Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Remembering Anthony Bourdain

I wonder if Anthony Bourdain had any idea how much he was respected, admired, and loved before he took his life on June 8?

Anthony Bourdain
I didn't know Bourdain other than through his TV persona in his programs on The Travel Channel (No Reservations) and CNN (Parts Unknown). I hadn't read his bestselling books, although I can see how his writing skills carried over into his shows. They flowed from one scene to the next to a satisfying conclusion.

Bourdain definitely had a screen presence—a slender 6-foot-4, wavy gray hair, and tattooed torso. He exuded a self-confidence that he was willing to try most anything. A zest for making the most out of life. Perhaps because he had erased the demons of drugs and alcohol from his body.

I liked his honest and straightforward opinions. He was fresh and blunt. He didn't try curry favor. He was true to himself and his viewers. A mutual respect

was an excellent interviewer, never getting in the way of interviewee and allowing them to express their thoughts because he was also a listener and learner. He didn't seek out the rich and famous as he was comfortable with everyday folks. He had a sense of humor but it wasn't meanspirited toward others.

Although he bordered on being bold and brash at times, displaying what Southerners might refer to as a New York attitude, there was an empathy inside that revealed how much he cared about others.

And Bourdain allowed viewers to experience vicariously the pleasures of travel to various destinations, taste exotic foods and drinks, observe other cultures, and, in the process, bring the world closer together because of his humanity.

Here are a few remembrances and tributes about the 61-year-old chef, raconteur, and writer:

Until the next time . . .

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Writer Suicides and More

This past week we have read about the suicides of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade.

Anthony Bourdain
Bourdain was a noted chef, best-selling author, and TV personality, known most recently for his award-winning program on CNN, "Parts Unknown. " It was always fun going along on the ride with him because he seemed willing to try most anything. He knew how to really travel and experience other cultures. He was 61. 

Kate Spade
I wasn't familiar with Spade, who gained fame and fortune from designing handbags and other fashion items. That's probably the reason her name didn't register with me (I don't buy purses). My wife knew of her and her high-end products. Spade used her considerable creative talents to build an impressive and influential company that inspired other entrepreneurs. She was 55. 

I was reading an interview with Bourdain in The Paris Review this morning and he mentioned the late Hunter S. Thompson as one of his literary heroes. I found it interesting when Bourdain noted: 

"I always sort of feel mixed emotions when I hear that people went and hung out with Hunter and how great it was to get high with Hunter. The fact is the guy was having difficulty doing any sustained writing at all for years probably because so many quote, unquote, “friends” wanted to get high with him …"

I wondered if Bourdain was suffering from similar difficulties of trying to live up to expectations of others as well as the curse of fame?

There have been other notable suicides among writers including Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf,  David Foster Wallace, Michael Dorris, Harry M. Caudill, and Richard Brautigan.  The list is quite extensive.

Others who attempted suicide include luminaries such as Raymond Chandler, Robert Penn Warren, and Kurt Vonnegut

 The Atlantic reported a Swedish study in 2012 that revealed authors are twice as likely to commit suicide as they are "overrepresented among people with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety syndrome, and substance abuse problems."

In the United States, the overall suicide rate of the general population increased about 24 percent from 1999-2014—from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 people. There were 44,965 in 2016, an astounding average 0f 121 a day. Veterans have been susceptible to suicide, accounting for 18 percent of the adult deaths. And baby boomers, too.

Read about the eight signs for those at risk for suicide that include talking about suicide, feelings of guilt, drug use or excessive alcohol use, buying a firearm, and health issues. And here's another article about how to recognize a person at risk for suicide. 

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Until the next time . . . 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Writing Advice: My Take on Finding Time to Write

You're not going to find anything new here about managing time so you can write. There are blogs and articles galore about how to eke out minutes or hours to work on your masterpiece.

