Weekly Journal

Here's a compilation of everyday thoughts and articles I've written. Many have been published as part of my recurring columns in the News Messenger, the twice-weekly paper in Montgomery County, Virginia.


* * I'm learning how emergency rooms work.


In recent weeks, I have been working simultaneously to finish The Spine of the Virginias and to start my new book, Union, WV.

With regards to the former, I have planned a trip to the far Southwest corner of the Spine, the junction point where Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky come together.  I will depart for this trip tomorrow.  My friend Benton Ward who I have met through the process of writing this book, will be my escort.  The junction happens to be in the middle of the Tug Fork River (Wet feet, anyone?).  I plan to spend the night with Benton and his wife Frances at their home in the community of Yukon, near War.  Benton, a retired coal miner, is a colorful character and I always enjoy my conversations with him.

With regards to the latter, I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the fictional situations that will happen in the life of my protagonist.  On his way from his home in Washington, DC area to Union, West Virginia, he suffers a serious motorcycle accident.  I spent an hour last week talking with a local emergency room doctor here in Blacksburg named Jane Weiseman who helped me understand the process of saving the life of an accident victim.  She invited me to see the emergency room at our local hospital, Montgomery Regional.  On Friday, I met her again at the emergency room and she showed me some of the equipment she uses.  I also had a conversation with a woman named Jennifer Redd who has split time in her career between being an emergency room nurse and an emergency medical technician in the field.  She was helpful as well.  I always appreciate the willingness of the people I meet to assist me in my understanding of their work and interests.

Much of the fun of writing these books is meeting new people and learning new things.  With their help, my novel will be more accurate and plausible.

Back on the road,



* * Update on the Spine, and a new book is forming in my head...


The Spine of the Virginias is non-fiction.  I have been working on it for over two years.  It is now in "final" editing and is being read for the first time by a couple of volunteer readers, checking for any last-minute errors.  It has been typeset for a 6 X 9 book along with several graphics.  The end is in sight.

If you asked me a month ago what I was going to do when it was done, I would have said, "I don't know."  In the meantime a new book has formed in my head.  This is fiction, to be called, Union, WV.  In the course of work on The Spine, I have become enchanted with the tiny Monroe County community of Union. 

In Union, WV, an angry, self-absorbed young man from Northern Virginia visits an elderly great-uncle in Union.  Along the way, he is hurt seriously in an accident and must convalesce in Union.  He sees the cooperative spirit that typifies small towns and as he heals physically, he also heals emotionally and intellectually. Coincident with their story is a story of an ancestor who fought in the Civil War, who also bears physical and emotional scars.

I am beginning the process of research and interviews that I hope will help my write an accurate account of a plausible life in contemporary Union.

Thanks for reading and your continuing interest in my literary work.





* * Meeting new friends along the Spine


A couple of weeks ago, Jane and I went to Marlinton and Green Bank to do research for one of the last chapters of the book. While in Marlinton, we stayed at a nice Bed and Breakfast in Marlinton.  We met a man named Nic from Ottawa, Canada.  He was riding a Honda VFR and was touring the Virginias and North Carolina. 

Nic stayed with us for a couple of days before heading to the coalfields, upon my suggestion.  He and I did a nice afternoon tour around Montgomery, Floyd, Patrick, and Franklin counties. 

He did a very nice slide show with captions that you can see here:


(This may take a second or two to load as it converts from French to English)

Thanks to Nic for sharing this with us.




* * Wishing Bob McGraw in Tazewell all the best 


Last week was an emotional week.  As I am continuing to edit the book, I am also working on occasional articles for publication in various newspapers and magazines.  I was asked by the editor for Blue Ridge Country magazine to write an article on Bob McGraw, a Civil War historian and reenactor from Tazewell, VA.

Writing the article was easy because all of the research had been done earlier for his inclusion in the book.

I met Bob perhaps a year ago.  At the time he seemed healthy enough.  He is in his mid-50s.  I saw him again at the reenactment he organizes near the Crab Orchard Museum in Tazewell each spring.

The last time I saw him, I joined him for lunch at his favorite café in Tazewell just a few months ago.  He had a bandage around his ear lobe.  He told me that he had had a brush with melanoma and had a cancerous growth removed from his ear.  I wished him well and didn't give it much more thought.

After completing this short article, I called him to arrange to send it to him for his blessing.  The voice on the other end of the line was barely recognizable.  Bob told me that he was in a hospital and would soon be returning home for placement into hospice care.  His cancer had returned with a vengeance.

I was unable to discuss the article with him and uncertain as to whether to run it.  My gut told me that he would want it printed, as it has been a passion in his life to educate people about the Civil War.

I had met his wife Anita once, and only briefly.  I left a message for her on her home phone which she returned in a few days later.  She told me that Bob, acting quite in character, had likened his situation to General Lee at Appomattox.  Lee's battle against Grant was honorable but ultimately futile.  Surrender was the only reasonable option.  Bob's battle against cancer was similarly futile.  It was time to surrender.

I spoke with my editor again and we decided to move forward with the article.  As of today, I am awaiting a couple of sentences from Bob's wife with her thoughts about him that we can include with the article.  If you'd like to get to know this caring and interesting man, please visit the website Anita has established for him at:


In my blog next week, I will give a progress report on the book.  Until then, best wishes and thanks for reading. 



* * To Lewisburg, Marlinton, and Green Bank

Hello all,

Jane and I rode our Honda Pacific Coast motorcycle this week to Lewisburg, Marlinton and Green Bank, West Virginia, to do research for the penultimate vignette for the book. We had a great ride in mostly clear, hot weather. We met another rider at our Bed and Breakfast in Marlinton who is from Canada. He's coming by to spend some more time with us.

The editing process is still underway as is the search for an appropriate publisher. Thanks for staying interested in my book!