Glad That’s Over

 Posted by at 12:09 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 062021
 

I had an MRI of my brain yesterday at the AdventHealth hospital in New Smyrna Beach, part of the search to figure out what’s causing my head pain. I do have to say that I’m glad that’s over. I’m a bit claustrophobic, and while I’ve had MRIs on my lower back, and going in that tube is never fun, at least the upper part of me was out. And when another facility used an open MRI machine, Miss Terry sat beside me and held my hand. Yes, I’m that big of a wimp and yes, she is that wonderful of a wife.

But for the brain MRI it was the upper half of my body going in the enclosed tube. And it didn’t help that they had to immobilize my head with a support so I wouldn’t move and then put a mask over my face. When they called to schedule things, they said that visitors were not allowed in the hospital and Terry would have to wait out in the car, so I told her there was no reason for her to come. The two nice ladies doing the procedure were very supportive and gave me an alarm I could squeeze if I really couldn’t handle it and needed out. I asked if that happens very often and they said more than I might think.

It was about a 30 – 45 minute procedure, with a lot of noise from the machine. Sometimes it sounded like a jackhammer going off and other times a loud series of beeps. They did put earpads on me to help reduce some of the noise, which were also playing some nice mellow music. Not that I could hear a whole lot of it because of the machine.

At any rate, that’s done and now we’ll just have to wait for some results. I asked if they actually did find a brain in there, but instead of reassuring me, one of the technicians just said I would have to talk to my doctor about that. Hmmm… what does she know that I don’t know?

I reported a few days ago that we had had a local contractor come by to give us an estimate for building a carport on the concrete apron in front of our house. At the time, I was a little concerned because I’ve been told we have too much structure for the lot size already, and they said they would have to check that out. They called yesterday afternoon with the estimate, which was very good, but they are running into some snags with the county as far as the lot size and building permit. For some reason we never got a site survey when we bought this place, which the county requires, so they gave me the names of some surveyors to call. The first one I contacted said they couldn’t do anything for six to eight weeks because they are that busy. I left messages with two others, and hopefully, they will call back and we can find out what we can and can’t do and get moving on this project if at all possible.

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 – If a plant is sad, do other plants photosympathize?

A Spectacular Drive

 Posted by at 12:13 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 052021
 

Note: It’s that time of year and it won’t be long before people are posting pictures of the Fall colors wherever they are. I thought I’d get a head start with a repost of a 2011 blog from our travels as fulltime RVers.

We left Walnut Meadow campground in Berea, Kentucky a little after 9 yesterday morning, and enjoyed a spectacular 220-mile drive down Interstate 75 to Knoxville, Tennessee, where we picked up Interstate 40 and drove into the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina. Except for the brief time we were in the Knoxville metro area, I don’t think there was a mile of the trip that wasn’t breathtaking.

The hillsides were alive with color, and around every curve, one or both of us was saying “Oh my!” or “Wow, look over here!”

I75 fall colors

I40 fall colors 4

We made this same trip last year and were just as amazed at the beauty. If you haven’t seen the Smokey Mountains in the fall, when all of the trees are ablaze, you haven’t lived yet.

I40 fall colors

I40 fall colors 2

The only bad thing about the trip is being the driver, because the route through the mountains is very winding, and you have to pay attention or you can get into trouble in a hurry. But it’s hard with so many distractions.

Curve fall colors 

There were a couple of tunnels, some 45 mile per hour curves, and in a few places, rocks had fallen down onto the side of the road.

I40 tunnel 2

I40 fall colors 3

Eventually, we made our way to Pride RV Resort, which is only a mile or so from the interstate, near Maggie Valley. With 130 full hookup RV sites, this is a nice Resort Parks International (RPI) affiliate, and we got a pull-through site facing a beautiful fast flowing river. Even though they had an inch of snow here the night before, and it got down to 24 degrees for us overnight, the park still has a lot of RVs here. We were pleased to find that we had a good shot toward the sky for our rooftop TV dish and fast 3G signal on our Verizon air card. Because it was going to be so cold overnight, I just added some more freshwater to our tank and plugged into the 50 amp power.   

Pride RV resort 3  

Once we were parked, we drove another few miles into Maggie Valley and toured the Wheels Through Time Museum, which has a huge collection of antique and vintage motorcycles, all American made, as well as several neat old cars, and all sorts of other memorabilia. And every car and motorcycle in the place runs!

1969 Chopper

Blue Harley

This is a gearhead’s nirvana, and whether you’re into hill climbing, dirt track racing, or street riding, they have some of the earliest motorcycles that helped create the sport.  

Racing display

At one time, there were more motorcycle manufacturing companies in America than there were automobile companies, and the museum has many examples of the early day bikes, such as this Apache from the early 1900s (top) or this old Indian (bottom). Did you notice that both motorcycles have pedals, just like a bicycle? That’s how you started them, by getting on and pedaling!

Apache motorcycle

Antique Indian 2

They are raffling off this beautiful old 1936 Harley Davidson Knucklehead, and I told Miss Terry I should buy a ticket because I’d look great on a classic bike like that.

Raffle Harley

She suggested that this ride might be more my style!

Kiddie motorcycle ride

There were several nice police and Army motorcycles, and a lot of other interesting things made by motorcycle companies; everything from garden tillers to outboard motors.

1938 Police bike

Police trike

Army Harley display

Army Harley with trailer

Terry isn’t into motorcycles at all, but she found a lot of things to enjoy on our visit to the museum.

Back at the campground, we stopped to visit with Lenny and Janis Thomas, who we first met years ago when we were teaching at Life on Wheels, and last saw at our Ohio rally a few weeks ago. They are hanging out here until they go back to New Jersey for Thanksgiving, and then they are headed for Florida.

We’ll beat them there, because today we’re headed down into South Carolina, and maybe into Georgia. I need to be someplace warm!

Thought For The Day – When creating wives, God promised man that good and obedient wives would be found in all corners of the world. Then He made the world round!

Oct 042021
 

Housed in the original 1909 Firehouse Number 1 on the edge of downtown, the excellent Denver Firefighters Museum tells the story of more than 150 years of firefighting in the Mile High City, from before the Denver Fire Department was formed in 1866, to the present. Here visitors will find two floors of historical artifacts, fascinating exhibits, and fun family and kids activities throughout the museum.

Displays on the first floor follow the process of firefighting, starting with Communications. Displays include antique fire alarm boxes to modern dispatch desks. Next are Personal Protective Tools and Equipment; with displays of bunking gear, helmets, boots, and firefighting tools.

The Fire Apparatus display includes hand-pulled, horse-pulled, and motorized fire trucks and engines. Among them are hand-pulled hose reels, an early-day steam-powered fire engine, a 1924 American LaFrance fire engine, and a beautiful 1942 American LaFrance fire squad truck.

In the early days of firefighting in Denver, water came from wells, hand pumps, ditches, cisterns, rivers, and creeks. Without a system of water mains and fire hydrants, the best a fire company could do was to pull down a burning building to prevent the fire from spreading to adjoining structures. The motto of Hook and Ladder Company #1 expressed the conditions of the day, “We Raze to Save.”

