Canary Surprise

My wife received an email yesterday from a former neighbo(u)r of ours. She’s flying to the Canary Islands today. She and her husband are selling a holiday flat they’ve owned there for several decades.

The Canary Islands. Wikipedia. [Screen capture by me, 2015.]
The Canary Islands. Wikipedia. [Screen capture by me, 2015.]

In the message she explained to Mrs. Nello that she’s taking Frontiers (the paperback) along. (She doesn’t do Kindle.) She wrote she hadn’t read it yet and is looking forward to it for the airport wait and plane journey. She wanted Mrs. Nello to let me know.

Hmm, I wonder…. what she’ll…. think of it?:

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“Time for a (no added sugar) Ribena”

I noted the other day that I felt I had been “in the zone” while writing. It was flowing pretty easily, and I hoped it would continue. And it has. I’m back on my daily treadmill pace of 3 to 5 decent pages minimum.

If you can keep that up within about “100 days” you’ve almost got yourself a book. (Proofing, editing, etc., follow of course.) I tend also to write in spurts of about 30 minutes to an hour, and recently read we’re most work productive generally in bursts like those. So I can now say that, yes, that does seem to apply to me.

From Psychology Today,  "Best Rest Practices for Optimal Productivity and Creativity," April 30, 2012 [Screen capture by me.]
From Psychology Today, “Best Rest Practices for Optimal Productivity and Creativity,” April 30, 2012 [Screen capture by me.]
I’m sometimes so focused I’m returned to the present day from my fictionalized mid-1990s only when I realize…. “Ouch, I haven’t moved in over half an hour and my right leg is now asleep from sitting on it.”

Then I think, what’s up on the iPad in social media world? I’ll take just a second and have a look….

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Novelist Uncle Is In The Building

Well, I had an email exchange with my uncle last night. He knows now about my books completely – including my pen name and what underscores the stories.

The mask is off.

Wires everywhere! Part of my desk. [Photo by me, this morning.]
Wires everywhere! Part of my desk. [Photo by me, this morning.]

I can’t reproduce much of his note back to me. Lots of it is family stuff. But these extracts should give you the gist:

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Creating Mayhem As Midnight Approaches

After several days of thinking hard about it, I took the HUGE decision at last: yes, I would finally tell my novelist uncle in America that I’ve written (and I’m still writing) novels under a pen name.

What pushed me over the edge was asking myself, “Suppose he were to pass away and I never told him? How would I feel?”

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Sneak Peek: “Are you a Parisian?”

Happy Friday! Good Morning!:

[Photo by me, 2015.]
[Photo by me, 2015.]

I’ve been writing lots in recent days. There are just those times it “flows” and you find you just keep “going with it.” It’s sorta like being on a “winning streak” in sports. (Thus decidedly unlike England’s current World Cup cricket team’s experience.)

When you find yourself “in the zone” you don’t want to do anything to mess it up. You pray it keeps going for quite a while. Given that, after the first “sneak peek” last month into the new novel’s manuscript, I figured I’d share a second here.

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Americans Make The Movies (And At Times, We’re Really Sorry)

I’ve spent much of the last 25 years often as the (only) American in the room – be it with family, friends, or workplace colleagues. As you know if you visit here regularly, I’ve now also spent several years writing novels in which I’ve created characters sourced from some of my (especially early) “travel” and “expat” experiences. They are full of types of people I’ve encountered, and even cherished, and what I’ve seen here in Europe.

I can’t begin to list the nationalities I’ve met in just London: nearly every European country; Africans from Egypt and Morocco all the way to South Africa; Afro-Caribbeans; Middle Easterners; Indians; Chinese; other Asians; Canadians; Australians; New Zealanders; Brazilians; even a few other South Americans. And all the religions: not only Christians of course, but Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. It feels like a far more “diverse” city than even New York.

I will always remember a Pakistani student, right after 9/11. He offered me personal condolences. He flat out called the attackers “terrorists”: no qualifications, no hesitation.

