Friday, September 23, 2016

Time for a Change

For most of my writing life, I've been an early bird, getting out of bed before the dawn's sunrise and working on a manuscript for several hours before heading off to a bill-paying job.

But I'm retired now and my daily routine has changed as well. It took me a while to recognize it, but blame that on my age for not adapting soon enough. I suppose one reason I didn't was because I adhered to my old schedule while writing "Old Ways and New Days."

Now I'm working on the sequel (no working title as yet), which has had numerous starts and stops the past few months. But I think I'm on course to finish the first draft because I'm writing in the evening.

My mornings were becoming too busy with trips to the YMCA three days at week, usually leaving home at 5:30 a.m. When I return home I walk the dogs, do household chores, take care of various honey-dos from my wife, and all other things that pop up during the day.

I've found that the evenings work better for me. I generally start at 7 p.m., after dinner and taking the dogs for another walk, and write for about two hours. And then I get ready for bed.

One thing I do is end each session with some nugget to sleep on, which gets me right on the track the next evening. I simply pick up where I left off -- and I'm eager to do it. I've been doing this since Sept. 1, and I haven't missed an evening. Even those days when I can't get to the computer by 7, I find the time at 9, 10 or whatever to write for an hour or so.

So I guess what I'm suggesting is that if you find yourself in a rut -- or run into writer's block -- then perhaps you should look at your daily timetable and make the needed adjustments to write.

Until the next time.... 

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Classy Reunion

This past weekend I attended the 50th reunion of the 1966 graduating class of Taylor County High School in Campbellsville, Ky.

And what a gala event it was for the 50 or so classmates who chose to be part of the celebration to renew friendships, talk about the good old days (at least from our perspective) and to be part of a special event that only comes along once in a lifetime.

Fifty years. I know it's a cliche but my how time flies!

I was surprised to learn that I had inadvertently planted the seed for the reunion. Last January I contacted classmate Velma Prince to see if there were any plans for the 50th. I wanted to know because I didn't want to make vacation plans and not be able to attend.

Velma made several inquiries to some of our classmates. Then she reached Betty Fawcett Norris, who got the ball rolling in March. Betty put together a planning committee and provided the essential leadership to make it all happen.

And what a reunion it was.

Even though I was on the planning committee, I was simply overwhelmed when I entered the All Occasions building and saw everything Betty and Velma had envisioned -- they wanted it to be "classy" -- for this special reunion. The table settings, flower arrangements, lighting, food, door prizes, silent auction, videos, and live music, everything was first class. Yes ladies, it was a classy affair!

But more than anything it was great seeing former classmates, some for the first time in half a century. There were about 125 in the graduating class. Sadly, 25 had passed away including two (Marshall Jones and Alton Phillips) in the Vietnam War. There were a few who couldn't be there because of illnesses and injuries. And there were about 50 who decided not to participate for various and sundry reasons. They missed a grand evening.

For the fabulous 50 who did take part, many with their spouses and significant others, it was an evening to remember (I've been told that 50 percent participation is great). There was a touching video dedicated to those who had passed away, bringing tears to many in attendance. Another video was devoted to Jones and Phillips, including clips from their time in Vietnam. It was followed by a recognition of classmates who served in the armed forces, several of whom were in Vietnam a year after graduating from high school.

And there was a video -- "Remembering Days Gone By" -- that reflected on those years with newspaper clips, photographs, and music from that era. And watching from the tables were people, mostly retired now, who became lawyers, firemen, teachers, artists, farmers, travel agents, business leaders, career military, social workers, and other endeavors after leaving high school.

The evening closed with a toasts and farewells, given by Patricia Thompson Gray and Craig Cox, remembering the past, thankful for the present and looking ahead to the future.

For the record, I didn't graduate from Taylor County High School. I moved to Louisville in the summer of '65, and graduated from Eastern High School (from which I have many dear and lifelong friends). But those years at Taylor County (beginning in eighth grade) were a formative time for me and I've treasured them. Whenever there were reunions, I've always been invited and that increases my gratitude to these wonderful people who helped shape and make me (much for the better than for the worse).

Someone I got to meet for the first time was Joe Niknejadi, who drove in with his wife, Vickie, and son, Jeff,  from St. Louis. Joe only attended Taylor County his senior year (he moved to Campbellsville about the time I left) but it had such a lasting impression on his life that he wanted to be there as well. James Daugherty, a retired fireman, and his wife, Juanita, made the longest trip, all the way from Florida.

