Share a Slice Podcast

I was recently a guest on Sean McGuire’s Share a Slice podcast, where we talked about my book The “Volunteer” and several of the aspects of that story: public nudity, nude modeling, activism by Andrew Martinez and Gypsy Taub, and sexualized nudity in media versus commonplace nudity in practice.  We even talked about an old episode of MASH and my 2001 appearance on the TV gameshow Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.  Give it a listen here:  http://shareaslicepodcast.com/2017/11/07/volunteer/

Podcast

Grandparenthood and NaNoWriMo

My first granddaughter arrived on October 10, and I have been over the moon about her.  My son and his girlfriend live with us right now, so I get to see the baby every day when I come home, and I have trouble putting her down.

November has, of course, arrived, and I am using the big National Novel Writing Month to motivate myself to write a huge chunk of the sequel to The “Volunteer”.  I’m off to a good start, all things considered.

Here’s a shot which gives you a bit of an idea about my life right now.  I am, of course, working on the sequel on my laptop…

Writing with Piper

The Great Eclipse Road Trip

August 21, 2017 was supposed to be the first day of high school for my younger son.  What he experienced that day was so much more amazing than anything he could have ever experienced within the walls of any public school.

We had originally planned a big family summer vacation to Florida and the Southeast which would have culminated with a viewing of the solar eclipse from my sister-in-law’s house in West Columbia, South Carolina. However, family and job issues prompted us to cancel that trip in favor of a mini-vacation to Colorado earlier in the summer.  Still, seeing this total eclipse, the first visible on continental U.S. soil in 38 years, was very high on my to-do list.  I figured I could drive from my home in Fort Worth, Texas to northern Missouri or southeastern Nebraska to see it with very little cost or effort.  The closest place to me would have been St. Joseph, Missouri, but my drive back would have taken me through Kansas City traffic on a Monday afternoon.  Instead, I chose Beatrice, Nebraska as a location, mainly because the National Homestead Monument, run by the National Park Service, is right there and was planning several eclipse events.

Hotels within that 70-mile-wide path of totality were ridiculously expensive, so I booked a room for the night before the eclipse at a Super 8 in Manhattan, Kansas.  Beatrice was only a 90 mile or so drive from Manhattan, and even with the heavy eclipse traffic, I didn’t think I would have any issues making it to that location before the eclipse.

I run the nursery at my church every Sunday morning, so my plan was to take care of the babies and leave right afterward, about 11:00 AM Central time.  My younger son Elijah was going with me, but the rest of the family had prior commitments and would be staying in Texas.  The weather was a huge concern of mine in the days leading up to the trip, and when I awoke Sunday morning, I was rather dismayed to see that clouds and possible thunderstorms were in the forecast for both southern Nebraska and northern Missouri.  The forecast for locations in the path of totality in eastern Wyoming were for clear skies.  I didn’t want to travel any distance and have our view of the eclipse obstructed by clouds, so I made a snap decision. I would drive to Wyoming.

Elijah and I hit the road shortly before 9 AM, leaving nursery duty to the rest of the family. With the less than 24 hours before the reservation in Manhattan, I didn’t think I could cancel the room I had booked, but I was prepared to lose the 64 dollars I had spent on it.  During our first gas stop in Amarillo, I got on my phone and booked a room at a Motel 6 in Denver, Colorado for that night.  Rooms further north in Fort Collins and Cheyenne were grossly inflated, but I got a good deal with the room in Denver, only 75 dollars. I didn’t know how bad the traffic from Denver to Wyoming would be, but I planned on giving ourselves lots of extra time.