But here's my two cents' worth on what I've learned from writing 12 books including eight novels:

  • When working on a first draft, I try to write in the predawn hours (I'm an early riser), when it's dark outside and relatively quiet. I have a timer on my coffee machine so the hot brew is ready when I go to my study and sit in front of the computer.
  • I don't go online. I don't need distractions. I'm here to write. I have a cell phone but I'm not glued to it (a generational thing?) but it's turned on in case of an emergency involving family and friends.
  • I generally have a good idea about what I'm going to write because I close the previous day's session with a hook to pick up where I where I stopped. And I give more thought about it, probably subconsciously as well, in the interim. That includes writing notes (I don't trust my memory anymore) to keep focused.
  • I usually write for a minimum of one hour but it can stretch to two or three if I'm really in a groove. There was a time, when I was a younger man, that I could write for several hours (four or more), only breaking for liquid refreshment or going to the bathroom. I find that I can accomplish a lot in one hour, leaving me somewhat mentally spent. So I like to believe that it's quality, more so than quantity time. 
  • I do use a general outline at the start of a project, but it doesn't bother me to stray from those early plans. That's part of the fun of writing: learning more about your characters and where they take you. And I have a good idea how the story will end, although it may take some twists and turns getting there. That's the fun part as well.
  • When I'm finished with the first draft, I sit on it for a week or so, maybe even a month or longer, before going back to it. I like to have fresh eyes when I read it again. On rewrites and revisions, I generally work in afternoons or evenings. I find that's the best time to reflect on what's been written. 
  • Working on a first draft or rewrites, I know that life sometimes gets in the way of best intentions. I prioritize. Family matters most. Other daily activities such as reading and exercise are important to me as well. I can be flexible to work around those events.
  • Lastly, I write every day when working on a book. If something interrupts me in the morning, then I write before going to bed. Writing begets writing.  

Do you have any secrets, rituals, and advice on finding the time to write?

Until the next time . . . 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

WIP Update: Time to Rewrite

It's time to go back to the beginning of my work-in-progress and start the rewrite process.

I've written about 85k words since the first of the year, not a great total, but I'm at the point where I can start the rewrite on the third book in the "John Ross Boomer Lit" series.

As mentioned in a previous post, I'm actually working on the fourth book as well. I'll continue to do that while I rewrite the third book. The WIP has two  distinct parts -- the European vacation and what awaits John and Sally when the return home.

My goal is to finish the third book by the end of July. But it could be  sooner, or later. I'll know when it's ready to submit to my publisher and editor. 

It is still my intention to see it published in 2018, and the book four about six months later. I already know what I'll be writing about in book five. 

But for now, I'm going to take a short break from writing, perhaps a week, before embarking on this next step.

Until the next time . . .

Friday, May 25, 2018

Writing Advice: My Take on Finishing a Novel

I recently heard from a friend working on a debut novel, asking for my advice on how to get past the middle part and get to the end.

His problem was that he'd written the first part, three chapters, and knew how it was going to end, but was stuck in the middle, staring a those proverbial blank pages. He wanted to know what to do.

My advice was to go ahead and write the final chapter(s), then go backward and fill in the missing parts that lead to the ending. 

I thought the most important thing for him to do was to write, not to get hung up on the overall story. I know quite a few authors who knocked out about 50 pages, then hit the wall and gave up. It happened to me a couple times before I finally worked through it with my first novel, The Touch, in 1998. 

It's also important for the writer to understand that the words their putting down is simply the first draft. They'll be amazed how the novel grows and develops over subsequent rewrites and revisions before they reach "The End."

Above all, I believe the key to success is to write every day, be it 15 minutes or 15 hours. For me, I write through the difficult days, often discovering later that those passages gave me deeper insights into my story.

How would you tackle my friend's dilemma? 

If you have any questions about writing that you'd like me to address, leave it in the "comment" box below or send it privately to my email (I won't disclose your name).

Until the next time . . .  

Friday, May 18, 2018

Quick Update on WIP

It's been nearly three weeks since I last posted anything about my work in progress (actually, it'll be three weeks tomorrow).  

