“How was your day, dear?” (I Wish I Could Tell You)

In an early post – when I had so few popping by, I suppose I was posting then mostly to myself ;-) – I had written that I did not really feel lonely or isolated while writing. In other jobs, I had long been used to working without close supervision. I had also often worked from home too, so the lack of an outside office and colleagues was not unusual for me.

What has become an issue in the last year is I’m realizing I spend a great deal of time alone in my head with my story in a way that no one – not even my wife – fully understands. I find that at the end of a day I can’t really offload about what I’ve done, or what’s proving a challenge. Others aren’t really all that interested (and that’s not unreasonable of them) in listening to me recount it.

Free Stock Photo: Red F1 help key on a keyboard.

Free Stock Photo: Red F1 help key on a keyboard.

Example: I spent much of yesterday working quietly at my desk. I was satisfied with what I had achieved by the time I’d called it quits. Yet sharing that in any depth was simply not possible.

“How was your day, dear?”

“Fine. I got lots done. I think I’ll pour myself a Vodka and Coke.”

[What I'd give to sit down with that drink for a while and really tell you. I'd explain I wrote more of that strange love scene that's been driving me bonkers. I also came up with what I believe is a telling (and in its way amusing) exchange at U.S. immigration, and then at baggage reclaim, at JFK. I'm thinking a Gulf princess could be involved too. Much tougher was I also got more written on characters' reactions to an illness, which I'd drawn from the true death of a relative, and which is also why I found myself fighting back real tears as I wrote.... and which is also why I seemed a bit grouchy when you'd asked me something totally unrelated to that which I was immersed in at that very instant. I'm sorry. And, God, there's always Kam. Straining to produce something worth unexpectedly dedicating to her memory is wearing me down emotionally. I get one shot at this. If I screw it up, I don't get another chance.]

If you write, you have your own personal burdens and perhaps similar feelings. So I’m finding this blog useful. After all, I just told you that…. which I’d told to no one I see in person.

A finished product may eventually impress readers, but it can be difficult to share the in-progress ups and downs that are inevitable in actually getting there. I believe I would’ve benefited from having a site like this during the writing of the first book in 2013. For this year, for its sequel, I know it’s an invaluable outlet on which I can blow off some “How was your day, dear?” steam: no matter what, I can at least tell you.

Thanks for following and reading. :-)

Avoiding The Cringeworthy

Writing romance that fits properly into a tale? A relationship that comes across as genuine? One which doesn’t read as corny and silly, thus causing a reader to roll eyes? Especially where sex is involved?

Doing that is massively difficult.

Don’t believe me? Don’t you sit there guffawing. Try it. Go away and compose even a few paragraphs, come back to me and tell me you didn’t cringe in abject embarrassment at what you’d produced as a first sincere effort.

Given that reality, how in heaven’s name did someone else we’ve heard of ever seriously write, uh, uh…. Never mind. I digress. ;-)

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a red heart and I love you text.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a red heart and I love you text.

Yesterday I had one of those days. The literary agonizing (type, delete, think a bit, type feverishly again, alter, delete, type more, re-read, consider throwing the PC out the window, etc.) that stems from wanting to see two important characters have an intimate relationship? Yet in the gut also not really wanting to see that happen?

Okay, friends, what are we going to do today?” Yes, and what a headache I had by mid-afternoon from staring too long at the PC screen trying to figure that out. I needed Tylenol. I flicked through the pages and found myself thinking, “Not bad. It needs more tweaking. But, God, I just don’t know about this.”

Nothing like trying to seek to escape a novelistic corner into which you’ve willingly painted yourself. Welcome to the world of the writer. I must be nuts.

Then again, of course we all know romance is often a bit corny and silly in our real lives, isn’t it?

I’m back at it again. I posted this because I needed a break…. again. No sign of a headache again, though; but give it time. Today’s still young. :-)

Among The Best 25¢ I’ve Ever Spent

Got a bit of a surprise on Monday in Key West. It wasn’t, as you know, at Hemingway’s house. I mean down at the docks behind Conch Seafood:

Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]

As I tweeted the other day, a manatee appeared seconds after we had fed the fish, resulting in a marine encounter the two kids – the 9 year old girl especially – loved, and which I later joked to my Irish friends was perhaps the best value for 25¢ I had ever gotten in my life. Yet the fish-feeding had proven itself to be an unexpected learning experience too. However, not in a way you might think.

