Hot or Cold?

RogerPlayingOutside   HeavyWeightCoat

My mother died in 1994. A year after my father. One thing I recall all too clearly about her advanced age was the breathing problems she had when the weather was too hot and the constant problems with trying to stay halfway comfortable during extremely cold weather.

At sixty-eight, I don’t yet struggle with problems like those, and I hope I don’t.

Looking back to when I was younger, I used to prefer cold weather to hot. After all, when I’m hot, I can only take off so many clothes without being arrested for indecent exposure. But when I’m cold, there’s no limit to the number of additional clothes I can put on–if I don’t mind looking super-pudgy. Like the way I look when I wear what my wife describes as my Nanook coat. (See the right-hand picture above.)

Now I’m not so sure I was right. Yes, when I’m too hot I feel drained. Although I try to avoid mowing the lawn when the temp is too high–I’ve already had to mow it twice this spring–I invariably feel drained by the effort. In fact, I feel drained doing that even when the weather’s not too hot.

But when I’m sitting around in winter time and  have to get up to put on one more sweater–I refuse to turn the thermostat above seventy–I feel very vulnerable to the cold and feel extra sorry for the homeless.

But the toughest times to deal with are those when the temperature is in-between and a light jacket is too hot, but even a long-sleeved shirt isn’t quite warm enough.

Today is a beautiful spring day. It’s seventy-two degrees outside, the heat is off, and the front door is open. With the storm door set to screen mode, a mild breeze is helping to bring some of outside inside. (Hopefully not the pollen, however.) A while ago I took my guitar outside and sat on our little wooden bench to take advantage of the sunshine.

Nights are still in the thirties and forties. We usually remember to turn the heat on–in the mid-sixties takes the worst of the chill off–but we occasionally forget. Even though it may be a bit nippy when we get up, the extreme cold of winter seems to be past.

So which do I prefer now–hot or cold? Hard to say. Better just to accept whatever is, don’t you think? But to really enjoy and take advantage of days like today.

Comments are welcome.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger

 

My Final Move

Have you moved lately? If so, you have my complete sympathy. I detest moving and my intention is never to do it again–with the one major exception I’ll talk about further down the page.

As the child of a Baptist minister, I lived in a variety of places growing up:

  • Hollywood, Florida (six months)
  • Farmville, Virginia (eight years)
  • Durham, North Carolina (three-and-a-half years)
  • Norfolk, Virginia (six years)
  • Cumberland, Maryland (four years)

I was too young to know what was happening when we moved from Hollywood to Farmville, but the emotional trauma of the move from Farmville to Durham was tremendous. I’d never had any reason to think I wouldn’t live in Farmville forever. Our other moves were more positive, thank goodness, but I became increasingly responsible for packing my own things. And helping with other packing as well.

After college graduation,  however, I was on my own. Moving was largely a matter of choice. I’ve spent my adult years in:

  • Cambridge, Maryland — eight years
  • Easton, Maryland — six years
  • Richmond, Virginia — thirty-one years

The trauma may have been less, but the physical demands of moving were horrible for someone as lacking in physical strength as I am.

When I moved to Cambridge to teach, I roomed for a while in a guest house, where I didn’t need a lot of stuff. Then I moved into an apartment with a fellow teacher, found a different apartment the following summer when my roommate returned to Pennsylvania, and then found a nifty third floor apartment that fall.

Third floor?

By then I had a lot more stuff than I’d had when I first moved to Cambridge, and bringing groceries upstairs exercised me in ways I would’ve preferred avoiding. I would’ve stayed in that apartment years longer had my landlord not decided to let his grown daughter have my place.

I needed another apartment. Pronto. And not only did I have more furniture to move, I’d bought a small piano months earlier. You should’ve seen them delivering that to the third floor. Getting it back down the steps was even more challenging because it was up to me and my friends to do it.

I was able to take over a suitable apartment from teacher friends who were moving, too. I had a first floor place this time. But boy! did those space heaters not do an adequate job of keeping things warm. My wife and I accumulated more and more stuff.

