Rocket Flares In A Pre-Dawn Sky

The clocks moved forward here in Britain last night…

After the “short” night, I’m still awake early. I am usually an early riser – particularly now. My brain seems on “full speed” as I awaken and for some time afterwards.

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In Our Times

Since about 1750 (after the Reformation, the Civil War, Cromwell, and battles over the succession to the throne), other than during WWII, Great Britain has generally been a pretty safe place. It had some “highwaymen” and street thuggery, but even that was patchy. (In 1800, it also had several dozen offenses for which hanging was still commonly applied.) And there has been the occasional, isolated “political riot” – such as the “Gordon Riots” in London in 1780.

Because of the patterns of life, centuries of rural habit, and the static world most were born into, lived in, and died in, there was little public violence. Great Britain has not suffered from extended periods of political instability and the terrorism that usually stems from that – save for that which emerged from Ireland in the 1960s, and which had a clear political goal. What happened yesterday on Westminster Bridge is a relatively recent phenomenon – but one we are now seeing all too regularly in various places.

For us as Americans, in 1777 Morocco was – informally – the first country to recognize the newly independent U.S. A friendship treaty was officially signed in 1786, and that treaty remains in place even today. The first foreign property the U.S. Government owned would not be in London, Paris or Amsterdam, but was the U.S. Consulate in Tangier, which is now on a register of U.S. historic places.

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The Young Man On “The Fringe”

There comes that moment when you are finished writing for yourself, and you have to share the total of your effort. I’ve reached (and possibly even passed) that point now. Last night, Conventions went to she who has been a wonderful “critic” since I began this writing endeavor in 2013.

So she has the “biggest” book of all. As I say in the email to her, March 31 – as I note in the sidebar – is unfortunately probably going to have to give. But hopefully only a few weeks at the most.

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Worried Novelist Walks Through Hitchin

Almost there. Actually, “there” is one of my multitude of tiny problems. 130,000 words and at the point where major changes are essentially impossible, I’m fussing now over single words and individual – but not quite exactly what I wished they were – sentences.

It is that maddening creative moment when you the writer are down to the level of anguishing over the likes of “I’ve used ‘there’ too often in those two paragraphs.” Or “Rather than three sentences, perhaps make it one sentence joined together with semi-colons?” Or “That is supposed to be ‘at’ not ‘as’. Spell-check missed it! Ugh!”

As you get “there,” you also need to pause, breathe, take an extra-moment or two, and maybe see some ducks:

Because it is difficult not to think “Eh, there be monsters out there…” I find I am increasingly consumed with worry. As I correct issues of “as” that should be “at,” I confess even to having moments of despair. “All of this effort,” my mind races as I look yet again at the screen, “and what if it stinks? I may have to jump into that water in Hitchin town center. But I suspect it may not be deep enough…”

To be a writer is to be forever in some self-doubt.

The last thing I’ve been doing is daydreaming about conquering the universe…

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The End Days

I’ve learned since 2013. I hate this “ending” period perhaps the most. A novel is essentially finished…

“Controlled chaos.” The home office, this morning. [Photo by me, 2017.]
…but it’s not “quite” (in my mind) finished.

And you take a photo of your desk and put it on your blog as you plan to return to it once more. Because it’s your “baby” and it’s almost all grown up. And you want it to be PERFECT – or at least as “perfect” as you as an imperfect human may make it.

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History: Unfollowed

Ah, Monday morning:

And less than two weeks before the inauguration of a new U.S. president who has not exactly charmed half the people in the country, we need this?

Yesterday, History on Instagram shared some “history” with us.

Good grief.

First, nothing in that History Insta-caption above is outright false. However, it is an inch deep and far from the whole truth. For that shallowness in the current climate, and what it unleashed in the post’s comments, I unfollowed.

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Message For “The Elite”

I’m home again in England from America. (As you probably know, I was born in New York.) We had a busy Christmas, with a small mob from this side of the Atlantic flying over to stay with us in the Catskills. It feels kinda odd being back here:

Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5, arrivals concourse yesterday morning. [Photo by me, 2017.]
Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5, arrivals concourse yesterday morning. [Photo by me, 2017.]

Fighting jet lag, in trying to force myself to stay awake last night I went through my Instagram feed slowly. What did I miss while flying? I checked up on what had been “going on” while I had been traveling and out of contact with you “guys.”

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In The Eye Of The Beholder

One of those year-end lists is out. I’d not heard of this one before. Clearly the title is meant to grab your attention – and it did mine.

BuzzFeed has 32 – I won’t even hazard a guess as to why that odd number is chosen – of the “most beautiful book covers of 2016”:

Screen capture of BuzzFeed.
Screen capture of BuzzFeed.

Do judge these books by their covers?

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All In Another Day’s Work

This is what happens to a writer left alone. The Mrs. is in Lisbon until Wednesday. So I have no excuse not to tear through more of the manuscript

My home office [Photo by me, 2016.]
My home office [Photo by me, 2016.]

And yesterday, I did. On the spur of the moment I decided to kill off an important character. Writing can be a “brutal” world. You can do just about anything – and surprise and shock readers.

Later, after a couple of Mad Men episodes and dinner, I ended up awake until midnight. Finally I took on a scene I’d been putting off writing: A character at a dinner, debating Thomas Jefferson.

He’s a tough man to debate. As you know I’ve tried talking to him myself. He wouldn’t give me the time of day. πŸ™‚

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While Storm Clouds Gather

It’s said writing is hard. And it is. Yet there should be some fun in it.

Engraving of the ChΓ’teau de Bagnolet, Paris, 1730. [Wikipedia. Public Domain.]
Engraving of the ChΓ’teau de Bagnolet, Paris, 1730. [Wikipedia. Public Domain.]

I have learned after three novels, and continue to experience with this fourth, that characters can come to resonate with you almost in the same ways as do real people. As their personalities become clearer to you, you begin more easily to anticipate what they will think, how they will act, and what they are apt to say, in any given situation. It doesn’t start out that way, of course. It’s a process, and it takes hold of you slowly, almost imperceptibly, much as we experience with real people in our lives – we learn more about them thanks to our increasing interactions and the passage of time.

When you get to that point, that’s when writing fiction flows at its easiest. It’s when I find it to be the most enjoyable (and you hope your eventual readers will come to feel much the same way about the final product). Suddenly characters seem to be “alive” and you are sitting at your writing desk feeling you are just eavesdropping on them and tapping away as if you are merely transcribing what they’re up to and saying to each other.

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