Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Anne-Marie De Ruvo

I am in the process of writing Day Care, a novel about four single moms whose daughters go to the same day care. The women, although from very different backgrounds support each other through a variety of daily problems and crises.

To develop my characters, I am about to interview them one by one.

Anne-Marie De Ruvo will go first. She is an attractive woman with dark hair cut into a Dutch Boy. She wears jeans and a sweater. Around her neck is a scarf tied in a way I couldn't figure out. So French.

Me: Anne-Marie you moved from France to Massachusetts. Why?

AMDR: My husband is the CEO of a company that wanted an American presence. He set up a Boston office. He went to Harvard Business School and loved the area.

Me: Was the transition hard for you?

AMDR: My father was in the French diplomatic corp and we had several postings in different countries like Japan and South Africa, so going into a new culture wasn't that difficult. I found a job teaching French literature at Brandeis. It's my passion.

Me: You have two children?

AMDR: Twin girls, almost four. My husband thought I should be a femme de foyer, a stay-at-home mom after they were born. I worked too hard to get my diploma at the Sorbonne. Also, I hate being dependent. The idea of asking Jean-Marc for money to buy him a present is just, how do you say, degrading. Besides, I like working, the research, the lectures--Also I love what I do so much that it isn't working, n'est pas?

Me: Yet you asked your husband for a divorce.

AMDR: I did. Jean-Marc was a good husband in the sense that he provided for us well. We had a McMansion in Reading. He never was nasty. It was just . . . just . . . It was like I was part of the furniture. My wants, needs, loves didn't matter. I guess it is his being part of the aristocracy, although he's the second son. Lucas, his older brother, will inherit everything.

Me: But that isn't the reason to ask . . .

AMDR: For a divorce. No. I'm not very proud of it, but I feel in love with an Irish prof. We talk about everything that Jean-Marc has no interest in. There's a problem, though.

Me: And that is?

AMDR: He's married. It was over a year ago, he asked me to marry him. We would break up with our spouses. I asked for a divorce the same day, but Jean-Marc wanted to work things out until he didn't. When we separated, Jean-Marc moved back to Paris. However, Sean still hasn't spoken to Allison, that's his wife.

Me: I nod.

AMDR: I am also afraid if Jean-Marc finds out I'm having an affair with a married man he'll want custody of the girls. I know the French are suppose to understand these things, but he is very possessive. He is always pressuring me to return to Paris. He complains that the girls are not getting enough French, even though I only speak to them in French, when we are alone. Otherwise it has to be English.

Me: Are you worried that Sean won't leave his wife?

AMDR: (Plays with the left end of her scarf). Sometimes. (She glances at her watch.) I'd love to talk more, but I am late picking up the twins. She kisses me on each cheek, puts on her coat and is out the door.

The next interview will be with Maura O'Connor D'Orlando, a divorce. Her daughter Violet has many medical problems.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019


I stopped at Chez Elisabeth for my daily dose of fresh veggies and fruit. At the counter was a woman wearing a Hijab. I heard my name mentioned and joined their conversation.

This led into a 20 minute discussion, three women concerned about the world. The woman was born in Carcassonne, but was of Algerian descent. Her two-year old son was with her and patiently waited for his mom to finish. The upshot of the conversation is that we will have coffee sometime in the near future to build on the meeting.
La Noisette is at the end of the street. We've been through three owners, but it still consider it an extension of our flat a few houses away. It could be for breakfast, tea or lunch. It is a meeting place.

A writer friend and I used it for a free-write session. Since she is now very occupied, I've started to got here mornings for a short writing session, a prime-the-pump for my day's writing.

The only problem is how many people we know.

Today, Eric, the former chef was there. Then there was the couple with the lab who knows I have and will give biscuits to him.

The mamie (old woman of the village) and I had photos for her which ended up with me treating her to coffee.

There is something very, very special about an ordinary errand to stopping for a cup of tea into  something social. I enjoy the warmth of good human relations.

It makes ordinary transactions personal.

At one time I worried I would be isolated in this village. Silly, silly me.

Monday, January 14, 2019


1 unreasonably or perversely unyielding : mulish
2 justifiably unyielding : resolute

I am a published writer because I am stubborn.

Stubbornly, I kept at it, before work, after work, hours spent at the computer (and earlier IBM Selectric).

Stubborn because I took courses, attended conferences and workshops to polish my craft

Stubborn because I joined a writers' circle, which gave me hope.

Stubborn because I kept submitting stories to contests and every now and then I won one. It gave me hope. Then I had a story read on BBC radio giving me more hope. It rewarded stubborn.