I didn't recognize everyone, and I'm sure most of my classmates didn't recognize me. But once I started talking to them, the lines in their faces began to disappear, their hair returned to normal color and length (I don't recall any bald-headed guys), and I could see the youthfulness in their eyes, the familiar facial expressions, and unique voice inflections from our encounters in the classrooms so many years ago. I'd like to think that we've all improved with age.

Let me close by saying that if you have a chance to attend a 50th class reunion, do it. You won't regret it -- it only comes around once in a lifetime.

Until the next time....

The TCHS Class of  '66

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Novel Reset

I've had some false starts and a few stops since I began working on the sequel to "Old Ways and New Days," earlier this year, but sometimes life simply gets in the way. I suppose I'm making excuses -- and don't we all when things aren't going along smoothly?

And whoever said that writing was easy? OK, I'm sure there are a handful of writers out there who find it easy, or at least they make it appear that way. I found some of my previous novels easier to write, but again, I didn't seem to have the distractions that I've had the past few months.

Dad as a young man
Several personal issues came up, the biggest one involving the failing health of my father. I found it difficult to stay focused on my writing. In the past, and I've written about this, working on a novel has been somewhat of an escape for me. I could get lost in the world of words for a few hours. But when a loved one is involved, I'm not looking for an escape.

My Dad, GT Dale Embry, passed away last month, at the age of 89. He lived a full life, seldom complaining about things. He liked a sausage biscuit from McDonald's in the mornings, those sugar-filled circus peanuts and orange slice candies to snack on, and mini-pecan pie from Wal-Mart for dessert. He watched "Comment on Kentucky" and "The McLaughlin Report" on television. He enjoyed talking with me about the newspaper business. He was a fundamentalist Christian. He was a devoted Republican. But he was also very tolerant and accepting of others because he liked people, regardless of race, color, creed or whatever. And they liked him.

And Dad loved his dog, Brownie, his faithful companion the past four years as he suffered through failing eyesight and hearing loss.

Dad's last couple of weeks were painful after fracturing his hip in a fall -- and it was difficult as well as for me, my siblings and caregivers who tended to his needs -- but when he passed on the morning of Aug. 9 in a Louisville hospital, it was peaceful. He was no longer in pain.
Dad at 81

My father was my biggest supporter. Whenever one of my novels or nonfiction sports books was published. he'd be the first to purchase several copies and give them to friends, co-workers (he worked until he was 83), and relatives as gifts. Whenever we talked, he always asked me how my writing was coming along. He cared. He was proud that I was a writer.

Now that he is gone, only to live in the memories of those who really knew him, I can return to my writing with renewed energy and fervor. And I'll keep in mind that he would like that my writing was coming along -- again.

Until the next time....

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Value-added Book Signings

While participating in a book signing a few months ago, another author and I discussed the importance of authors providing some value to book signings at stores, libraries, readers groups, civic organizations and other places.

And that value involves giving back to those who invite you to sign books.

Among the ways:

  • Participate in a panel discussion that relates to your book. 
  • Discuss your writing process.
  • Take part in readings.
  • Give a presentation about your book and invite questions from readers.
  • Talk about the craft, such as research, point-of-view, writing descriptions, developing characters, etc.
  • Discuss the reasons why you wrote your book.
  • Take part in a writing workshop.
  • Develop multiple presentations to address different grade levels when invited to a school.
  • Talk about the business side of writing, such as marketing, promotion, agents and publishing houses.
  • If self-published, talk about how it differs from traditional publishing.
  • If you're an illustrator or writer of picture books, discuss the process of illustrating a book (and perhaps provide a few signed samples as part of a giveaway). 
Before the book signing, work with the host or group to promote the event. That entails social media, assisting with a news release, and making yourself available for interviews with local media.

And when it's over with, don't forget to send a thank-you note for allowing you the privilege to sign books at their venue (and let them know you're available for return visits).

Do you have any suggestions to offer?

Until the next time....

P.S. -- I can be contacted off my personal web page for book signings and author-related appearances. A good resource in the U.S. for locating authors is Authors for Libraries, which shows authors living  close to zip codes who are willing to speak to groups.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Staying Focused (Television)

I don't believe I have a problem with television eroding my writing time because I don't spend much time watching TV, especially when compared to other Americans.

An A.C. Nielsen "Cross-Platform Report" in 2014 revealed that folks spend more than five hours a day watching live TV. And viewers in my age group (the golden oldies), garnered more than seven hours a day. Wow! Here's the story in the New York Daily News. (Here's another article on time spent in social media.)