I made the drive from Fort Worth to Denver in, for me, record time, less than 11 hours.  I slept somewhat sporadically from 9 PM until 2:45 AM. I showered and dressed and dragged Elijah out of bed at 3:00 AM.  We left our Denver hotel by 3:15 in the morning and started the 225 mile drive to Douglas, Wyoming. Driving through downtown Denver on I-25 at that hour was a breeze, but we ran into heavy traffic just before Fort Collins, and it remained heavy all the way into Wyoming.  I joked to Elijah that this stretch of I-25 had probably never been this busy during any 4:00 AM hour. What was amazing to see ahead of us was the steady line of red tail lights in the two northbound lanes ahead of us and virtually no traffic at all on the southbound side.

We were able to move at a fairly steady 60 to 70 miles per hour for most of the way, although we did encounter slowdowns due to congestion within Fort Collins and Cheyenne. We came to a near standstill just after 6:30 AM somewhere in the middle of Wyoming.  I wasn’t too worried since I figured we were already in the path of totality at that point, and the start of the eclipse was still over four hours away.  I did notice that the left lane was moving at least a little bit, so I moved over.  As I suspected, the backup was due to a two-mile long line of cars trying to exit at Glendo State Park.  From what I could see from I-25 as I drove past, the state park was a sea of tents and parked cars.

I knew the center of the path of totality was just south of Douglas, so I stopped at a truck stop at a little place called Orin, Wyoming.  There was a restaurant in the truck stop, and Elijah and I hoped to get some breakfast.  The place was overrun with cars and people even at 7:00 AM.  Inside the store, lines of people waiting for the restrooms intersected with the line of people waiting to buy something at the registers.  The restaurant was off to one side, and there was one lady in a red shirt taking all the orders, doing all the cooking, and serving all the guests.  I felt bad for her, but she did her best.  Once we did get our food, more than an hour after we ordered it, I slipped her a ten dollar tip.

After eating a really good breakfast (the bacon was so thick it was almost like ham), Elijah and I ventured outside to find our viewing spot and wait.  We were pleased to see that there was not a cloud in the sky.  We climbed a hill and found a white-bearded man sitting by himself in a prime spot for seeing the countryside all around.  As we talked, we discovered that this was to be his second total eclipse.  He had seen one previously in Mongolia.

As the time for the partial phase arrived, a family from Minnesota and a young guy from Denver joined us at the top of the hill.  We all talked and had a great time, checking the eclipse’s progress through our special eclipse glasses.

Since the entire United States saw at least a partial eclipse, I will skip to the moment that made the entire trip worthwhile, that buildup to totality.  By the way, I love that word totality, and I’ll have to find ways to use it more often.  Photos and videos do not do justice to the experience of witnessing a total eclipse.  Cameras just can’t deal with changes in light the way our eyes do, so there is always something missing from any photographic representation of a total eclipse.  I was surprised by how quickly darkness descended as the eclipse hit totality.  There was an eerie glow on the horizon all around us, like a dark dusk that encircled everything.  Stars were visible in the sky if you could pull your attention away from the glowing ring with the black center.  It is an amazing thing to look directly at the sun with the naked eye and see that ring.  It was surreal, like being in some kind of otherworldly animated movie.  The video I took of the sun didn’t look anything like what I saw in person.  But speaking of video, here is what I took of that build up to totality.  (Since WordPress is framing the video rather awkwardly, it is also visible at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7nCErVFLYw ).

 

Once totality ended, we started to pack up and leave.  The remainder of the eclipse would just be a repeat of the partial phases, only in reverse.  And really, once you’ve experienced totality, a partial eclipse is barely anything.  Of course, getting out of the truck stop parking lot toward I-25 was going to take multiple hours. So I turned left, away from that main highway back into Colorado, and I continued to take the path of least resistance all the way out of Wyoming and into South Dakota.  At that point, we figure that we might as well go see Mount Rushmore.  We made it there from our eclipse viewing location in less than four hours.  I did make the comment to Elijah that it was strange that when we finally get to see Mount Rushmore for the first time, it isn’t even the highlight of our day.  But to be fair to Mount Rushmore, nothing can compare to a total solar eclipse.

