For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to take a sunrise photo from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine. Yesterday, I crossed that puppy off my bucket list.
Cadillac Mountain is one of the highest points on the eastern seaboard. Most people think that this peak is first to see the sun all year long, as I had thought, but we were mistaken. Even though it's not the easternmost point in the US, Cadillac's height does allow it, for roughly half the year, to receive the first rays of sunshine in the continental US. The other half of the year, from March to October, a slightly taller peak near the Canadian border has that honor. The tilt of the earth and changing position of the sun throughout the year is what causes this difference.
Regardless, as a photographer, it was still high on my bucket list. I've been camping (glamping?) the last two weeks about 20 miles from the Park, which resides on Mount Desert Island on the rocky Maine coast, and I wanted to see and photograph the sunrise there. However, another quirk of Maine's environment nearly foiled that. Almost every day I've been here it had either been raining or extremely foggy at daybreak -- until yesterday.
I had been checking forecasts twice or three times a day since I've been here and it finally appeared that Thursday would be clear. I went to bed early so I could get up at 4am to set out for Cadillac and was awakened at about 12:30am by a severe thunderstorm, one that had not been in the forecast. I decided to give it one more day and fortunately, the weather stayed clear on Thursday night. At 4am Friday morning it was as dark as midnight but I packed a brunch and headed out.
When I arrived at the park a little more than an hour before sunrise, it was quite foggy but it was starting to lift. However about a half-mile from the parking lot, cars were parked on both sides of the road. This didn't bode well. Sure enough, I drove through the jam-packed parking lot and back down the road to the end of the parking line. There must have been 500 vehicles parked in and around the mountain peak's visitor center.
I hiked through the crowd carrying my camera backpack and my own tripod, stepping down several levels of rock shelves and I was able to get to a large stone block with no other photographers in front of me. I set up just as the sun poked out of the fog. If you have never taken sunrise or sunset pictures, it's difficult to understand the excitement of the time limit you're given. The sun is moving with or without your readiness or the equipment's corporation.
One of the exciting aspects of our full-time RV'ing adventure is that these bucket list opportunities will avail themselves with some regularity. In a sticks-and-bricks home, it's just too difficult (and expensive) to take the time to do it all.
No, it's about political posts...
I grew up in the Watts-riot, Vietnam-war-protest, Cold-War era. Needless to say, I've seen passion in politics. Passion can bring about change and unite the public in ways that the news by itself cannot. After all, if you are truly concerned about your children, your grandchildren and the future of the planet, passion can be a catalyst.
However, blind passion without common sense, with only dislike or hatred at its core, can bring about stagnation, as the opposition employs the same. There are two (or more) sides to any political argument. Too often the most important thing to the supporters of a candidate, an elected official or a proposition is to win the election by any means necessary. I'm not idealistic enough to ignore 240 years of mudslinging and dirty politics in this country. However, the Internet and access to the American voter, combined with a new generation of Americans that have grown up with the Internet, have amplified mudslinging to levels never before imagined.
I have been unfollowing people recently on my personal Facebook account, even family members, not because I dislike them or even for their views, but simply because they refuse to do even the simplest fact-checking before they re-post something as long as it supports their agenda. Let me repeat, before they re-post something, meaning they don't often submit original thoughts. This re-posting mania has been the reason the Russians have been so effective at distributing fake news and political lies. There are several fact-checking websites for political statements making the rounds, such as snopes.com and factcheck.org, that will give people as unbiased an opinion about a statement as is possible and it takes only moments.
I'm not saying that all political posts are lies, either. Successful politicians often start with a truth and twist it to suit their purposes. This is why the fact-checking sites will commonly say that a specific claim in a statement or ad is somewhat true but needs context. Remember that end results from statistical analysis can be made to justify any particular view. For example, I saw a post that said that the nine states with the worst poverty levels had one thing in common, that they were all right-to-work states. Okay, so I asked the question, how many of the other 41 states were also right-to-work states? The answer was 25. So being a right-to-work state really didn't make the difference for poverty levels. The statement was literally true, but the implication that right-to-work was the root cause of poverty was incorrect, or at least gravely misunderstood.
I'm asking a few things from my friends and family. First, do a simple fact-check before you re-post or share a political statement. Second, write your own posts on occasion instead of always sharing posts from others. Last, grow a thick skin. Not everyone will agree with you and that doesn't make them bad people, or ignoramuses. It just means they have a brain of their own, and possibly interests that don't line up with yours.
One more thing about passion: just because someone has passion doesn't make them right, as the South found out in the Civil War.
