Thursday, July 27, 2017

We forget

I forget?

With all the daily political drama, and all the fight with the local group of Indivisible, I forget. I forget that I am an individual too. With specific talents and, possibly, a mission.

I forget this incessant Trumpian drama is but an interruption, that this frustration, this anger will eventually stop. Because this regime will stop.

I forget that I can resume what I love to do. Write. And today, I got a reminder.

Once in a while (often in dark moments when I tell myself my steps on the writing page are useless and insignificant), I get messages of people telling me that some people like my reviews. I am always happily surprised when I see this. The joy is comparable to people enjoying my books. Writing is writing is writing. It tells me that people are reading and are reading readers, searching and thinking. A good sign.

Today, I was all the more surprised that two readers liked a review of a book that had completely gone out of my mind. A book of essays with a great title, actually, The War Against Clichés by Martin Amis.

Yes, we do forget. A dangerous thing, forgetting ourselves. A good thing there are those around us to remind us.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

WHY THE FRENCH ELECTIONS THIS COMING SUNDAY COULD AFFECT US ALL

France is not the first power in the world. Or the second, or the third. It ranks 6th among powerful nations these days. And yet, with the upcoming presidential elections, it could become the center of the world again. In other words, France’s elections this coming Sunday could affect us all. Here’s how:

If fascist Marine LePen gets elected, she will want out of Europe. Add that to the Brexit, and the entire Europe crumbles, as it was founded on/by the German-UK-France axis. The concept of Europe, besides economical, is a pacifist one. It was built so that something like WWI or WWII would never happen again.

With Europe gone, nationalisms (fascisms) are awakened. Tensions develop. Wars become imminent.
Who profits from this? Russia, of course, who can invade the now divided nations, economically like the Chinese are doing in Africa, or militarily. Or both. Resistance would build, no doubt, in many parts. The US would want to intervene. So would the Chinese. They wouldn’t want their piece of the cake to be eaten. Another World War could begin.

If Emmanuel Macron is elected, Europe will go on. Balance, if precarious, will be worked on and eventually solidified. It all depends on one vote. One vote.

Les Français, on compte sur vous. Pas de conneries!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

LIT AND POLITICS


After reading a few disappointing novels, I decided to go with John Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire for a good dose of literature with beautiful prose, and Stephen King's Mr Mercedes. I knew I had two masters in my hand. And I was curious to know how King would do with the mystery genre. What I was sure of was that I wouldn't be disappointed.

Right?

King, after all, can build a sentence. And Mr Mercedes is the winner of the 2015 Edgar Award for Best Novel. So, damnit, I was all set.

What I didn't suspect (although I was reading a mystery) was that I was having one of my---rare, but still present---naivety seizures. But I did wake up. Took 50 pages, though.

Those same pages that the critics from major publications bother to read, I assume. Otherwise, there would be no positive feedback. And the only pages that King wrote, I suspect. I had similar experiences with Grisham. Not the early Grisham. The well established Grisham.

Well, the well established King seems to have imitated his colleague. Oh, I was quite thrilled by Mr Mercedes' beginning, even if I thought that the slang there was a bit overdone.

But after aforementioned pages, everything stagnates. The psychological insights of the murderer, promising at first, go in circles. The incest theme is just there to titillate. Still, I yawn instead, No one who has fallen in love will believe in the love story there. The eroticism and sentiments feel like overcooked noodles. And this silly sleepover is the motivation of the retired cop to find the killer? P-leeease!

Toward the end, there is some action that grabs some interest. Did King edit the mediocre ghost writer? Did some smart editor? But it is too late. It makes the novel all the more uneven.

In conclusion, Mr Mercedes is basically an ode to mediocrity. In other words, a piece of crap. So here is my message to Stephen King, John Grisham and the like. Don't become just a brand! There are writers like me who love words, who work their ass out to produce serious, thoughtout work, so let us share it. What you do isn't fair to the reader; it isn't fair to us. You're just playing politics. Literature and politics make for a bitter, undigestible sauce. So why don't you move the hell over?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

ABANDONMENTS


Three.

