“Yeh, but we don’t go to church much….”

I happened to notice recently that PBS America (meaning PBS’s UK channel) will begin showing The Roosevelts on October 19. My Mom back in Pennsylvania had told me the other day that, having seen it, she had been most impressed by Theodore. I told her that made sense: he lived life at triple the speed of the rest of us.

Because it rather reflects my personal outlook, for years I’ve liked this list by that first President Roosevelt:

In 1917, in an interview with Ladies Home Journal, President Roosevelt offered at least 10 reasons for going to church….

I won’t reproduce them: you can click *here* to read them. As we know, religion has *always* been a sensitive, and divisive, subject. We all have our own “personal journeys” of course.

Like many of you who were/ are Roman Catholic, growing up I had been escorted through all the “Catholic requirements.” But by my older teens and 20s, and, again, like many of you, I was definitely not a churchgoer. Frankly, I did not even really believe in any god.

However, as I moved into my 30s, I began to see the value in churchgoing much along the lines Theodore Roosevelt (he hated to be called “Teddy”) outlined. Do I believe in God now? Hmm. Let’s just say I don’t see a reason any longer to question others’ faith: my view is “faith” simply is.

The top of St. Peter's, The Vatican. [Photo by me, 2013.]

The top of St. Peter’s, The Vatican. [Photo by me, 2013.]

In fiction, faith is regularly portrayed as synonymous with an intolerant fanaticism. Yet what I encounter in various churches week in and week out are ordinary people full of life questions and doubts, and who enjoy gathering with their neighbors much as Roosevelt notes. That is worth attempting to portray accurately in fiction too.

So as I organized my tale, I decided I would include religion. But my characters would be similarly ordinary people with their own intensely personal, and varied, views. I would not attempt to ignore faith or pretend it is not there.

Here, during his first chat with Isabelle, James explains “what he is” after she casually inquires, “If you are Irish and Italian, you are Catholic, no?”:

“Yeh, but we don’t go to church much. I don’t think a lot about it. Busy with life I guess,” he sought to explain.

That was, essentially, also myself at his age. We may also find ourselves surprised by how people think of faith. When James explains his doubts, and meekly asks Isa about her own Catholicism, she replies:

“Do you think to be Catholic you have no doubt? A birth to a virgin? It is preposterous. …. You just have to have faith.”

Naturally not everyone “has faith.” In a previous post, we’ve already seen Uncle Bill tell Isabelle he considers himself a Unitarian. Separately, he also points out:

“You have faith. I admire that. I just can’t summon it up. Never could. Giuliana didn’t understand either.”

Indeed in the hope of better understanding someone, we may seek to “pry.” We might do so especially if what a person “believes” has not been overtly evident. For instance, James cagily asks Valérie if she’s a churchgoer like her friend, and she replies:

“Not regularly,” she admitted, sipping her drink. “My mother does go now and then. I think we did go more when we were little in Beirut. I remember church more in Beirut. Not as much in France. Not like Isabelle.”

And we also often encounter those who don’t want to be bothered with any of it:

“James, if you had answer wrong, you would not be here,” Béatrice stressed. “I don’t think [Isabelle] will marry a man who is not Catholic. Do not be offended, but I think it is all stupid and false. But that is me.”

How individuals approach religion is simply another aspect of their humanity. As in our own lives, it may be presented among character’ make-ups as complete individuals. It does not have to turn a book into a “religion debate.” It can just be part of “life.”

Have a good Wednesday, wherever you are reading this. :-)

Sex, Violence And Obscenity

Early in the life of this blog, I posted on writing “love scenes.” More recently, I reflected on the struggle to avoid “the cringeworthy” while doing so. It’s not easy.

We’re also inconsistent. I find that wider issue perpetually intriguing. To broach it, in the sequel I inserted characters’ discussing it:

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I’m not sharing here which characters are having that exchange. ;-) Regardless, I think we get it: violence in storytelling appears to be simply more acceptable than sex.

Free Stock Photo: Man in a suit with a small pistol.

Free Stock Photo: Man in a suit with a small pistol.

We also know that, disturbingly, violence can be perceived as sexy, and that sex can be portrayed violently. And they may even overlap. Those are other issues.

Then there’s obscenity. I’m not a big fan of it. I use it only sparingly.

To point that out is not because I’m making some big personal statement; it’s merely because I don’t like it, so I opt simply to have my characters not use it excessively. I “*”d out an obvious letter in that excerpt above because, while it may be in the conversation in the book, I don’t really want to put up stuff like that in the open on my site.

So we slaughter right and left, but labor at locating the appropriate boundaries for how to depict intercourse tastefully, and we need to be mindful of when to use nasty words. It requires no especial insight to assert we’re full of paradoxes.

