Embracing the Writer Within

Embracing the Writer Within

Since returning from my writing retreat, I’ve had a couple of experiences that have encouraged me to embrace the fact that I really am a writer as much as I am a programmer or musician.

Saturday, October 8, I participated in the Indie Author Day at the Sherburne Public Library. This was a national event and I was so very happy that our library chose to participate.  The goal of Indie Author Day was to bring together libraries, independent authors to start a partnership to get independent works into libraries and to new readers. I was fortunate enough to share the event with Herm Sherwood-Sitts, Justin Palmer (local authors), Brian McDowell, owner of Log Cabin Books (a small independent publisher) and a number of people interested in becoming authors. Writing is a solitary pursuit so it was nice to have a discussion with fellow writers and share experiences. And to top it off, I sold a book to a high school friend who I haven’t seen in a long time.


One of my takeaways from the Indie Author Days was learning not be afraid of asking people to buying your books. This was the push I needed to take part in “Artistic Discovery”, an event where people can sell arts and crafts at my place of employment. I really had no idea how many I would sell, but I was very surprised that I sold fourteen books.

Between my writing retreat and these two events, it’s forced me to really embrace the fact that I’m a writer. As I mentioned in my last post, I tend to not self identify as a writer. Although I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve written a book, I am hesitant to mention it. I’m not sure why exactly. I think it comes from being picked on in high school about being smart. It’s taken me a long time to embrace being a a computer programming, Star Trek loving epitome of a nerd. One thing that has helped is that there’s been an acceptance of geek culture in the last ten years or so.  And social media has allowed people of the various geek tribes to come together. But writing is a little different. Writing is perceived as more intellectual. And without getting too political, I can safely say that there definitely is a large current of anti-intellectualism going on in this country. Admitting you’re a writer is like admitting you’re an intellectual elitist.

Especially now, writing is NOT elitist. Anyone can write, anyone can publish. All you need to start is a pen and a bunch of paper. My former English teachers and English teacher friends will hate me for saying this, but our educational system crushed any love of writing out us with the essays analyzing the symbolism in Farewell To Arms (here’s where I’m going to be a heretic: I pretty much loathe anything I’ve read by Hemingway). The truth is, almost everyone writes on a daily basis: email, social media posts, etc.  If you want a real writing challenge, try to express a complex sentiment in the 140 character limit of Twitter. Talk about  an intellectual exercise!

But we never stop to think of that as writing. And it is. Writing shouldn’t be this big scary thing; it’s something we should all embrace. Whether you publish it or not, the act of creating is important in and of itself. But if you want to publish and see that book on a library shelf, there’s never been a better time to do that.

So I’ve decided to embrace my identity as a writer and I’m asking anyone who reads this to embrace it too. We are all writers; we all have a fundamental need to communicate in a way more permanent than the spoken word.  Even if we never share the words with another soul, we are at the very least, communicating with ourselves.

Now if I only had more time to write, but that’s a different story….

Happy Journeys!




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Being a Writer: Thoughts from my Weekend Writing Retreat

On this past Friday (9/30), I left home and drove a few hours to Saugerties for a writing retreat. Last year, our family stayed there for a week in one of a quiet group of cabins set in the woods. After we left, I thought, that would be a good place for a writing retreat. I tried to pull it together last Fall, but it didn’t work out. But this year, my wife “gave” me the retreat for Father’s Day and I choose this weekend to “redeem” it.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Why would he leave a perfectly good house and office to go write in the woods with dodgy wifi?”

A valid question, indeed.

A big part of the answer to that question is..so I can feel like I’m a writer.

“But Mike, you have a written a book. Doesn’t that, by the very definition of the word, make you a writer?”

Well, a bit, I suppose. But when I meet people and they ask what you do, I automatically default to my safe answer “I’m a programmer.” because it’s safe and easy. And true. But this weekend, when I met my neighbors in the next cabin and they asked why I was camping, I said “I’m writing”. And it felt good to self-identify as a writer. I do many things: I program, I play in a number of bands, and I also write. I tend to always acknowledge being a programmer, sometimes acknowledge that I play trumpet in bands, but rarely do I come out and say “I’m a writer”. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s my innate fear of sounding too smart (a trauma from high school that I still try to overcome) or hoity-toity.

This weekend was a chance to play out the fantasy of being a full time writer. After setting up camp and making dinner, I wrote around 1300 words, which is equal to my output on a very good evening of writing. Saturday, I got up a little later than I wanted, made coffee and breakfast and settled down to write. I wrote for a couple of hours and took an hour break which included, wrote again until 5:00 where I took a break to make dinner. I started again a little later and worked until 10:00 PM. In the end, I wrote nearly 3500 words on Saturday. I didn’t write anything this morning because I wasn’t overly ambitious and packing everything up took longer than I thought.

So this weekend represented a real chance to say to myself (and make me believe it): I am a writer!

