It’s been quite some time since I did any serious blogging. This site is primarily focused on my comments and reviews of books I have recently read, books I read with the hope that they would inspire me and help to make me a better writer as I plod along on the manuscript of my novel. Occasionally I do digress from that general theme to muse about events going on in my life that I deem significant.
Back on Feb.1, I posted that I would be taking a break in the action and that my blogging would be less frequent and shorter so that I could devote more time to my manuscript. That was the plan. Then my world got turned upside down when one of my two dogs went missing. For the next four weeks I did precious little else during my waking hours that did not have something to do with finding and rescuing Tink. Blogging, working on my novel, and countless other activities that seemed so important previously now seemed to be trivial compared to finding my lost girl. The story had a happy ending and she was rescued. In fact she’s lying by my side as I type this. Life goes on, thankfully.
So now I have a lot of lost time to try to make up. My manuscript will remain my top priority or I should say second priority since caring for Tink and my loveable other pooch Aries are and will remain my top priority. I also set a personal goal to read thirty books this year. I’ve polished off six already so I’m on track for achieving that goal and want to make sure I do not fall behind.That brings up trying to make time to write reviews of books I’ve recently read (three and counting at the moment) as well as my reflections on the wonderful San Francisco Writers Conference that I was attending when Tink disappeared. I had to skip the fourth day of the conference to begin my search for Tink, but benefited greatly from the three days I attended and want to write a little about that experience. I hope to make room for one blog a week until I actually have caught up. Then again as I learned in February, I do not know what curve ball may be coming my way. Stay tuned!
The other night I had dinner with an old friend. Actually John is much more than an old friend although he certainly is that as well. Thirty years ago I had a six month romantic affair with him and to this day I regard him as one of the great loves of my life. I met him in a popular gay bar in the Castro neighborhood as I was watching Pat Benatar’s Love Is a Battlefield video. I had just returned from a trip to New Orleans where I first saw the video and was reliving happy memories of my trip. As fate would have it John had only recently moved to San Francisco and had lived in New Orleans so conversation with him was quite easy and enjoyable. I was quickly smitten with him; besides being physically attractive, he was intelligent, articulate, soft-spoken and sincere. My partner of five years and I had an unspoken agreement that extra-curricular sex was permissible and up to this point I had never allowed myself to enjoy anything more than a one night roll in the sheets with someone else. Despite my primary relationship being very satisfying, John was someone who touched me in a different way and throwing caution to the wind I allowed myself to fall in love with him. While my six month fling was wonderful I did pay a dear price for it, hurting my partner deeply and causing a serious rift in our relationship requiring a period of time that we needed to live apart so we could work things out. Happily eventually we did and now 35 years after we first met he and I remain very much a loving couple. From time to time I have wondered if I had not already been in a loving relationship would something more lasting between John and I have happened. I of course will never know that and certainly am not suggesting that I wish that would have been the case. After all this time I do though still remember what my feelings for him were and believe that at least from my perspective that was a possibility.
Over the years the two of us have stayed in touch although often there are long stretches between phone calls and emails. My life partner long ago got over the notion that he was a threat to our relationship and in fact has told me on multiple occasions that he enjoys his company. A week before John’s birthday I contacted him and told him I would love to take him out for a birthday dinner, giving the two of us plenty of time to catch up on what was happening in our lives. And so we did on his birthday eve. The three and a half hours we set in the restaurant there was never any awkward silence or a sense that one of us was bored or restless. As had been the case that first night we met, conversation flowed freely as we discussed a wide range of subjects about both our individual lives and more global matters. A year earlier in an exchange of emails he alluded to a series of bad things that had happened to him and told me he would go into more detail when we next saw one another. Even though I did see him once briefly between our 2012 email exchange and our dinner engagement, the timing was not right for heavy conversation. And so after talking for hours about so many other matters I inquired about the details of his misfortunes. As I listened to the painful account of his recent past I felt not only deeply sad for him but despondent that I had not been there to help him in some way. Here was a man whom I truly loved, someone with whom under different circumstances I might have had a much longer intimate relationship. I felt that I had failed him as a friend by simply not making the effort to stay in touch better and I was disappointed in myself for my shortcoming.
