Monday, December 30, 2013

Write Resolutions for 2014

When I make new year's resolutions, I try to list those that I can keep. I tend to stay away from the traditional ones such as doing healthier things, quitting bad habits, and decluttering my life because I'm just setting myself up for failure -- albeit minor ones for the most part.

That's not to say a person shouldn't have various and sundry resolutions to improve one's life. But I don't need to create a once-a-year list to do those things. I like to think that I can make changes as they occur along the way.

But I do like to establish some goals in my writing life that I try to adhere throughout the year. They're really not that difficult to keep since they are commonsense goals.

Here what I'll try to do this, and every, year as a writer:

1. Write every day. It doesn't necessarily have to be a book project although that will come during the course of the year. I have a full-time job that involves writing and editing. I post entries to this blog (my goal is two or three a week but sometimes I fall short of that). I also work on short stories.

2. Read every day. I always have a book or two that I'm reading. I try to have an fiction or nonfiction on my nightstand that I read every evening before I retire for the night. I read quite a bit on the Internet and from magazines that I subscribe. And I venture to the public library's reading area for items to read. I must admit that I fell short of my Goodreads goal of reading 40 books in 2013; I only made it to 29.
3. Maintain contact with author friends. I always enjoy their company as we chat about writing, books, and other authors.    

 4. Participate in writing events. I believe it's important for authors to take part in literacy programs, book fairs, library activities and similar events to stay in contact with the reading public and other authors. And in a sense, it's a way of giving back and supporting others.

5. Continue to study and learn the craft. I subscribe to several blogs about writing. They open my eyes to all things writing, from characterization, plot development, dialogue marketing, promotion, and more. 

6. Always give my best effort. I want to be the best writer I can be so I'll endeavor to make every word, every sentence, and every paragraph count. I know I'll probably fall short but it's the effort to improve that will make me a better writer.

Do you have any "write resolutions" for 2014?

Until the next time.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Getting Focused for 2014

After a busy past few weeks, I'll be turning my attention on my next writing project. I have several ideas floating  around in my head so I'll have to decide which direction to take in 2014.

My last two novels were for young adults -- "Shooting Star" and "The Bully List." In between I wrote "Laments: Short Stories."

And before that I wrote a murder mystery, "A Confidential Man," and before that a contemporary mainstream, "Foolish Is The Heart."

I've had folks ask me when I'm going to write another mainstream novel. And the same for a mystery. I've enjoyed writing both as well as the young-adult novels and short stories. I've always wanted to write a play but that will probably come about in a few more years.

Of course, I could multi-task and work on all three at the same time. I know some authors who have worked on several books at the same time and didn't miss a beat. I'm not sure I could do that at this point.

The main problem I see is that I'm still working fulltime so that takes a big chunk out of my writing time. And I do like to do other things while I'm on this earth, such as travel, read, hike, be with friends, and family time, and not necessarily in that order. I firmly believe writers must have some balance in their lives.

After I think through all the possibilities, I'll let you know which direction I have taken in the new year.

Until the next time...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Story Songs: December Snow

Ten years ago the Moody Blues released a Christmas album called "December." Among the songs were the traditional "White Christmas," John and Yoko Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" as well as some of their own compositions.

My favorite is Justin Hayward's "December Snow," probably the only entry that can be played other times of the year. Those who've been to a Moodies concert in the past 10 years have probably heard Justin perform this bittersweet song.

For me, Hayward's heartfelt lyrics about the seasons are metaphors about warmth of friendship and love and the coldness that comes when that person has left your life.

The song begins:

"Like December snow
That lays in the wood
You're gone too soon
I knew you should"

And then he writes:

"With October skies
You brought your love
But November came
Taking  all I have
Time,  take this sadness from me
Time, bring my heart back safely
Hold on to warm September
'Cos life can be like December snow."

There is a piano solo, probably by Danilo Madonia, that conveys the bleakness and emptiness of the time. 

