Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Thanks for dropping by for this week's Thursday Thirteen. Since I'm very busy, preparing for my trip to the US next week and wrapping up all the work on 27 Stages
, I thought I'd share a few pics which have inspired me throughout the long slog from start to finish.So, yeah, it's a blog of cyclist photos. *clears throat*Anyhoo... Please, allow me to present to you
Thirteen Photos Which Inspired 27 Stages!
A rider cleans off post-race in the famous Paris-Roubaix velodrome shower hall.
Philippe Gilbert's legs after winning a stage of the Vuelta a Espana.
I'm endlessly amazed at how closely they can ride together in the group.
A peek inside a team bus during the Giro d'Italia. The "crash pad" for Alta VeloCidad's bus is based on this shot and a few other team buses I've found online.
This is *literally* the moment where the story started taking shape in my head. As I watched Cancellara receive the maillot jaune, I was speaking to my husband on the phone (he was in Italy, I was in the US). When the camera panned out and showed Cancellara on the podium, I said, without thinking, "I want to lick his legs." My husband didn't miss a beat and said "If you can catch him, go right ahead." That moment, combined with the team politics on display by the Astana riders (specifically Contador and Armstrong) led to the creation of 27 Stages.
Fabian Cancellara's legs as he stands atop the Paris-Roubaix podium after winning the race in 2010.
This is one of my all-time favorite photos, and even now, looking at it makes me want to write a story for it.
There is a scene in 27 Stages which was written before I saw this photo, but which mentions a photo Abby takes over her shoulder without even looking, after sensing someone is watching her. When she looks at it later, she finds Federico was in the crowd after all. This is *literally* the sort of image I imagined her capturing.
Riding in the rain isn't just wet, but cold, too. No wonder they all look so miserable, eh?
In my next life, I want to come back as a fly so I can spy on the boys in the bus.
This year's Milan-Sanremo race proved that there is nothing - absolutely *nothing* - I can write which will ever compete with real life. But I will keep trying.
Cancellara falls to the ground after winning this year's Paris-Roubaix by a bike length.
And there you have them: Thirteen Photos Which Inspired 27 Stages.
Of course, there were many, many more photos than this to inspire me since 2009. I simply can't share them all, though.
Which is a bit of a shame, really.
And I know I owe you at least one more pic, so...
I hope this will do.
Gilberto Simoni. Cyclist.
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! It's time for another Thursday Thirteen, and this week I have a special treat for everyone. You see, back in 2008-9, I had the pleasure of meeting a number of good writers on the Harper-Collins Authonomy website. I read many great books while they were still in their development stage, but there was one book in particular which stood out in my estimation. One, a psychological thriller (which is not a genre I normally read), was so good, I read all of the available sample and asked for more of it. I was generously given the still-incomplete manuscript to read at my leisure. To this day, it is the only book I've managed to read while sitting at my computer.Well, now, that book - called Affinities - is available for purchase, along with another thriller, Subculture.
Both are well worth a read, but you might also want to get to know the author a little better, first.
So please sit back, relax and enjoy this interview with the lovely and talented (and former Authonomite), Chris Hollis
Thirteen Questions for Chris Hollis, Author
1) So, Chris - tell me something about yourself.
Well, I’m a mid-thirties writer, fighting off life while I try to make my mark. Writing is the one job in entertainment where you can still be considered at the start of your career in your thirties. Many of the greats didn’t reach their stride until their kids were all grown up (not that I have any).
2) When did you first get bitten by the writing bug?
That’s not so easy to pin down. Winding back the clock, I was originally an aspiring (failed) cartoonist, then a director-without-a-camera, which turned into a screenwriter. Book writing evolved some point in my early twenties. I dabble. It’s always been one of my problems – disciplined, but rarely focussed.
3) Tell me about your books.
I have two available as of 2013 – Subculture
. Both are thrillers, and fast, but the similarity ends there. Subculture
is an action-packed, breakneck, A-to-B kind of affair, whereas Affinities
is a good deal more complex. Even I can’t remember all the different threads I wove into it. Every inanimate object has a specific pathway through the novel, developing in the reader’s eye, something like a character.4) Which book was the greater challenge to write?
. That kind of detail takes time to get right. After six years of putting it together, I just wanted to write a nice linear plot, something you could read on a sun lounger in a couple of days. That’s Subculture
. Still, both are child’s play compared to a couple I have on my desktop. Ten years hasn’t been enough to call them finished...5) How much research do you do when you're writing?