I remember reading Jim Davis, cartoonist of Garfield saying to aspiring cartoonists. Don't give up. What if you're rejected 17 times and you give up, but the 18th would have been a yes and you'd have missed it if you gave up. That is not an exact quote, but it kept me sending my first and second novels out and out and out and...

Chickpea Lover: Not a Cookbook, won first prize in a literary contest. The prize was having it submitted to a publisher who kept it two years and rejected it.

Here's where stubborn kicked in.

Not caring that publishers said they didn't want multiple submissions, I mass mailed it. Rejections poured in. There were at least 40 before I received an email that Five Star in Maine that wanted to publish it.

This will help me get an agent, I thought. I mass mailed to over 30 agents saying I had an offer for my novel, I needed an agent. Few replied. In the negative.

I found an agent, but only because I met her personally at a conference.

The novel was published in Russia because my agent deliberately left a copy on the nightstand  of the Russian literary agent who was visiting.

Eleven novels, a non-fiction book, a short-story collaboration with writers from all over the world and a blog collection later, I'm still writing.

My stubbornness is the reason that I am living in Europe. As a new bride, my husband, an Army musician, was stationed in Stuttgart Germany. I wanted to stay. He did not. Because I also wanted a degree (another example of my stubbornness as I fought my way through despite marital disapproval) going back was not totally awful.

Once single, I plotted ways to move abroad.

At one point I'd sold everything I owned and moved only to have my mother develop cancer. I went back to Boston until she died.

I set myself a goal. If I couldn't find a job in 2,000 CVs (resumes), it wasn't meant to be. I flew to France to get help wanted papers (pre-Internet days) I used directories of French companies and my membership in the International Association of Business Communicators.

I carried piles of applications to the post.

About the 800th resume, I saw an ad in the International Herald Tribune: The wants were:
  • Knows Digital Equipment Corporation
  • Speaks English, German, French
I knew DEC. I'd helped set up their credit union earlier.

My German was rusty, my French almost non existent.

It wasn't France, but Switzerland, which I'd never tried because getting working permission was next to impossible. The last line of the ad read, "We'll get working papers."

I faxed a resume and within minutes there was a response. That was July. In September, I was seated at my desk in Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland.

Stubborn to work for the things I want? Oh yes!

But I have a theory--I will do whatever I can to make something happen and then let fate decide.

Fate has been good to me. But that would be another blog.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Writer's thinking

When I was working on Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles, my first non-fiction book about abortion I was obsessed. I read books, dug deeply into the web, Youtubes, sought out people to interview. I wrote and rewrote, arranged and rearranged.

After it was finished and published, my daughter started sending the book to legislatures, judges, and pro-life people.

Then it was time to return to my fiction writing.

I couldn't. The only thing I could write were blogs.

Until this point in my life, my head was full of words. I would see a mother and child walking down the street and I would not only write in my head a description but if I were alone, there would be an entire story about their conversation.

In a restaurant, store, home in my head I was writing descriptions.

Before CHAKN, when I was with people I would be noting what they were wearing, what they looked like.

During the summer we had an active social life, but the words about who we saw, where we were and what we did weren't there.

At first I thought it might be because my publisher had decided to only publish westerns, something I didn't want to write. The hopes of new publisher became a possibility, which helped about 20%.

I reworked Murder in Edinburgh and sent it off to the new publisher.

I thought the block it might be because although I lived with Annie, my mystery character, so long that it was time for her to move on. I saw her become comfortable with her self as she grew to appreciate her Third Culture Kid upbringing, get married and have a daughter. There were other books I wanted to write.

Years before I me Annie in my firt TC book, I had written Triple Decker, about an Irish Catholic Bostonian family touched by the loss of a son in Afghanistan. With hopes of publication either with a publisher or Indie, I reworked it.

My husband read it, proclaimed it the best thing I ever wrote. He can be a tough critic, so I know his review wasn't out of love. One way or another it will be published by the end of the year.

I've started Day Care, about four single mothers, with their daughters in day care (DUH!) and how they support themselves. I find it hard to concentrate although like my other books, the characters have become real to me. They can sit on my couch, share a cup of tea and tell me what they are willing and not willing to do.

But still the constant writing in my head was hiding.

Until yesterday.

I took my journaling book (last entry 2017) and the handmade fountain pen that my husband gave me for Christmas to La Noisette, ordered a hot chocolate and a croissant. The words flowed. Details, I hadn't seen jumped up and down in front of my eyes.

Three pages later I went to the pharmacy. Words were in my head on the walk. As I sat waiting for my number to be called, words about the posters, the products, the clients were in my head.

When I got home, working on Day Care wasn't a slog. Ashley, the lawyer in my book, sat on the bed behind the desk, and told me it was about time I got back to work and she was happy for me.

Sherlock the dog also jumped up on the bed and didn't notice Ashley. He wanted to play, so interruptions will still be part of my life.

