A Recollection Of A Christmas Past

We drove down to north London yesterday to visit relatives:

On the A1(M) on Sunday. No, I was NOT driving. [Photo by me, 2016.]
On the A1(M) on Sunday. No, I was NOT driving. [Photo by me, 2016.]

It being yet another Monday, it’s time to get back to work.

I hope you’ll excuse a Christmas recollection, but it’s that time of the year again. You’ll understand why in a moment. Let me explain…

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“Some of the martyrs to this cause…”

After several days of rest, I got back to work yesterday. At one point, I found myself writing more about someone named Thomas Jefferson:

Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, outside Charlottesville, Virginia. [Photo by me, 2011.]
Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, outside Charlottesville, Virginia. [Photo by me, 2011.]

I did so within a web of happenings that are impacted to some degrees by his views. Writing is such freedom – and such a challenge. It’s a remarkable exercise as a writer to create a fictional environment in which you have to attack a historical figure you “generally” admire.

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That Wide Ocean

America’s top official in France from 1785-1789, forty-something Thomas Jefferson, came to believe U.S. diplomats should not be overseas more than about eight years at a stretch. He felt if they (and they were then only men) were, they would lose touch with events and opinions at home. As a result, they would eventually be incapable of representing America properly.

He grew concerned also about young men “without attachment” becoming “involved” with European women, and felt their being overseas too long made such “intimacy” almost inevitable. The young women they encountered in diplomatic and social circles (and who, in France and elsewhere on the continent, could speak English) were overwhelmingly aristocrats. He believed “relationships” with those women could damage those “impressionable” young men’s “republican” sentiments and alienate them from the outlooks of most of their fellow Americans at home.

A few years before, a 16 year old future U.S. president became rather “enthralled” by young women he met while visiting Sweden. Yes, it’s a shocker: An American teenage boy loose in Scandinavia notices girls. Yet in that he demonstrated Jefferson’s concerns were perhaps not groundless.

Then lacking the television, internet, etc., that we take for granted, one could see Jefferson’s point about being too far removed from home as well. It took three months minimum for a letter to travel from Europe and to receive a reply from America; and that was usually during the summer months. Far fewer ships risked crossing the Atlantic between December and March – and even navies weren’t keen on it if they could possibly put it off until spring.

Sunset, Soulac-sur-mer, France, over the Bay of Biscay, which eventually becomes the Atlantic Ocean. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Sunset, Soulac-sur-mer, France, over the Bay of Biscay, which eventually becomes the Atlantic Ocean. [Photo by me, 2016.]

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Staying In The Past’s Present

One last major piece of work here in the new house. I decided to attack it first thing this morning. Yes, I managed to get a bathroom mirror and shelf affixed in the cloakroom:

Cloakroom mirror and shelf. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Cloakroom mirror and shelf. [Photo by me, 2016.]
I also managed to do it without “wrecking” the wall, which is no mean feat. Drilling into plaster walls is definitely not like tacking something up on a wood-walled American house. Whew.

Oh, and speaking of America, “he” is now unpacked in my new office and watching me:

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Sounds Of The Times

What writers do odd-habits-wise. All have their foibles. For example, I’ve read one who noted that while writing she keeps pictures of her characters pinned to the wall in front of her.

I usually listen to music. Writing the Atlantic Lives novels, I [re]played lots of 1980s-90s music. Hearing the likes of Roxette once more helped me move my mind back to that era.

Screen capture of my IPad music.
Screen capture of my IPad music.

I’m leaving Dad’s today and returning for a few days to my “hermit-life” in the Catskills. Before I came down here (to Pennsylvania) I’d been rewatching John Adams, the 2008 HBO miniseries about one of America’s founding fathers. The other day I was particularly caught by the music used in the balloon ascent over Paris scene, and found myself thinking, “That’s gorgeous.”

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I’m Not Ignoring You, I’m In “Airplane Mode”

I try to do a blog post here each morning. However, it is often a challenge doing so. Yet I push myself to do it not only because daily posts are unsurprisingly a good way to keep visitors coming back, but also because writing one usually spurs my thinking about what I may be writing novel-wise afterwards during the “work day.”