Copious and endless. Google images helps me to write descriptions, then I look up sunset times, weather forecasts, road names, people names. You can’t afford not to research every last little detail. It also helps to write Q&As as you go along, to remind yourself what the overriding point of the novel is. Then you can research your own research!6) What genre do you prefer to read? What are your favorite books in that genre?
I’m into soft sci-fi and paranormal. Different genres, but they boil down to the same thing – an ordinary protagonist versus a strange adversary. Giant monsters and spooks. Think Triffids, Martians, vampires in a 1990s sense. Vampires are a bit different now, I feel. Less edgy, less fun.
You can’t afford not to research every last little detail.
7) What made you decide to be an Indie author?
I would have baulked at the concept ten years ago, determined to follow in the footsteps of the people who inspired me. Then one day I realised it should be the readers who decide what they like, and nobody else. So now I’m out there, along with two billion other authors, walking the fine line between shameless self-promotion, and blindly hoping to get noticed.8) When you're writing, do you need noise or silence?
Great question. Silence, and it’s a bone of contention. When I’m doing a first draft, ambient noise is acceptable, but when it comes to doing that perfect paragraph – I mean the one where every word just flows poetically – it has to be silent like the grave for miles around. Hence why my output isn’t higher. One book a year is hard enough as it is when you struggle to concentrate like I do.9) What's your typical writing day like?
Few and far between, really. Sometimes, I stay late in the office and pace up and down, proof reading, lapping up the solitude. But those rare pajama days amount to maybe seven hours of writing, and five of procrastination. They’re fantastic for getting the house clean!10) Where did the ideas for your books come from/what inspired them?
Someone once said to me “think of a terrorist”, and I had the image I think most people would – a Middle-Eastern bearded man, with a vendetta that many Westerners perhaps wouldn’t understand. I didn’t like the stereotype, and so I decided to make terrorists who were homegrown, but still organised en-masse. The other ground, I felt, had been over trodden. [note: that book became Subculture
, at conception, was a one-man play. Every chapter was supposed be a different night in the same location, with just one character. Turns out that would be boring as hell, so I scrapped the idea as I learned how much a story needs both dialogue, and autonomy. You can still see the roots in the first five chapters, though.
11) Say your books take off and you start earning Stephen King money: What is the first thing you purchase?
Remember the speedboat David Beckham rode along the Thames, holding the Olympic torch? I heard they couldn’t sell it. I’d have that. There were lights shining into the water jets that made it look all futuristic.
12) Give me a completely random fact about yourself.
I was the one who left the office window open overnight. Feels good to clear the air.
13) Any final words of advice or declarations to make?
It seems to me that every writer around is part of a gold rush for the ebook market right now, with many struggling to get as many books out there as quickly as they can. My advice is relax. Better to have three great books than six that are merely okay, right? You’ll be tagged with those books for the rest of your life (and then beyond). The other tip is go sit in a sauna. Quiet thinking time, and also nice and warm.
No eye candy today (well, unless you count Chris himself) but drop by tomorrow for a tasty treat!
Ciao for now!
Ciao a tutti! Hi, everybody! Welcome back for another Thursday Thirteen! This week, I'm featuring an interview with another friend and former member of the Authonomy elite, Cameron Chapman. Cameron is one of those multi-talented types you hear about, an honest-to-goodness triple-threat: Writer, Blogger and Filmmaker/Director. She's got some interesting projects on the go right now, and I thought you might enjoy meeting her, too.
So now, without further ado, please allow me to share
13 Questions for Cameron Chapman!
1) First, the usual sort of thing: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an author, blogger, and aspiring filmmaker from northern New England. I’ve been writing professionally for more than five years now (it’s my primary source of income), and really got into filmmaking a couple years ago. I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember, though. 2) Since you live in a somewhat rural area, do you find this affects your creativity? Is your work influenced by your surroundings, or do you create solely from a universe in your head?
A little of both, actually. I take a lot of inspiration from my environment, so I need to live somewhere interesting, whether that’s a rural area or the city (the suburbs and I do not get along). The slower pace of life where I live makes it easier to find time to create. And I also live in an area with a ton of creative people, which is nice. There’s a real sense of support and community. People don’t look at you like you’re an alien when you tell them you write or you make films. Okay, some do, but they’re the minority. 3) What was your first creative effort you shared with others?
