Sneak Peek: The Khoury Sisters

I hadn’t “planned” it this way, but as I began to write Passports, I found myself drawn to exploring those who don’t really have “intimate” sibling relationships. My younger main characters tend to be “only children,” have much older siblings, or are essentially estranged from them. In many ways, their friends come to serve as “replacement” brothers and sisters.

There’s one notable exception: the Khoury sisters. In their mid-late 20s, both Valérie and Juliette still live at home with their French mother and Lebanese-French father. Valérie is the older by about two years. Extremely close, they even holiday together without their parents.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of dancing silhouettes.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of dancing silhouettes.

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Sneak Peek: “A girl in the apartment”

A “sneak peek” into another chapter I finished drafting recently in Distances. James’s father, who runs the family’s Long Island construction company, has just come home from work. He found James’s mother, Joanne, sitting at the kitchen table.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a house.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a house.

Joanne had spoken to James in Paris hours before. She’d rung their son at about two o’clock in the morning New York time (Jim had been asleep and later went to work without knowing she’d had), catching James, she believed, with a female overnight guest at his apartment. It had been too early in the morning in Paris, Joanne is sure, for that to have been innocent:

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In So Many Words

Commenting on my “Marathon Man” post in which I’d shared an extended look at the rough draft of a scene, Naseer wrote:

Interesting to note how Americans are when they meet each other in foreign climes, be it Paris or Kathmandu (Said with affection) Your writing adds a lot of colour. I get impression colour around you is somehow very important?

“Colour” is indeed vital to me. Background. Setting. Personalities. A sentence. A nod. A look. Taking a hand. The tiniest of moments that have the most gigantic of life consequences. As in our real lives.

A major purpose of my site here is simply to convey something daily of what I am. In doing that, I like to share the hows and whys of what I write: a journal of ups and downs. I also touch on broader topics that go beyond just my books, but which are related to my subject.

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Sneak Peek: Marathon Man

I am dreading this “writing streak” drying up. I had another “productive” day yesterday, when I finished a draft chapter. It features “James,” “Isabelle” and “Béatrice” in something of a light-hearted situation.

It also includes an unexpected reference to “Uncle Bill.” After all, when you are connected personally to someone “famous,” well, you never know who else out there might also “know” that “celebrity.” Nor do you ever really know where you might encounter a fan.

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Happy Mother’s Day (UK)

Most weekends I don’t do much original writing. I try to confine it to the “work week.” Weekends I usually aim to take a break (aside from my journal here).

In recent weeks, though, I’ve felt I’ve been on something of “hot streak.” Yesterday, an idea for a small plot twist struck me too. Fearing I’d lose some of it in my head by Monday, I wanted to get it into the manuscript, so I spent some time working in the morning and it was time well spent.

Afterwards, I thought again about how the characters have come to mean a lot to me. True, we have all been grabbed by “people” we’ve gotten “to know” in novels. But how about when they are swirling around in your head uncountable hours each and every day for years because you are writing them and thus creating their very existences?

Free Stock Photo: Young woman taking a photograph.
Free Stock Photo: Young woman taking a photograph.

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The Difference Between “Friends” And, Uh, “Friends”

I stumbled on two thoughtful recent Guardian pieces on internet friendships. They seemed worth sharing for a Saturday post. The first: “How do you tell who’s a real friend and who’s just a ‘Friend’ on the internet?”:

….Being eliminated from a friend’s life used to mean ignored phone calls and mutual, public recriminations to third parties; today, it’s as easy as untagging yourself from an ussie and clicking unfollow on Twitter. On the other side, you’re at even more of a loss when you click on the profile of a Twitter friend with whom you’d had a long and fruitful online discussion the day before and see a blank space where it used to say “FOLLOWS YOU”. Every time you log-in, wherever it may be, you could find yourself invisible to someone you thought was your friend, and found out was only a fair-weather follower.

We live on the internet now. That whole idea about how we have to look up from our phones and digital devices to have real lives and experiences is over. There isn’t always a difference between emotion and emoticon. Our challenge now is to integrate our humanity into our online lives….

