Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One Last Plea

The week after Christmas has to be one of the worst times of the year for me.

That's when I'm bombarded with requests for tax-deductible gifts to various environmental, health, wildlife, veteran and charitable organizations. I don't mean to sound like Scrooge, or the late Andy Rooney,  because I give to these groups -- and more -- during the year.

In fact, it's almost a curse to give to organizations because they then have your name, telephone number, address, and who knows what else, to make their plea for more donations -- the week after Christmas.

I try to be polite with the telemarketers who represent these groups, but they call at all times during the day. They seem to catch me during my grumpy mornings or while I'm eating dinner at night.

And yes, I have caller I.D. but that doesn't help because they call and call and call, day after day after day until I answer. These folks can't take a hint!

Furthermore, they don't seem to want to take "No" for an answer, no matter how polite you are with them. So sometimes you have to resort to being rude -- to a degree. 

While their pleas for money get on my nerves, I'll still give to some of the organizations but it will be after the last week of Christmas because I know they do a lot of good for humanity.

Until the next time...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Memories

Another Christmas has come and gone but that doesn't mean it has to fade from memory.

While reading The State Journal this morning, I found "The Family Circus" cartoon (one of my favorites) that showed the Dad and Mom watching their children unwrap gifts under the Christmas tree. The father says, "They won't know till they're grown, but their BEST gifts are the memories they're making."

I use my camera to make memories. Christmas is one of the few times in the year -- sometimes the only one -- where the entire family gathers to celebrate.

Back when I was growing up in the 1950s, my parents didn't take that many photos. We had one of those Kodak Brownie cameras -- using black and white film most of the time -- and they generally forgot to buy film (back then you couldn't find stores open on Christmas). The digital cameras of today make it so much easier.

Some of my best memories came when my sister Sheri would invite the family to her house for Christmas. We had a boatload of young kids and it was a great time. My in-laws, Russell and Lou Alice Frederick, did the same and it was joyous occasion for my wife's side of the family.

I've used Super 8 movie cameras, camcorders, and now a digital recorder for holiday memories. I still prefer the still images.

We've tried to carry on those kinds of traditions with our children -- and now grandchildren. I was telling one of my sons that I was taking photos for my granddaughters and future generations so they will have a sense of family as they share memories with each other.

Until the next time...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Cards

Another holiday tradition that appears to be fading is the sending of  Christmas cards.

I remember not too long ago when we'd receive 50 or more cards during the holidays -- and we sent out as many. That's almost cut in half now. Perhaps people are too busy to take the time to sign and address them. Maybe the cards are too expensive to purchase and mail. 

I like Christmas cards. It's nice to open them up and read the notes about what has transpired in their lives for the past year or look at the photos they share of their family. I had a friend who always put her children on the cards and it was interesting to see how much they grew from year to year.

We still receive cards from friends we've had for nearly 40 years. In fact, probably most of the cards we get are sent by baby boomers and older.

I suppose some folks prefer sending e-cards. I get a few of those -- and to be honest -- I send a few as well. They're not quite the same but I guess it's the thought that really counts.
So thank you to all those who took the time to send a card -- by snail or email.

Until the next time...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Out of Books

My wife asked me to take her to Fayette Mall in Lexington this weekend, and being the dutiful husband that I am, I agreed. Fayette Mall is the largest mall in Kentucky so you can imagine the traffic it draws from Lexington and surrounding areas. I hate dealing with traffic.

I'm not much into shopping. When we walked inside she said we could meet somewhere after she made her rounds. In the past, I'd go to Waldenbooks and browse. She'd know where to find me when she finished her shopping. And I was content to wander among the books by Kentucky authors, magazine rack, bargain books, new releases, and everything else they had to offer.

But there is no longer a Waldenbooks in the mall. There is no bookstore among the hundred-plus stores. Period. In the space once occupied by Waldenbooks is an Apple store.

So while she went to the various stores, I sat down at one the rest areas. And it got me to thinking as I people-watched.

There are a lot of people who probably don't give it much thought that there isn't a bookstore in the mall. Some may be so young that they never knew there was a bookstore and won't miss it in years to come.

They'll be content to browse the Apple store. Maybe they'll purchase an iPad or some other device to store their music, videos, photos, and perhaps even a book or two.

Until the next time...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Where Have All the Presents Gone?

We've got a tree up now but it's nothing you'd see in Better Homes & Garden magazine or on the Martha Stewart Show. It's small with a few ornaments and a string of lights. And we have a wreath on the front door and two lighted trees inside the doorway.

But my wife and I like it so that's all that matters. Simple, but elegant.

As you grow older -- at least in my case -- the Christmas season changes. My two sons are married now and they're establishing their own traditions, much like my wife and I did about 40 years ago. And that's the way it should be.

We no longer need to have a large tree because it would look rather barren under the branches without the abundance of presents we had when the boys were growing up. Fortunately, we have two granddaughters -- Lily and Lola -- that we can splurge on this time of the year. But those wrapped gifts will likely be opened under their tree.

As for the boys and their wives, it'll probably be money in a gift card and perhaps a small present. I think most folks prefer it that way nowadays. Hey, I even told one of my sons to give me a gift card. The kids balk when I tell them I need socks and underwear. So with the gift card I'll probably go out and get some socks and underwear.

Until the next time...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Follow the Leader

A while back I had a discussion with a physician friend of mine about leadership.

A college was promoting itself as developing leaders. I'm sure quite a few schools are doing this as well as the military and various organizations. The question she posed was -- "Don't you think a college should also develop followers as well?"

I've given that some thought and I tend to agree with her. While there may come a time when a person should be ready to lead, there are many times when they should be willing to follow. 

We all know natural-born leaders and those who think of themselves that way. The latter are the folks who get in the way because they won't relegate themselves as a follower in situations where they're not qualified to lead.

