My book, A Place to Start, is now available on Google Play, for those of you who prefer to buy that way and read on supported devices! Click the button below to get started.

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It is, of course, still available at:

A Place to Start is now on Google Play


Now available: My new book, A Place to Start

My book is out!

I’m excited to announce that my new book, A Place to Start: Stories and Essays from Down the Road, is now available!

I’ve published it in paperback, for Amazon Kindle, as an e-book compatible with most other e-readers, and as a PDF. Here’s where you can get it:

A Place to Start is available on Amazon worldwide, so if I didn’t link to your country above, search Amazon in your country for “A Place to Start Jim Grey.”

This book collects the best stories and essays from this blog’s first two years, 2007 and 2008. Those were hard years for me, personally, as I was rebuilding my life after my destructive first marriage ended horribly. I wanted to run away, but my two young sons needed me. I had to find a way to push through. Writing these stories and essays helped me make sense of all that had happened so that I could find a good path forward.

I’m not an optimist. I tend to dwell on the negative. Writing these stories and essays helped me find the good in things that happened. It’s why I keep writing — life can be genuinely hard sometimes, and finding the good helps me keep going.

Whenever I publish stories and essays, you tell me in the comments that you find them to be encouraging, and that they really connect with you. That’s really the nicest compliment you can give me! I’m glad to offer you something positive for your own life.

I’ve illustrated this book with the best photographs I could find, ones that relate well to each story and essay. They’re in black and white in the paperback, but in the electronic editions they’re all in color.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy for yourself. Again, here’s where you can get it:

By the way: People who subscribe to my newsletter got advance notice when my book became available. If you’d like to get early notice of my future projects, sign up for my newsletter here!


The cover of my next book, A Place to Start

I’m making slow but solid progress toward publishing my new book of stories and essays, A Place to Start. I’ve collected the best of my writing from this blog’s first two years, 2007 and 2008, and edited and sometimes rewrote it to make it better. I’ve also added photographs throughout, many of which I’ve never shared before!

I plan to release the book soon in print, Kindle, and PDF. I’m trying to figure out access for other e-readers, and I’m also thinking about recording it as an audiobook.

Every book needs a cover, and here’s the one I designed for A Place to Start.

I wanted the cover to stand out, so I used bold, golden letters on a textured brick-red background. I’m a bit of a typography geek, so I cycled through a whole bunch of fonts before I settled on this one: Berlin Sans. It’s a friendly font — I didn’t want something stuffy — but heavy enough to draw attention.

I’ve titled the book after this post I wrote about my first apartment. The photograph is me, aged 22, leaving that apartment one workday morning. My longtime friend Kathy had come to visit, and I would drop her at the airport on my way to the office. She made this photograph.

Side note: I’m amused to see how formally I dressed for my job in a software company. Our industry has always dressed more casually than the rest of the white-collar working world. But 30 years ago it was still common to wear slacks, a dress shirt, a tie, and a sport coat. We defied convention by skipping the tie and the coat! Today, T-shirts and jeans are normal. I am sometimes accused of being overdressed for the office because I pair a button-down sport shirt with my Levi’s.

Anyway, I’m working to release the book in November on paper, for Kindle, and in PDF. Stay tuned! I’m excited to put my stories into your hands.

If you take my monthly email newsletter, Back Roads, you’ve already seen this cover. On Back Roads I share a little more personally than I do here, and you get to see what I’m working on before everyone else. If you want in, sign up here.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!


My next book, coming soon: A Place to Start

I’ve been writing this blog since 2007. It’s become largely about my hobbies: photography, old cameras, and old roads. But I’ve always written personal essays, that is, stories from my life and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. These posts never get the most pageviews, but you tell me time and again that they’re the ones you like best.

My next book collects the best stories and essays from this blog’s first two years, 2007 and 2008. My horrible first marriage had finally ended after a protracted and brutal divorce. I was left to build a new life, to go in a direction I didn’t foresee when I made my wedding vow, a direction I didn’t want. But our marriage was truly destructive. We weren’t able to fix what was broken about us. Our home was desperately unhealthy for everyone, including our children. The end of our marriage left us both broke, but in every other way our family was better off.

Down the Road, v. 1.0

I needed a hobby. Money was tight. Blogging was free. And so I started to write my stories and share them here. Not the ones from the bad marriage — I decided straight off that I would not air our dirty laundry, would not work through my pain by sharing its causes with the world. It would have been cathartic to do it, as my ex had done some breathtakingly awful things. But I had done some breathtakingly awful things, too. I didn’t want her telling my stories. I wasn’t going to tell hers.

Instead, I wrote about my childhood and my young adulthood. I wrote about the challenges of adapting to newly single life. I also wrote about my faith, which the divorce challenged to the core. Through it I lost my childish ideas of what following God was about, and gained a genuine, sustaining relationship with my creator.

