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

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I Need a Change from Change

ti-994a     VAX      newToshiba

When I started taking computer programming classes at Chesapeake College (Wye Mills, MD), the only computer I had at home was a TI/99 (if I recall the model correctly), which had 64k of memory. It didn’t come with any type of monitor or storage, so I had to use my black-and-white TV to see what there was to see and a reel-to-reel tape recorder to save the first program I coded—a game of Yahtzee.

At Chesapeake College, I was introduced to the wonders of Apple and IBM personal computers that were much more advanced than what I had at home. And then came the most wondrous of new computers—Apple’s McIntosh. That was what I was dying to have if I ever had enough money for a real computer.

When I started working at the International Mission Board, personal computers were few and wide-spread. Employees had to need to do something that couldn’t be done on those fancy new DEC VAX mini-computers. But at least there was a “Special Equipment Room” where I could go to create and properly format my contribution to the Office Automation portion of the national DECUS newsletter.

More and more personal computers started coming into the building. The VAXs became less and less important as more of the IMB’s applications could be shared internally–or even internationally, if needed–via the Web.

By that time, I had used some of an inheritance to buy my first “real” personal computers—I think they were HP and DEC—one for each of two rooms. I eventually connected them by Ethernet cable. We finally broke down and connected to the Internet—by dial up modem, as I recall.

Personal computers became so prevalent that people started leaving the “personal” off when referring to them. Windows became one of the chief operating systems, and the rest is history.

So why do I need a change from change when everything seems so tidy now?

Hmm. Could it be because I just bought a new Toshiba laptop that came with the Windows 8 operating system when I absolutely LOVED the XP system on my old Dell and tolerated Windows 7 on my Toshiba netbook? Or is it because—after years of satisfaction with my 2003 copy of Word Office—I also upgraded to Office 2013? (At least I had a choice about that.)

Looking back at my purchases, made just a week ago, I almost have to laugh. Almost.

I had to admit that the new Toshiba booted up MUCH faster than the Dell, but what in the world? There was no Start button at the bottom left to locate and run my applications. Instead, there was a Start screen. I finally learned that one of the icons would take me to my desktop, and I didn’t waste any time searching out a non-Microsoft free download that would give me that Start button functionality again.

I also quickly researched how to turn off the built in mouse pad. I prefer a wireless mouse, but—more important—my dog kept changing what was on my screen by constantly nosing the mouse pad.

I admit I really like some of the Windows 8/Office 2013 features. Scrolling by using the touch screen is really nice. So is having the word count at the bottom of the screen in Word—a word count that automatically updates.

I was able to simply copy some of my favorite programs from the Dell and find that they still worked in Windows 8. But not all of them, and one that used to be free no longer is. I won’t be disposing of the Dell anytime soon, I’m afraid.

In short, I’m still learning. But I’m ready for things to quit changing. I recently ran across a saying that seems all too applicable to me. “You can teach an old dog new tricks, but only if they’re easy tricks.”

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog via Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I revise and repost a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Best regards,
Roger

Each Time I Visit

JeffChadwick     Creola     RickMike     JeanDonna

Three Wednesday mornings out of four each month, you’ll see me heading out to the car with my Taylor GS-mini guitar, 40-watt Fender amp, and a backpack holding everything from a guitar cable with a built-in volume control to a bottle of water, from a hand-held digital recorder to an apple. Even though I treasure my one Wednesday off each month, each of those outings has become a highlight of my week

My church holds a worship service on Wednesday mornings at a local nursing home, and I’ve been participating there regularly since I retired five years ago to write full-time.

Our services don’t resemble typical worship services any more than the residents’ wheelchairs resemble wooden pews. Although one of the team—usually one of my church’s former pastors who didn’t want to give up this ministry when he became the pastor of a new church—delivers a five-minute devotional, our services consist mostly of hymn singing, with a special or two thrown in for good measure.

Somebody told me years ago that old folks don’t want to hear new or unfamiliar songs. Since I’ve written about two hundred Christian songs in the last fifty years—that’s slowed down since I started writing novels—but didn’t really have any place to share them, I was delighted to learn that I’d been misled. Older adults are appreciative of anything and everything our team does.

Good thing. Although our leader brings a list of the songs we’ll be using, we don’t practice in preparation for our services. But we’ve learned to work together so well that our frequent flubs don’t embarrass us anymore than they bother the worshippers.

This nursing home ministry is something I’d never expected to take such an interest in. And not just because it gives me an outlet for my music.