I’m capable of being of about half a dozen minds on the same issue at the same time. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. We all also know we’ll probably never change.

Share And Share Alike

These things seem to happen unpredictably and in bunches. As of yesterday, I had only about 160 shares on social media for the entire lifetime of this modest blog. (And that naturally included my occasional tweets of my own posts here.) This morning – only 24 hours later – that total has jumped to 274 and counting.

I have not the slightest idea why? I’m scratching my head? I did a screen grab of what I had noticed last night, and then again a little while ago this morning:

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Two old posts in particular – but not exclusively – seem to be getting lots of interest: “Escaping An Extended Childhood” and “Dramatized Violence’s Sexual Divide.”

There have been quick jumps before. But they would always level off and that would be that. I know this will too.

Still how the internet works, eh? I have to admit I don’t really understand how WordPress tallies all this; and it’s not translating into more visitors than usual. Still, I suppose it’s interesting info to have.

Have a good Thursday!
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UPDATE [8:05pm UK time]:

It’s still going on. 368 shares:

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I don’t understand this! :-)

“Something in the way she moves….”

Time for a little, uh, “Something” ;-) special mid-week:

“You know you are very European in your taste,” she stated as she inspected other tapes. “We will have to get you some French singers. Oh, wait, ‘Monsieur le Frank?’ Ha!” She crooned comically, “Do, duh, duh, duh, do….”

James chuckled. “You want to be a nightclub singer?”

“He’s so old!” she laughed loudly. “My father likes him!”

“Okay, okay,” James gave in, smiling, “you’ve made your point.”

Indeed. Everybody’s got an opinion!

Happy Wednesday, wherever you are reading this. :-)

Always A Bit Of The Outsider

It’s a perennial issue. How does one best fit in when you are not from where you are? We all attack the matter in our own ways.

I try to go about my business without making a spectacle of myself. Still, one does have to open one’s mouth. The other day, when we were walking the hound, a woman fellow dog walker we’d bumped into and chatted briefly with several times recently, apparently felt confident enough to ask me where my accent was from.

On Facebook a few years ago, I posted a short video I had shot of my wife having a laugh chasing our dog around our house in Christchurch. Our hound loved to steal newly delivered mail off the floor after the letter carrier had been pushed it through the letterbox. My voice was naturally all over it.

Hearing me in the background, one of my cousins, who lived in New Jersey and whom I had not seen since I was a teenager (but with whom I had become Facebook friends), commented that I had sounded “so English.”

I commented back to her that that would have been news to my wife. “When I start speaking fast,” I joked, “she says I start to sound like Jerry Seinfeld.”

In turn my cousin came back roaring laughing – insofar as anyone can laugh loudly via Facebook, of course.

One thing I’ve learned is that most people speak “softer” here than in most of the U.S. – especially compared to New York – and I have always tried to “mimic” that. But don’t kid yourself. If you are not from somewhere originally, you will never 100 percent “fit in.”

My overall take is always to appreciate that as long as I accept I will never entirely “fit in,” that it doesn’t matter. I aim simply to try to be respectful of how others live, and not to try to impose my own standards on someone else. However they do “it” back “at home” is irrelevant: I’m not “back at home.”

Another thing to do is always to try to enjoy varied, local beverages :-)

Old Jamaica Ginger Beer. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Old Jamaica Ginger Beer. [Photo by me, 2014.]

So you know, there is NO alcohol in that, okay. It’s a pleasant soft drink that I haven’t found on a supermarket shelf in the U.S.; at least not in New York. Great to sip while writing. :-)

Have a good Tuesday, wherever you are….

Under Surveillance

My wife pops by here on occasion. She says she likes to keep an eye on what I’m up to…. here on the internet potentially in the view of the entire world. My sublime, groundbreaking interview with myself last weekend attracted her especial attention:

“You’re losing it, man!”

At least she was laughing – albeit rather demonically – when she told me that. Yet that opinion actually was an excellent appraisal.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a cartoon television screen

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a cartoon television screen

After all, to try to “explain oneself” before our increasingly informationally borderless world, anyone can offer an “About” page. (Which I have.) In a sidebar we may also share a brief list of “important” posts. (Which I’ve also done.) But we uniquely perceptive, great novelists, should indeed offer more – given we inhabit a higher plane of reality compared to the rest of middling humanity.

Uh, see, see! I’m getting there! That above paragraph demonstrates it again! My efforts at mastering a haughty, know-it-all, novelistic pomposity and condescension I had been working on in that “interview” is paying off! ;-)

Have a good Saturday!