Then she and I bought our first house–a real fixer at $15,000. Fortunately, we only needed to move a few blocks. I’ll never forget strapping the drier to a dolly and pulling it behind the pickup truck–very, very slowly.

By the time we moved to Easton, where we’d bought a new mobile home, we had more furniture and other stuff than ever. That was about a seventeen mile move. Distance didn’t really matter, though. When moving, it’s necessary to pack just as carefully for a short trip as for a long one.

And that’s just the beginning of the history of my moves. Our longest one was from Easton to Richmond. Between then–1984–and our separation in 2001, we lived in an apartment, a townhouse, and finally an actual house again. A new one that was all ours.

I bought a new mobile home. That’s where Kathleen and I live today, fourteen years later. Unless you’ve been doing the math, you may not have noticed that I’ve not only lived in Richmond longer than in any other place, but I’ve lived in my current home longer than I’d ever lived in any single residence. I love stability!

If you’ve ever moved–most people have–you know what a pain it is. That’s why I’m determined to stay here the rest of my life. If I should ever have to go to a nursing home, I’ll probably be too feeble-minded to care, especially since it would happen without any physical effort on my part.

But I do have one final move coming up. A very final one. And it’s one I’m actually looking forward to. Let me tell you about it with a stanza from one of my original songs:

Heaven is the home of God; He shares it with believers,
Though movin’ there takes a lifetime to do.
I cannot claim to tell you just where Heaven is located,
But day by day, I long to see it more.

I hope I’ll see each of you there when the time comes. How about leaving a comment?

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.

Best regards,
Roger

My Secret Fascination

Lights

I’d like to believe that each of us has a secret interest in something that’s not bad or wrong, but sufficiently out of the ordinary that we might be hesitant to share it with anyone. Even total strangers. Have I got your curiosity up?

Mine couldn’t be safer or less offensive. And it probably couldn’t be much tamer.

Drum roll, please.

Traffic lights.

Yes, you know what I mean: those devices that hang in the middle of busy intersections (or at the side of the street in some locales) and tempt us to go through on red when there’s not another car in sight and no place for a police car to hide and catch us doing it. A test of our willingness to obey the law even when there’s no obvious reason to.

But that’s not what fascinates me about traffic lights. As a former computer programmer, I have some knowledge of the way programs branch differently according to the conditions. Consider, for example, an email address field that rejects what you enter if you don’t put an “@” in it somewhere but readily accepts it otherwise, even if the address is incorrect. Or a telephone number field that rejects anything but digits–and just the right number of them.

Perhaps it’s not so much the traffic lights themselves that fascinate me, but the logic that’s built into them and how they interact with sensors. There appear to be two basic kinds of traffic light logic.

One I think of as the dumb kind. It doesn’t appear to have any logic. It keeps going mindlessly through the exact same cycle regardless of the flow of traffic. Probably an older traffic light, it doesn’t appear to be connected to a sensor of any kind. The dumb kind is the super-irritating kind.

The other kind is what I consider the smart kind. Obviously connected to one or more sensors, it won’t hold a car up forever when no one is coming from other directions. In fact, it may even detect that a left turner has arrived at the light and “see” that the only other cars coming from the other direction are so far away that it won’t adversely affect them to give this left turner an unexpected, out-of-turn chance to go.

My favorite set of lights is found at the entrance to our nearest grocery store. They still go through an established pattern, one like this:

  • Cars going straight from both directions in the picture above–the right (Richmond) and the left (Ashland)
  • Cars turning left (from Richmond) into the grocery store entrance (where the camera is)
  • Cars on the opposite side of the intersection from the camera (a mall entrance) going straight or turning right or left
  • Cars going straight or turning right or left from the camera’s viewpoint (the grocery store entrance)
  • Cars turning left from Ashland into the mall entrance

All nice and tidy. Especially considering that if no cars are turning left into the grocery store,  the light logic automatically skips that part of the cycle and gives the people coming from the mall their chance. If nobody trips that sensor, it defaults to people coming out from the grocery store entrance. It’s still an endless loop, but an intelligent one.