The first thing I shared with people outside of immediate family was a novel that eventually became the inspiration for The Steam and Steel Chronicles
, my steampunk novella series. That was shared on Authonomy, at the behest of a couple of other writers (who I’m still friends with even though I’m no longer active on the site). (note: The Steam and Steel Chronicles include the novellas Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris, The Great Healion Race, and The Quest for the Demon Disconcerter. They are also available on BarnesandNoble.com.)4) What are you focusing on more, now? Articles? Novels? Films?
All of the above! I can’t just have one project going. I’m currently working on edits for the final novella in The Steam and Steel Chronicles
. After that I have another novel I wrote a couple years ago that’s in desperate need of some editing. I just signed a book deal for another non-fiction design book, so that’s going to be taking up a chunk of my time for the next few months. I’m working on a music video for a friend’s band, as well as a script for a no-budget feature film. And I’m writing articles and blogging full-time, still.
...regardless of the medium, I’m going to keep telling stories.
5) What project are you most proud of, today?
That’s a tough one! I’m pretty proud of the short film I just released, This is all you left me
. I’m also really proud of the women’s fiction novel I wrote a couple years ago, Hold My Hand
. But really, I’m proud of pretty much everything I’ve put out there. 6) Do you listen to music when you're working?
Always. I create playlists for different projects (you can find some of them on my YouTube channel). It’s been interesting working on this music video, because it means I’m listening to that one song sometimes ten or fifteen (or more) times a day when I’m brainstorming. I think my ability to listen to songs on repeat for hours is just a sign that I’m meant to make music videos! For other projects, I find songs that fit the mood of the story and listen to them when I want to get into the right mood. 7) Who do you consider your influences in each field?
Neil Gaiman is probably the biggest inspiration to me in terms of writing. He’s done a little of everything: novels, comics, children’s books, TV and movies, etc. I’d love a career that has that kind of breadth. His novel Neverwhere
was a huge influence on me as a teenager. I’m also a big Stephen King fan, and I love Jeffrey Lent, too. In terms of filmmaking, I have a ton of influences. I love Rob Zombie’s directing, particular The Devil’s Rejects
, which is funny since I have no interest in directing horror. I love Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Sophia Coppola, Christopher Nolan, Peter Jackson, and plenty of others. 8) Do you ever try to "shut down" to recharge your creative batteries, so to speak? Or do you just keep going 24/7?
Very, very rarely I have to take a break from doing creative things and unplug. But that’s only every few months. Otherwise, I’m creating every day. It’s just how I operate. I’m not happy if I’m not doing something productive. 9) Which of your projects was the most difficult to produce? Why? The Steam and Steel Chronicles
has been challenging, mostly because of the time commitment. I’d never done a series before, so taking on a project that is literally taking years to complete has been a little daunting. But I try to push the envelope and challenge myself with each new thing I take on, so each new project is more difficult than the last (at least in theory).
10) How valuable is peer evaluation to you?
It’s a bell curve for me. When I first start out with a new creative endeavor or project, I tend to keep it hidden from everyone. Once I get more comfortable with it, then I embrace feedback from peers. I rarely get my feelings hurt by constructive criticism (okay, there was a person on Authonomy who once made me cry, but not intentionally). Once I get toward the end of a particular project, or once I get more confident in my own abilities in a particular field, then I don’t seek out peer review as much. I have a few key people I value feedback from, but other than that, I go with my own instincts about whether something is good or not.
11) If you could do any project over again, which one would it be, and how would you change it?
I’m not big on revisiting old projects. Once it’s done, it’s done in my mind. I release it into the world and honestly try to forget about it as much as possible. I do have some unreleased manuscripts sitting on my hard-drive that I’d like to rewrite and publish at some point, but other than that, there aren’t really any projects I’d like a do-over on.
12) What is your dream project?
I would love to do a feature film with recognizable talent. I would love to work with someone like Johnny Depp or Jennifer Lawrence or Rachel Weisz or Hugh Jackman. On a slightly more realistic level, I have a script I would love to produce and direct that could be done on a very small budget, and there’s a particular person (Shannon Leto) I would love to star in it. Not sure if that one’s ever going to happen either, but a girl can dream!
13) What's on the horizon for you?
I’ve got a ton of projects coming up. Filmmaking has really become my passion. But I love writing, too. I’m a storyteller at heart, and regardless of the medium, I’m going to keep telling stories.
I hope you enjoyed this interview with this very talented lady.
