Crossroads – Daily Post 4-26-16

1 MIL stepsSome people love approaching crossroads. It can be an exhilarating feeling if you seek adventure. But for others it taps into one of their greatest fears, making the wrong choice. I have seen two really interesting examples as I watch my children approach their high school graduation dates.

My son Isaac was all about it during his junior year, but about a week before The start of his senior year on a Saturday morning we went to the local farmer’s market and he told me he just wasn’t ready for it to begin. My daughter had somewhat a similar sentiment at the beginning of this school year, her senior one, but as of this point, with less than 30 days to go she is ready to move to greater experiences.

Daily Prompt

I recently experienced a crossroads of a sort in my professional life and my personal life. In the professional area it involved transitioning sectors of work within my corporation. There was a period of no active assignment which caused no small amount of trepidation. Then there was a decision about whether to take the leap to change sectors. Now that I am one month plus I am happy to report the decision to change seems to be a very good one.

So what was the personal crossroads? It is one I have long desired to change. From 2002 through the summer of 2007 I owned my own business, a greenhouse. During that time I was on my feet nearly constantly, especially between January and August. My scale numbers hovered in the mid 170s and my BMI was absurdly low. When I graduated from college in 1989 I had a degree in Electronics Engineering Technology, which was great, but not a great fit for my region. But in 2007 that calculus changed and for the first time in my professional career I was working in a job directly related to my degree.

Hang on, this is still relating to the personal crossroads, I promise! When I got the new job I transitioned from on my feet 14 hours a day to on my feet basically never! It was a sit down job that required me to utilize the brains God had seen fit to bless me with. Before long the pounds began to multiply and with it some health issues.

Namely I had trouble with blood clots in late January of 2013 and early February of 2014. But still I did not make the significant change. I will fast forward the story to January 30 of this year and a most insignificant event may well blossom into the biggest crossroads event of my physical life. I won a Fitbit HR at a work party and began to take notice of the amount of activity I accumulated each day. Before long I began to notice increased energy and motivation. Then I noticed my clothes beginning to loosen.

1 MIL steps


This was from a two day, Midnight Friday through Midnight Sunday challenge.


The next major event was joining a Fitbit challenge group. This pushes you to not only meet your 10K step goal, but to go beyond. If you are interested in more of the Fitbit experience you can click this link: Fitbit. While walking alone won’t stave off the potential for blood clots, along with specific prescription medicine I expect to be in a safer position. These are my crossroads, I look forward to reading yours.

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Life Imitates Art -WPC – 2-12-16

This Weekly Photo Challenge is about life imitating art. While I don’t have occasion to mimic many statues I do think I have something that will fit the bill.


My grandfather Joe Hoss, father, me and my son in 1995

Fast forward a few years and many hundreds of gallons of milk later . . .


Nineteen year old Isaac with me. 

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Funding the new hobby (Part 2)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a new post on a new blog I started to try to connect with others interested in model railroading. I am utilizing the mother blog, Joe’s Musings since it has a much larger audience in hopes of reaching new readers. The new blog can be found here: Alpine & Clinchport Railroad.

Hello if you are a returning visitor to this Model Train hobbyist blog. Welcome if you are just discovering my chronicle of the adventure I began with the start of 2016. For both persuasions I intend to document the process and learning curve involved in this new hobby. My hope is to connect with other railroad modeling hobbyists and those interested in the hobby.

This is a continuation of the idea I began in the first post of this series entitled . . . wait for it! Funding the new hobby. As you know if you have looked at the hobby it is not a cheap undertaking . . . unless you do your homework. UGH, homework, I know the feeling.


Calvin & Hobbes by Watterson

But if you come out on the other side of homework with something to show for it it really doesn’t seem all that bad. Here is a confession for you, when you first strike out to buy an engine, track, controller and rail cars you really have no idea what is a good price. Buying without knowing how to gauge the value is like diving into an unknown depth river from a high tree limb.

