Reflections of a Science Traveler

Kotor, MontenegroToday marks the fourth anniversary of resigning my consulting job to pursue a career science traveling. Recently I caught up with a former colleague who still works at the old firm. We hadn’t spoken in a long time so she asked me whether I had any regrets about my decision. Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied: “No regrets whatsoever.” I left with my eyes open and have never once looked back on that former life.

My new life has given me plenty to behold, including more time to travel and write.

I generally add a few new countries to my list each year. This year had fewer trips but farther destinations. I was in Seoul, South Korea during the election of a new president (to replace the one impeached and indicted), all while North Korea was haphazardly tossing around missiles. Then on to Beijing, China, which was hosting over 30 world leaders (including Vladimir Putin) for the One Belt One Road Summit. Soon I’ll be in roaming around Australia and New Zealand. The 12-hour drive to and from New England squeezed in between these two exotic locations seems tame in comparison. Another New England trip and Gettysburg are likely in the fall.

Writing has included the release of my newest book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America. This is my third book with Fall River Press, all now in Barnes and Noble stores. I also have two e-books available on Amazon.com (see links at end). My first book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity, is going into its 8th printing this fall and has been translated into several foreign languages. Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World is still in stores and may also get a new printing soon.

Meanwhile, I’m working on two new books – one on a specific area of Abraham Lincoln’s interests, and the other a travel memoir (like Paul Theroux or Bill Bryson). By January I might have a third book in progress.

My former colleague also asked a second question: do I get to read a lot? In fact, that has been one of the unanticipated benefits. I’ve increased the number of books read from maybe 50 to over 100 books per year, and broadened my reading interests considerably. Traveling helps. While I don’t read much while I’m on the ground (where my time is spent exploring), the long flights and airport time are ideal for finishing off the latest novel or taking notes on various science, Lincoln, or biography books.

I also have time to do research. I spend some time at the Library of Congress and National Archives, plus make ample use of their online collections and other electronic resources. With nearly 1200 Lincoln books in my own home library, there is no shortage of background material. The travel itself is also research. I regularly incorporate in my books the knowledge gained while traveling, and future books will involve more travel-related topics.

This past several years I’ve been actively involved with the Lincoln Group of DC. As the Vice President of Programs I schedule speakers for our monthly dinner meetings and join the Board in planning – and participating in – a wide variety of other events. Next year I’ll, well, it’s still to be determined what I’ll be doing next year, but likely I’ll still be deeply involved in Abraham Lincoln.

So what will happen in 2018? My tentative plans include considerably more travel to places I’ve never been, including (I hope) to my 6th continent and beyond my 50th country. My writing goal is to finish the Lincoln science book so that it will be in stores no later than early 2019. I’m also piecing together a travel memoir tentatively titled Patagonia Summer that will combine travel, history, and science. The third possible book will likely be a compendium with my Lincoln colleagues. There is still some uncertainty in these plans as experience has taught me that “the best laid plans” often change dramatically.

One thing is for sure. No regrets whatsoever.

See my previous “Reflections” for 2014, 2015, 2016. I’ll likely do a final “reflections” next year on my fifth anniversary, after which I’ll skip to five or ten year reports. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be too famous to write by then. 🙂

[Photo is at Kotor, Montenegro]

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Reading Time – 2016

library booksI write a lot. But I also read a lot, which all the writing books says is required to be a good writer (and I concur). My book counts have slowly been creeping up, from 84 in 2014 to 96 last year and now to 106 in 2016.

I also wrote a book. Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America is scheduled for release in July 2017.

The breakdown of books read follows my usual pattern. As always, I read a lot about Abraham Lincoln – 26 books this year (last year it was 29). Some were newer books, e.g., Sidney Blumenthal’s A Self-Made Man: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1854 (2016), which is the first of four planned volumes (the second is due out spring 2017). Some were older books, e.g. Lincoln in the Telegraph Office by David Homer Bates (1907). One was a monster: Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume 1. [The first of two 1000-page books author Michael Burlingame calls his “Green Monster,” both a reflection of the two massive green-covered volumes and the left field wall in Fenway Park they resemble.]

