 4 million staffers at the DOE, OSHA, DOL, and other Federal agencies to write the regulations governing light bulbs, their changing, and proper disposal of the non-functioning light bulb; 1 million enforcement officers to verify everything is being done how the government wants it done; and 40 million taxpayers to support all of the above.

How many Gary Johnsons does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: 6: one of whom is a rugged individualist; one abortionist; one druggie; and three anarchists. Although, given the lack of leadership, it’s questionable whether the light bulb will actually ever get changed.

How many Jill Steins does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Light bulb? You have a light bulb? No, no, no! That will destroy the planet. We tax your carbon footprint and confiscate your light bulb.

On Death

Way back in 1992 or so, I was his supervisor. I’ll call him “Joe”. Joe came to us from California, and I’m not quite sure how he got to northwest Arkansas. He was an engineer on my staff, designing subdivisions and managing projects. I remember one subdivision he was project manager on. I didn’t have enough staff to go around, in a boom time, so, even though I was his supervisor and department head of 19 people, I assigned myself to design the sewer system for the subdivision. It went well, me being his boss and at the same time an engineer on his crew. He was transferred by us to Los Angeles, to open an office there.

After that I lost track of him, except for a few months when we would be on a certain weekly conference call. I don’t know if he left us of his own volition or was laid off. I never did understand exactly what the work load was in that office, and whether Joe had anyone but himself when it was closed.

Through the miracle of Facebook, we re-connected a couple of years ago. He was still in the LA area, operating his own firm. Quite soon after our reconnection he sold the company. I remembered him being a few years younger than me, so didn’t think he would retire. Sure enough, before long he was in the Dallas area, working for a large architectural/engineering firm. However, soon after that he was in another job, one that required him to travel frequently to the Texas Panhandle—or maybe temporarily relocate there. That job didn’t last long, something about the owner of the company and some funny business, perhaps financial.

We didn’t have a whole lot of interaction on Facebook. I’d like his posts—which were fewer than mine. Once I posted something negative about a presidential candidate, and in comments mentioned how I didn’t like where that candidate stood in their personal life, especially concerning a religious experience. Joe shot back at me, angrily, saying he himself had had a religious conversion since I’d known him. It was a strange post, given that I was talking about a candidate, not the candidate’s supporters. Joe took it personally, as did a couple of others, I might add.

Soon after that Joe was back in northwest Arkansas, working in the engineering department of a local architectural company. He came by the office one day, on the noon hour, to see any of his old acquaintances. I was the only one who was in, or who responded to the receptionists call. Joe and I sat in the lobby and had a nice conversation for a half hour. It was then I learned the facts of his two recent Texas jobs, and how he came to be back in these parts. He said his wife hadn’t moved yet from California, but would be in a few months.

Not too long after that Joe posted on Facebook that his personal computers had been hacked, his webcams hijacked for ransom, his bank account cleaned out, right after he’d had an infusion of cash from somewhere. The bank was going to make good on it, he said, but it was a hassle. It seemed like he was having a string of bad luck.

Before long Joe sent me a Facebook message before working hours one day, saying he wanted to call me. I messaged him my phone number, and before long we were talking. He was no longer at his new job, because, he said, “It’s not an engineering company.” He didn’t come out and say if he’d quit or been fired, and I didn’t ask. He said he had the prospect of getting on with another local, small engineering company, but said he really wanted to come back to us. But, he said, he couldn’t get through to the two people who would be the decision makers. Could I help him.

I told him who the decision maker was in this case, a man he didn’t know, who had come to us after Joe left, which was 21 or so years ago. I said I would talk with my supervisor, who would have a big part in the decision. I said I normally met with him on Friday (we were talking on Monday), and said I rarely saw him at other times during the week unless it was in a meeting with others. I said I’d talk with him and see what the prospects were, but that it would likely be on Friday.

As it turned out, that Friday meeting was cancelled, so it took a week longer to make Joe’s plea for re-employment with us. I didn’t get much encouragement. Having bad news to report, I didn’t immediately pick up the phone. It’s not an easy thing to be the bearer of bad news.

Meanwhile, Joe ended up in a hospital. He posted that his intestines were in a knot. Then, just a few days later, he posted about trouble with his wife, that he had offered to fly her to northwest Arkansas for a visit while she had a week off work. He reported that she replied if they waited till Labor Day they could save some money. In his post Joe said such a reply meant it was over, and that “I love you, Mindy [name changed].” I didn’t know his wife’s name, and assumed that was her.

