Free Inscribed Copy of A Retrospect in Death

American poet, novelist, travel writer and editor, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, wrote, “All the best sands of my life are somehow getting into the wrong end of the hourglass. If I could only reverse it! Were it in my power to do so, would I?”

J. Conrad Guest and cigar

J. Conrad Guest and cigar

I use this quote in the opening of Part One: Old Age in my new novel, A Retrospect in Death, which I finished writing two years ago. It’s a quote that has stayed with me since I discovered it, and I confess that it inspired me during the months it took me to complete that project. A Retrospect in Death is largely a story about regret over missed opportunities, poor choices, and avoiding risk.

I asked my father, shortly before he passed away, if he had any regrets. He laughed and told me, “Hell, yes. No one gets out of this life without them.”

In my youth, I once took a spill from a bike (not my own) that I was riding too fast. I banged my ankle hard, but after making sure I wasn’t seriously hurt, Dad scolded me for riding too fast a bike that was too big for me. The lesson I came away with was to avoid risk.

But life is a risk, largely lived by faith: that our next breath is promised, and when we tell our loved one, as we leave the house for work in the morning, that we’ll see them at the end of the day are but two examples of such faith. There are many things we risk: a change of job, the purchase of a new car or home, our heart to love; these are fairly standard risks. Yet some risk driving down a freeway at nearly twice the posted speed limit, while others risk their paycheck at the track, or their marriage for a sexual thrill.

The key is finding the happy medium. Who wants to get to the end of their life and wonder, Why didn’t I do this or that? I’ve heard too many stories of people who lived miserly, squirreling away their money for retirement, waiting for the day they could take that trip to Hawaii only to die young, before they ever had a chance to sample some of life’s simpler pleasures. Then, there are those who live life hard and fast, from paycheck to paycheck, who retire penniless, to become a burden to their children.

I have more than a few regrets, and working on A Retrospect in Death brought a few of them to the surface. As my work progressed, I thought more and more about that last part in Bailey’s quote: “If I could only reverse it! Were it in my power to do so, would I?”

By the time I typed The End, I knew the answer. All the best sands of my life might very well be in the wrong end of the hourglass, but I wouldn’t be here, writing these words, if not for the life I lived. I’ve made some poor choices along the way, took some risks I never thought I would while playing it perhaps too safe in other aspects of my life. But those poor choices, the risks I took and failed to take, all led me here, to this place, which is not such a bad place. Yesterday is past, and tomorrow … well, take it from John Wayne: “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes in to us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands and hopes we’ve learnt something from yesterday.”

But what about you? If you were granted the chance for a do-over, would you grab it to live your life over again, avoiding the mistakes you made the first time, grabbing at those opportunities you previously let slip through your grip, risking where before you played it safe?

Please consider leaving a comment in response to that question. After a few days, I’ll select one comment, or maybe more than one, to receive an inscribed copy of A Retrospect in Death, once it launches.

J. Conrad Guest, author of: Backstop: A Baseball Love Story In Nine Innings, January’s Paradigm, One Hot January, January’s Thaw, and A Retrospect in Death (forthcoming)

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00021]


Filed under books, Contests, fiction

24 responses to “Free Inscribed Copy of A Retrospect in Death

  1. Absolutely not. Once is enough for me.

  2. Hi,

    Do I regret the mistakes, the poor choices and the failures that I have made along my journey? When I look back at how much I have traveled so far, I can honestly say no. I know I would not be doing what I am doing now if I had not made those mistakes, not selected those poor choices and not fallen on my backside and failed in some of the projects that I decided to do or go after. More than that, I realized that I wasn’t ready for most of the things that I wanted to see happen in my life. I was not mature enough. This kind of insight only comes when you embrace life at its fullest and that means everything including the bad. If someone had told me that when I was thirty, I would have arrogantly answered back that they didn’t know what they were talking about.

    One other thing, my father used to have two words that he would say constantly when I was a child, teenager, and young adult. He would always say, My Lord and then sigh. One day I asked him why did he always say, My Lord. He looked at me with a sly smile and answered, one of these days you will understand.

    Nowadays, when I look before me and see some of those obstacles or even good times that are coming my way, I say My Lord. The good or the bad in life that hits us is a divine testing of how we deal with what is ahead.

    I enjoyed your article J.
    Take care.


    • Thanks, Patti, for your thoughtful comment.

      Although still a couple weeks away from launch, I’d like to send you an inscribed copy of A Retrospect in Death once it becomes available. Please let me know what your mailing address is via a personal message and I’ll let you know once I put it in the mail.

      • Hi J,

        Thank you, and yes I would love to have an inscribed copy of A Retrospect in Death. I believe we are connected in Linked In and I will send you a personal message with my address. I live on the European Continent so if you would like I will gladly accept an ebook copy. Shipping overseas is expensive.


  3. Anna Mills

    Only if I were gifted with a LOT more wisdom than I have been given this time around. And I am not really sure that “tomorrow comes in to us very clean.” I think a substantial amount of yesterday and today sloshes over into it.

    • Thanks, Anna, for your comment. I think tomorrow can only arrive, as John Wayne says, very clean. Anything that “sloshes over” is because we allow it. Granted, we learn from our mistakes, and an occasional glance at the past is good practice; however, I think the danger comes in staring too long.