And the song closes with:

"Time,  take this sadness from me
Time, bring my heart back safely
Hold on to warm September
'Cos life can be like December snow."

For lots of folks, there is a sadness that comes during this time of the year when many reflect on their blessings as well as their losses. And there is seasonal  affective disorder -- or SAD -- that people experience during the winter months.

I hope your holidays are filled with joy and happiness.

"December Snow" lyrics



Until the next time...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Organized Clutter

The room where I write appears cluttered to most folks. And, I suppose, it probably is at first glance. 

A glimpse of my desk, one bookcase, and wall.
There are four bookcases loaded with books, a CD rack loaded with CDs, stereo system with four speakers, desk and two-drawer file cabinet. There's also a chair where I read and a padded bed on the floor for my little buddy Bailey. And there's a window that provides some light and allows me to know what's going on outside my private domain.

This is my retreat. My escape. If it's clutter, it's organized clutter because I know where everything is. And for the observer, that's something they shouldn't be concerned about anyway. I know where to find things quickly so that's all that really matters.

Most of the books are focused on writing. There are others I use for reference, such as history, geography, and sociology. I own several dictionaries and thesauri as well. 

I must say that I'd be surprised if I went into a writer's study and didn't see books, lots of them. I also have a mini-library in the downstairs den with more books. 

But the study is my personal space where I read, write, listen to music, or simply meditate, contemplate, or vegetate.

Until the next time... 

Some music to go with this post:

The Beach Boys -- "In My Room"

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Spotlight on Johnny Rivers

One of the most versatile and talented performers in rock 'n' roll is Johnny Rivers. He's been singing, playing guitar, recording and touring since the 1950s.

While some American solo artists and groups didn't survive the first British Invasion in late 1963, Rivers met the challenge and flourished with his distinctive sound and delivery.

Although he was born in New York (his real name is John Henry Ramistella), his family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when he was a child. And you can hear the Cajun influence in his music. 

Like most folks, I first learned about Rivers with his album, "Live at the Whisky a Go-Go," which produced the mega hit "Memphis." He followed that with hits such as "Maybelline," "Mountain of Love," and "Midnight Special."

And then he shifted gears and turned out ballads, Motown covers, folk songs and then some more rockers with songs such as "Poor Side of Town," "Summer Rain," "Baby I Need Your Loving," "The Tracks of My Tears," "Secret Agent Man," "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu," and "Swayin' to the Music."

Rivers charted 11 Top 20 songs including the No. 1 "Poor Side of Town" from 1964 to 1977. Quite impressive. 

Since his first major recording came in 1963 (he had several singles in 1957), Rivers would have been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. According to my research, he has NEVER been nominated for the honor. I find that unbelievable! He was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

Here's the Future Rock Legends website list of others who have been overlooked, or snubbed, through the years.

More about Rivers came be found at All Music.

And now a few videos of the great Johnny Rivers:

Maybelline and Memphis

Secret Agent Man

Poor Side of Town

Summer Rain

Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu

Until the next time...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Save Thanksgiving Day

I believe family and friends should be at the heart of the Thanksgiving holiday.

It's a day we reflect on things we are thankful and the blessings we have received. And it's a day to show thanks to others for being in our lives. 

It concerns me that some stores are open today, getting a head start on "Black Friday" sales. I think it's wrong. 

A couple of days ago I signed an online petition not to shop today. If you want to sign, click here. I'm not sure how much good it will do but at least you can voice your concern about others having to man stockrooms, retail departments and cash registers instead of celebrating this day like millions of others.

ABC-TV also had a story about some chains not going along with the gradual trend that some term as "gray Thursday." They are keeping their doors closed. Hooray for them!

I think the best way to get the message to retailers is for folks to simply have a Thanksgiving Day boycott. If it's not worth their time to keep the lights on, then perhaps they'll turn off the lights and let their employees be with their families and loved ones.

I don't understand why people can't wait until Friday to find those great "bargains" at the big box stores. And we all know that there will be wonderful buys on products leading right up to Christmas day.