Two days later a friend of his posted to his timeline, asking if anyone had heard from him in the last couple of days. Another man at our work kept in touch with him, and said Joe wasn’t answering his phone or messages, and that he asked the police to go out and do a wellness check. Later that day he pulled me over and said Joe had committed suicide via gunshot.

Looking back at the chain of events I just described, I can see the downward spiral. The other man at work has told me a few things I didn’t know. It made me feel bad that I hadn’t gotten back to Joe with the bad news. Possibly, knowing that a friend had followed-up on a request, even though that follow-up didn’t result in good news, might have seemed like a bright spot in his difficult life.

Death is coming to all of us, the one certainty of life. We don’t know when it will happen. Many don’t prepare for it, or even if they do, when death comes it comes suddenly. How can we really prepare for it, apart from a solid relationship with our Creator?

Alas, Joe. Sorry if I failed you in some way. I hope you found peace.

Where I Stand on Works-In-Progress

About three weeks ago I said I was going to give an account of my writing life as it exists at this time, and left my few readers know what was going on. Several other posts got in the way, as did life. Finally, I’m here to do what I said I would.

Alas, there’s not much to tell. I’m barely writing. If my count is correct, I have seven works-in-progress, in various stages of completion, all waiting patiently for me to get back to them and finish what I started. So why don’t I do so? Pick the one farthest along, write the end part, and publish it. Then take the next one and do the same. Or, perhaps take the work that appears to offer the least path of resistance and just apply myself and get it done.

Again alas, I find it harder and harder to apply the gray cells and the energy needed to fuel them to writing tasks when I have other things to be done. At this time my mother-in-law lives with us. She’s 91, and is slowly starting to fail. She doesn’t need the level of care a nursing home requires, but she can’t live by herself. For the moment my wife can’t fill the role of care-giver to her mom, so I have to. Not intimate stuff such as washing and personal care, but things like making sure her medicines are in order, helping her to manage her diabetes, making sure she eats right, seeing that she has money, taking care of her mail. It’s not a huge time consumer, but it’s something that must be done, by me.

Then there are the projects around the house.  Recovering our backyard from the encroaching forest took much of the winter and spring. After that it was working on the front yard, neglected while I concentrated on the back (which actually still isn’t done, but is in a tolerable state). Part of that was working on a proposed flower bed. That was a lot of physical work, and still isn’t done, as I await one decision on how to do it. I want it ready for planting in the spring, so I really, really, really want to get it done.

Then there was the new kitchen floor preceded by removal of wallpaper and painting therein, then rearranging kitchen things, then the large window in the bathroom that broke. And, I must not forget the electrical repairs, or installing build-in shelves in the basement—merely utility shelves, but still taking energy that included trips to the hardware store. All of these required finding a service provider, obtaining a quote, and supervising the work—or in some cases figuring out how to do it myself.. All consuming gray cells and energy. My current project, related to the kitchen work, is almost complete: a two-level shelf unit on wheels custom made for our pantry. I varnished it yesterday, and have only to add the handles, put it in place, and figure out what goes on it. Then our “things” will be off the floor, and we can pull the shelf forward for easier access.

So where does that leave me in terms of works-in-progress, or, what am I writing right now? I recently had a bad day with knee pain. Actually it came on in the evening. I took a pain pill, and instead of reading, I decided to write, in manuscript. I wrote the first 600 or 700 words in a new short story, “Hotel Whiskey Papa”, the next in my Sharon Williams Fonseca unconventional C.I.A. agent series. Why? I’m not sure. That story has been gestating for a long time. I had the opening scene clearly in my mind, so I wrote it to free up space for other things. Whether I finish it soon or not I don’t know. So that leaves me with eight works-in-progress. Or, I suppose you could say nine if you count the Bible study I’m preparing for our Life Group.

As far as book length works, nada. Volume 2 of The Gutter Chronicles remains midway through the fourth chapter (out of 15). Preserve the Revelation remains dead after one chapter. Documenting America: Civil War Edition remains quiet at about 40 percent complete. My two Thomas Carlyle works are further along than all of these. I work a little on one of them, not at all on the other. I still have much interest in them, and perhaps I’ll take some time before the end of the year to get one or both of them further along. And my next family history book, John Cheney of Newbury is stalled after one chapter. This is because I that one chapter (out of 11) ran to 70 pages before I came to the degree of completion I wanted. When I realized the enormity of the task, I decided to back off.