      If you’d care for an inscribed copy of A Retrospect in Death, please get your mailing address to me and I’ll let you know once it’s in the mail.

      • anna mills

        OHH! I am thrilled and honored! Thank you so much.And I think that I’ll take your comment as a lesson.
        Anna Mills

        • You’re welcome, Anna. I hope you’ll enjoy the read and consider leaving a review on Amazon.

          I copied your address and removed it from this string to help maintain your anonymity.

  4. Karen Lindgren

    Your comments here are very much to the point and trigger similar thoughts in my mind about a “do-over.” I think that we are that summation of our experience at any point of our lives, and for me, doing it again with the knowledge I have gained over the years would result in a whole new life of experiences; but it would be a different me, and I wonder if I would be where I am now because of those different experiences… and what would that life be like… it is like those parallel lives I have read about… with each decision we make, another parallel life starts up… quite the intriguing idea isn’t it? I could go on with that thought, but I will stay with this challenge–would I have the opportunity to read each of your books and comment on them in all of those lives? I prefer this opportunity! Thanks!

  5. First I have to say that I loved the book. I look forward to reading the revised edition.

    As for your question, it’s quite a conundrum for me. There are some things I wish I’d done, danced en pointe longer, studied more, accepted the invitation to Brown when I got it…but then, my life as I know it would change wouldn’t it? And since I really love my life, in retrospect maybe passing on those things was all part of the plan. In any case I wouldn’t want to risk a do over. I’ll stand pat with the hand I’ve got. 🙂

    • An interesting take, Dana. As I wrote below, in response to Christine, in Stephen King’s 11/22/63, the protagonist endeavors to undo the Kennedy assassination. His thinking is that the world will obviously be a much better place in which to live had Kennedy served his full term. But, knowing King, I imagine that will not be the case!

      If you, too, wish an inscribed copy of A Retrospect in Death, please let me know where to send it, and I’ll let you know when it’s on its way.

  6. There are some things that I wish I could do or not have done but for the most part my life is what it is. I like to embrace each day and strive to do better than the day before by using the lessons learned from days and years gone by. Live Laugh,Love and Smile!

    • Thanks, Colleen, for your wise words.

      You of course are entitled to an inscribed copy simply because you’ve become such an integral part of my life … and to complete your set of my novels! I wonder if you’ll enjoy it as much as my others. Love and virtual kisses to you.

  7. You open your soul so well in your postings. I have some regrets, but being the same person would probably re-live my life pretty much the same. So many of the things that guided the course of my life were not things I chose, but they were the things that happened anyway. I’ve discovered that even though we don’t plan it that way, much of life is being reactive more than it is proactive. At least it has been for me.

    • Thanks, Christine, for your comment.

      I’m reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63, a time travel yarn about changing the outcome of JFK’s assassination. The protagonist, who returns to 1963 from our present, finds the past “obdurate.” That is, it doesn’t want to be changed. You might be right in that, given a chance for a do-over, we’d very likely repeat the same choices. However, if we could return with the wisdom accumulated through experience, I wonder if we might make different decisions.

      If you’d care for a copy of A Retrospect in Death, inscribed, please get your mailing address to me and I’ll put one in the mail to you once it becomes available, probably about mid-April.

  8. Lynn Benjamin

    If we could change “When” that change occurred; I would very much consider it. However, if it changed from the beginning, I would suffer through the torments and uglies, take more heart in the meted out happies, and delve a lot deeper in the curiouser cubbyholes. To change from the beginning I would not be given my 4 children. I know in the depth of my soul I wouldn’t want another selection of them. If, by grace I could pick when– I would choose the turning point where circumstance forced me into an action that through time and events caused me to lose one of those precious four from God; then I would quickly surrender to it. I do not believe we were ever meant to outlive our children.

    • Lynn: Thanks for your heartfelt comment, and my condolences to you over your loss. It was painful for me to lose both my parents, within a year of each other; but you’re right in that no parent should ever have to lose one of their children. I can’t imagine your grief.

      If you’d care for a copy of A Retrospect in Death, please get me your mailing address and I’ll send off a copy to you as soon as it becomes available.

      • Lynn Benjamin

        I would love a copy of your book J.C.. I appreciate your condolences and offer my own on the loss of your parents. I have been there also (with my mother to the end) it was a brutal thing to go through. I suppose there’s some sappy wisdom that without death we never truly live. I find that although life does go on, and can present new experiences, those we lose hold a position on the periphery of our minds and have the habit of popping into focus at the most unusual times.

        • You’re welcome, Lynn, and thank you for your additional comments.

          It was, as you wrote, brutal watching my parents suffer; but the greatest act of love is letting someone go. I took care of them and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. No regrets for me there. It’s been 15 years since their passing, and not a day goes by that I don’t spare a thought for them, and they live on in my memoirs and fiction. It’s comforting, to think of them and write about them. What’s sad is that I lose a little more of them as the years pass: I lose their mannerisms, the sound of their voices diminishes. You’re absolutely right in that they pop into mind at unusual times.

          I took the liberty of deleting your address to protect your anonymity, but not before I saved it to my hard drive. I’ll let you know when I put the book in the mail.

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