“I’m having a few and wishin’ that you were here….”

You may recall that post I wrote last summer about Frank Sinatra’s Strangers In The Night song. I enjoy settling back now and then to his music. Last night, pre-dinner, I was listening courtesy of my iPad to a Christmas present that had come, uh, my way….

Screen capture of part of my iPad music collection.
Screen capture of part of my iPad music collection.

If you don’t understand what all the “fuss” is about regarding Frank Sinatra and would like to, I recommend that Ultimate Sinatra. The 4 CDs version has a helpful background booklet on his life and career. The compliation includes just about everything that marked him out as a distinctive artist.

This post came to mind this morning because our chalet owner here in La Clusaz has had a habit of putting his iPod on the bar and playing Sinatra – even in a room populated mostly by other first-language French speakers. That’s not a shock, though. Sinatra has always been popular here in France:

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“So who would you live with if I died tomorrow?”

My octogenarian in-laws have been thinking more than ever about what happens after one of them dies. After dinner last night, around the table a discussion arose among the four of us about their London house, and where would the survivor live, etc. My father now living without my mother in the same house they had bought together in Pennsylvania, and what he is going through as a widower, was the main immediate conversational catalyst.

However, my father-in-law insisted several times on taking matters too lightly for my mother-in-law’s taste. At one point, she put him on the spot: “Don’t joke,” she admonished him as he chuckled. “What will happen to you if I go first like Robert’s mum? You’re useless. You can’t do anything for yourself. You couldn’t live alone….”

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“Disney Princesses”: An Existential Threat?

Whenever I see reports like this, I sit up and take notice. I wonder: how I am doing? I have quite a few women characters, so I take my portrayal of them seriously:

Screen capture of the Washington Post.
Screen capture of the Washington Post.

Its main argument is:

….The plot of “The Little Mermaid,” of course, involves Ariel literally losing her voice — but in the five Disney princess movies that followed, the women speak even less. On average in those films, men have three times as many lines as women.

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“An attempt to explain to the English reader….”

Last year here in London at my in-laws, I stumbled on a virtually pristine 1948 British published hardcover of Raymond Chandler’s famous The Big Sleep. Yesterday, I found another 1940s hardcover; it’s condition isn’t quite as good, but it still possesses a mostly intact dust jacket. It’s a 1944 book by a British academic:

[Photo by me, 2016.]
[Photo by me, 2016.]

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The Joys Of Locating That Out Of Print Book

It’s satisfying when you get hold of “that book” you’ve been trying to find when it doesn’t exist as an e-book and, worst of all, is long out of print. It arrived yesterday – and a week earlier than I’d expected it to turn up, a copy that had been termed “used,” but is actually like new. I wanted one for research for the new novel and I’d found it (appropriately) over in France:

From the third party seller receipt. [Photo by me 2016.]
From the third party seller receipt. [Photo by me 2016.]

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Semi-Random Thoughts For This Morning

Good morning! The mind can sometimes be all over the place on a Monday morning. So this post is something of a mishmash. :-)

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“Hello” new followers!

I see my tongue-in-cheek “letter” I’d written in 18th century English was something some of you found amusing.

Warning: I’m not always that amusing!

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Letter To 230 Years Ago

Outside of Bristol England 22nd January 2016

DEAR SIR

I write to you in the 18th century thinking I might dispatch this to you in Nantes post restrante, but we don’t do that commonly in our time & consigning it to the English mail is not what I wished to do either not because it will be opened and read by some scoundrel as in your time but because now the price of a letter has become so great as to cause one to need to secure a bank loan first & you are long dead anyway. I have decided it is best placed on our inter-net which is easily found & we accept our governments to-day read every thing we write on there. Centuries passing have not changed everything.

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“My dear and beloved….”

Okay, I’m going to risk showing my age again here. If you are around mine, you likely recall this as well. We are perhaps of the last generation that actually wrote letters on paper, by hand, which we stamped and put into the post:

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a postmarked stamp.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a postmarked stamp.

I recall email catching fire when we were in our twenties – in the early 1990s. I got my first PC in 1994. The web came on about the same time.

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To Please Everybody

Readership out there now is truly global. As a writer, you can never know exactly who’s reading your book(s), or where, or why. Perhaps most importantly, you never know what a reader individually takes away from it – unless they tell you.

And do you always really want to know? I’m struck at times also by how some readers review a book on social media evidently hoping they had read a different book. I say that here because a review I’d recently seen on Goodreads of another author’s novel included – and I’m paraphrasing – this weird observation:

I liked it a lot. The characters are great. But it’s a romance novel. I don’t like romance novels.

As the author, how could you possibly satisfy someone like that? Answer: you couldn’t. “I’m sorry it’s a ‘romance’ novel,” I’d think, “but the book’s description made that pretty clear. Treatises on the Battle of Midway are found elsewhere….”

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The Big Fear: “What if it’s awful?”

Whether we like it or not, life is one big risk-taking venture. Yet fearing to fail is one reason most of us don’t try to do what we want to do. Who really wants to look like a fool?

Free Stock Photo: Closeup of business man burying head in hand.
Free Stock Photo: Closeup of business man burying head in hand.

So failure may be in the back of our mind. But I have usually found myself motivated to achieve something positive as being worth the risk of failing. I enjoy proving doubters wrong as well, and although I haven’t always succeeded on that score, whenever I have it has been a tremendously satisfying feeling.

I ventured into fiction-writing because I felt certain that if I put my back into it I could produce novels that would be solid reading. Now, though, I’ve moved my own goal posts. After three semi-biographical/ semi-autobiographical novels, the idea of trying something new within fiction is more than a bit intimidating, and even scary.

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