And I know you're expecting something else special here, too,
And I reckon Cameron won't mind too much, either.
Doesn't just about everyone love a little Johnny Depp?
Ciao for now!
Hello, all! While I'm excitedly making preparations for a visit to the Museo del Ciclismo in Magreglio, Italy, I didn't have a lot of time to prepare a full-bodied Thirteen for today. So I've decided to share a portion of my TBR pile (that's "To Be Read" for those unfamiliar with the term) with all of you, as I've well over the requisite number of books waiting for my attention.
Shameful, I know.
So now, please allow me to present to you:
Thirteen Books (and e-Books) on My 'To Be Read' Pile
1) John Irving: In One Person (Hardcover)
2) Stephen King: The Wind Through the Keyhole (Hardcover)
3) Stephen King: Full Dark, No Stars (Paperback)
4) Matt Shaw: 9 Months - Book One (9 Months Trilogy) (e-book)
5) Tim Krabbe': The Rider (Paperback)
6) Margaret Atwood: The Year of the Flood (Paperback)
7) David Nicholls: One Day (Paperback)
8) Kurt Vonnegut: 2 B R 0 2 B (e-book)
9) Matt Seaton: The Escape Artist (Paperback)
10) Jonathon Budds: Consumed (ebook)
11) Simon A Forward: From Evil With Love (ebook)
12) Graeme Obree: Flying Scotsman (Paperback)
13) Amanda Egan: Diary of a Mummy Misfit (ebook)
And there you have them: Thirteen books which are currently resting atop my TBR pile. Maybe you'll feel compelled to check them out, too, now you've seen them listed here?
At least you'd be reassured of a lovely selection of books for yourself as the autumn nights grow longer and cooler.
You could curl up on the sofa with a cup of cocoa, or coffee, or tea...
And then, you know...
Select a good book and...
Ciao for now!
Hello, everyone! I've been away for a long while, it's true, and haven't posted much until the last couple of weeks. Well, I'm back, and hope to get "back in the saddle" again now I'm in Italy once more.
I thought I'd take advantage of this week's Thursday Thirteen post to share what I've been up to lately, so if you'll permit me, here are
Thirteen Things Which Have
Been Keeping Me Busy!
1) Recovering from Jetlag. After four months in the US (from April to the end of August), it's hard to get back into my normal schedule in Italy. I'm still not quite completely adjusted (if my plans allowed it, I could easily stay up until four a.m. with no problem), but I can get up in the a.m. without wanting to hurt myself or somebody else, so I'm doing as well as can be expected.
When I'm awake, I have, of course, been reading. It feels great to get some reading in, as I've been too distracted and busy all summer to just settle in with a good book. Here are the last three books I've read - all since I've been home.
2) Will You Love Me Tomorrow - Danny Gillan
Some aspiring musicians wait a lifetime for that elusive record deal. Bryan Rivers waited a lifetime plus three days. As if dealing with the suicide of her clinically depressed husband wasn't difficult enough, to Claire Rivers' amazement one of the biggest record companies in the country suddenly wants to offer him a contract. When his status is viewed as only a minor inconvenience, she begins to wonder if someone, somewhere, is playing a very distasteful joke on her. Will You Love Me Tomorrow is a comedy about death, depression, grief, loss, friendship, family, haircuts and the music business.
3) Conversations with S. Teri O'Type
Curt Child is a man who just can't seem to get gay, so he's enlisted the help of his oldest--and gayest--friend S. Teri O'Type to drag him a few inches down The Road to Greater Gayness.(Some of you might remember this title from last week's Thursday Thirteen where I interviewed the author - I'm currently reading the book and am laughing with every page.)
4) The Diary of a Single Parent Abroad - Jill Pennington
When Jill and her family moved to Italy she expected life to change but she had no idea how massive that change would be. Shortly after the move, she discovered her husband had been having an affair and had no intentions of staying in Italy.
Despite being in a foreign country with no income, limited language skills, a house that needed rebuilding and three young children to care for, she never once considered returning to the UK. With strength and determination she accepted any challenge, dismantling a derelict house to ground level, digging out a three metre deep well with her hands to get free water and overcoming her fear of the chainsaw to cut the winter wood. When there was very little money for food she made risotto with nettles collected from the roadside. She overcame many problems, learned new skills and discovered that money is not important, the only things in life that matter are health, happiness and her children.
Jill's story is delivered with an ever present hint of humour because, as she says, 'Without laughter life wouldn't be funny'.