We started for home right after leaving Rushmore, stopping at an overpriced hotel in Ogallala, Nebraska to spend the night.  At least the room was only 168 dollars and not the 500 and up I was seeing for the night before the eclipse.  We slept well, probably because of sheer exhaustion, although I did dream about seeing another total solar eclipse.  We woke up about 7:00 Mountain time, skipped the free breakfast at the Denny’s attached to the hotel because of the long wait, and drove the rest of the day.  We arrived home at 8:50 PM on Tuesday.  There was a symmetry to that arrival time as we had left home at 8:50 AM on Sunday.  In those 60 hours, I drove 2,268 miles through 8 different states.  My lower right leg is still sore two days later (I like to be in full control at all times, so I never use cruise control).

It was an amazing experience, with some wonderful bonding time with my son.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.  There is another total eclipse coming to the US on April 8, 2024, and the path of totality passes near my home here in Fort Worth.  If we are still living here by then (these hot summers are starting to get to me), we will still take a drive to get to the center of the path of totality.  And you can bet that I will be watching the weather that day, prepared to drive to a location with the greatest assurance of clear skies.

It is an awesome thing to spend time with loved ones pursuing our mutual passions.  My older son and I love baseball, and he and I have driven to attend games in three different World Series (to Denver in 2007, Arlington in 2010, and St. Louis in 2011).  My younger son loves science, so this trip to see the solar eclipse was a perfect opportunity for us. I hope they both remember these special trips we’ve been on and take their own kids on adventures in the future.  We do only live once, and it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity.

The “Volunteer” and Body Freedom

Imagine being at home, looking out your front window, and seeing your neighbor checking the mail or taking the trash to the curb.  Your neighbor is stark naked.  What do you do?  Do you call the police? And if so, why?  Is it because you think you are witnessing the “crime” of being naked in public and feel obligated to report it?  Or would you be worried about the mental state of your neighbor and want to get that person help?  Or, perhaps you have a live and let live attitude and just decide to ignore the neighbor’s behavior as you continue watching.  Would the gender and attractiveness of said neighbor affect your actions?

When you really think about it, why do we as a society have such an aversion to seeing an unclothed human body doing regular (i.e. non-sexual) things?  Is it because we associate nudity with sex?  Or is it because our media has so inundated us with images of what “attractive” bodies should look like that we just can’t stand to look at “normal” bodies?  Whatever the reason, society has conditioned most of us to react negatively to the sight of a nude body.

I have worked as a nude model for art classes for over 30 years, and these societal aversions to nudity have even found their way into the art studios as I am expected to be covered with a robe while not posing.  Since I love my job as a model and wish to be asked back to model again, I am not about to challenge such expectations.  I therefore tend to think of the model stand as a little oasis in a desert of textiles.  In this oasis, I can be free and pure, just as God created me, without having to hide from anyone.

While I’m posing, my mind, left to its own devices, tends to wander.  These wanderings provided the genesis of my novel The “Volunteer”.   The novel began, like most stories, with a “what if” question:  What if someone could be naked anywhere and everywhere?  During the development of the story and needing more conflict, that original question was changed to What if someone HAD to be naked everywhere?

Paperback Volunteer

The finished book has really been resonating with body freedom activists, those few who hope to challenge that societal aversion to nudity.  The following review was posted to the book’s Amazon page a couple of days ago:

Body Freedom Review

And within the last couple of months, the book was discussed on the blogs of two other body freedom activists.  The first was the first post of a new blog by a young lady in Oregon.  It can be seen here (be aware that the background image may not be NSFW, depending on where you work, of course):  http://brookesbarebody.blogspot.com/2017/07/living-nude-publicly.html .  The second post was by another author who has apparently been advocating body freedom for a number of years: https://fantasyramblings.blogspot.com/2017/07/i-get-to-be-nude.html

During the writing of The “Volunteer”, I never consciously tried to make a social statement; I was just trying to write a fun story, one that amused me and that I hoped would entertain those who read it.  It is gratifying to see it resonating with others.  As I work on the sequel (which will pick up right after The “Volunteer” and not 20 years later as the Amazon reviewer above suggested), I hope to continue challenging readers, giving them something that really resonates.