I was thinking back this morning to my first ever standing ovation at karaoke... Around 25 years ago, heck, maybe it was 30 years ago, I was fairly new to singing and was at a Chinese bar/restaurant in Kennewick, WA, and my brother, Paul, was the KJ (Karaoke Jockey). I chose an easy song, "Horse With No Name," and evidently nailed it because when I finished, to my surprise, the audience of about 60 or so patrons stood up, cheering. I was taken aback.
It occurred to me that the people who started the standing O' probably didn't realize at the time that they not only made my day, but helped create a lifelong memory. It also provided me confidence singing in front of people that I didn't yet have. I'm sure none of that was on the minds of those patrons when they stood up. They just liked what they heard (and must have been America fans) and showed appreciation.
I continued to have some success in karaoke, getting occasional standing O's, winning a contest here and there, and even getting to sing a duet with Paul for a karaoke contest finals in front of a couple thousand people at a county fair. If not for that first standing ovation, maybe none of that would have happened.
The point I'm making is that small acts of kindness, even towards strangers, can have positive effects for those people, perhaps even for a lifetime. Cliche? Maybe, but the overwhelming positive feedback I received in that karaoke lounge directly affected me and my self-confidence for decades. I only hope I have helped others in this same small way.
Announcement: Below is the new cover artwork for the next novel in the Pat Ruger Mystery Series, "Oblivion Highway." My cover artist, Elizabeth Mackey, did another fantastic design and I'm delighted to reveal it.
Currently, the tentative release schedule has pre-sales available starting the end of July and the live release occurring near the first of September. For more information as it is available, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter at jackhuber.com/subscribe.html.
A few weeks back I was invited by the makers of a new web presence called "Ask Me Anything" (or AMAFeed.com). They were trying to get professionals in different industries to participate, including authors. I looked over their concept and decided it would be a great way to interact with fans and followers, and that perhaps people would ask questions they wouldn't otherwise ask on Facebook, LinkedIn or via email.
From the AMA website:
"From all walks of life and nearly every continent on the planet, we came together to build a community of passionate knowledge seekers... With a shared mission and a passion for questions, we're driven to build tools that empower our community to openly share their thoughts and experiences through AMA, the greatest interview format on earth."
I think it's a great idea and I have set up 2 Ask Me Anything events so far, one about my writing mystery novels and another about writing on the road, and both have kept me busy. You can find them at authorsama.amafeed.com/user/47451 and click on one of the AMA session headings listed. You will need to register for a free account to read anything on the site, but it's quick and easy.
I answered nearly all the questions on the day they were posted, though questions posted before the actual event starts aren't viewable until the time arrives. The second event is ongoing now and I have answered 27 questions so far.
My publicist is in process of sending out a press kit for radio stations or other media that might like to interview me while I'm on the road. It quickly occurred to me that many of the questions I'm being asked are great sample questions for DJ's and interviewers. Obviously someone wanted to know what was asked and they cover a wide gamut of ideas.
I'll be posting other AMA event after the current one closes, though I'm open for the next subject. Let me know if there is something that sounds good to you. In the meantime, if there's something on the current subject you'd like to ask, feel free to post it there. After all, you can ask me anything.
I was going to post this in my Travel blog, but it's really about my life and not so much about travel.
A lot has been written about how great it is living the good life of retirement in an RV, but now that we're into our second month, I'd like to suggest some reasons it's not so great. Mind you, I'm not advocating turning back and selling the 5th wheel, but it hasn't been all wine and roses either. Here are 9 reasons NOT to become an RV nomad:
9. You don't have a garage. Or car port. Wherever you are camping, there's probably shelter for you and your spouse from tornados, large hail and the like, but probably not for your RV, pickup or tow vehicle.
8. Local news is... well... local. Even when we find stations from far-away cities, TV news has become trivial. Do we really care that there was a robbery in Davenport, Iowa, or that there's a marathon being run in Rockford, Illinois? Not really.
7. Limited night life. Ever try to find a karaoke bar in the middle of rural Missouri or Illinois? I tried to today. No luck. Even if I find one, I hesitate being an outsider at a local redneck establishment.
6. No neighbors from Monday to Thursday. This might be a good thing for someone living in the city, but when you are hoping to meet other nomads and share some wine or other beverages, the middle of the week sucks.
5. The opposite is also true on the weekends: tons of families (and children) camp from Friday to Sunday, and we're way past dealing with kids.
