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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Love Letters: Duchess And Diplomat

I must be pretty high up there in search engines for this subject. An old post is attracting looks most days lately. This was just yesterday:

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Visitors are headed to this about Rosalie de La Rochefoucauld and William Short, which I wrote in February 2014:

Falling Short In The Pursuit Of Happiness

Anyone who knows details about Thomas Jefferson’s years as an American envoy and then Minister to France from 1784-1789 has likely at least vaguely heard of their relationship. Since that 2014 post – for reasons that will become clearer soon enough – I have researched them more deeply. That post back then has a few minor (but generally unimportant) mistakes.

To update things. Who were they?

Rosalie de La Rochefoucauld (born Alexandrine Charlotte Sophie de Rohan-Chabot in France in 1763, but friends and family called her Rosalie) was then the attractive young wife of a French liberal duke – Louis-Alexandre, Duke de La Rochefoucauld. The duke was a friend of America and close to Jefferson while Jefferson was in Paris in those years just before, and at the start, of the French Revolution. Love having little to do then with marriage in their strata, the duke and the young duchess were almost certainly married for “dynastic” reasons: his mother was her grandmother, and he (born probably in 1743, the same year as Jefferson) was also twenty years older than she was.

In comparison to the duke, William (born in Virginia in 1759), Jefferson’s private secretary from 1785 until Jefferson’s departure from France, was only four years older than Rosalie.

He was probably introduced to her alongside Jefferson at a public gathering possibly in 1785, but more likely in 1787; and probably with her husband standing right there. It seems that from William’s first encounter with her that she reduced him to, well, mush. From then on, when he wasn’t working, he seemed to spend a lot of his time contriving somehow to see her.

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Into Conclusion Seclusion

Odd to see this pop up on VOA News’s Instagram. But the Voice of America’s feed is far from just news. Generally, yes, this – which many a writer now quotes – hits the mark:

Isn’t it “Toni,” not “Tony”? In any case, whenever I see that Toni Morrison quote I find myself thinking it’s also really only “the half” of it.

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The Woman Whose Name Is On New York Bridges

I open this morning by restating once again – to reassure you – that this is NOT a politics blog. But there are times I feel I have to swerve briefly into that (unseemly) arena. After all, we have heard so much about the U.S. presidential election that it was impossible here to ignore it entirely.

Street in La Clusaz, Haute Savoie, France. It's almost ski season again! [Photo by me, 2015]
Street in La Clusaz, Haute Savoie, France. It’s almost ski season again! [Photo by me, 2015]

If you’re exhausted by the U.S. one, well, France – which is of some interest here, as you know – is going to have a presidential election of its own in April (1st round) and May (2nd round) 2017. The Socialist candidate may be the incumbent president, François Hollande. However it seems highly unlikely he will win a second five-year term.

And why? Recently, it was reported President Hollande has a 4 percent job approval rating. No, that is not a typo. I wrote *FOUR* percent:

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Who Wants To Read About A Carrefour?

Frenchwomen in books. A contentious subject. And after a tough week it provides us with a basis for some “fun” here this morning. 🙂

Recently in the UK Telegraph, French journalist Anne-Elisabeth Moutet lashed out at a “cottage industry” that she asserts portrays a ridiculously inaccurate picture of life in France, and especially of Frenchwomen, as the national norm:

…there is supposedly no task we Françaises cannot perform at a higher level than the rest of humanity, in five-inch heels and a Thierry Mugler cinched dress while humming La Vie En Rose and cooking Poularde Albuferra for 12. In our houses you never trip over Lego bricks – only a team of photographers from Taschen setting up arc lights in the sitting room.

Major writing villains here, she says, are often American women who’ve lived primarily in hyper-exclusive parts of central Paris:

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Living With A Legacy

Emma has returned from a summer in Charleston, South Carolina. She has written various posts detailing how she’d had a wonderful time. We’ve been there, too; Charleston is definitely a gorgeous city.

A street, Charleston, South Carolina. [Photo by me, 2014.]
A street, Charleston, South Carolina. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Now, she tackles THAT question:

I think this is one of the things I’ve heard the most when I was in the U.S. : French people don’t like Americans. Well, let me tell you something. THIS IS NOT TRUE. I’m French, I’ve spent all of my 21 years of life in France, and I have never heard more than two or three persons maybe saying that they didn’t like Americans…

This issue is always hovering around out there. It has been a source for a great deal of literature as well as for uncounted plots in movies and television episodes. As an American who has spent a lot of time in France since, uh, the 1980s (yes, good grief, I’m now THAT old!), and read tons of Franco-American history, I’d like to take a crack at this one briefly. 🙂

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Home And Hearth Centuries On

I like to joke occasionally that I consider the eighteenth century the beginning of everything. That’s an exaggeration, I know. But by that I mean the second half of that century sees the beginnings of “ourselves” in a myriad of ways that we today would easily recognize.

We have moved well-beyond what nearly all of those people living then would have imagined the future to be. While, for instance, Thomas Jefferson, who owned enslaved persons, held that African men in that degraded position still possessed an innate human equality with white men, he also wrote (privately) that he could not abide the idea of any woman in government. (A “woman’s trade” was to produce children and maintain “domestic felicity.”) It was still widely accepted that a man should own a goodly amount of property (usually land) in order to vote (because owning property meant you had a true stake in the society). The likes of LGBT equality would have simply been unfathomable to them.

Yet Jefferson’s noting he believed women were unsuited to government also meant that he had at least thought about it. It was by then among the many other no longer “unthinkables.” He, and so many others of that time, helped get “a process” started.

French dog, taking himself for a walk on a hot day, attempting to figure out how to jump into the Gironde River (leading to Bordeaux) from an elevated promenade. [Photo by me, 2016.]
French dog, taking himself for a walk on a hot day, attempting to figure out how to jump into the Gironde River (leading to Bordeaux) from an elevated promenade. [Photo by me, 2016.]

With France’s defeat by Britain in America in 1763, we see the beginnings of the “modern” Great Britain, France and United States that we all live in today.

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Say What?

Reading a Jack Reacher novel here in France on our holiday, my [English] wife told me she noticed this from author Lee Child, who’s English of course. We had a laugh. Can you spot it?:

From Lee Child's "Never Go Back," a "Jack Reacher" novel. [Photo by me, 2016.]
From Lee Child’s “Never Go Back,” a “Jack Reacher” novel. [Photo by me, 2016.]

As Bernard Shaw is famously quoted, “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.”

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The “Magnum Opus”

Last night, post-dinner, unexpectedly we had a book discussion which I share in part here as it essentially went. Oh, and we were also drinking, you understand, too. The Mrs had a glass of lovely French wine, and I was consuming – of course – a brandy.

“Truth in alcohol,” so to speak? 😉

***

“….So you got inspiration on the beach?” she remarked at the table, having seen me frantically typing away earlier. [I had been making notes about some important new subplot ideas.]

“Yes, something made me think….”

Proofing part of "Conventions" on the beach the other day. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Proofing part of “Conventions” on the beach the other day. [Photo by me, 2016.]
“It wasn’t that topless babe jumping into the Bay of Biscay?” she laughed.

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