I suppose it's an ego thing with some folks. They find it difficult to let someone else lead the way. And there are people who don't like to lead; they prefer to follow.  

To me, a strong leader is one who is willing to delegate "leader" responsibilities when they know it's for the best. A strong leader isn't afraid to follow.

And a strong follower doesn't blindly follow the leader. If there comes a time to provide meaningful advice or expert opinion, it is respectfully offered to the leader.

I'm sure you've heard the expression about having "too many chiefs and not enough Indians" (or too many bosses and not enough workers). That can stifle even the best of organizations. You've got to have folks willing to do the actual work.

Followers are just as important as leaders in reaching goals. Do you follow?

Until the next time...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lost Christmases

Sitting in my study tonight I was thinking about past Christmases. And what I discovered is that I don't remember many of them from my childhood.

Oh, there were a few things that came to mind, such as finding presents stashed away in the top of a closet when I was 8 years old. And another when I got a three-speed bike when I was 10. But, for the most part, they're hazy passages in the story of my life.

As I've grown older, the memories have faded as each year has passed by. Sometimes I get flashbacks when I'm with my siblings, but since I'm the oldest, there's a gap between my early Christmases and theirs. Photographs also trigger memories, but unfortunately, many of those were lost when my mother's basement flooded several years ago.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make, especially for younger people, is to write down in a journal those special events in your life before they slip deep inside that gray matter in your head. You can't start too soon.

You won't regret it, especially a few years from now. Trust me.

Until the next time...

Monday, December 5, 2011

On the Record

I know this is probably an age-related thing but I like compact discs and LPs. I recently read an article about the demise of CDs as more people are beginning to download music.

Let me say that I wasn't that happy when CDs made their presence in the 1980s. Yes, they sounded better than scratchy vinyl counterparts but LPs arrived in beautiful packages -- some good enough for framing -- and they contained information about the artist(s) and the songs.

Sure, the plastic cases CDs come in have photos and info but you practically have need a magnifying glass to read any of it. For me, that gets more difficult each year.

As for digital downloads, the music sounds great but that's just about it. I own an iPod but seldom use it except in the summer when I'm working in the yard. Downloads tell me nothing about the artist other than the music. I suppose I can go online and do a search but that's too much trouble.

No doubt downloads alleviate space problems for listeners, and maybe that will be important in the future as the population grows. But for now, I like the experience of taking a CD or vinyl record from its package and placing it in a player, then sitting back and enjoying the music.

I really think the music business is hurting and downloads are a big part of the problem. Sometimes I'll listen to the radio (yep, I even do that in the car) and never hear the name of the song or artist. How's a person supposed to download the songs if you don't have a clue who the recorded the music?

Oh, well.

Until the next time...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ramblings: Weighty Issues

Ramblings: Weighty Issues: The holiday season weighs heavily on me as I get older. It comes around too often, and it's difficult to let go. I'm talking about the food...

Weighty Issues

The holiday season weighs heavily on me as I get older. It comes around too often, and it's difficult to let go.

I'm talking about the food. You can't escape it this time of the year. At least I can't. And when I succumb to the temptations on the platter, I pay for it when I have to loosen the belt a notch (and hopefully not two) on my pants.

I shouldn't blame it all on the Christmas season because it starts with Halloween. That's when you have sweet treats in the house to give to costumed children. Of course, you have a bowl of candy left over, and what you can't consume in between regular meals, you take to the office to share with others who are doing the same. And it takes several days before it's gone -- to your waistline.

Then there's Thanksgiving Day. Need I say more?

And now, with Christmas approaching, there will be parties, folks bringing all sorts of goodies into the office, and getting together with family and friends  for numerous homemade feasts. When I got home from work today, my wife had baked two pumpkin pies. You got it -- I couldn't resist a slice.

No wonder many of us are continually fighting the battle of the bulge. I think the only solution might be is to skip regular meals since I'll give in to the baked goods, candies, and even fruit cakes.

Good luck and don't break the scales!

Until the next time...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ramblings: Thanksgiving?

Ramblings: Thanksgiving?: Isn't it ironic that we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with actions and thoughts about the many blessings in our lives -- and less than 24...


Isn't it ironic that we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with actions and thoughts about the many blessings in our lives -- and less than 24 hours later we are pushing and shoving and pepper spraying others for Black Friday merchandise?

What a way to ring in the holiday season!

I don't want to make a whole lot out of it because it's only a handful of  covetous consumers out of the millions of shoppers who attract the attention from the media. That's the news of the day.

I didn't venture out for Black Friday specials. One reason is because I like my sleep. I'd probably fall asleep in the stores despite all the commotion in the aisles.

Another reason is that I really can't think of anything I truly want so much that I would venture out at 10 p.m., midnight,  4 a.m., or whatever time to go out and purchase. I can wait...until after Christmas.

I did stop by a store on Black Friday and bought a refill bottle of hand soap and laundry detergent. I might add there will no altercations with other customers as I reached for the products.

I hope you have a safe shopping season.

Until the next time...

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I know it's Thanksgiving Day and most folks are blogging about all the things they're thankful for -- and I'm a thankful-kind of guy as well -- but I want to write about something before too much time passes.

And since Thanksgiving is also about family, parades, and football, this one is about Yale quarterback Pat Witt.

Witt decided to forego an interview for a Rhodes Scholarship to play the final game of the season against arch-rival Harvard. There was a conflict on the day scheduled for his meeting Rhodes representatives and The Game (which is what the Yale-Harvard fans call it).

"I had a commitment to these guys long before I applied for that scholarship," Witt said after the game.

Harvard was heavily-favored to win the game (and it did, 45-7) so Witt's presence probably didn't make that much of a difference. Lots of folks would have understood if he had decided to meet with the Rhodes interviewers rather than face the Crimson defenders.

