Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Writing Life: Back to the Keyboard

 It's been nearly a year since I saved the manuscript for my next novel on the hard-drive. I put it aside for reasons that I'll keep to myself. 

But on Feb. 1, I reopened it to begin work on the sixth book in my John Ross Boomer Lit series. It's my hope to have a complete draft finished in two months. 

I've written more than 41k words so my first task is to read what I've already written and go from there. So far it's been almost like going over another writer's words. That's good because I'm giving a reader's eye to the story.

I'll be making edits and rewrites along the way as the story comes back to life. Of course, I know the story in my head; just not the details from what a wrote a long time ago. I've put drafts aside in the past, but they were completed. I've never returned to a partial draft after almost a year. 

I've made mental notes and a few physical ones about the novel. I'm sure there will be more notations in the coming weeks. 

My editor at Wings ePress has reserved a spot to publish the book later in the year so I'm on somewhat of a deadline to get it to her in plenty of time for the edits, copy edits, proofreads and everything else entailed in transforming a manuscript into a novel.

Until the next time . . .


Monday, January 30, 2023

No More Thinking About the End

It may seem odd to many boomers and other old folks, but I don’t fear death.

Now in my mid-70s, I’ve reached many of the goals set many years ago. I never expected life to go on forever — and wouldn’t want it to. After so many trips around the Sun, it can get kinda boring.

But have you ever considered a few of the positives about kicking the proverbial bucket?

  • No more filing state and federal income taxes. That means no longer have to keep track of everything you do during the previous years before filing.
  • No more having to replace vehicles, appliances, and other devices.
  • No more grieving over the passing of relatives, friends, and pets.
  • No more visits to various doctors for whatever procedures to keep you from dying.
  • No more telephone calls from spammers trying to sell you a car warranty, medicare supplement, or life insurance.
  • No more worries about political polarization, climate change, and pollution.
  • No more concerns about the price of gasoline, groceries, and prescriptions.
  • No more reading about mass murders and senseless gun violence.
  • No more worrying about getting rid of the clutter collected over the years.
  • No more upgrading smartphones, computers, laptops, and tablets.
  • No more having to deal with toxic people.
  • No more seeing and reading about the atrocities of war.
  • No more having to take your vehicles in to be serviced or repaired.
  • No more thinking about home security.
  • No more contending with those who have road rage.
  • No more having to face rude, disrespectful, and pretentious people.
  • No more answering the front door and seeing religious missionaries, political aspirants, or strangers collecting money for various fundraisers.
  • No more deadlines because you’re finally dead.

There’s more I could add to the list, but you get the idea. I bet there are a lot of things you would include.

In the meantime, I’ll wake up each morning and do those things I find challenging, worthwhile, and fulfilling. And then go to bed each night, hoping I accomplished something. But I won’t lose sleep over it — unless it’s getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

Maybe death is a final blessing from the pain, the mundane, and the insane we’ve encountered throughout our lives.

Until the next time . . .

(This post originally appeared at Medium.com)

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Looking Ahead

 Embarking on another year, it's my intention to make it better than the previous one. 

It's not always the case because most things are beyond my control. So, in that case, I simply try to go with the flow and encounter things as smoothly as possible, although bumps along the way can snap one out of a stupor. 

So here are some of my goals, not resolutions, for 2023:

  • Get back to my novel, the sixth book in the John Ross Boomer Lit series. It's been sitting dormant for about eight months. I've written more than 40k words so I need to read and rewrite from the get-go.
  • For many years, I've planned to work on short stories. For those who know or follow me, I've intended to do a follow-up volume to Laments, a collection of short stories published in 2012. I may not do a follow-up on the same theme, but plan to write a few stories that have been lingering in my head for the past several years. 
  • As noted in my previous post, I want to delve into poetry. I'll let everyone know how that goes.
  • I want to get back on the road to places I've never seen. Travel invigorates me with the sights, sounds, and tastes that one encounters at destinations. I'm considering Spain. Maybe Machu Picchu. Of course, there are places within driving distance that I'd like to experience. Perhaps Key West? Philadelphia? Boston? Washington, D.C.? Oregon, Idaho, and Washington are the only states in the lower 48 I haven't visited, so they are a possibility if gasoline prices stay somewhat reasonable. I hope to see a few friends along the way.
  • While not necessarily my goals, my wife has some things on her list she'd like to see for the house, such as a bathroom remodel. Depending on how much that will cost, it could have an adverse effect on other things, such as travel. And you never know what appliance is going to need to be replaced in the house. We also have some outdoor projects to complete this year. These are on the "honey-do" list.
At my age, time is of the essence. I may not have three or four years to do these things—give or take a year or two if I'm fortunate. It's not like when I was in my 30s and 40s and had 30 or 40 years ahead of me, which seemed almost like an eternity, to reach goals. However, a few things I made plans for back in the 1980s and '90s, I accomplished as I got older. It just takes time and determination and savings and luck. 