Luckily I did not break my neck when I did it. All in all when I look over my purchase price I feel fairly confident I made wise choices. But it was the next purchase that really put me on a great path forward. To return to the reason for the post, I must restate that i am trying to finance this new hobby by selling leftovers from old hobbies. So far I have not sold anything from those identified old hobbies. In fact the only items sold thus far are pieces from my second train purchase, which was a large collection for sale at a local flea market that was bought within an estate sale.

I was really just trying to kill time one Saturday and went to this large indoor flea market for “kicks and giggles’ as my daughter and I put it. I thought there might be occasion to find something model train related, but had no idea what that might be. As a matter of fact I came across some old Lionel engines and cars that likely would have been O scale or perhaps S scale, meaning they were in the 1:48 or 1:64 size. I chose HO which is 1:87 due to the prevalence of products available.


When I came upon the collection I ultimately purchased I had to control the expression on my face. I mean you know how the people trying to sell at a flea market try to judge the amount of your interest. You don’t want to come off as so enamored you will just pay anything. The sheer scope of this collection was mind boggling. There was three engines, at least two dozen cars, 100 pieces of track, a power controller, twelve plastic assembled buildings, and another fifteen or so complementing parts.

Keep in mind my layout at his time is only a humble piece of 4 ft x 8ft plywood. It is fair to say all the buildings fill it up. But that is okay because I have identified the pieces I want to keep and the pieces I want to part with to pay for the investment. Four items sold as of February 11th have netted nearly $100 of my initial investment. I have many more in place on eBay where the interest in such is quite high. I also found a Yahoo Group for selling and buying HO Scale items, so the possibility is high I will do well.

You always hear the phrase “Patience is a virtue”. Why is it all good virtues equal waiting for a period of time? Oh well, it goes pretty fast when you are tinkering a bit here and there. Thanks for reading and leave me a comment please.


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TIME – Weekly Photo Challenge – 2/5/16

This week’s photo challenge is to show time. I chose a before and after of my son when he was younger and on the date of his high school graduation.


Sparky and my son in 1996


The perfect picture to symbolize the sunset of his high school career and beginning of a new adventure.

As my youngest child, a daughter, turns eighteen this week I am apt to remember her younger years also. As with my son I will post a retrospective during her week of graduation. I hope you will look that up. If you are interested in the post that went with the picture just above this you can access it here: While a Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a Boy Graduates in Virginia.

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Vibrant

The Weekly Photo Challenge asks us to share something vibrant this week.

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Blogging from A to Z (2016) – Yes or No

So the time has come to make the long term strategic plan about an opportunity to seriously increase the exposure to my blogs. By seriously i mean the potential to have up to a couple thousand bloggers visit my writing platforms. How can this be you ask? Is it one of those advertisements pushing a $19.99 plan to show you haw to increase traffic? No, but it will definitely return that.

a to Z

The opportunity I want to describe is called the 2016 Blogging from A to Z in April event. This is the fourth year of the event, started by a blogger named Arlee Byrd. Quite basically you blog for 26 of the thirty days in April (excluding Sundays) using A for day 1, B for Day 2, E for Day 5 and so on. As of today there is already 415 bloggers signed up to take part and it is still more than sixty days until the start.

So where does the visiting fit within this? As you sign up to take part you are asked to commit to visiting five blogs per day. IF, and I know it is Pie in the SKY if, all 415 bloggers followed the directions and visited your blog one day would that top put your highest single day for views? Okay, being realistic, what if 33% or 1/3 of the 415 did it. That is still 138 views coming from a source outside the normal pantheon of Word Press reader and search engines, not to mention your followers.

So there are some really good reasons to try this. As with all things there is some consideration of whether you can commit to doing the required post each day with the letter specified. In my experience the best way to approach this is by having a theme. Some people choose their favorite movie characters, or recipes, or books or whatever interest them. Last year I was doing four blogs and one of my themes was my favorite movie or TV quotes. I also had one with my favorite flowers we plant at our home each summer.

My experience last year was disappointing, but not for any reason that the A to Z crew should have shame. They are quite supportive and the Host, Arlee Byrd and legion of co-hosts reach out regularly to encourage you. My disappointment mixed with some loss of a family member and pet to derail my grand plan. But I have decided to re-purpose the blogs I had published the first third of the month for 2016 and finish this year instead.

