Taking A Short Breather

We have friends coming to stay over tonight. (Don’t smirk. I have friends!) Although you may see me on Twitter, I’m planning on taking a couple of days’ breather from here. And it’s the May Bank Holiday weekend, too.

Free Stock Photo: Panda resting on a log.
Free Stock Photo: Panda resting on a log.

I should be back Tuesday. I’ve been doing lots of non-blogging writing all week and I’m a bit tired. I need to re-gather my “blogging” thoughts. (Again, no smirking, “He has thoughts?”)

If you’ve not been here before, or even if you have, please feel free of course to meander around the site – sort of like an “open house.” ;-) I’ve had what I consider some decent recent posts. If you would like some quick “direction,” you might want to start with one of these:

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Sneak Peek: Relaxing (Too Much?) Over Beers

“James” had not been a international traveller. He had never been to Europe until he visited France for the first time at age 29. Subsequently, he would find himself in various encounters with other Americans in Europe.

One example was a retired soldier who truly inspired him:

“I parachuted near here on D-Day,” he announced.

Another was an expat who left him feeling puzzled:

“We’re from L.A.,” she said. “My husband works in Paris, and we’re on vacation. He had to go to the States for a time by himself. I thought the boys would like to see Normandy.” She concluded as one of her sons gestured restlessly that he wanted to sit on her lap and she waved a hand trying to dissuade him.

And another was a study abroad student who turned him off totally:

“Natalie,” James interrupted in turn, “this Amber isn’t really an average American girl, trust me. She sounds demented.”

He hadn’t really made an American friend while he was abroad.

Time for another “sneak peek.”

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Opening With A “Hit” Single

Inspired, I sensed afterwards, by my grandfather memories that I’d posted in the morning, I spent the day yesterday smashing through the opening chapter to Distances. Although it’s not long (but none of my chapters are really “long”; I dislike “long” chapters), it’s – I believe – on target.

Textured. Sentimental. Sharp.

A new character also zooms in, offering the novel’s very first line.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a piano with music notes.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a piano with music notes.

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He Says, She Says

During our phone chat a few weeks ago (because we weren’t able to get together as hoped), my uncle told me that (based on what he’d read so far) he considered what I write nicely readable. That’s a good thing, though, he asserted. If it’s what I want, I should run with it.

But I thought how that could also be considered a “backhanded” compliment: that it is good enough to sell and attract readers, yeh, but it isn’t “deep.”

Recently I’d also noted a reader who’d written to me that she thought the books belonged in history classes. That is quite a compliment for fiction; but I wasn’t writing history, of course. (As flattering as that may be to hear, I don’t want to scare away potential readers here thinking they’re dry history. They’re not!) Yet “history” would seem pretty “deep” stuff, no?

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We Don’t Fight, We Write

Pardon a brief rant. I just want to get this off my chest. I don’t do this on here very often….

Always at the ready for reference. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Always at the ready for reference. [Photo by me, 2015.]

To a slug “relation” (by marriage):

Last year, I lost someone I loved. You think I give a rat’s you know what about you at all? And if you actually imagine you are ever going to get my wife and myself to humilate ourselves by bending to your will, well, dear, I got news for you: I’m a novelist:

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The Appropriate “Grade Level” For Your Novel Is…

The other day Kindle sent out a note suggesting we authors optionally “age rate” our books. I thought I’d share it. I’ve removed the superfluous and “personal” parts and screen captured the core of it:

Edited message from Kindle.
Edited message from Kindle.

Kindle sends out lots of stuff – some useful, some not. But this just seems a sloppy tech issue from their end. There’s a straightforward reason I haven’t chosen an under-18s level for my novels and Kindle knows it already.

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Our Old School Chums

Today, this blog is in “Hala mania” hangover mode. If you missed the party, it was not something that happens here very often. Thanks to my interviewing Lebanese journalist Hala Feghaly on Monday, through yesterday I’d been inundated with new visitors, mostly from Lebanon.

Yes, yes, yes, I know they came by for her, so I presume most won’t be back longer-term. Although, you never know; one can but hope a few stick around. In any event, let’s return here today to what passes for “normal.”

Dawn breaking over our back garden in Wiltshire. [Photo by me, about 5:30 am this morning.]
Dawn breaking over our back garden in Wiltshire. [Photo by me, about 5:30 am this morning.]