But I do have a few publishing tasks to do soon, if not new writing. I want to publish my two baseball novels as print books. Today I talked with the cover designer, and he said he could work on them right away. So now I’ll have to scramble to format them for print, decide on back cover copy, etc. That will all feel good. Then, it turns out the covers of several of my e-books have been declared to be an unacceptable size by Smashwords, based on what the sellers they distribute to require. So I’ll have to try to modify those covers—for size only—and upload them. I don’t think that will be too difficult.

So, I haven’t exactly laid down my pen yet. The inkwell is almost dry, and my paper is mainly white, but I’m still marginally in the game.

Book Review: Leonardo da Vinci

If I’m like many people, knowledge on the life of Leonardo da Vinci is severely lacking in the U.S.A. Popular culture believes da Vinci is a great man, a giant of the Renaissance. We know him as the painter of The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. And as the drawer of the Vitruvian Man. But how much do we know about his entire life? What were the sum of his accomplishments aside from these few well known works?

Somewhere, sometime, most likely at a thrift shop, I picked up a copy of Leonardo da Vinci: The Tragic Pursuit of Perfection. It’s a hard copy published in 1938, a translation from a work in German. The original author is Antonina Vallentin, and the translator was E.W. Dickes. The hardcover I read doesn’t indicate the date of the original work, just the translation. The book is 537 pages, not counting the Endnotes, Bibliography, and Index. Quite a lengthy work that took me well over a month to read in eight to ten page chunks.

As I said, my knowledge of da Vinci was pretty slim when I started reading this. I learned quite a lot from the book. How da Vinci was from Florence (which I may have known); that he spent most of his most productive years in Milan (which I didn’t know); that he left behind a lot of works that would be classified as products of military engineering (which I didn’t know); that he made a poor living from his art (surprise, surprise) and had to rely on the patronage of dukes and kings, of wealthy merchants and popes to survive (as to be expected).

He felt rejected by the powers that be in his native Florence, so he moved to Milan. There he entered into the service of Lodovico Sforza, preemptive duke of Milan, and for him worked up great plans for public works, for military works, and for monuments honoring the duke. One was of a great horse, which da Vinci labored long over, and finally completed the model for what was intended to be cast in bronze. Alas, at the time of war the bronze was sold and the statue was never built.

That situation, of a work started but not finished, is the story of da Vinci’s life as presented in the book. He was always going off on studies. He was commissioned to paint a battle scene on the wall of some building, and made many sketches of of what the painting would be. He studied horses minutely so that he could be accurate in his painting. Sketches upon sketches survive in his files. Alas, the painting was never completed, in fact may never have been started. That scenario is presented over and over in the book.

Known more for his art, da Vinci left relatively few artworks that can be positively identified as his. But he left a great treasure of his written works. These show a man who was a thinker, who produced deep thoughts, wrote them down, prepared a plan for thinking them through to a scientific breakthrough—and then never finished what he started. He studied anatomy (dissecting many human corpses) of humans and animals. He studied plants. He studied rivers and marshes and developed means of re-channeling and draining them to recover land. He studied the heavens and tried to present them in a logical way to the Renaissance world. All of these he wrote out in notebooks, or sketched on paper, but never finished.

As I progressed through the book I got the distinct impression “Wow, this guy never finished anything!” A biographer has much leeway in how they write, and in the facts they decide to feature and those they decide to suppress. Ms Vallentin’s picture of da Vinci, as translated by Dickes, is not what I would call flattering. It is the story of a misunderstood and under-appreciated genius. His family never understood or appreciated him, so he moved to Florence and had little to do with them. The artistic community didn’t appreciate him.  Sforza didn’t appreciate him, and failed to follow through on the many projects da Vinci proposed. Actually, there was one area in which the duke and other patrons used da Vinci, and in which he followed through: to create temporary artworks for grand festivals. None of these survive, of course.

Two paragraphs near the end of the book provide a good summary of the book, and of the impression it leaves with me of da Vinci:

His masterpieces destroyed or decaying, his vast knowledge un-utilized, the immense mass of scientific material he had been collecting all his life preserved only in chests and boxes, in incomplete records written in a secret script and, in their existing form, quite inaccessible to mankind…Leonardo began to ask himself whether they ever would come to light. He no longer had the illusion that he could complete his many works for publication in his lifetime. He began to admit that he had attempted a superhuman task, to realize that he was defeated.