You see, I never felt comfortable around older people before. At least not older people who were in such wretched physical conditions. I’ll bet some of you feel the same way.

It’s easy to understand why I felt that way. I didn’t want to admit that I might end up having some physical or mental condition that would make my continuing to live at home impractical. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t, no matter how hard I like to pretend that I’m invulnerable to permanent disabling conditions.

Consider Rick, one of our regular worshippers. He’s only several years younger than me. I don’t know what his specific problem is, but he uses a walker and moves quite slowly. He’s quite an encouragement to me.

And there’s Mike. Okay. I admit it. I’m lousy at guessing the ages of African-Americans. But Mike doesn’t look like he could be beyond his forties—and he has fun calling the rest of us teenagers. He’s recently lost his sight in both eyes. And he rarely gets to attend our services any more because his dialysis is scheduled for Wednesday mornings.

Yes, I could end up as a Rick or a Mike (well, minus the difference in skin color).

When my wife and I recently took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at church, one of the things we learned about was the importance of Long-term Care insurance. It’s quite costly, but—if needed—it’s cheaper than trying to pay for nursing home care out of the family budget. The only thing holding us back is the “quite costly.”

Although every visit to the nursing home has its uplifting moments, I can’t keep from looking at these individuals I’ve come to love and respect—even without knowing most of their names—and wondering, “Will I come here some day to live? What kind of condition would lead to that? Ad how would Kathleen deal with it?”

And the biggest question of all…how would I deal with it?

Please leave a comment to tell me how you feel about the prospect of nursing home life. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog by Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Find a list of them here. Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I repost a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Last, but not least, if you’d like to hear some of my songs from the nursing home, go to RogerBruner.com and click on the Listen tab. You’ll find a dropdown box listing the songs I’ve recorded at the nursing home, complete with flubs and background noise.

Best regards,
Roger

Healthier Than Thou

pillBotles

Every once in a while, I run into someone I haven’t seen in a while. Someone who’s around my age. Someone who really means it when asking, “How are you?”

But we both know what that question really means. “Are you holding together as well as I am or better?”

The funny thing about that is most “people of age”—a designation inspired by “people of color,” which strikes me as equally silly since all of us are SOME color and all of us are SOME age—pass up the opportunity to be honest. Probably because they don’t want to chance learning that the other person is healthier.

I’m never as honest as I could be. I mean, I’m not about to say, “I have some cysts that make walking and standing anywhere from uncomfortable to painful at times, and having them removed might not solve the problem.” Not unless I’m talking to someone I want to urge to move on without further discussion.

I suppose I could always say, “Well, I’m able to get eight or nine hours of sleep every night.” No need to add that I normally still feel tired when I get up and nearly always take a short afternoon nap. Sometimes two. Concurrently.

Or should I whip out the list of medications I keep in my wallet? My doctor’s office loves me because that printed list keeps me from having to pronounce the names of my regular medicines and keeps the nurse from having to figure out what I’m trying to say when I mispronounce them.

List-sharing with other people of age would have drawbacks, though. While it doesn’t take any effort at all to get my father-in-law to share his medicine list—and does he evermore have a lot of them—mine looks puny next to his.

Does that mean I’m healthier? I should hope so! But that’s beside the point. He’s twenty years older than me. The fact that he’s still alive must mean that I’m, uh, well, maybe it means HE’S healthier.

Maybe “Good to see you. I’m fine, thanks.” is an honest enough response to “How are you?”

Thanks for letting me share these thoughts with you. Please feel free to leave a comment. What do YOU think about this subject?

Best regards,
Roger

About Gracelessness

brokenBarrier

I promised to use my second post to explain my use of the word “gracelessly” in my blog name. I do my best to keep my promises.

At first, I thought explaining “gracelessly” would be simple. I write “quirky inspirational fiction.” So why not have a blog that simply sounds, uh, quirky? After all, most people probably expect to see the word “gracefully” after “on aging.” I would, anyhow. But I thought “gracelessly” might really grab people’s attention.

There’s more to it than that, though.

Let me clear up one thing before I go any further. I’m not using grace in the Christian sense of “Amazing Grace,” which refers to “God’s undeserved favor—getting good things we don’t deserve from a loving God.” As opposed to God’s mercy, “Not getting the punishment we deserve from a righteous God.”

Instead, I’m using the word in the sense of “clumsily.”

I think that fits nicely. None of us has ever aged beyond where we are in life right now. So moving ahead necessarily leads us to a humongous amount of the unknown. Even when we pay close attention to people who’re even older than we are, our paths will not be identical to theirs. We have no guarantee that everything will work out the same way for us. Or anything, for that matter.