And since we’re talking about me identifying myself as a writer, I’m going to be attending the Indie Author Day at the Sherburne Public Library on Saturday, October 8 from 11:00 – 3:00 PM. I’ll be talking about how I became an independent author (you can take it as an inspirational or cautionary tale – I’ll let you decide). I’ll also have my book The Reluctant Captain available for sale and I will sign any copy, although the other authors might not want me signing their books. If you any interest in writing and finding out what it takes to publish a novel, please stop by and Saturday, I’d love to meet you!

Until next time, Happy Journeys!


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And Now Back To the Novel Previously in Progress…

Let me turn this blog away from the Great American Road Trip and Star Trek back to its original purpose – talking about my novel(s).

It’s now been a full two weeks since we returned from our trip and life has settled back into the usual rhythms of school and work. For at least the previous five months before the trip, I was working a great deal of overtime in my day job and had no time or energy for writing. I channeled my little time for writing on our trip to blogging the experience. But things have opened up now and I’ve had time to write…and found it hard to get anything out. I’m not sure what the resistance is, but I find myself trying to do anything else but sit down and write. Last week, I had two whole evenings free to write and all I got out of it was two paragraphs. My wife was away  today and the weather was supposed to be crappy, so I tried to focus on writing. And I kept finding things to do to avoid it until I finally put my head down and just wrote. I managed to get nearly two pages written. I’m not sure what’s up with my sudden reluctance to write now that I actually have time to do it. It’s not writer’s block in the sense that I can’t think of anything to write – there’s just a reluctance to get going on it.  I’ll keep working at it; hopefully I’ll get this resolved before my writing retreat.

Yes, I’m going on a home made writing retreat in less than two weeks. For Father’s Day, my lovely (and understanding) wife “gave” me a writing retreat. In two weeks, I’m going to a KOA camp that we visited last year. I have a cabin in the woods from Friday through Sunday and I’m going to write. I’m sure I’ll do a couple of other things, but the focus of that weekend is to write and kick some butt on this book. Perhaps I’m subconsciously waiting for the writing retreat to open the creative faucets. Personally, I’d like to get myself back on track so that I’m writing more freely when the retreat starts.

And speaking of writing, I have been listening to Julia Roy’s podcast How We Work Now, available here or on iTunes. In her podcasts, she interviews writers and editors mostly in the business or non fiction genre (but also includes a few fiction authors and even a poet).  I’ve been listening to this on the way to work every day and it’s really got me thinking about my own writing in ways I never considered. Even in episodes that I think won’t pertain to me at all, I usually find some nugget of information. I went into the episode where she interviewed the poet (let’s cut a long story short and say that I don’t care for poetry much at all) thinking I would hate it and I think it’s my favorite episode to date! If you’re interested at all in writing, I highly recommend it!

And finally, I’m happy announce that I will be participating in the Indie Author Day Event at the Sherburne Public Library on October 8 from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. I’m still working on the details, but the event culminates in a 2:00 PM Webcast with writers, agents, and the industry leaders. I’ll send an update out once I have more details.

That’s all for now; I need to get back to writing….

Happy journeys!



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Happy 50th Birthday Star Trek!

Happy 50th Birthday Star Trek!

Anyone who has read my blog (or knows me) knows about my unabashed love for all things Star Trek. If you followed our adventures cross country, you know that even though it was about looking at schools for my son, I somehow turned it into a trip all about Star Trek.

Star Trek and I are only a month and a half apart in age, so obviously, I never saw the first run episodes. I did, however, see them in syndication when I was very young. I seem to remember that they were always on late Sunday afternoon and I watched them with my dad who also liked science fiction. And I was hooked. For Christmas and birthdays, I received a phaser that was really an overgrown flashlight that projected various ships from covers that you put on the end and a set of Star Trek communicators (i.e., walkie talkies).  I remember going with my dad to see Star Trek The Motion Picture and watching the rollout and flight (on the back of an airplane) of the Space Shuttle Enterprise.

Alas, Star Trek faded from my TV watching in my youth, although through high school, I did see the subsequent movies. In college, I renewed my love of Star Trek when I would join my roommates to watch it on WPIX at 11:30 (after The Honeymooners) and we would try to name the episode during the first scene before the credits. Since then, I’ve seen all of the movies and all of Star Trek in it’s various incarnations. In fact, Star Trek helped me come up with the idea for my novel The Reluctant Captain.

But why do I love Star Trek so much?

The answer to that question has changed throughout my life. I think when I was young, it was the idea of going to outer space. The Apollo missions were still going and I remember watching some of the coverage. The thought of a future where we were roaming the stars inspired me to want to be an astronaut – until I realized that my eyesight would never let me be a pilot (at the time, a necessary stepping stone to becoming an astronaut).

Later in my life, my love of Star Trek became more about how engineers and knowledge of technology were valued. In high school, I received a ton of crap for being a “brain”. I often felt that because I was smart that I was inherently socially unacceptable. In Star Trek, people who were well versed in science and engineering were actually heroes. They were valued members of the crew and friends.  Scotty became my role model because of his Scottish heritage (my maternal grandmother was a Robertson), his approach to almost never giving up on a problem, and his jovial nature. I have tried to model my professional life as a computer engineer on his work ethic. Channeling my inner Scotty has held me in good stead in my work as I try to solve problems; something that I will say, I’m pretty good at doing.

