1. Don’t plan on getting a lot of writing done if you’re going to pick compelling books to take with you on an out-of-town trip. I went to Chicago for a work-related conference. I had grand plans for filling in the dead places with writing. Had my tablet, had Northville Part Two on my flash drive. I was going to write at least 4,000 words while I was gone. I managed 1,500. I did fill in some down time with writing, but the big, wide open spaces were filled with. Songs of Willow Frost and Gone Girl. The first book is written by Jamie Ford, who wrote Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which is one of the 20 books that is in my top 5 favorite books of all time. (Readers will understand how one might have 20 books in their top 5 list.) Songs wasn’t nearly as good as Hotel, but I started it on the plane to Chicago and found it pulling me along as good books do. So, when I had those dreaded down times, I poked my nose in the book rather than pull out the tablet. I did manage to write a few hundred words each day, but nowhere near what I had hoped for. A couple of days later, I finished Songs and moved on to book #2. It wasn’t so good, but I gave it the ol’ college try.
Once the conference was over, I stuck around for a couple of days to visit a cousin and her family. She belongs to a book club and had a stack of books for me to peruse. I decided to try Gone Girl — even though it’s been one of the most popular books this year, I knew virtually nothing about the story. I started reading it the night before I returned home. I finished it 24 hours later. Whew, what a roller coaster ride of a book. I had great plans for the flight home. I slept horribly Saturday night, so I hoped to close my eyes for a bit on the flight. I hoped to write a bit as well. What I did, instead was read Gone Girl uninterrupted for four hours. Actually more than that, because I couldn’t put it down while I was at the airport waiting for my flight.
2. $300 a night hotels are not a bargain. I stayed at the Fairmont Millenium, where the conference was held. $300 a night. This is what it got me. A hotel where there was a fee if I wanted to use their gym. A fee if I wanted to use their wifi. And no fridge in the room for me to put my leftover pizza. And, even worse than that, it was in a horrible location. The whole reason to go to Chicago is to enjoy the restaurants and museums and … well, there’s this part of downtown Chicago that is just so vibrant and alive and it’s where I have always stayed before. It’s on the northside of the river. The Fairmont is on the southside. The distance isn’t that incredible, but I’m very much a homebody when I travel. Give me a place to go that’s around the corner and a couple of blocks away and I’m there. Walk a mile or two, take a taxi to get there? Nope probably not. So, I didn’t go to Gino’s East for the real Chicago pizza. There was no hot dog stand on the corner to get an authentic Chicago hot dog. And the museums and lake front weren’t right there. Very much of a disappointment.
3. I had a very informative conversation with my cousin’s husband. I asked him about some of my ideas about trying to find a different way to publish my books and stories. A more direct way. We ended up talking about a lot of different ideas about marketing, promotions, on-line options, growing an audience, and the like. The end result of that conversation? I realize that as long as I have the day job I simply won’t be able to do this the way I want to and the way I need to if I continue to pursue the self-publishing route. So, I have to adopt a virtue that I generally don’t have. Patience. For the next five years, I’m going to focus on my writing. If I finish something that I think is publishable I’ll pursue the traditional route — an agent and a publisher. I’ll save self-publishing for that day five years from now when I’ll be able to retire and make my full-time job writing, promoting my writing, and reaching a larger audience. It’s really the only way I can live with the limitations I have in my current circumstances. Patience. And developing a plan for that day when I have more time.
4. People in Chicago are completely weird. It’s barely 65 degrees outside and everybody has their air conditioner on. The shuttle from the airport to the hotel — air conditioner on. Restaurant the first night I was there, when I had dinner after 9:00 because I got in so late — air conditioner on. Most of the rooms the conference sessions were in — air conditioner on. I really don’t get it. It’s 65 degrees here and we turn the heater on.
5. Taxi drivers scare me.
6. The towns west of Chicago are beautiful and Warrenville is pretty damn incredible. If it didn’t snow (blizzards!) in the winter, freeze in the winter, and have the occasional flood or tornado, I might want to live there. I wonder what it would be like to live in a place where you don’t have to worry a drought every other year.
7. My cousin’s daughter is pretty damn incredible. She’s 16. Hardworking, committed to the effort needed to excel in life. It’s amazing how well she does in school and the extracurricular activities she’s involved in. If more kids were like her we could feel OK about our future. Hell, if more adults were like her, we could feel OK about our present.