I hope you realize your goals this year.

Until the next time . . . 

  

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Looking Back

 This year wasn't the most productive for me. 

I reached a few of my personal goals. I don't know if it's age or what. Perhaps I don't have the stamina and motivation. I don't know if that's attributable to growing older or simply limited interest in doing things. Only time will tell.

On the writing front, I didn't have many posts here, probably the fewest ever. As mentioned before, I don't want to post something for the sake of posting something. It's a waste of my time and of readers as well. I do plan to write more about music and travel. There's such a glut of posts out there about writing that it's very repetitive. 

I'm still working on book six in the John Ross Boomer Lit series. I wrote more than 40k words but stopped last spring. I admit it was partly due to the declining health of my beloved dog, Bailey, who eventually passed on June 16. Seven months later, I still think about him. Yes, dogs are certainly family. I'm thankful I have Belle.

Another obstacle I faced is seeking to have the entire series on Ingram Lightning Source so that they'll all be available to bookstores and various online stores in addition to Amazon. It would help so much with my marketing. I hope the problem is resolved soon.

On the positive side, my wife resumed our travels in 2022, spending a week in Portugal and 12 days in Banff, Canada, and Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. We also traveled to Asheville, N.C. We're still deciding on where to journey in the coming year. Maybe Spain.

I'm doing marketing for Wings ePress, hoping to bring more exposure and sales to its talented authors. It's an appreciable change of pace for me at this point in my life. I've always needed to have a purpose in my daily life.

Photography is still a keen interest that I will continue to do. I'll add a point-and-shoot travel camera to my equipment. Some of my DSLRs are getting too heavy to lug around and too much to pack for long trips involving flights. I'm too old to move to the lightweight mirrorless cameras. 

Wishing you all the best in the coming new year!

Until the next time . . .





Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Books I Read in 2022

I'm a member of Goodreads and always participate in its Reading Challenge every year. This year's personal challenge was to read 30 books; so far I've exceeded that at 32 and still have a couple more on my bookshelf.

As a writer, I'm a voracious reader. I believe reading makes me a better writer. I think all writers feel that sentiment about their writing. While I love books, I also read newspapers, magazines, blogs, and various Internet sites. Even cereal boxes. 

Here are the books that claimed some of my precious time this year.

I spent an inordinate amount of time reading about our disgraced former president. It wasn't so much that I wanted to read about him, but to gain a deeper understanding of the workings of the government and why people are motivated to do certain things for the sake of power. It was a disheartening look at U.S. democracy in the 21st century. 

     Among the books:
     "Peril" by Bob Woodward and Bob Costa (up close and personal)
     "Trumpocalypse" and "Trumpocracy" by David Frum (a conservative's viewpoint)
    "The Plot to Destroy Democracy" by Malcolm Nance (a cyber expert)
    "The Big Lie" by Jonathan Lemire (details longtime game plan)
    "How Civil Wars Start" by Barbara F. Walter (scary outlook about the nation's future) 
    "Betrayal" by Jonathan Karl (my favorite of the books)
    
I've been a fan of mysteries for a long time. I try to read those that have a distinctive voice, believable characters, and gritty dialogue.
    "Sins of the Father" by Judith White (a pleasant discovery for me)
    "Looking at Kansas" and "Last Train to Miami" by Chris Helvey (one of my favorite murder-mystery writers)
    "Harmon Creek" by Thomas Fenske (based on a heinous crime in Texas)


The next few books probably fall under the General Fiction category. Each has elements of suspense, mystery, sadness, and humor.
    "Uncle Ahmad's Toys" by E. William Fruge (focusing on immigration and racism)
    "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens (who hasn't read this book?)    
    "The Necessities of Life" by Ed Ford (Eastern Kentucky mining town during the Great Depression)
    "Zorrie" by Laird Hunt (Woman seeks purpose and understanding in life)


And some nonfiction and poetry:
    "Small Acreages" by Georgia Green Stamper (reflections on a interesting life) 
    "Promise" by Patricia Rose (dealing with a broken heart)
    "Gangsters vs. Nazis" by Michael Benson (something new about "good" bad guys against evil bad guys)
    "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande (end-of-life options to consider)

Other books I read and enjoyed.
    Nonfiction: "Enemy of the People" (Terrence Petty), "Factfulness" (Hans Rosling), "USA National Parks" (DK Eyewitness Travel), and "Balance Exercise for Seniors" (Baz Thompson).
    Fiction: "She's Missing" (Mike Paull), "The Island" (H. Wakefield), "If She Knew" (Blake Pierce), "Antique Mourning" (Eileen Harris), "Alaska Shelter" (Debbie LaFleiche), "Death Canel" (Michael Hartnett), "After the Ark" (Dick Shead), "Journey to Mackinac Island" (Kileen Prather), and "Adultery 101" (Margaret Kona). 

I've reviewed the books on Goodreads if you're interested in reading them. As an author, I ask readers to leave ratings and/or reviews of my books. So as a reader, I do the same. 

I'll be signing up for the 2023 challenge soon. This time, I'll probably increase the number to 36 books. I hope you join in the challenge as well. It's rewarding, entertaining, and fulfilling. And while you're at it, connect with me.

Until the next time . . .



Monday, December 19, 2022

A Post about Nothing

 It's been six weeks since I posted anything on this blog site. For those who are subscribers, I apologize. For others, I will return at some point in time. Bear with me. 

The point I want to make today is that I'm not going to post something for the sake of posting something. If I don't have anything to say, I'm not going to fabricate some line that is a waste of my time, and more importantly, of yours! 

I do intend to get back to regular posts, after the holidays and when I have the time to write something worthy of your time. 

As many of you probably know, I try to avoid politics. It's not that I'm not political, but I want my blog to be an escape from the polarization and turmoil on the political front. Furthermore, there are more than enough political blogs out there to more than satisfy political junkies.

I'll continue to focus on travel, music, books, and occasionally items that capture my fancy. I also have another novel that I need to finish in the next few months.

I wish everyone a holiday season of peace and happiness — and hope you spread joy to others in this uncertain world we live in.

Until the next time . . 

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

On the Road: A short trip to Asheville, N.C.

Asheville is a jewel in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a small city with big appeal

Photo © Michael Embry 2022
Downtown Asheville

My three-day visit to North Carolina in October exceeded expectations. I knew some things about the city, such as the famous Biltmore Estate, and did some research on other places to experience.

For many years, while traveling to places in the southeast, I would drive past the Asheville exits on the interstate. Looking back, that was my loss. But I'm glad I was able to overcome the foolish decision of my younger years. Yep, live and learn.


Photo © Michael Embry 2022
Blue Ridge Mountains 
It's hard to beat driving to that area of the country in October, taking in the palette of autumn colors splashed across the trees in the rolling peaks and valleys. Once you enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Knoxville, Tenn., and straight through to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the reds, yellows, oranges, and browns rival nature's display in other parts of our beautiful nation known for colorful fall foliage.

Asheville was named after Samuel Ashe, the ninth governor of North Carolina. The city of nearly 100,000 residents has a thriving arts scene, great restaurants, brew pubs, a noted bookstore (Malaprop's), interesting Art d├ęco architecture, and a state university and several private colleges. There's a lot to this small city. 

The Biltmore is the primary tourist destination for many people coming to the area, but we skipped it. My wife had been there before with friends and took lots of photos. And I have seen many images, watched a documentary and read articles about the historic place to where I felt I had already been there. Maybe next time. 
Photo © Michael Embry 2022
Thomas Wolfe Memorial

Downtown Asheville is very walkable and among the places we saw while strolling the streets were boyhood home of writer Thomas Wolfe ("Look Homeward, Angel" and more), the Basilica of St. Lawrence, the Asheville Art Museum, and various artworks along the way.

A highlight of the trip was visiting the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site in Flat Rock, about 30 miles south of Asheville, where the "Poet of the People" lived from 1945 until his death in 1967. His 264-acre Connemara estate includes his stately white residence, a goat farm where his wife, Lilian, raised champion dairy goats, and five miles of hiking trails. Sandburg was the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes, twice for poetry and once for a biography of Abraham Lincoln. 

Photo © Michael Embry 2022
Carl Sandburg home

Sixteen miles east of Asheville is the art-and-crafts town of Black Mountain, named after the train depot. It's a quaint town that is welcoming to tourists with shops and restaurants. It is also the birthplace of Grammy Award-winning singer Roberta Flack.

I plan to return to Asheville and take in more of the sights and sounds—and definitely spend more than three days in the area. There are plenty of outdoor things to do, and for all age groups, in and around this sparkling city.

Black Mountain
While driving back to our old Kentucky home, my wife and I discussed that had we known more about Asheville a few years ago, it might have been a place we would have considered to retire. It's too late for us, but if you're nearing that point in your life, you might want to give it some thought because it's a small city with a lot of appeal.

Until the next time . . .