One interesting artifact on display is an Empire Life Saving Net used to catch jumpers trapped on the ledges of tall buildings.

Fire Safety Stops on the first floor explore the exhibits on a child’s level and teach important fire prevention lessons in a fun, non-threatening manner. Activities include a 911 teaching phone, child-size firefighting gear and fire truck, and a touch cart full of real firefighting tools.

Have you ever wondered why Dalmatians are associated with fire departments? We learned why at the museum! Back in the days when horses were used to pull fire equipment, herding dogs like Border Collies and Terriers were used to bark at the horses and nip at their heels to make the horses run faster to the fire scene. Once at the fire, the dogs herded the horses away from the flames and kept them under control until the fire was extinguished. Dalmatians, being very social animals, were originally used to keep the horses company. Later they became mascots and lived in some of the firehouses with the firefighters.

And what’s a fire station without a fire pole? Fire poles are so much a part of firefighting lore that their true origins have become lost to legend. One story is that Chicago Engine Company 21 rounded off a 4×4 pole, sanded it smooth, and erected it from the hayloft window. It was such a success that the company began setting response records and they installed a second pole. Other fire companies followed suit, and over time brass and steel fire poles replaced the original wooden ones. Poles were greased with motor oil and kerosene to assist in descent. While sliding down a fire pole hastened response time, the practice also led to increased injuries. Today most fire stations are built on one floor, and fire poles have gone out of style. The museum has two fire poles, including one set up especially for kids to try out.

The second floor of the museum includes firefighters’ living and sleeping quarters. Firefighters lived at the station, and the upper floor was home. There was a dormitory, kitchen, and shared bathroom. Beds were located close to the poles over the apparatus to which the firefighters were assigned. Bunking gear – boots, pants, and suspenders – were placed beside the bed to speed response time to emergency alarms. The House Captain collected a weekly contribution from each firefighter that was used to pay for community expenses such as laundry, coffee, kitchen supplies, and exercise equipment.

Senior officers had separate small private rooms, which were a bedroom and office combination. Here officers could do their paperwork and discuss personnel matters. They also had an emergency telephone for fire calls. Junior officers slept with the firefighters in the main dormitory. Because Station One also was a district firehouse, it contained additional quarters for the Assistant Chief of the district. Officers had a separate bathroom but shared shaving sinks and shower stalls with the firefighters.

In the early days, the fire department did not supply food or cooking gear, so firefighters developed a system in which every man paid a daily contribution to purchase groceries. In the 1960s, this cost each firefighter $1 a day. Cooking duties might rotate through the crew, or the best cook might be elected chef.

Firefighters worked seven days on and had the eighth day off. To allow them to have time with their families, Station One had a Family Room, which was basically a small kitchen with a table and chairs where the firefighter and his family could eat together. Once schedules changed to allow more time off, the Family Room became a second kitchen. Why two kitchens? Because there was always a good-natured rivalry between the truck and engine crews and it allowed each a separate community room.

These days the second floor of Station One has displays on firefighter training, life in the firehouse, major fires that took place in Denver over the years, interactive displays for kids, and a section of I-beam from the Twin Towers that were the target of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City. The museum also has an extensive collection of works on paper, including local and national artists, manuscripts, photographs, and an archive collection.

The Denver Firefighters Museum is located at 1326 Tremont Place and is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is closed on major holidays. Admission is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors age 65 and older, as well as active-duty military and firefighters,  and $7 for children age 12 and younger.

The main entrance is wheelchair accessible and does not require a ramp. However, as a historic house museum, the museum does not have access between the two gallery floors other than two staircases.

Parking is limited to curbside, with parking meters and paid lots near the museum, neither of which will accommodate large RVs. For more information, call (303) 892-1436 or visit the museum’s website at www.denverfirefightersmuseum.org.

Congratulations Kim Nelson, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Undone, the first book in my friend Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. We had 22 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.

Oct 032021
 

Longtime reader Gerri Poth Beckman and her hubby John are spending some time in our old stomping grounds, the White Mountains of Arizona. Before we went on the road as fulltime RVers, Terry and I lived there and I published the weekly newspaper. The White Mountains are also the setting for my Big Lake mystery series, and I preface every book by posting this disclosure: While there is a body of water named Big Lake in the White Mountains of Arizona, the community of Big Lake and all persons in this book live only in the author’s imagination. Any resemblance in this story to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 That’s not entirely true, because people I know do sometimes sneak into the stories, but their names are changed to protect the innocent. Or the guilty, as it may be.

Yesterday Gerri posted this picture on Facebook for me while they were out exploring the area.

And while we are still dealing with mid-80 degree temperatures here in central Florida, Sunrise Park Resort, located a short drive from Big Lake, got two inches of snow the other day. No, thank you. It’s written in my contract that if it snows, the Nixter goes.

They say everything is bigger in Texas, but I’m not so sure about that. Yesterday afternoon Terry and I were doing some pruning to the citrus trees in our yard and came across this humongous grasshopper hiding in the leaves of our Key Lime tree. At first, I thought it was a lizard, which we have thousands of around here. For reference, the second picture is of the grasshopper with Terry’s shoe for comparison.

When I mentioned working on my new book in yesterday’s blog, another longtime reader, Bobbie Chapman, said she hoped it would be the next book in the Tinder Street series. No, Bobbie, it’s the next Big Lake book. I need some more information on how schools and the City of Toledo handled budgets and such during the Great Depression that I have not been able to find online. I may need to go there to research it in person if a few inquiries I made do not pan out. But one way or the other, Tinder Street will be next on the list, I promise.

People who didn’t live during the Great Depression have no idea just how different it was. All across the country everyone was strapped for cash, from the man on the street to once-wealthy bankers and investors who lost their fortunes to companies and municipalities who could not make their payrolls and meet their obligations. Among them was the City of Toledo. Like many cities across the country, when they didn’t have the money to pay their employees, they issued scrip notes, which were basically promissory notes or IOUs that people could use in lieu of cash, with the understanding that the notes could be redeemed for actual money at a later date.

This is a $5 script note that I acquired in my research that was issued on January 14th, 1935, and redeemable in 1938. It was part of an issue of $400,000 in scrip authorized for the purpose of current operating expenses of the city in anticipation of better times ahead. There was no interest paid on these scrip notes. Back then, when the average wage was around $9 a week, if you could find work at all, people were happy just to have a job, even if they did get paid in what was called funny money.

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.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Undone, the first book in my friend Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Drinking a gallon of water a day helps you avoid other people’s drama because you are too busy peeing.

Oct 022021
 

In yesterday’s blog, I told you about a flake who showed up in response to a request I posted online for a licensed contractor to build a carport at our place. This clown didn’t have a tape measure with him, or a pen or pencil, or a piece of paper, and then wanted to know if he could borrow my truck to haul the materials in. Obviously, I won’t be dealing with that young man.

In the same blog, I said I had also contacted another company, who came highly recommended and has done a lot of work in our area. And I added that as it turned out, one of the owners lived just a few houses down the street from us. Yesterday, George from Stevens Construction, and his daughter-in-law Jennifer, our neighbor, showed up fifteen minutes early, and it was immediately apparent that I was dealing with professionals. Not only did they have a truck with the name of their company on it, George actually had a tape measure, and Jennifer had a pen and notepad. That was a step up right from the start!