But Witt decided to finish what he started with his teammates. I think that's commendable and was very unselfish on his part.

Witt, who is 22, can reapply for Rhodes Scholarship since eligibility ends at age 24. I hope his decision to play weighs positively on the Rhodes selection committee if he does decide again to seek one of the coveted scholarships.

"The important part here is not so much the game, but the principle of it," Witt told USA Today. "If I were to go to that interview and skip the game, in a lot of ways I'm not acting like the person they selected to interview."

And Witt, who is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, has attracted some attention from the National Football League after passing for more than 2,000 yards this season. He spent his freshman year at Nebraska before transferring to Yale.

In this age where you often read and hear about selfish athletes, I think Patrick Witt's commitment to his teammates is admirable.

Until the next time...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Support Your Local Bookstore

The New York Times recently ran an article about novelist Ann Patchett opening a bookstore called Parnassus Books in Nashville.

According to the story, Patchett was concerned when a popular bookstore closed, saying she "had no interest in living in a city without a bookstore."

So Patchett and Karen Hayes, who has a background in book sales, decided to open Parnassus Books. And they did this despite the decline in independent bookstores across the United States, the newspaper noted.

Photo by Mary Ann PinneyPatchett, by the way, is the bestselling author of "Bel Canto," "Truth and Beauty," "State of Wonder," "The Magician's Assistant," "Taft," and "The Patron Saint of Liars." and "Run."

Photo by Mary Ann Pinney
Local bookstores are important to communities, large and small. They have a certain distinctive quality that sets them apart from the chains; offer an array of books; support area authors; provide readings and other cultural activities; and they let you know they appreciate your business.

That's not to say I don't support the national stores., Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and others provide valuable services to consumers and authors. Because of the Amazon, readers in North America, England and Ireland can purchase my books. Amazon is also provides author pages and discussion forums. And I love to browse and purchase merchandise from B&N and BAM.  

But I think it's also important to make purchases at my local bookstore (Poor Richard's in Frankfort, Ky.). Other stores include as Morris Book Shop and Joseph-Beth Bookseller in Lexington, and Carmichael's Bookstores in Louisville. Many of the local independents have adapted to the changing marketplace by offering many of the services of the international and national stores.

So when you're in the market for books, don't forget to shop local.

Until the next time...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Proud Kentuckian

The National Book Award winners were announced last night and Kentuckian Nikky Finney's "Head Off & Split" was named the best in the poetry category.

Although a native of South Carolina, she's lived in Kentucky for the past 20 years. A creative writing professor at the University of Kentucky, Finney has written four volumes of poetry. She's also the author of "Heartwood," a collection of short stories.

I realize that every state can lay claim to distinguished writers. Being a Kentuckian, I'm proud of our literary heritage.

Wendell Berry, a renowned essayist, poet, and novelist, was recently presented the National Humanities Medal.

Other living luminaries include Sena Jeter Naslund, Bobbie Ann Mason, Gwyn Hyman Rubio, Barbara Kingsolver, Kim Edwards, Sue Grafton, Karen Robards, Silas House, and Teresa Medeiros. And there are more.

Our most distinguished writer was the late Robert Penn Warren, the only three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize (two for poetry, one for fiction). He also won the National Book Award for Poetry in 1958, and was later named the first Poet Laureate of the United States.

Some of his contemporaries include Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Allen Tate, James Still, Jesse Stuart, Janice Holt Giles, A.B. Guthrie Jr., and Harriette Simpson Arnow. And there are more.

And I can't leave out the late and great Hunter S. Thompson, a novelist and father of Gonzo journalism.

Until the next time...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

On the Books

The 30th annual Kentucky Book Fair is history.

And what is nice is that the book fair almost made history. The event took in about $157,000 -- about $32,000 more than last year -- and making it one of the most successful and reversing a downward trend for the state's premiere literary gathering.

I like reporter Kayleigh Zyskowski's lead in The State Journal: "In a convenient literary world of e-readers, digital copies and smartphones, the Kentucky Book Fair proved once again that printed word is very much a part of the book world."

It did, indeed.

I was there all day with two of my books and noticed a steady crowd of book buyers until the doors were closed. It was a great day for everyone involved.

According to the newspaper, these were the top 10 best-selling books/items:

Al Smith -- "Wordsmith: My Life in Journalism"
Paul Michael Glaser -- "Chrystallia and the Source of Light"
James Archambeault -- "2012 Kentucky Calendar"
Meadowlark Lemon -- "Trust Your Next Shot: A Guide to a Life of  Joy"
Douglas Boyd -- "Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community"
Dick Burdette -- "Kentucky Babe: The Babe Parilli Story"
Bobbie Ann Mason -- "The Girl in the Blue Beret"
Ron Rhody -- "Theo and the Mouthful of Ashes"
Bob Edwards -- "A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio"
Gene Burch -- "Frankfort and Beyond"

I enjoyed participating in this year's event, signing a few books, meeting other authors and conversing with readers who still treasure seeing the printed word on paper.

Until the next time...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Salute to Future Veterans

On 11-11-11 the United States will honor those who have served in the military.

As an Air Force veteran, I also salute the men and women who are currently in the armed forces. You are making sacrifices for our nation and other countries in trying to make this a safer world.

Regardless of how long you plan to serve, make the most of it. It's an experience that you'll cherish as time goes on. Believe me. I look back on my service with many fond memories.

Take advantage of the training, travel, and most of all, the people you encounter along the way. I still maintain contact with guys I served with 40 years ago.

I hope you use the many opportunities you will have, such as  educational benefits and VA home loans. I used my GI Bill to  complete my college education and used the VA program to purchase a home. My sons have done the same.

I look forward to the day when you join me in the ranks of military veterans so I can salute you again.