Then there was this one from early February on Internet “loss”: “How do you grieve when you lose an internet friend?” – and the author is not talking here about merely being “unfollowed”:

….In an age where the internet acts as a force-multiplier for sociability (if only for those who are native to it), it is now possible to develop friendships with people we’ve never met at all. Twitter is more than just a conversation; it is a schoolyard, a lunchroom, a water cooler. “Internet friends” are still friends – at least as much as “friends” on Facebook who we haven’t seen in years.

I found out that my friend had died late at night, and reflexively direct-messaged her boyfriend on Twitter. The next morning, I wasn’t sure if I’d made a mistake: I was a stranger to them, really….

It is fascinating what has evolved in only a decade or two. Once upon a time my (internalized) general rule was a “friend” was someone I knew in person and could call on the phone and he/she would NOT be stunned to hear from me. But if any of our mobiles rang right now and on the other end (without pre-planning of course) happened to be someone who “follows” us and whom we also “follow,” but whom we’ve also never met, let’s be honest most of us would probably think something was, umm, not quite right here. ;-)

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Admitted Adulterers Around The World

February is ending. Spring approaches (in our northern hemisphere). And a bit of interesting “research” has come to light in recent days:

Screen capture of the UK Independent newspaper.
Screen capture of the UK Independent newspaper.

Thailand by a mile? And the following nine are all European countries? Topped off by Denmark?

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It’s “Schmaltz,” Say The French

The Independent newspaper here in Britain reports that France’s film raters will not give Fifty Shades of Grey an “adults only” rating. That means those as young as age 12 will be allowed to see it:

France’s classification president, Jean-Francois Mary, said that the movie, starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, “isn’t a film that… can shock a lot of people”.

He believes that the movie, which contains nudity and sadomasochism between an entrepreneur and a virginal student, is “a romance – you could even say schmaltz”.

The book was a huge seller in France as elsewhere, and the film will get a wide release there. However, while there have even been protests over the film in the U.S. and Britain about its portrayal of domestic violence, that rating in France is, one might say, a “Gallic shrug.” What Mr. Mary is essentially asserting there is that it’s not really a film that needs to be taken all that seriously by adults.

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The Most Attractive Accent In The World?

The U.K.’s Independent newspaper reports a poll of “11,000 people” surveyed in “24 cities around the world” found that “a British accent is the most attractive accent in the world”:

More than a quarter of respondents preferred a UK accent with people in Paris, New York and Sydney the most keen, The Time Out Global Dating Survey found.

My wife has regularly joked to me that when we are in the U.S., she gets the feeling many people are not actually listening to the content of what she is saying, but are instead just listening to her saying it. ;-)

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The Ghosts In Our Lives

I got an email yesterday from our former neighbo(u)r in Christchurch, Dorset. Sad news. Another neighbo(u)r, a widowed, later 80s-something Swiss woman we’d all known, died quietly in her sleep at home the other night.

She had been ill for some time, so her death wasn’t a huge surprise. But her passing prompted me into certain thoughts. As you may know, that’s usually dangerous territory.

Entry roundabout, La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Entry roundabout, La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Another roundabout, La Clusaz. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Another roundabout, La Clusaz. [Photo by me, 2015.]

I was last here in La Clusaz in 2003. Long before that, I knew nearby Grenoble. And Chambery. And Annecy.

We accumulate so much mental “baggage” over the years, don’t we? And we never really entirely forget, do we? Again in a vicnity, much comes rushing back. When one hears, sees, or even scents, we’re struck by a familiarity. You know what I mean? It’s that feeling of visiting an old haunt.

Yet if no one you knew there is around any longer, how does it also feel? Sort of disconcerting. The scenery and towns remain, but all of the people are strangers.

You think back on those you used to know, perhaps pondering on where they are now, and how they are. You may even stop and wonder indeed if they are all still alive? If decades have passed, it’s quite possible some aren’t any longer.

By now you had also already decided to try your hand at writing some novels and infusing them with certain memories of happenings from that old haunt and with those people. And when you find yourself back on that familiar turf, memories may become all the more vivid. In a way, you keep seeing “ghosts.”

If it all gets to be too much, sometimes the best thing we can do, though, is to stop with all of the wondering and introspection….

Me, snapped the other evening unexpectedly by my Mrs. and dinner companion. [Photo by Mrs. Nello, 2015.]
Me, snapped the other evening unexpectedly by my Mrs. and dinner companion. [Photo by Mrs. Nello, 2015.]

….and just enjoy dinner. :-)