Three major abandonments in my life. I reflected on that, this past Sunday at 1 p.m, as I finally sat down to get some breakfast.

3. Three. (Take your pick. The number. The feelings. The blades.)

My best friend.

My family.

My other best friend.

Not necessarily in that chronological order.

But certainly in that emotional order.

I didn't realize as a child that I was abandoned by my family. I just thought I didn't fit the mold. That's why they didn't love me the way they loved each other. It's only later, when I fell in love, when love became a frightening thing, that I realized I didn't know what love was. For years I had to grow accustomed to it. To this day, love still frightens me from time to time.

In my teenage years, I found something magical. A beautiful, profound friendship. We could remain silent for hours, watching the river run in the summer, the flames crackle and rise in the fireplace in the winter. We knew a cozy conversation existed within that silence. Our parents thought we were weird. We didn't give a damn. Our silences lingered. Until that summer. She was sixteen and it was a Sunday. I had just returned from Spain. Spanish boys had taught me how to French kiss. I was going to tell her all about it. I was going to meet her after lunch, but a car beat me to it, hitting her moped in the bright, Basque sun. Christine was sixteen. She would never grow old; she would never French kiss a boy. That summer, I learned about pleasure and death.

When I promised myself never to open my heart to another best friend, was I right?  "Beware of your first movements, as they are the right ones," said Talleyrand. I had to take an antidepressant when I lost Christine. My wounded heart had locked its doors. But this new girl kept knocking with her smiles and her enthusiasm. Her sense that life could be fun. She made me see bright colors again. So little by little the doors of my heart opened up and she became my new best friend. She did prove herself worthy of the name. She and her family did everything they could to help me cross the Atlantic with the man I loved (and to whom I am still married after 37 years), despite terrible threats made by my mother.

Almost three decades went by. I kept seeing her as my best friend. So much so that I crossed the Atlantic (the other way this time) when I sensed she was too depressed to handle life on her own. That’s when things began to decay. Or, rather, that’s when the decay started to show. She first presented me to her yoga students as her "best friend," then just as "a friend."  A friend who had flown to France because she was worried about "a friend." Later, she sent a birthday present to my husband but my own birthday was nearly forgotten. There was a distracted wish, no gift. For too many years, I had failed to notice that, when she called and I picked up the phone, she insisted on talking to my husband afterwards. When he picked up the phone, she was satisfied. There was no need to hear my voice.

A couple of nights ago, I dreamed of broken dishes.

I am surprised I can still stand up when all within me feels so scattered and broken at the base.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

THE DONALD

When my daughter and I were on the phone today, she told me she had almost finished reading my novel, "Was Donald Chancecastle modeled after Donald Trump?" she asked.

Smart woman. When I created the pompous, noisy character, I did have The Donald in mind. I thought about changing the first name. But, considering the satiric characteristics of the novel, I kept it. For if there is some grandiloquence in "Donald," you will also find quirky comedy there as well. Think "Donald Duck."

And, to top it all, Donald Chancecastle is kinky.

Little did I know that he would come out when The Donald would make such an apparition in the news.

Of course, no one in their right mind would vote for Donald Chancecastle.

Friday, August 28, 2015

ANATOMY OF A TITLE



I wrote From A to Zoe before I wrote Chainsaw Jane. Why it got out now, and not before CJ? I didn’t have a title. Or I had too many titles, take your pick. For years, I convinced myself the titling issue was the reason. Yup, for years—no kidding—I tortured my little mind with title possibilities. Made one list, then another. Threw them in the basket or forgot about them. Began a title list again. Abandoned it once more. For a long time the novel was called And So It Starts Again. After all, Zoe, the narrator, was making tabula rasa of her old life and beginning again. There was an irony in that title that I kinda liked: Zoe is convinced her new life will go smoothly, with no single bump on the road. And guess what? She falls on her ass at every turn.