Until the next time...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Day for Books

This is one of my favorite times of the year in Kentucky. I'm not talking about the gorgeous fall scenery throughout the state, although it ranks high on my list.

What I really enjoy is the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the event, making it one of longest running book fairs in the nation.
The KBF will be on Saturday, Nov. 12, from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., at the Frankfort Convention Center.  Nearly 200 authors will be signing their books. And it's free (but not the books)!

Some of the luminaries taking part this year include Bob Edwards of NPR fame, best-selling novelists Bobbie Ann Mason, Liz Curtis Higgs, Teresa Medeiros, Will Lavender, Kim Edwards (all Kentuckians, I might add), Wendell Berry (a National Humanities Medal winner), former TV star Paul Michael Glaser (a children's book author among other interests),  former Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon, Robert R. Morgan, and football great Vito "Babe" Parilli.  

In addition to novels, you'll find history, sports, poetry, cookbooks, children's and young adult books -- just about everything. Go to and download the catalog and read about all the activities. You also can find info on KBF's page in Facebook.

Proceeds from the KBF go to school and public libraries and literary programs across the state.

Oh, by the way, I'll be there as well signing my young adult novel, "Shooting Star." Drop by and say hi.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

No Nanowrimo for Me

I admit I was tempted to join the thousands involved in National Novel Writing Month -- nanowrimo -- but I just couldn't find the time.

I know for some that sounds like a lame excuse. And perhaps it is. But I've been so busy the past few weeks (I know that shouldn't matter) and the next couple of weeks are busy as well.

I like challenges and nanowrimo is certainly a challenge -- a goal of writing a novel of 50,000 words over the course of 30 days.

But sometimes we have too many things going on to really commit to something like nanowrimo. I do write every day in my job. I'm also involved with the Kentucky Book Fair as marketing chair and that will keep me busy until Nov. 12, the day of the big event at the Frankfort Convention Center (from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. if you're interested).

I also have a work in progress that has been stalled because of my busy schedule and other things. I truly don't have an hour to spare each day to write. And I doubt if I could produce enough words spending only 60 minutes a day at the keyboard.

I do plan to take part in nanowrimo one of these years; maybe even in 2012. That's my goal, at the moment, if things aren't haywire at the time. Only time will tell.

So to those who made that commitment to nanowrimo, I wish you all success and may your words find a home inside a book.

Until the next time...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Scary Stories

It's that haunting time of the year again -- Halloween.

On the various cable TV channels you'll find an assortment of horror films designed to make it difficult to sleep at time. I have my favorites, such as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Frankenstein," "Dracula" "An American Werewolf in London," "Race with the Devil" "Night of the Living Dead" and "Poltergeist." 

But it doesn't have to be Halloween to conjure up those kinds of scary stories.
While interviewing Frankfort, Ky., author Jerry Deaton on a cable TV program about his book, "Appalachian Ghost Stories: Tales from Bloody Breathitt," we agreed that scary stories can be told any time of the year. Some of the stories in his collection are ones he heard while growing up in Breathitt County, Ky. He'll be a the Kentucky Book Fair on Nov. 12.

I remember sitting around the campfire during my Boy Scout days listening to tales that would have you trying to sleep with one eye open. I believe most folks have some kind of scary tale from their past.

Needing a ghost story? How about ghosts, how about Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" to keep you on edge? Stephen King's "Carrie," certainly wasn't a sweet story about a prom queen. And Grimm brothers' fairy tales could be quite, well, grim!

And, sadly, we only have to pick up newspapers or watch the nightly news on TV to learn about true-life horror all around the world. And it's just not in the Middle East; we have our share of it in the United States. Norwegians can attest to horror by the massacre this past summer by an alleged lone gunman that claimed more than 75 lives.

Truman Copote mined real life with "In Cold Blood." Norman Mailer did the same with "The Executioner's Song." And a friend of mine, Rena Vicini, wrote about a gruesome murder in Lexington, Ky., called "Fatal Seduction." You don't have to look very far to get inspired to write true-crime stories, if that's something that interests you.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Get On Your Mark

For those ambitious souls out there, it's almost time for National Novel Writing Month -- also referred to as NaNoWriMo.

The idea is to write a novel in November, beginning on the first day and ending on the last day of the month. For NaNoWriMo, the goal for adults  is 50,000 words over 30 days. Doesn't sound like much? Hmmm....try it.

A disclaimer here. I've never participated in NaNoWriMo. I always seem to have too much going on to make that commitment. That's not to say I won't try it this year. I'm still thinking about it.

I know I can write daily. That's what I've done on all my novels. My first novel, The Touch, was written in six weeks -- about 75,000 words. 

I do think NaNoWriMo is a great way to put some words down on the computer, or wherever, because it's a challenge for the writer to stay focused for 30 days. Perhaps as it would be for a runner and deciding to participate in a marathon. You want to see if you can go the distance. 
I'll let you know on Nov. 1 if I have stepped up to the starting line. The more I think about the event, it sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

And like a marathon, it really doesn't matter if you win. The goal is to finish. And if you do write the 50,000 words, or more, you'll be rewarded with a certificate and Web badge. By the way, it's open to all age groups, and those 17 and under have different individual goals. 

Interested? Find out more, and sign up, at

I wish you luck!

Until the next time...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bucky and Me

My sweet and lovable Bucky passed away this week. He had congestive heart disease and his little body couldn't handle it any longer. He died in my arms. 

I know how most dog owners feel about their pet -- that they have the best dog in the world. I'm no different. Bucky was a very special part of my life for 8 1/2 years.  So, in a sense, this blog is dedicated to those who understand the sadness one experiences when their beloved pet dies.

Bucky would wake me in the morning, licking me on the face. He would greet me when I came home from work. Have you ever seen a dog that could smile? Bucky had that trait. It would melt your heart. 