So let's keep this a traditional holiday for everyone. Stay at home and watch the parades and football on TV. Sit around the table or living room and talk to family. If you want to go out, volunteer to work at a soup kitchen or similar place to help those who don't have a blessings you have. Spend time with the children and grandchildren, shooting hoops, passing a football, or whatever you like to do outdoors. Or simply take a nap, you deserve it!

Just stay away from the stores! And remember these stores on Black Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Until the next time...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Better Late Than Never Website Update

It took some time but I finally updated my personal website -- -- seven weeks behind schedule. Better late than never. 

I tried using various software to design a site but I found them too difficult to use. I decided to go with the folks who hosted by previous website, Go, and found its Website Builder to be relatively easy to use. The Go Daddy folks were also prompt about getting back with me when I had questions.

The website is still a work in progress. I wanted something clean and easy on the eyes as well as simple to navigate for now. There is only basic info posted, but those are the things I believe to be essential in promoting my books, and to some extent, myself. 

I'll be adding and deleting parts in the coming days as I become more familiar with the tools and visualize how I want to the website to work. 

The only problem I had was some malware -- SurfBetter -- that I was able to delete using Chrome tool options (after help from a Google search).

I hope you check it out. Let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or comments.

Until the next time.... 

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Day That Kennedy Died

I was a sophomore at Taylor County High School, in Campbellsville, Ky., sitting in Mrs. Artie Taylor's algebra class when the news came over the intercom on Nov. 22, 1963, that President Kennedy had been assassinated.
President John F. Kennedy

I was 15 years old. I looked around at my classmates, and they were doing the same, trying to comprehend what we'd just heard. Some of the girls began sobbing. Mrs. Taylor was wiping tears from her eyes. I don't recall any of the boys shedding tears, myself included, because boys weren't supposed to cry in public.

The next few days were spent in front of the television, watching as Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and then killed by Jack Ruby. And then the funeral in Washington as thousands lined the streets to show final respects as the president's casket was carried on a horse-drawn caisson to Arlington National Cemetery.

I've watched parts of some of the television programs this week marking the 50th anniversary of his death. For the most part, I find them too painful and sad. 

Even after all these years, it's still difficult to comprehend what happened on that Friday afternoon -- and why. 

Until the next time...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Post Kentucky Book Fair

The 2013 Kentucky Book Fair is over, and it was a tremendous success.

Last year's fair generated only $110,000. This time it was $145,000, one of the highest in the 32 years of the event. 

A lot of work went into the book fair. It's primarily a volunteer effort with only a couple of folks on the payroll -- the manager and bookkeeper. It's a labor of love for everyone involved.

There are a lot of folks who donate time, expertise and effort into making this Kentucky's, and one of the nation's, top book fairs. And it helps to have authors such as Sue Grafton, Rick Pitino, Ann Ross, Eleanor Clift, Rick Pitino (coach and author) as well as the other talented writers, illustrators and photographers who provide the books that people want to have signed, and I hope, to read. 

I always enjoy the book fair. As an author, it's great being around other authors and meeting readers (more than 4,000 in attendance, but not all to see me). As a volunteer, I love giving back to my community and state. And I like the idea that what I'm doing is helping public libraries and literacy programs across Kentucky. The ripple effect is simply amazing with all the lives that are touched. 

If you love to read and write, I urge you to get involved in community and state programs that promote literacy. Perhaps work to organize a book fair -- local, state or regional -- where you live. And go to your local library and set up author readings and discussion groups. We have an excellent library where I live -- Paul Sawyier Public Library.

Now that the Kentucky Book Fair is over for another year, I'll turn my attention to writing. I have several ideas swirling about in my head that I hope to develop. 

Until the next time...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Green Light for Baseball

I had the privilege of moderating a panel on "Desegregating Baseball: The Kentucky Connection" at the Kentucky Book Fair. It was a informative and insightful discussion, primarily focusing on Harold "Pee Wee" Reese, Albert B. "Happy" Chandler, and Jackie Robinson.

