Neighborhood Memories

Wind rushing past, tugging at clothes and hair, sends the pulse racing until a collision with the dark loam reins in the momentary thrill. When you’re ten, the consequences are easy to ignore: the grass stains, a scratch, a bruise. Jump to your feet, race back to the porch, climb the railing, and leap. A brief moment of freefall, a slap from the laws of physics, roll-over, and repeat.

If you’re lucky, friends will cheer you on. If not, they land on you, sending stars across your field of vision, leaving you to sniff back tears, search your arms for contusions, and nose for blood. Hurt? Nah, shake it off. That baby tooth needed to come out anyway.

Weekends meant crawling through the neighborhood bushes, behind garages, and over gravel driveways until an adult began baying your name. As long as your middle name didn’t drift on the breeze, it was safe to ignore the summons.

Unless the prospect of being fed was involved, then all bets were off. Even chucking rocks over the garage into the Linkletter’s yard could not compete with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich — manna from the gods.

A Short History of Illinois – aka A Grassy Purgatory, or Crunchy Prairie Dog Surprise

I lived in Illinois for about 15 years. And by Illinois, I mean the part of the state that doesn’t include the canker sore of Chicago, where only criminals and Democrats live. Forgive me for the last comment – I was being redundant. No, I lived in downstate Illinois, where Republicans live, and the air often smells of hog shit. No connection there.

Before I begin, let me emphasize that the state’s name is “Ill-in-n-oy,” not “Ill-in-oy-Z.” A sure indicator that you’ve not lived in the Midwest is someone who sticks a ‘Z’ sound on the end of the word. Illinois was named by the irksome French, who have no problem rolling in stinky cheese and perfume but are too haughty to pronounce the letter ‘s.’

Anyway, Illinois was considered by the first settlers to be a vast treeless wasteland where only prairie dogs and Native Americans were foolish enough to live. At first, only fur-obsessed Frenchmen ventured into the tall grasses. Still, they either moved on or were eaten by the Native Americans (after all, a steady diet of prairie dog is monotonous). Later English settlers came, and those that weren’t devoured by the Native Americans ate them instead and all the prairie dogs. Then an enterprising soul figured out how to pry open the tough grassland (probably looking for more prairie dogs) and discovered the rich black soil underneath. Like flies on feces, settlers flocked to Illinois to grow food and procreate dozens of laborers – i.e., children. Soon missionaries arrived to scold and cast aspersions on anyone enjoying themselves. Then railroads were built to encourage westward migration since no one in their right mind would want to live in the middle of grasslands with missionaries. (After all, they don’t toast up as well as prairie dogs.) That is the short history of Illinois.

Writing Goals for 2023

I had no goals last year, yet I still successfully completed Nanowrimo. That was more a fluke than anything else. I am hoping to be more organized this year. So, along those lines, I’m planning to finish my four manuscripts: Jonathan of Jamesville High, books 2 and 3 of my Westfal series [the Dragon Heartstone and Spear of the Winds], and The Old Ways, my origin story/novel about my antagonist of the Westfal series, Faline. Lastly, I hope to be more active with my blog (which, as you can see, I already have been, to some extent).

As for the schedule, I plan to continue pushing Spear of the Winds through the Monday night critique group (a local writer group, of which I’m the facilitator). I’m also going to push to get Jonathon finished — it is 80-90% done. I know how it is to end; I just haven’t gotten over the hump to finish it. Dragon Heartstone and the Old Ways are done but need structural edits (Old Ways more so). Spear of the winds is about 90% done. Just need to get over the hump with that. So, I am going to finish the unfinished, then edit all of them into publishable form by the end of the year.