Thursday, February 4, 2016

Watching Myself


Do you ever find that you’re watching yourself?

I’ve had this experience.  I’ll be in a meeting or writing event and suddenly, I find I’m observing myself and what I’m saying as if I were an impartial third party.  I wonder what he’s going to say.  Oh, that’s how he sounds.  He’s making a good point.  How will the others respond?  That’s a stupid thing to say.  Will others catch it?

Or when playing sports, I’ve found myself “watching” my pickleball strokes or the way I hit a golf ball.

Or at a party I suddenly am observing myself and listening to what I’m saying.

It’s like a mini-out-of-body experience, watching myself as an independent observer.

And what do I discover?  I’m just like everyone else, no better, no worse.
No brilliant repartee--just making my fair share of comments, some on track and some not.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Perspective


Perspective changes over time.  The view I had of the world as a child, as an adult and now in retirement has changed.  True, there are some basic core beliefs that have remained unchanged, but time does sand the wood block of our minds.  If I divide my life into the rough three period of under twenty, twenty to fifty-five and over fifty-five, there are defining events that dictate the overriding perspective I held at each period.  The first period was growing up.  In the second period I was an adult getting married, raising children, pursuing a career.  In the third period change is taking place once again.  The kids are gone, off establishing their own lives, and I have retired into writing.

So how do some simple concepts look through the same pair of eyes from each of these three different perspectives of time and age?  Take a home.  As a child we lived in the same place all my growing up years.  It was the base.  It was just there, and I didn’t question it.  As an adult it was up to my wife  and me to make it happen.  We lived in two apartments and two houses.  What has been common with my youth is to keep it as a base.  But now in the third stage, I have a different perspective about our home.  After thinking we would never leave Boulder, Colorado, we moved last June to Lakewood, California to help with child care for our grandson born in June. 

School is another activity that I’ve had very different perspectives on during the three stages.  In stage one I was attending.  It was something I was expected to do and did.  It was the center of my life except when escaping during the summer.  It was my job.  On the whole I enjoyed school.  It was the focal point for achievement and preparation for the future.

In stage two school became where my children lived.  I went to teacher conferences, plays, concerts and sporting events there.  I helped out periodically.  Then I got into teaching at the University of Colorado.  This was a chance to give back and also learn from the students.  School in this stage was something I either observed or conducted.

In stage three I went back to school taking a fiction writing class for two semesters.  The University of Colorado let’s residents audit courses for free if they are over fifty-five  and get the instructor’s permission.  I enjoyed being back and learning and this helped launch my writing career. So elements of my perspective have changed over time as I’ve developed more life experience to play upon, but there remains the continuity of essential core values.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Challenges Authors Face in the Publishing World


I have listened to the stories of fellow authors who have been orphaned by their publishers or had to deal with publishers discontinuing publication. This is a common occurrence in today’s publishing environment.

I have the good fortune to have seven mystery novels published through the Five Star (a part of Gale/Cengage Learning) mystery line. This includes six books in the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series and a standalone, Mystery of the Dinner Playhouse. I also have a historical mystery, Murder on the Switzerland Trail, published through Five Star’s Frontier Line of western books. Unfortunately, Five Star has decided to exit the mystery publishing business while continuing with the western line. I had high hopes of continuing to publish mystery books with Five Star, but this will no longer be possible after one final book, Court Trouble: A Platform Tennis Mystery, that is still scheduled to be released in July, 2016.

So for my final Five Star publication, here is what you can expect: When Mark Yeager’s friend is bludgeoned to death in the dark on a platform tennis court, Mark becomes an amateur sleuth to find which of the four suspects is the murderer. Avoiding attempts on his life, he cracks the case, saves the courts from being shut down by the city and learns that he is cancer-free after his bout with prostrate cancer.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Things


I’m not into things.  I don’t have a desire to own or collect things.  I don’t feel any compunction to get a bigger house, fancier car, new furniture, expensive adult toys or stylish clothes.  What I have right now is just fine, thank you.

At the heart of it, I hate to shop.