Thus was the grandest effort ever made by any man to explore and interpret the universe defeated by this man’s mortality. His unique career, a lifetime devoted to research in every field of knowledge, ended without the publication even of fragments of his conclusions. Mankind was to have to discover afresh what he knew already, to explore afresh the paths he had trodden and mapped, to fall into his errors after he had recognized them, to struggle out of all the traps he had evaded.

I suppose had I just read the subtitle I would have known what was coming: The Tragic Pursuit of Perfection. In scattering his efforts in shotgun fashion, rather than rifling in on and finishing work in narrower fields of thought and experimentation, da Vinci left the world a vast knowledge base, 90 percent complete in a hundred fields of endeavor, none of them completed. Even though he had a number of notable triumphs, it’s still sad.

The book is well written and informative. I bogged down some on the many Italian names—me, who grew up in Cranston, which is now designated one of the Tri-Guido Cities for its Italian influence and culture. But I did. I enjoyed the book, but doubt I’ll ever read it again. So out to the garage, to the shelves of books that will be sold or given away, it goes.

In Memory of Norman V. Todd

097-098 Lilly and Norman-cropped

Lilly (Vick) Todd with Norman, 1916 or 1917

One hundred years ago today, in Riverside, a district of East Providence, Rhode Island, Norman Victor Todd was born. He was the first son of Oscar Todd and Lilly (Vick) Todd. An older sister, Mary, had died sometime the previous year. Four siblings would be born over the next nine years.

097 Oscar with sons

Oscar Todd with his sons, l-r Kenneth, Gilbert, and Norman, about 1934

The family home was 15 Viola Avenue in Riverside. Whether this was already purchased at the time of Norman’s birth, or whether it became home as the family expanded, is unknown. Norman attended public school in East Providence, going as far as the 8th grade before dropping out. He wasn’t out of school long, however, as he enrolled in a trade school to learn how to be a linotype operator. He graduated from this, and began his career. So far as I know he had only two jobs his adult life. First he worked for the Delmo Press in Pascoug, RI, driving there every day from East Providence. World War 2 came and he joined the army. After the war he went back to the Delmo Press, but within the year he switched to working for the Providence Journal in downtown Providence, setting type on the night shift. He would eventually retire from this job.

A wartime portrait, probably 1944

A wartime portrait, probably 1944

At his linotype machine in Europe, between 1943 and 1945

At his linotype machine in Europe, between 1943 and 1945

His war service is worthy of a blog post on it’s own. The short version is he started as G.I. Joe, in a unit that at some point would be on the front lines. Already 26 when they sailed first to England and then to North Africa, Norman saw an edition of the Stars and Stripes newspaper. He figured it was being put out by G.I.s, and that they needed typesetters, so he put in for a transfer. It came through just as his LSI was about to embark on the invasion of Italy in 1943. He spent the rest of his time in the army with the Stars and Stripes: in Algiers, Italy, and several locations in Southern France, always attached to General Mark Clark’s 5th Army. He finished the war with the rank of technical sergeant, and mustered out of Europe in August 1945.

Norman and Dorothy while courting, about 1948

Norman and Dorothy while courting, about 1948

I believe it was soon after his return to R.I. that he met Dorothy A. Sexton. They began a three year courtship that resulted in marriage on January 20, 1950. Norman was 34, Dorothy was 32, neither having been married previously. From 1950 to 1954 they had three children, and moved from Providence to Cranston RI.

The family complete, about 1955

The family complete, about 1955

Dad spent the rest of his days at that address. They were years of tragedy and heartbreak for him. Dorothy, unknown to her and Norman, was a very sick woman. Breast cancer resulted in a double radical mastectomy. This was followed by kidney failure, in the years before dialysis was a common and easy to obtain treatment. Her physical condition spiraled downhill, and she died in August 1965. Dad and Mom has 18 years being together, 15 years of marriage. At the time of her death, we three children were 14, 13, and 11.

Dad soldiered on as a single dad. He continued working the night shift at the Journal. He dated little, preferring to use his time to parent his children. We, of course, grew up. Two of us moved far away. One moved halfway across state. Okay, that’s a joke—in Rhode Island halfway across state is still very close. Technology overwhelmed him at work, as electronic typesetting moved and made hot lead type obsolete. He tried for a year to adjust to the new way of doing things, something he’d been doing for four decades, but couldn’t master the technology. Dad took early retirement in 1976, at age 60.

