Saturday, October 22, 2016

On the Road Again (Herbert Hoover National Historic Site)

While mapping out the trip to Mount Rushmore, I discovered that the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and Presidential Library and Museum were just off I-80, in West Branch, Iowa.

Herbert Hoover

The rustic 81-acre site takes one back to a Midwestern farming community in the late 19th century, with restored buildings on a tallgrass prairie and a creek that meanders across the property. 

Birthplace cottage

Hoover, the 31st president, was born Aug. 10, 1874, in West Branch. His parents, who were Quakers, both died when Herbert was a child, and he was raised for a while by an aunt and uncle on a farm in West Branch before going to Newberg, Ore., to live with the family of his mother's brother, Dr. Henry Minthorn.

Hoover graduated with a degree in geology from Stanford University, the first graduating class, in 1895. It was there he met his wife, Lou Henry, who was also from Iowa, and also earned a degree in geology.

You can read more about the life and times of Hoover, who served as president from 1929 until 1933 here. Unfortunately, for Hoover, many people remember him as president during the economic collapse that brought on the Great Depression.
National Historic Site Visitors Center

The historic site includes the two-room birthplace cottage, schoolhouse, Friends meetinghouse, and presidential library and museum. The visitors center contains exhibits, bookstore, and video about Hoover's life.

Statue of Isis 
The only statue on the grounds is of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of life, given to Hoover by the citizens for Belgium for his humanitarian work for that country as well as other European nations during and after World War I.  He was known as "The Great Humanitarian" for his efforts. He lived a life of service after leaving the White House.

Grave site of Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover
The grave sites of Herbert, who died in 1964, and Lou Henry, who passed away in 1944, are unpretentious, keeping with the Quaker tradition of simplicity. I found the entire site to be modest and respectful to a former leader.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
The national historic site is free; a peaceful setting off the highway to walk the grounds of another time in our nation's history. There is an admission charge to the presidential library and museum

Here's quote from Herbert Hoover that I find inspiring, reflects on his early life in Iowa, and the eternal hope that America should offer to everyone:

"My country owes me no debt. It gave me, as it gives every boy and girl, a chance. It gave me schooling, independence of action, opportunity for service and honor. In no other land could a boy from a country village, without inheritance or influential friends, look forward with unbounded hope."

More images of the Hoover National Historic Site can be seen on my Facebook page by clicking here.

Until the next time....

Thursday, October 20, 2016

On the Road Again

My wife and I just returned from a nine-day vacation that involved driving more than 3,800 miles, covering nine states and many stops along the way.

Mary and Michael at majestic Mount Rushmore
We had always wanted to see Mount Rushmore but didn't want to make that long trip there without taking in some other sites. I also had read about the statues of U.S. presidents in Rapid City, South Dakota, which I had read about in a magazine.

One thing led to another, and we planned our trip for October, knowing it was off season at many places and we could explore without dealing with heavy traffic and throngs of other vacationers. And we went to expected and unexpected sites, the serious and silly, the traditional and offbeat.

I'll be making brief posts about our trip over the next few weeks. If you're interested in reading and seeing about the various places in America's Midwest and West, then stay tuned (and share and subscribe to blog).

As for working on my novel, as mentioned in my last post, I didn't write a word but the long drive did help in mentally reviewing what I've already written and plan to write in the next two weeks. And I do intend to finish it by the end of the month.

So come along for the ride.

Until the next time.....

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Progress Report

I realize it's been three weeks since my last post but I've been making great strides on my work in progress. 

I've written every day since Sept. 1, nearly 35,000 words. I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the first tunnel (draft). If everything goes as planned, I should be finished by the end of the month. Maybe sooner.

As mentioned in previous posts, this is a sequel to "Old Ways and New Days." I will say that while it follows the trials and tribulations of protagonist John Ross as he deals with life as a retiree, much of the focus is on his self-centered son Brody. 

And his mother-in-law enters the story, bringing her stinging criticism to the story. His daughter, Chloe, is beginning to unravel a bit -- like we all do from time to time -- and wife Sally is finding that being an anchor often means you can sink. 

A problem I have now is that I'm heading off on vacation in a few days. I hope to write every day, probably on a legal pad, so I can keep up the momentum. And I do plan to enjoy the vacation as well as my wife and I plan a road trip to various places in the Midwest that are on our bucket list. 

Until the next time...

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 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 in high school), 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.