The fellow seen above, an editor, will have his or her work simplified the next time I submit a manuscript to them because of a software program called Grammarly.

Grammarly seems to be a powerful tool to clean up an author’s writing; or anyone’s. As I type, the program is editing my scratches in real-time.

Let me tell you, this is amazing to me. You download the software, and suddenly a little bubble next to your text appears. When you offend your new referee, the drop changes colors, and a little number appears, telling you all the offenses against the English language you just committed. It works on Word docs, webpages, and email. Everywhere.

This is the best thing since sliced bread, let me tell you. Grammarly takes the rough edges off of any document you write, and it is best when you click the corrections bubble it suggests; it doesn’t dictate changes. Sometimes this is handy for stylistic reasons. An example: two characters in a novel are having a conversation. Of course, it doesn’t happen in the King’s English; their conversations are full of flaws. If you mean to keep it this way, Grammarly allows you to save the conversation as is. However, your narration will be flawless. Simply amazing.

Now that I’ve used the program a little, I wonder where it’s been all my life. How it would have made a significant difference in my many manuscripts and web posts. This thing is awesome! No more combing through my posts, and when I publish them, I STILL see mistakes that I have to go back and correct! Frustrating and time-consuming, to say the least.

Grammarly saves you from that.

This software has the potential to speed up my work and deliver an almost clean copy to any editor that I hire in the future. Once again, simply amazing!

Grammarly. Highly recommend.

The Two Mavericks

On a bright and sunny day, an old friend decided to take a road trip with his family and drop in on us here in hilly Appalachia.

He was the satisfied new owner of a Ford Maverick, and the long drive was a test run to check the suitability of his new 2022 Ford Maverick for road trips with his fam. This article is therefore a sort of follow-up on my earlier Maverick review, which you can find by clicking on the link or scrolling down through my older posts.

First, a compare and contrast. Both of our trucks are base model XL’s, which are easily distinguished by the painted steel rims. They are obviously different colors, selected from Ford’s basic palette. The bodies are identical, because all Maverick bodies are the same, regardless of trim level selected.

However, there are important differences between the two. Mine is a gasoline EcoBoost because I wanted AWD. Unfortunately, Ford does not offer AWD in a hybrid. His is a true hybrid with FWD. So, even though the trucks look the same their drivetrains are entirely different. Also, we selected different build options.

Both of us got a tow hitch. At one hundred dollars, you would be crazy not to select the hitch. Then we diverged, as we have different needs for a truck. He selected a snazzy tonneau cover, which in retrospect I wish I would have done; very handy when the snow falls. Me? I went for the HD stuff, the 4k tow package, bed liner, 110v inverter, etc.

They are the same truck, but then again, they are not.

I’ve written at length about my own truck, so I won’t rehash old stuff. I want to talk about his, which really is a different experience.

Second, let’s talk efficiency. My truck is great, at 31.5 mpg averaged across almost nine thousand miles. If you have any experience with small trucks, you know that this is phenomenal. My truck easily beats the rated EPA mileage, and I am very satisfied.

However, my friend’s truck blows my 31.5 mpg average out of the water. On the entire return trip from his home (he lives on the other side of Ohio) he averaged 43(!) mpg in honest mileage with two passengers and their stuff, his average speed was between 70-75 mph.

Holy cow. The hybrid is supposed to get LESS mileage on the highway, because of how it works (mostly electric propulsion in town, gas engine on freeway). So, in a low efficiency setting his truck blew my mileage away by a full twelve mpg. This is astounding.

He has reported trip mileage in the fifties in city driving, and I believe it.

The hybrid Maverick is a clear winner in terms of gasoline usage.

Third, let’s talk capability and utility. We have both used our Mavericks for a whole range of activities. His are more urban, while my usages are generally rural. I’ve talked at length about what my truck has done in my other article, I’d like to talk a little about his.

First, let me point out once more that his truck and mine have different drive trains and tow ratings. His is a 2.5L hybrid with a CVT transmission rated at 2k tow. Mine is a 2.1L turbo with and 8spd tranny and 4k tow. Both have identical cargo capacities at about 1500 lbs.

However, we have both done the thing with these vehicles, and they are more than capable.

I’ll cite kayaks as an example. We have both hauled kayaks in the back of our trucks, but my friend decided his stuck out too far in the bed (his are longer than mine), so he bought a nice little trailer from Harbor Freight.


A very nice set-up, wouldn’t you agree? This falls well within his tow rating, and it emphasizes the point that you really want to get a hitch for this vehicle, even if you think you’ll never use it. Because you will. A 2k tow rating doesn’t seem like much, but you’d be surprised with what this little beast can haul. Log splitters, lawn mowers, a four-wheeler, a big couch, you name it.

Finally, I’d like to speak to overall comfort and value. In this regard, both trucks are identical. Yes, at need you can fit five adults in these vehicles. I have personally rode in the middle seat in the back with my adult kids, and it was tolerable. With three adult passengers? No problems at all, with plenty of space for peoples…stuff.

It seems that my friend and I are still discovering capabilities with these trucks, even after months of ownership. They are engineered that well. Seriously. So many thoughtful nooks and crannies, even the oddly shaped cubby by the multimedia screen has a legit use- I’ve filled it with travel sized Kleenex. It is perfectly shaped for them.

We both love the Apple CarPlay interface, it is seamless and extremely useful.

For an economy truck, Ford has blown up the field. Absolutely destroyed it. No other manufacturer has anything that compares! Not even close.