5) I built a bookshelf - at least, that's what I'm calling it. Yes, it's from IKEA. Yes, the kitty seems to approve.
6) In addition to the bookshelf, I've also built two IKEA chairs for the kitchen. Unfortunately, they're a tad wobbly. (Uh-oh.) I'll see if I can sort that out, shortly.
7) I've watched several episodes of Big Bang Theory - including a few I didn't see while in the US!
8) Since the hubby had the chance to stay home and use up some vacation time the first week we were back from the US, we got some serious housework done. As suspected, I needed some good, strong muscle to get it all taken care of. There's more to do (Autumn cleaning?), but the place is looking better all the time!
9) As mentioned above, there was a spur-of-the-moment trip to IKEA.
I maintained control, much to my own astonishment, and walked out having purchased ONLY WHAT I'D GONE IN FOR!!!!! I should have written that day down in my diary...
10) I did another voiceover job. As before, it was fun to do, and Paolo, who does the recording on a professional-grade video camera (no, I'm not filmed, we just tape the audio), is a really sweet guy. Luckily, my hubby was home this time to keep tabs on the kitty and make sure she didn't get into mischief which would have ruined the recording.
11) I renewed my Italian I.D. card. Belatedly.
As in, one year late.
Upon my return home, I found this snail on my sidewalk.
Et tu, Snail?
12) I started sketching out ideas for my next project(s). Included among them are The Off Season (a sequel to 27 Stages) and an untitled novel (a sequel to Ask Me if I'm Happy)
13) Due to my efforts over the summer on my mother's exercise bike, my hubby and I decided to purchase a bike for me when we got home. We selected this one.
Unfortunately we've had some mechanical issues with it, so were trying to get those sorted out. Once we have, I'm hoping to get back to my twenty- and thirty-mile rides again.
Wish me luck!
And there you have them: Thirteen Things Which Have Been Keeping Me Busy!
I'm willing to bet we have some of these in common, right?
Because I know just about every one of you is a busy, busy bee.
And I know the reason most of you normally stop by here.
It's been a long summer, but I haven't forgotten. No way!
And as summer fades into autumn...
How about a little musical interlude?
Yeah, it's good to be back.
Ciao for now!
Four years ago, while I workshopped the original short-story form of Ask Me if I'm Happy on a writing site called URBIS, I read some excerpts from Christopher Allen. We got to be online friends after I rated the excerpts and shared my thoughts on them, and soon we were chatting about things other than books or writing. I thought he was funny and definitely talented - ask other folks, they'll tell you the same! - and I expected to see more of his URBIS project soon.
Well, it took a little longer than expected - these things often do - but now the big day has come! So please, allow me to share with you:
13 Questions for Christopher Allen!
1) What one thing would you want readers to know about you?
That I mean them no harm. I want them to laugh until their bellies jiggle. I want their tear ducts to be cleansed through uproarious giggling fits.
2) Is there a genre you'd like to write in, but haven't tried? If so, why not?
I’ve written in just about every genre out there except western. Is that still what they call it? I remember reading several western mysteries as a teenager, and I liked them very much. I wouldn’t want to write a western, though. Although I have dabbled in science fiction, I’ve never finished a story. Definitely science fiction. Something like Stargate. Big fan.
3) Your previous stories have often had a contemplative or bittersweet quality to them. The new book seems to be a departure from that. Was there a reason for this?
I think contemplative and crazy are just two parts of me that come out at different times. Conversations with S. Teri O’Type has been a wild book to write, and I hope it will be just as wild to read. It’s humor and parody and most of all satire. Nothing here is serious except everything.
4) How much of your real life informs your writing?
My inner life—my worries and my dreams—informs my writing a great deal, but if you mean my day-to-day life of teaching and mowing the lawn and making dinner, etc. I try to keep that separate. There are times that certain situations will spark an idea for a story. The oak in the backyard keeps giving me stories. Then the hedge gave me one. I should spend more time out there.
5) Where have you been published previously?
Most of my work has been published at literary ezines, most recently at SmokeLong Quarterly. Others include A-Minor Magazine, Blue Five Notebook Series, Gone Lawn, Referential Magazine, Every Day Fiction, The Legendary, Pure Slush and Metazen (where I’m an editor). I’ve had non-fiction published at Connotation Press and BootsnAll Travel, and several of my creative non-fiction pieces have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul (print, mass market). I’ve also been very fortunate to have landed in cool short story/flash collections like Flash Fiction Fridays and STRIPPED, a collection of anonymous flash fiction.
