Writing is Hard. So Why is being Forced to Stay Home Making it Harder?

I am not getting much done on my books. I have health problems and ‘m forced to stay home and away from people. So why can’t I get more writing done?

You would think that forced isolation would be great for a writer. But even introverts need social contact. Two weeks ago I ran two zoom meetings and participated in two other zoom meetings. Last week it was three zoom meetings. To show you how I feel about zoom meetings, like the one I’m running tonight, here’s a quote from a play you won’t recognize; “It’s not the same, captain. It’s not the same.” or “Last Thanksgiving was awful, just a food supplement pill with turkey written on it.” Zoom meetings are great but they’re not the same as being there.

The above line is important. A recent NPR broadcast said most millennials have not watched or seen “Gone With the Wind”. Young people do not care, or resist, or hate anything older than they are. This is good for writers. Young people want new stories. (and yes I know of one writer that takes old stories form the thirties and forties, doctors them a little and sells them).

With all these people looking for new stories it is the greatest time to be a writer. All those old writers aren’t selling and are not competition for today’s writers. Who’s going to read a book from the seventies, even a classic, that story is so last millennium.

So what’s keeping me from my writing. Is it the old problem in psychology, where you have to heal yourself. Like how do you stop acting a certain way or stop thinking a certain way. It doesn’t work that way. People are not a light switch. Maybe my friends and family are more important than my writing. Maybe I am more important than my writing. Maybe I have a lot of things to do that are not writing.

I haven’t eaten out in three months. No take out or delivery. I have made two trip of 13 miles in the last three months, and one of those was to a doctor’s office. Other than that, I go to the grocery store once every two weeks, and I worry that I will mess up and get the virus every time I step out the door.

And you know what, I am lucky. I have a friend who is over 80 years old. He can’t leave his house. He has people that make sure he doesn’t step out the front door, and it’s starting to get to him. (80 percent of virus fatalities are people over 80).

You think being stuck at home is bad. In college I got a letter. It said the deferment for the draft for college students was cancelled and I was 141 on the draft list. Not only was I not going to graduate, but I was going to be sent off to where there was a good chance I would be killed, like so many of my friends and family. So if you’re a writer, then write. If you’re a reader, then read. And yes, it can be worst.


Fudge in 5 minute

1 cup 12 ounces evaporated milk
3 1/3 sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup nuts
3 cups small marshmallows
12 ounces package chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla

Line 9 by 9 inch high sided pan with wax paper or butter bottom and sides of Pyrex dish.
Butter sides and bottom of large skillet. Add milk, sugar and salt to skillet. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for for five minutes.
Remove from heat and add marshmallows and chocolate chips. Caution the mixture is hot. Stir until marshmallows and chips are melted.
Stir in vanilla and nuts. Pour into buttered or wax paper lined disk.
Let cool over night. You can refrigerate for several hours to speed up cooling.
Cut into small squares.

Stay strong and write on, and hang in there.

Professor Hyram Voltage

A Talking to People Contest and Cinnamon Rolls

Last week I attended four zoom meetings. Three of the meeting I hosted. Of those three meetings, two of them I generated an agenda and after the meeting I generated minutes.

So what did I do this weekend. I competed in a contest to talk to as many people, one on one, as I could, using radios. In this contest I get to use the highest frequency radios I have. Up to five gigahertz. My 10.7 gigahertz radios need repair. That’s not cell phones either.

This was a nation wide contest, although I would have gladly talked to anyone around the world. The atmospheric conditions only allowed me to contact stations in Canada and Mexico. Still that a thousand kilometers away.

Why would I sit for a day and a half working with a computer controlled (no internet was used) radios talking to people. Because it’s fun. I also get bragging rights, about how many people I talked to, how good my equipment worked.

I now have plans for the next contest in August. I have to get the 10.7 gigahertz radios fixed. I gotta figure out the fine details of using SDR radios. I need to get the 55 foot tower up, but city hall is closed and I need a building permit. There are bugs in the system to work out. And I have to try out everything before August. You don’t go into a contest without a dry run or the contest will be a lot less fun, with easily avoidable headaches.

The standard old add; Buy my book;


The bread making is getting under control. The last loaf was not as light as I would have liked. But it’s good enough to get eaten. The dough is very sticky after being mixed. The loaf did fall a little when I put it in the oven. Next time I taking some of the dough and making cinnamon rolls.

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls


1 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
3 1/3 cups bread flour plus flour to flour working surface and hands
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 dash of ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped and lightly toasted nuts


Gently warm milk (place cup of milk in microwave for 30 seconds (at 1000 watts, you want warm milk, not icy cold or boiling hot.). Add milk to bucket in bread machine. Add sugar to milk. Add yeast to to mixture. Lightly beat egg and add to mixture. Let mixture set for three minutes.

Add flour to mixture. Add salt to top of flour. Do not let salt get into liquid.

Set bread machine to dough cycle.

When cycle is finished, scoop dough out onto floured table top or other working surface. Knead dough about 1 minute, then let rest 15 minutes.

Roll dough into a rectangle, about 15 x 10 inches.

Spread 1/4 cup melted butter over dough to within 1 inch of edges (use brush if you have one). Mix sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar, the cinnamon, nutmeg, and sprinkle (I use an old aluminum shaker) over buttered surface. Now distribute chopped nuts evenly over dough.