When it’s time to get a new car, I usually dread the experience, then finally get involved in the project of researching options and finally take care of it.  But my reaction isn’t, “Oh, boy.  I get to buy a new car.”  Instead I feel, “Groan, I have to buy a new car.”

Whether I need a new pair of pants or shoes, I want to rush into the first store I find, grab the first thing I see off the shelf and get out.  I don’t enjoy window shopping or shopping for what’s behind the window.

Consequently, if I never had to buy anything again, I’d be perfectly happy.  Part of it is I don’t like spending money, but mainly I’m not interested in things.

Even when playing sports, I’m not interested in the equipment.  If a pickle ball paddle lasted forever, that would be just fine by me.  I tend to use things until they fall apart.

I don’t collect stamps or coins, but I do enjoy collecting shells when I’m at a beach.  That’s more like finding unexpected treasure.

So when I die, my kids shouldn’t expect to inherit much in the way of accumulated material objects of value.  We saved money for retirement so whatever is left, they will get, but other than the house, that’s about it.

I had a lot of books at one time, but when we moved last year, I gave most of those away. 

For birthdays or Christmas I’m no longer interested in getting things.  I have what I need.  Sure I like new books, will wear the clothes I’m given and love the chocolate while it lasts, but the present mentality I had as a kid has been tempered over the years.  I look forward to our family gatherings when we’re able to get together.  I prefer presence to presents.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How I Operate

I’m a morning person.  I like getting up early and completing work in the morning.  My typical writing schedule has been to write in the morning and do other things in the afternoon. Since moving to California, my priorities have changed; during the weekdays I’m a full time grandpa taking care of our six month old grandson in the morning. Since my wife is a night person, I have the first shift.
 
Mentally, I find myself operating in three states:
-                      Up--I’m engaged, action-oriented, making things happen, present and motivated.
-                      Down--I feel depressed, fearful, wondering what I’m doing.
-                      Going through the motions--I act like I’m on autopilot, reacting on a rote basis and not checking my feelings.
 
What’s the difference?  The old mainstay: attitude.  I can encounter the same situation and respond with any of my three mental states.  So it’s up to me to get my attitude in gear.
 
And after a busy day when it gets dark, I’m ready to sleep.  I prefer an early evening movie to a late one and being a party animal only extends to ten P.M.
 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

B+ Kind of Person


I’ve always been a B+ kind of person.  In school I was a good student, but not outstanding.  My typical grade was B+.  I became a good tennis player, but never made that last leap to become a top player.  In my work career I did a good job and moved up to be a solid manager, but never an outstanding leader.  My writing is improving, I have eleven published books, but I haven’t broken into the top tier..

When I undertake new responsibilities, I want to do a good job.  There is part of me that strives for excellence so I continue to put in the effort to succeed at whatever I undertake.

Like in Lake Wobegone where all the children are above average, I tend to be above average in whatever I do.  I’m a pretty good father, husband and grandfather.  I made a good income.

There’s part of me that wants to be the best.  When I played competitive tennis, I wanted to be a champion.  In my working career, I wanted to excel.  I want to do well as a writer. 

Then there’s another part of me that says, “No, I don’t want to make the sacrifice to really go for it.”  I never wanted to sacrifice my family for my career.  When I played tennis, I wanted a life beyond competing.

Were these just excuses?  Not everyone has the talent and perseverance to be a champion.  I took my tennis to the next to top level, but didn’t have the disposition and attitude to reach the next rung.

I always felt I had potential.  I still feel I have potential, it’s just that now I’m seventy-one-years old.  I’ve come to terms more with my strengths and weaknesses.

So I’ll continue as a B+ kind of person, doing pretty well at what I undertake.  I’ll keep learning and improving.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll become an A- kind of geezer.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Mystery Writer's Christmas Wish


Some people view mystery novels as dealing with a gruesome topic: murder. I view mystery novels as holding hope for overcoming adversity and that justice can prevail. But the justice needs to be based upon the crime committed, not lead to an arbitrary act of retribution against someone who doesn’t believe the way we do or who looks different. With all the hate and violence in the world today, my Christmas wish is that we can all embrace the basic message of our various religions to act on love not hate.