They listened to what I wanted to have done, looked at the house and the concrete parking apron, did some measuring, including the setback from the street (which they actually knew the requirements for), made a couple of suggestions, and told me they would be in contact with the county about a building permit and if we might need a variance, and told me they would get back with me sometime early next week. It was very obvious they knew what they were talking about, and Terry, who ran a commercial glass shop and dealt with contractors for much of her working life, said she felt good about them. So now we wait and see what can and cannot be done and how much it will cost.

With that out of the way, I wrote about 2,000 words in my new book, did some research online to make sure the storyline would work with reality, and that was about it for the day. Nothing outstanding or earth-shaking to tell you about.

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. I think the sign folks might want to hire a proofreader.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Undone, the first book in my friend Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Sometimes you might feel like no one’s there for you, but do you know who’s always there for you? Laundry. Laundry will always be there for you.

Back To Work

 Posted by at 1:12 am  Main Dish
Sep 302021
 

Well, my latest book, Ka-Bar Karma, is out and doing well on Amazon, and I’ve goofed off as long as I can so it’s time to get back to work. As I said a while back, the normal progression of my writing schedule would be to write the fourth book in my Tinder Street series next, but I needed to do some research up in Ohio, and COVID has kept us from making any trips. So rather than try to wing it and get things wrong, I will swap their positions and do the next Big Lake book now, and then Tinder Street.

I never know exactly where a book is going when I start, and more often than not, it turns out completely different than I expect it to. But I had one of those nights where it was hard to fall asleep on Tuesday, and when I finally did, I woke up with the entire plot of the book in my head. That’s always fun. Now, will the book follow that plot all the way to the end? Probably not, but since I don’t outline or anything like that ahead of time, it will give me a direction to go, and we’ll see what happens from there.

Terry had another checkup at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville yesterday, and the good news is that her doctor sees some positive results from a new therapy they’ve been trying with her. She told Terry to stay the course and keep doing what she is doing for another two months, and we’re optimistic that when we go back, we will see even more progress.

On our way back home we were headed south on I-95, somewhere between Palm Coast and Daytona Beach, when a Florida state trooper came flying past us in the left lane. After he was gone, I moved over into the left lane to get around a slow-moving small Class C camper that was following a slow-moving eighteen-wheeler. Almost immediately, the motorhome moved into the left lane right in front of me, cruising along at 70 miles per hour while people flying up behind me were doing 80 or 85, and I was stuck hoping I wouldn’t get rear-ended. Within a couple of minutes, the folks behind me started moving into the right lanes, and I could see more blue lights rushing up, so I got over to the center lane as another trooper came racing up.

But the clod in the motorhome stayed put, totally oblivious to the flashing lights and siren for at least another mile or two. As soon as I could, I had moved over another lane to give the trooper room if he needed to go around the RV on the right. He tried that, going into the center lane, and immediately the RV moved over right in front of him, and he had to hit the brakes to keep from rear-ending him. Then the RV crossed back in the left lane again as the Highway Patrol car tried to go around him that way. What an idiot!

Eventually the RV then moved into the right-hand lane, and by then there were apparently enough other emergency units on the scene ahead (which turned out to be a bad accident in the northbound lanes), so the trooper got in behind the RV in the right lane,  trying to pull him over. We watched as that continued for another mile or two before the airhead finally pulled onto the shoulder. I’m sure that by then the trooper was more than ready to give him a lesson on traffic safety and what to do when an emergency vehicle is approaching.

It reminded me of a time during our fulltime RVing days when we were southbound on Interstate 75 in Tennessee and all traffic came to a halt because of a bad accident up ahead. Everybody was squeezing into the center and right lanes to let emergency vehicles pass on the left, and there was one fool in a car sitting there stopped in the left lane with nothing ahead of her and emergency vehicles rushing up behind her. She was busy talking on her cell phone while an ambulance stopped behind her was honking the horn and blowing its siren, and she continued to ignore them. I finally got out and slapped the hood of her car with both hands, and shouted, “Wake up, idiot!” That seemed to get her attention because she put down her phone. But she still didn’t go anywhere. Finally, the ambulance backed up a few feet and squeezed between her and the guardrail, scraping on both sides and really doing a number on the driver’s side of her car so they could get to the scene up ahead where people were dying. Then, believe it or not, with even more emergency vehicles coming up from behind, instead of moving over, the fool stayed in the same place but got out to look at the damage to her car. You really wonder how some people ever pass their driver’s test.

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 friend Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Never accept a friend request from Hormel foods. It could be Spam.

Sep 292021
 

There was a post on Facebook the other day asking what you would title your autobiography if you ever wrote one. I have no plans to ever do something like that, and I’m sure nobody would ever want to read it anyway, but my reply was that it would probably be something along the line of My Gypsy Journey.

Maybe it’s because my family moved around so much when I was a kid that I never had strong connections to my cousins and friends I grew up with, but I have never really felt a sense of home, in terms of “this is the place I’m supposed to be forever.” I was an avid reader from a young age, and there were too many places I wanted to see and too many things I wanted to do to be sitting still for very long.

I went to high school in Toledo, Ohio, and in those days, for a blue-collar kid, getting a job on the assembly line at Jeep or one of the other big manufacturers, or even better, a job with the police department, fire department, or post office meant you had arrived, and you were set for life. That never interested me in the least bit, even though my high school girlfriend and her mother were both pushing me to apply for those kinds of jobs instead of enlisting in the Army as soon as I graduated. Sorry, but that wasn’t a trap I planned to fall into.

Years ago, during our fulltime RVing days, Terry and I stopped in Toledo to visit an old high school friend of mine. Sitting on his back porch on a warm summer day, Dan, who had followed the tradition and gotten a job at Jeep, told me he could remember, even as a kid, me saying that I wanted to be a writer and that I was not going to stick around the old hometown, and that he was proud of me for making my dreams come true.

Many others did not appreciate my ideas, besides the old girlfriend and her mother that I mentioned above. A counselor at my high school had a sign on his wall that said Bloom Where You Are Planted. During our junior year, we all had to go to our counselor and discuss where we were headed in our lives and what we wanted to accomplish. He shook his head and told me to forget the pipe dreams and take the advice on his wall, to bloom where I was planted. He went on to say that there is a reason we are all where we are and that we should be grateful for opportunities we have, wherever we are, and whatever those opportunities are.

He didn’t appreciate it when I disagreed with him, but I told him that I didn’t want to be just another guy on the assembly line or carrying the mail door to door. Not that there’s anything wrong with those kinds of jobs and the people who do them, but they weren’t right for me.

Fortunately, I had another teacher, a wonderful man named Jim Summers, who made a big impact on my life, and he told me that not only should we follow our dreams, but we have an obligation to ourselves to do so. He told me about his brother, who had always wanted to be an airline pilot when they were growing up. Instead, he took the traditional route that society at that time laid out for him and became an insurance salesman. He was very successful at it, but also very miserable, which led to a drinking problem and misery for his wife and children, because deep down inside he was a failure for not at least trying to follow his dreams.

