“Lafayette, we are here”

After a false start and second thoughts, a teenage aristocrat and officer from one of France’s then most noble families, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, along with several other officers, slipped out of the country in April 1777 from Bordeaux on a small ship called Victorie. (They left without formal permission from King Louis XVI, who had banned officers from traveling to America because England had threatened war with France if France aided the American rebellion.) La Fayette was determined to meet General George Washington and help America in any way he could.

Lafayette Monument: a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Soulac-sur-Mer. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Lafayette Monument: a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Soulac-sur-Mer. [Photo by me, 2016.]

And the rest, as they say, is history. The locality of Soulac-sur-Mer has made it clear on the statue’s base that this was perhaps the last French land that Lafayette saw before reaching America. “Lady Liberty” stands just across from the town’s magnificent beachside promenade.

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“Bonjour” From Soulac-sur-Mer

Well, we’re here: Soulac-sur-Mer, north of Bordeaux, on the coast:

View from our rental house in Soulac-sur-mer, out over the beach to the Bay of Biscay. [Photo by me, 2016.]
View from our rental house in Soulac-sur-Mer, out over the beach to the Bay of Biscay. [Photo by me, 2016.]

The drive up here from the airport vaguely reminded me of Florida – flat and sandy. Brittany is not like this.

Notre-Dame-de-la-Fin-des-Terres Basilica in Soulac-sur-Mer. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Notre-Dame-de-la-Fin-des-Terres Basilica in Soulac-sur-Mer. [Photo by me, 2016.]

Our lunch yesterday. Yes, a bit of a caricature, we knew:

Lunch at our house yesterday. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Lunch at our house yesterday. [Photo by me, 2016.]

We went out to dinner last night at a pleasant, small restaurant in the town center….

“Terminé?” she asked me with a smile.

“Oui, merci,” I replied as she leaned across me and cleared away my empty dessert plate.

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“Journal, Paris, 21 October 1792”

A last post before heading off tomorrow….

JOURNAL, Hertfordshire, 26 August 2016, Early morning.

Weather fine. Another warm day to come it appears. We depart tomorrow for France. Little is packed as of yet, but I’ll do that later today. Much to do before….

In Conventions, a variety of historical figures appear in places, times and contexts that conform to their actual lives (insofar as I can reasonably manage – this is fiction, after all). I strive to make the fictionals similarly “real” and even have “years of birth” in mind: “Robert,” 1765; “Henry,” 1765; “Marie-Thérèse,” 1768; “Carolina,” 1770; “Charles,” 1755; “Jacques,” 1755; “Amandine,” 1774, etc.

Line art representation of a Quill. [Public Domain. Wikipedia.]
Line art representation of a Quill. [Public Domain. Wikipedia.]

I’ve decided also to include what was common in the later 18th century: travel journals. In this case, it will be one kept by “Robert.”

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Fictional Inhabitants Of A Bygone Era

Working away yesterday on Conventions, at one point it struck me again how you may outline and pre-plan a novel to the smallest degree, but that’s nowhere near the same thing as actually writing it. I find some of my (in my opinion) “best” stuff comes via improvisation and even accidentally…. while I’m actually writing. Such is how real life itself, too, often unfolds for us, of course.

Paper printed version of the planned "Conventions" front cover. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Paper printed version of the planned “Conventions” front cover. [Photo by me, 2016.]

I thought it might be fun relatedly this morning to share some “quick hit” samples that may give a “feel” of fictional characters within the tale and their time. They “co-exist” amongst what were real historical people. Among the fictional, first and foremost, and perhaps unsurprisingly, is the New York-born twenty-something around whom the tale unfolds:

Excerpt from "Conventions." Click to expand.
Excerpt from “Conventions.” Click to expand.

And he’s just the start.

There’s the (initially 17 year old) daughter of an English baronet:

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What The Poet “Said”

It’s a pleasant surprise to have your phone ping around 10pm and find this, as I did last night. I screen captured it earlier this morning. Yes, this is about the time I usually start my day:

Text messages exchange screen capture.
Text messages exchange screen capture.

That opener is from my new poet friend, Tracey, in Cambridge. She’d found out who I am through a mutual friend. She’d texted me a few weeks ago that she wanted to read what I’d written.

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Instagram “7-7-7” Challenge (Brought To WordPress)

For starters, I would like to point out that what follows is all Kate Colby’s (The Cogsmith’s Daughter and The Courtesan’s Avenger) fault.😉 Yesterday, I found on Instagram that she had included me (along with six other authors) in a “challenge” to share 7 sentences from page 7 in my latest work in progress. Next I needed to challenge 7 additional authors to do the same.

Quickly, I was able to offer up the first two sevens in Conventions, and did so:

7 lines from page 7 of Conventions, in progress. [Photo by me, 2016.]
7 sentences from page 7 of Conventions, in progress. [Photo by me, 2016.]
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Endings

Since “Day 1” I have known broadly how Conventions would end. Back on Friday, I summoned up the courage and wrote it in detail – the final chapter. While writing one always also surprises oneself, too: as I worked on it I realized I could toss in an unexpected (and in my humble opinion, great) last twist.

After the dust had settled, re-reading it in its entirety, I found the chapter to be – accidentally – a combination of happy and sad (and poignant). That’s striking a bit of “lucky” balance. I’d “signed off” for the weekend well-pleased with what I’d managed.

Rainbows over Hertfordshire, England, spotted earlier this morning looking out from our kitchen. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Rainbows over Hertfordshire, England, spotted earlier this morning looking out from our kitchen. [Photo by me, 2016.]

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“War with France again? Oh, how dreadful.”

I don’t want Conventions to be too similar to the Atlantic Lives novels (which I plan currently to return to after Conventions). It’s a huge challenge as a writer to try to head down a different path. But tackling new challenges is what authoring is all about: if you stay in your “comfort zone,” you’ll get stale.

For the first time I’m discovering the real challenge in being original is to be original again and again. We all have distinctive styles and I’m increasingly seeing what constitutes mine. We are inherently ourselves as writers, so it’s exceedingly difficult to avoid writing your previous books… over and over.

"Passports," "Frontiers," and "Distances" on my desk. [Photo by me, 2016.]
“Passports,” “Frontiers,” and “Distances” on my desk. [Photo by me, 2016.]
But this latest one has to be different in a variety of senses. First off, it will take place mostly between 1787-1795. That alone makes it a true “historical” effort – none of us living remember that time.

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From Our Forebears

If you write historical fiction, this sort of stuff is great to encounter. It gets you thinking. How our world continues to evolve:

Screen capture of the Guardian.
Screen capture of the Guardian.

Objectively, that’s essentially true: our norms are “male.” However, it is also true that such is due to our social heritage. It hasn’t come about in an historical vacuum.

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