I just hope the words keep running through my head.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Government Shutdown

The power to end the government shutdown is not with Trump, Pelosi, Schumer or Congress.

The power is with the Air Traffic Controllers who are not being paid. Some are already calling in sick. Others are said to be quitting. The Air Traffic Controllers' Union is already suing Trump as of 11 January.

That is enough.

All controllers need to give a 24-hour announcement that they will no longer work without pay. That is time time needed to make sure the airways are cleared both in the US and flights to the US.

With all air traffic non existent, business would scream so loudly never mind the people who need and want to travel, that the government would have to respond and reopen the government.

Yes it would be costly, but so is the stupid shutdown.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


My Foibles

Sometimes I feel sorry for my poor husband who has to put up with my foibles. Looking at the definition above I prefer when it refers to an idiosyncrasy, quirk or eccentricity than to weakness, failing etc. Some might say it is borderline OCD (Obsessive/Compulsive/Disorder).

One foible is apparent in the sentence above. No Oxford comma, one of the main areas of dispute in our marriage. Another is my love of the word albeit.

I'm a neat freak, but my definition of neat. 
  • Neat means clear surfaces and if there is sculpture or a decoration there, just that, nothing else. 
  • I shudder at dishes in the sink unless soaking. If you put it down in the sink it is just as easy to put it in the dishwasher, one step instead of two or worse leaving it for someone else. This does not apply to Geneva. Don't ask me why. I don't know. I haven't claimed rational.
  • I love color coded coat hangers (red me, purple him, white for things to be ironed, BUT its okay to have closets that are stuffed in any order.) I would love to have everything arranged in rainbow order on the racks and all things neatly folded. I often arrange things that way, but keeping it is hard. No, make it impossible.
  • We have wonderful steak knives bought when we went through the knife-making village in France. I always take the far right one(s) and rotate the rest up so none will be used more than another.
I believe I am not 100% OCD because although I like the bath towels hung with the rough edges to the left and the patterns matching and overlapping, I can survive when they don't end up that way.

I need systems. Every centime I spend, goes into an Excel spread sheet. I usually plan what I am going to wear the night before or two nights or more. The same with meals when it is my day to cook.

A foible is not wanting to shop if there is an alternative and to spend minimal time in a shopping mall. My idea to go directly to the store needed, don't look left or right, get what I need and escape as fast as possible. He is more than welcome to browse all he wants. I'll wait in the car with a book.

I also never, ever want to buy a replacement for anything that still works nor to have two of anything when one will do or three of something when two will do, etc. 

I know my husband loves me because he keeps his eye rolling to a minimum.

At the same time I am OCD that he has a warm robe and towel, his pjs are preheated in the winter and that he plays golf whenever he wants. I want him to feel free to tell me what he did wrong (as I do him when I've blown something) and that he can talk to me about anything. I want him to be able to follow whatever passions he has. He can be free to tease me about my foibles. 

In the bigger picture my foibles are not so important to me, that I can't laugh at myself for them.

Excuse me now, I have to go check out the bathroom towels.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019


This is not a doughnut. It is shampoo, part of our attempt to cut down on the use of plastic. It's not easy.

I can eliminate detergent plastic bottles with powder BUT when I opened the box, the powder was in plastic bags. Still it is an improvement.

Liquid soap can be replaced with the bar soap. My favorite is Dove.

Juices and soft drinks can come in recyclable cans and bottles, but cranberry juice is only sold in plastic bottles. I wrote them, as an exercise in feeling better about it. I don't expect a response. No more cranberry juice. Milk is sold only in plastic. Since milk makes me gag, I tend to use it only in cooking. The ocean will not be clogged with my milk purchases.

I almost never use cling film or aluminum foil preferring the beeswax wraps. I never used plastic containers because I didn't want my food touching plastic any more than I would cook with teflon because of the chemicals. We have mason jars for storage.

I still need to find bar hair conditioner.

I doubt if we will be able to find non-plastic mouth wash and considering my ability to drop things, a glass container in the bathroom might lead to increased use of bandaids.

On cleaning products I never got into the hype that I needed thousands of different products. My dish washing liquid was used for everything. Dental tablets worked great on the toilet.

I am underwhelmed with the bar shampoo, and I know there are other brands available. When I use it, I remember that once every housewife would make her own soap out of fats and ashes.

We will never be a plastic-free household. Our small lack of contribution to the sea of plastic filling our dumps and oceans, is infinitesimal. Maybe when I talk about it, someone else will start to cut back and they will motivate someone else and it will spread.

The other problem I have with my shampoo, is every time I use it, I imagine going into Dunkin' Donuts and getting a doughnut straight from the oven or a crispy cruller. I can almost smell them baking.