Norman and grandchildren

Norman with Edward, Chris, Sara, and Charles, in Snug Harbor, RI, about 1984 or 85

From then, Dad lived a quieter and lonelier existence at the house on Cottage Street. He enjoyed regularly seeing my brother and his family, and the less frequent visits from me and my family, and the even less frequent visits from my sister. He made few trips out of state, coming to see us twice and his brother in Florida once. He was fortunate to know all his grandchildren. When he passed away in 1997 at age 81, he was still in his house, having lived there for almost 47 years, the last 32 of them as a widower, the last 21 of them alone.

About 1934

About 1934

I’ve tried several times to write a memoir/history of the lives of Norman and Dorothy Todd, both in manuscript and typing, and have been unable to do so. I need to get this done, however, or most of this history dies with me. Perhaps writing this short tribute to Norman will spur me to get on with the work. I just need to figure the structure and style, and get writing.

Norman—Dad—was one of the quiet heroes of this world, a hero because he persevered under great trial, and never broke, never gave up. He was a patriot—a patriot because he faithfully did the small, everyday things that make a nation great: such as obeying the law, working for his keep, paying his bills and taxes. And he was the world’s best role model of a husband and a dad. I got to observe him for 45 years, first up close, then at a distance. My life is better for it.

Still Restless

Yes, as I wrote two posts ago, I’m restless—still restless now. I’ve had quite a week.

Last Saturday I was able to complete one household project, installing a second under-the-counter light in the pantry. Well, I say “finished,” but it’s not quite. I still need to fasten the wires to the drywall, to keep the curious hands of grandchildren, when they visit next, from pulling on the cords. I was going to do that last night, but, alas, didn’t. Hopefully I’ll get that done tonight, freeing up some time on Saturday to work on…

…the pantry shelf on wheels. I bought the materials last Friday, but haven’t yet gotten to it. In some ways it’s a complicated project, but in other ways it’s kind of simple. Still, I’m not a builder, so I don’t know how well it will all come together.

One other special project for this weekend is to find (in the house), scan, and upload to Facebook some photos of my dad. Monday is the 100th anniversary of his birth, and I’d like to honor his memory in that way. I already have a number of photos of him scanned, but I have a few more I’d like to do. They are in boxes somewhere in the house, or perhaps some in an album. I can find them, and scanning them won’t take too long. I’m not quite sure how to create an album and post it, but need to figure all that out by Monday.

So where does writing fit in with this? Mainly that I’m still waiting on hearing from the influencers I contacted about my writing, and in some cases about their writing. I heard from one, as I said before, and we are exchanging books. He was very positive in our messages so far, so I’m hopeful. That’s a non-commercial project at this point, but who knows where it could lead. I also learned another has been travelling, and just returned home today. My book should be on his desk when he goes into his office, so I’ll wait a little longer. Of the other two (or is it three?), nothing. I’ll wait a while longer for them as well. I don’t think I’ll contact them again. Either the contact I’ve made is good enough, or it’s not.

As to new writing, this week I began work on a professional essay for a class at CEI, which I will later publish in a generic form. I did that at the public library, where I went to escape the heat when the AC in my office wasn’t working. It was fixed about noon yesterday, and then about 1 p.m. today I realized my office was up to about 80 degrees again. I’m thinking of bolting again, going to the library and writing some more on it.

Hopefully this weekend will be productive, and by early next week this restlessness will stop.

Author Lori Stanley Roeleveld

Lori Roeleveld publicity photoYou can take the boy out of Rhode Island, but you can’t take Rhode Island out of the boy. Even 42 years after leaving there, I keep up with news from the state (as best I can in fly-over country), with old friends, and occasionally make a new friend or contact. Lori Roeleveld is one of them. I “met” her, the self-proclaimed “disturber of hobbits,” if I recall correctly, from an on-line writers group at Yahoo. Seeing she was from my home state, I made contact with her. We’ve attended the same conference, but I don’t know if she was there the year I was. If she was, we didn’t meet in person. I asked Lori if I could interview her for a blog post. Here it is.

Oh, but first, here’s a link to Lori’s author’s page at

DAT: “Disturber of hobbits”? You’ll have to explain that one.