6) You live in Europe but you're from the US. Does being an expat affect your writing style?
It certainly does, I’m just not sure how. I wish I could go back and forth between parallel universes and see Christopher Allen in Nashville vs. Christopher Allen in Munich. I’m sure I’ve become a different person, so of course my writing style has developed differently. Maybe this is the science fiction novel I’ll end up writing. Or not. I am certainly more secluded her than I would have been if I’d stayed in Nashville. Seclusion is good for writing.
7) What is your typical writing workday like?
I wake up at around 6a.m. I used to get up at 5a.m. but I’ve trained my body to lie there and suck it up for another hour. I turn on my computer and let the old bag boot while I make coffee. I check my e-mails, I check facebook, I check my blog, I sip my coffee, I check Twitter. I chat with people in the US who’ve not gone to bed yet. I sip my coffee. I notice the piles of reminders on my desk. Here are the ones I’m looking at today. March AWP! Indie Author News! Check SmokeLong! Message classes about tomorrow!! Gay Book Club NYC!!! Edit “Furniture”! My notes tend to scream at me. I start checking off the things on the list, which is much longer than this. I haven’t listed the names of people I’m working with on interviews and such. I take a nap because my shoulder is hurting. You get the picture. I should be writing, but I’ve just come back from vacuuming the kitchen.
8) Which writers have influenced/inspired you?
I love writers like Chuck Palahnuik and Daniel Handler and Lucy Ellmann and Julie Innis. One of my favorite writers is Jincy Willett. I love all these people for their sharp wit and exciting prose. I want to be all of them when I get taller. I’ve never lost hope.
9) Do you have a "target audience"?
All people on planet Earth would be nice. Doing the math, I think that would make me the richest man on planet Earth. But let’s say that doesn’t happen. I would hope that people—not just gay men—who love humor and stories that break away from the mold just a bit would love, or at least read, or at least buy, Conversations with S. Teri O’Type. The cover is very pretty, so it would look great on coffeetables and bathroom shelves. It is a story about a man in his mid-forties who has never learned how to be gay, so . . . um . . . I see this is the next question. Moving right along . . .
10) What is this book about?
So Curt, a dysfagtional man in his mid-forties, enlists the help of a self-proclaimed “gayru” to help him get gay. It’s a farcical jaunt down the Road to Greater Gayness, an absurd tale, a train wreck of sorts between a guy who thinks he knows nothing and a monster who thinks he knows everything.
11) When did you first get the idea for this particular book?
I wrote the first Conversation on an online workshop in 2008 I believe. Fifteen of the 30 Conversations were born in the online workshop, but the story actually took shape much later. It has been a long process. Deciding what Curt, the narrator, really wants came much later than 2008.
12) Was this book inspired by anyone in your life?
It’s funny you ask that. My partner, who read half of the book on a plane last week, thinks he’s Curt. And maybe there are aspects of Curt in him. I remember once when we were living in London in 1998, he hung all the pictures in the living room very very close to the ceiling. I was shocked, and we had a “little” argument about it. Everyone knows pictures are supposed to be hung at eye-level, don’t they? This may have been the first time I thought, Hmmm not all gay men can hang a picture. And this might have been the germ for the book. Other than that one moment, Teri and Curt represent an elephant-in-the-room dialogic among gay men: To Be or Not to Beyoncè—which became one of the later Conversations.
13) You really are adorable, aren't you? (readers of Christopher's I Must Be Off blog will get that one...)
Yes! I really really am adorable. It’s true. Some people don’t believe it, but when they meet me in person, they often pinch my fat little cheeks. Just don’t shove past me in a bar.
Christopher Allen is the author of the adult cartoon satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type
. In 2011, Allen was a finalist at Glimmer Train and a Pushcart Prize nominee. He blogs at www.imustbeoff.com
Well, now I'm getting back to serious work on my WiP, I thought I'd share some of the visual shorthand I've been using while creating it. So please, allow me to present to you:
Thirteen Characters from
1) Federico "Ciccio" Renard - cyclist (AltaVeloCidad).
Although he's half-French and half-Italian, the inspiration for Federico comes from both a Swiss rider and an Italian rider, who happen to be two of my favorites: Fabian Cancellara and Daniele Bennati.