Dick Usher as Pee Wee Reese
Dick Usher, a Chautauqua performer with the Kentucky Humanities Council, provided a touching performance that brought the baseball hall of famer from Ekron in Meade County back to life for 30 minutes in the Old Capitol chamber. We learned about Reese's strength of character and sense of fairness that helped pave the way for Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

Former Kentucky congressman and state attorney general Ben Chandler recalled time spent with his grandfather, who talked to him about this important period in American history when he served as Commissioner of Baseball. While some have questioned Chandler's importance during that time -- and many believe he was an integral figure -- his grandson noted that his grandfather provided a "green light" for Robinson to play after decades of "red light" governance by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
Ben Chandler

And Ben Chandler also pointed out, which many have forgotten, that Chandler opened the door for Robinson and other black baseball players seven years before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that ended Jim Crow (separate but equal) laws in public schools.

Chris Lamb, a professor of journalism at Indiana University in Indianapolis, provided commentary about the events leading up to Robinson becoming the first black in Major League Baseball. His outstanding book, "A Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball," chronicles the roadblocks and obstacles encountered by black baseball players in the years leading up to Robinson's courageous and historic stance against the odds.

Lamb talked about how Landis and most owners of the Major League teams refused to budge on the race issue. He noted the perseverance by black sportswriters and black newspapers to keep pressing to desegregate baseball.  And sadly, how most of the white sportswriters remained silent on the issue.

And a major turning point, according to Lamb's research, was how black Americans could serve in the military to end racism in Europe and then return home to racism in their home country. Many Americans began to understand it wasn't right.

William Marshall addressed Happy Chandler's role in desegregating baseball and
how the "green light" opened the door for such great black players as Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe to play alongside whites in America's great pastime. Marshall, the retired director of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Kentucky Libraries, is the author of distinguished "Baseball's Pivotal Era: 1945-51," another scholarly but entertaining book about desegregation and social change.

I would urge those who are interested in baseball, history, and significant events to read these books. And if you ever get the opportunity to see Dick Usher as Pee Wee Reese, or perhaps invite him into a classroom or civic event, do it. You won't be disappointed; in fact you'll be enriched and enlightened by reading the books and seeing the history come to life.

Until the next time....

(The program was taped by Frankfort Plant Board Television. I'll try to get it posted on YouTube.)

As promised, here are the videos of the panel discussion:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kentucky Book Fair Eve

In less than 12 hours I'll be heading to the 32nd annual Kentucky Book Fair. Nearly 200 authors and illustrators will be at the Frankfort Convention Center, signing books and talking to 4,000 or so patrons during the day.

This is a wonderful event for my state. In fact, I consider it one of the top attractions in the Bluegrass State. It's a time when the state focuses on reading and writing, readers and writers, and the good that comes from it.

Proceeds from the fair benefit public and school libraries and literacy programs. The fair has raised more than $350,000, and this year distributed $7,500 to seven school libraries. That may not sound like much, but with libraries under siege in my state, librarians are very thankful to have these grants to purchase books. 

Tonight I attended an authors reception at the Paul Sawyier Public Library in Frankfort. All the authors are looking forward to the grand event.

There are bigger book fairs -- but not that many --  but the one we have in Kentucky is one of the oldest in the nation. 

This year's fair will feature mystery writer Sue Grafton, two-time national college championship basketball coach Rick Pitino, and the nationally respected essayist-poet-novelist Wendell Berry. Other luminaries include Eleanor Clift, Ann B. Ross, Bobbie Ann Mason, George Ella Lyon, and....well, many, many more.

Check out the Kentucky Book Fair website or visit the Facebook page and you'll see what I'm writing about. I hope to see you there. 

Until the next time....

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Busy Time of Year

My apologies for not posting anything in more than a week. I know everyone out there has been wondering, "Where in the heck is Mike?" 

Well, I don't believe that. If I did, I'd be fooling myself. 