LSR: Why Disturber of Hobbits? I care about hobbits, ordinary people, common Jesus followers like me just trying to survive from the ground to glory. Hobbits are all of us who like to be comfy and cozy, eat our meals on time, and who resist unsettling adventures. The problem is that settling in interferes with traveling on the narrow road to the heart of Jesus Christ, our true home. I write posts about faith designed to disturb the hobbit in all of us and inspire us to forget second breakfast long enough to join the adventure. I write to incite the faltering believer to join the ancient adventure.

The adventure is upon us. We are those who refuse to skim across the surface of faith. I write for all of us who have been unsettled from comfortable places and moved to follow Jesus into the adventure of our times. We may be common souls from small places and simple lives, “But, we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrews 10:39 ESV

DAT: When and why did you begin writing creatively?

LSR: I’ve always written, as long as I can remember. When I was in first grade, back in the sixties, I could read on an 11th grade level. I sped through my classroom work and my teacher would send me to the library to “read a book and write about it.” That went on through my elementary years until by high school, I was writing book reports about books that didn’t exist. My first published work were two poems in American Girl Magazine when I was fourteen.

DAT: Your first book, Running From a Crazy Man, was published in late 2014. Tell me something about it.

LSR: Running from a Crazy Man (and Other Adventures Traveling with Jesus) is a siren call to the modern believer that the God-adventure can happen even when, like King David, you’re running from a crazy man. Some Christians leave their relationship with God in a sealed box like a collectible that will be worth something “someday.” I write for believers who exercise their faith and break open the box, those who wholeheartedly answered the call to follow Jesus. But then, something happened and now they’re gasping beside the narrow road. They thought they were on the God adventure but suddenly it feels as if all they’re doing is running from a crazy man. Still, they seek the strength to continue the journey.

Crazy Man is a series of short, non-fiction chapters adapted from my most popular blog posts. It isn’t reading for the happily comfortable. These are words for the restless Jesus lover, the long-suffering disciple, the openhearted believer. Be forewarned. The challenges inside are designed to unsettle as well as to incite readers to relish the narrow road even when trouble is their travel companion.

DAT: What is the main takeaway you hope readers will have from RFCM?

LSR: I want readers to walk away convinced they can continue walking with Jesus even though they’ve encountered trouble, trial, or tribulation, and they can live the adventure they dreamed, even in the midst of trying circumstances.

DAT: How has the reception been for it?

LSR: Running from a Crazy Man has received all five and four star reviews on Amazon and I’ve heard from many readers who are in their second or third reading. Some use it as an unconventional devotional. Many are sharing it with their small groups or book clubs.

DAT: I see that your next book was Red Pen Redemption, which was published in late 2015. What’s that about?

LSR: Red Pen Redemption is a novella that takes place entirely one Christmas Eve, much like A Christmas Carol. What would you do if God took you up on a dare? Helen Bancroft’s led a good life and feels no need for her daughter’s Savior. When God accepts Helen’s dare to edit her autobiography and prove her righteousness, she’s in for a lesson in her own history. One woman’s journey from unbelief to acceptance turns into the Christmas Eve adventure of a lifetime beneath the red pen of Christ’s mercy and grace.

I wrote this story with love for all my friends who pray for unsaved parents and hold out the hope of Christ to them even into their eighties and nineties. God has surprises for us even when we think the adventure is close to an end. If you love history or could use a new perspective on your own history, you’ll love Red Pen Redemption!

DAT: Was it difficult to switch from writing non-fiction to writing “holiday” genre fiction?

LSR: Not at all. I like to choose the genre or literary vehicle that is best for each message or story I want to tell. Red Pen’s theme is most engaging through fiction.

DAT: You have a new book coming out in September. Tell me about that.

LSR: Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life) is my second non-fiction book. I started by asking the question, What if a fairy tale and ten Bible verses could free you to live an effective, fruitful life in Christ?

We live in a world populated with giants. Giant obstacles to sharing faith. Giant barriers to godly lives. Giant strongholds of sin. We come from a long line of giant-killers so, why aren’t we dodging more fallen giants? Jack and the Beanstalk could hold part of the key.

Jesus and the Beanstalk explores 2nd Peter 1:1-10 using fairy tale, humor, and modern culture to show today’s believers how to unleash that promise of an effective, fruitful life. Designed for both individuals, discipleship, small groups, or ministry retreats, readers will find this fresh take on spiritual growth engaging and motivating.

DAT: What do you see in the future for your writing? Since book 3 is in the publishing queue, I imagine you’re well along, or perhaps even finished, with book 4.

