Sunday, November 25, 2018

Travel: The Maine Line from Kentucky

In late October my wife and I drove to Maine from our home in Kentucky. Every autumn for the past few years we have tried to take a short trip to other parts of the United States. We generally reserve spring or early summer for international vacations.

A foggy view at Acadia National Park
We wanted to take in the fall foliage as well as a few historic sites during our drive. Mother Nature didn't always cooperate with our plans.

For the 1,200-mile trip to Maine, we took a different route to New England (I used to work in New York so I've driven back and forth a few times). We drove to Columbus, Ohio, then across to Pittsburgh since we had never been to Steel City. While it was simply a drive-through, the view of the city from the Ohio side is quite a sight. Unfortunately, there was too much traffic to pull over and take a photo.

Mark Twain Home
We stayed overnight in Altoona, Pennsylvania, then headed to Hartford, Connecticut. We made a quick stop to see Mark Twain's home, before going on across the border to the aptly named Plainville, Massachusetts, where we spent the night. 

The next day we left early to avoid any possible traffic jams in Boston. We stopped in Saco, Maine, where we had lunch with Claudia, a friend we made on a trip to Budapest, Prague, and Vienna in 2016.  One of the bonuses of travel is making new friends.

Bar Harbor 
Then it was on to Bar Harbor, our primary destination, to visit Acadia National Park and the historic fishing community. The only problem we encountered was the weather, as we drove through bands of sleet and snow along the way. We wanted to see the iconic Portsmouth lighthouse but didn't want to contend with the rain and wind from a nor'easter that was moving through the area.

Stephen King Home
We stayed three days in Bar Harbor, and fortunately, we had a respite from weather to take in some hiking and sightseeing. Then it was on to Bangor, where we had a brief period of sunshine while stopping at author Stephen King's home (imagine that!) and the Chamberlain Freedom Park commemorating the underground railroad and the path to freedom for those who had been enslaved during the Civil War.

The trip back to Kentucky (prompted somewhat by a call from our vet telling us our dog Bailey wasn't feeling well), took us across the beautiful White Mountains in New Hampshire and the Green Mountains in Vermont.  We also stayed overnight in picturesque North Conway, New Hampshire, a destination for skiers and those who love the outdoors.
Snow and Pine trees in the White Mountains

After reaching Scranton, Pennsylvania, we considered going to Cleveland and taking in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But the weather intervened as another storm front was moving across Kentucky and into Ohio. We'll make that trip during a long weekend in the next month or so (weather permitting).

Needless to say, we made it back safely, driving across West Virginia and into Kentucky, where the foliage was still a bright palette of oranges, yellows, and reds. 

We do hope to make another trip to New England, spending several days in historic Boston and other interesting stopovers along the way. 

Until the next time . . . 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Manuscript Update: Time Off Before Edits

Since my last post, I traveled to New England to take in the fall colors and visit some scenic areas such as Acadia National Park in Maine and the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

Mark Twain House
I even made a stop at the Mark Twain house in Hartford, Ct., and Stephen King's home in Bangor, Me. 

Before I left on my short getaway, I sent my manuscript to my editor at Wings ePress. When I returned eight days later, I signed a contract for the third book in the John Ross Boomer Lit series. 
Stephen King's home

For those interested, the novel is tentatively scheduled for release in May 2019. The title? New Horizons. More about the book later.

She also had first edits for the novel and some recommendations to consider in my inbox.

Believe it or not, I haven't opened either document on my computer. She said there was no hurry, and I took her at her word. I needed to put some more distance being me and the manuscript, especially since I was preoccupied with other things at the time (I'm not the multi-tasker I used to be). 

I need a clear head when I delve into edits. I want to be as objective as possible when seeing edits and reading comments.  I want to view the manuscript as an editor, instead of as the author. I want to be in the mindset of editing the copy as if it were written by someone else. 

I've also got to provide the publisher with information to give the graphic artist an idea on how to approach the book cover. And I also have to write promotional blurbs, book dedication, and excerpts for marketing on websites. 