And to make things even better, cars never have to wait more than two minutes for the light to cycle back to them. And the absence of right-on-red arrows permits u-turns.

I get tickled at people who go past the sensor and consequently fail to trip the light in their favor.

That’s it, faithful readers. I hope this post hasn’t been so exciting that it’s resulted in a rash of heart attacks. Thanks for letting me share my secret-but-safe fascination with you. How about leaving a comment and sharing one of yours?

P.S. The intersection pictured above is part of a series that–if approached at just the right time at just the right speed–allows the driver to have green lights for the next four or five lights. Depending on the speed of other traffic, of course.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger

The Loudest Cat in Town

LazyCat

If you’re a cat lover, you probably looked at that picture and thought, “How sweet.” If you’re not one, you probably won’t read the rest of this post. And that’s okay. Ever since getting a dog to replace one of our two cats, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that cats are not as ideal as I’d previously thought.

Ashes, shown above in a recent pose, came from a feral background. Rescued and put up for adoption, this white oriental cat–he looked a bit like a Siamese cat then–had gray specks on his neck when he was young. Hence “Ashes.” As he’s grown older, those specks have disappeared.

But who’s going to rename a cat just because the name doesn’t fit anymore? At least the dog’s name–Happy–still fits. But we’re forever trying to refer to her (Happy) as him and to him (Ashes) as her.

But that has nothing to do with the “Loudest Cat in Town.”

I’m not sure when it started–probably soon after getting Happy, though–but Ashes started begging to be fed. I say “begging,” but “yowling” is a more accurate description. And he started yowling for breakfast anywhere from 4:00  a.m. on.

To appreciate our problem, you need to understand several things. We get up at 6:30 on weekdays, 7:30 on Sundays, and whenever on Saturdays. I have my wife’s permission to wake her by 9:00 since I’m always starving by then and she’s the breakfast cook on weekends.

The other thing you need to understand is the fact that Ashes is quite a hunk. Literally. Yes, his fur is thick, but he’s pretty weighty, and we’re determined not to let him get any bigger. Especially since he likes to use our stomachs as springboards getting from one place to another.

So here we were facing (or trying unsuccessfully to ignore) the yowling of a cat before we were ready to get up and to give him less food than he had been accustomed to. Not a great combination.

We finally changed his suppertime from 4:15 p.m. to 8:00. That helped some, since that meant he ought not to be nearly as hungry in the early morning. But it didn’t help enough. So we started giving him his breakfast food along with his supper meal. Two scoops of food rather than just one. That worked wonders.

Relatively.

But he still expected food at 6:30 when we gave Happy her breakfast, and he also wanted food at 4:15 when we fed Happy her evening meal. This fellow wanted it all!

When I say, “He wanted,” I mean he started meowing more loudly than any other cat I’ve ever heard. I’m not sure he doesn’t do it louder than Happy barks, and that’s really saying something.

We finally started giving him a small handful–I’m guilty of giving him more than Kathleen does–each time we feed Happy, and he seems to be satisfied with having two itsy-bitsy meals a day plus the one that’s double-sized.

And that’s the way things are now. Ashes jumps up on the bed and starts meowing closer to 6:30, but still earlier than anyone wants to get up and deal with it.

On weekends, whoever gets tiredest of listening to him gets up, feeds both animals, and then puts Happy out. Even with waiting for Happy to come back in, that doesn’t normally take more than ten minutes or so, and sometimes the person who gets up to feed the animals is able to get back to sleep.

In the evenings when Kathleen is crocheting and I’m reading or writing and soft music is playing in the background, we can count on Ashes to start his evening yowl anywhere from 6:55 on. Fortunately he does stop for a while, but not until he’s worn out our ears and our patience.

Why can’t this beautiful animal have a soft meow like a normal cat?

Oh, well. Things are as they are, and Kathleen assures me that having Ashes’ vocal cords removed would constitute animal cruelty. I’m not so sure.