Other Lincoln books run from the quirky (Abe and Fido, about Lincoln’s dog) to the lawyerly (An Honest Calling) to the dangerous (Villainous Compounds, about chemical weapons in the Civil War).

I have a habit of reading mostly non-fiction, and indeed 72 of the 106 books fell into that broad category. But I also continued picking away at a “100 Books to Read Before You Die” list, all of which are fiction. This year I read another 16 off that list, which gets me to a total of 87. I will try to read 12 of the remaining 13 this year. Why not the 13th? Because it is Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (A Remembrance of Things Past; also known as In Search of Lost Time), which like it’s ungainly title weighs in at a hefty 4211 pages. I’ll likely save one that for next year.

That’s a decision for later. In 2016 the books on that list ranged from classics like The Ambassadors by Henry James to the magic mystery of Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron to the chemically-induced On the Road by Jack Kerouac to the heavy Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Other books include a wide variety of classic and modern fiction plus a range of science, writing, and biographical non-fiction. The only thing missing (as usual) was poetry, which for some reason scares me. Which sounds like a challenge if I ever heard one.

One of the non-fiction books that fits in science and biography was one that I wrote: Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World came out in summer of 2016. Even though I wrote it, I don’t count it as read until the final hardcover book hits the stories (and after I’ve read it at least once or four times).

My reading goal on Goodreads for 2016 was originally set at 50 but I knew that would be adjusted, which I did in May, pushing it up to 75. For 2017 I’ve set the initial goal at 75 but expect to approach 100 again. The determining factors will be how much time I spend writing books this year, along with the length of books read. In 2016 my average book length was 324 pages. I also take a lot of notes on all the Lincoln books read, both for my book review column in The Lincolnian and as research for the Lincoln book I’m writing. That keeps the overall number of books read lower.

I’m not sure if it’s viewable by anyone but me, but here is a link to my official Year in Books on Goodreads. If that doesn’t work, try my Challenge Page.

So far I have finished 0 books in 2017. Time to catch up.

[NOTE: The above is cross-posted from my creative writing/memoir blog, Hot White Snow]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book is on Abraham Lincoln, due out in 2017.

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Third Year Reflections of a Science Traveler

DominicaThis month marks the third year anniversary on the best decision ever made. In 2013 I made the decision to leave my long-time scientific career to become a science traveler. I didn’t leave the science, merely the part that paid well. I took up traveling and writing and in other ways bringing science and history to life. Last year I reflected again on reaching a second anniversary. And suddenly it has been three years. As they say, time flies.

It has been an amazing experience. I’ve seen places I had never thought I would see, met people I never knew existed, and written books I never thought I would write. Along the way I’ve grown as a writer, a traveler, and a person. At least I hope the latter is true.

One of the major uncertainties of a writing life is whether anyone will ever read what you write. I’ve been lucky. That first book on Nikola Tesla published just as I was embarking on this adventure is now into its 7th printing, has been translated into several foreign languages, and is a continuing success (figuratively) flying off the shelves at Barnes and Noble. Because of its success I now have a follow up book on Thomas Edison, which now sits side-by-side in Barnes and Noble with Tesla and has had strong initial sales. And now I’m working on a third book in the same style on my other major interest – Abraham Lincoln. That book should come out in 2017.

When I’m not writing (or reading), I’m traveling. This year saw two epic trips in the sense of adding to my “countries visited” list. Early in the year I took a sailing cruise to the Caribbean. Not one of those huge floating hotel ships, this was a smaller sailing cruise liner with only about 250 passengers. The second was to the Balkan countries of Serbia, Montenegro, and Croatia. While there I got to meet with the Prince and Princess of Serbia (technically they are King and Queen but go by the lower titles due to the politics of their former exile). There were other trips as well, including San Antonio/Carlsbad Caverns and a research visit at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. I’m going back out to Illinois next week to see other Lincoln sites in New Salem, Lincoln (the city), and Bloomington.