The process of aging involves a number of mishaps. There’s no way to avoid them.

I rely on God’s strength and guidance each step of the way. Uh, except for those too-many times I try doing things on my own. That’s when I’m most apt to fall down or bring other problems on myself–while trying to scoot around a barrier, for example. God doesn’t seem to believe in providing a solution until I encounter a problem. If I’m not paying attention to Him, the results may be more disastrous than they need to be.

My wife and I have a year-old miniature dachshund, Happy. We trust her in the living room, the kitchen, the master bedroom, and the bathroom. We do NOT trust her to go down the hallway towards the other two bedrooms. Especially the one I use as my music room, with dozens of cables going this way and that. If she pulled one out, I might never figure out where it came from.

So I placed a thin piece of wood across the open doorway leading to that part of the house. Happy doesn’t like it, especially when she knows one of us is somewhere on the other side of the barrier. But we’re thankful it does what it’s supposed to do: keep her out of mischief.

We know the barrier is there, and it’s almost short enough to step over safely every time. Sliding it to the side to step through and then sliding it back into place is a nuisance.

But I’m a graceless fellow, and when I’m not careful—sometimes even when I am—I end up kicking the barrier when I climb over it. Last night I unwittingly broke it into the two pieces you see in the picture at this top of this post.

As a member of the human race, I’ll keep aging until I die. Even though I can anticipate certain barriers between now and eternity, I’m not necessarily prepared to deal with them in the best possible way—the “graceful” way.

So, many of my blog posts will speak of things related to aging that make me feel graceless because of my inability to deal with them as easily as I might have done when I was younger. Or if I was paying adequate attention to God’s loving lead.

I’ll try to make you smile in the process. Nobody wants to listen to an older adult gripe. I sure don’t.

If you like this blog, please subscribe to receive my two weekly posts by email. I hope you’ll leave comments. I’d love to have a good discussion here rather than feel like a teacher standing in front of a classroom of students who are bored to tears.

Best regards,
Roger

Why This Blog

wrinkles One of the hardest parts of starting a new blog—maybe the hardest—is deciding what to blog about.

As the author of two published Young Adult novels—I’m also awaiting the publication of a quirky mid-life romance and a satirical speculative novel—I might be tempted to write about writing. Isn’t that what dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of other writers do?

Many writers blog about how to write better; some of them actually have helpful blogs (check Michael Hyatt’s if you want a good example of a blog that covers help for writers, but so much more). Others help published writers market their books by posting interviews on their blogs. A few writers actually have the courage to blog about non-writing subjects that interest them.

Maybe I’m being modest, but I’m not sure I can tell other writers how to write better–not week after week after week, anyhow. And conducting those blog interviews takes way too much time and effort. Besides that, I don’t want only fellow authors to read my blog.

Hmm. So what non-writing subject could I blog about? I love photography and web design, but I doubt I know enough about those subjects to blog about them without my ignorance becoming all too apparent—all too soon.

As a committed Christian, I should find devotionals or something related to faith and the Christian walk to be natural blog subjects. But I’ve read far better blogs on Christianity than I could ever hope to write. Look at Joel Sutton’s as an example I could never match.

I’ve been playing guitar for over fifty years. Uh, no. Why spoil a fun hobby by writing about it?

“So,” I ask as I look into the mirror, “what’s left?”

Hmm. My hair used to be brown. At least that’s the color I always stated on my driver’s license. Seems to be mostly gray now, though. And there’s much less of it now. Are those wrinkles? I thought only women got those. People used to be amazed when I told them my age. “You can’t be that old. You don’t look any older than—” And they’d give a number maybe ten years younger.

Funny thing. They don’t react that way as often now. Could it be I’m aging—and looking like it? Gee. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel as peppy as I used to.

Okay. Aging sounds like a good blog topic. I mean, everyone does it—unless they die prematurely. And even then, they don’t stop aging until they die. Because we start aging the moment we’re born–actually, the moment we’re conceived–the topic ought to be relevant to people of all ages. Uh, even to younger readers, whether they recognize it or not.

But why “gracelessly”? For that, you’ll need to come back for my next post.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions. And thanks for sticking with me this far. I hope it hasn’t aged you too much. I plan to start out with two blog posts a week—Sundays and Wednesdays. If this blog appeals to you, I hope you’ll sign up to receive posts by email.

Best regards,
Roger