In So Many Words

Commenting on my “Marathon Man” post in which I’d shared an extended look at the rough draft of a scene, Naseer wrote:

Interesting to note how Americans are when they meet each other in foreign climes, be it Paris or Kathmandu (Said with affection) Your writing adds a lot of colour. I get impression colour around you is somehow very important?

“Colour” is indeed vital to me. Background. Setting. Personalities. A sentence. A nod. A look. Taking a hand. The tiniest of moments that have the most gigantic of life consequences. As in our real lives.

A major purpose of my site here is simply to convey something daily of what I am. In doing that, I like to share the hows and whys of what I write: a journal of ups and downs. I also touch on broader topics that go beyond just my books, but which are related to my subject.

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Because We Love Italy

In the first two volumes, I concentrated (unsurprisingly, I suppose) on three countries: the U.S., France, and Britain. However, I also made scattered references to Italy. I included the likes of “James” having an Italian aunt, “Isabelle” having been to a language school in Rome, “Giorgio” debating Italian girls with “Isabelle,” English “Natalie’s” younger cousin “Maddie” having studied in Florence, and “Valérie” loving Rome as a getaway destination.

I did that for two reasons. First, it’s really difficult not to be wowed by Italy. Millions of us visitors (perhaps you have been one too) are every year:

A famous Rome landmark. [Photo by me, 2013.]
A famous Rome landmark. [Photo by me, 2013.]

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Obsessed By You

Yes, I wrote just the other day that I planned some time off. Well, I lasted two days. I have plunged now into fully outlining what had been the sketchy ideas I had had for the third novel.

Although they are naturally exasperating at times, I am missing my fictional “friends” from Passports and Frontiers. If you ever in real life feel a bit isolated and alone (even when surrounded by people who love you; I have had bouts of that for as long as I can remember), you discover pouring yourself into characters forces the mind elsewhere. You hope your efforts in the end grab readers and your characters and story take them away from some of their own worries and troubles – and perhaps even help them in some small ways too.

Beginning of the outline of the next volume.
Beginning of the outline of the next volume.

Once again, I’m aiming to finish in about 12 months. The new manuscript is still untitled (although I’ve got an idea for one that I suspect will be the title), but if you know the first two books this coming third will follow much the same form and style. Staring back at us from the pages will be most of the characters we’ve met before – eventually to take us roughly to three years from where the series started “in 1994.” There will also be several new ones, and introductions to some we’ve heard merely mentioned in the first two books.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a rock guitarist.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a rock guitarist.

Back on Christmas Day, with my 12 year old nephew and 17 year old niece, I was watching music videos of some of the “all time greatest Christmas songs.” Many were by artists who, now, in 2014, are long past retirement age. Yet many are still out there recording and performing live.

I could only smile at some of the clothes and haircuts of decades ago. Did we actually look like that? “Welcome to 1984,” I joked to my niece at one point.

If those singers are still at it today, it’s because they can’t stop. One supposes they like – and likely need – the money; but we all need money of course. What they also love is the audience, and bringing joy to the faces of their long-time fans.

I’m learning we as authors are not all that different. We may not sing for our supper, but writing for an appreciative readership is certainly much the same thing. I’m finding it is something of an addiction, and can even turn into an obsession. ;-)

Hope you’re having a good Sunday, wherever you are in the world. :-)

The Outsiders

The New York Times, being the New York Times:

Britain’s New Immigrants, From Romania and Bulgaria, Face Hostilities

I write “being the New York Times” because the piece chatters, but ultimately leads nowhere. It tells us nothing essentially new about the migration issue itself. Nor does it offer any suggestion of a way to diminish those “hostilities.”

In that article, Britain really could be any country; and Romanians and Bulgarians could be any newcomers arriving in any country. As Britain does (as every country does), Romania and Bulgaria have their borders…. and settlement laws and frontier guards empowered to decide who may enter. And most of those populaces would likely not be pleased about masses of British incomers deciding to cross “their line” and set up homes within their geographical area either.

Even though I have “permission,” I have always been self-conscious of the fact that in my working in Britain a native might not have a job. A Danish friend, married to an Englishman, and living in the U.K., has said similarly that she often reminds herself she is not British. Yet her brother-in-law is also British and married to her sister, and he is living and working now in Denmark.

Twenty-first century borders are far more formal than they have ever been, but human communities have always enforced boundaries. Whether it was an Ancient Greek “city-state” of a thousand souls setting itself apart from another similarly sized one just across a mountain, or today’s high-tech nation-state frontiers relying on biometric passports, we create them for a variety of reasons too complex and varied to begin to explore here. And, lest we forget, even within our modern countries there are uncountable gradations of “borders”: from province/ state, to county, to city, and so on, down through school catchment area all the way to, say, residents’-only street parking.

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We humans have always been an “excluding” species. Because they are not “from, or of, here,” outsiders have always faced “hostilities” simply because they are outsiders. There is no reason to believe that will ever change.

Mood Music

Regardless of whether one is writing history or penning a novel, when delving into the past achieving “authenticity” is absolutely necessary. It is vital to fix your readers firmly on that era. The goal of course is to try to bring it to life within your pages as best you can.

As we know, there are now actually adults and near adults walking around out there who, born in the mid to later 1990s, don’t really remember that decade. My nephew and my niece, born in 1994 and 1997 respectively, are prime examples. Maybe you are one too? :-)

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For instance, I was surprised to learn that that (now 16 year old) English niece loves the TV show Friends. When I found out, I laughed and told her, “I remember when it was on first run!” (I was also one of those guys who at the time could never figure out how “Ross” could possibly have chosen “Rachel” over “Emily.” But “Ross” was a jerk, so “Emily” was lucky to escape him.)

Naturally such is the rhythm of the passage of time. Always has been and always will be. Yes, “1995” is now almost two decades ago:

“So you like Swedish pop duos,” [Isabelle] laughed.

Uh, yeh, I’ve dug out music by artists (who I remember first-hand from that now so long ago era), and I have been re-listening to them while writing the sequel.

It’s called doing serious research into your subject!

Okay, that’s enough messing around now on the internet. (Us “older” folks also remember when that didn’t exist!) Have a good Tuesday. Everyone back to work. ;-)