So yes, I will be throwing my hat into this ring. I want to see it all the way through this time around and try to visit 300 new blogs this year, which would be 10 each day of April. Not only will I click on the link to the blog, but I intend to read their post and make more than a canned comment.


I Invite you to come back to read about the preparations and also to find out which blogs I will use during the A to Z.


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Happy Dance!

Source: Happy Dance!

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Starting a New Hobby (Part 1)

AUTHOR’s NOTE: This is the first post of a brand new blog I started to share my new endeavor, which is model railroading. Since the blog is new there is no followers, so I thought I would throw my line in here on the mother blog and see if anyone had interest. You can find the new blog here: Alpine & Clinchport Railroad.

I have always loved model train layouts. I can remember the one that triggered my want to make my own. It belonged to a sixty something year old man that lived in a house next door to my grandparents in Weber City, Virginia. If I had a photo of his layout I would insert it here, but at that time 35 years ago I was not a camera owner.

The layout filled a large portion of this man’s basement. I cannot accurately estimate the layout size, but after purchasing the first 4 x 8 sheet of plywood to begin mine I would cautiously frame his as 36 foot by 60 foot. Yes, it was massive. It had numerous trains and tracks with switches galore.

So back to the title of this post: Starting a New Hobby. I have wanted to build a similar layout to what I saw those many years ago, but some things have been a bigger priority. Things like getting married, buying a house, raising two kids, and quite honestly every day life. But as I start the second year of my fifth decade I am ready to transition into this new pursuit.

Over the years there have been other hobbies to fill the void, such as baseball cards when I was 16-24 years old. This was in the 1980s and collecting baseball cards was still a big thing back then.  Now some thirty years later I really have no more desire to keep them, so I have decided to make use of them to fund my new hobby.

One thing I learned pretty quickly is that this new hobby is EXPENSIVE with a capital $$$$$$!!! I thought I could get my toes wet buying an HO train set, you know the packaged ones with everything in them. But the folks at the hobby shop told me I would be better off to start with a hobby grade engine. Of course, being in a hobby shob it was 20-30% above the online price at $89.95 for the lowest price. I declined their very generous offer with plans to find my engine from my friends at Amazon.

Let me assure you the selection on Amazon is limited only by your imagination and choice of engine type. I could have selected either a steam engine model or a diesel and I decided my first would be a diesel type. Then it was just a matter of deciding based on the look of the engine. You can see my choice in the picture that follows. 051

This is a Bachmann Industries EMD GP40 MKT 245 locomotive. Bachmann is one of the larger manufacturer of train locomotives and accessories as I discovered as I plunged into the new world of model trains. I am learning that a lot of people order specific locomotives along the idea of the layout they want to replicate, but since I did not have a plan at the time I bought mine I figured this would do just fine.

As you know a locomotive is no good without a track to ride on, so I turned back to Amazon for it as well. What I settled on was a 16 piece set from Bachmann Trains that formed an oval. You can get this in several styles, but I chose the black rail bed with steel alloy rails.


So I now had two out of the three absolute minimum pieces. What else do you need to run an electric train set? An electric control device. Obviously the deeper you wade into any hobby the more elaborate you can get with any facet of controls. I chose a basic one from Athearn, which is yet another supplier.


Yay, progress shows with the three main items, but there was still something missing. What is a train without some cars? For this angle I chose to visit our friends at eBay. There is a much different experience in this direction, meaning a lot more used items. But with the costs beginning to mount I was satisfied to work on an auction to try to get a few cars for a great deal. (Continued in part 2)



In an auction on eBay I found an offering for what you see above, an older Tyco set of ten train cars. With new train cars anywhere from $15 and up I felt like the $41.19 I paid for this was a pretty fair price.

With everything in hand I set up my layout on a 4 x 8 sheet of heavy plywood. You can see it below.


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NaNoWriMo 2015 – Progress Report

Hello my blog followers, it is I back from the NaNoWriMo Wars!