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“In the lobby of the Savoy….”

I’ve detected a pattern in myself post-publications. I can’t look at the books for some time afterwards, probably because I’ve been so swallowed up by them for over a year while writing them. But after a few weeks working on a follow up, simultaneously I start to re-read its predecessor.

Writing is draining. My own experience has been that by the time I’ve set pen (well, technically keyboard) aside at the finish, my head’s spinning. I can’t think straight.

Free Stock Photo: A row of antique books.
Free Stock Photo: A row of antique books.

And when you write so much that’s so complex and layered, you can forget some of the things you yourself wrote. Small things. Little bits.

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That Awful Mr. Grey

Happy Sunday! I stumbled on this yesterday. Back on Friday, a 21 year old commentator in Britain’s Independent newspaper shared this Fifty Shades analysis:

Screen capture of the Independent.
Screen capture of the Independent.

Evidently this now needs pointing out: both Mr. Grey and Anastasia are – let us recall – fictional. That means they are not real people. Insofar as I understand it, the books are novels, not biography.

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More Late 20th Century Paris Photos

I’m glad a bunch of you liked yesterday’s post.

I’ve now about finished going through those 1990s 35mm photographs – sifting through them for any that might serve as cover art for the 3rd novel. Of course I won’t use nearly all of them: they may be good shots, but aren’t appropriate for the books. And sometimes I just plain can’t use them: that’s usually when they contain (non-public figures’) easily recognizable faces, and in a couple of instances that’s seriously frustrating stuff because I think they might work well. Ah, c’est la vie.

Regardless I converted a few into .jpg files. I figured just in case I do find I can use them, or even parts of them, I don’t have to go digging them up again later in the year. I thought I’d put up a few more today:

Bastille Day parade, Paris, July 1995. I don't recall which unit this was, but there are women in it. [Photo by me, 1995.]
Bastille Day parade, Paris, July 1995. [Photo by me.]
I don’t recall which unit that was. Look closely: there are women in it.

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The Ghosts In Our Lives

I got an email yesterday from our former neighbo(u)r in Christchurch, Dorset. Sad news. Another neighbo(u)r, a widowed, later 80s-something Swiss woman we’d all known, died quietly in her sleep at home the other night.

She had been ill for some time, so her death wasn’t a huge surprise. But her passing prompted me into certain thoughts. As you may know, that’s usually dangerous territory.

Entry roundabout, La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Entry roundabout, La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Another roundabout, La Clusaz. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Another roundabout, La Clusaz. [Photo by me, 2015.]

I was last here in La Clusaz in 2003. Long before that, I knew nearby Grenoble. And Chambery. And Annecy.

We accumulate so much mental “baggage” over the years, don’t we? And we never really entirely forget, do we? Again in a vicnity, much comes rushing back. When one hears, sees, or even scents, we’re struck by a familiarity. You know what I mean? It’s that feeling of visiting an old haunt.

Yet if no one you knew there is around any longer, how does it also feel? Sort of disconcerting. The scenery and towns remain, but all of the people are strangers.

You think back on those you used to know, perhaps pondering on where they are now, and how they are. You may even stop and wonder indeed if they are all still alive? If decades have passed, it’s quite possible some aren’t any longer.

By now you had also already decided to try your hand at writing some novels and infusing them with certain memories of happenings from that old haunt and with those people. And when you find yourself back on that familiar turf, memories may become all the more vivid. In a way, you keep seeing “ghosts.”

If it all gets to be too much, sometimes the best thing we can do, though, is to stop with all of the wondering and introspection….

Me, snapped the other evening unexpectedly by my Mrs. and dinner companion. [Photo by Mrs. Nello, 2015.]
Me, snapped the other evening unexpectedly by my Mrs. and dinner companion. [Photo by Mrs. Nello, 2015.]

….and just enjoy dinner. :-)