It had all started when I had given our friends’ 11 year old son a quarter to slot into the dock edge (environmentally safe) fish food dispenser, which resembled an “old-fashioned” gum ball machine. Bear in mind he can no problem handle iPads and land 747s using Flight Simulator. Indeed, he is so sharp that early last year, after his mother, “Maureen,” had explained to us at their Dublin breakfast table how she was flying Emirates to Abu Dhabi on her way to India to join our now late friend Kam there, while munching his toast he flat-out contradicted her idea of her own travel itinerary:

Young son: “Mum, you aren’t on Emirates. You’re on Etihad. You’re going to Abu Dhabi.”

Maureen: “No, darlin’, I’m on Emirates.”

Young son: “You’re stopping in Abu Dhabi. You can’t be on Emirates. You would be going to Dubai.”

My wife grabbed her iPad and checked the web. Yep, sure enough he was the one who was right. “Good luck you didn’t turn up for an Emirates flight!” my wife laughed.

But that same lad in Key West the other day didn’t understand he needed first to slot the 25¢ coin into the machine and turn its handle until the coin was swallowed…. and that he needed next to position one cupped hand below the chute to catch the falling feed…. as that feed would be sliding out and down into that hand the second he raised the chute’s cover with his other hand.

Stumped by how to operate it, he hesitated. I bravely took charge of the archaic technology. Oh, and, by the way, it is “technology” that had once been commonplace in the Republic of Ireland too.

Good grief, young people these days. ;-)

Ok, I Know I Haven’t Been To Wizard School

Our Dublin friends, and their 2 kids, have settled in now at our shared vacation rental. They had been meandering around central Florida for the last week, hitting all of the big tourist attractions. Pretty much where you might expect. (“Rick” had to give in. There were no manuals available, so he rented an automatic. However, he said cruise control thoroughly impressed him: “I was fiddling with it. Ah, it was grand to have on 95. But then I had nothing to do with my right foot too.”)

Their 9 year old daughter is frighteningly precocious. Indeed, I’m surprised her photo is not next to the word in the dictionary. The child is jaw-droppingly articulate.

Last week, she had bought – actually Daddy had bought – a Professor Dumbledore magic wand. As she showed it to me at the kitchen table yesterday, she emphasized the wand is the “official” one. “It is the real wand,” she declared.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a wizard hat.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a wizard hat.

She handed me the wizardry device, and asked me to look at it closely. As I took it, I pointed it across the room at nothing in particular and cried out, “Islamorada!”

Islamorada is the town north of us here, in Marathon, in the Florida Keys. Wand in hand, that name had also struck me as sounding a bit like some spell used in that particular book and film series. Hence my Dumbledore impersonation.

She recognized the town, and my effort at magical humor went over well. Anytime you get a genuine laugh out of a 9 year old, I suppose you are probably doing okay. I gave her back the wand.

Seeing my iPad and its Bluetooth keyboard open on the table, she then inquired, “Rob, are you writing another book?”

Yes, I am,” I confirmed.

After a pause while she apparently gathered her thoughts, she continued, “Is it different from the other one? Or does it have the same people, like Harry Potter?”

“It has most of the same people, a lot like Harry Potter,” I replied. “But mostly adults. And without the wizards of course.”

Wand in hand, she smiled and walked off toward the sliding doors that open out to the pool. Another thought then crossed my mind: if I could eventually sell even one-half of one-half of one-half of one-half of one percent of what that book series sold, I’d be seriously pleased!

Hmm. I wonder if there’s a spell for that?

Uh, “Islamorada!” ;-)

Sharing Champagne

One of them has already arrived. My wife’s Irish long-time friend‘s mid-twenties niece took a coach to us from Orlando, via Miami. She got here to the Keys two days ago.