So you know I took the plunge and committed to the insanity that envelopes the writing world each November, the quest to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I had plenty of trepidation before the starting gun, but am happy to report things are going very, very well. Plus the support of the community doing this with me is incredible!

As I write this I sit at 13,393 words after six days. That is an average of 2,232 words per day. In comparison, 50,000 in 30 days averages to 1,667 per day. Where are all these words coming from? well, I can thank all the movies and shows I have watched over the decades for feeding my ideas to fuel my plot and its development. prog1

Above you can see the dashboard for the site that tracks your progress with many measures. One of the lines I favor is the one that says At This Rate You Will Finish On. In truth I will not finish my novel on November 23, 2015. I may cross the 50,000 line on or around that day, but this baby will be larger than 50,000 when I put The End on it.

November 23 is a good date because I am leaving the country for a week four days later. I think I will probably load up whatever I have by that time onto my Kindle and take it with me to read and look for plot gaps and other “uh-ohs”. That seems like a great opportunity to push back and see what I have. You certainly have no time for it during this thirty day sprint.

So, who wants to know about the plot? Anyone? Anyone? Okay, I heard you over there in the United Kingdom, here you go. This book is about a Iraq/Afghanistan Vet  (still thinking about the time frame) who, due to PTSD has become a serial killer. But his target is very specific, the girl that sent him a Dear john letter while deployed. Now Avery Winston was determined to get her back.

The problem was that in his diminished mental state there was just a couple of main characteristics of his former love, Caroline Mitchell he focused on. unfortunately half a dozen young women with long, curly red hair and emerald eyes have drawn Avery’s attention and fell victim to his bloody spree.

Now Gracie McKinley has crossed Avery’s radar and is likely to be victim number seven. Gracie is a photographer and has unwittingly snapped a photo of Avery’s licence plate. But Gracie has a couple of heroes in the form of F.B.I. agent Layton Spencer and his partner Callie Tremayne. They are narrowing the hunt for Avery and will be Gracie’s best hope for survival.

The novel is set in and around the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Virgina, near where I live and I hope to give the readers and interest of all the area has to offer . . .minus the serial killer of course.


I am not sure if anyone from here is interested in knowing how this grand adventure is going, so if you are give me a comment! I will be back on the 12th for the next update!

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Treat – Weekly Photo Prompt -10/29/15

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Treat.”

This week the Weekly Photo Prompt asks us the share about a treat we love. I am taking the word in one of its many forms as in something I enjoy. Tonight my daughter will complete her last home game as a senior cheerleader and member of the high school marching band. Combined with my son’s years in high school we will close the chapter on eight years of supporting my alma mater high school. The treat for me is watching my kids as they participate in the marching band (my son and daughter’s contribution) and cheerleading (my daughter’s contribution.


My daughter is third from left on the front row.


My daughter is first trumpet back from drum major stand.


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NaNoWriMo – Why Do It?

I agree I might be on the edge of doing something totally insane. Okay, maybe not insane, but some kind of crazy. What is it? I am going to commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in a month’s time.


National Novel Writing Month or #NaNoWriMo as you will se it on all the cool kid’s sites like Twitter Facebook, Instagram et all, is a concentrated effort to get some new book material out of writer’s heads and onto paper, in word processors or wherever people choose to write these days. Amazon, Good Reads and every other online site with any connection to books has to like the concept. I mean, what good is a storefront with nothing to sell?


I am doing it because over the years I have been writing novel length works I have never been published. Stay with me here, I am going to answer this question, it is just a long answer. There are many phases to writing a book. The preplanning is one, the writing a whole BIG other and then publishing perhaps the biggest of all. So really I am doing it first in hopes that this novel will be the one to kick in the door and get a publisher interested in what I write.

Secondly, again going back to the years I have been writing, I have learned to mentally develop a plot to see if it has the legs to be a full blown story. Sometimes you can have a really good story and well developed plot, but a good sized short story is all you can wring out of it. Have no illusion, writing a 75,000 word novel is no walk in the park. The #NaNoWriMo only asks 50,000, which will be tough enough in thirty days.