I've been busy with the Kentucky Book Fair. I'm the marketing
chair so I try to spread the word throughout the state and region about the state's premier literary event. We're heading into our 32nd fair on Nov. 16 at the Frankfort Convention Center, from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

I've participated as a patron, author, and board member. I find it very satisfying to be involved in this worthwhile literary endeavor that benefits school and public libraries as well as literacy programs in my state.

The Kentucky Book Fair is on Facebook so drop by there and give it a "like" and you'll receive updates, photos, author info,  and more. You can give me a "like" as well under Kentucky author Michael Embry

I recently conducted a Goodreads giveaway for my latest novel -- "The Bully List" -- and mailed a copies to the five winners (out of more than 400 entries) this morning. They're from Texas, Washington, New Jersey, Michigan and Illinois. If you're a Goodreads member, and I highly recommend it, feel free to connect with me. 

I'll be back in the writing mode once the dust settles in a  week or so. 

I've included three videos with authors that I interviewed for the Kentucky Book Fair -- for your viewing pleasure. If you want to see part two of each episode, you can find them on YouTube (they run about four minutes each). The fourth and final program will be uploaded on Nov. 14. 

Until the next time....

Thursday, October 31, 2013

No NaNoWriMo for Me This Year

As much as I enjoyed participating in National Novel Writing Month -- NaNoWriMo -- last November, I won't be taking part this time around.

Thousands of writers around the world will take up the challenge on Nov. 1, and I salute them because it's not easy taking part in a daily writing marathon that has a goal of producing a minimum of 50,000 words.

My effort last year was fruitful because it did result in a young adult novel -- "The Bully List." The first draft was very raw, but I did get down the basics of what I wanted to say, and after six rewrites and three edits by others, it became a book.

So why don't I delve into another NaNoWri? It's simple. I have too much going on in November. I'm involved with the Kentucky Book Fair as marketing chair and a panel moderator. Then there's Thanksgiving holiday, promoting "The Bully List," and my regular daytime job. 

I do think that NaNoWriMo is a great way to jumpstart your writing. It worked for me last year. When I write a novel, I put down words every day until I'm finished. So next year I may have a personal writing month, or more, to produce another novel.

I also have plans to write another short-story collection so that will take up valuable time as well. And while I love to write, I also want to enjoy life by spending time with family and friends, taking trips, and playing with a few hobbies such as photography. 

So if you're thinking about doing NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to jump in and see it to the end. You won't regret it -- if you have the time.

Until the next time...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Spotlight on The Doobie Brothers

The Doobie Brothers recorded some of the best music in the 1970s with No. 1 hits such as "Black Water" and "What a Fool Believes." And their songs still hold up today. 

While there have lineup changes through the years, the group had some great rocking tunes such as  "Listen to the Music," "China Grove," "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)," and "Takin' It to the Streets" and then went through a soulful period when Michael McDonald was lead singer in the late '70s. 

The group even cranked out a religious rocker in 1972 with "Jesus Is Just Alright," which probably attracted a few more followers to their music. 

I simply love the musicianship, vocals and versatility of The Doobie Brothers. They've sold more than 40 million albums and are still performing and recording. Check out their discography.

During the McDonald years, the group earned a Grammy Award in 1979 for "What A Fool Believes," co-written by McDonald and Kenny Loggins. It was named "Record of the Year" and "Song of the Year." 

The Doobies were elected to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004. 

And the group was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in ... Well, believe it or not, The Doobies have not reached that hallowed hall of rock music. They were first eligible in 1996.

Not even nominated. Go figure! Their place in the Cleveland shrine is long overdue.

Rock on Doobies!

Until the next time...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Let's Stop Bullying -- Now

I've been asked by a few people why I chose the subject of bullying for my latest novel, "The Bully List."

There are a number of reasons. While I was working on master's degree in special education a few years ago, I took several general education classes that discussed bullying in schools. I found it very interesting and enlightening.

I believe most, if not all of us, have experienced or witnessed bullying while we were in school. Maybe both. Even those who didn't get involved -- remained silent and didn't intervene -- would agree that bullying wasn't right. 