So there's a lot of work to be done in the coming months. I'll probably tackle the edits the first of next week since (with credit to Johnny Nash) "I can see clearly now" to move forward.

Until the next time . . . 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

WIP Update: On to the Editor

After seven rewrites and revisions, and a few last-minute tweaks and deletes, my manuscript was sent to my editor today.

I informed her yesterday that I'd be forwarding the 67k words to her. She replied that she was looking forward to a good read. I hope she's not disappointed. 

The first draft was 37k words, so it's grown another 30k in the past four months or so. I thought I would be able to finish it in three or four rewrites, but that was not to be. Every time I went through the manuscript, I added another layer to the story, be it a subplot, new character, or plot expansion.

I read an interview with chef Ina Garten, the "Barefoot Contessa," yesterday and she quoted noted journalist Bob Woodward as saying, "It's not that I ever finish a book, I just stop working on it."

I couldn't find the quote after a web search, but I understand the reasoning behind it. There comes a time when you have to say to yourself, "Enough is enough," and hand the manuscript over to your publisher. 

One of the great things about writing a series—this book is the third in the John Ross Boomer Lit Series—is that I can pick up where I left off. I've already written the first draft to the fourth book, and know what I plan to do in the fifth. 

I've got a title for the new novel but won't disclose that until the contract is signed and I'm working on her edits.

And if all goes to plan, the novel will be published in the first half of 2019. And perhaps the fourth book in the second half of the year. No pun intended, but time will tell if those goals come to fruition. 

At least the manuscript is out of my hands for a few weeks. It's time to take a break.

Until the next time . . .

Saturday, October 6, 2018

WIP Update: Seventh Rewrite

I've completed six rewrites on my work in progress; now it's on to a seventh.

As mentioned in my last post, I thought the manuscript would be ready to send to my editor after six rewrites. I also noted that if I wasn't completely satisfied, I go back over the third installment in the John Ross Boomer Lit series.

And that's what I'll be doing over the next few days. There are still several tweaks to make before letting it leave my hands. It's now more than 64k words, up from 37k after the first draft.

Writing the first draft is probably the easiest part of the process, at least for me. I simply sit at the keyboard and the words generally flow from my fingers. 

And I know beforehand that it's not only a first draft, but a rough draft that will have to be polished through rewrites and revisions. For me, that's when the real work comes in—making all the pieces fit, tying loose ends together, and making sense of it all. 

It's my hope that this will be the final rewrite. After a while, I get a little tired of reading and rereading passages. That's when my editor and proofreader go to work on the manuscript.

Until the next time . . . 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

WIP Update: Sixth Rewrite

Just a post to let everyone know that I'm alive and still working on my ninth novel. I'm about a fourth of the way into the manuscript, the sixth rewrite that I hope to complete by the end of next week.

It is my intention to be finished with it and send it on to my editor. If all goes well, and it seldom does, I'd like for it to be published next spring by Wings ePress. In a few weeks I'll let you know the title to the third installment in the John Ross Boomer Lit series.

There's not much to add about the process, other than tightening the narrative, fixing the dialogue, developing a few of the characters, revising a few passages, something that's addressed in every rewrite and revision. 

I wanted to have it in my editor's hands about a month ago, but life got in the way as it usually does. But I tried to minimize the distractions, when possible, and work daily on the manuscript except (don't you just love that word?) when I took a few days off between rewrites to give my tired eyes and burned-out brain a break. 

I think it's wise to take some time off before delving back into writing so that you can look at it with fresh eyes and renewed perspective. And daily naps help as well at my age.

And as I've noted before, if the manuscript doesn't read right or feel right, it'll go through another rewrite, or more, until I touch the send key.

Until the next time . . .  

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

WIP Update: Fifth Rewrite

I've gone around the track five times with my work-in-progress and still have a few more laps to go before I reach the finish line.

The manuscript, the third in the John Ross Boomer Lit series, has grown about 8,000 words since the fourth rewrite, to 60k. I made some descriptive details about people and places, added a few more characters, tweaked some of the dialogue, rewrote a few sentences, and revised several paragraphs. 