My wife called Bucky my shadow because he would always follow me everywhere in the house. While some Yorkies aren't content to curl up and sit on your lap, it was Bucky's favorite spot. I did a lot of my writing with Bucky resting on my legs.

Bucky loved to travel. He sensed when I was about to go on an errand. And whenever I could take him with me, he'd ride shotgun on my left knee. One of my future plans was to take a trip out West with Bucky.

Bucky would get excited when I told him one of my sons, Justin and Sean, would be coming home for a visit. He'd wait at the front door and jump up and down when he saw them pull into the driveway. When my wife came home from work, Bucky would be at the top of the stairs to greet her with a smile and kiss.

He loved our next-door neighbor, Mary. Every time I opened the front door to let him out to potty, he would look over at her house. And if he saw her, he'd make a beeline to receive her affection and give her some kisses. He felt the same way toward other neighbors.

Oh, yes, Bucky was a kisser. Not a kisser in the sense that he would lick and lick and lick. He'd give a kiss or two, just to show his love.

Bucky was protective as well. He wouldn't let any harm come to those he loved. One time while walking Bucky, step-brother Baxter, and Chloe, another Yorkie we were dogsitting, we came across a much larger dog. Bucky quickly came between us and the dog. I'm not sure if the other dog was that frightened of Bucky, but he did go the other way. Bucky puffed out his little chest like a conquering hero.

I could go on and on about Bucky. I'm glad I have the wonderful memories and photographs of him especially during this grieving period. 

A friend wrote that dogs aren't like family, they are family. He is so right. We bring them into our lives and they give unconditional love in return. We can learn so much from them.

Another friend wrote that her dog passed away about a year ago and she still cries when she thinks about her companion of 17 years.

Several years ago when I was working for the AP, my friend George Hackett called me on the phone. He was in his 70s at the time and crying because his dog Patty Paws had died. While I tried to console him, I really didn't understand his pain. Now I do.
Until the next time...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Making Demands -- One at a Time

Why do some people have a problem with print-on-demand authors? It seems like some folks equate POD with self-publishing -- as if there is something inherently wrong with that (see previous post).

POD is relatively new. It's part of the digital age of publishing -- a book is printed when a consumer wants it. The book is digitally stored and a copy is printed when it is ordered from the publisher.

I've heard derisive comments such as, "Oh, that book is a POD." Oh, well!!!

For the uninformed, many publishers, and not only the small operations, use POD technology. While the print-per-book is higher, it sure saves the publisher on having unsold books returned to its warehouse by bookstores. Sometimes it does benefit the consumer when they purchase books on the remainder tables. But the bookstore doesn't profit much, the publisher profits little (if any) and the author doesn't see a dime for his efforts.

POD has helped e-book publishers offer their titles in trade or hardback copies -- one at a time. And it has helped keep publishers afloat by not having to have large print runs, keep books stored in warehouses, and deal with returns (for the most part).

As for self-published books, they've been around for many years, long before POD. And by the same token, POD has been a blessing for them because they haven't been forced to order a "minimum" of books.  Just check out Amazon, B&N and other e-book/POD opportunities.

I've had books published the traditional way and POD. There's really not a difference. A book is a book is a book.

So just remember, when you order a book from a POD publisher, it's still a book. Just one at a time! 

Until the next time...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Publishing Pointers

Traditional publisher or self-publish? That's a question I often hear from aspiring authors.

Let me say that it's more difficult going the traditional route. There are several steps that you need to go through to find a publisher for your manuscript. Writers know what that entails. A lot of work!

For those interested in self-publishing, it's having the money to have your manuscript printed. Aside from writing the manuscript, you can skip a few steps.

A few years ago there was a stigma attached to self-published books. Most were simply referred to as products of vanity publishers that would put practically any manuscript in print if the author paid the price.

While the author was in a state of euphoria when the book arrived -- seeing the title and byline in a bound edition -- it didn't last long. After looking inside the book, the writer realized it could have used some editing. And then they realized that it was difficult getting the books into bookstores. They discovered that it was even difficult selling their book to friends and relatives -- with mothers being the exception.

I met one writer who was talked into ordering 5,000 copies as the publisher told him that the unit cost would be cheaper than if he had about 1,000 copies. That's true. But the publisher didn't tell him how difficult it would be to sell 5,000 copies. So the author several thousand books in unopened boxes in his basement. I haven't seen the author since our encounter, but my bet is that he still has several thousand books in unopened boxes gathering dust in his basement.

Self-published books have gained some acceptance in recent years as publishers offer editing and layout services, and some of the books have found coveted places on the shelves in bookstores. And online venues such as Amazon and B&N have opened doors, even providing services to writers to self-publish books.

My advice to writers is to research their options and talk to published authors, especially those who are self-published, about their experiences. Another piece of advice, if you plan to self-publish, is to treat the process as if you were going through a traditional publisher. By that, I mean, have your manuscript as clean and polished as possible.

Until the next time...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Agents of Time

While sorting through some correspondence in my never-ending endeavor to organize my study, I stumbled across some rejection letters from agents.

Since I try to stress the positive in my Ramblings -- for the most part -- this one should be viewed as constructive criticism to agents.

But first let me say that I have nothing against agents. They have a purpose in life and that is to find the very best manuscripts, sell them to publishers, and make money for everyone concerned. Even the authors.

But my beef are those rejection form letters that many agents -- and publishers -- return to authors. They usually have a disclaimer that they are so inundated with proposals/manuscripts that they can't take the time to answer every query letter.

My heart certainly bleeds for those folks. It's like authors have all the time in the world to craft a query letter but they don't have time to return the courtesy.