Time flies by when you're immersed in writing.

And I've been busy writing each and every day, topping 80k words, so that's why you haven't heard from me. The sequel to "Darkness Beyond the Light," is coming along and the first draft should be completed in the next week or so.

As mentioned in a previous post, it appears that what I'm working on will be divided into two books; in other words, a fourth novel in the "John Ross Boomer Lit" series. We'll see.

So that's where I stand at this point in time. I hope to announce to everyone in the next week or so that I'm about to delve into the rewriting phase. 


I've got two library appearances lined up:

June 20 at the Montgomery County Public Library in Mount Sterling, Ky. I'll be discussing my work and taking questions, and trying to provide answers. It begins at 7 p.m. (ET).

July 14 at the Warren County Public Library, Bob Kirby Branch, for its Indie Author Fair. It runs from 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. (CT)


I'm also involved in the Bluegrass Writers Coalition in Frankfort, Ky. It's open to writers of all levels in central Kentucky. The next meeting is June 14, 5:30 p.m., at the Thorn Hill Learning Center.

Until the next time . . . 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Travel Programs for Travelers

Those who know me, or follow me here or on Facebook, know that my wife and I love to travel. That's been one of the real plusses of retirement aside from being a fulltime writer.

I'm not saying that we come and go as well please because travel can be expensive. But when we don't fly off to distant places, we'll drive to a place in Kentucky.

I don't watch a lot of television, but when I do, it's usually travel programs. Especially those that take me to places that actually interest me and are simply doable and affordable.

Most of the programs piqued my interest to the point that we eventually made the trip or put it on our so-called bucket list of places to visit. I realize that if I lived to be 100 years old, it would be difficult to go and see everything is this wide, wonderful world that we live in. 

These programs, as well as travel books, blogs, guides, magazines, newspapers, and Internet sites, are informative and entertaining as we pick and chose our faraway destinations:

Rick Steves
Rick Steves: This guy with folksy, homespun humor spends a lot of time taking viewers to all parts of Europe and a few adjacent countries. He also has books, a travel service, and videos.

Samantha Brown
Samantha Brown's program is "Places to Love," and her journeys take you to various sites around the world. You can feel how much she loves to travel by the way she interacts with the locals.

Burt Wolf

Burt Wolf has been around for quite a while. I enjoy his acerbic wit on his "Travel & Traditions." Burt is also quite a gourmet, so that's a bonus in his program. 

Richard Wiese

Born to Explore with Richard Wiese takes me exotic places that I wish I had taken years ago when I had the energy. He doesn't mind getting down and dirty with the locals.

Joseph Rosendo
Joseph Rosendo's Travelscope takes you places near and far. His program is laid-back and interesting to watch. And you can sense his love of learning something new along the way. 

Dusty and Nikki Green
A recent discovery is "Two for the Road," featuring the husband-wife team of Dusty and Nikki Green. Their show makes you feel you're along for the ride. If only I were 20 years younger!

Stanley Siegel
A show I used to enjoy was "Stanley on the Go," with Stanley Siegel. I liked his silly humor and willingness to try most anything. It was good-natured reality TV. Sadly, Stanley passed away in 2015; and RLTV went dark last year.

I watch a few other shows such as Expedition Unknown with Josh Gates, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

You'll have to go through local TV listings but most of these programs are on PBS stations, Travel Channel, and National Geographic. You will probably discover some wonderful local shows that focus on your locales as well.  Check out Create TV for more ideas and insights.

A few Internet sites I visit include Expoza Travel, Trees and Travels, and Sonia's Travels.

A great way to learn about places is simply word-of-mouth with other travelers. They can provide you with some ways to cut costs, off-the-beaten pathway places to see, and best times to go on your adventures.

I used to watch a top-rated travel show but pulled the plug on it when I saw the host kill an animal. I'll let you guess the program.

Any recommendations for travel programs? 

Safe travels!

Until the next time . . .