2) Abigail McGann-White - amateur photographer.
Abigail is another character with a split nationality.Her father is American, her mother is British. Born in the US, she's lived in England with her mother since she was seventeen. Now forty years old, Abigail is dealing with a number of issues of identity and working to determine what she wants from her life. My visual inspiration for her is harder to pin down, but this stock image made a good starting point:
3) Jerzy Jankowski - lead directeur sportif/team manager/Svengali for team Alta VeloCidad. This was another instance where I saw a photo by chance and thought: That's the look, right there. Of course, Polish actor Łukasz Simlat is much, much younger than Jerzy, but the photo below shows some of the intensity I picture every time I write about the team's boss.
4) Charles White - Abigail's husband, a barrister in the UK. I'm sure quite a few readers, should they see this, will be rather displeased with me. LOL! But I thought Colin Firth was a perfect model to build Charles on - particularly since he has that "proper" air about him at times, but could also have a slightly "deviant" side, too, as Charles does.
5) Heinrich Brunn - cyclist (AltaVeloCidad). Brunn, a German cyclist, was much harder to pin down. I had more of an "archetype" in mind when he started taking shape, but there was one cyclist in particular he seemed to resemble - at least, physically. No matter, this is fiction after all.
6) Romuald "Robaczku" Brodowski - cyclist (AltaVeloCidad). When I saw this photo of French actor Stanislas Merhar, I knew I'd found my Rom.
7) Adrie "Major" Meijer - cyclist. Athough he's a different type of rider, and a different nationality, Italian Filippo Pozzato (to my everlasting chagrin) has similar physical attributes to Austrian super-domestique Adrie. Temperamentally, however, I don't think they could be farther apart. LOL!
8) Jurgen Schlessinger - cyclist (Maxxout). This character is probably Federico's strongest competitor in the sport, and still he is someone I have a lot of sympathy for. In my mind, he's the also-ran always struggling in Federico's wake, a sort of Salieri to Federico's Mozart, if you will. (I'm seriously considering a short story from his POV, too.) He's played in my mind by Gerald Ciolek.
9) Solange Melo - model, former "podium girl", Federico's fiancée. I don't know the name of the girl in the photo, here, but she's a podium girl for the Tour de France. Solange is a model just starting to make waves, but her ambition proves to be a bit too much for Federico's taste.
10) Pascal Savreux - professional photographer, French, an acquaintance of Abigail's. From the start, I've had in mind a Vincent Cassel-type, just a little rounder and a little softer 'round the edges. The fact he's closer to Abigail's age makes him an appealing potential disruption to her plans.
11) Alvaro and Teodoro Mendoza - twin brothers, Spanish, cyclists (AltaVeloCidad).
Almost in spite of myself, I wound up picturing the Haedo brothers (Sebastian and J.J.) when I wrote these characters, even though they aren't twins (thank goodness). There are loads of brother acts in cycling, though.
12) Philip Mason - cyclist (AltaVeloCidad). Welshman Geraint Thomas is a good fit for Philip, a British rider with a bizarre sense of humor, which is shared with his roommate, James.
13) James Bradford - cyclist (AltaVeloCidad). Alex Dowsett was another rider who came to mind when writing many of the scenes when the riders are off the road. There's just something about his facial expressions which came to mind during James' and Philip's cutting up at various points in the story.
And there you have 13 Characters from 27 Stages - my current Work in Progress.
I think you might agree there's a little something for everyone in this story, eh?
And if not, well, c'est la vie!
At any rate, I hope to include something that'll please a few of my regulars.
I'm a giver!
Ciao for now!
That's right! Ask Me if I'm Happy is now back in e-book format, and is currently available on Smashwords. If you've wanted a copy for your e-reader, now's the time to act! But don't worry - it won't be going away anytime soon. ;-)Also, if you've already read Ask Me... and would like a short, sexy read to pass the time, the prequel novella "Alternate Rialto" is also available on Smashwords, as well as on BN.com for the NOOK e-reader.Here's the blurb:All Emily Miller wants from her trip to Italy is the chance to get over her recent breakup. Watching her beautiful best friend Jenn revel in the attention of countless available men isn't helping matters. After arriving in Venice for the final week of their trip, hurt and disappointed, Emily strikes out on her own.
After a chance encounter in a paper shop, she finds herself the object of the affections of a handsome Venetian named Jacopo. At his invitation, she decides to throw caution to the wind and take a chance on a once-in-a-lifetime fling. Before she can do so, however, Emily must let go of the pain of her past and learn how to trust her own judgment in matters of the heart. Nevertheless, as Jacopo reveals more about himself and his surprisingly long-term intentions toward her, Emily comes to realize that in Venice, not all the masks are put away after Carnevale.
I feel like I'm slowly getting back on track after a very unproductive holiday-filled six weeks. It's been difficult -- much harder than I'd have anticipated, actually. However, I'm determined to get back into the proper headspace for 27 Stages, and I made a little headway last night, thanks in part to a documentary Alle and I watched about Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi. Yesterday was the fifty-first anniversary of Coppi's death from malaria at the age of forty-one, and since Coppi was one of Italy's greatest cyclists
, it is not a day likely to pass without commemoration in this country.
Memorial to Coppi at Pordoi Pass, Italy.
Just about every fan of cycling is aware of who Coppi is. The son of farmers in the Apennines in Northwest Italy, he rose to the heights of his chosen sport, fought in World War II, then returned to compete and achieve further acclaim as Italy worked to find its footing as a nation once again. Only his affair with a married woman -- while still married himself -- managed to tarnish his reputation in many eyes, and brought him into conflict with the laws of that time.
It's hard for me to imagine, now, that an extramarital affair could be punished by sending the participants to prison. It's hard to imagine how strongly he must have felt for "la dama in bianco" -- "the woman in white", as she was described in the press at the time -- that he would be willing to endure such public outcry (which included being spat on by spectators of the races he rode) and criticism (from no less than the Pope himself).
But he did.
He loved her and gave up his family and a good deal of his popular acclaim in order to be with her. Right or wrong, he followed his heart and did what he thought he had to in order to be with her. They dealt with the consequences, started their family (they had a son in spite of the fact they couldn't legally wed in Italy) and tried to go forward together. In the end, of course, it didn't work out the way they'd planned. Coppi died after contracting malaria during a safari trip in Burkina Faso. (The malady was misdiagnosed as influenza when it emerged after his return to Italy.)
In the last few weeks, I've seen this documentary and I've read William Fotheringham's biography of Coppi. Viewing what Coppi went through makes the prose on the page still more vivid.
After watching the documentary on television yesterday, Coppi has been on my mind even more: what he sacrificed and what he salvaged, who he loved and who he hurt, his own private losses throughout it all (his brother, Serse, who became a cyclist after Fausto did, died after crashing during the final sprint in the Giro del Piemonte in 1951).
And all of this gets turned over and over in my head, tiny elements sticking together and becoming a different whole.
Coppi in a breakaway. There is a lithograph of this in my living room.
I'm thinking a lot about what I've written so far in 27 Stages
. Yes, it's fiction, but it's clear to me that the stakes need to be raised, the risks need to be greater than what I've written up to now. I know, if only because the reality is so much greater than anything I could ever invent, I need to do my damnedest to do the stories justice.
Because their stories deserve no less.
As I start to write this, it is 10:30 in the morning. In twenty-four hours I'll be waiting to board my flight (a whole two-hour journey) to London out of Bologna.
My bags are almost completely packed (just a few items to go).
I've read and re-read my excerpts for the readings until I'm nearly sick of seeing 'em.
I've decided on my outifits for the launch and the readings. (Dressy, not fussy; quite "me", really.)
When Alle and I arrive in London, we'll find my mother and my friend who are waiting for us there (their flight gets in earlier), and we'll get them to the hotel. We'll rest, have dinner, and then?
My nerves will start kicking in and I'll become a chattering, blithering idiot, most likely. LOL! Not that anyone can tell the difference, I reckon.
No, I'm sure we'll have a quick toddle around our neighborhood before we retire to our rooms, chat and then get some rest. Thursday morning, to one degree or another, my London adventure will begin. I hope things go smoothly, and that I don't actually make a fool of myself in front of anyone.
To quote the Grateful Dead (and when you think London, don't you just think of Jerry and the gang?) "What a long, strange trip it's been..." I mean, I started out writing this little short story which I initially meant to be just for me and mine, and instead it became something much, much bigger - both literally and figuratively.
In the end, a story about Bologna is taking me to London, and then back home again where the real world will intrude once more - and regularly at that. I'll have to look on the next ten days as something out of the norm, and cross my fingers and hope and wish and pray that all goes as well as it can.
And then I'll have to knuckle down and get to writing again. I want to see where the next story takes me.