Monday, March 28, 2011

My Hemingway Years (4)

Exploring Paris

Walking the streets of Paris, France, some of the same streets Hemingway had walked, was exciting and humbling. I had never seen anything like it before--the overwhelming presence of the past. It was as if the past were alive. The narrow streets banked by brick walls of buildings built hundreds of years before, the huge cathedrals, the sense of being in another world, were always present. The outdoor cafes, the bistros, the restaurants, the smell of baking bread, was nothing like I, a boy from Jacksonville, Florida, had ever experienced.

Here, in Paris, was the habitue of some of the greatest artists, scientists, theologians, philosophers, writers, and poets of all time, many of whom had walked some of these same streets that I was walking. They were all around me: Hemingway, Zola, Voltaire, Picasso, Modigilani, Sartre, Camus, and many others. Their presence soaked into me. I became a part of them, or they became a part of me. As the days went by and I began to know my way around the Latin Quarter, St-Germain-des-Pres, and Invalides, it was no longer Hemingway's Paris. It had become my Paris, my home, my habitue--a place I never wanted to leave.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Hemingway Years (3)

The first order of business after arriving in Paris was to go to the Latin Quarter, where Hemingway had hung out, and find a place to stay. I hoped for something with a view. I came upon the Hotel D'Albert, took a room, which turned out to be on the fourth or fifth floor, overlooking the Seine and The Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, where the hunchback of Notre Dame lived. I was very happy looking out the window at the tops of other buildings, the river, and the cathedral, and felt I could not have found a better room.

The Hotel D'Albert was an old hotel. There was a common bathroom shower down the hall from my room, which I found quaint, if not a little unexpected. But, I was in Paris, in Hemingway country, and that was all that mattered. For five days I would live the Hemingway experience, and I never felt better or more at home.

Notre Dame from behind, 1970

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Hemingway Years (2)

"Paris is a Movable Feast"

Being an Ernest Hemingway follower led me to want to enjoy the same kinds of experiences he had enjoyed. High on that list--perhaps the highest--was to walk the same streets of Paris he had walked thirty or so years earlier.

While in the navy, my ship docked at Le Havre, France, and I took five days vacation and went to Paris.
                                My ship: USS Cromwell

The first good look I had of France was riding the train through the countryside, which gave me time to reflect and decide what I would do when I arrived at Paris.

My first impression of Paris itself was when the train pulled into the Gare St. Lazarre, and I detrained into a familiar looking building, one with luminous overhead lighting, one I had seen in an Impressionist painting. I suddenly felt at home. At that moment, I knew I had arrived. At that moment, I knew I'd never be the same again.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gabriela's 312 word writing contest

Title: Battlefields of Love
Genre: historical/family saga
Status: WIP

Thirteen-year-old Daphne Chauvin didn’t want to move again, but she had to—her father was in the marines. They had moved several times before in her life, but this time was different. She seemed to be leaving behind in Florida everything she’d known—hot summers, warm winters, and best friends. She brought with her the only things in her life that were constant, her clothes and books. She loved to read, especially love stories.
Moving to Peaceville, Rhode Island, was new and scary. The town was small, with a wide main street, a few stores, and several other old buildings. And, even though it was June, it was still cold at night. After the sun went down, she had to wear a sweater. Whereas, in Florida, she had slept with a sheet this time of year, and still might sweat in bed, here she slept with a blanket. And in the mornings, the house was cold, like during wintertime in Florida. She wrapped up in a bathrobe to eat breakfast.
She’d been in Peaceville less than a week, and she was already lonely. She had no idea how she was going to make new friends.
“We just moved here,” her mother Merriam said. “It takes a little time, you know. But you will, I promise. If not this summer, then you will when you go to school. You always have before, and you will again.”
But Daphne wasn’t so sure. After three weeks, she still knew no one. She’d seen a few girls at Mass on Sundays, but she didn’t get to meet them. Being summertime, there was no youth activities to attend at the church. So she went home and spent her Sunday afternoons reading.
One morning, Daphne woke up to blood between her legs, and she was scared. She didn’t know what to do. There were even red blotches on

