Saying Goodbye to an old friend

045We are assimilating the “stuff” of my mother-in-law into our house. Her large furniture has been sold, or put in use in our house: one bedroom set and three easy chairs. In the garage are a mattress and box springs (surplus), and an extra box springs (bought by someone years ago but never picked up). In the house are mostly smaller items, including linens and paper items. Those will take time to go through. The garage is full of her stuff spread out on tables, mostly marked for sale. When the sale will actually take place is a mystery, but hopefully soon. Part of our work yesterday was more work going through the pantry to see what might be too old to keep, seeing what was now duplicated, etc.

Meanwhile, the need to de-clutter has been on our minds. We knew we had to start, so that we dodn’t leave our kids in the place my dad left us, with a houseful of stuff to be sorted, priced, and sold or discarded. Yet, saying you will de-clutter is easier than actually doing it.

I made a little progress two weekends ago. I moved things around in the basement storeroom to accommodate a spare bedroom set. While doing so I found four suitcases we’ve had since heading to Saudi Arabia in 1981. These are well-traveled suitcases, but still in good condition. We originally had 12, of two different sizes, but through the years the others have been damaged and discarded. Even though we have new suitcases, we kept these because…why did we keep them? I suppose because they were in good condition and we thought we might use them someday. I pulled them out and set them in a place where I can easily take them upstairs when we have the garage sale, which hopefully will be soon.

Then, behind where the suitcases were, I saw my old trumpet. I bought this in the fall of 1963 (6th grade), with my own money, Dad later chipping in with some money he owed me (that’s a long story), and played in the school band from 6th grade through 12th grade. Truth is, I was never very good, and in high school never made it past 3rd trumpet. But I enjoyed it and I played.

Then came adulthood and children and overseas adventures. The trumpet went in storage twice while we were out of the country, and otherwise was in whatever storeroom we had in whatever house we lived in. Here in Bella Vista that’s the basement storeroom. The last time I played it was about 20 years ago. The interim of no practice hadn’t made me a better player.

So I thought, “Time to de-clutter; unused trumpet.” Two and two went together. I thought I should donate it to a school district for a kid who wanted to play but couldn’t afford one. The problem was the case was really beat up. I once rammed it into a fence post while trying to avoid hitting Adele Palazzo with it between home and school (another story, not so long). That gave it a crack, which later expanded, and a small piece of the case was lost. Then, around 1997 I loaned it to a family at church who couldn’t afford to buy one. It came back in a few weeks with several long cracks in the case. And when I pulled it from storage, a 7-inch piece of the case was on the floor under it. Would anyone want it with a severely damaged case?

I decided to check. One of my wife’s step-sister’s husband works at a Catholic school system, was a music major years ago, and is involved in music with the school. I asked him if his school system would like it, damaged as it is, and he said yes, very much so. I told him I’d bring it to Oklahoma City next time we were there, and he said he’d actually be passing through our area soon and would pick it up. That happened yesterday, and it is now gone, somewhere in Norman, OK, waiting to be used by some student who can’t afford one and can live with a bad case.

So I say goodbye, old friend. Sorry I never gave you a name. You were part of my life for 52 years, though admittedly I’ve neglected you for the last 45. You were money well-spent. Yesterday it was nice to see your valves still worked after at least two decades without maintenance. May you find love in a new home, and help some kid to come to appreciate music. And may your tones bless the world for decades to come. Over the next year, no telling how many of your storeroom buddies will also find new homes.

Unfinished Writing Projects

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy intention for today was to write a lengthy post on the status of several writing projects. However, two things intervene. First, I’m in New Orleans on a business trip. I’m not sure I feel like taking time to do a detailed analysis of my writing-in-progress. Second, since around Sunday my gumption for writing has tanked. At present I don’t know that I care much if I write any more or not. The reasons for that are complicated and I won’t go into them here. Suffice to say these are not the days for me to be making bold plans for adding to my published titles.