“Go be a writer and a newspaperman,” Jim Summers told me. “I guarantee you that even if you are no more than a hack and barely scrape by, you’ll be happier than if you were making more money working in a factory or being a cop or fireman or whatever, and hating it every hour of every day.”

My own father reinforced that by telling me that if you get up in the morning and your stomach turns at the idea of going to your job even one more day, it doesn’t matter if they’re paying you $1 million a year, it’s not worth it. True advice from two very wise men.

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 – They laugh at me because I am different. I laugh at them because they are all the same.

Ride Pony Ride

 Posted by at 1:01 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 282021
 

It’s been a long time since I’ve had my Mustang out of the garage. In fact, believe it or not, it still has less than 1,500 miles on it since I bought it new in November of 2018, and that includes a 25-mile trip each way down to Titusville and back yesterday.

It’s not that I don’t like driving it. Actually, I love driving it. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine puts out 310 horsepower, and it has a performance package that makes it handle like a true sports car. And this is coming from a guy who has owned a couple of Corvettes, a 280Z, and a Porsche, and driven everything from a Jaguar to a Maserati.

I didn’t buy the car to be a daily driver, and I wanted to keep the miles low to keep it as pristine as possible. But then a friend pointed out to me that I’m going to be 69 in a couple of weeks, and eventually I won’t be around, and whoever gets it after me is going to drive the hell out of it, so I might as well do it. I think that was good advice.

Terry had an appointment at Kutryb Eye Institute in Titusville yesterday, and we decided to take the Mustang down. To be honest, it’s not her favorite vehicle because it sits too low for her taste. She likes pickup trucks and SUVs and things that sit up higher and give her more visibility. But she was a good sport about it, and we had a nice trip.

Since only patients were allowed in the building, I waited outside in the car with the engine running and the seat coolers and AC on, reading a book and listening to the radio. When Terry was done with her appointment, we went to the Titusville Antique Mall and spent a couple of hours browsing there. It’s always fun to see the so-called antiques that we grew up with. I guess that’s because we’re now officially antiques, too, isn’t it?

The store has a strict policy on face masks and nobody is allowed inside without one. I was talking to one of the employees and she said that every once in a while, they get some fool that wants to argue with them about that, but they stand their ground and tell them they’re welcome to come back another time. Good for them! I like seeing a business refuse to give in to someone who is too dense to take common-sense precautions in the face of a pandemic.

When we left the antique mall, we went to Dixie Crossroads, one of our favorite seafood restaurants. We were disappointed that they were out of the royal red shrimp that is their trademark, but we both ordered a shellfish combo that included broiled boat run shrimp, rock shrimp, and scallops. And of course, we enjoy the free deep-fried corn fritters covered in powdered sugar that they serve with every meal. It was all delicious, as always. I did not know until I was writing this blog that the restaurant has the recipes for several of their specialties posted online, including the corn fritters.

On the way home, we stopped at Tractor Supply so Terry could pick up a wire tomato cage, and while we were there, I found a nice Carhartt T-shirt I liked. Then it was back home, where we caught up on e-mail and then relaxed in front of the TV for a while. A nice end to a nice day spent together.

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. This one sounds like a rather personal problem to me.

Thought For The Day – Don’t wait until you’re on your deathbed to tell people how you feel about them. You could be too weak to raise your middle finger by then.

Sep 272021
 

Usually, when I post a blog, I tell you about what I did the previous day, whether it be working on a new book, or out running errands, or goofing off at the beach with Miss Terry. I wish I could tell you something like that, but the truth is, yesterday I did nothing. Absolutely nothing!

I didn’t have any aftereffects from our COVID-19 booster except for the expected sore arm, but Terry woke up sometime in the wee hours of the morning with chills and could not get warm. I had that experience about 36 hours after my first COVID shot, back in January, but so far, so good. By last night our arms weren’t quite as sore, but we were still aware of them.

Anyway, back to yesterday. I started the day by answering a few e-mails, and then I was going to start making some notes for my next book. But I still have not made up my mind if it’s going to be another Big Lake book or the 4th book in the Tinder Street series, and I didn’t feel motivated enough to make that decision.

Sometimes when I want a little break, I will work on an online jigsaw puzzle, so I thought about doing that. But after opening the program and looking at a puzzle for a few minutes, and moving a couple of pieces around, I just wasn’t feeling it. So much for that idea.

I logged on to Facebook a couple of times but didn’t feel like getting involved in any long discussions about politics or writing or anything else, so I decided I would just take a day off from my computer. I plopped myself down in my recliner and channel surfed for a while but couldn’t find anything that got my attention enough to watch it.

Sometime in the afternoon, my buddy Jesse Bolton from across the street stopped over to visit for a few minutes, telling me about taking his boat out for a test ride on the river. It’s been a while since the boat has been in the water, and Jesse had to do a bit of work to get it seaworthy, but he came back very satisfied with the results.

Nothing keeps Miss Terry from working her magic in the kitchen, and for dinner, she made a delicious shepherd’s pie. I would tell you how good it was, but then some of you would probably show up on my doorstep wanting some of the leftovers, and I’m not much for sharing.

After dinner, we watched TV for a while, and then it was bedtime. So that was my day. Basically, all I did was take up space on earth and breath up oxygen that somebody much more productive than me probably needed.

I won’t get much done today either because Terry has an appointment at Kutryb Eye Institute down in Titusville. When she’s done with that, we’re going to run a couple of errands down there and then have an early dinner at Dixie Crossroads before we head back home.
Hopefully by Tuesday I’ll get my butt in gear and actually accomplish something worthwhile, but I’m not making any promises

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day, a two-story outhouse from longtime reader Jim Harper.

Congratulations Helene Peterson, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. We had 35 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.  Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – If you hear me telling the same story twice, just let it go. I only have like six memories, and they all take turns.

We Got Boosted!

 Posted by at 12:38 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 262021
 

We had appointments yesterday in DeLand at 11 AM to get our Covid-19 booster shots. We got there about 25 minutes early and decided to go inside and see if they wanted us to wait inside or in the car. Instead, they handed us paperwork when we came in, and within a few minutes, we had our shots and were out the door. Our original vaccinations were with Moderna, and that is what they gave us this time around. I was surprised because it was my understanding that it hasn’t been approved yet, but there were as many people getting the Moderna booster as there were Pfizer.

As I said in yesterday’s blog, our side effects from the first two vaccinations back in late January and early February were minimal. So far, some achiness in our arms around the injection site and some minor bruising Terry has around hers is about all we have noticed.

DeLand is a nice small town and home to Stetson University, as well as some nice antique shops, and once we were done at the doctor’s office, we went to one of our favorites, the Marketplace at Rivertown antique mall. They have three floors of goodies there, and we usually find something we can’t live without. This time around it was this print of an antique camera. Since I’ve always been into photography forever and have a couple of old Speed Graphic press cameras in my office, Terry thought it would look good there, too. It came home with us, and she was right!

Many of the buildings in DeLand have murals on them, and this was one that I liked, so I took a picture to share with you.

