Sunday, December 31, 2023

Reflections on 2023

 The end of one year and the beginning of the next is always a time for reflection -- looking back at what has happened and forward toward what might become.

For me, 2023 was a significant year. Even at age 71, it was filled with new adventures and with some promise of intriguing events in 2024.

In January, I attended my first Rolex 24 IMSA Sportscar race on the road course and high banks at Daytona International Speedway. It was absolutely sensational. So much so that I have my ticket and parking pass for a return trip the last weekend in January 2024.

That was followed a few weeks later by attending the qualifying races for the Daytona 500. I was glad I went, but candidly, it's just not my thing. The cars buzzed around in a tight pack, lap after lap, like a bunch of bees. Had it not been for a rooting interest in a couple of non-NASCAR regulars, it would have been a sleeper event. I'm glad I went to experience NASCAR on their most famous track, but I won't be back. It did, however, slake my desire to ever see the Daytona 500. 

In early May came some unwanted news. My soon-to-be former son-in-law walked out on my oldest daughter with no forewarning, leaving her with two young children (one severely autistic) and trying to hold together her business. This was after nearly five years of her holding the family together on her income.

The silver lining is that since she needed help with the kids, I got a chance to make a more extended visit. Over 10 days in early May, I got to spend time with my two grandchildren and to get to know them better -- and for them to get to know me. And I got to spend time long periods talking with my daughter, which we had not been able to do for quite some time.

In late May, I was back in my regular seats at the Indianapolis 500. For me, it is Christmas, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving all rolled into one. The day was perfect. The racing exciting. The only downside was that it was a loner trip. My son was unable to make the trip as we had hoped, nor did anyone else's schedule permit. 

In July, I took off on my first long-distance motorcycle trip since before the pandemic, and my first on my Victory Vision motorcycle that I purchased in early 2020. The trip was planned as a trip to Colorado and perhaps South Dakota, with the first stage being to Iowa for an Indycar weekend that included two races at the Iowa Speedway and four concerts.

First the good news. Traveling on my motorcycle was great. 525 miles from Muncie to Des Moines were smooth, and it was a joy to be on the open road. So was the return trip. And the Indycar weekend was even better than anticipated.  The Iowa track is a fantastic facility for racing, and the track hospitality made it a joy for fans. And there were four GREAT concerts, including Ed Sheeran, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney and, most surprisingly for me, the Zac Brown Band, which gave perhaps the most enjoyable of all the concerts.

The bad news. As the weekend approached, I checked the weather for the rest of the trip. The head was predicted at dangerous levels. Riding across Nebraska to Denver, I would run into temperatures of 105. Returning across Kansas was even worst -- temperatures up to 110. Even in Colorado, temperatures were predicted in the mid-90s. As much as I hated to do it, I decided that safety took priority and cancelled the rest of the trip. But there is more to that.

In early September, I hit the road on a restructured motorcycle trip to Colorado.  Afternoon temperatures across Kansas on the second day of the ride hit 104 degrees. That's uncomfortable to say the least, sitting in the sun on top of a 1900+ cc engine, with no air conditioning, wearing a full face helmet, riding pants and a jacket, even a mesh one. But knowing what the heat was going to be, I started that morning before sunrise and got in 300 miles by the time the heat topped 90. From that point on, I took needed breaks about every 50-60 miles until I got to my stopping point after about 450 miles. The next morning, I again started the last let of my trip before sunrise -- but to my surprise, the morning temperature was about 50 degrees, and never rose above 60 until after I arrived in Denver.

In Denver, I was joined by my friend Jennifer Beinart, who is a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Interior in Denver. I've known Jennifer's mother, Donna Bays, for nearly 40 years, and I watched Jennifer grow up. It was her first motorcycle travel of any consequence and she was really looking forward to it. And I must say, the trip didn't disappoint.

Riding through the mountains of Colorado, including the Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton, was some of the most enjoyable riding I've ever done in all my years on a motorcycle. The surprise of the trip was the stunning scenery between Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs. It's a trip everyone should take, at least once.

The return trip was, well, an adventure. Heat wasn't an issue, but rain was. On the second day of the return trip, again going through Kansas, it rained. For 350 miles. I mean, it rained every mile for 350 miles. Fortunately, I have great rain gear (except for my supposed waterproof gloves, which weren't). I largely stayed dry, and except for one short stretch heading into Topeka, my visibility was not an issue. But riding in rain is a more intense experience than on a sunny day. But at the end of the day, as, exhausted, you peal off your rain gear, you have a real sense of satisfaction about having met the challenge of distance riding in the elements.

Fall brought the first IMSA sportscar race at the Indianapolis Speedway in nearly a decade, and the first with the amazing GTP hybrid prototypes. I got a really close-up look at the cars during the pit-walk (and perhaps 250 photos), then watched the race. Next year, it will be a full 6-hour endurance race finishing in the dark -- and I most certainly will be there.

Fall also brought some most welcome news on the writing front. Kent State University Press extended a contract to publish my historical true crime book, "The Madness of John Terrell: Revenge and Insanity on Trial in the Heartland." By the end of the year, we had agreed on a contract, a third major revision was completed with 475 endnotes, permissions had been obtained for the images to be included in the book, and I began work on the index.  An exact date for release of the book has not yet been set, but it will be in the fall of 2024.

I had an opportunity to speak about my three years of research on my book in October at the Greenwood Public Library Mini True Crime Festival. The presentation to a standing-room-only crowd was very well received. 

I will be giving much the same presentation this coming summer as part of the Indiana State Library's Summer Lecture Series. I hope this is the first of many opportunities I will have to speak about my new book during the last part of 2024.

It's been a VERY long trek with my writing to have a book published through a rather traditional route. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes.

I also had the pleasure of being one of the three editors who put together the Speed City Sisters in Crime's latest short story mystery anthology, Amber Waves of Graves. It includes my story "Until Death Us Do Part." It's available in paperback on line and in selected Indiana bookstores.

Of course, every year comes with growing older, and having crossed into my seventies, I know those years pass so much more quickly, and bring more and more unwanted changes.  I only have two remaining siblings, 12 and 14 years older than me. My remaining sister is in a memory care unit, and my brother, while in a senior living apartment, is also dealing with significant memory issues. It's a sad time.

And I am continuing to deal with an issue of periodic extremely low blood pressure that, when it occurs, significantly impacts my life. I received the diagnosis of Autonomic Nerve Dysfunction  last year. The doctors have tried a couple of meds, but I'm not sure they are really doing anything. There is no way of predicting when these episodes will hit, but they seem to be more frequent -- the latest pretty much putting the kibosh on Christmas Eve and Christmas. 

BUT, I'm not letting it stop me from anything when I'm symptom free. That includes my first two trips on a sailboat, which I've taken during the past ten days. I'm not a sailor quite yet, but yesterday I helped with tacking and reefing the boat. It's always fun and exciting to learn something new.  Hope there are more such adventures yet to come in 2024.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The Madness of John Terrell: Revenge and Insanity on Trial in the Heartland

 A couple of weeks ago, I entered into a contract with Kent State University Press to publish my historical true crime book about my great uncle's murder of his son-in-law. The 1903 crime made newspapers across the nation, including the front page of the New York Times. The twists and turns in the story continued to make headlines for more than a decade and stopped only with John Terrell's death in 1916.

This week's news is that we have a title for the book. My working title was a bit long. Fortunately the staff at KSUP has a good eye for titles. They took my working title and, as so often happens in writing, they improved it by shortening it.  So here is the final title that will appear in bookstores and online in the latter half of 2024.

The Madness of John Terrell: Revenge and Insanity on Trial in the Heartland.