When You Experience Grief…

I lost an aunt a couple of weeks ago in New York. I’ve never mentioned her here. She was the widow of my other uncle – my mother’s and my novelist uncle’s younger brother. He died at 48 in early 1994.

My aunt had been ill for a long time. I hadn’t seen her in about 5 years. I last spoke to her just after my mother died in 2015.

Yes, the beard is off. The major reason it is? She who is dearest to me, revealing: "It's as I imagine kissing a brush might feel."😜 . Okay, it's Friday and given previously I've put up paintings of lovely eighteenth century ladies, why not a handsome bloke of that era?πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈIt's only fair.πŸ“šπŸ–Œ . And how about an *unbearded* man? This is American diplomat William Short, painted by Rembrandt Peale in 1806, when Short was age 47.πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ . #humor #humour #painting #USA #France #diplomacy #Europe #travel #expats #classical #history #art #writing #authors #photo #photography #beards #Hertfordshire #England #novels #fiction #romance #writing #writersofinstagram #authorsofinstagram #fun #Friday #weekend

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My writing is a form of release. (As is social media.) It’s a means to try to get away. It has proven especially important to me in the last couple of years.

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Viewed From This England

We’ve been watching the political-melodrama U.S. TV series Madam Secretary. But you don’t need to know the details of the program to get this post. I thought I’d use it as a basis for some “fun” today – it’s Friday – mostly due to the episode we just saw and because, as you probably know, my wife is English (and we have been married for, uh, quite a few years).

In that episode from its 3rd season, the U.S. Secretary of State’s twenty-something spoiled, mouthy, annoying pain in the neck for the previous two seasons and now continuing to be so apparently daughter has returned to Washington recently after a summer in Oxford with her English fiancΓ©.

In the kitchen, unexpectedly she gets all emotional and reveals to Mom (the Secretary of State, I repeat) that she was like wow really unhappy with her English husband-to-be when they were in England. Suddenly, she announces she doesn’t want to live there. She says she hated the place.

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If There Is No Blog Post Here…

It is taking me much longer than I had hoped to work through the final bits of (what I lightheartedly like to call) my, uh, personal “Gone With The Wind”:

Working Covers, Conventions: The Garden At Paris.
Working Covers, Conventions: The Garden At Paris.

As a consequence I know I haven’t really had the time to write posts here as usual in recent weeks. But no writer should ever cut him/herself off entirely. I always find some time (mornings especially) to read blogs and check social media – especially Instagram.

I like Instagram because it’s fun. And it’s a necessary distraction at times. I can’t get over the stuff some people post.

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Lizzy Asks: How To Write A Novel?

Lizzy of Lizzy’s Weekly Blogs wrote me an email yesterday asking if I would share some advice on “how to write a short story or a novel.”

Stock Photo.
Stock Photo.

I said I would give it a shot. What are some things I’ve learned in the five years I have been doing this?

As I so far write only novels, here is my brainstorm on that complicated, yet also very simple, question. For starters, I have 10 suggestions (not offered in any particular order):

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The Widower

Yesterday, I was having what I had thought was an innocuous FaceTime with my father. There was our usual current discussion of the weather in his northeast Pennsylvania, and any snow – including what is up at our house in the Catskills. There was also the required exchange about what the new U.S. president is up to. And there was other chitchat.

As I thought we were about to sign off, abruptly he veered without warning into again reviewing my mother’s cancer and death in October 2015. Through hard personal experience, I’ve learned a lot about widowers since then. “The widower” is a particularly difficult area in our culture.

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Royal Albert Hall

We saw a Cirque du Soleil performance yesterday afternoon at the Royal Albert Hall in central London:

[Photo by me, 2017.]
[Photo by me, 2017.]
[Photo by me, 2017.]
[Photo by me, 2017.]

We’ve been there before to concerts, but it dawned on me that I could not recall ever seeing the Albert Memorial (across the street) in daylight. I’d been by it previously only after dark. So outside of the hall, I went tourist and snapped a photo:

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A Chilly English Winter Morning

I was writing yesterday late morning when I noticed no heat was on and the house had started to feel cool. Venturing downstairs from my office, I discovered the boiler was out. Next I saw gas workers outside.

National Grid to the rescue yesterday. [Photo by me, 2016.]
National Grid to the rescue yesterday. [Photo by me, 2016.]

There was a gas problem on the high street and National Grid had turned up with what seemed like a dozen vehicles. They’d had to shut off service to quite a few houses. Water from a burst pipe up the road earlier somehow got into the main gas pipe.

“Uh, not good,” one of the workers told me.

“So this is the water company’s fault,” I laughed.

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First Class Christmas

For Christmas, we flew to Newark yesterday from Heathrow. We decided to make this trip special.

We used Avios (BA air miles) and went first class. I grabbed that photo above in the Concorde lounge “outside” deck at Heathrow. And naturally, as we all do nowadays, I put it on Instagram.

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The Holiday (Film)

What a ludicrous hour to be awake on a Sunday. We’re going to church early. Like many of you, we’ve been spending the weekend preparing for Christmas:

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