There was some kind of a crafts festival going on and they had one of the downtown streets blocked off for it, but there were just too many people for us to want to mingle that closely with, so we decided to pass up on that even though we normally enjoy browsing through festivals and flea markets and such.

Back at home, I spent quite a bit of time answering e-mails, then checking in on Amazon to see how my new John Lee Quarrels book, Ka-Bar Karma, was doing. Quite well, as it turns out.  It was ranked at 8,563 in the Kindle store for all of Amazon. Considering the millions of e-books they carry, to reach that number in less than 24 hours is pretty darn good if you ask me. The early feedback I’m getting from readers is that they are enjoying the story, which always makes me feel good and like my time was well spent.

Sometime in the afternoon, I really got tired, but I think that was more the result of getting to bed late the night before and getting up early in the morning than it was from the vaccination. So I plopped myself down in my recliner, and just about the time I closed my eyes, my granddaughter Destiny started texting me from Arizona, where they were having a classic car show. Destiny loves old pickup trucks, and she sent me some pictures of some, but somewhere along the line, I fell asleep as I was replying to her. Later on I told her mom, Tiffany, that I was going to send her this picture of my old 1958 Chevy truck that won some trophies in car shows but fell asleep before I could do it. Tiffany told me not to feel bad because Destiny fell asleep, too! You can tell she’s my granddaughter, can’t you?

When I was a kid and went to the doctor and got a shot, I always got a little gold star sticker or a lollipop, but I guess I’m too old for that now. So instead, Terry made a delicious chocolate Texas sheet cake with pecans. That beats the hell out of a sticker or a lollipop!

Today if your last chance to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – You can’t fix stupid. But you don’t have to invite it to dinner.

Ka-Bar Karma Is Out!

 Posted by at 12:22 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 252021
 

Yesterday afternoon I got the final read-through of my new John Lee Quarrels book, Ka-Bar Karma, back from my final proofreader, made her corrections, and uploaded it to Amazon at 5:15 p.m. Less than an hour later, I got a message back that it was available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

As soon as I got that message, I added the links to my free author’s newsletter and sent it out to my mailing list. It didn’t take long for someone to e-mail me back saying that I had goofed in the announcement, saying my new Tinder Street book was out. My mistake, it’s definitely a John Lee Quarrels book, the 10th book in the series. This is my 47th book and my fourth new book this year. It will take a few weeks before the printed version is available, but hopefully not very long. The finished book came in at 89,472 words, making it my second longest in the John Lee series. I started writing it on August 10 and finished on September 10, then all of the editing and proofing took two weeks. I hope you all enjoy it.

And as always, a huge thank you to Miss Terry, Judy Rinehimer, and Roberta Jensen, my hardworking proofreaders. All I do is dig up the lump of coal, these three wonderful ladies get all the credit for polishing it and making it into something worthwhile.

I normally do four new books a year, although last year I did six since we were staying isolated home so much with COVID. I was hoping for another six this year, but I’m running about a month behind schedule, so I don’t know if I’ll make that or not. But I will definitely have at least one more book out by the end of the year. If I can make it to six, I will, but I’m not going to rush things just to get numbers.

All of that was a great way to end a day that literally started out on a sour note. As I was pursuing my breakfast milk, I noticed it was lumpy. Lumpy milk is never a good thing. I’m glad I saw it because I have almost no sense of smell and couldn’t tell that it was sour, but as soon as Terry got near the milk bottle, she sure could. Fortunately, I had another gallon in the refrigerator in the garage that was nice and fresh.

We have appointments in DeLand this morning to get our Covid-19 booster shots, something we are really looking forward to. One more step toward keeping ourselves as safe as possible from the pandemic. Our side effects from the first two shots back in late January and early February were minimal, and we’re hoping for the same this time around.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us on the path toward the best things that will happen to us.

A Waiting Game

 Posted by at 12:09 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 242021
 

Everything is on hold, waiting for my last proofreader to do the final read-through of my new John Lee Quarrels book, Ka-Bar Karma. The book is formatted except for any last-minute changes, the cover is ready to go, the teaser chapter of the next book in the series is written and attached to the end of this one, and my author’s newsletter is completed and just waiting for the book to be live so I can include the links to it. So it’s a waiting game at this point, and I’m eager to get it out.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide on my next book. In the normal progression I have been writing on, it should be the fourth book in the Tinder Street series. However we had planned to take a trip up to northern Ohio to do some more research for this book in the series, and Covid has kept us from doing that. I’ve been doing as much research as I can online for it but running into some roadblocks. So I may jump forward and do the next Big Lake book first and then the Tinder Street, once I can get enough of the information I need. You would think most everything you are looking for can be found online these days, but sometimes you have to go to historical museums and places like that to find what you need if you want your book to be accurate. I’ll give it a couple more days before I make a decision on which way to go on that.

I mentioned that Terry and I have been binge-watching Jamestown, and we are about midway through the third and final season. I’m going to be sorry to see this one end because it has really captured us, being the history buffs that we are.

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. We see this truck parked on US Highway 1 here in Edgewater, Florida all the time. Is this what happens when Fed Ex and UPS merge?

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I don’t like making plans for the day ahead of time, because then the word premeditated gets thrown around in the courtroom.

Sep 232021
 

Thank you to everyone who sent good wishes for my appointment with the neurologist yesterday. We still really don’t know much more than I did when we went in, except that the headaches I have been having are not signs of another stroke. The nurse practitioner we talked to said that strokes take things away, such as blurred vision or loss of mobility or speech. Not always much, but at least some during the episode. She said they do not present with pain.

So what is causing the head pain? She said she didn’t know. It could be migraines, it could be a small bit of shrapnel touching on a nerve, as one doctor at the VA said, or it could be something undetermined as of yet. They are scheduling me for an MRI of my head since they couldn’t find anything from the CT scan I had done recently.

As for the previous stroke, which we just learned about from the CT scan, she said that could have happened anytime in the last two years. We have pretty much narrowed it down to the dizzy episode I had back in the summer of 2019 that precipitated the temporal arteritis biopsies. She said it might be a one-time thing, or it might happen again, and there’s really no way to determine that.

I will admit that I’m somewhat concerned, because at the end of her life my mother had a series of strokes, and each time, less of her came back until there was nothing left and she was in a vegetative state. But I’m not going to dwell on it. I’m going to do everything I can to stay healthy and happy.

Speaking of staying healthy, we have been looking forward to getting our COVID booster shots as soon as they become available. The VA has already been giving them to some veterans with compromised immune systems and things like that, and while we were at the doctor’s office yesterday, they asked if we wanted the boosters. Apparently, our age and health issues make us eligible right now, so we have an appointment to get them on Saturday morning. We are definitely looking forward to getting that done.

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 Big Lake Lynching, the second 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Don’t waste your time on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing.

What’s The Point?

 Posted by at 12:03 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 222021
 

The other day I got a message from someone who said that she has read my blog comments before about how Terry and I cuddle for half an hour or so first thing every morning and again every night before we go to sleep. She said, “I don’t mean to be too personal, but I guess I am, because I have to ask if you are bragging or if you are taking some kind of super Viagra that has you two having sex that often? My husband and I are a year or two younger than you, and we don’t have that kind of stamina.”