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A Very Special Post: An Interview With Hala Feghaly

UPDATE: 18:15, UK time: Hello, Lebanon! What a mob scene! I think I have gotten more visitors from your country just today than, well, in total over the whole life of my modest novelist blog! I hope you enjoy what you read below. I’m sure you will. And thank you for stopping by. :-)

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It’s Monday, so let’s start the week with something unique. I thought you all might like to meet someone you may not know yet. However, you may well someday see her on the likes of the BBC or CNN.

I have mentioned her before, and she requires a much more complete introduction. Hala Feghaly is a journalist from Beirut, Lebanon.

Hala Feghaly on About.me. Used with her permission.
Hala Feghaly on About.me. Used with her permission.

New to blogging, Hala’s WordPress site is “Hala Feghaly.” She is on Twitter at @halafeghaly. She is also on Instagram at @halafeghaly. Apologies, but as I’m not on Instagram I will not even pretend here to know more about it than just saying that. ;-)

Hala’s now found on Facebook too at “Hala Feghaly,” so be sure to visit and to like her page!

For ease of reading, my questions to her are in the italics. Let’s begin….

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Hello Hala. Thank you for speaking to me today.

Hello Robert, it’s always a pleasure.

You have recently appeared a couple of times on a television discussion current affairs program in Lebanon. Could you tell us a bit about that experience? The name of the channel and program? The host/ presenter? And so on?

I’ve been working for the past three years as a news editor and reporter in local newspapers such as L’Orient le Jour, Assafir, Annahar and Addiyar. I had many internships in radio as well but the 21st of January was a turning point because I had the chance to be in front of the camera for the first time. Frankly, I was nervous at first but it went pretty well. Although, my appearance was so unexpected. Future TV crew needed someone to discuss “Charlie Hebdo” incident with the French Ambassador to Lebanon, Patrice Paoli. So Paula Yacoubian (the presenter of “Inter-views” – a political talkshow) called me a couple of hours before the show started and I said let’s do it!

Hala Feghaly on Inter-Views. From Instagram. Used with her permission.
Hala Feghaly on Inter-Views. From Instagram. Used with her permission.

You’ve studied at which university? What was your subject area?

I have a B.A in Journalism and Radio-TV from the Lebanese University Faculty of Information and I’m currently studying Law at the same University Faculty of Law and Political Science in Beirut.

Given the choice, do you prefer print journalism, radio, or television, or a combination of them, and why?

Personally, I’d rather work in a well-known TV station. First of all, because it’s fun! Besides, it’s because you will get more paid and you’ll have the chance to write, publish and appear on TV. For example, news anchors write the news and read it, reporters write the report’s script, they shoot it and broadcast it (they just appear while doing the “stand up” part – which I prefer the most because it is very exciting… reporters have to be always ready for adventures in order to look for interesting stories.)

Which languages do you read/ speak? How did you learn them? Which is your “first” language?

I write and speak fluently Arabic, French and English (I’ve learned these languages at school – Sagesse Brasilia Baabda) and I’m currently trying to learn Spanish all by myself. It’s not that hard because it’s Latin. I’m not practicing because the lack of time!

Do you have a religion? If so, do you consider yourself religious?

I’m Christian (Catholic). I am religious but I don’t practice for personal reasons.

Have you traveled abroad? If so, to which country/countries? If you could live in one country that is not Lebanon, which country would that be and why?

I’ve been to Syria many times before 2011. It is a beautiful country just like Lebanon. They have a lot in common, almost the same weather and nature. But it has always been my dream to study and live in Bordeaux (France) but who knows, maybe I’ll move soon for my PHD!

Do you have any hobbies? How do you enjoy spending any free time?

I’m a ballerina. I enjoy spending my time dancing, reading and doing outdoor activities: hiking, biking, camping, swimming, skiing, jogging, walking at the beach and so on. We can do everything here!

Many of my blog visitors are avid readers. Do you read any fiction? If so, what sort do you prefer? And do you have any favorite books? However, before you answer please understand that on my blog Fifty Shades of Grey does not count as a “real novel.” :-)

I read history books, analysis, philosophy, novels and biographies. I just love biographies! My favorite book so far in English is 1984, George Orwell.

And for you Robert, I highly recommend Marquis de Sade. lol

Hala Feghaly. From Instagram. Used with her permission.
Hala Feghaly. From Instagram. Used with her permission.