A Five Star Holiday Week

Today, July 5th, is International Read Naked Day, and The “Volunteer” would seem to be the perfect choice of book for that.  Today is also the one year anniversary of the release of The “Volunteer” on Kindle.  It has been an amazing year, and I’ve learned a lot about book promotion.  Hopefully, this will help me when I get the next book out.

The Fourth of July holiday week has been a good one since two new reader reviews have been posted to Amazon in the last three days.  Both of them have been five stars.  It is especially gratifying that so many people are coming back to Amazon to write about their experiences reading The “Volunteer”. Thank you all.

Fourth of July Reviews

 

Updates

I can’t believe that we are already at the last day of May.  I am still looking for a full time job, and I am still working on the sequel to The “Volunteer”.  My oldest son is graduating from high school this weekend, and we found out recently that his girlfriend is pregnant.  I’m not quite sure I’m old enough to be a grandparent, but it looks like that is happening regardless of my age.  The news of the baby came right before my layoff, which made said layoff more difficult to accept.  Talk about bad timing.

The audio book for The “Volunteer” should have been out by now, but we have run into some technical difficulties with the audio files.  Hopefully, we will get those resolved soon and get the audio book on the market.  I know a lot of readers prefer audio, and I hope to accommodate them in the near future.

Bareback Magazine will be publishing the first part of a serialized erotic novella of mine in their June issue.  The novella is called Class Demonstration, and I wrote it some time ago.  It’s currently seven parts, but now that I think about it, it needs an eighth chapter to give it a worthy conclusion.  At least I have another six months or so to write it.  Look for Part One of Class Demonstration on the Bareback Magazine website starting tomorrow.

And finally, here’s a screenshot of the latest five-star Amazon review of The “Volunteer”.  It’s very gratifying to see such reviews.  Each of the last seven posted reviews has been five stars.  Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to post their thoughts on the book.

Review 5 24

Working Life

It has been a strange few weeks.  I was laid off from my full-time job on March 29th.  The lay off was completely unexpected as the company was expecting new business soon and my department already had more work than our six-person team could handle.  I am, as of yet, unable to make a living solely from my writing income (although not working these past three weeks has allowed me more time to promote The “Volunteer” and sell more copies).  I would need a few more titles to be able to make a go of being a full time writer, but at least I now have more time for writing, at least for the time being.

Bukowski_McCarthy

I had recently posted links to a couple of articles on my Facebook timeline about writing and avoiding full-time employment.  One of those was written from an interview that Oprah Winfrey did with Cormac McCarthy in 2007.  McCarthy talked about avoiding getting stuck in a 9 to 5 job when he was young, even though he was bleakly poor at times.  He was quoted as saying, “I thought, ‘you’re just here once, life is brief and to have to spend every day of it doing what somebody else wants you to do is not the way to live it.’”  That article is here: http://www.openculture.com/2017/02/cormac-mccarthy-explains-why-he-worked-hard-at-not-working-how-9-to-5-jobs-limit-your-creative-potential.html

The second article was about a letter Charles Bukowski wrote to his publisher in 1986 about how he chose to quit his full time job and write full time.  That article includes the entire text of that letter, but these two paragraphs stand out:

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

That article is here: http://www.openculture.com/2014/07/charles-bukowski-rails-against-9-to-5-jobs.html

My current situation, with the mortgage, the kids, the bills, etc., demands that I bring in a certain amount of income, and I just can’t reach that income level from writing alone.  So I do have to look for another job.  But I find inspiration in the words of McCarthy and Bukowski, that there is another way, that I can change my situation and totally commit to my writing.