I will not beat up myself too much over all this; I do though feel I have learned a valuable lesson about the importance of not letting a lot of time pass without touching base with those for whom I care deeply. John if you should read this and from our dinner conversation I know you do check out my blog, I hope you are neither annoyed or embarrassed that I have taken such liberties about discussing our past relationship and recent conversation. I want you to know that I am there for you even if it’s just to be a good set of ears, a shoulder to lean on, or a set of arms to give you a big hug when you feel you need one. I love you and am so happy that we met 30 years ago and have stayed in touch. Stay well my friend and know you are loved.
When I attended last month’s San Francisco Writers Conference among the many fine individuals I met was Ellen Sussman, author and writing coach. I attended two workshops where she spoke, both of which were excellent. The “Feeding Your Daily Writing Habit: 4 Steps to Higher Productivity” I found especially valuable. One of her books that she mentioned was French Lessons, published in 2011. Being a hardcore Francophile (I’ve been to Paris eight times and I’m not done yet), I was so envious to learn that she lived in my favorite city for five years. I got an opportunity to talk one-on-one with her which was a thrill. After leaving the conference and getting back into a more normal routine, I searched online to learn more about French Lessons and decided that while it did not fit the theme of the novel I am writing I had to include it on my To-Read list.
Just last night I finished the novel and am so glad I fit the book into my reading schedule. This was a guilty pleasure of a read. The story takes place in Paris all in a single day. The work can be viewed as three separate short stories although all three are interconnected. Each story involves an American in Paris who is spending time there with a French tutor to improve her or his French-speaking skill. The characters have all come to Paris for very different reasons. Josie has just suffered a tragic personal loss and is there hoping to heal her broken heart. Her tutor is Nico, a sensitive poet. Riley has come to Paris with her two children and husband whose business has brought him to the City of Lights and who now is largely ignoring her. Phillipe is her tutor and someone who seems to regard seducing women as life’s primary goal. Jeremy is a man in his forties, the husband of a famous American actress and who lives in her shadow but loves her enormously nonetheless. They are in Paris for a film shooting and he feels quite removed from her world. His tutor is the beautiful young Chantal to whom he is strongly attracted. The book begins with the three tutors whose lives are intertwined meeting at a café in the morning and ends later that afternoon at their scheduled rendezvous spot.
By story’s end all but one of the characters have learned something very important about him-or-herself and have had a wonderful adventure in the process. While it’s certainly not necessary to have spent time in Paris and fallen in love with the city in order to enjoy this book, it certainly enhances the experience. The author certainly knows the city well and describes its sights, sounds and smells very accurately. She also interjects just enough of the French language into her writing to add some interest without having a reader who knows little or no French wonder “what does that mean?” There is also just the right amount of sexual tension throughout to keep the reader curious and want to keep turning the page.
All in all I found this a very pleasurable read and am very happy I took a little detour in my reading path to enjoy this.
In mid-February of this year I had the pleasure of attending the 10th Annual San Francisco Writers Conference held at the Mark Hopkins Hotel atop Nob Hill. I heard about the conference while doing some research for the novel I am currently writing; initially I had reservations about attending since I had not yet written very much of my manuscript. I wondered if attending the conference might be too early in the game for me, presuming that most of the attendees would be long-established writers who would question why a newbie author like me would dare to think he could invade their elite little world. Realizing that if I did not go I would have to wait another 12 months before it occurred again and that I could save myself the expense of hotel accommodations since the location was an easy commute for me, I figured I would take the plunge. I am so glad I overcame my doubts and went.
The four-day event over President’s Day weekend was completely sold out. Literally hundreds of individuals and authors of all genres were there: poetry, memoir, science fiction, historical fiction, romance, fantasy, suspense, crime, young adult, you name it. Yes some indeed were well established authors who enjoy a large readership and I did have the pleasure of hearing their presentations as well as talking to some of them directly. Many others though were working on a first or second book and it was great to talk to some of them and hear how they are dealing with the challenges they are experiencing. There also were a large number of editors, agents and publishers who provided me great insights on what I will need to be doing once I have completed my manuscript. During each of the time slots there typically were six different workshops and I could always find at least two that I wanted to attend. I also made some new friends and made connections with professionals who will be very valuable as I get closer to my finished work.
I left the conference filled with new exhilaration and a head stuffed with so many wonderful ideas and suggestions from people who all at one time were in the situation I am now. I look forward to the 2014 conference when I presume my manuscript will be complete. If not yet published at that time I now know that I will be at the right venue to make that happen.