It’s never done.

Ask any artist if they’re satisfied with the work they’ve created. Chances are they’ll say “no”. It’s also a good bet that while creating that piece, they’ll wonder if it’ll ever be finished. Most artists I know struggle to put the brush, camera, or pen down and accept that it’s finished. Truthfully, it’s never finished.

That painting on your wall may not be finished as far as the artist is concerned, but there it is, just the same. The book you’re reading is the work of countless hours of writing, editing, writing some more, and then editing once again. Hopefully, you’re enjoying it. And yet upon reading it in published form, the author may look at it and shudder, thinking she/he should have done it this way instead.

Still, at some point, we have to let it go, for better or worse and the critic’s opinions.

As my new book has been on the shelves for two months now, I look back and see things I missed during its creation. If only I had… Right?

Well, it’s out there. Nothing can be done about it. That’s as it should be.

So, without anything else to do, I’ve started on a new book. Let’s hope I can finish this one.

Stoking the star-making machinery.

With apologies to Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris” song about shilling for one’s art. It’s similar to promoting a new book. And I’m stoking that machinery myself with launch parties, book signings, media appearances, and social media postings.

This is all part of publishing a book these days. If you’re not John Grisham, then you have to do all the heavy lifting yourself, regardless if the book is published by an established publisher or by yourself. Please don’t view this as a complaint, it isn’t. There is nothing like going out and meeting your potential audience face-to-face. It’s also not for the faint of heart. You’re out there, exposed. Your work is out there for all to see. What is this all about?

Norman Mailer once wrote and I paraphrase: A writer must have an enormous ego to believe anyone would want to read what he has to say.”

So, yes, it is about ego.

He also said the following: “Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.” and When I read it, I don’t wince, which is all I ever ask for a book I write.”

And about pain. And hopefully, acceptance. What do you think?

Now what?

That’s the question every author faces when his/her book is released upon the world. The endless hours of writing, rewriting, editing, and then editing some more are now over. What’s next?

If you’re someone like James Patterson who seems to write a new book before breakfast each day, that’s an easy question. If you’re like the rest of us, now comes the hard work – marketing your book, getting it into stores, getting media attention, and ultimately sales. None of this will make us rich though complaints on that would be far and few. That’s not what we’re in it for.

So, we do all of that. But then, if we’re lucky, a new idea bubbles up through the dark tar pit of our minds. And we’re off again, unless… it’s not a good idea. We start to write only to discover it fizzles out after a few chapters. There are very few writers who don’t have a plethora of book ideas that went nowhere. Maybe you think you’re devoid of new ideas, a possibility for sure, but not terminal. Ideas are like trains, there’s always another coming around the bend. It may not be on your time schedule, but you’re not driving that train…yet. Just be ready to board it when it does come.

What is a friend?

It’s a word bandied about rather loosely without the true meaning attached to it. We receive “Friend” requests on Facebook, yet a “friend” on that site connotes something more than it actually is. Used that way, the word is becoming meaningless

The Oxford Language definition of friend is this: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. Do we really have that bond with our social media friends? Ehhh, I don’t think so. Nor can we. We are too far removed because of social media to have a genuine connection.

While it’s true many us have lots of “friends”, how many of those could we rely on should the need arise? Do we need that many friends? And how many of them really share our values, ideologies, positions, even our taste in ice cream? How important is that? You decide.

We are too quick to make new “friends” that we miss the value in the real ones who don’t need or maybe even want to know where we had dinner last night. Or why they weren’t there with us. A true friend respects our needs and asks nothing more than the same from us.

Finally, are we true friends to others? Hopefully, yes. Otherwise, we’re just acquaintances.

Time passes…

One of my most favorite memories of my time in Newfoundland was that of meeting and befriending some of the people whom I met. Over these years, I have stayed in touch with some of them. Some I hear from regularly; others intermittently but happily.

One who stands out is Bren. I first met him in 2004 on my first trip up there. At that time, he was a spry and very active 84 years old, just about to learn how to navigate the internet. I wandered into his shop to look at some of the crafts his lawn sign was advertising. And a door into a new world was opened.

Bren came out of his workshop where he had been “turning” some bowls. Dressed in work pants and a flannel shirt, Carhartt-type jacket and hat, Bren greeted me warmly. He said I was the first this year. First what? I was a little confused. Tourist of course. How could I have not known?

It was late March and the tourist crowd had yet to invade these lovely shores. I could have been considered the vanguard, but I really wasn’t a tourist in the traditional sense. I was happily working on what was to become Arn? Narn. But I was interested in picking up some local crafts and art for gifts for loved ones back home. So, in that sense, i was a tourist.

