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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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."๐Ÿ˜œ . 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?๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธIt's only fair.๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ–Œ . And how about an *unbearded* man? This is American diplomat William Short, painted by Rembrandt Peale in 1806, when Short was age 47.๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ . #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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Haste Ye Back (To Rothesay)

On Monday, the Mrs. had airline business in Scotland, west of Glasgow. Somehow in all my years here, I’d managed never to have visited Scotland. So I joined her – and grabbed some photos over the three days there:

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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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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 fiancรฉ.

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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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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“What are we to do with all of you?”

Another week. Oh, and I admit, I forgot! That game was last night!

I’ve had lots else on my mind. We also had a cousin pass through here on his way back to the U.S. We went out to dinner with him on Saturday.

Pre-dinner, we had chatted about my latest manuscript. As we did, I thought on Monday I’d share a final peek into it.

But I was unable to decide on any single part that could be seen as “representative” overall. So after some thought I decided I’d put up some “rapid” shorts sort of like a film promo – to provide the flavor of the tale. They aren’t in any particular order – except for the last one. (If you click on any of the pages below, it will expand for easier reading.) Enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Day Of Rest

I read none of my Conventions manuscript yesterday beyond glimpsing its cover on Instagram and here in my post about it. I’m taking a few days away from the late 1700s to clear my head before I delve into correcting it from the beginning. I think this is probably the first time in months I have gone a 24 hour period (and counting) not writing or reading any of it.

Stock Photo: An Indo-Chinese tiger sleeping on a rock.
Stock Photo: An Indo-Chinese tiger sleeping on a rock.

As part of my “day of rest,” I found myself in a sudden Messenger chat with a friend. She lives in Bristol and was my wife’s friend before she became mine as well. (I have deleted names used.) She is the opening message…

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Thoughts For This Sunday

I was away for a few days. I’d driven down to stay with my (increasingly frail) in-laws in London while my wife is in Portugal. My main task was to help with dog walking:

Naturally, I transported my vital technology to set myself up to write there when I could.

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