Friday, May 5, 2017

Latest Literary Efforts

This blog is now nearly seven years old. It feels like it was begun just yesterday.

In fact, it was started back in 2010, shortly after I had moved into a "new" house, a small, comfortable, one-story home where I planned to live out the rest of my life, that is, until I could no longer care for myself.

I had just returned from a final, "bucket-list" odyssey, zig-zagging around Europe from England (primarily to visit the British Museum) to Germany (to see my daughter and her family), to Switzerland (to see a former colleague), to Italy (to visit family of a former foreign-exchange student), to Southern France (for a wonderful organ tour), and on to Ukraine, Russia, Estonia, and Finland (on a commercial tour) before returning--exhausted but content--to the US via Heathrow.

That trip is chronicled on this blog in entries written over the course of nearly five years, the first one in February, 2012. The last entry was only uploaded in August of last year (2016). It's hard to believe it took so long to blog that trip! Russia Revisited, a book about part of that odyssey, to Ukraine and Russia, was published just last year.

The whole process slowed considerably in 2015 when I became quite ill. This was a wake-up call. I realized I needed to finish organizing my life - and writing the rest of what I wanted to share with others - before it became impossible. At my age, both body and mind are walking time-bombs, which could go off at any moment.

My current goal is to collect, edit, and publish most of the literary writing I've done over the past half century. This includes fiction (mostly short stories) and nonfiction (mostly travel writing), as well as some poetry and essays.

So I've been furiously culling and sorting a lot of stuff stored in boxes and on hard drives. From this material, about eight books are in various stages of completion. I hope my breath lasts long enough to finish most of them.

Two of those books will be coming out soon. A book of short stories, Speaking with Strangers, should interest readers who enjoy literary fiction. I just recently received a cover photo for that one (left). It's an eclectic collection of short fiction with the theme of revelations that occur during unplanned encounters with those we don't know or don't understand, including ourselves. The poignancy of each story arises from the flash of understanding, sometimes tempered with despair, that at may be triggered by such chance interactions.

The other book, an autobiography with the title, Saving My Life, offers highlights from before I remember to the recent past. It begins sequentially from childhood through college years, as pieced together from memory, journals, and photo albums. Those initial chapters are followed by chapters exploring specific themes that have woven themselves through my adult life: nature, science, love, children, illnesses, and travel. The book includes appendices that are likely to be of interest primarily to family and close friends. The cover image for that book is on the right.

When these books are available, I'll provide the relevant links to Amazon and/or the publishers' websites.

Hope you've enjoyed reading the blog posts on this site. They're not finished yet. Nor is my life.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Russia Revisited

Russia is in our minds a great deal these days, with Trump sidling up to Putin before the election and Putin basically endorsing Trump's presidential candidacy. This can feel both bewildering and frightening. What is it about Russia that has seemed so threatening to Americans for generations?

Russia Revisited asks that question as it delves into a bit of Russian history, spinning a travelogue of a tour to Ukraine and the fabled cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Less frequently visited towns along the northern rivers of Russia, with their Scandinavian heritage, add intrigue to the trip narrative. This is intended as the first in a series of travelogues with the general theme, "Come Take a Tour with Me." Full color illustration illuminate observations and commentary about Russia's history and culture.

The Russian Bear was depicted as a menace to America during much of the twentieth century. A moderate thaw occurred during WWII, while the Soviet Union was an ally. The fear intensified again after the war, as Russia developed nuclear weapons and created an "Iron Curtain" to separate Communist Eastern Europe from the "democratic" countries of Western Europe.

A thaw came with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the replacement of Communist apparatchiks with elected officials. Somehow, though, authoritarian rule seems to have reasserted itself. Why are Russians so susceptible to autocratic governance? How will the new Russia and the new America relate?

Find some answers and enjoy the journey!

This booklet is intended as a teaser for a more serious book on Russia and its history, in progress, hopefully to be published later in the year. In that book, I include stories from fabled Western travelers to Russia, such as the Marquis de Custine and John Steinbeck. I also include journal entries from a back-packing trip taken to the "new" Russia in 1992, along with travel commentary from my parents' two trips to the "old" Soviet Union during the 1970s.