The 2022 Ford Maverick. After six months and 9000 miles, still thrilled.

The order books for the 2023 models opens August 15th. I’d suggest you go to your local Ford dealer and order one then, because that is your only chance to get one of these fuel-efficient and eminently practical vehicles at MSRP.

You will wait. I waited nearly seven months, and my friend waited ten.

We will both tell you that it’s worth it, and there is close to zero chance that you will find one on the lot.

The Ford Maverick. An awesome little truck! Between my friend and I we have owned a dozen at least, probably more, and we agree hands down the little Mav smokes all of them. In fact, he will tell you that the Mav is the best VEHICLE he has ever owned!

August fifteenth, 2022. Keep that date in mind. Something tells me the 23s will sell out fast- the word of mouth has been strong. Have you seen a single Maverick ad or commercial? I know I haven’t. There has been no need.

I recommend that you act and place an order. Five flippin’ stars.

The Mountain Fiddle

Well friends, I am pleased to report that the surgery upon the old mountain fiddle I bought for forty dollars has been successful.
“Good Old Mountain Dew,” as played by my instructor, Ryan.

Now, I can play this version of the tune as well, but Ryan is the better man on the fiddle. So, I gladly recorded him as he played the old girl. Personally, I thought the mystery Civil War era fiddle turned out great. It’s sound reminds me of one’s grandma singing an old sweet tune out on the porch, with a voice that was once beautiful.

For the full background, see the post about a month back called “The Coffin Case.”

I must say I have eagerly awaited this moment, and I did have some level of fear the old violin would simply fly apart when tuned.

Nope. It acted as it should have, albeit with a few grumpy creaks as the strings went tight.

He’s keeping it for another week for fine tuning, but at this point I am well satisfied.

This relic of our agrarian past will play again.

A lot.

Comfortable work environment

Friends, it is difficult to stress enough how important a comfortable work environment is.

The above chair simply doesn’t fit that description. After last night, I’m putting that POS on the curb.

So, there I was…

You know, the line that clues you in that you are about to hear bullshit. Except this is not bullshit. It is a tale of woe and pain.

So, there I was, trying to make things happen in my latest novel. I chose the room in my house where I can close the doors and get some stuff done without a million and six distractions. It’s pretty good. Well lit, a good desk, pleasing mellow colors, etc. There is one problem, however, and last night was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The desk chair is atrocious. I’m pretty sure it’s a thirty dollar special purchased from a large retailer. It looks OK. Trust me, it is not. My back still aches this morning, in fact.

As I typed away last night, an awful pain started to build between my shoulder blades and it began to move downwards, eventually claiming my entire spine. My hands began to tingle, and I had to force the words onto the page. My goal was eight hundred, and the conclusion of the chapter I was working on.

I felt like a marathon runner when I slammed the last words onto the page. My back was screaming at me; it was all I could do to finish up my admin work and wrap up my writing.

A few minutes later I lay in bed, it took a good hour to stretch out and find some level of comfort.

This morning, I sat in our comfy IKEA chairs in the living room and typed out this web post without a problem. The thought dawned on me; perhaps the issue was that cheap chair. Yes, to a certain extent my back always hurts, and my left hand suffers some degree of numbness. This is nothing new; it’s the result of combat operations a long time ago.

However, the cheap chair in the study takes the pain to a whole new level.

Friends, that chair is going on the trash pile.

It shouldn’t feel like you just shoveled up a whole heap of manure while writing. As of this moment, I’m switching work locations and that chair simply must GO.

Comfortable work environment= a must.

Hit time

BLUF: The buddy system works.

Hey, readers.

Today’s subject is the importance of accountability when committing to any long-term goal. Such as writing a novel. You need to have hit times, Army slang for deadlines. Without clear and hard guidelines you will go astray. I’ve re-learned this recently. Very recently.

You see, I’ve been a tad adrift as of late. So many distractions and bad stuff going on. It’s been very difficult to concentrate. To see the mission clearly. To write.

Had a conversation with a friend and mentor, we both needed a hand. He suggested setting aside a block of time in our mutual time zones where we could meet briefly and get work done. A two hour block, where we would do nothing but writer stuff. Period. We agreed to meet Sunday my time through Thursday, 1900-2100 local.

We planned a brief check in, then an immediate progression to work. This Thursday past was our first work session, and I’d like to report success.

It went mostly as planned for both of us. He had a medical commitment, so he rang me up while driving and we talked things over. When we hung up, I reviewed my past work, and then I started to type. On his end, he did his appointment, returned home, and produced.

Friends, I kicked out 1200 words in just under two hours. This, after months of very slow activity. It really helped to have a clear, unambiguous block of time reserved to write, as well as a reporting obligation to my friend and partner. As I should have known from my Army years, the buddy system works for a reason.

Basically, we pushed each other. He got stuff done, and so did I. For the first time in months, really. We plan to continue this approach for the time being, until the both of us climb out of the hole.

In short, if you are struggling to meet some goal, it really does help to have a partner who will hold your feet to the fire.

This can be unpleasant, but so is missing a deadline.

To anyone who has emailed me

What a cock-up.

I recently discovered that my email account has gone haywire and started to automatically delete almost anything sent to my account. I have an idea that this has been going on for quite some time, including messages from this account.

The stupid server marks stuff as “spam” and then immediately deletes it.

So, to people who may have contacted me and been pissed off that I did not reply, this is the reason. If so, give it another shot.

I changed the settings, so now I should receive stuff.