I knew her, although not very well. As we three have spent the last couple of days together, I’ve discovered she’s an absolute dry-witted riot: “I texted my friends back in Dublin, ‘Ah, sorry, I can’t go to see a film tonight. Oh, I’m busy by the poohol.’” (Note: You have to read that in an Irish accent.)

Next, having (we believe) just about worn out their two kids – a boy 11 and a girl 9 – for the last week at Disney, Universal, the Kennedy Space Center, and who knows where else (we’ve been receiving intermittent WhatsApp updates), our Irish friends’ contingent are due to descend upon us in full later today.

However, on a somber note, someone else won’t be here of course. And I’m now getting somewhat upset thinking about her while typing this short post.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of champagne glasses with a transparent background.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of champagne glasses with a transparent background.

“We’ll have a glass for Kam,” my wife’s friend has already decreed.

I have to admit, it is going to be an exceedingly difficult moment for me when we open the Champagne on her behalf. We are determined to remember her with smiles – even if coupled with tears. I’m sure you understand what I mean.

Before the big group arrives this evening, I’m going to try to take the opportunity to get some more writing done. I awoke with some further revisions in mind. And I doubt I will have much time for tinkering, to say nothing of composing, for at least a few days after today.

_______

UPDATE: And the U.S. plays Germany at lunchtime today. Have to work around that too. Another distraction. ;-)

Presumably it won’t be on ABC. It’ll be Univision once more. We have to watch Spanish-language TV to see the U.S. national soccer team in World Cup action….

Strangers In A Yearbook

Putting up Facebook photos of our ongoing Florida holiday (my uncle demands to see them!), and noticing those who “like” and “comment” on them, abruptly has led me this afternoon to realize I have zero contact now with anyone non-family whom I knew pre-university.

Which led to this quick post. Much as I hate to admit this, yes, guys, I’m in my later forties. My friends today are all people I have met from about age 20 to the present.

Am I odd? I suppose the way I’ve lived has contributed. I left home and that was pretty much that. (I even left the country.) I’ve never been to a high school reunion, nor was I really even interested in attending one.

In our Facebook era, do they still even have high school reunions? I’m sure if I went to FB and had a nosy around, I’d find old school chums on there. But why bother? After all, no one has sought me out either.

Indeed, by now, if I engaged with any of them, those old schoolmates would feel mostly like strangers. How do you start that interaction anyway? “So, uh, hey, what you been up to for the last 30 years?”

image

Maybe they figured I “ran off”? If any have ever “stalked” my Facebook page, among my friends now they’d find not a single non-family friend any of them know. Anyone who might have done that has probably thought, “Who are these people?”

Naturally we fall away from many in life and make new relationships as we mature. There are those I once liked a lot – even since high school – who I’m pretty sure I’ll never see ever again. That’s no one’s fault. Life merely takes us all in different directions.

Then there’s the opposite bunch: relatives I can’t stand. You too may have to endure the same sorts of detestable people you are lectured you are supposed to like because they are termed (by those doing the lecturing) “family.” Sadly, to slightly rework the old saying, you can indeed choose your friends, but you could relocate to Antarctica and you still couldn’t get entirely the hell away from certain “relatives.” ;-)

Fame Or Fortune?

About five years ago, we had a laugh with my English niece (now 16) and nephews (now 19 and 12) about which would they prefer: fame or fortune? At the time they said they wanted “fame.” We told them you don’t want fame, because you might be famous and unable to put food on the table.

But as young kids not having to put food on the table for themselves, naturally they didn’t quite get what we had meant. Things have moved on. We asked the question again recently of the older two, and this time they were emphatic the other way: they wanted “fortune.” My niece, in particular, loves money in her pocket – as we discovered a year ago when she was visiting with us here in New York; she could have shopped until we dropped.

The default position seems to be everyone wants to be “famous.” The assumption narrowly in our context here is if you blog, or use social media, you are cravenly just seeking attention. However, I don’t buy that as applicable across the board.

Free Stock Photo: Miley Cyrus singing on stage.

Free Stock Photo: Miley Cyrus singing on stage.