I will say a few words about my projects. The easiest one should be to publish my last short story, “Sierra Kilo Bravo“, at Smashwords, making it available to Nook, Apple, etc. That means pulling up the file for the Kindle publication, making a few simple changes, and hitting Publish. Along with that I want to republish the other stories in the series to add a link to this one to it. Also fairly simple. But I haven’t felt like doing it, now a month since it went live for Kindle.

Another fairly easy project will be to correct typos in my two baseball novels, In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People and Headshots. I re-read them some time ago on my Nook, found enough typos in each to warrant fixing them. This is a one-day project for each book. So far, I just haven’t felt like it.

SBC book front coverThen, I have some typos to fix and new data to add to my family history book, Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West. This is a little more complicated. It’s a print book, so unless I want to have the cover redone due to pages added I’ll need to add the new data without too much lengthening. The good news is I sort of planned for this, putting a couple of blank pages at the end of the book. So long as the new data doesn’t take up more than them, I should be okay. I have some of these marked, and one of my wife’s cousins also marked some. She didn’t give them to me, but will when I ask her. This should be my priority, I suppose, but so far—you guessed it—I just haven’t felt like it. A related project, some cousins have asked me to publish a color edition of this. That will require rework of the cover, since the page thickness is different when you print in color, but otherwise is a simple thing. I need to do that right after making the corrections to the black & white edition.

So what does that leave as far as w-I-p go? I have three books started:

  • Preserve The Revelation. This is a sequel to my first church history novel, Doctor Luke’s Assistant. A couple of years ago, when in a period of uncertainty as to what my next project should be, I wrote the first chapter of this. Since then ideas for the book continue to find their way into my conscious thinking.
  • Documenting America: Civil War Edition. This would be the next in my Documenting America series. I got well into this last year and early this year. I’d guess it’s 40 percent done. I have pushed this far from my current thoughts.
  • The Gutter Chronicles, Volume 2. The first volume was a reasonable success at the office. I’ve completed three chapters in that, and am well along with the fourth. It’s been over a year since I’ve worked on it, but I’d say I’m about 20 percent done. Ideas for remaining chapters of this have been bubbling up of late.

TCEEA print cover 01That leaves my two Thomas Carlyle projects, wanting to join their brother on my virtual bookshelf. These are the two I’m actively working on. At the office I use my free time to work on Thomas Carlyle Chronological Composition Bibliography. At home I use free time to work on Thomas Carlyle’s “Chartism” Through the Ages. Both are well along, though neither is close to being done. They are perhaps silly things to work on, as neither would be a commercial success. However, at least these two are holding my interest.

Well, this post ran longer than I expected. Still, it’s the short version. I write it not so much as to inform you, my loyal readers, about what’s coming, as to help me bring order to the chaos that’s happening in my head and finding it’s way to paper and pixels. May the order come soon.

Not All Modern Worship Songs Are Awful

Several of my friends are quite critical of modern worship songs. Or, perhaps I should say modern worship choruses. The repetition of the words, the lack us substance, the lack of focus on God and Christ, and, they feel, you have music (often not to their liking) and words that don’t speak to them, don’t feed them, and don’t lead them to worship. And, the lyrics of modern choruses don’t contain doctrine, they say, making them less effective for worship than the old hymns, which do contain doctrine.

I must confess to being somewhat in this category myself. I don’t listen to Christian radio because they play the latest songs, and I don’t like them. They come into the church fairly quickly after they appear (or so it seems to me), and I don’t like them any better live than I did on a recording. My reasons are more music and instrumentation related, not totally the lyrics—although some of them have lyrics that leave me cold. I understand the church has to keep itself relevant to those who will be around longer than I will, so I haven’t troubled myself too much over music. The third or fourth time a new song is sung I generally get it and sing along too. Blessing follows.