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Power of Association

About eight months ago I was (and still am) a member of two writing groups here in my town. That was it. I barely knew how to use a computer or surf the internet. Sending email was about it for me. Then my son-in-law sent me an email telling me, because I like to write, I should look at this website--Webook. So I did and I joined it. I was overwhelmed at first. But I gradually began to understand it and play with it. It's now a part of my daily routine. I wanted to be a part of a group, so I hunted around and found someone--Lilysea--who had her first chapter of a novel posted for review, so I reviewed it and sent her the info. She asked me to be her friend, so I accepted. I saw that she had a blog. I had no idea what a blog was, but I took a look at it--Peter's Crossing. I somehow discovered some other blogs by writers. I was gaining information I didn't even know I was looking for. Then it dawned on me that I could write a blog. But how do you do it? I checked out a book from the library, "Publishing a Blog with Blogger." It told me what to do, so I gave it a try. I was amazed. It was so easy, a child could do it. So I started my blog around October 2010. And I've been blogging ever since. I notified my email list of my blog, and Lilysee welcomed me to the world of blogging.

I came across another website--AgentQueryConnect--and I recognized some of the members as members of Webook, so I decided to join. What a powerful experience that has been. It opened a whole new world of writing and publishing to me. I soon discovered the world of self-publishing. And if you've read some of my earlier posts, you know I've gone back and forth about it. Then I discovered and that you can publish books for free, so I began investigating it.

I also made a new friend through AQC--Tanya Reimer--who became a follower of my blog. So I learned what following was and signed up to follow her blog. Now that I knew what following was, I signed on to follow Lilysea's blog, and some others.

In the meantime, I was learning about Facebook. I had heard of it. My children were all on Facebook, but from what I had seen of it, it held no interest for me. But the more I read about it being part of the self-publishing world, the world of cyberspace, and that many writers were on Facebook, I decided to join. I did so not very long ago, maybe a month ago. In trying to figure out how it works, I've discovered that I actually like it. I've made a number of friends and reaquainted with some old ones. I've created a Page for my writings. Oh, and I've made friends with Lilysea on Facebook.

Through AgentQueryConnect I learned about San Francisco Writers University, liked it, and joined. It had a free course on Setting Up Your Storefront in Cyberspace, which was all about what I was learning to do. I've followed some of its advice--I'm taking baby steps--including joining LinkedIn, which I did today. Who did I meet in LinkedIn but Lilysea and I also saw that one of my daughters is on Linkedin.
Hey, I'm still a baby in cyberspace, but I'm worlds ahead of where I used to be. And all thanks to my son-in-law. Thanks Kent.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Hemingway Years (1)

Being an Ernest Hemingway follower is a rite of passage for many writers. It was for me.

My first contact with Hemingway's writing was when I was about twelve years old. My grandmother Hughes, who lived in North Carolina, was an avid reader. When she came to visit us in Florida that year, she brought with her a stack of books. Among them was "The Sun Also Rises." I'd heard the writer's name before and started reading the book. After a few pages, I put it down. I couldn't imagine why anyone would think he was a good writer.

My next experience with Hemingway was when I was a sophomore in high school. My English teacher announced that day that Ernest Hemingway, her favorite writer, was dead, and that he had killed himself. She speculated on why he had done so. She felt sure it was because of his old age, that he had been a great adventurer all his life, and he had grown too old and frail to do what he loved, so he killed himself. It sounded logical, yet, I felt there had to be more to it than that.

My next encounter with Hemingway was in college when I started reading "The Sun Also Rises" again. I realized that I appreciated the book. It was the same book I had tried to read years before and didn't like. So, obviously, something had changed, and it wasn't the book. I then read everything I could get my hands on that Hemingway had written. I became very much under the spell of his life and style of writing. The summer of 1966, between my sophomore year and junior year in college, I wrote my first novel--"Hurled In the Dust"--which was very much influenced by Hemingway. I began revising the novel after I graduated from college. But I joined the navy shortly thereafer, and I never looked at the manuscript again.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Death In The Afternoon

             The Plaza de Toros

The first major novelist I felt camaraderie with was Ernest Hemingway. His novel "The Sun Also Rises" was a favorite of mine. I was fascinated by the bullfight. When I was in the navy and made it to Spain, I had to see a bullfight. When the opportunity came, I took it. I rode by bus to a little town named San Lucar where the bullfight was held in the Plaza de Toros. The whole town was out in celebration. It was a carnaval
atmosphere. I was mesmerized by the novelty of it--nothing like I'd ever experienced before. I was impressed with it all.

