In 2004 I left my corporate role as architect, a designing man, who writes (promotions, reports and plans throughout my career), and began a second career as a writer of books. I soon learned I wasn’t done designing, and added scheming and plotting. I found my new journey to be a constant exploration of the man versus nature and his fellow man — a main theme in my works. In the current decade, with the increased frequency of forest fires, floods and violent weather, this once distant murmur has become a loud drumbeat. Along the way, I’ve learned many things about the business, techniques and features of the rapidly changing industry of writing and publishing.
My purpose here is twofold: First, I’ll update you, in my Designing Man Blog, with industry news, my own evolving views, and reviews of the best books I’ve come across. In A Writer’s Journey, on my Writer Insider subdomain, I’ll continue to evolve a free online resource on the writing craft, the changing world of publishing and the new world of promotion in the internet age. As an architect who writes, I’ll keep you informed about local literary events and writing groups, and offer full information about my books and short stories, both biography and mystery, on my monthly Designing Man newsletter and Pete’s Bookshop, an online store, with its frequent bonus offerings, discounts and bargains.
Please join me in my own writer’s journey. To make sure you don’t miss a single post or issue of Designing Man News, or new installment of A Writer’s Journey, please sign up in the sidebar or on my about-contact page.
My writer’s journey began with letters I wrote home from college. Yes, we had long distance telephone service in those early times, but the good stuff — detailed descriptions of my doings, parental advice and our deepest feelings — were best expressed in those long, thoughtful ramblings, often written late …
Lockdown blues getting you down? Does the TV news sound the same every day? Remember those years when you discovered how to escape with a good book? It could take you to exotic places, earlier times or new adventures. In The Turn of the Key, (Scout Press/ Simon & Schuster, …
Too much togetherness: today’s social distancing, stay-home rules and self-quarantine are taking a toll. Although my physical state may survive, I wonder if my metal stability will. The term “togetherness” was coined in the 1950s — after the boys from World War II came home. It was the consummation wives had so devoutly wished. Children were reunited with their fathers — or with those pioneer women who also served in the WACs, WAVES , WAAF and the other military auxiliaries. A popular song of the day told it all:
When the boys come home
We’ll all be as merry
As merry as may,
When the boys come home.
Social observers called it togetherness. (for humorous eyewitness accounts of that era, please check out my biographies on the Books page). At last, after long separation from loved ones, we could again have some family time, Then came the 60s, and all that goodwill and bonhomie began to cloy. We mocked "togetherness" as a phony answer to the fragmentation of family in the new hustle of post-war life. Sick comedy was born, featuring Shelley Berman, Dick Gregory, Lenny Bruce and the button-down mind of Bob Newhart. Bob even made a recent comeback as Professor Proton, one of Sheldon’s childhood heroes, in The Big Bang Theory TV series.
Then pandemic struck
Now we have the stay-home order, presently the only effective means of containing the spread of the wildly contagious coronavirus. All kidding aside, folks, this is an urgent measure, which we should all observe as long as it is necessary. For you, for me, for our families, friends neighbors and our whole way of life, this is deadly serious business.
We must remain vigilant, however, against a cure worse than the disease. After weeks of family time some wives are ready to employ their carving knives against their husbands, who in turn are plotting to feed them their own week-old lasagna as a midnight snack. Children threaten to commit bloody murder against their siblings — or their parents against them. Before you know it, due to togetherness, the cure will be worse than the disease it is meant to remedy.
Signs of stress
Symptoms of the problem are popping up everywhere On our Next Door neighborhood channel, neighbor Mark Sides has chronicled the ill effects the lock-down is having on him, to wit:
I used to spin that toilet paper like I was on Wheel of Fortune. Now I turn it like I’m cracking a safe.
I need to practice social distancing from the refrigerator.
Still haven’t decided where to go for Easter– The Living Room or The Bedroom.
PSA: every few days try your genes on just to make sure they fit. Pajamas will have you believe all is well in the kingdom.
Home schooling is going well: two students suspended for fighting and one teacher fired for drinking on the job.
I don’t think anyone expected that when we change the clocks we go from Standard Time to The Twilight Zone.