I replied that we cuddle and kiss and talk and enjoy being together, but that doesn’t mean we’re having sex each time. Usually, we are not. Her response blew me away when she asked, “Then what’s the point?”

What’s the point? I wasn’t sure what to say to that. The point is that we love one another and we love being close. The times we spend together like that are very intimate, but intimacy doesn’t have to be sexual. Terry and I both have always believed that there’s a lot more to making love than the physical act of having sex.

Holding hands in the car or as we walk through a parking lot, or in bed at night, opening doors for her, the caresses she gives as she passes me while I’m sitting at my desk or in my recliner, the hundred times a day we say I love you, the compliments and the little looks we exchange, those are all part of making love and always will be for us, no matter how old we are.

We have been together for 24 years now and it has been that way from the start. I feel sorry for anybody who doesn’t have that in a relationship. And I really feel bad for anyone who thinks that the only time for intimacy and cuddling is when they are having sex, because they have no idea what they are missing. Keep in mind that our largest and most powerful sex organ is our brain.

On another note, I have an appointment with a neurologist today to see if he can give me an answer to my ongoing head pain. It’s not nearly as severe as it was a few weeks ago, but it’s been there to some degree about 60% of the time since the onset. Send some good vibes my way, if you have any to spare.

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 – You don’t need someone to complete you, you only need someone to accept you completely.

The Ocoee Massacre

 Posted by at 12:12 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 212021
 

A marble memorial at the site of a former African American cemetery in Ocoee, Florida, is a reminder of a shameful time in our history when good men and women perished in the face of bigotry and hatred.

1920 was a very tense time in America, especially in the South. Racial tensions were running high, injustices were commonplace, and violence was an everyday threat. It was a dangerous time to be an African-American.

Black men had served in World War I and returned home thinking they had earned a place in society, only to learn that the civil liberties they had fought to ensure for people overseas were denied to them in their own country. At the same time, the racist movie Birth of a Nation was touring the country to sell-out audiences of white citizens who felt threatened by both the emerging role blacks were playing and by foreign immigration.

A series of race riots and lynchings had taken place during the summer of 1919 in many American cities, known as the “Red Summer” for the blood that was shed. The Ku Klux Klan was experiencing a resurgence as bigoted whites tried to hang onto the status quo. Florida was a hotbed of activity, and it has been reported the state led the nation in lynchings per capita.

In 1920, the unincorporated community of Ocoee, near Orlando, was home to about a thousand people, slightly less than half of them black. These African-Americans lived in two neighborhoods, Methodist Quarters on the northern side and Baptist Quarters to the south. While many of the black members of the community were laborers or field hands in the local orange groves, several were businessmen and landowners who had attained some degree of affluence.

Many local whites were angered by this success and felt threatened by the prospect of blacks challenging the white supremacy that had reigned in the area forever. They knew that land equaled power and did not want blacks owning property or moving forward.

The campaign for the United States Senate seat in the area added greatly to the aura of danger that was hanging over Ocoee as the summer drew to a close. Traditionally, the white population had supported the Democratic party and maintained control of the voting process to make sure nothing changed. Very few black citizens voted, if any.

That year a Republican judge named John M. Cheney made a bid for the Senate, and the Republican party began to organize the black community to vote. Two strong supporters of Judge Cheney were Julius “July” Perry and Mose Norman, both prosperous black landowners. The two encouraged their fellow African-Americans to register to vote, even paying their poll tax.

Mose Norman had already earned the enmity of the local white population for his success. He owned a nice house, a farm, an orange grove, and drove a fancy convertible. Realizing how important his land was, he had rejected an offer of $1,000 an acre from a white businessman.

This activity did not go unnoticed by the local Ku Klux Klan, who sent a threatening letter to Judge Cheney. When that did not stop blacks from registering to vote, the Klan held a march through the community in full regalia, 500 strong, to send a message to the blacks to stay away from the polls.

On November 2, 1920, Election Day, Julius Perry and Mose Norman defied the Ku Klux Klan and went to the polls to vote. They were turned away and sent a message to Judge Cheney, who encouraged them to try again and to get the names of the black voters being denied their right to cast their ballots and the names of the precinct workers refusing them.

The details of the events that followed are debated even today along racial and political lines. Though newspaper accounts of the day give one account, it must be remembered that the newspapers, policemen, poll workers, and others supporting this version were all white, and many belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, as was expected at that time. The black community had a different story to tell.

All agree that later that afternoon, Mose Norman returned to the voting precinct, possibly accompanied by Julius Perry and a handful of other blacks. Some claim that Norman waved a shotgun in the air, demanding to be allowed to vote. At any rate, he was pistol-whipped and managed to flee in a car. Some reports say a group of Klansmen, deputies, or both, stopped the car a short distance away from the voting precinct and that Norman was again beaten, possibly killed. Others say he escaped.

Word of the clash at the voting precinct spread, and Klansmen from as far away as Georgia rushed to Ocoee. That evening a “posse” of whites led by Colonel Samuel Salisbury entered the black neighborhood, searching for Mose Norman and Julius Perry to punish them for attempting to vote, lynching being the common punishment in those days.

As the group stormed into Perry’s house, he shot and wounded Salisbury, and then turned to shoot another intruder coming in the back door, missing and wounding his daughter Coretha in the arm instead. By the time the shooting was over, two whites were dead, possibly killed by Julius Perry, possibly caught in the crossfire and shot by their own men. Perry was wounded at some point in the gun battle.

Perry was taken to the jail in Orlando, where the white sheriff then handed the keys over to the growing lynch mob. The prisoner was taken outside and hung from a lamppost near present-day Lake Concord and Judge Cheney’s house, and his body was riddled with bullets. A newspaper in Chicago later reported that a sign was hung from Perry’s body that read “This is what we do to niggers who try to vote.”

The rest of the night was a bloodlust of looting, arson, and murder as hundreds of Klansmen moved through the black community, torching homes and businesses and killing any blacks they encountered. Many were burned to death in their homes or shot as they tried to flee the flames. The blacks who could escape fled into the orange groves and swamps.

When the sun rose through the smoke the next morning, out of 495 African-Americans who had lived in Ocoee the day before, only two remained. As with so much that happened that terrible day, accounts vary depending on who is telling the story. But it is believed that as many as 60 black citizens were killed, though the newspapers reported that only seven people died, including the two white men killed at the home of Julius Perry. Twenty-five homes, two churches, a black school, several black-owned businesses, and a lodge were all burned to the ground.  No African-American would live in Ocoee for over sixty years, until 1981.

For the next week, 250 deputized Klansmen occupied Ocoee, and nobody could enter or leave the town without their permission. The land belonging to the black citizens was divided up and sold to whites for $1.50 an acre. For years whites disputed this fact, claiming fair prices were paid for the land, though there are no records to support this.

No one really knows what became of Mose Norman. Many believe he was killed sometime during the violence of Election Day, either when his car was stopped following the confrontation at the voting precinct or later during the attack on the black community that night. However, one report has him escaping to New York City, where he supposedly went to work for the post office and died in Harlem in 1949.