So today, when I walked into early service just a minute and 28 seconds before it was to start, and saw some people on the platform, ready to lead in worship, that I didn’t recognize, I was concerned.  The youth pastor was there too, and a couple of other people I recognized, but not the two in front. As service started, they say a song I didn’t know. Very modern. Somewhat repetitive. Not very fulfilling. I didn’t sing along, nor clap. At the end of the song the youth pastor told the congregation that this was the youth praise band, and who the two “strangers” were.

Based on the first song, I wasn’t optimistic. However, the next one (I think it was the next one, or was there another before that?) was a wonderful song, “In Christ Alone“.  This has been a favorite of mine for a number of years. I figured it was an old song, but once I got home I looked it up, and see it was copyrighted in 2001. Okay, for me that’s not old; that’s new. This song was wonderfully done. The combination of words, tune, instruments, and the voices of the praise team and the congregation gave us a wonderful worship experience. Two segments of the song particularly speak to me:

And as he stands in victory,
sin’s curse has lost it’s grip on me.
For I am his and he is mine,
bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No power of hell, no scheme of man
can ever pluck me from His hand.

So full of meaning, and poetry, and worship.

They finished up the singing part of the service with the song “Cornerstone“. I knew this was a newer song, but wasn’t sure how new. Found it when I got home however: 2011. Now that would count as new in anyone’s book, I should think. This is another wonderful song, with tremendous meaning in the lyrics.

The teen praise band sang both of these songs in a wonderful way. All the instruments blended, yet I could pick each one out. The drummer played the song to enhance and supplement the other instruments. We weren’t overpowered by the booming of the drums, which can all too easily happen.

The result was an exceptional worship experience. When Pastor Mark got up to speak, I was in great expectation of what he would say, and I think most of the congregation was. What a wonderful time. “Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”


The Busyness is Overwhelming

Right now, I simply can’t commit time to blog posts. I’ll still slip one in once in a while, but unfortunately I won’t maintain a regular schedule. Life has thrown many things at me right now, and just now I have to process through them. An example: the lock on our front door no longer works. We discovered this Friday evening. Rather than call a locksmith then and perhaps pay extra, I’m doing it today. I’ve looked them up, have three choices written, and will call shortly. Then I’ll have to call home and tell them whether a locksmith is coming. Such a pain.

At the same time I’m trying to maintain a little bit of a writing schedule. I published a short story last weekend, and last week I worked on my two Thomas Carlyle projects. I have that mostly worked out of my system at present, but not fully. Maybe by the end of today I will, then will put those projects back on the shelf for six months. But today I pick back up my book Seth Boynton Cheney and begin to make edits for it, and then to prepare a color edition for printing.

So, my couple of faithful readings, feel free to check in from time to time. Just don’t expect posts to be coming on a regular schedule.

Poetry No Longer Comes To Me

I began writing serious poetry on August 31, 2001. Yes, I remember the date, because I was at home, laid up after a heart attack scare (it wasn’t one), and during those days at home decided to try my hand at it. The poem I wrote, “The Spring House”, is included in the one poetry book I’ve published, Daddy-Daughter Day. One person has told me it’s the best poem she’s ever read. Of course, she’s only seen it after it’s gone through much pondering and editing.

But of late, say for the last two years, poetry barely comes to me, either by inspiration or perspiration. I think if I should decide this evening to sit and write a poem, I would be unable to. I’d stare at a blank sheet of paper, perhaps write a title, and then…nothing.  Knowing a poem should consist of images and metaphors, with lines as the defining unit, I’d search my brain for an image or metaphor that would illustrate the title, but then…nothing would pass out of my brain. I’ve even found it impossible to write simple haiku (though, granted, my rules for haiku are somewhat more restrictive than what many people use).

I could speculate long on why this has happened. Is it life closing in on me, squeezing me? Is it the heavy concentration on prose writing over the last four years? Is it the turmoil in the world? Is it any of twenty other things I could write? Or probably the combination of them?