This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came into my house told my dog… we laughed a lot.
So, after this quarantine… Will the producers of My 600 Pound Life just find me or do I find them?
Mark penned a lot more great stuff in his post, but I hesitate to expose it too widely. I might ruin his chances of launching a new career (which he and the rest of us will doubtless need) in standup comedy after this mess is all over. Furthermore, we’ve got to head off, not just spread of the the Covid 19 virus, but the aftermath of this compulsory confinement. Don’t you just hate it when the police and fire department and then the forensic team — those dedicated first responders in moon suits, N95 masks and protective gloves — descend on your house? And then the the lawyers, the courtrooms, the prison visits and all that bother. Must we put ourselves through this — really?
Tip: make homemade hand sanitizer…
Our dear friend Eleanor has developed a constructive way to pass her extra time at home, while advancing social distancing form germs. And none too soon: the price of hand sanitizer has gone through the roof. Most Instacart Shoppers won’t even bother to search for it on the empty shelves. Here’s her solution, literally:
The recipe for hand sanitizer is 4 parts alcohol to 1 part aloe (I used Banana Boat aloe – green and goopy). Alcohol should be at least 70%. I used 91% because I found it. If running low on wipes around the house, put some on a piece of clean rag to save any commercial wipes for being out of the house. I found the aloe to be real goopy so I combined it in a glass with the alcohol. Easier to funnel all of it in container then. I would rather give out a recipe for banana bread than sanitizer, but that is not the world now.
No trademark on recipe-pass it on.
Stay safe. Eleanor
If your are careful to use Banana Boat brand, and make no other substitutions in the recipe, you will stay safe, especially if your are serving banana bread at dinner.
…or work a jigsaw puzzle
Frankly, in such high-tension togetherness situations, our family has always favored one peaceful pastime. Whenever we visit our daughter Lisa’s family in Houston during those crazy, lazy days of summer or the compressed and stressful winter holidays, she breaks out a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Puzzling like this, we can while away long evenings and many idle hours in peaceful harmony. Last year at Christmas, she gave me a welcome present — a double-sided jigsaw puzzle. As an architect, I loved the photo of Fallingwater, the iconic Pennsylvania house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. True, it was double the fun, but it doubled the trouble. At one point, I got stumped, and you’ll quickly understand why when you see this:
There were not enough visual clues to finish one side of the puzzle. Click on the video link above to see how I solved the problem.
According to the experts, social distancing is the only measure available to slow the spread of coronavirus until a vaccine is developed in a year or so. So many of us are stuck inside, and ought to remain until the pandemic subsides. For sure, we are sticking close to home. …
Winter is a wonderful time to curl up with a good book, especially well written works. Lately, I’ve been enjoying a 1941 anthology I became heir to: Great Short Novels, edited by Edward Weeks, a 1941 publication (Doubleday, Garden City Press), which has been passed along by my family ever …
Good reviews continue to arrive for Chicago’s Designs, the latest two from authoritative sources, encouraging our elves to keep the benefits flowing from the Greenskills workshop. James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review, Oregon, Wisc., wrote: A deftly scripted mystery with more unexpected twists and unanticipated turns than a Disney …
Ever met a real patriot ? I’ll bet you have one or more in your own family–one who has served our country in the military, in government or as a first responder. Let’s not forget the women, like my mother, with two young children, and the nineteen million others who …
Isn’t organized crime, “the mob,” a thing of the past? Not so, according to Brian Bardsley, Jr., Chicago Police SWAT Team leader and medical response specialist. It has merely gone respectable, although not legit. Over a half-century ago, after the FBI, the Kefauver Commission and RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and …
NASA aerial photos, before (above) and after (below), show the Great Flood of ’93. The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers expanded to a huge lake, which isolated the City of St. Louis and suburbs as a barely accessible island in a great Midwestern sea.
On Memorial Day our thoughts turn to our own military heroes, past and present, who have helped defend our country and our way of life. The what-ifs, if we had not resisted and prevailed—a world under fascism? —are chilling. Wherever your father, grandfather, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters or …