Ironically, the other three key players in this tragedy would continue to be linked in a twisted act of fate. Today Julius Perry, the lynch mob victim; Samuel Salisbury, who led the attack on Perry’s home; and Judge John M. Cheney, whose Senate race precipitated the violence, are all buried in Orlando’s Greenwood cemetery. Salisbury, the white man who resisted the black vote and was committed to the separation of the races, lies for eternity in a grave only 100 yards away from the black man who lost his life in the struggle for equality.

Thought For The Day – The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Sep 202021
 

We love getting off the interstate highways and taking the two-lane roads whenever we can. As I have said many times before, a Denny’s or a chain hotel at an interstate exit in Kansas is no different than one in Michigan or California. But the two-lane roads will take you to the real America. Small towns where you can sit in a diner on Main Street, where the waitress will call you honey or dear, and by the time you finish your lunch, you will know who is cheating on who, who just bought a new pickup truck, and who’s out of work. You will meet friendly people, see things you never imagined, and learn a lot about history in these small town gems scattered from border to border and coast to coast.

When we decided to hang up the keys and quit the fulltime RV lifestyle, we spent a lot of time deciding between the Pacific Northwest coast or somewhere on the Florida coast. Both had things we liked a lot about them, but Florida won out because our arthritic old bones couldn’t handle the cold and dampness of the Pacific Northwest winters. That decision made, we spent a long time researching different areas in Florida before we settled on the area around New Smyrna Beach. After five years, we still believe it was the right choice for us.

The first Europeans came to the area in 1768 and recruited about 1,300 settlers from the Mediterranean island of Menorca to work a massive plantation that grew sugarcane, hemp, and indigo. The original colony failed due to bad management, insect-borne diseases, and Indian attacks. Many of the settlers moved north to what is now St. Augustine. Fierce battles between whites and Indians occurred in the area during the Seminole Wars. Today, the beautiful and haunting Sugar Mill Ruins are a reminder of those early days.

During the Civil War, Union gunboats shelled the wharves at New Smyrna to prevent Confederate blockade runners and smugglers from using them, but the smugglers were back during the Prohibition years of the 1920s, bringing in rum from the Bahamas.

All of this is preserved at the New Smyrna Museum of History, located at 120 Sams Avenue. Here you will find displays of Native American artifacts, exhibits on England’s largest colonial plantation, railroad memorabilia, surfing, and even a lifeguard flag stolen by college pranksters and returned by a guilty conscience after 50 years.

These days New Smyrna Beach is a resort town of over 20,000 permanent residents and a large population of tourists who come to enjoy the beach and all that the small town has to offer.

And it definitely has a lot to offer! The Canal Street Historic District, with its small mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, will have you thinking you went back in time to the days before chain stores and mega-malls. It’s a great place for window shopping, and the few short blocks are often closed for arts and crafts fairs, classic car shows, and other special events.

Of course, the beach is the biggest attraction here, with miles of white sand you can drive on, look for seashells, surf, fish, or just enjoy the sun. Surfing is popular here, even though New Smyrna Beach is known as the Shark Bite Capital of the World. Fortunately, the sharks doing the biting are relatively small and are searching for baitfish. The bites are seldom very serious, though they do require medical attention.

The nearby Canaveral National Seashore and Apollo Beach Visitor Center are great places to get away from the crowds and enjoy unspoiled beachscapes and see native wildlife, from armadillos to foxes and manatees.

New Smyrna Beach is home to the Indian River Lagoon, where you can find more than 4,000 diverse species. Programs at the Marine Discovery Center are designed for all ages and offer “hands-on, feet-wet” learning opportunities that include lectures, boat and kayak eco-tours.

The Atlantic Center for the Arts is a non-profit artist facility located with programs that include a popular Children’s Art Camp, artist Lectures, exhibitions, and other events.

Millions of television viewers loved artist Bob Ross, and the Bob Ross Art Workshop & Gallery, opened by Ross in 1993, can be found at its original location at 757 E. 3rd Avenue. The workshop hosts a large collection of the artist’s original oil paintings visitors will recognize from his Public Television series, The Joy of Painting. The workshop offers classes in the Bob Ross unique style of oil painting taught by Ross Certified Teacher Trainer Nicholas Hankins.

Whether you prefer flying kites or sunbathing on the beach, kayaking or paddleboarding in Mosquito Lagoon, angling for the lagoon’s trophy redfish, or a relaxing day browsing small shops and galleries, New Smyrna Beach has so much to offer, as well as restaurants serving first-class seafood, nightlife, and laid back RV parks. Come visit our special place on Florida’s Atlantic coast. I think you will quickly understand why we decided to call it home.

Congratulations Jeannine Sheridan, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of The Islet of the Virgin, book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s – Famous Murderous Pirates book series. We had 23 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.  Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – I enjoy taking long romantic walks to the kitchen.

Writing Q&A

 Posted by at 12:19 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 192021
 

After posting two recent blogs on my writing and self-publishing activities, A Day In The Life and The Mechanics Of It All, some readers had questions that I thought I would answer today.

Q. How many copies of your own books do you keep on hand, and when you order copies of your own books from Amazon, is there a minimum order, and do you get a discount?

A. I usually try to keep two or three copies of each book on hand, in case somebody wants an autographed copy or I give one to somebody as a gift. If we are going to be going on a trip and calling on bookstores and libraries to promote my books, I order more. My books are produced by the print-on-demand process through Amazon, so I can order as few or as many as I need at a time. Authors do get a discount on the price of their books when ordered through Amazon.

Q. How do you keep track of all the characters in a series?

A. As I add more series and more characters, it becomes harder and harder to keep track of everyone. I have a Word file for each series that lists the main and recurring characters and a short paragraph about each one, including their backgrounds, physical descriptions, and little quirks. It makes me glad I only had two kids.

Q. Does your mind ever rest, or is it always thinking about writing?

A. I don’t think my mind ever rests. I will be in the grocery store and see someone and make a mental note about them to use as a character description, or overhear someone say something and file it away for future use, or see or read a news item that I later use as a basis for a story or a scene in a story. Sometimes I will be driving, or in the shower, or falling asleep at night, and an idea for a new book or a book title will hit me, and I have to make a note about it for the future.

Q. A couple of years ago, you ordered an expensive office chair to help with your back problems. Has that been worth the investment, and would you spend that kind of money again?

A. Yes, and yes. the Lifeform chair I purchased has been one of the best things I have ever purchased to make my writing life easier. I routinely spend anywhere from 8 to 10 hours a day and sometimes longer sitting at my desk, and I’ve never had a chair that stayed so comfortable for so long. I would definitely buy it again. It was most certainly worth the investment.

Q. Do you back up your book files in case of a computer failure or something like that?

A. After losing two or three years worth of work and saved files to a virus many years ago, I am fanatical about backing things up. During the day when I’m writing, I will manually save the manuscript several times even though I have it set to autosave. Then, when I stop writing for the day, I back it up to two different places on my computer, to an external hard drive, to two separate USB drives, and also to Dropbox. About once a month, I also back everything up to a second external hard drive, which is stored in my fireproof safe. I realize that’s probably overkill, but it makes me feel more secure.