Sneak Peek: A Department Party

As you probably know if you stop by regularly, I’m finishing up the sequel to the first book. Recently, I’ve plunged into re-reading, editing and altering bits here and there. At times it’s a nightmare; at others, fun.

The fun part includes re-reading stuff committed to “paper” a while ago and which hadn’t been read in some time. Seeing such, it’s even possible to laugh to yourself and perhaps think, “I like that.” I had one of those moments yesterday when I was re-reading this Long Island college party situation in the draft:

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Writing “banter” among half a dozen or so people standing around is challenging. But it has to be done now and then. Realism demands it.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a professor doing math on a chalk board

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a professor doing math on a chalk board

And if you’ve been to university, you know something else too. It’s not just the students. Among faculty and staff too, higher education can be one big, uh, “flirt zone.”

Not that I’m basing that on any of my own experiences, of course! ;-)

Hope you’re having a good Friday, wherever you may be.

Was It My “Blog Mob?”

We had a laugh yesterday. You may recall Tuesday’s Purple Parrot post. About 8:45 AM UK time, I had posted about store-owning friends in Chipping Sodbury, near Bristol, who’ve said they will stock my novels.

In doing so, I had linked directly to their site. About 11:30, I got an email from the Mrs. half of the store-owning duo, pounding happily on her keyboard that she had been inundated with web site visitors. About a thousand of them, she wrote.

She wrote that on an entire normal day, they do far fewer than that. The only explanation, she asserted, was me. My post was the only thing that she could ascertain had been materially different yesterday morning.

But I was stunned and shocked too. I wrote back that I wished I could’ve taken credit for it, but I get nowhere near 1,000 visitors daily – and certainly NOT by 11:30 AM. I took a quick snapshot of my internet-sourced visitors from midnight to that time yesterday morning:

My internet visitor stats, Tuesday morning. Not exactly a mob scene. ;-)

My internet visitor stats, Tuesday morning. Not exactly a mob scene. ;-)

I usually finish the day at around 50-100 max. Looking at those, I told her no way that her sudden “cyber mob” could have come from me.

But I also know many of you follow here via the WordPress reader. (Thank you!) I know I also sometimes kid about WordPress’s reader, but I do like it – it makes following blogs easy. Still, there is no way all those visitors could have come to them via my reader followers either.

We finished off just scratching our heads. Who knows what happened? It’s the net. However, if you did visit Purple Parrot yesterday, uh, thanks! :-)

High Street, Chipping Sodbury, England

Friends of ours have a shop outside of Bristol, in the market town of Chipping Sodbury. It’s in a part of England where towns have names like that…. and Old Sodbury, uh, Little Sodbury, and – yes, really – Pucklechurch, among others. A way to shorthand describe the area to outsiders is that it could serve as an excellent setting for an ITV murder drama.

Their shop has a variety of items related to dolls’ houses and other collectibles. Co-owner Stuart has recently authored quite a book too, and because they have sold several to people wandering in off the street, they are considering displaying some other carefully chosen titles by independent authors to see how they do. They have offered to sell my Passports, and are awaiting delivery of several copies.

I’m hono(u)red! I know Passports has been in some bookshops in the U.K., including one in Christchurch, after a former neighbo(u)r of ours there dropped in and asked for it. Bless her, the shop then ordered a couple! While it’s tough to keep track of that sort of thing, it feels extra-good whenever you learn your books are displayed in a shop.

So if you ever find yourself on the High Street in Chipping Sodbury, check out Purple Parrot:

Purple Parrot, Chipping Sodbury.

Purple Parrot, Chipping Sodbury.

There are reasons aplenty to stop in there and have a look and a buy besides, uh, my fantastic novel. ;-)

Have a good Tuesday, wherever in the world you are reading this. :-)

ICYMI: The Remarkable Interview

In case you missed it (ICYMI) over the weekend, I finally gave in. As you know, I’m an intensely private person who shuns any limelight. However, I finally consented to a revealing, personal and truly fascinating interview…. with myself.

 Free Stock Photo: This image depicts a stack of books, topped by pair of eyeglasses.


Free Stock Photo: This image depicts a stack of books, topped by pair of eyeglasses.

The interview is posted here in two parts – one and two. Here’s a small sample. When I asked myself why I wanted to write my first novel, I replied to myself thoughtfully….

I’d always wanted to write non-fiction. I’ve got bl-ody degrees coming out of my…. well, but who gives a damn about what I have to say about anything. Or you for that matter. Everyone’s got an opinion. Like should Scotland be independent? How the hell should I know?

Now, just to set your expectations, I never made myself cry. I held it together until the very end. Good grief, I’m not Oprah. ;-)

PART 1: “Saturday Interview: All About Vampires.”
PART 2: “Our Interview With A Legendary Author, Part II.”