Or, perhaps, I was destined not to be a poet. Perhaps that was a false start on my writing career. Perhaps prose is my field, not verse. I used to sense inspiration on my noon walks, or while commuting to and from work. I’d observe something in nature, and begin a haiku in my mind, without being able to write it. Perhaps one in four or one in five of these might find its way to a completed haiku, and survive until I was back at the office or at home and could write the words on paper. I have dozens of pieces of paper with these haiku on them, waiting to be gathered and put in a retrievable file.

But, as I say, even these simple stanzas eluded me. But yesterday, on the way home, I was thinking about this. Since inspiration wasn’t there, I decided to try perspiration—work at it. I observed the sky. Cumulus clouds were ahead of me, to the north: towering, white, fluffy. The same clouds were to the west, with the lowering sun giving them a back-lit quality. Traffic was more or less normal. My health, well, yesterday was a bad day. I had an increase in sinus drainage and, I think, a high blood sugar episode. I spent half the afternoon simply sitting at my desk, getting nothing done, but being there in case someone needed me.

I took all these elements, and over five minutes of driving was able to hack out a haiku, using my rules, which include the 5-7-5 syllables as being the longest allowed, not a fixed amount. I did break one haiku convention, in that the third line is actually a metaphor, whereas haiku are supposed to be images, not metaphorical. I doubt my editor will care.

I thought it wasn’t bad, and said it over and over till I was home. There, I became immediately involved in supper prep and forgot to write it down. It wasn’t till about 10 p.m., more than four hours after the writing, the I realized I needed to commit it to paper. Fortunately I remembered it, found a note pad, and “created” it in tangible form. That means it’s copyrighted, even in manuscript.

It’s still not in a retrievable file yet. Perhaps that will happen tonight. And I’m not saying it’s a good poem. But it was a creation wrought of perspiration, finding a little inspiration from intentional observation. I’ll take it, and maybe build on it. I considered posting it here, but think I’ll not inflict it on my couple of readers.

Book Sales through August 2015

Book Sales Graph 2015-08Oops! I’m a day late making a blog post. I had planned on something else, but instead I think I’ll give a book sales report. Excuse me a moment while I check my posts and see when is the last time I did that…

…I’m back. It looks as if I’ve not made a formal sales report at all in 2015. If that’s the case, the easiest way is for me to simply post a table from my spreadsheet. There it is above, through the end of August.

I’m on track to sell more books than last year. Sitting now at 71 sales, which equates to a yearly rate of 106. However, my sales this year are mostly driven by my issuing Daddy Daughter Day in April and Seth Boynton Cheney in September. Both of these are print-only books, and have sold mostly hand to hand. Without those, I’d have less than 20 sales this year. But, then, I’m up to over 400 sales all together in 4 1/2 years. I’ll take them.

Of course, that’s with almost zero publicity or promotion. I still don’t know what type of promotion would be effective for the books I publish. Perhaps next year I’ll do more promotion. Or perhaps not. Osmosis isn’t very effective I’m finding out, despite what some of the self-publishing gurus say.



A Programmed Bible Reading

The first Sunday in August we were in Dodge City, planning to drive home that evening/night. In church service that Sunday our pastor announced a church-wide Bible reading plan: 40 days of us all reading the same thing. It would start the next day, and follow a certain program on a certain website. Our pastor would also be blogging about it at another site.

Now, we’ve done this sort of thing before; not recently, but we’ve had times when everyone in the church was supposed to be reading the same thing, either something in the Bible or a book for a study. When the reading was a programmed Bible reading, I generally have had trouble keeping up with it. My normal Bible reading is to take a book and read it on my own schedule. Maybe some much per day; maybe till I’m ready to stop. Right now I’m reading the major epistles, currently reading a chapter a day as a devotional reading.

But, when I get a programmed Bible reading, for some reason, I can’t do it. I fall asleep while reading. I let my mind drift. I get nothing from the reading. I seldom finish the program.

This time, when we got home from our trip, and by the time I looked at e-mails and newsletters and found myself already behind in the reading, I almost didn’t start it. However, wanting to participate with the others, I started a few days late and determined to catch up. I did so within a week, and am on schedule, slightly more than 1/2 way through.