What about you? Do you have any animal tales (tails?) you’d like to share in a comment?

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Before You Self-Publish…

After writing my first novel, my wife and I carefully considered the alternatives. We thought it was pretty good. And, after all, I’d been an honors award-winning English major in college and had taught English for six-plus years.

So I knew good grammar. I knew how to vary the structure of my sentences. I knew a lot more, or so I thought.

And we knew that finding a publisher was a long, taxing proposition. No matter how good my novel.

Furthermore, we knew that the trip from signed contract to fresh, newly published book normally takes at least at least a year. I was going on sixty at the time. Could we afford to waste all that time when  self-publishing opportunities abounded?

I don’t have any training in graphic design, but I thought I was pretty imaginative when it came to a cover design. And between my wife and me, we had editing covered.

So why not self-publish? (They didn’t yet refer to it as “independent publishing” or “indie publishing.”) Sure, it would cost something, but not an extravagant amount. We weren’t going to go hungry or miss a car payment in bypassing the traditional book publishing route and doing it ourselves.

We found a company that looked good and seemed legitimate. We were entirely satisfied with those folks and with the quality of my book–at least the part they took care of.

But readers even then looked askance at self-published books, and–when I started reading numerous writing books and attending Christian writing conferences–I learned two horrible facts.

I’d planned to spend all of my time as an author just writing the next book and the book after that, but my books weren’t going to market themselves. Also, the nature of contemporary novels had changed drastically since my days of lovingly lazing through a thousand pages or more of James Michener’s works, which still take up far too much space on my bookshelves.

I started working hard to improve my writing–to conform to the way modern novels must be if they are to attract modern readers–and committed myself to a lifetime of working to improving my writing. I would never be as good as I wanted to be, but I could always make the next book better.

I learned the rules. The really important ones and the ones that are safer to break–or at least bend. I came to accept the fact that NO book will meet every reader’s expectations any more than it will meet every publisher’s needs.

I learned a lot more, including things I have yet to succeed at putting into practice. But at least I have three novels in print through traditional publishers. I no longer count the self-published one; it was a good learning experience, but well worth forgetting otherwise.

If you have a copy, please hold on to it. Should I ever become well-known, your copy may be worth fifty or sixty cents more than it is now. A strange collector’s item, to be sure.

Now–finally…

I called this post “Before You Self-Publish Your Book…” But I’ve talked only about my own writing journey.

Let me explain. An author I’d never heard of before–we were “friends” on one of the social media–asked if I’d read and write a review of his novel. Since I’ve been looking for more reviewers for The Devil and Pastor Gus, I proposed a swap. I’d read and review his book if he read and reviewed mine.

I read the first couple of chapters and then checked to see who his publisher was. Yep, sure enough. Self-published.

I won’t go into detail about the things that gave him away other than the fact that he had what promised to be a great beginning and then deviated from it.  And the fact that his paragraphs were quite long; modern readers (and publishers) like to see lots of white space.

I kept reading, though, and the story was really good. I felt justified in giving it four stars–an average of five for the story and the writing in general and three for the editing problems.

Now let me get to the point. I completely understand how someone who’s written a book wants to get it into print without the hassle of finding an agent and a traditional publisher. I can relate.

But even after paying my dues–years of conferences and study and struggling to make each book better than the previous one–I couldn’t self-publish without professional editing and cover design. I wouldn’t want my readers to be able to tell it was self-published because of flaws traditionally published books are less apt to suffer from. (Yes, I’ve seen some poorly edited books from those publishers, too.)

Not every book deserves to be published–at least from a publisher’s point of view and probably from the reader’s point of view as well. But a book that looks amateurish isn’t apt to do well and may not even recoup the investment the self-publisher has made.

All of that to say, please keep my advice in mind and take it for whatever it’s worth.

Have you self-published–or even thought about doing so? Would you share a comment, please?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Why Blog?

Why do people blog? Why compete with millions of other bloggers for readers’ limited time and attention?