There were some glitches this year as well. After decades of generally good health I found myself in and out of hospitals and doctors offices for a variety of mostly unrelated issues. The biggest was eye surgery to remove a tumor (benign!) in my right orbit that had my eye bulging out like Marty Feldman’s Igor from Young Frankenstein. Because I’m still officially in recovery (surgery was less than a month ago) it led to postponement of a planned October trip to China. No worries, I’ll do it next year.

Speaking of next year, the tentative travel plans include not only the aforementioned China (and South Korea), but hopefully Machu Picchu and one or two of a dozen other possibilities on my list. The Lincoln book I’m writing now should be in the stores next year. As soon as that manuscript is submitted I’ll return to my original Lincoln and science book project, which should put it on a schedule to come out in 2018. I already have the next book topic lined up; more on that when it gets closer.

So on to the fourth year of a Science Traveler life!

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Catching Up – Around the Blogs in 30 Days

Only one major bit of science traveling so far this year (more on that below), but it’s been a busy period nonetheless. Here’s a quick catch up around the blogs.

That time in the videoHot White Snow: My more “creative” writing, responses to writing prompts, some memoir-ish works, and articles “On Writing.”

Recent “On Writing” posts include “That Time in the Video” and “On Writing Science…and Fiction.” Writing prompt responses include “World’s Best Widget, Part Deux,” and “Falling Upward.” This latter post is joined by “You Have More Shrimp Than Me” as efforts in memoir.

Ten hottest yearsThe Dake Page focuses on communicating science to the general populace, with a sometimes emphasis on climate change. Recent articles look at the recent decision by the Supreme Court to issue a stay on implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and then a few days later the ramifications of Justice Scalia’s sudden death. This “judicial” (i.e., political) debate goes on while the science shows 2015 to have totally obliterated the previous heat record, and with January doing the same to begin 2016. I also looked at El Nino and the difference between trend and variation, two concepts that climate deniers commonly (and intentionally) mix up.

St. Maarten landingScience Traveler: Here on my author website I focus on my non-fiction works (Tesla, Edison, Lincoln), plus tips and tales about traveling the world. Several recent posts covered my sailing cruise in the Caribbean, including the land of frigate birds and “the most interesting airport landing in the world.

Science Traveler is not just about physical travel, it’s about travel in time. Travel-related book reviews include “The Man Who Loved China” and “Turn Right at Machu Picchu.” I also participated in several events around Lincoln’s birthday, including traveling back to 1922 for the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial with this year’s wreath laying ceremony.

Not to be outdone, Thomas Edison makes an appearance with this preview of my new book scheduled for release in July – Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World.

Meanwhile, I’m writing sample chapters for my newest project, this one on Abraham Lincoln. Now, back to work.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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Science Traveler – Wrapping Up the Wrap Ups of 2015

This morning I realized my watch was set for 1 hour behind the actual time. It took me a while to realize what had happened,* but it was a reflection on the amazingly busy/productive/exhausting/exhilarating year it has been. It’s time to wrap up the wrap ups.

David J. Kent drinking mateHere on Science Traveler I’ve recapped a year in the writer’s life. Two books written, a few articles for magazines and newsletters, and a ton of blog posts. I also summarized a year in science traveling that included everything from some major capitals of Europe to some alligator-infested National Parks to a prison on an island (no, not Alcatraz, the other one). I also cataloged my 2015 acquisitions of Abraham Lincoln books.

Near Cueva de las ManosOn Hot White Snow I summarized all the books I read in 2015 – all 96 of them…and I recapped what I can confidently say was a very good year.

On The Dake Page I reviewed the year in climate change, a year in which 2015 blew past 2014 as the hottest year in global temperatures on record. I also laid out the four things you need to know about the recent Paris climate agreement.

Science smartphoneThere was a lot more, so click on the blog names above and scroll down to see other articles of interest.

So what does 2016 hold for us all? Check back later for plans and predictions (and big changes to this website)!

Finally, thank you all for participating in this adventure with me. I appreciate your support, your loyalty, and your interest. I’m looking forward to providing more content in 2016 to give each and every one of you a reason to keep coming back.

Happy New Year!