Yes, out there are certainly the likes of my HarperCollins published uncle. He is a complete extrovert. He loves being on TV. He relishes being the center of attention in the room. Facebook is the worst invention imaginable for him: he can carry on to a couple of hundred “friends” about how he wishes he’d been in the Spanish Republican army in 1936 or something. (God, I hope he never sees my blog. Then again, he’d probably laugh, because he knows I’m right.)

Myself, I just want to write entertaining novels that stand on their own, which when a reader finishes she/he says, “I enjoyed that.” I seek to use this blog and Twitter to help spread the word and to be there for those curious about my books. However, I have no desire to be a “celebrity”…. as odd as that may sound in the novelist biz today. :-)

Do You Fancy Them Maybe A Little Bit?

Twitter wants to know why do you follow those you follow?:

Twitter knows whom you follow. But Twitter does not know why you follow them. So the company [is] doing something fairly straightforward—and, for a tech company with reams of data bout its users, unlikely: It’s asking. Politely.

The same question could be explored here on WordPress. So let’s.

For starters, I’d like to follow more than I do. But I don’t follow for following sake; I like to read what writers/bloggers actually write. So I have to control myself in following or I’d find myself overwhelmed with reading.

Generally, I follow those who strike me as interesting and honest and real. I usually read lots of a blog – including the “About Me” – before following. (Do you do the same?) There’s so much junk and spam out there, some judiciousness is required.

Overall, do you follow in hopes those you follow will follow you back? Or is it because you really like what he/she blogs and don’t care about a follow back? Or is it, uh…. because maybe you’ve developed, urr, an “online crush”?

image

On that last one there, behave yourselves. No passing notes under the desks. Yeh, you know who you are. They’ll be detention… ;-)

Hope you’re having a good weekend. :-)

Rural U.S. Healthcare In Action

We flew from Heathrow to Newark, N.J. yesterday. It was a decent flight, but flying is always wearying – the time change never helping. Unsurprisingly, we’re a bit tired today.

Before it’s back to the Catskills, we’ve detoured to see my parents. My soon to be 73 year old Dad’s recently recovered from a bout with pneumonia. When my Mom took him to the urgent care two weeks ago, this is how the initial sign-in went:

The admitting nurse/ receptionist, questioning him: “So tell me what were you doing when you first felt that pain in your back?”

My Dad (having trouble breathing and barely able to speak): “Uh, I was outside, pulling weeds….”

image

The nurse: “You were smoking weed?”

The waiting room went dead silent. Welcome to rural Pennsylvania. I’m trying to picture an NHS nurse making that observation. ;-)

In-Flight Romance

A Wandering Aramean post yesterday brought back a travel memory. His article was about a woman on Southwest inexplicably choosing the middle seat right next to him in the window seat – when the aisle seat was empty. Reading it, I recalled a laugh (and a cringe) I had had on a transatlantic journey…. more years ago now than I care to admit.

On a NY to Paris flight, I had the aisle seat in economy on the 747. After I’d settled in, an American man (I saw his passport cover) boarded after me and had the middle. Lastly a woman appeared who had the window seat; she was some non-French apparently European nationality I never established. (I had heard her say she was not French, but I didn’t hear what nationality she had said she actually was. I do recall her being rather “Mediterranean”-looking.)

All hum-drum. It was cordial between us. We were all about the same age.

However, during the night, let’s say it became far more cordial between them. After dinner, the lights went down as usual, and I fell asleep. At some point, I awoke to discover them making out.

And I mean they were REALLY going at it. (I couldn’t see “exactly” what they were doing, nor did I care to try to find out.) Okay, fine. Whatever. It’s nice you’ve gotten to know each other, uh, so much better at 39,000 ft. International relations and all that….

This is stuff you hear about happening on planes. You never imagine you’ll ever really see it in person. I turned my head and went back to sleep.

image

In the morning, pre-landing, they behaved as if nothing “odd” had been going on between them a couple of hours earlier. I do recall her mumbling to him that she was changing to go on to…. I never heard the city name clearly…. and he telling her he was staying over in Paris for a few days before connecting to, as I recall, Egypt. He seemed to be angling for contact details to meet her somewhere in a few weeks’ time, but she wasn’t sounding overly enthusiastic about it.

So, I surmised, err, that was probably that. Well, these things happen. Sigh. ;-)