LSR: I have several fiction projects I’d like to write (or rewrite) and I’m developing a follow up non-fiction book in the vein of Jesus and the Beanstalk – right now titled, “Jesus through the Looking Glass.” And, of course, I keep on blogging. This summer, I’m taking a master class in screenwriting, so, who knows?


Today I feel restless. I felt that way a little bit yesterday. I’m not sure what to do about it. I feel like I have a lot of loose ends, and am barely closer to seeing them completed than I was three days ago.

Yet, this weekend I got a lot done. Friday evening I completed my stock trading accounting for the week. I also moved some dirt and rock from one of the two piles in the front yard. Saturday I started off by cooking pancakes, bacon, and eggs for breakfast for the ladies and myself. That completed, I went out into the heat to move rocks and dirt. I got the pile from the driveway fully moved, using only my spider and a wheelbarrow. The sun having moved to where the piles were, and the temp creeping up into the upper 80s, I went inside to rest a while. But, being restless, I went back out, this time to the back yard, and pulled weeds from the gravel yard. I did this for close to an hour.

At that point I went back to the front yard, and discovered that the sun had moved such that trees were providing shade to the remaining rock pile, the bigger of the two. I decided I could move some of that, reducing the size and making it possible to finish it in a few evenings this week. However, I kept at it, taking frequent, short rests. I kept saying, “Okay, one more load after this one.” Because my wheelbarrow tire is low on air, I didn’t load a lot of rocks/dirt in it. A few shovels full, perhaps a cubic foot of dirt and rocks, and I wheeled it over to the woods, where I’m stabilizing a path for easier walking.

That “one more load” mentality worked well, and before long (well, maybe 90 minutes later), the entire pile was moved. That has sat there since last September, as I made it when digging out a bush we didn’t want where it was, but since we didn’t know what we wanted to replace it, I left the pile there till we decided. I estimate that I moved somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds of rock and dirt. Now, if we can just decide on how to finish out the proposes flower bed, this project can be brought to completion, as much as it can until we plant flowers next Spring.

After a very light lunch, I went to the basement to finish a shelf installation project I came close to finishing last weekend. I saw that the way I was going to finish it was perhaps not best, and that I could do it a better way. I did that, and even installed a spare fluorescent light in the area, and am calling that project done. I even loaded a few things onto the new shelf.

Back upstairs, I rested a while, until Lynda reminded me that she fairly urgently needed a prescription at Wal-Mart. I had two ready, and my mother-in-law had some as well, so I quickly added a few things to the grocery list and headed out. Fortunately the store was no more crowded than usual, and I was back home after an hour and a half. Bought a pizza there for supper, and so finished my labors of the day with that. The rest of the evening was filled with trying to read the Leonardo da Vinci biography I’m working on, but not really having the mental capacity to do so.

Sunday was restful, with breakfast leftovers, church, fast food lunch, afternoon at the computer, evening church picnic, and again trying to read in the biography, but ending up watching a chick flick on Hallmark Channel. My afternoon work consisted in writing an e-mail to a high school friend I recently reconnected with, getting my household budget up to date, and my usual weekend stock market work. Quite late I packed breakfast and lunches for most of the week. By the end of the weekend, I felt that I had accomplished a great deal.

So why am I feeling so restless? Sunday I received a reply to a Facebook message I sent a month ago, to a pastor-author who has written in a similar area to me. I at first confused this man with another, an educator-author I intended to correspond with, but hadn’t yet. I discovered the confusion this morning as I about sent the wrong message to the wrong person. I wrote messages to both men, and posted them. Also this morning, I commented on the FB post by a second cousin I’ve never met (but know about), and reminded her of something. Also this morning I saw, on my desk at work, a list of my works-in-progress that lay abandoned, waiting on an opportune time for me to get back to them. It’s seven different books, and I’m not sure this is really all of them. This weekend I thought of a good new title to add to the cozy mystery series I’m planning. Also, I had been hoping to do an author interview on my next blog post, but that’s not ready, so I’m doing this instead. These loose ends make me restless.

I keep planning books, yet the time to write seems further away than ever. Sales are non-existent. I’ve decided to give a couple of books away, including one to a former pastor who was in town this weekend for our church festivities. I don’t know when he’s going back, but it would be nice to put it in his hand rather than mailing it. Oh, well, another loose end to live with, and a little more restlessness.

Author | Engineer