                        The Bullfight Begins
The bullfight itself was nothing like I expected. I'm not sure what I expected. But what I saw both fascinated and repelled me. First off, the bull doesn't have a chance. It is going to die. Of course, it doesn't know this. It charges out into the bullring and prances around, confused and annoyed. Then the taunting and carnage begins. I suppose there's an art to it. It is a contest, but an unfair one. The matador has all the advantages except size and strength. But intelligence and razor sharp swords will beat brute strength anytime, as long as the matador doesn't get careless.

                                            The Matador Aims for the Kill

But it was fascinating and exciting. The horses, the gala, the roses tossed to the matador after the kill, and the snorting and ferocity of the bulls hooked me. The dance of death reminded me that humans and nature are often at odds. As long as humans are careful, they can subdue nature. But make one mistake, and nature will gore humans to death.

                              The Dead Bull Is Dragged Away

Thursday, March 3, 2011

For Many of Us Writers, The Internet Has Set Us Free

The difficulty of getting published today by the big publishers is real for the writer who is more of a mid-list writer, like myself. The prevailing philosophy seems to be that, if they don't think it will be a best seller or earn x-amount of money, the big publishers won't publish it, even if it is well-written. And literary agents have to find novels that they think will meet the big publishers' criteria. And writers have to meet that criteria in their work or forget about being published. Publishing has become a bottom-line business.

What's the majority of us to do (because the majority of us will not write best-sellers)? Has the internet and the self-publishing revolution given us a chance? I think about the USSR and the downfall of the iron curtain. I'm sure the internet and public opinion had something to do with that. What about Tunisia and Egypt? It's pretty well agreed that the revolutions there would not have happened without the internet and Facebook. Is self-publishing on the internet a writer's revolution? I think it is.

I believe the internet has set us free.

We can write any way we want, anything we want. We can experiment. We can follow our dreams.  And we can get published. However, besides our primary goal of writing fiction and non-fiction, the self-published writer should organize his own team of editors and proofreaders and cover artists, etc., and become an internet-marketing expert. It's a huge undertaking for the writer, demanding a significant amount of time and effort. But it will work. It's being done.

The internet has set us free..

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Recorded Books

Before I retired, I drove about forty minutes to work, and forty minutes home, five days a week. That was about six hours a week riding in my car. How I used that time was a challenge until I discovered recorded books. Then it became a pleasure to drive to and from work. I actually looked forward to it.

There are thousands of recorded books to choose from. I browsed the library book shelves for books I thought I might enjoy. It was a constant experiment, because I listened to books I never would have read. I tried all genres, and found I enjoyed women's books, perhaps romantic books one might say. I enjoyed listening to Mave Binchy's books and Santa Montefiori's. I couldn't get enough of them. I enjoyed travel books, such as The Old Patagonian Express, Toujour Provence, and various other books, such as Bangkok Tattoo, Farewell Summer, Free Fire, Peony In Love, The Judas Strain, Codex 632, The 47th Samuri, Love Is A Racket, Tall Grass, and The Forest.

What is it about recorded books that makes them so wonderful? They're almost like a play or movie or drama. It's the reader's voice and style that makes the books even better than they would be if I read them to myself. Some of the readers are fantastic. They help put some of the books above the rest, making them even better than they would be otherwise.

So what are my favorites, the one's I'd recommend as the best? What are my top ten?

1. Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil.
2. Angela's Ashes.
3. Sir Vidia's Shadow.
4. Meet Me Under the Ombu Tree.
5. Luncheon of the Boating Party.
6. The Horse Whisperer.
7. A House In Sicily.
8. Plague of Doves.
9. Rasputin's Daughter.
10. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.