Where are you in your family birth order? Are you an only or oldest child? Youngest? Or in the middle somewhere? Do you have both brothers and sisters?

I have a sister and two brothers. I’m the third. My older brother Fouad is a mechanical engineer, my sister Layal is a radiologist and my little brother Rawad is still at school.

About Lebanon: Do you feel there is any single most commonly mistaken view of the country foreigners hold, and if so, what is it? Your home city Beirut sadly conjures up many negative images in the minds of many foreigners. If you could share what you consider a couple of its positives, what would they be?

People in general intend to consider Beirut as a place full of terrorism and awfulness. But that’s not true! It is a cosmopolitan country, where you can meet plenty of different people with different nationalities, convictions, religions and ideologies. There is more than 17 different religions. Do you believe that? But there are many people and countries that are willing to do anything to destroy this solidarity and conviviality.

In short, we’re not terrorists nor a bunch of ignorants nor Arabs (Lebanon isn’t an Arab Country).

To a very serious issue. It is no secret there’s a horrible war going on next door in Syria that has at times spilled over into Lebanon. There is great confusion outside as to what can be done to help end the war. If there is one thing you believe that outside governments should do to help, what do you think that should be?

What’s happening in Syria is an ongoing armed conflict. The unrest began in the early spring of 2011 within the context of Arab Spring protests, with nationwide protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government, whose forces responded with violent crackdowns. The conflict gradually morphed from prominent protests to an armed rebellion after months of military sieges. Mainly Lebanon is facing 3 major problems: Lebanon is currently overloaded with 2 million refugees in its valleys. Hezbollah’s (Lebanese Political Party) political and military interference in Syria. In 2013, Hezbollah entered the war in support of the Syrian army. In the east, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a jihadist militant group originating from Iraq, made rapid military gains in both Syria and Iraq, eventually conflicting with the other rebels.

Do you notice extra challenges in being a woman journalist in Lebanon? If so, what do you feel they are?

All the journalists in the Middle East are in constant living and working fear and danger because of the socio-professional-religious status and because of the insecurity and chaotic situation. Especially with the uprising of ISIS and the “freedom of speech” that is controlled by the governments and political parties.

Lastly, where do you hope to be in five years in your career? And what is your ultimate career goal? To present the national evening TV news perhaps? :-)

I would like to work as an investigative reporter. But before, I will have to do many workshops and trainings in the US or in Europe because we don’t have this specialty here. And later on, maybe when I finish my law degree I might work as a lawyer as well! I just remembered this French proverb that says “petit a petit l’oiseau fait son nid” it means “step by step the bird builds its nest”.

Hala Feghaly. From Facebook. Used with her permission.
Hala Feghaly. From Facebook. Used with her permission.

Hala, thank you very much for talking with me.

A huge thanks to you, Robert. I wish everyone Good Luck.

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And now we’re back to me. I hope you enjoyed that and maybe even picked up some new insights. If you are on Facebook, go check out and like Hala’s page. And be sure to follow her here on WordPress.

Have a good Monday, wherever you are in the world. :-)

“Urgent cable for you….”

FROM: ROBERT
TO: YOU
SUBJECT: FINISHED

WINDS OF WAR DONE 1428 UK TIME REMEMBRANCE SITS OMINOUSLY ON SHELF STOP
WARMEST REGARDS

One gargantuan novel down. One more to go. [Photo by me.]
One gargantuan novel down. One more to go. [Photo by me.]

Surely I had to share that amazing news in the style of a 1941 telegram! ;-)

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UPDATE: Don’t forget, tomorrow (Monday), I’ve got quite an interesting post planned. If you can, pop by! :-)

The “Shock” Is, We’re With Janice?

I have been working my way through The Winds of War novel. I’m now about 1,035 pages through it, so I’m almost to the end. On the horizon, though, is its sequel: War and Remembrance (which was a Christmas present).

Reading the likes of those is one way I “relax” – yes, seriously – away from my own writing. At 1,361 pages, Remembrance is also even longer than Winds. Hmm. Between the last part of Winds and then Remembrance afterwards … uh, see you in about, oh, three years or so:

"War and Remembrance." [Photo by me, 2015.]
“War and Remembrance.” [Photo by me, 2015.]
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