I'll delve back into the manuscript in the morning, my preferred time for writing. If everything works to plan (and it usually doesn't), I'll have it ready to send to my editor in another week or so (again, wishful thinking).

I'll probably add another 2k-3k words when all is written and done. There are still a few minor issues I need to address to make everything connect, from start to finish. I have several pages of notes to prove it.

As noted in previous posts, the process usually takes me 10 or 11 rewrites before I'm satisfied with the outcome. While I hope to do it in half  that number, the time it takes is still about the same as I have focused on specific areas with each rewrite.

Until the next time . . .  

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

WIP Update: 4th Rewrite

I completed the fourth rewrite of my work in progress yesterday. As with the other rewrites, I'm going to sit on it for a few days before delving back into it with semi-fresh eyes.

For those who haven't been following this thread of posts (shame on you!), I'm working on the third book in the John Ross Boomer Lit series. The first two are "Old Ways and New Days" and "Darkness Beyond the Light." I've already written the first draft to the fourth book, but that's for another post. And I know where I'm going with the fifth. 

The word count has increased, from about 37k in the first draft to more than 52k. It'll probably increase another 5k to 10k with the next rewrite.  This book will be somewhat shorter than the previous novels, something I'll discuss in a later post as well, probably after the publishing date has been determined as part of the promotion/marketing phase.

The manuscript will grow in the fifth rewrite because I added several characters to the story, and a few are begging for  more development and exposure. Several scenes require more research.  And there are still a few loose ends that need to be resolved to advance the story and series. 

No doubt I'll come across other parts that need attention, such as dialogue, backstory, and timelines. It can be a never-ending process. That's why there comes a point when you have to let it go and involve others to gain critical feedback.

It's still my goal to have the manuscript completed and sent to my editor by the end of the month. If I'm not satisfied after the next round of rewrite and revision, I'll do a sixth...seventh...eighth...however many it takes to have it have it ready for her discriminating eyes.

Until the next time . . .

Thursday, August 9, 2018

What Are Boomer Lit Novels?

My last two novels belong to a genre referred to as Boomer Lit. I wasn't aware of the label until I stumbled across the term while surfing the Internet for tag lines for my books—"Old Ways and New Days" and "Darkness Beyond the Light"—now part of the John Ross Boomer Lit series.

In a sense, Boomer Lit is a continuation of the young adult novels that sprang up in the 1960s, such as "The Outsiders." You might include "Catcher in the Rye," since it was almost required reading for boomers when they were teens. 

Those readers have grown up and many want to read about their contemporaries, who now range in age from 54 to 72. By the way, as you have probably guessed, I'm in that group. 

Those born in the United States between Jan. 1, 1946 and Dec. 31, 1964, are referred to as baby boomers. After the war years, there was an increase in the number of births during that period. My "Greatest Generation" parents produced five boomers.

According to statistics released a few years ago, that number reached about 76 million. A recent figure has it at about 65 million, meaning the generation is aging and dying.  

Except for two young-adult novels, my other novels have focused on middle-age adults dealing with life's trials and tribulations. They were boomer lit before boomer lit became a label. Reminds me of the Barbara Mandrell song, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool," if you know what I mean. 

Wikipedia defines boomer lit as "any genre that features mature characters, in contemporary settings, addressing any aspects of today's world."

I'm sure many of the novels offered by Wings, especially the romances, contain elements of Boomer Lit if the protagonist is a boomer. Check out the many titles by clicking here

For those interested in Boomer Lit, check out these sites:

I'm currently rewriting the third book in the John Ross Boomer Lit series. We'll let you know when it's released.

Until the next time . . . 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

WIP Update: Second Rewrite

I've completed two rewrites of my work in progress.  There's still a ways to go before I submit it to my editor. 

As with any rewrite, there are additions and deletions from the manuscript. I added about 5,000 words even though  several chunks of the first draft were eliminated.

One thing I focused on was the timeline. Since most of the story covers a 10-day period in the lives of John and Sally Ross, I had to make sure that those eventful days would be clear to the reader (and my editor). I fell about three days short in the original so that's where many of the added words/scenes can be found.

It was also a time for character development, especially the new ones in this third installment of the series. I've introduced two major characters, eight minor, and one flat. Learn about character types by clicking here

I hope readers gain a deeper understand of John and Sally since they are dealing with different challenges and predicaments in this story. I don't want static characters, regardless of type. 

I haven't looked at the manuscript for two days, trying to give my tired eyes a rest and overburdened brain a break from the story's twists and turns. I'll delve back into it in the next day or so. 

Until the next time . . .  

Friday, July 20, 2018

WIP Update: First Rewrite

I took a different approach to the first rewrite of my work in progress. As mentioned in my previous post, I used the Hemingway App to edit the manuscript, the third book in the John Ross Boomer Lit series.

I did find it time consuming, having to copy and paste several times. But after awhile, I got used to it as it became second nature in the editing process. I'm sure it will be easier to use after I learn a few shortcuts. 

The software was useful in keeping me focused. The color-coded program highlighted possible problems, such as passive voice, adverbs, and complex sentences that might be difficult to comprehend. It also suggested simpler words for clarity.

I followed the advice, stripping out perceived problems to cleanup the manuscript. Along the way, I found myself deleting or rewriting sentences. I also noticed repeated words that needed to be trashed or replaced (most were deleted).

As mentioned, the app doesn't like long or complex ("wordy") sentences. Sometimes the suggestions for simpler sentences are simply too simple. That's simple enough but writers vary the length of sentences to gain rhythm and convey thoughts. Writing is not simple. I'm sure Ernest Hemingway would agree.  

I told my editor that I've made significant progress so now  on to the second rewrite.  

Until the next  . . . 

Friday, July 6, 2018

WIP Update: Back to Work

I've been sitting on my work in progress for about a month and it's beginning to gather a few flakes of virtual dust.  And I've probably gained a few flecks of gray in what hair is left on my head.

So now it's time to get back to work. I plan to get started on the sequel to "Darkness Beyond the Light"  bright and early on Monday morning. In the meantime, I'll download the Hemingway App to get an idea how it works so I won't get bogged down too much by a learning curve as I delve into the first rewrite. 

I've got a stack of notes I've written from research the past few weeks to help in filling in some holes in the manuscript. 

How long will it take to get the manuscript in shape to submit to my editor? As long as it takes but I hope no longer than a month. I generally perform about 10 rewrites before placing it in her able hands. And from experience, I know she'll have some questions and suggestions that will involve some rewrite and revision to strengthen and tighten the story. 

Stay tuned for progress reports. 

Until the next time  . . .

Monday, June 25, 2018

WIP Update: Rewrite and Editing Software

I've been sitting on my work in progress for more than two weeks and haven't lifted a finger on the keyboard to give it a second look. 

I know some folks who have waited months, perhaps even a year or so, before going back to a first draft. The longest period for me was five months.

I'll probably venture back into the manuscript very soon. While I haven't looked at it, there has been some mental activity about the novel, the third book in my John Ross Boomer Lit series. And I have done some research as well, taking down a few notes so I can hit the manuscript running when the time comes to begin serious rewrite.

I've also looked into to some editing tools to supplement what's already installed on my computer. I'm giving serious thought to the Hemingway App program. It appears simple and easy to use, things that I find very attractive at this point in my life. And it's affordable at $19.99, which makes it even more attractive to my frugal eyes. If I decide to splurge, I'll let you know how it works out.

I've read about other programs but they seem to do more than what I want for my manuscript. I keep handwritten notecards and notebooks (even a few scribbles on Post-it notes) about characters, places, and other items that I can easily access. 

Furthermore, I don't like going back and forth within a program. It might be an age thing (you know, light on tech savvy) but I don't want all the bells and whistles. I did try a program a few years back that was more trouble than what it was worth (and it was free).

You can call me old fashion, and you'd probably be close to the mark. I get more that way as the weeks, months, and years fly by. 

Here are a couple sites that rate programs: Click here for a list of top 10 creative writing software programs and click here to see a top six list. 

Any recommendations out there?  

Until the next time . . . 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Remembering Anthony Bourdain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until the next time . . .

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Writer Suicides and More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until the next time . . .