“Good grief, that’s just embarrassing….”

Writing, you are your best critic in some ways. If something bothers you as you re-read, it’s definitely not quite there. As in everything in life, listen to that little voice inside you.

I had a moment like that yesterday. It was only a few lines, but it just didn’t read quite as I wanted. Arrgh!

So, on the verge of publication, yep, yesterday I rewrote some of a Frontiers love scene.

I’ve discussed this problem previously. “Intimacy” is so difficult to write well. A real pain. There’s the narrowest of lines between “Got it! That works!” vs…. “Good grief, that’s just embarrassing….”

That issue off my chest (again), how about a “romantic” landscape photo for midweek? Iford Manor, Wiltshire:

Iford Manor, on the River Frome, Wiltshire, last Sunday. [Photo by me, 2014.]

It’s not a “Carson, would you please ask the new chauffeur to bring the motor around,” Downton Abbey type of manor. However, the house is thought to date originally to the late 1400s. Its garden was used a few years ago for a wedding in an episode of the TV series Mistresses.

Have a good Wednesday. :-)

English Countryside Views

I spoke with my father in Pennsylvania last night after he’d gotten the results of his heart test on Thursday. In August, he had been ambulanced to the hospital with only 15% heart function. It is now, three months later, up to 26% – thanks to medication, exercise, a much reduced salt intake, and totally following doctor’s orders.

His cardiologist was impressed at how he has done EVERYTHING he was asked to do, but 26% was not enough to satisfy the doctor that he was out of danger; he wanted to see at least 35%. He said that after 3 months’ recovery that 26% is likely the peak the heart will ever reach on its own, so recommended an implant.

On December 1, my Dad will have put into his chest a 3-wire, tiny device that helps the heart squeeze, which should take him to about 50%. (My Dad said the cardio had previously explained that “elite athletes” like runners tend to be at about 60%.) The device should end the chance his heart will simply slow to a stop. He will have it implanted the rest of his life.

All told, that’s a huge relief. So I thought, for this post, how about some beautiful views?

We had taken a long walk last Sunday – 7.9 miles, to be exact; distance marked courtesy of an iPhone app – up and down hills around Bratton Camp, which borders on the Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate. We finished at the Westbury White Horse. My legs ached for 24 hours afterwards!:

Bratton Camp and White Horse, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Bratton Camp and White Horse, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Sign noting the bridleway as well as the next door military firing range, part of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Sign noting the bridleway as well as the next door military firing range, part of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Don't open that gate or cross that fence! Edge of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Don’t open that gate or cross that fence! Edge of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Quiet, solemn, St James's Church, Bratton. [Photo by me, 2014].

Quiet, solemn, St James’s Church, Bratton. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Westbury White Horse [Photo by me, 2014].

Westbury White Horse [Photo by me, 2014.]

Being new in the area, it was naturally a new hike for us. Sadly, though, we didn’t encounter a pub en route. So besides its unexpected length (we’d taken a wrong turn and walked about a mile out of our way), that was the only big disappointment. ;-)

Have a good Saturday.

______
UPDATE: November 17:

Bratton does have a pub: “The Duke.”

It’s an attractive one too. We drove by it yesterday. On our walk last weekend, we hadn’t wandered into that part of the village.

At The 68th Floor

Did you see this yesterday? Wherever we are in the world, because of the net we all see most everything now. CBS 2 TV in New York was one of the mass of global media covering this, which fortunately ended well:

Two window washers, who became trapped on a scaffold near the 68th floor of One World Trade Center, were rescued and brought to safety Wednesday afternoon….

….The incident began at around 12:45 p.m. on the south side of the building — about 820 feet off the ground at the 68th floor. Initial reports suggested the washers were done cleaning the windows and were about to ascend to the top of the tower when the cable that pulls the scaffold up became loose….

I’ve seen chatter on Twitter wondering how much they get paid. It’s a reasonable question. However, frankly, you couldn’t pay me *enough* to do that job.

1 World Trade Center, photographed from safely behind the fencing on the Empire State Building, summer 2013. [Photo by me, 2013.]

1 World Trade Center, photographed from safely behind the fencing on the Empire State Building, summer 2013. [Photo by me, 2013.]

In Pennsylvania, today is my Dad’s 3 month heart assessment which will determine if he has an ongoing condition that requires a permanent, surgical implant. He says he feels fine and his cardiologist is pleased he has not had any further “events”; but he’s still wearing the life vest. We are naturally hoping he has recovered from his summer heart failure and won’t need the implant. [Prayers.]