The plot I chose to develop has been rolling around in my head for nearly three years. Usually within that amount of time if the plot does not continue to develop you know it has to be trashed. This one has only continued to grow and become more interesting. I feel like I would be passing up on the best choice of my working ideas if I let it go.


Whoo! That is a good question. November is a busy month for everyone. I mean it is basically the start of the holiday season. Once you get to the last week, with Thanksgiving, you get into the Christmas slide and time seems to enter an accelerator of some type. AS a matter of fact, I will be departing the U.S.A. for an international mission trip on the 27thof November and with Thanksgiving the day before I am mentally giving myself 25 days to pull this off. I may have some time while away to finish things, but I want to plan as if I don’t.


I need a jump start in my writing and there is nothing like a new project to do that. The excitement of building out characters, setting, Plot and basically the whole ball of wax is invigorating. Pair that with a partner (my wife) that is willing to read and critique and you have a pretty good incentive.

I am also excited about the promised partnering of the folks at the #NaNoWriMo web site. They have developed there involvement so much that they have different regions of the country and groups for each along with coaches and liaisons to assist if you need. I would love to meet other writers/authors, especially those from my local area.


Well, there will be a couple fo ways to do this actually. has several links that will report your progress back to your website or blog. I have inserted these in the right margin of two of my blogs: (1) In the flagship blog, Joe’s Musings. (2) I included it on the Fiction Playground blog. This is where the majority of my blog traffic comes in. I have other blogs, but they just do not get the same amount of attention from me or visitors.

So, taking the time to make this little post has equaled around 750 words or 38% of what I will have to create each day to make the 50,000 word goal. I hope you will cheer me on, encourage and wait breathlessly (while breathing of course) to see if I can cross the line with the thousands of others taking this challenge.

Posted in Fiction, National Novel Writing Month, Novel, Suspense, Suspense Novel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Coming to a Bookshelf Near You – Daily Post – 10-28-15

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Coming To a Bookshelf Near You.”

Today’s Daily Post asks us to write a book summary for the back dust cover of a book we would like to read. I decided to float the germ of an idea I am developing.

It is the year 2090 and the earth is dying. The supposition about Global Warming and Greenhouse Gases have come to fruition and are accelerating the demise of the planet. Countries have been replaced by political regions. The political regions are run by oligarchies.

Siobhan Grinaldi is a young teen in one of the few oligarchies with a concern for the well-being of their citizens. Her father is one of the ruling council and feels relatively confident his family is safe. But he does not know of the coming political change. Or the population reduction plan of the opposing party, one that will threaten Siobhan’s life and that of thousands of other children.

Daily Prompt

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If You Leave – Daily Post – 10/27/15

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “If You Leave.”

Life is a series of beginnings and endings. We leave one job to start another; we quit cities, countries, or continents for a fresh start; we leave lovers and begin new relationships. What was the last thing you contemplated leaving? What were the pros and cons? Have you made up your mind? What will you choose?

After more than a year of no real significant progress I have decided to shelve my current novel in progress. I would have you know I am an aspiring author and still looking for the first novel to launch my career. It is an intimidating process to be sure.

For the last eighteen months I have edited and rewritten the novel and still believe there is hope for it, but I have tired of the process and want another story to tell. I will credit WordPress with he germ of the novel I intend to start in five days. See this post: Daily Prompt – Coming to a Bookshelf Near You

For this prompt you are to come up with the blurb for the back cover of a new novel. My idea involved a girl snapping a photo of the license plate of a serial killer’s truck and him chasing her across the country. I replied to this on November 20th of 2012, so nearly three years ago.

So here I am nearly 1,000 days make this storyter ready to finally make this story come to life. Over that time the characters have developed in my mental picture some and the setting has changed based on a brief anniversary trip I recently completed with my wife.


I decided to get a jump start on the novel by dove-tailing it into rse of thritythe #NaNoWriMo. If you do not know, and I am  sure most of you do, NaNoWriMo is something that ties potential authors to their writing programs and desk during the month of November each year.