I suppose I should be more understanding because all the author has to do is research/outline; write the manuscript; edit/rewrite; scour the Internet, magazines and reference books to find suitable agents and publishers; write a query letter; mail or e-mail the query; wait six weeks or longer for a reply and then receive a nice two-line rejection form letter.

Yep, we authors have all the time in the world.

So agents (and publishers), why not show some professional courtesy? If all the time you can spare for a rejection is a minute or so, at least take the time to write it and sign it. 

And furthermore, don't advertise that you're actively seeking authors/manuscripts if you're so overwhelmed with work. It'll save all of us precious time.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Just a Quote

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

While doing some research on Emerson on the Internet, I found a site that contained 692 quotes from the famous Transcendental poet. essayist and philosopher. From my point of view, he's great for quotes.

And others are great for quotes about life and death -- and everything in between.

What I enjoy about quotes is that they contain nuggets of truth (or falsehood) that a person can ponder one at a time. Instead of being bombarded with numerous ideas and insights in one reading, we can take that one quote and concentrate on its meaning. It's not nearly as confusing.

I generally leave a quote on my Facebook page every morning that I find humorous, enlightening, wise, or simply stupid. My latest novel, Shooting Star, contains quotes from the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

Since this blog primarily focuses on reading and writing, here are a few quotes I'd like to share:

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." -- Mark Twain

"You don't write because you want to say something; you write because you've got something to say." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

"The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe." -- Gustave Flaubert
"The two most engaging powers of a good author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new." -- William M. Thackeray
"Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity." -- William Zinsser
"They can't yank novelist like they can pitcher. Novelist has to go the full nine, even if it kills him." -- Ernest Hemingway
And to close with Mr. Emerson, "People do not deserve to have good writing, they are so pleased with the bad."

Until the next time...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

All A Clutter

Sometimes you don't realize how much stuff you have until start rearranging and removing clutter. I have an overabundance and more.

For the past few weeks I've been painting some rooms and getting them ready for workers to remove carpet and install new flooring. That means I've had to empty closets, move items to other rooms, and in the process, deposit some stuff in the garbage can.

I don't think I'm a hoarder (although some family members would disagree). I like to think of myself as more of a collector. The problem is that it would appear I collect everything. And we all know there are things that may be worthless but still hold sentimental value -- if you can remember what that was when you put them away.

But appearances can be deceiving. I do throw things away. Actually, in the past couple of years, I've refused things because I knew they would add to the clutter in my life. So you might even say that I've been virtually getting rid of things before they entered my house. That has to count for something.

In the meantime, I've been taking books to the Friends of the Library drop-off bin to be sold in the bookstore and annual sales. I've tossed quite a few magazines and given some away. I've gone through old paper records and shredded them. I've taken clothes to the Goodwill store. So I'm making progress.

The decluttering is a work in progress because I don't know when it'll end. But I'm going to keep at it until I can see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Until the next time...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banned Books Week Part II

Isn't it interesting that books that some people enjoy, others would like to have banned from bookstores, libraries and classrooms? This is Banned Books Week, which ends Oct. 1.

To me, for the most part, the act of censoring and banning books is an individual matter. There are always exceptions, but for the population in general, I believe a person can make that decision on whether or not to read a book. I don't need some self-righteous person or group deciding for me.

In the marketplace of ideas, if word gets around that a book may be questionable for a certain age group, or the general populace, people will look at it a bit more closely to see if it deserves the label. And that's more democratic.

When my wife and I raised our two sons, we always had books in the house. While I can't think of any books being banned from our home, it certainly would have happened if there was something we didn't  think was appropriate for them to read. That's not to say that they didn't read "controversial" books outside the home -- without our knowledge.

Hey, I did the same thing. Most folks I know hid books from their parents, and they all survived and became responsible citizens. For my generation, those books included "Lolita," "Candy," and "Peyton Place." After sneaking around to read them, most of us said, "What's the big deal?" I bet our parents, grandparents, and others in our distant past found racy magazines and pulp fiction to satisfy their curiosities about all sorts of things about the human condition.

Other books that titillated citizens through the years, and angered government and self-imposed censors, include "Madame Bovary," "Tropic of Cancer," "Brave New World," "Fanny Hill," "Naked Lunch," and "Howl." Wikipedia has a list of books banned by governments that you may find interesting.

Until the next time...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Banned Books Week

Are you looking for something interesting, and perhaps controversial, to read this week?

This year marks the 30th Banned Books Week in the United States. It runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 1. Its mission is to promote the "freedom to read and First Amendment" as well as "free and open access to information."

Through the years quite a few books have been banned and/or challenged by individuals and groups. Among them are "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," by Anne Frank; "Slaughterhouse-Five," by Kurt Vonnegut; "The Catcher in the Rye," by  J.D. Salinger; "Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley; and "Push," by Sapphire.

According to the American Library Association, the primary reasons for objection include sex, profanity, and racism.

Recent titles include Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants"; "Will Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives," by Paul Shaffer (the conductor from the David Letterman Show); and "Speak," by Laurie Anderson.

Here is a list of the top 10 books of 2010:
1, "And Tango Makes Three," by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson;
2, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie;
3, "Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley;
4, "Crank," by Ellen Hopkins;
5, "The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins;
6, "Lush," by Natasha Friend;
7, "What My Mother Doesn't Know," by Sonya Sones;
8, "Nickel and Dimed," by Barbara Ehrenreich;
9, "Revolutionary Voices," edited by Amy Sonnie; and
10, "Twilight," by Stephanie Meyer.

Check here for the top 10 by year for the past decade. And click here to find out the reasons the 2010 books were challenged.

This might also be a good time to read Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451," about a future society where reading is banned and books are burned.

Until the next time...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Time to Get Carded

Many of you may not know that this is National Library Card Sign-up Month.

As public libraries are recommending, it's time to get carded. The library is one of my favorite places -- for books, research, and other activities. Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. is the spokesman for American Library Association's national effort.

I like what the International Reading Association says about the library card on its website, calling it a passport that "permits its owner to travel to other places and times through the pages of a book."

Of course, those who frequent a library know that a library is more than a place for books (in my opinion, that's still its primary purpose). Not only can you check out books, but also CDs and DVDs; use computers; access the Internet; attend functions such as book discussion groups, author readings, story hours for children, and art exhibits; visit the used book store  and much more.

At my local library -- Paul Sawyier Public Library -- residents who sign up for a card this month can get discounts from area businesses.

The month may be over soon but it's not too late to sign up for a library card. It's really never too late. If you're busy this month, then drop by in October and get your card.  Just get one. It's one of the best bargains you'll find anywhere.

Until the next time...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beginning of the End

While speaking to a group I was asked how I knew when I was finished with a novel -- the happily ever after part on the last page. The last two words that read: The End.

First of all, I told her that the story is over when all the conflicts have been resolved. Unless, of course, the intent is to leave some loose ends so that there could be a sequel. Or maybe the author plans a series. No doubt there are other reasons; just ask other writers you may know.

She then asked me if I knew how the story was going to end. I told her I had a general idea how it would end but that it was subject to change -- or changes -- as I progressed through the  story. I said that novelists approach stories in different ways.

For me, I usually work the story in my head for several weeks, perhaps even months, before I put down a rough draft on paper. I get to know the characters, but I get to know them even better during the course of writing the novel. I know where I want the novel to end, but sub-plots enter into the equation and take the story in different directions until I reach the end.

Until the next time...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Home Again

Thomas Wolfe's novel "You Can't Go Home Again" doesn't apply to everyone. I'm sure if you wrote something nasty about your hometown or committed a heinous crime, it might be difficult to return to your roots.

But  for writers, I think going back to one's previous home, or stomping grounds, can be important. I recently visited Campbellsville, Ky., where I lived from 1959-65, those coming-of-age years that are so important in one's life.

I was in Campbellsville to talk about my latest novel and writing. About 10 or so folks showed up and we had, at least in my humble opinion, a very enjoyable session. Some of the discussion brought back some old memories for me.

I believe writers should make occasional visits to the places they lived (unless they wrote something bad about the town or committed a heinous crime!), simply to find things that might be lost in one's memory.

I know I'm looking forward to a return trip to Campbellsville to remember other parts of my life before they are forever lost. 

Until the next time...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Remembrance

It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed since the terrorist attack on America. I still remember where I was at and what I was doing when the news broke about a plane striking one of the twin towers in New York. I would imagine that most of us have a ready recollection of that moment when we first heard the tragic news.
At lot has transpired since 9/11/01, touching our individual lives, our communities, our nation, and the world we live in.
I know many people watched television today --  reliving that horrendous day through the images, personal recollections, and memorial ceremonies. Newsweek and Time magazines devoted current issues to 9/11, focusing on the past, present and future of our great nation. Sunday newspapers dedicated a lot of space to those deplorable events.
I've read several stories about some of the heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice to save lives -- those brave  first responders at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington -- as well as those courageous passengers on Flight 93 who brought down a deadly plane in Pennsylvania.   
In Facebook and other Web sites  people expressed their heartfelt thoughts about a day that is seared into our collective psyche. I am still deeply moved by all that happened on 9/11. That will never change.
Much like the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the assassination of  President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963,  the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, is a day Americans will "never forget, always remember."
Until the next time...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ramblings: No More Excuses

Ramblings: No More Excuses: I'm back to working on a novel. My past two posts have been about folks making excuses for not putting fingers to the keyboard and producing...

No More Excuses

I'm back to working on a novel. My past two posts have been about folks making excuses for not putting fingers to the keyboard and producing words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.
I've been guilty of that as well, for various and sundry reasons. Some of them have been good (at least I thought they were) and others not so good. So last Sunday, the day before Labor Day, I began work on a new young adult novel.
I've written every day since then (I know, only three days, but they add up over the weeks and months). As with my other novels, I intend to write every day, be it 30 minutes, an hour, or longer, if time permits. But I'm going to find the time to write each and every day until I've completed the first draft.
Several years ago I read a book by Wayne Dyer called, "Excuses Begone!" I liked the book. So much in fact that I bought several copies and gave them to people I thought could use the motivation to move on with their lives. Needless to say, I recommend the book.
Thinking about the Dyer's book, I realized that I was making excuses for not writing. As noted by many authors, writers write. And I needed to start writing again. No more excuses!
This isn't going to be a long blog. Why? Because I need to go work on my manuscript.
Until the next time...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Days for Writers

I've given some more thought since my last blog about finding the time to write.
Sometimes I think writers have built in excuses for not writing. Hey, I'm guilty at times. Writing isn't as easy as it appears. I know it's not easy. I believe writers know it's not easy. But there are other folks who think there's nothing much to it other than putting down a string of words.
But I digress.
I mentioned in the last blog about how I prefer to write in the mornings. I'll usually go through a mental and physical ritual of turning on the computer, fixing a pot of coffee, and doing other things before I put fingers to keyboard. It's a way I get focused on the task at hand.
You might say it's kind of like the baseball batter who goes through all sorts of things -- spitting on hands, glancing at the third-base coach, stepping into the batter's box, stepping out of the batter's box, rubbing hands again, look again at the third-base coach, step back into the batter's box, step out of the batter's box (ok, you get the idea) -- before waiting for the pitch. And then he goes through the same thing before the next pitch.
I don't believe writers need to waste time. They need to step up to the plate and start  swinging. But saying we need to have things just right, we're simply making excuses for not writing.
As hitters hit, writers should write. It shouldn't make that much difference what time of the day. Of course there are ideal times. But when we get the moment -- the right pitch -- we should be ready to take a big swing.
Until the next time...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Write Time

I've generally been a morning person when it comes to writing books. My other writing comes at different times of the day, whenever I find a break in the day to put down some words on the computer screen.
But with books I need to get into a rhythm -- same time each day -- in pounding out the words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. This is for the first draft. I have to be in a daily routine until I'm finished. I usually like to have a minimum of two hours to write, but will do more on weekends. Don't forget that I'm a working stiff and there are only so many hours in a day to write. And I like to squeeze in a few hours of sleep as well. 
You might be surprised how many words you can write in two hours. If you're really focused, and I usually am once the story begins flowing, I may churn out 2,000 or more words. Now many of these words may not reach the printed page, but that's not important at this point. The main thing is to tell the story I want to tell. After that, I can work on structure, characters, scenes, dialogue, and other parts.
During the editing/rewrite phase, it's when the opportunity arises each day that I work on the manuscript. But I try to do something each day. After writing the first draft, I do take a week or so off  so that when I come back to it I will read the manuscript with somewhat fresh eyes. And I'll do that on subsequent rewrites until I'm satisfied with it.
Of course, it doesn't end there. If the book is accepted by the publisher, you work with the editor on various parts of the book. I've been very fortunate at Wings ePress to have editors who have provided me with insightful feedback on strengthening the manuscript in all areas.
Until the next time...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Day at the Library

I spent five hours at the Paul Sawyier Public Library in Frankfort on Saturday, taking part in the fourth annual "Gathering of Authors."
About 30 authors participated in the event -- talking to readers and signing a few of their books. There was an assortment of writers -- nonfiction, fiction and poets. Some had books by the big New York publishing houses, others with small, independent presses, and a few were self-published authors.
As an author, I enjoy these kind of activities at libraries. At Paul Sawyier Public Library, with the help of the Friends of PSPL, writers such as Kim Edwards, Sena Jeter Naslund, Gwyn Hyman Rubio, Silas House, Frank X Walker, Crystal Wilkinson and many others have read from their works, discussed their books, and talked about writing with library patrons. Needless to say, we have a very good library where I live.
Let's be honest -- libraries are truly the virtual home for authors. It's the place where authors share space on the shelves. It's the place where most of our books will reside long after they are out of print and no longer available in book stores, and when we move on to that literary beyond.
I believe libraries are a wonderful venue for authors to meet the public and talk about their books and the craft of writing. And I think libraries should reach out and invite writers to readings, book clubs, and similar activities. It's a win-win proposition for everyone involved. Just ask the folks who attended the "Gathering of Authors."
Until the next time...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Living in the '60s and 60s

I attended a fun concert last night at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. It was the 2011 Happy Together Tour, so it was an evening to sit back and enjoy some great music from a decade that shaped so much of my life.
Mark Lindsay, the lead singer for Paul Revere and the Raiders, put on an energetic set. The way he was jumping and moving on the stage, and belting out those tunes from his heyday, you'd never guess he was 69.
He remarked that he was thankful to have lived in the '60s and that now he's reliving the 60s, not only on stage but in life. I suppose that most of the performers were in their 60s, if not early 70s. By the way, also cranking out their hits from that decade were The Turtles (Flo and Eddie), The Buckinghams, The Grass Roots and The Association. 
But back to Lindsay's insightful comment. I'd never really thought about that those stages in my life. Yes, I was part of the '60s and now  I'm in my 60s (not as old as Mr. Lindsay!). But it's something to be ponder and be thankful for. I have all these memories from my life at a younger age (and the music helps rekindle some almost-forgotten times).
Much like photographs and old friends, music taps into my memory bank. As The Buckinghams sang, "Hey, baby, they're playing our song,"  let the music trigger some memories in you.
Until the next time...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Awesome Advice

I wish I knew the answers to all the questions that writers have about their craft. I'd be a rich man. You'd see ads about me appearing as the keynote speaker at writers conferences around the world.
I'd be on the cover of Poets & Writers, Writer's Digest and The Writer. Hey, I would probably show up in the New York Times Review of Books, Time and Newsweek as this Kentucky sage who commands attention from writers everywhere. Oprah would find out about me and ask me to host a show about writing on her network. Since I'm don't hold a doctorate like Dr. Phil, how about "The Write Way with Michael" or something catchy like that? 
I'd be a rock star in the writing community. 
But,  alas, I'm just one of millions who simply enjoy writing, sharing words with others, and occasionally having a published book.
One thing I've learned since my first book was published in 1984 is that there are countless ways to write, promote, market, and sell books. Every author has experiences that may be slightly different -- or vastly different -- from another writer.
I read as much as I can from fellow writers as well as publishing houses, agents and others associated with the business and craft of writing. I have numerous books by the likes of agents Donald Maas, Michael Larsen, and Jeff Herman as well as writing tomes by Stephen King, Brenda Ueland, John Gardner, and Sol Stein. And I have Writer's Market, Guide to Literary Agents and similar books that I refer to for advice and guidance. 
I subscribe to Writer's Digest, The Writer and Poets & Writers as well to several websites. The point I'm trying to make is that there is an enormous amount of information out there for writers of all genres, shapes and sizes.
Like most writers, I enjoy talking to other writers in person. That can be at book signings, conferences and other events. Frankfort author Chris Helvey and I meet for coffee every few weeks at the Coffeetree, conveniently connected to Poor Richard's bookstore, and discuss writing, books, and all things pertaining to the craft.
I'm not sure if anything new has surfaced in recent years about writing. Most of it has been rephrased to coincide with a writer's own experiences. Sometimes that proverbial light bulb goes off over my head after reading or hearing something "new" that enlightens me about the craft.
Writing is a lifelong learning experience -- in my opinion. But you'll have to find out what other writers think about that from their experiences.
Until the next time...