The window washers’ near disaster led me to recall how my Dad had worked in construction. He had many a time been in the frame of unfinished Manhattan skyscrapers, and occasionally walked across steel girders in the open. Although he didn’t do so on structures anywhere near as high as 1 World Trade Center, they were nevertheless still on buildings us ordinary mortals would no doubt have considered more than, uh, *high enough.*

“The view is great,” I remember him once telling me.

“I don’t want to know what the hell he’s doing all day,” my mother also used to say to me.

And I’ve actually been complaining on here recently about some self-assembly furniture? All that rather puts matters into proper perspective. (By the way, I’m making progress!) Have a good day! :-)

Wiltshire Wildlife

Time for a West of England wildlife photo:

Unidentified cat on picnic table in our back garden. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Unidentified cat on picnic table in our back garden. [Photo by me, 2014.]

The other day, he made me jump when I looked out over the sink through the kitchen window. I snapped this photo right afterwards. He kept looking at me.

He reappeared yesterday, scratching at our sliding glass door. Obviously he thinks this house – which we’ve now been living in for under two weeks – is part of his turf. I mean, look how bl-ody comfortable he’d made himself! :-)

Genius Will Not Be Rushed

One of my proofreaders emailed me last night asking, essentially, “Where’s the book?” She wants it. Actually, she wants it “yesterday.”

I tapped back hurriedly that it’s almost ready for her review. Really!

I will admit here I was at one chapter again tinkering last night. I’ve extra-wrestled with this one, and fought with it, and struggled with it for months. It’s a “dream sequence.” I have redone it several times after each version read to me, quite frankly, as ridiculous.

Please don’t suggest it. A vampire swooping down cannot solve this problem! No! No! No! ;-)

I’ve finally gotten it now, methinks. It’s subtle enough, but a bit of a shocker. My main problem all along has been I don’t want it to read “like” a dream for the overwhelming bulk of it. I want readers to think it’s “real”…. and then, at the last second, in the manner of our own dreams during the night…. WHAM, when we awaken we realize we aren’t living it and it was all in our mind. And then it dawns on us what had led our mind down that “weird” route while we’d slept.

For readers, during the dream clues are also cagily dropped in…. and they have to seem innocuous, and similarly “real” too. Eventually they create an “AH, HA!” moment later in the text, when what had led to the bizarre dream becomes clear.

So if you’re reading this post (and YOU know who YOU are), the book’s nearly there.

Narrow street. Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Narrow street. Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

It’s also pouring outside the cottage here in rural England this morning.

Time for more coffee.

Have a good day, wherever in the world you’re reading this. :-)

The Local Library

Technological evolution is a constant in our lives, of course. For example, we all well-know how writing and publishing has been changed dramatically by the appearance of e-books. That newest technology, we are also told, seems sure to end print books as we know them.

But I remain skeptical. Yesterday, we happened to stroll by the local library here in Turleigh. It is in space vacated by the disappearance of another piece of one-time cutting edge technology:

The Village Library, Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

The Village Library, Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

The English sense of humo[u]r is often really second to none. :-)

“Messaging” Over Wine And Brandy

Now, this is English:

Puppy parking place, outside a shop in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Puppy parking place, outside a shop in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

We’ll soon be in our new place in Trowbridge. I snapped that silly photo yesterday nearby in Bradford-on-Avon. B-o-A is a town that’s absolutely worth visiting.

B-o-A is hardly alone. Lots of towns in England are worth visiting. Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start.

Here’s the view outside our holiday cottage window this morning, English roses included:

The view just after dawn out the bedroom window from our holiday rental in Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

The view just after dawn out the bedroom window from our holiday rental in Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Last night, obviously intrigued by some of our Facebook photos and “check-in” locations, just after 11pm British time my uncle in the eastern U.S. “messaged” me:

Are u allowed to tell me what u guys are up to..and btw when u get a chance send a quick email to good ole Annie…she misses you guys.

Annie is another relation. I messaged my uncle back, explaining we are relocating within England for my wife’s consulting work. We are in the process of renting a house and getting a car.

Since I’m not involved in this consultancy work, and with my wife sitting next to me egging me on, and after we had had a few drinks, within my reply, I wrote:

….Maybe I’ll write that novel at last? ;-)

As I clicked “send,” my wife on a chair across the lounge laughing, I remarked, “Well, that oughta get a reaction.”

And it did. Within his next reply, seconds later he wrote me:

…As for you writing a novel I feel certiain you can write a Cozy that is a fine novel type..check it out..you have seen enough to write it..and a person like yourself can be the narrator…

A “cozy?” And “a person like” myself as the narrator? Oh, my.