Even as I've moved on into adulthood -- the twilight years -- I recall bullying in different workplaces. I think that's another reason why bullying needs to be stopped in schools. 

We all know it's a serious problem. Just read in the headlines and you'll see where some children -- as young as 12 -- have been driven to commit suicide. That's heartbreaking. 

I hope that my novel will contribute to the dialogue about bullying. I'm happy to see it addressed more vigorously than in the past. It's not harmless teasing; it's mean-spirited behavior. 

And it needs to stop. 

Here are a few websites that I recommend about bullying:

Bullying Statistics

Kentucky Center for School Safety

No Bully

Pacer Center's Teens Against Bullying


Stop Bullying Now

The Bullying Project

Family First Aid

I'll discuss the literary aspects in a future post.

Until the next time...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Great Bet for Winning Vacation

My wife and I spent the past five days vacationing in Las Vegas. The place was on our bucket list for several years so we finally made the trip.

Caesars Palace
Luxor Hotel and Casino
We didn't gamble but we still had an enjoyable time because there are so many things to do while there. We were impressed by the architecture and interior designs of all the themed hotels and casinos. Yes, a few were a bit gaudy, but most were lavish with no expense spared to attract guests. 

Ceiling in Caesars lobby
Harley-Davidson restaurant
 We're urban hikers so we enjoyed going from one place to the next during our sightseeing venture. There are many first-class restaurants, high-end shops such as Gucci, Tiffany and many more, and the standard, low-end tourist shops for people like me (wife not included)! 

Veronic -- the gal with 50 voices

We took in three shows -- "Jersey Boys," "Rock of Ages," and "Veronic" -- and highly recommend them all. On a side note, we also decided to rest our feet one afternoon and saw the movie, "Gravity" in 3D. Great special effects but weak storyline. 

New York New York Hotel and Casino

There were tourists from all over the world, making Vegas a truly cosmopolitan city. 

Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino
If there was a downside to our trip, it was a bus tour reserved two months ago to visit Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon that was effectively cancelled by our federal government. 

We may visit Las Vegas again after we see some other places on our list.  We were told that the light show on Freemont Street in old Vegas was interesting. 
Spring Mountains to the west of Las Vegas

Even if you don't gamble, Las Vegas is a great bet to have a wonderful time.

Until the next time....

Friday, October 4, 2013

Story Songs: "Wives and Lovers" and "Wishin' and Hopin'"

I heard these songs on the radio the other day and thought times have really changed in male-female relationships.

I'm sure many of the younger folks won't remember these songs so just listen and judge in the context of the time they were recorded. 

The first is Jack Jones's "Wives and Lovers," a tune by the great songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It won a Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal in 1964.

It opens:

"Hey! Little girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door
Don't think because there's a ring on your finger
You needn't try anymore"

And then the gals are told:

"Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don't send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again"

I'm sure that touches a nerve with a few women today.

And the the song admonishes:

"For wives should always be lovers, too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you"

And closes softly:

"Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music
Time to get ready for love"

This song was written during an age when most families had one income (man's) and women stayed at home raising the kids and other domestic chores. 

Another song was by the legendary Dusty Springfield called "Wishin' and Hopin'," from, you guessed it, Bacharach and David. It was a Top 10 hit in 1964.

In this song, a gal has to do more than wishin' and hopin' to land a guy, she has to do things to please him:

"Show him that you care just for him
Do the things he likes to do
Wear your hair just for him, 'cause
You won't get him
Thinkin' and a-prayin', wishin' and a-hopin"

And after a woman does those things, she only has to do these extras to get your guy:

"All you gotta do is hold him and kiss him and squeeze him and love him
Yeah, just do it
And after you do, you will be his"

Now I think it's helpful to try to be at your best when dating but this song is a bit one-sided. 

Any thoughts? Any songs that you find a bit out of touch with today's woman?

"Wives and Lovers" lyrics

"Wishin' and Hopin'" lyrics

Until the next time...