Bren invited me into his home while he brought out his wares to show me. Remember, I was the first and he wasn’t yet ready for the annual onslaught of intrepid travelers. We talked and I bought. And exchanged e-mail addresses. As I was about to leave, Bren invited me to stay for a cup of tea. I was running late, for what I don’t remember, but I demurred and headed back to St. John ‘s.

Scan Some of the raw stock of Bren’s turnings.

Later that year, I received one of the best New Year’s notes ever – an e-mail from Bren, trying out the internet. His message reminded me of how much I enjoyed that trip.

I went back the next year, 2005, I bought some more, we talked some more, and we drank beer and tea this time. We were now friends.

Two years later, I returned with my wife Carla and introduced her to Bren. They hit it off immediately. Why should they have not? More beer, tea, laughs, and stories.

Over the years, we exchanged notes, thoughts, and news of each others’ lives. Bren’s back started to give him problems and he had to give up his craft. We are the poorer for that. But he remained as active as he could.

Bren is now, according to his most recent e-mail of two days ago, 91.5 years old. He has sold his home and moved into a facility where he can receive the care he needs and shares his days with others. He states “I am adapting to a new life of idleness & being amongst a lot of people.” They are richer for that as I am for knowing Bren.

I am happy to report I now have plans to return to Newfoundland next summer. I look forward to seeing Bren once again… good friends are hard to find.

No shortage of…

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d be writing about some declining resources around us. Certain things will be harder to obtain and will now always be in short supply. But at this point I would rather focus on some other resources beyond the obvious.

As we wend our way through the obstacle course known as the holidays, it’s all too common to reflect back on the year just past. Were there heartbreaks? Of course. Were there joys? Oh, yes. And everything in between. Like in any other year past, there was no shortage of any of those in 2012. That is what some would call the texture of our lives. That’s accurate enough, but I think minimizes their import. The resources I’m thinking about right now come from what is I believe an inexhaustible source: the human spirit. With that in mind, here, in no particular order of importance, is what I hope for all of you – an unlimited amount of:

Laughter – may you laugh long and heartily every day; sunny days/rainy days – both are good for the soul; smiles – they cost nothing but are so powerful; hugs – for others and most importantly, you; kindness – no explanation needed other than don’t forget it; kisses – all types – give freely!; a warm hand on someone’s shoulder when they need it; understanding – it needn’t cost as much as we seem to “charge” for it; gentleness – this is where real strength resides; serenity; peace – both internally and externally; truth; and so on and so on.

Lest you think I left out the most important wish for you, no, I haven’t. I saved it ’til last; LOVE. From this, all the others will come. Be open, be tender, be gentle. Have a wonderful new year!

Bruce

Water, water, everywhere…

That was to be the title of my next book. But researching that particular subject turned out to be an incredibly difficult task. Not that there wasn’t any information available. No, quite the contrary. There was too much. Thanks to a wonderful tool called Google Alerts, I was updated on water news daily. And there was a lot of it. Truth be told – there was too much for me to disseminate. Unlike water, there is no shortage of information about the future of water. Hell, if information was water, we’d all be drowning in the stuff. So unhappily, I put that subject back on the shelf for now. But that does not mean I’ve given up on learning about it. At the same time, I do not want to play the role of a Cassandra either, but this is a serious subject.

As I wrote in my last blog post, I was going to spend some time writing about our planet’s limited resources. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, this one is about water. Globally, we are reaching some tipping points in regards to many of our resources. For the past few decades, much has been written and said about oil and rightfully so. Unless the theory of abiotic oil is correct, and few believe this to be the case, then we are most likely running out of oil. There is no corresponding abiotic theory on water though. It has taken years for people to discover that water is becoming an increasingly more valuable commodity. It is only now that it is beginning to take center stage on the world as a limited resource.

The most obvious, visible impact on water’s availability is drought. Most people can identify with that even if they’ve never experienced it first hand. But beyond failing crops and people going without water, and these are not to be minimized, not much other thought has generally been given to water.

However in the coming years, we can expect to see water politicized as never before, both here and abroad. Water rights are becoming an election issue and a states rights issue. Wars will be fought over water much as they are now over oil. It will become a geopolitical tool used selfishly and perhaps maliciously. Who will become the Saudi Arabia of water? Where will the new speculators come from?… and you know they will be there. There are a lot of questions and not many answers yet.