I seldom watch TV in the morning, unless there is some big breaking news event. Likewise in the afternoon. In the evening, perhaps an occasional movie, PBS News Hour, or some topic I may be interested on the Travel, National Geographic, Science, or History channels and a few others (Kentucky Educational Television, RLTV, C-SPAN).

My mornings are usually spent walking my dogs, working out at the gym (three days a week), research, and writing. Afternoons may involve running a few errands, chores around the house, and taking a short nap (naps are good for you!). Evenings include reading and perhaps a TV program or two before I turn out the lights (I'm not a night owl). I also walk on my treadmill four times a week, usually in the evenings. And there are a few family- and friend-related activities. I do stay rather busy.

So my fellow authors, if you're having some difficulty finding the time to write, you may want to audit your time in front of the television. I find that less is best; just be selective in what you watch.

And for those who are interested in the status of your favorite shows, click here. Good luck with the writing!

Until the next time....

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Staying Focused (Internet)

My biggest distraction to staying focused on writing is the Internet. Other writers have told me that it's a problem for them as well. 

While it's a useful tool for research, marketing, and promotion in producing books, and educational in providing useful information about the art of writing, the Internet can also be a time-stealer. It sucks you in -- link by link by link.

I guess I'm a news junkie since I scan various websites for breaking news and analysis. That's one of the first things I do in the morning -- after I feed my dogs, pour a cup of coffee, and check email (yes, it's the Internet, but only takes about five minutes if that long).  

Before I realize it, I've spent a couple hours reading about what's happened locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. So instead of delving into a work in progress right off the bat, I'm immersed in other things for way too long. 

I also belong to several social media sites -- Facebook (of course), Twitter (no surprise), LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads, and a few author-related ones. I guess it could be worse if I was involved in Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, and Reddit (honestly, I do try to draw the line). And I do have a personal website to maintain and update.

According to an article in Business Insider, nearly 20 percent of U.S. users spend their total time in social media. Facebook is the most popular site with 14 percent. 

And in a 2015 story in GlobalWebIndex, its survey of 170,000 respondents found that people spend an average 6.15 hours a day online including 1.72 in social media. When the company first surveyed the respondents, in 2012, the numbers were 5.5 hours online and 1.61 in social media. 

The story noted "...we're actually spending more time on networks now than in the earlier part of the decade--with the rise of the mobile internet, and the ability it affords us to connect to networks at any time and from any location, being a major driver of this."

It makes you wonder who has time for television! (I know, you can download and live stream on the Web.) 

I don't think I devote that much time on the Internet, and I really don't want to know, but there's no doubt that it's taking up too much time that could be devoted to writing and other useful endeavors. 

So that's one area of my life I plan to curtail. Most of those Internet ventures can wait until I've finished writing for the day. And that also includes Amazon, ebay, Barnes & Noble and other commercial sites. 

And I do want to lead more than a virtual life. Really I do. 

Oh, since you're here, you can connect with me at these sites:

Facebook: Kentucky author Michael Embry (always looking for "likes.")
Twitter: @MichaelEmbry (I'll follow you as well.)
LinkedIn: Michael Embry (Let's connect!)
Pinterest: Michael Embry (Let's share some stuff!)
Goodreads: Author Michael Embry (Be my friend!)
And you can follow my blog by clicking on one of the "follow" buttons in the right column. 

Until the next time....


Friday, July 15, 2016

Staying Focused

Over the next few weeks I'm going to write about the difficulty of staying focused -- at least as it pertains to me.

It's funny, or perhaps tragic in some respects, that I used to be very disciplined when it came to my writing. I suppose it stemmed from my work as a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, when I had to deal with deadlines, often on breaking news events.

But as I've grown older, I find myself getting distracted. There was a time, when working on a novel, that I would set a self-imposed deadline on finishing a project. That's not to say that I would simply stop on the due date, but I would generally have 95 percent of the draft finished, if not already completed. 

Those were the days when I was employed full-time, and time was of the essence when working on a book. I'd get up early and write for two-three hours, then get ready for work. It was a routine I stayed with until I finished the manuscript. 

Now that I'm retired, it seems the free time to write is overwhelming. I know that probably doesn't make sense, but not having blocks of time designated for writing and research bring on procrastination.

And procrastination is something I'm beginning to master -- to my own detriment -- because I keep putting things off or occupying my time with activities that distract from my writing.

Now to regain some discipline in my writing life.

Until the next time....