Authors are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of thirty days. Oh good, you did the math for me! Yes, that’s right, I will have to average 1,667 words each day to meet the thirty day, 50,000 word goal. Can I do it? I invite you to pop some popcorn and check out the fun as I and thousands of others give it our best shot.

See my posts about #NaNoWriMo here:


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Dogs of My Life – Jack

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This series is in honor of the latest addition to my canine history, Sydney, a Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie pup that will be joining our family on October 17th, 2015. As I approached this date I thought it would be neat for me and hopefully you to see and read about all the dogs in my life that proceeded Sydney.

Of all the previous DoML posts up to now, the unifying matter is that all the previous dogs were ones I had while still unmarried or living at home. There was a long stretch between 1992, the year I married and the year we got the first dog for my son and daughter. My wife had never had a dog growing up, so there was a process of convincing her a dog was important.


Our first choice for a dog was a Labrador/border collie mix. Jack was a small black mainly  Lab looking dog with a very white patch on his chest. I can still remember riding in the back seat holding Jack as we brought him home. While my kids were happy to have a new puppy I felt like a big hole had been plugged in my life.

Jack was my constant companion, following me everywhere I went. At that time we still had a greenhouse business operating and it was the time of year I would plant a couple thousand fall mums to get them ready to sell in September and October. When you arrange them it is in long rows with specific spacing to allow them to grow and spread to a full size. Jack ran through and bumped them, causing the spacing to be off. I cannot tell you how many I had to rest, but I didn’t care, having a dog was worth the trouble.

Unfortunately, Jack was the dog that had the shortest stay with us. At the time we weren’t thinking as much about containment as we needed to be and Jack met an unfortunate end when he did not understand the relationship between a heavy car tire and a little dog. Jack was the first of three dogs that had either part or a full Labrador influence, unless you count the eight Labrador puppies we had in 2007. If you want to read about that adventure you can click here: A Chocolate Lab Summer -Part One and A Chocolate Lab Summer – Part Two.

To read previous posts in this series you can follow the posts here: Snoopy, Puff, Master and Sparky.

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National Novel Writing Month is coming in nine days. So what, you say? Why should I care? Well it is highly possible some novel you read in the next six to eighteen months could see its beginning in the thirty day festival of novel writing that is #NaNoWriMo. Basically, for anyone still in the dark, novel writers commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. While 50,000 words might seem short for a novel, on average there are 250-300 words per page. using this estimate a 50K word novel would constitute around 200 pages.

I can count five manuscripts in my inventory of unpublished works. I will confess I have never tried to do the #NaNoWriMo because the concept is more than intimidating. You will write 1,667 words on average each day to total 50K in thirty calendar days. Keep in mind there is a holiday on November 26th and you eschew that 24 hour period. This year I also will surrender four days of my writing schedule to an international mission trip. While I could still find the time, who knows if I will want to try?

So there are innumerable reasons to shake my head and retreat from this challenge once more, but there is another compelling reason not to: A story dying to be written. It is a concept I have been mentally building out over a few months. But now it is getting ready to hit the fast track and get a full court press to 50K words.

So, what can I do to facilitate this? Well, for the first time in my novel writing adventures I plan to do a flow chart. No, I am not a flow chart expert and it will not be pretty, but I feel like I need to chart out the action and story line so i can write more effectively. I have decided to use the tact of writing individual chapters that focus on one of the characters, and believe I can chart accordingly.

Three Christmases past my wife invested in the Dragon voice dictation program. It is great as far as making the entry a lot faster, once it learns your speech eccentricities. It is not 100% flawless, but it helps quite a bit. What I am hoping for is to connect with other #NaNoWriMo authors to build some community so we can cheer each other on. I would also like to get some others who will gently inquire as to my progress and keep me focused on the goal. Who knows, I might be able to get this thing ready for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award that is coming in Jan-Feb time frame.

Okay, here is the part where I find out how many people who click on my posts read to the end. You are probably asking what will be the subject of this novel. It will be a suspense thriller with an FBI agent chasing a serial killer on the Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina and Virginia.

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