*About the watch thing: I had set the watch back an hour for my trip to New Orleans, which is in the Central Time Zone. I never reset it. Since I work at home (when I’m not on the road), I generally don’t wear the watch at all, relying mostly on the clocks on my computer and smart phone. Only this morning as I sat in Panera did I notice the time was off. 🙂

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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The Year in a Writer’s Life – 2015

Hemingway's typewriterThe last few days of 2015 are bringing me somewhat of a breather from science traveling and writing and reading. It’s been a busy year in all respects. The writing scene has been especially productive.

Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World was the biggest project this year, though definitely not the only one. Following on the success of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (which enjoyed its 3rd, 4th, and 5th printings in 2015!), Fall River Press of Sterling Publishing asked me to write a follow up in the same style. So not only is Tesla still in Barnes and Noble stores, it will be joined in the summer of 2016 by Edison. Needless to say, writing the Edison book kept me busy writing a good part of the year.

But it didn’t stop there. I also wrote an e-book that looked at the surprisingly many connections between my two favorite historic people. Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate is published on Amazon and available for download to Kindle or the Kindle App on any smartphone or tablet. You can also download my earlier e-book: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

This year also saw a few articles. “Abraham Lincoln: The Majesty and the Math of Niagara Falls” was published in the Sept/Oct issue of The Lincolnian. In addition, the next issue will begin my new recurring column in which I offer reviews of two Lincoln-related books. One of the two will be on a new Lincoln book while the other will review a “Classic Lincoln” book, that is, a book that has been around for a very long time and perhaps forgotten or unknown.

To this you can add an article I wrote for the Smithsonian Civil War Studies.Org online newsletter, “And the War Ends,” plus an article for the CPRC Newsletter. The latest issue of the CPRC Newsletter also included an article about me and the SETAC award I won this year.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Over the course of the last year I’ve written around 250 posts combined for Science Traveler, Hot White Snow, and The Dake Page. That’s a lot of writing.

My opening sentence of this piece is not quite accurate. I’m not actually done writing for the year. I’ve been working diligently on my Lincoln book proposal and will be doing some last fine-tuning of it this week so I can send it to my agent immediately after New Years. While she’s reviewing it I’ll be continuing to write the sample chapters. The goal is to have the publishing contract in place as early in 2016 as possible so that I can be working on that book for a 2017(?) release.

So 2016 should be a very good writing year as well.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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More Reflections on Becoming a Science Traveler

David J. KentA year ago I wrote some “Reflections” on the first anniversary of trading in my well-paid job as a scientific consultant for a new gig as a poor starving writer. My conclusion last year was “It was the best decision I ever made.” After another twelve months as an impoverished writer my new conclusion is an even more emphatic “best decision ever.”

When I left paid employment my book Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity had been in Barnes and Noble bookstores for only a month. It’s now into its 5th printing, bringing the total to over 65,000 copies (plus multiple foreign languages). The book has been such a great success that the publisher came back to me for a follow up – Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World is now written and in the design stage with a 2016 publication date. I also published two specialty e-books on Amazon. The writing life is good.

The traveling life is not so bad either. In the last year I’ve traveled to wild Yosemite and even wilder Everglades and Dry Tortugas. I’ve experienced three Scandinavian countries and cruised through Norwegian fjords. I’ve also visited New England twice and been drenched by the waterfalls outside Quebec City. In the next few months I’ll be in Paris, London, New York City, Gettysburg, and Salt Lake City.

The latter is to pick up an award; I’m being recognized for my contributions over the last 25 years serving SETAC and my regional chapter. I’m honored to receive such a prestigious accolade.

Over the coming year I’ll be writing even more. The Abraham Lincoln book I’ve been researching for, well, it seems forever, should finally get a chance to see the inside of a bookstore. As a VP for the Lincoln Group of DC I’ll continue to expand our outreach and education activities as I immerse myself deeper in that long-time intellectual study. I even have an idea for a compendium of essays by Lincoln scholars.

But that’s just the beginning. My list of “books-to-write” has grown to over twenty, one or two of which are in genres that may be unexpected. The order isn’t necessarily settled, it will depend on finding publishers, but one thing is clear – I’m going to have to write faster to get them all done.

On to the next adventure!