The surprising thing is I’ve been able to read and enjoy it. When reading, my powers of concentration seem good. My mind doesn’t wander, and I get through it all. This is a strange thing for me. But I hope it continues, through this program and in the future.

Brain Dead

I know I was supposed to publish a post on Sunday, and another one today. Truth is, however, that I’m brain dead right now. I couldn’t force out a post if I wanted to. Yet I have work to do this evening, writing work.

I’ll try to be back on my regular posting schedule next week.

A Short Story Completed

This summer, writing has taken a backseat in my life. I haven’t completely abandoned creative writing, but time to give it much focus simply hasn’t been there.

What have I been doing instead? Well, in early June we babysat our three grandchildren for almost two weeks, then their parents arrived and stayed with us a few days. They went on a ten day road trip, coming back in early July for a couple of days. That has a way of taking up a lot of your time.

Then there was my wife’s family reunion the last weekend in July/first of August. I was reunion planner. I know, that sounds strange, doesn’t it? But I was, and it took a fair amount of work. Part of that was completing a formal edition of my family history book. Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West, focuses on the patriarch of the family, but it’s much more than that. 292 pages of biography, photos, maps, document images, and pages and pages of data I’ve collected on a number of ancestors in the family. My goal was to have it published by June 15, to give people plenty of time to order it before the reunion. I came very close to making it. The book was done by the 15th and a proof copy ordered. It then took me to June 27th to have all the corrections made and have it published.

Then there’s stock trading. That took a back seat to the reunion, but since that I’ve hit it in a big way again, trying to make some money to augment the retirement funds. I’m actually not doing too badly for the year. I have losses, but almost none since April, with a string of winners since then helping to recover from other losses. Unfortunately that work isn’t going to change very soon.

Work at CEI has been about normal. I submitted abstracts for presentation of two technical papers, one of which was due Friday. I came within about two paragraphs of completing it then. I printed it out and have it at home with me. Hopefully tonight I’ll be able to read and edit it and figure out those couple of paragraphs I lack. Tomorrow I’ll be able to type the changes and upload it sometime in the morning. I advised the organization that I’d be on that schedule, and they said that was fine.

So, back to the short story. It is the last in the Danny Tompkins series that explores teenage grief at the loss of a parent. The subject for this story eluded me for half a year. Finally around May I knew what it would be, and I wrote a few paragraphs. The hindrance of the “blank page” having been overcome, I came back to it from time to time, as I could carve out a little time for it. Slowly it came to being.

On Friday I worked on it a little on my noon hour, and realized I wasn’t sure how to end it. This one ends the series of five stories, so the ending needed to be both for the story itself and for the series. This afternoon I sat down to work on it, first editing what I had. As I did that the idea for the ending came, it being a little different than I’d thought it would be. It reads more as a memoir than a story, but it’s done, and it’s as good as I can make it, so I’m going with it. I did the Kindle version formatting this afternoon. I was about to work on a simple cover for it, but realized I can’t get to the photo I was going to use. So I’ll have to take another photo, which I’ll do when I go upstairs. I know exactly what I want with it.

My goal is to have this available on both Amazon and Smashwords by Wednesday, August 19. It will be close, but I think I can do it. Smashwords doesn’t take much more formatting than does Kindle, and the same cover works for both. With luck I’ll have it all done tomorrow evening, and the books will be out in time. I also need to go back and add links to all five stories to the ones already published. That I’ll do before the week is out. Then, next weekend I’ll begin promotion of the new story and the set.

After that, I have another story started in a different series. I need to finish and publish that. Then, I’ll see.  I know which two novels I’ll work on next, and which book-length non-fiction. We’ll see which of those bubbles up to the top. The busyness doesn’t appear to abate in the months ahead. Another reunion that includes a long road trip awaits. A business trip will take me away for a couple of days in September, and another might do the same in October. But I’ll be writing. I’ll keep my few fans updated here.

Author | Engineer