I tried that title on people. No reaction.

At one point I considered No Mozzarella for Me. The title stood on the manuscript first page for longer than a few minutes. Months went by and it was still there. Was that the one? Once you read the novel, you will understand why this cheesy option was a serious candidate. There is a rat there who will only eat Swiss cheese. The only way he will bite into mozzarella is when he realizes the other alternative is starvation. And of course, the title also suggested that Zoe wanted a more flavorful bite of life—that life should be relished.

I tried that title on people. No reaction.

Some members in my writing group thought that just Zoe would be plenty of title. Zoe, after all, means life. Zoe and zoo have the same origin, and in this novel, animals actually play a major role. And the Brooklyn Zoo does play a role as well. I liked the concept. Still, I felt it was missing something. But what, exactly?

To an author, the choice of a title is a way to direct the reader toward her way of thinking. It is, from the very beginning, an invitation into her world. She’s getting her house ready for the guests. The title is the central bouquet at the banquet table. Without imposing a way of thinking to the reader (without imposing a topic of conversation to the guest), the author is setting a tone.

Well, I didn’t have my tone set, I didn’t have my bouquet, I didn’t have my title, dammit!

So I went back to cogitating on Zoe. I knew the central theme, of course. But I also knew it was a tragicomedy narrated by a sassy yet vulnerable woman; someone who fell, nearly collapsed, but found somewhere some indomitable courage to get up once more. Someone who used bite, humor, satire as surviving tools. I never had much trouble with a title before. With Chainsaw Jane, the reverse happened. I had a title; I needed to find a story to go with it.

Finally, I had a couple of serious contenders. That was during one of my trips to Denver, when I visited my daughter. One of them was From A to Zoe. This one seemed to be appealing to other people besides myself, including my daughters’s husband (at the time her fiancé).

Finally, a reaction, and a positive one at that.

Finally, the banquet’s bouquet.

Soon after, I was ready to let From A to Zoe go, meet the world. I kept asking myself why it took so long. But then it struck me and it struck me harder than before: Zoe is the story of a woman who starts all over again.

This past summer, I put my house for sale. I will sell all my furniture, take my husband and my pets with me, and leave. I will start all over again. Learn the basics again.

And, I suspect, fall on my ass again. But like Zoe, I’ve got expertise in that field as well.

Whoever started saying there was no coincidence might have been on to something.

http://www.amazon.com/Zoe-Novel-Marie-Jo-Fortis-ebook/dp/B012UQUWXQ

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Yeah, yeah, it has been a while.

I finished writing my novel About Emily. I went through a couple of revisions, gave it to read to Pierre as well. I am very proud of this work, even if it is quite different from what I have done recently. It does not insist on humor, satire, and there is very little levity anywhere there. The plot came to me in a dream. All I had to do was write it.

All I had to do. Give my soul to it. Sell my soul. That's how it felt like, basically. For when I completed Emily, I felt drained inside.

Drained, and proud.

But I feel proud at the completion of every novel I write. Every time, I feel this is the best writing I have ever done. Emily is no exception. The only difference is that, unlike Chainsaw Jane and From A to Zoe (which I am going to put on the market shortly, hopefully), this is literary work, not the type of writing that will attract the masses. Prose, style, inner wanderings are more important than action here. Paris is as much a character as, well, characters.

At the same time, I fear disappointment. Is it as good as I think it is? How can I know? Sales? Sales do sometimes---but not necessarily---indicate the quality of a work. If I keep being an independent author, I will need luck on my side, as I can put so much money on marketing. But I am getting ahead of myself. The book is not ready for publication. It's just a newborn.

Time. Time will let me know, independent of sales. Once I get detached from all the efforts placed into Emily, and once I get back to reading it again with my left brain---all blades of my critical mind sharpened---I will know.

Meanwhile, there is that feeling of delivering a newborn. It's exhilarating, exhausting, and for a while you don't know where your mind is. And yet you don't want to go anywhere else.