Reading the Sunday funnies in my living room, age 22

I’m titling the book A Place to Start. It’s the same name as a story I first published a month after I started this blog. You can read that story here. I wrote of my first apartment after graduating from engineering school and landing a job. I lucked into a great apartment, one much nicer than my meager income could ordinarily have afforded. There I figured out a new adult life. There I also started to see some of the baggage I was carrying from my childhood — baggage that led me to form unhealthy relationships. I began the hard work to change my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, so I could be a better man. That apartment truly was a place to start.

I’m on track to publish my book in November. When you read it, you’ll see that neither I nor my blog had fully found our voices yet. But I had started. There is so much power in starting. From there, you can find your way. You can’t find your way until you start.

With this book I start my publishing journey. Who knows where it will take me? I get to enjoy finding my way with it, just as I still enjoy finding my way with my blog. Just as, now that I can look back on it, I enjoyed building a new life after my marriage ended.

Blogging for so many years has made me a much better writer. As I laid these stories and essays into this book, I revised them all to better tell my story and to make it more interesting.

I think everybody’s life is interesting — yours too. It’s all in how you tell the stories. I’m an ordinary man with an ordinary life, but these stories together form a memoir that tells how rich even an ordinary life can be.

I’ll share more about A Place to Start in the weeks to come as I finish it and prepare it to be published. I have a lot to figure out between now and then!

If you take my monthly email newsletter, Back Roads, you already knew I was working on this book. I even offered you the chance to review an early draft of it, and give me feedback. On Back Roads I share a little more personally than I do here, and you get to see what I’m working on before everyone else. If you want in, sign up here.

I dipped my toe into the publishing waters a couple years ago by releasing two books of my photographs. If you’re interested, have a look at them here.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!


Four new photo books from three photographers

I’m a sucker for photo books. If you make one, I’ll probably buy it.

Three photographers I follow published photo books this summer. The first is Ed Worthington, who goes by The 6 Million P Man online. Check out his site here.

His books usually show Italy through his Yashica-D TLR on color negative films like Kodak Ektar. But thanks to COVID-19 he’s stayed close to home for his new book, It’s Allright Around Here, Isn’t It?

Home is Cardiff, Wales, UK. This is one man’s view of his hometown — the places he knows, the places he goes. That includes walking trails and rail lines, neighborhoods of row houses, and the sea (which I assume must be the Bristol Channel). I’m sure these places are common to the Welsh, but they’re exotic to this midwestern Yank.

Ed offers little commentary in his book, just a few paragraphs on the inside front and back covers. He lets the photographs speak for themselves otherwise. They’re presented plainly on each page.

Ed didn’t say what cameras and films he used for these square photos, but they have the same look and feel as his other work. You can buy a copy of this 52-page book from his Etsy shop here, for £8 including worldwide shipping.

Karen Freer lives across the channel from Ed, in Bristol. You might know her from around the Internet as karenshootsfilm or as sisboombah. Follow her blog, Filling the Time, here.

Karen and her wife honeymooned in Catalonia in northeastern Spain last October. She shares photographs of the region in her new book, Filling the Time in Catalunya.

Karen chronicles the place she and her bride visited, including Tossa de Mar, Girona, Blanes, and Barcelona. This colorful book is like an old-fashioned slide show of all the places they visited on their trip.

The photos are set on colored pages, either the red-orange of the cover, or a turquoise, or a mustard yellow, that harmonizes well with the photos and helps make them pop off the page.

Karen and her bride made these photos on Lomography and Dubblefilm films. You can buy a copy here on a variable-price model. The book starts at £3 plus shipping. If you pony up £7 or £10 plus shipping, you’ll get a print with your book.

Finally, Eric Swanger lives in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. He takes long drives into remote places, mostly in the western United States. There he photographs what he sees with vintage film cameras, often on films expired decades ago.

Sadly, Eric no longer blogs. But you can follow him on Instagram here or on Flickr here. He posts his photos and commentary in both places.

He continues his series of delightfully named Conspiracy of Cartographers photo zines with Issues 8 and 9, released simultaneously.

For Issue 8, Eric shot a 1914 Kodak Brownie box camera mostly on fresh Kodak T-Max 400 and Ilford Delta 400. Eric doesn’t normally use these smooth films; he prefers a traditional grainy look. He hedged his bets by developing everything in Rodinal to bring out some grain.

Eric’s photos and the embedded commentary are a paean to the back roads, where you can still see America at eye level. This is lovely, lonely work that gives a good view into America’s vastness.

In Issue 9, Eric shifts to a simple Imperial Satellite II camera from the early 1960s, into which he spooled Tower Panchromatic film expired since 1963. This film was produced in Belgium and sold at Sears as part of their Tower line of film gear.

Eric made these photographs at about the same time, and in many of the same places, as the photographs in Issue 8. This book is about the images, ghostly as they sometimes are, backing paper markings bleeding through. They’re artfully arranged on each page, frame lines often present and some images bled off the page to bring focus to some particular element.

In case you can’t tell, I’m a great fan of Eric’s work.

You can buy Issues 8 and 9 as a bundle from Eric’s Etsy shop here. He uses a variable-price model that starts at $12 plus shipping.

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