As we should have learned during the first oil crisis in the early 1970’s, we could not continue to use that particular resource profligately, still we did. The same is equally true of water. Using water to keep golf courses green in the desert flies in the face of good stewardship. In New Mexico, a dusty, dirty car is the sign of someone monitoring their water use carefully. There are not many green lawns there nor should there be. They are coming to grips with it before most of us are because they have to.

There are of course numerous ways for the individual to do their part to help keep consumption down and it is necessary. I am not minimizing that at all either. But, we are facing a new time in history where once again, many may be at the mercy of those who control a resource that they, like so many others, need and are willing to fight for it. Such is the situation when a resource is limited or running out and others play games with it. And that is what the future regarding water will look like. Our politicians need to become aware of this and start preparing. After all, there is nothing wrong with a dusty car and a brown desert.

We can’t continue to do this.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be departing from my media campaign to talk about issues of resources. The book Arn? Narn. is certainly, I hope, a powerful statement about the wasting and mismanagement of one resource in particular. But an abasement of another valuable resource is being enacted in more places than I care to think about. And more often.

It has been forcefully driven home with the news about the unbelievably tragic and horrific Connecticut shootings. While I am reluctant to add my voice to the many calling for inquiries how this could have happened, or that we should control guns, or who is at fault, I do look at this as yet another total waste of our most valuable (if you will) resource: our young. For many years, the young have been fodder for our wars and folly. Oftentimes voluntarily; other times through conscription. We are not serious about youthful crime and violence. We are not serious about black on black crime. We treat this resource as inexhaustible which will continue to be there. Just how serious are we? Apparently, not much. Yet.

Yes, there will be calls for changes. There will be experts on how this could happen. There are always those things. But they are a salve and will only be that until we get serious. Is this the time we get serious? Will we stop posturing and get to addressing the issue? We talk about the incidents, but not the causes. In the meantime, we are losing our young in record numbers. And no one is doing a damned thing about it.

Where is the universal outrage? This is yet another issue where sides are taken but only one will speak out while the other remains silent. This happens all too often on other issues. Is this only a one-sided tragedy? Can it really be that easily divided into a pro vs. con argument? Or will we finally grow up and take responsibility for our roles in this? I’m not looking to blame any one side. That’s fruitless. All are culpable to one degree or another. But since that is the case, and it is, we need to put aside political leanings and do this together. I’m not advocating any infringement on one’s rights: rather a reasonable solution to this and one that can be done. Just as in the tax argument – each side is going to have to give up something in order to get it done. What are we waiting for? Our young are dying.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

So, the small PR machine has been working a bit. Radio appearances – very cool; book signings – also very cool; written interviews -OK, no wait, what? This was a new one to me and I had no idea how difficult they were. It would be a bit of a struggle.

Person-to-person interviews are, I think, easier to do. Essentially, you gather your thoughts together, remember time and dates and names, be polite and friendly and for God’s sake, don’t swear. That’s pretty much it. If you’re not being grilled by 60 Minutes, you should come out of it rather unscathed.

But a written interview? Who came up with that 21st century version of Torquemadian delights? This is a relatively new twist on PR because of the internet. I am in no way complaining or disparaging this. Not at all. I’m merely stating that it is a lot more stressful for me. With the exponential growth of bloggers and the increasing number of book reviewers plying their craft online, the written interview has moved forward in importance.

It goes something like this: you get a request for an interview. Great! But it’s for a written interview. It comes with a set of questions which by and large you would not have any trouble answering in a one-on-one session. However, it’s asking for you to commit your answers to paper or the ethernet in this case. It will then in turn be re-purposed into another’s blog. You may be asking yourself at this time, “And this is  difficult?” Yes, it is.

If it’s only one interview, no sweat. When there are multiple interviews requested, you’d like to make each seem fresh and original. Again, this is not a complaint. It is the question of how does one achieve that freshness time and time again without sounding canned. Each interview is different, yet the information I have to share is essentially the same. I suppose this is normal, but I haven’t found an easy solution yet.

With each new interview, I sit down and try to write the best response possible. In a spoken interview, so much can be said though inflection of voice, laughter, pauses, etc. Not so with the written interview. I must be far more thoughtful and deliberate as to what I write. Each answer must be honest and as insightful as possible. My goal with these is to make the reader feel as if they are speaking directly with me and this is the first time I’ve spoken about this. It is not an easy task and one I take very seriously.

Musicians talk about playing some of their most famous tunes repeatedly. Some of them find new ways to present them, others resent having to play them over and over again. I prefer that first approach. Arn? Narn. is a serious book and at the very least, I owe it that kind of respect.