Just a quick summer update, since it’s been a few months. The shot above is from an eight-mile hike I took with the family during our August trip to Yellowstone, walking the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and then out to Ribbon Lake where we had lunch. It was a brief trip, far too short to do Yellowstone justice, but we still had a great time, and had all sorts of what I would consider iconic Yellowstone moments: got surrounded by a herd of bison in our car, spotted a black bear playing in a hot spring, saw three of the most spectacular geysers go off, lots of elk, lots of deer, even a few pronghorn . . . Stayed in a nice house in the Emigrant, Montana area, got some reading in, and tried to stay off-line as much as possible (and still gave into temptation now and then, because, you know, Wi-Fi). The book of the trip was Dennis Lehane’s Moonlight Mile, the fourth (and presumably last) in the Kenzie and Gennaro series. If you haven’t read these books, you really should. Excellent stuff.
The summer has gone by in a blur, with the typical things doing the blurring. Kid camps, a brief jaunt to the California Redwoods, a few trips to the Oregon coast, some for the weekend, some for the day, it’s all par for the course. Heidi and I celebrated our 20th anniversary a week ago, and I can honestly say that our marriage is even better now in year 20. Marrying your best friend is highly recommended. As for the writing, I’m putting the final touches on The Ghost, the Girl, and The Gold, the third Myron Vale book, then it’s off to the copy editor. The copy editor is a bit backed up at the moment, so it may not come out until November, but I’ve learned the hard way not to rush this process, or to settle for mediocre editing, cover design, or anything else in preparing a book for publication. More and more, I just focus on the work at hand and let the process play itself out as it will.
Speaking of that, I’ve read lot of good books on that very subject lately — on staying focused on the moment and the work at hand — as I’ve tried to recalibrate my life a bit to make sure I’m spending my time and my attention on what really matters, and here are a few I heartily recommend:
- Mastery by George Leonard
- The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
- Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
I’d let myself get a bit sidetracked and distracted earlier this year, and these books all helped me settle into a much better rhythm, with my writing, my university work and life in general. Nothing serious, just the normal recalibration and tweaking that all of us have to do from time to time. The most important takeaway of my little personal odyssey could probably be summed up with this: life is better when you reduce distraction as much as possible and focus as fully on the present moment, whether that means writing fiction or washing dishes. Some people call this a Zen approach. Others call it mindfulness. You can use whatever term you want, but for me it means letting go of my attachment to results and fully embracing the process for its own sake, knowing that the results will take care of themselves if you live the right way. This does not mean ignoring all the things you need to do to be successful; it must means doing them without judgement and worry. It’s a subtle difference when described, but it can have profound effects on your life, I’ve found.
Anyway, for you Garrison Gage fans, you’ll be pleased to know I’m a couple chapters into the fifth Gage novel and having a blast. Man, I love that curmudgeonly bastard. Fall’s almost here. The temperature is cooling in the Willamette Valley, many of the oaks, maples, and other trees are already changing their color and dropping leaves, and the rainy season will be on us soon enough. Cities on the Oregon coast get twice or more the annual rainfall that we do just a bit inland, so I can’t complain too much. Students will be coming back to campus in a few weeks, and that will bring its own changes.
I’m sure I’ll be sending out publishing news to my newsletter list before too long. If you haven’t already done so, please consider signing up. Last time I checked, we were closing in on 2500 subscribers, which pleases me to no end. Since I’m obviously not much of a blogger, and even worse at social media, it’s the best way to make sure you don’t miss a new release.