After I read that aloud, wine glass in hand Mrs. “Pot Stirrer” Nello pushed for me to go a bit further.

Holding my brandy glass, though, with a smile I told my personal English rose, “Uh, no. That’s enough.”

Rule of thumb: When relaxingly inebriated after a long day, never start teasingly “messaging” your HarperCollins published novelist uncle about how you are now thinking of writing a novel after you’ve written a novel(s) that he doesn’t know you’ve already written.

Have a good Sunday! :-)

_____
UPDATE:

He’s been at me again, sending me this a couple of hours ago:

Maybe you’d prefer to write a thriller..I am teaching a class right now in fiction writing…a page a day in one year a manuscript of 365pgs…u can do it…

Oh, gosh, what have I started? ;-)

Saturday In Bristol

Bristol is one of England’s most attractive cities. It often also has traffic to rival London’s. It certainly did yesterday afternoon.

The M32 crawled. The roads winding through the center crawled. We also discovered Rupert Street was closed.

“Is that a street we drive on [to get to our friends’ house]?” my wife, behind the wheel, asked as we were stuck in traffic.

“I have no idea,” I said, scanning street names on the sat-nav on my iPhone.

It wasn’t.

Once you get into the city, it’s more than worth it:

Tiny portion of Clifton Downs, Bristol. Yes, I take photos occasionally of signs.

Tiny portion of Clifton Downs, Bristol. Yes, I take photos occasionally of signs.

Call this an English cheeseboard, laid out by a Danish woman. Which it was.

Call this an English cheeseboard, laid out by a Danish woman. Which it was.

Port.

Port.

We’re in, uh, recovery this morning. I like to call evenings like last night, umm, “research” for a future novel. ;-)

______
UPDATE: Beautiful Sunday morning:

View over Bristol. [Photo by me, 2014]

View over Bristol. [Photo by me, 2014]

Sworn To Secrecy

Not exactly an uplifting Monday post. For that, I apologize in advance. Sorry.

Sunday evening, my wife got an email from a friend whom we, and most everyone else, already know has a serious, long-term illness. She wrote that she has just been told she probably has only months to live. She noted that the only person who knows that is – unsurprisingly – her husband (they have no children).

And now, so does my wife; she’s second. She asked my wife not to tell anyone else; but, naturally, my wife immediately told me. However, I don’t really count as someone else, because I’m essentially a “dead end,” a cul-de-sac: I’m certainly not going to tell anyone.

There I was yesterday morning, thinking, oh, I’ll have a quiet day and try to “de-stress.” In my creative cocoon, I was seeing light at the end of the latest tunnel: the sequel is almost done. Finally, that struggle is nearing its end.

How unimportant the likes of that always seems whenever we are unexpectedly thrust back into unforgiving, actual reality.

View of a section of Trent Park, London, at dusk. [Photo by me, 2014]

View of a section of Trent Park, London, at dusk. [Photo by me, 2014]

Earlier this year, we’d already endured the worst death I have ever experienced. “I wonder if that’s what they told Kam?” was my knee-jerk response when my wife told me about this, more distant, friend. Later, we tried to lose ourselves in the first episode of the newest season of Downton Abbey.

Life is full of harsh moments like this. Yet this is new to me: What does one do with information like this when you are asked to keep it in confidence? The person facing the terminal illness has shared what she has been told of her fate, yet where does that leave those few who are told and then sworn to secrecy?

All I can say is that, having slept on it, possessing such information leaves me with a guilty sense of awful insider knowledge. Even if keeping it “quiet” is based on the best of intentions (to spare feelings, worry, etc.), important people are being left out of the loop; and they shouldn’t be. Ultimately, in my humble opinion, it’s never fair to them.

Lower Manhattan Skyline, 1990s

I’ve always been fond of this photo I’d taken in 1991. Since September 11, 2001, it has come to mean even more to me. I used it eventually on the back cover of Passports:

Statue of Liberty and World Trade Center's Twin Towers, from the Liberty Island ferry. [Photo by me, 1991.]

Statue of Liberty and World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, from the Liberty Island ferry. [Photo by me, 1991.]

The passage of time is inevitable. My soon to be 20 year old English nephew said to me last year that to him the Twin Towers meant, basically, terrorism. He was so young in 2001 that he naturally doesn’t recall it really being anything else. But it merits also to be remembered in history for all that it was before that horrible morning.