Q. Occasionally, I see books, even some of your books, listed as a free PDF download on some oddball website that I’ve never heard of. Are these authorized, and how do the outfits doing it make any money if the books are free?

A. No, those are pirated copies of the books, and it’s something authors deal with all the time. The websites offering you those books are not doing it because they love books and want to share them with the world. They are usually attaching nasty things like viruses and spyware to the file that you download, as well as harvesting your e-mail for nefarious reasons. Authors can file a DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint against them and supposedly make them take the book down, but it pops up three more places the next day, and pretty soon, you’re spending all of your time chasing these crooks down. None of them ever last long, and as frustrating as it is, I’ve learned to just ignore them, figuring that if anybody is foolish enough to download books that way instead of paying for them, whatever viruses their computer or if they get hacked, it’s their problem.

Q. You have mentioned before that you have three proofreaders for your books. I would love to be a proofreader. I don’t care about making any money. Just the idea of being able to read so many new books would be great. How can I become one of your proofreaders? Do you know of any other authors who use proofreaders like that?

A. I really don’t need anybody else at this point, but I appreciate the offer. Many authors I know use proofreaders or beta readers to go through a manuscript and give them feedback before it’s published. The best way to go about that is to make yourself known to different authors through social media. Follow their Facebook pages and their blogs, and ask them if they are interested in you helping out. But if you’re going to be a proofreader, you need to be very skilled in English and grammar and punctuation. You also have to understand that your job is not to re-write an author’s book for him or to judge the story he or she is telling. I had one proofreader who lasted halfway through one of my books because she did not like the way I portrayed Native Americans in my Big Lake series. She objected to terms like the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, which is the official name of the place, or me saying that alcoholism and crime are problems on Indian reservations. Both of those are facts, just like they are in many communities, not racist statements.

Q. I attended a seminar you did on self-publishing back during your RVing days. Are you still doing those anywhere?

A. No, COVID has pretty much kept us close to home and away from any kind of events for a while now. I have been asked to speak to writing classes at our local Community College and to a couple of local writing clubs, but won’t be doing anything like that until the pandemic is under control.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of The Islet of the Virgin, book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s – Famous Murderous Pirates book 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Facts don’t care about your feelings.

I Asked For Lemonade

 Posted by at 12:39 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 182021
 

Yesterday was one of those days when I probably should have just stayed in bed. But like a fool, I got up and tested fate. That’s never a good idea, is it?

The day started with a series of phone calls about a referral for an appointment that I was supposed to have to see a neurologist about my continuing head pain. There was some kind of miscommunication, so a different doctor called me than the one I was expecting, and I told them that I had already called and made an appointment with somebody else because I never heard back on the referral and didn’t know who I was supposed to see. It took a few phone calls back and forth with my primary care provider to find out they had sent the referral to the doctor’s office that called me, not the one they said they were going to. So I have to make some more calls Monday morning to get that sorted out.

Later on, we had an appointment for something else up in Palm Coast, which is about a 45-minute drive, sometimes a little more depending on traffic. We made good time arriving at our destination, but before I could even shut the engine off on the Pacifica I got a phone call saying, please don’t come in because someone there had just tested positive for COVID. Well, that sucks! Hopefully, everything will be okay for them.

On the way back, we stopped at a couple of places in Daytona Beach to run some errands and then decided to go to Red Robin for an early dinner. We were seated quickly and soon got our orders, and everything was going fine. After a while, the waitress came by and asked if I wanted a refill on my lemonade, and I said sure. A few moments later, another employee came up with a tray with my lemonade and several glasses of soda on it. She sat the lemonade on the table in front of me and promptly spilled the sodas all over me. The poor girl was mortified and kept apologizing, but I told her it was no problem. I’m usually the one that does the spilling.

Back at home, we spent some time answering e-mails and then settled in to watch three more episodes of Jamestown. We’re almost through the first season and really enjoying it so far.

Later on, our daughter Tiffany sent us a couple of videos and pictures of granddaughter Hailey and her horse, Six. They’ve been training to do some barrel racing, and the first couple of times weren’t all that smooth. But this time around, it looks like they’re getting it down to a science and we were both impressed. Terry did some barrel racing in her younger days, and she knows what to look for. She thinks Hailey and Six are doing just fine and will only continue to get better as they work together.

If you like reading mysteries and police procedurals, New York Times bestselling author P. D. Workman just released a blog with links to quite a few very good books that you will enjoy. You can find it at this link. And be sure to check out some of P.D.s books, too. She’s a heck of a storyteller.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Islet of the Virgin, book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s – Famous Murderous Pirates book 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – If you have been fortunate in life, build a longer table, not a higher fence.

 

Looking Pretty Again

 Posted by at 12:25 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 172021
 

We have had our 2005 Ford Explorer Limited for about eleven years now, and it has always been a good vehicle for us. We set it up to tow behind our motorhome, and in addition to the 133,000 or so driven miles that it has on the odometer, we probably towed it another 75,000 miles. But we always took care of maintenance, and I wouldn’t hesitate to get in it now and drive across the country and back.

However, it definitely needed a bath, so the other day, I took it to a place in Edgewater called Splash N Dash Car Wash to get it cleaned up. I was really impressed with the job they did, and the Explorer looks like new again. In fact, another customer asked me what year it was, and when I told her and said that we would eventually be selling it and our 1999 Ford F-150 whenever my new Ram pickup arrives, she wanted to buy it right then for $4,500. I was tempted, but since I have no idea if or when the new truck is ever going to actually get here, I said I would have to pass for now. With the demand for used vehicles these days, I’m sure we won’t have any problem finding a new home for it or the pickup when the time comes.

For some time now, the paint at the front edge of the hood has been bubbling, and I took it to a local body shop, where the owner said that it was not uncommon for Fords with aluminum hoods to do that. When I asked about painting it, he said that it would cost more than the vehicle was probably worth, given the price of paint these days, and suggested we just get a bug guard and put on it. So I ordered one, and after I came home from the car wash, Terry and I installed it. I think it looks pretty darn good.

I sometimes joke with Terry, telling her that the Amazon driver came to the door to find out if we were okay because we hadn’t had a delivery in two days, and he was worried about us, but that’s really not all that far from the truth. These days we avoid leaving the house any more than we have to, and we have been ordering a lot of stuff from Amazon. Yesterday’s delivery brought two Waxed Canvas Foraging Pouches, and I can see a lot of ways we will use these, from picking up shells on the beach to holding spent brass if I ever get any time to go shooting again, to geocaching. The pouches fit on your belt and open up to 9.25 in height and 8.25 inches in width, then fold back down to a small size when not in use. I knew when I ordered one for me that  I might as well order one for Terry, too, because I was sure she would like it, and she did.

We’re always looking for something good to watch on television and have no patience for stupid reality shows and such. Lately, we have been watching quite a bit of stuff on Amazon Prime, and last night we watched the first episode of Jamestown, which is the story of the first English settlement in the New World. Later episodes are airing now on PBS, but I wanted to watch it from the start, and so far, we were both impressed with it. If you like historical dramas, you might want to check it out.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Islet of the Virgin, book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s – Famous Murderous Pirates book 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. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.