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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Speed Dating for Agents (from Hot White Snow)

speed dating for agentsThe signal is given and you sit down across the table from your chosen target, the first of several you will try to impress with your talents, poise, and intellect. You have three minutes to amaze. Actually, it is more like a minute and a half to make your spiel and you either connect, or you do not. By one minute you are desperately looking for signs of interest – a glimmer in the eyes, a slight smile, a request for your contact info. What you do not want to see are their eyes glazing over, or worse, casting a dragnet over your shoulder at the next in line. If all goes well you exchange email addresses and…ding…time is up. Move to the next in line.

You are not looking for a date; you are looking for a literary agent.

It felt like my first time, and it was. After more than 30 years as a working scientist and thousands of interactions with other people ranging from clients to regulators to scientists to project managers to lawyers, I still felt the butterflies churning in my stomach as I sat in front of my first potential agent. This was a big deal. I had written many a published paper and hundreds of reports as a scientific consultant, but here I was trying to sell my idea for a book. My book. To someone who would find me a publisher.

Ding. Time for the next agent.

I talked with five agents that day,…

[Finish reading on Hot White Snow]

The above is a partial of a full article “On Writing” on Hot White Snow, my creative writing blog. Please click on the link above to read further. Thanks.

I’ll have photos and stories from my most recent science traveling trips to Scandinavia and Quebec shortly.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Making Time to Write (from Hot White Snow)

Hemingway's typewriterI’ve heard it a million times: “I can’t find time to write.” Often, that was me speaking. To some extent it still is me, though it lacks the credibility it had back when I was working a full-time consulting job (with commute). Somehow even with the consulting long in the past I’ve still managed to fill my daily calendar with activities that keep me “too busy to write.” The first part is a good thing; I suspect it will be many years before I get bored. The second part is getting harder and harder to say with a straight face.

Being busy is different now, of course. I actually do a lot of writing, so I suppose “too busy to write” depends on identifying what writing should be getting priority. I have my author’s website, this creative writing blog, and a science policy blog that I contribute to more or less regularly. I also write periodically for several newsletters, including one focused on science and two focused on Abraham Lincoln. I’m also now working on an ebook, a publisher-contracted book, a book proposal, and a half dozen other book ideas. All told, these add up to a lot of writing.

So it isn’t so much “too busy to write” as it is “writing so much I can’t write all the other things I want to write.”

Which gets us to prioritization and routine.

[Continue reading at Hot White Snow]

The above is a partial of a full article “On Writing” on Hot White Snow, my creative writing blog. Please click on the link above to read further. Thanks.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

Follow me by subscribing by email on the home page.  And feel free to “Like” my Facebook author’s page and connect on LinkedIn.  Share with your friends using the buttons below.

Catching Up on a Busy Writer’s Life

By the time you read this I’ll be on a writer’s retreat, of sorts. More details on that when I get back, but it’s been a busy writer’s life for me lately. So busy that I haven’t had a chance to do a writing round up for nearly a month. Let’s get started:

The Dake PageOn The Dake Page, you can check out a series of posts related to climate change science, and the communication thereof, as well as exposing climate change denial. Here’s a list:

Hot White SnowOn Hot White Snow I’ve had a few microfiction madness experiences that leave the mind boggled:

David J. Kent drinking mateAnd here on Science Traveler we’ve taken a look at the science of the earthquake in Nepal and a whole host of other Lincoln and Tesla-related projects:

Among other activities have been trips to see some “once-in-a-lifetime” displays of artifacts and documents, lectures at the National Archives, new e-books coming out, plans for major travel to the Scandinavian countries, and the End of the Civil War as we know it. More on all of these when I return.

As with most writer’s retreats, I’ll be off the grid for much of the time so I can focus on writing the book about Thomas Edison. The book is due to the publisher in August and should be in Barnes and Noble stores by early 2016. I’ll also be putting the finishing touches on my new e-book, Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate, due out in June.

See y’all in a week (with occasional pop-ins as possible). It’s off to a writer’s life for me!

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

Follow me by subscribing by email on the home page.  And feel free to “Like” my Facebook author’s page and connect on LinkedIn.  Share with your friends using the buttons below.