I started after attending a small class on “Marketing Christian Fiction.” The instructors–yes, the class was small, but it still required two teachers–emphasized the fact that marketing basically means enabling other people to like and trust the marketer enough to take a chance on his product. For the attendees, that meant our novels.

And to reach his intended audience in a positive way, the author needs either a website or a blog. Or both.

I already had a website, but I accepted my teachers’ recommendations about necessary changes, and I’ve continued improving my website ever since.

But what about a blog?

If having one would help me as an author, it was worth a try. As long as I didn’t use it as an overt sales tool. It should offer the reader something interesting or worthwhile. That made sense.

Most of the other writers I know blog about writing. I didn’t think I had anything new to add to that subject, especially if I was going to  post something new several times a week. And I’d probably just be blogging to other writers that way, anyhow. Not my intended audience.

I’d discovered early in my novel-writing career that it’s illegal to quote even a line or two of a song (unless it’s no longer under copyright) in any form of writing. Book, article, website, blog. Obtaining permission can be  expensive and time-consuming.

But I write songs. And I use my lyrics in my books. Why not offer the use of my lyrics to other writers–at no cost? Of course, I hoped they would probably be interesting to other people, too. And I could put free lead sheets of many of them on my website, too. Maybe that would interest some musicians.

So I started “As I Come Singing” (named after one of my songs). I posted two sets of lyrics a week, which lasted almost two years. At the end of that time, I started cycling through those posts again, but at the rate of only one a week. I’ve made an effort to spruce up my comments before republishing.

But was I reaching my potential reading audience? I write for both teens and adults. What could I write about?

I’m nowhere close to being the most interesting person in the world, but I realized I’m doing the same thing everyone else–young or old–is doing: aging. And since I’m closer to the end than many of my potential readers, I decided to use “On Aging Gracelessly” to reflect on my life at sixty-eight and some of the life events leading up to this point.

Hmm. If I wrote about myself, however, “would they come?”–to use the familiar and cliched phrase from Field of Dreams.  I tried it and you’re here. This blog at least gives you a taste of who I am, what I believe in, and what I want to be.

And that’s why I blog.

If you blog, why do you do it? Your comments are welcome.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger

Vinyl What? (part two)

IMG_20150403_142356046If you read my post from this past Wednesday, you already know that I’m talking about record albums, which I recently discovered are being made again and found some of for sale at my local Barnes & Noble store.

As an adult, I especially enjoyed my parents’ college graduation present, a subscription to the Columbia Record Club. Are you old enough to remember that? By signing up to buy a certain number of albums over a certain period of time, the subscriber could select a huge number of free albums starting out. That really got my album collection going strong.

My musical interests became more eclectic over the years. I fell in love with the music from Windham Hill’s multitude of talented artists, although I’ve always regretted–no, actually, I’ve always resented–the fact that the music industry labeled that kind of music as “New Age.” I preferred the designation of “Yuppy elevator music.”

My record collection outgrew the available indoor storage space, so I moved a number of albums to the shed. A shed that wasn’t leak-proof. Many of my favorites were ruined when the covers got soaked and stuck to the records themselves, but some were salvageable.

When my first wife and I divorced, I helped her move some things to a storage facility–a water-proof one! Since most of my albums were in the way at the time, I put them in storage along with the things my ex- was taking to Illinois.

Only too late did I realize I’d failed to rescue them before the move. Almost all of my albums went to Illinois, where she gave them to her uncle, who sold them at yard sales. Gone forever were my seventy or eighty Windham Hill albums.

Although I missed my records, I was joining the CD craze, so it wasn’t that much of an issue. Not until I found out how many of the old albums weren’t available on CD–oh, do I miss the Charlie Bird album, Delicately!–did I realize the extent of my losses.

Fortunately, I still had some of my albums, and one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten was a record player that connects to the computer and allows mp3 files to be created from records. It does a fantastic job.

Tell me. Will I return to Barnes & Noble to spend two to three times what albums used to cost? And would you? How about leaving a comment?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger