A Short Stories’ “Sabbatical”?

I spent a good part of yesterday with new characters “Brad” and “Clémence,” as well as with a couple of “old timers,” and filling in additional details and description in several chapters. In the process, I dropped in a couple of thousand more words at least. I became so immersed in it all, I lost track of the time.

The afternoon flew by. As I finished up, I realized again just how unwilling I am to let go of “my friends” quite yet. I’m not “done” with them by any means.

I ended up again pondering what could follow immediately after Distances. I know there will be a fourth novel eventually, and I already know its very general contours. But I’m now pretty drained mentally from writing these first three, and I suspect I will need something of a “sabbatical” to recharge.

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

I had been mulling over the idea of taking “six months” post-Distances and declaring, “Eh, that’ll do for now.” It seemed reasonable. After all, three novels of nearly 100,000 words each over three years is nothing to sneeze at.

By comparison, my HarperCollins published uncle has written eight novels since the early 1980s. Uh, not that I’m comparing myself to him! Even if I am there, uh…. a little bit. ;-)

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“Because you are born on a farm….”

Emerging from “Valérie’s” car onto her parents’ Paris driveway….

Excerpt from
Excerpt from “Frontiers,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

I thought I’d share that bit from Frontiers. (You may be interested in the *note at the bottom of this post, about a line in that above.) “It” is “1995.” Not that long ago.

A Paris view. [Very old photo, by me, 1994. Look familiar? It's on the back cover of Passports.]
A Paris view. [Very old photo, by me, 1994. Look familiar? It’s on the back cover of Passports.]

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Social Media Overload

The way information flies at us is now unprecedented. Masses comes our way, and we “gulp” down lots. But it’s hard to know how much we honestly can process.

Moreover, social media conveys a happy impression that we all live, more or less, in the same “space” – if not precisely the same geographic place. We’re seemingly required as well to have opinions on just about everything happening, and everywhere. And we have to have them immediately.

Free Stock Photo: A beautiful Chinese girl sitting tired at a desk.
Free Stock Photo: A beautiful Chinese girl sitting tired at a desk.

You find yourself worn out now and then? I do. This weekend was one of those times.

Saturday morning, one of my Twitter lists had displayed this. All at the same time. Seriously:

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“He said THAT? And she said THAT?”

I have literally awoken at times around 3am, my mind for some reason fixating on some plot point or statement. I wonder, “Did I leave *that* out? Did she say that?” It’s a sick feeling that can ruin a night’s sleep.

So far – luckily – whenever I have had that happen, on frantic double-checking I discover everything is fine, and I breathe out. When writing a series, you need a perfect memory. You can’t miss a thing, because even a minor oversight or “misremembering” a tiny “fact” from earlier can prove pretty embarrassing later on.

[Selfie, 2015.]
[Selfie, 2015.]
I’ve been rereading Passports at length over the last few days. It’s the first time I’ve done so in at least a year. As I do, I’m finding I’m also struck by how the books are “evolving” from that opener.

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Not “Adieu” Quite Yet

Yesterday evening I hit one of my interim targets for Distances, the third novel. Every chapter in the manuscript is now, more or less, under control. The scope of the book is largely settled.

Within my outline, I write wherever my mind takes me. I “finished” the book somewhere in middle of the last third of it, when two chapters that had been only “skeletons” up to that point were filled in generally at last. Having done that, I sat stunned briefly.

French air force overflight. Bastille Day parade, Paris, July 1995. [Photo by me.]
French air force overflight. Bastille Day parade, Paris, July 1995. [Photo by me.]

My mind then took me forward to the next book. I’m unprepared mentally to say “goodbye” to these characters yet. Quickly, I stopped myself from thinking that far ahead.

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Travel Romance Fiction: C’est Moi

My uncle has been messaging me again. Although he knows now that I write, and the nature of what I write, he’s still after me to do “cosy” (“cozy”) crime novels:

Messenger screen capture.
Messenger screen capture.

If you don’t know what that means, they are these types of books:

Screen capture of The BookPeople Limited,
Screen capture of The BookPeople Limited, “Cosy Crime” first page.

And that despite me telling him several months ago that I couldn’t do them and don’t want to do them. But he won’t stop.

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The Many Shades Of Envy?

Another installment of that book series is upon us. A Newsweek reviewer (interestingly, by name a man, although the books do appear aimed primarily at women, and are written by a woman; but I don’t want to disgress down that path here), disparages it this way:

Cinemax softcore masquerading as fiction

Really? So then it’s perfect to adapt into a possibly “award-winning” cable TV series? Just shift the tale and main characters to, say, Rhode Island?

Evidently this effort is told from “Mr. Grey’s” perspective. You must know him by now. He’s the fictional character some appear to confuse with an actual person.

A couple of weeks ago in the Telegraph, Michael Deacon (again, a man; and again I’ll leave the issue there) had fun with it. He “imagined” its opening chapter. Here’s an excerpt:

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Real Life Is Full Of “Coincidences”

Twitter is awash with writers tweeting thoughts, adages, self-help sayings and writing “rules.” Some are useful, some tiresome. This one got tweeted into my timeline the other day:

“Number one rule for fiction: Coincidence can be used to worsen a character’s predicament, but never to solve his problems.”

Never having seen it before, I googled it. Many others have used it. Although that writer tweeted it as if it were his thought (and has thus far got some 30 odd retweets with it), it was not his original thought.

Screen capture of Twitter log in page.
Screen capture of Twitter log in page.

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“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that….”

….Jane Austen quotes are usually apt and mostly timeless. (In case you didn’t know, I’m an Austen fan.) In citing that I’m also just having some fun with this “sneak peek” into Distances. For how often have we all seen something like this?

It begins with two couples…. and a fifth person. The latter is unattached (or even on the verge of becoming unattached). At some point that person has caught the eye of an unattached acquaintance of one of those friends…. and that friend, after having been prodded, cajoled, and even begged by that smitten acquaintance into concocting a pairing, finally gives in:

A sneak peek into "Distances." Click to enlarge.
A sneak peek into “Distances.” Click to enlarge.

Ultimately, it either works out:

Free Stock Photo: A couple sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean.
Free Stock Photo: A couple sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean.

Or it, uh, doesn’t.

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“Darling, he’s written about us!”

Happy 1st of June. And we didn’t meet them halfway. We went to them. Yesterday, we drove to Christchurch (about an hour and a half away) to visit with a former neighbor couple there.

In a sense, it felt like “going home.” The town is much the same. And the house we’d owned for a decade until 2013 – well, there it stood. (They aren’t huge fans of the people who’ve bought it. We’ve never laid eyes on them and still haven’t.)

The husband (he’s about my father’s age) and I were alone at one point and chatting. He told me they were in Tenerife, in their flat (in the end, they didn’t sell it), and his Mrs. was sitting in the lounge reading Frontiers. “Across the room,” he said to me, “I hear this laugh, and she looks at me, points out a page, and says, ‘What did he do?! That’s me! The so and so! Darling, he’s written about us!'”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a blank frame with drawing tools.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a blank frame with drawing tools.

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