After the post goes up, assorted “life necessities” are dealt with. And if he’s with us, the hound gets his walkie. Then it’s time to go “to work.”

It has to be seen as “a job.” I lock myself away from distractions. Usually I play familiar music softly in the background (often to muffle external noises), and, possibly for several hours at a stretch, attack more of the tale that is currently “under construction.”

Print working cover for "Conventions." Click to expand.
Print working cover for “Conventions.” Click to expand.

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Lost In 1794

“I hear lots of tap, tap, tapping. You’re writing away….”

That was my wife trying to get my attention as I sat on the sofa working just before lunchtime yesterday. The lounge had been quiet, and she had been outside reading and enjoying the sun. I must admit I nearly hit the ceiling when she broke the silence.

I’ve written well over two dozen pages in just the last few days. They consist of mostly purely fictional characters and scenes. Once I find I have a “drive” to get a chapter or two, or three, or four, decently-written, I become focused on that to the exclusion of nearly everything else.

“Oh, I see so you aren’t fully with me today,” she laughed when my body language and bewildered, mumbled reply must have indicated I had been returned to 2016 Spain totally unexpectedly.

Print working cover for "Conventions." Click to expand.
Print working cover for “Conventions.” Click to expand.

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See You Next In The 18th Century

It is a great way to start the new year: yesterday, the light bulb went on over my head. I don’t recall precisely what had led my mind down this route. However, one irritation certainly helped encourage me.

We see this a lot. Recently on Twitter, I encountered yet another person who authoritatively tweets easily debunked false/misleading Thomas Jefferson quotes. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this person do it, and, fed up with saying nothing, when I finally pointed one out to him as provably false evidently he thought joking about it justifies messing around with the historical record. He chose not to delete, or even to amend, that tweet, and as of today it remains up for his “100,000” Twitter followers and anyone else to stumble upon as “fact”:

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

Seeing that nonsense may have helped clarify my thinking. I know now what I’m going to try to do for my fourth novel. After my mind focused on the idea, I clicked around on the net to scope out any similar books and I’ve seen nothing exactly like it so far.

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“I cannot live without books”

Hello! Made it! Woke up in the dark here in the Catskills – still feeling on U.K. time.

Just had a coffee in my favorite mug, which sat in the cupboard waiting all these months….

A morning cup in my Monticello-bought Thomas Jefferson mug. [Photo by me, 2015.]
A morning cup in my Monticello-bought Thomas Jefferson mug. [Photo by me, 2015.]

“I cannot live without books.” That is an actual Thomas Jefferson quote. Yes, a real one.

We flew into Newark airport yesterday afternoon.

Boarding at Heathrow, in our row sat – of all things – a 60ish Australian lawyer who’d been to the Australia dismantlement of England at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday night. He was heading to New York, he’d said, because Australia wasn’t playing again for a while. He had decided to “hop over” to the U.S. for a week before flying back to England for the next match.

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Our Distinctive Writing “Voice”

The net is wonderful in so many ways. It brings together those of us who otherwise would never have known each other. It allows us to share so much with others who may be equally enthusiastic about…. whatever it is we’re enthusiastic about.

I’ve read quite a lot of Thomas Jefferson over the years. You may know the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. diplomat in France from 1784-89 (a period of his life that, you may not be shocked to learn, has always been of particular interest to me), first Secretary of State, Vice President, and finally 3rd President, even gets casual mentions in my novels. That’s because, unsurprisingly perhaps based on my real-life interest, I’ve made “James” something of a “fan” too – and by this 3rd novel it’s well-known among other characters, who sometimes have some fun with it:

"Distances" back cover character quotes. [Original photography by me, 1995.]
“Distances” back cover character quotes. [Original photography by me, 1995.]

So when I saw this quote on Twitter a few days ago, I’d thought: How interesting? Hmm. I’ve never seen that before?:

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