Roll dough up tightly on long side. Press edges to seal and form into a 10 to 15 inch long, evenly shaped roll. With a knife or 8 inch long piece of dental floss, cut roll into 1 inch pieces. Place rolls cut side down into a greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Cover with towel and let rise in warm, draft free place until double in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheated oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on rack for 10 to 15 minutes.

To make icing. Combine 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 to 2 tablespoons milk and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Stir until smooth. If too thin or too thick, add more powdered sugar or milk, respectively, until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle icing over rolls. Let icing firm up.

Cut rolls apart and remove from pan.

Stay strong, write on, and in this time of isolation, reach out and talk to someone. Even if you’re an introvert and need a contest to get you to talk to a stranger.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Tired of Reading Bang-bang Shoot Em Up Spaceopera?

May I recommend a literary science fiction book written by a philosopher.

Olaf Stapledon was a British philosopher that wrote science fiction books in the 1930s. These are not fast paced, light-reading, but his books influenced many later science fiction authors. He introduced many ideas to science fiction.

His book Odd John started the whole mutant super human trope that also appear as heroes in comic book. The trope got very over done in the 1970s.

His writing is in the style of the 1930s. It’s flowery, at times even purple prose. Strunk and White railed against overly flowery writing in their book the The Elements of Style. If you don’t have a copy of the Elements of Style, get one and read it, very couple of months. My English teachers told me that over and over.

His book The Star Maker has been called a history of the universe. A big statement. When he wrote the book, Black Holes were a mathematical concept. It was not until 1958 that a book came out that made Black Holes a popular concept. In the 1930s liquid fueled rockets were just being experimented with and some people argued that they could not work. The V2 would come crashing down on that idea a few years later. Galaxies had just been determined to be object like the Milky Way, not part of the Milky Way. There were no Cell Phones back then, it was primitive.

So plow through one or more of his books. You will find that ideas we think of as modern go back a long ways.

Someone has to thinks the books are good. They are out of copyright, but Amazon still charges top dollar for them.


I’m baking another loaf of bread. I’ll let you know how it came out next week.

Bacon recipe

Sugar Crisp Bacon

1 pound thick-cut bacon
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup brown sugar
Optional thin, very thin sliced apple pieces

Stay strong, write on, and make it with bacon.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Lunch with Ray Bradbury and Peanut Brittle

I had lunch with Ray Bradbury back in the 1970s. I know, that was before you were born. Still he was one of the classic science fiction writers. He sold his first story in 1938 so he had been writing for a long time before I first met him.

He considered himself a fantasy writer rather than a science fiction writer. But with a book titled The Martian Chronicles I still think of him as a science fiction writer. (Someone once said that Mr. Bradbury admitted that he knew when he wrote the book that Mars was nothing like he was writing about).

What did he have for lunch. I don’t remember. I do remember that I asked all the usual dumb questions people ask famous writers. I was young, but I had never been to a science fiction convention. I had read every science fiction book in the town’s public library, and had asked the ladies that ran the library to get more science fiction books. I had read all of my friends Analog magazines because I couldn’t afford my own subscriptions. Not bad for someone that grew up in a small town in the middle of the desert.

I didn’t know anything about writing or writers. I still don’t, but I have come to believe that nobody knows nothing about writing.

Example; have you every stopped reading a story because it was written using the snowflake method of plotting instead of the three act structure method? Would you care. Of course not, you, the reader, want a good story.

Mr. Bradbury once said, “Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through. That is all Plot ever should be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal. It cannot be mechanical. It can only be dynamic.”

Can you tell if Harry Potter was written with a three act plot structure? Do you care? Does it matter?

If you’re anything like me you just want another good story to read. But most people have and hard time telling someone what a good story is. “I know it when I see it,” just doesn’t cut it.

Me, I’m going to follow the foot steps in the snow. I don’t want to see what’s coming. I don’t want formula.

Was it a waste to have lunch with great writer. No, it made for good memories and a learning experience.


I have cut back on my bread eating this week. All this stay at home stuff is hard on the old waist line. I didn’t make a loaf of bread this week.

I’ve got a sweet tooth. Not a good thing to have while locked in a house.

Peanut Brittle
Microwave directions. The cooking times vary based on the wattage of your microwave.

Cook Time: 9 Minutes
Prep Time: 7 Minutes

⦁ 1 cup sugar
⦁ 1/2 cup light corn syrup
⦁ 1/8 teaspoon salt
⦁ 1 1/2 cups shelled raw peanuts
⦁ 1 tablespoon butter
⦁ 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⦁ 1 teaspoon baking soda

Lightly grease baking sheet.
Microwave first 3 ingredients in a 2-quart glass bowl on HIGH 5 minutes, using an 1100-watt microwave oven. (Microwave 1 more minute if using a 700-watt microwave.)
Stir in peanuts. Microwave 3 more minutes in an 1100-watt oven (add 1 more minute in 700-watt oven). Stir in butter and vanilla.
Microwave 45 seconds in an 1100-watt oven (add 1 more minute in 700-watt oven) or until candy is the color of peanut butter.
Stir in baking soda (mixture will bubble). Working quickly, spread hot candy in a thin layer onto a lightly greased baking sheet using two metal forks.
Cool completely. Break candy into pieces.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage