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Old and…

Last weekend, I drove 8 hours from Salt Lake City to Lake Tahoe to attend my brothers bachelor party. I like driving long distances. It calms me, gives me ample time to think. Also, it allows for excellent conversations with travel companions. On this particular trip, it was me and one other fine gentleman, a close friend of two of my brothers. We talked sports, kids, dogs, politics, music, anything that came to mind. The first four hours passed quickly.

After stopping in Winnemucca for gas, my traveling companion crawled into the back seat for a nap. Out in front of me, the road stretched straight and unbending for what seemed like hundreds of miles. I put on some music, made myself comfortable in the seat, and drove. Hours passed. My mind wandered through so many topics, lingering on some for a while, allowing others to slip by almost without a complete thought.

Rhythms of the road.

When I find myself in that state of mind, I can go for hours without stopping. Small towns and cities passed by, and while driving through Reno (oops, I should have exited earlier as we were heading to Stateline, Nevada) was nerve-wracking, I adored the drive.

As for the party, well let’s just say that I am clearly too old for that sort of shenanigans. I love my brother and enjoy spending time with him, but this weekend I felt nervous and out of place most of the time.

At first, things were great. I drank some delicious beers, went on a spectacular group hike where we found a rock formation to summit. From there, the views were stellar. The lake was to our right, a sprawling valley of farms to our left.

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This was my favorite moment of the weekend.

We stayed in an amazing place- three floors and ample bedrooms for all of us (between 12-15 fellows depending on the day). IMG_9422

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All the elements were there for an epic gathering. I can only blame myself for not having an amazing time. Apparently, I’ve become a crotchety old man, always worried about everything. People were too loud, too happy, too drunk, too outrageous, too destructive for my comfort.

Maybe I should have drank more, allowed myself to be buzzed for three straight days, get into the spirit of things, but honestly, most of the time I just wanted to be anywhere else.

That worries me some.

For months, I had been looking forward to this weekend, anticipating the stories we’d have to tell afterward, the craziness we’d create. To then have a continual gnawing in my stomach, an anxiety that grew deeper each day; I have a hard time blaming that on age (even if it is super convenient).

I’ll have to ponder this some more.

The drive home was equally as pleasant as the ride out, and the conversations I had with myself (as my travel companion was exhausted from the weekend and slept for much of the ride) kept me stimulated and engaged. I’m super entertaining, really.

Also, the puppy love I received upon my return was epic.

 

IWSGPit

Tomorrow is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group twitter pitch party! I’ve been gearing up for this day for the past three months, trying out various ways of pitching each of my three completed manuscripts, and somehow, I still don’t feel ready. When I look at what I’ve put on paper, each effort seems silly, and somehow not quite catching what I think the novels are really about.

I’ve always struggled with describing the first novel. I have three different query letters for it, each highlighting a different part of the story, and I am equally unimpressed with all three. Now, I’m trying to pitch the same novel in less than 100 characters. Thank goodness I have a clever wife who has a gift for simplification. She was able to send me two really decent ideas, both of which I will be using tomorrow.

As for the other two manuscripts, I feel a bit better about what I’ve put together for them, but I still wouldn’t say I’ve got it all figured out. And that’s okay, really.

I am going into this event with my eyes wide open. It is likely I won’t get any interest from publishers or agents. If  I do get a nibble, the manuscript or query letter might not satisfy. But this is all part of the process, part of putting myself out there and taking risks. Sitting back, doing nothing hasn’t been all that successful a strategy, so perhaps it is time to try a new, bolder approach.

Wish me luck.

Any of you planning on participating? How have your pitches come together and are you feeling confident?

And just because, here is a picture of my sleeping Athena. Athena

Athena

In October of 2015 the time came to put down our 14 year old German Shepherd, Keyara. Being a stay at home dad (and before that, mostly part time at the library), I’d spent more time with her than anyone else in the family. It isn’t an exaggeration to say I was closer to that dog than most humans. Making the decision to euthanize her was difficult and the actual act was heartbreaking. I still tear up looking at this picture, taken during her last few hours.

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I think of her every day, along with her adopted sister, Sage (who died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 9).

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I had determined I would not be ready to adopt another dog for several years, maybe never. My heart hurt too much, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever be over the loss of both my beautiful girls.

Things change and time makes some wounds easier to deal with.

Last Friday, after likely not enough thought or conversation, we took the plunge and adopted another beautiful German Shepherd Puppy.

This is Athena.IMG_9216

She is 11 weeks old, loves to test my patience by chewing on everything in sight, eating pill bugs (rolly-polly, potato bugs) by the dozens, munching on bark mulch faster than I can get it out of her mouth, biting my toes, spilling her water bowl each time I fill it. And we won’t mention bedtime or crate training…

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She is also absolutely adorable. And while I have moments of absolute terror at what we’ve done, hours of depression brought on by too much thinking, I already love her deeply. She makes me laugh with her silly prancing, her determination to get her own way, and the sweet kisses she offers me each day.

She already knows her name, how to sit. We are working on *leave it* (silly bark mulch), and will get to *stay* next week. athena

I know I shouldn’t let her on the bed, but I’m gonna anyway. IMG_9252.JPG

As you might expect, taking care of her requites almost all my time and effort. She has so much to learn, and everything is new to her. My writing has been put on hold, along with almost everything else. That will change as the weeks roll by, and soon enough our routines will be established, and she will not demand as much attention. But for now, I will be mostly absent from Social Media. That will likely be great news to some of you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve a puppy to smother with affections.

 

 

 

Missed IWSG 

I am vacationing in the inland northwest and was unable to find time to compose an IWSG post for July. I will be returning on Friday and plan to comment on the usual blogs. 

I’m having a grand time, in case you were wondering.  Here are some photos, just because. 

In Print

I’ve been married for 24 years (this august), and during almost all of that time, we have taken the local paper, likely delivered by a very young person (who hated their job) or their kindhearted (grumbling) parent.

My breakfast routine has revolved around the newspaper. I have fond memories of leaving my apartment, grabbing the paper from the patio, and heading to the University. After my 7:45 class, I’d make my way to the Union Building, where over coffee and a bagel, I’d spend the next hour or so reading. Years later, I’d bring it to the library where I worked, or take it with me to a coffee shop. I’ve read it on my patio that crazy summer we adopted our first dog, and she refused to sleep past 5:30 or be alone outside. Wherever we have lived, It has been a constant fixture.

This morning, I called and cancelled my subscription.

I did this for two reasons-

One- Delivery at my current home sucks. I’ve gone as many as ten days in a row without a paper. Calls to the parent company resolve the issue for a short time, but it never completely fixes it. I know it isn’t the best of jobs, but it really isn’t a difficult one. My address remains constant and my house is the same color, rooted in the same location. It is beyond frustrating.

Two- The diminishing size and quality of the paper in general. Entire sections, features, articles, editorials, comics, staff, have all have been discontinued. Subscriptions continue to decline, and most of the focus has shifted online. I get it. News needs to be delivered in near real time. Waiting until the following morning is not a legitimate option. The print edition is no longer a priority.

The newspaper I used to spend my morning devouring no longer exists. And that is fine, I guess. Things change, the world turns, different ways of doing old things push innovation forward. Fighting against that sort of thing is waste of energy. I certainly can alter something as insignificant as my breakfast routine. I have a desk, a computer. I can peruse the online edition over a bowl of Special K. Fond memories can remain just that.

Besides, the local paper may figure out better ways of creating a print edition. They may restore features or find new ones that appeal to me.

After switching from vinyl to CD, I never thought I would want or buy another record. Things come back round. People read and buy actual books again, and for a time, everyone had me convinced digital was going to be everything everywhere. But books are a different animal. Rarely does their content age itself out of relevancy overnight.

I can’t envision it now, but maybe there will be a time when the immediacy of news won’t be a hindrance to a quality print edition of the newspaper. Perhaps the content will shift and become more feature based, filled with local interest stories, investment and financial advice written by qualified professionals. We might see the return of in depth, hard hitting investigative journalism, shock and awe replaced with thoughtful, informative writing that seeks to inform and enlighten.

If that does happen, I will certainly want to participate and support such an endeavor. Especially if they switch to drone delivery.

 

Under the Influence

Music has always been a very influential part of my life. It is hard for me to remember a day without the presence of some song or other. I’ve talked before about how music (and books) are sacred to me. Musicians are storytellers, and as a storyteller I feel a connection with them that goes beyond just enjoying their talents. Certain music has the ability to reconnect me with my past, transport me places, allow me the opportunity to experience old emotions, people. I’ve been moved to tears by music more times than I can count, and each time I’ve been grateful for the experience.

Music also fuels my writing.

There was a time when I needed silence to work, and any outside distraction was a detriment. I don’t know what changed, but now I cannot compose anything without some music playing. It influences the direction of my writing, the tone, the development. I know certain scenes in my first novel were created in direct response to what was on the stereo at the time I was writing them.

And I have so much  of it.

discs

 

Hundreds of vinyl records. Thousands of compact discs. A few lonely cassette tapes.

I’m always acquiring more as well. The more new stuff that I add to the collection, the more some albums get forgotten. Some albums have not been played in years, maybe decades.

In order to try and remember the lost ones, I determined to listen to each of my CD’s (in reverse alphabetical, reverse chronological order) over a two year period. I call it “The Great CD Listening Adventure. I started in the fall of 2016 and just moved through L and into the letter K this morning (L7 to Kylesa, in case you were wondering).

Because some albums have not aged well, I give myself some outs- I play everything, but if after three songs, I’m not feeling it, the disc gets yanked (set on the pile to take to my local record store where I can get store credit). I can skip live albums and greatest hits collections. Singles are also optional. Otherwise, it’s every album by every artist. It’s been so much fun. I’ve rediscovered some forgotten gems, and realized that I’ve lost interest in some bands completely.

My tastes have always been all over the place, ranging from bubblegum pop to Black Metal and most everything in between. I firmly believe that there is a gem in every genre, and that some of the best music ever made is being created right now. If you’re wondering, disagreeing, curious, I can give you a nice list of artists to consider.

What about you? What sort of role does music play in your life, your writing? When authors use music, does it have any affect on the way you perceive a scene?

Who are some of your favorite artists? Who are you listening to right now? Tell me all about your love of music, please.

 

Back From

Our family trip to Cancun was, as usual, wonderful. I can never get enough time near the stunning waters of the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean. I have not stood and stared out at every sea, but I would still argue the water near Cancun is among the most beautiful in the world.IMG_8723

Even before I had ever actually seen one, I was compelled, intoxicated by the thought of the ocean. Incomprehensibly large, powerful, beautiful, my first experiences on the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean have stayed with me throughout my adult life. I was 19, living in Maine, serving a mission for the LDS church. I stood on the sand of Old Orchard Beach, near dusk, staring out at the retreating tide, the evening sky darkening the water. I was humbled. Nothing has frightened or thrilled me as much as staring out at that vastness.

Most likely because of my affinity for the ocean, our Cancun trips usually consist of a week of sitting on the beach, gazing out at the water. The hum of it is endless. The ocean looks and sounds different as each day progresses. I tried to capture some of it.

At sunrise the sky dominates, and the ocean is a muted turquoise. IMG_8719

By mid morning, the sky pales and the blue green water is nearly impossible for me to look away from.IMG_8722

In the evening, the colors and textures are stunning.

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Under a bright yellow moon, words fail me.

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Last. A slightly edited image (shadows and light to bring out the textures of the clouds, the water) of an approaching storm. IMG_8718

I am glad to be home, back to the usual routines, but I miss the constant sound of the waves, the insistent wind. I’ll have to go back soon.