4. Fuel cost. When you think about it, it makes sense. We sold our high-gas-mileage Kia because we couldn't take it with us -- we're pulling a 5th wheel with our Ford F350. But that also means that sightseeing is done using diesel at 15 mpg instead of gas at 30 mpg. Our only driveable vehicle is a gas-guzzler, or, I should say, a diesel-guzzler.
3. It feels like we're on vacation, but we're not. The temptation is always there to eat out at the local hangouts, do all the tours, drive everywhere. However, we're on a tight budget in order to sustain this lifestyle and often we have to stay put in the campground instead of spending all of our time -- and money -- as tourists.
2. Guilt. Let's face it, when you have to get up at 4:45 am every morning for years because you have a job to go to, sleeping in until 7:30 am feels great but comes with unexpected guilt. Ditto with not going to work and collecting a nice paycheck. Intellectually we both are all-in on our budget, but emotionally, we feel like we should be more productive.
1. Cleaning, fixing, prepping -- there's always something to do. When you have a bricks-and-sticks house, you have room to spare, possible even a storage or clutter room. That is a luxury we don't have in our 360-sq.-foot 5th wheel. Set a glass down on the wrong surface and the whole place looks a mess. Things break on the road, and you can't wait until something becomes serious before fixing it, since you don't want to be living in your rig while it's parked in a repair facility.
There are other reasons not to partake in this lifestyle and we're sure to learn many more of them. But, after a few weeks on the road, these are my first impressions. Feel free to add your reasons in the comments. You'll feel better.
It's taken over a year, but two Pat Ruger mysteries, "For Hire" and "Caribbean Shuffle," have been released for sale in China. Rather than relying on the Amazon-translated version, a Chinese publisher, Fiberead, agreed to take on all the novels in the series to translate and take them to market in China.
If you've ever used a translating program, you know that nuances are often lost in the conversion and the translation is practically word-by-word. This doesn't especially work well in fiction, where descriptions of action, characters and scenes, as well as dialog, can be vital to the plot and to readers' understanding of the story. Publishers like Fiberead hire translators who speak Chinese and English to manually convert books to the desired dialect of Chinese. They are able to review a section or even a chapter and make sure that nuance, context and continuity are maintained.
The next three books in the series are currently being translated and will be released on their own timetables. Subsequent books will also become Fiberead projects. More info to come...
I was approached this week by Fiona Mcvie, a owner of the blog, "authorsinterviews ~ My interviews with many authors." She sent me a list of interview questions, which I filled out and returned to her that evening. She posted the interview the next day:
From her blog site, it seems that Fiona lives in the UK and has interviewed hundreds of authors since her blog began in May of 2013. I'm not sure how she came across me but was pleased to be added to her portfolio.
After reading my interview, go ahead and leave a comment and a "Like"...
After almost a dozen years of planning, two RV's purchased (the first was not full-time-ready), debt paid down and medical coverage arranged, I have less than a month until I stop working for a living. Sure, I'll still work to supplement our lifestyle and travel, and I'll finally be able to write several hours a day instead of when I can make the time. There will still be photos to take and blogs to fill. However, my 9-to-5 life (really it's been 6:30-to-4) will finally be in the past.
Writing full-time has been a goal of mine since I began creating and publishing poetry in 2007. Since then, working around my full-time hours, I have published over 300 poems, many with accompanying photos, a poetry primer and five mystery novels (so far), in addition to having a poem purchased and published in a 6th grade textbook by McGraw-Hill. I have had over 7,000 copies of my novels distributed and I'm hoping to increase that tenfold.
Now and in the coming month the retirement transition process is our focus. My wife had already retired but continues to work a few hours a week and that will continue. Our house just sold and we have a slight timing problem -- we have to move out two weeks before my last day at work -- so we have to make arrangements to park our RV somewhere with proximity to my jobsite in the interim. We'll be selling furniture, packing stuff to keep, packing stuff to give to family or donate, and gathering the rest to dispose of.
Our first several months on the road are already planned. We'll be using South Dakota as our home state and we must visit to make those provisions. We have friends in Wyoming to call on, a campout in Moab with our Good Sam group and a few nights on the road before June's Escapade gathering in Missouri. The road then takes us to Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Boston, Montreal and Nashville before heading south for the winter.
My dad passed away when he was just 55, long before he was able to fulfill his retirement plans. Just when my wife's parents were to embark on their retirement adventures, her mom became gravely ill, thwarting their dreams. We feel very fortunate indeed to be able to achieve ours.
A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by a well-known blog, Universal By Design. I'm not all that comfortable on camera, as you'll be able to see, but I think I did explain my journey as a writer pretty well.
Thanks, UBD, for the interview and your other services, which have been outstanding.