The themes of Star Trek have always resonated with me. Star Trek has always examined the human condition; showing the best of humanity in its heroes and worst of humanity in its villains. Its vision that we as a planet would move past our national differences to all work for the betterment of mankind while maintaining ones cultural identity is a vision I wish was true. At its best, Star Trek explores both the outer reaches of outer space and the inner space of the mind and what it means to be human.

Despite the overacting, the styrofoam boulders and other cheap scenery, here’s to Star Trek. May its vision of the future of mankind come true!

Live long and prosper,



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Day Twenty Two: There and Back Again

Day Twenty Two: There and Back Again

We are finally home!


We left Erie, PA fairly early this morning and drove to Little Falls to see the Viking Ship Draken Harald Hårfarge. The ship has sailed from Norway, down the St. Lawrence, through the Great Lakes, and is now parked in Little Falls on the canal on its way to New York City.

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We wanted to go aboard, but the line was very long and after all of the travel, we really wanted to get home.  So we took our pictures, bought a t-shirt and headed home.

So here are the Top 10 Things  I Learned Now That I’ve Been There and Back Again:

  1. Driving at 80 miles per hour legally is fun.
  2. Driving in Chicago and Ohio is decidedly NOT fun.
  3. I have a real appreciation for exactly how big this country really is.
  4. I’m kind of envious of the opportunities available in college that weren’t necessarily there when I went.
  5. I’m awed at the beauty of our nation; be it in the rough beauty of the Badlands, to the grandeur of Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, to the beauty of the mountains.
  6. Time and distance makes problems seem very small and insignificant.
  7. Hotel wifi is incredibly inconsistent.
  8. Most of the country seems to be covered in corn and soy beans.
  9. Home is where the heart is.
  10. There really is no place like home.

Now, I’m going to relax in my own house and sleep in my own bed tonight!  I’m not sure when I’ll blog again, but it will be soon…maybe after I go back and face work after leaving for three weeks.

Happy journeys!


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Day Twenty One: Homeward Bound

Day Twenty One: Homeward Bound

Today,we said good bye to Cincinnati and headed northwest to our last hotel of our trip in Erie, PA.

I have to say, I couldn’t be happier to see this sign:


<begin rant>

Driving in Ohio has been an adventure that I do not want to do again for a while. I thought at first that it was because we were near Cincinnati – a city with its share of traffic issues. People would pass on either side of you and if there enough room to put a sheet of paper between your front bumper and their rear bumper, they had no qualms about cutting in front of you. They also seem to assume that you have to yield for them when they are cutting in front of you.

Like I said, I thought it was city related. But as we drove further and further away from Cincinnati, the driving didn’t change at all.  Twice I had people cut in front of me such that I had put on my brakes because I would have hit them.

I know that I’m used to driving in the country, but I’ve now driven across the country and back. I’ve driven in Boston and all the way to Florida. I have to say I hated driving in Ohio more than anyplace else (except maybe Montreal, but that’s a different story).

And what’s with driving right up to my rear bumper so that all I can see is your grill when you can clearly see that I can’t move over or speed up?  It’s not like I can go anywhere so doing that is only going to piss me off!

</end rant>

After we completed the “Escape From Ohio”, we found our hotel and ate at Quaker State and Lube.


My son and I had wings which where awesome!  Tonight, we adjourned to a Barnes & Noble because the wifi in the hotel was sketchy at best…one of the hazards of traveling.

Tomorrow, we arrive home after taking a slight detour to Little Falls to see a Viking longboat that has sailed all the way from Norway, down the Saint Lawrence, through the Great Lakes and across New York State using the canal system. Gives a new definition to “Viking River Cruise”.

Happy journeys!


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Day Twenty: Under the Sea

Day Twenty: Under the Sea

Today, we went to the Newport Aquarium, across the river from Cincinnati.  Here;s the view of downtown Cincinnati from Newport:

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The aquarium was really great and we saw many things I’ve never seen before like a shark ray:


And weedy sea dragons:


And jelly fish:


And many other things like sharks:


Sea turtles:


Lion fish:




Sea horses:




“Mighty Mike” – the alligator:


And penguins:


As we finished touring the aquarium, we had to cross the Shark Bridge – a rope bridge above a tank filled with sharks with freakin’ laser beams on their head…OK, no, laser beams, but it was an enclosed rope bridge over a tank of sharks. Here’s the view from inside the bridge of the sharks below:


Here’s the view of the top bridge from inside the bridge:


It did make me feel like James Bond…okay, maybe Austin Powers…

After we finished the tour, we came back towards the hotel and stopped for Graeter’s Ice Cream (a Cincinnati favorite).  We later went out to Montgomery Inn – home of my favorite ribs and barbecue sauce with other friends. We eat and talked for a long time.

Tomorrow, it’s on to Erie, PA – we’re almost home!

Happy journeys!


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