Sunday, August 26, 2012


The Muses started out as nymphs then evolved into the goddess daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus.
KALLIOPE (Calliope) – Muse of epic poetry - symbol: an iPad.
KLIO (Clio) – Muse of history – symbol: a scroll.
ERATO Muse of erotic and lyrical poetry – symbol: a kithara (hefty lyre).

EUTERPE – muse of music, song, elegiac poetry – symbol: an aulos (flute).
MELPOMENE – muse of tragedy – symbol: a sad mask.
POLYHYMNIA – muse of  pantomime, rhetoric, hymns - symbol: a veil.
TERPSICHORE – muse of dance and choral music – symbol: lyre.
THALIA – muse of comedy – symbol: a happy mask.
URANIA – muse of astronomy and geometry – symbols: globe, compass.

Presumably because we need all the help we can get, writers get the first seven muses but artists get none. What? It’s not as if there was no art in ancient Greece, heck, you can see some of it above. This is puzzling. Of course there is ATHENA the goddess of Arts and Crafts but she’s not a muse. Muses are goddesses but, apparently, goddesses aren’t muses.

Anyway, since there are nine muses, why not nine arts? I’ll see your muses and raise you three arts:
     1) ART (painting, drawing)
     2) POETRY (we assume this includes literature)
     4) DANCE
     5) MUSIC
     7) CINEMA
     8) FRAGRANCE  (or  COMICS. . .  More on comics.)
The CINEMA would have all the muses for inspiration and the muses of COMICS would have to be Hergé, Moebius and Gil Kane. But who'd be the muses of Architecture, Fragrance and haute cuisine?  
 Any ideas?
                                                      Disney's muses from HERCULES                                            

Monday, August 20, 2012


When soliciting the services of a literary agent, authors are urged to write an exquisitely-wrought query letter that follows strict guidelines and also includes a taste of our writing style, including an irresistibly intriguing sentence that will “hook” agents and make them instantly yearn to read our book.

In other words, it’s our job to interest the agent in 300 words or fewer. This is an understandable request and an enjoyable challenge but I’d like to respectfully suggest that agents do the same for us. Pique our interest in a similar way. I too would like a taste of the agenting style and personality of the person who’s going to represent me in the publishing world. A well-crafted sentence, preferably written by you the agent, that will hook me, show me what kind of person I’d be working with and make me want to write many books for you to represent. Example: “I’m a soft-hearted hand-holder and will nurse you and your book along. I like kittens and ice cream.” Or “I’m a hands-off agent but a ferocious contract negotiator. My hobbies are target shooting, fencing and chess.”

There’s precious little personal information on most agent’s websites. Words like: “Handles, seeks, represents” are what usually follow an agent’s CV and list of
represented authors. Not much to go on when making a choice. You may have a fabulous reputation but how are we to know about it? Occasionally an online interview gives some insight but it’s a rare agent who’s generous enough to write about what they’re like and what they like. I’m so grateful when I come across these agents and always so sorry when they don't represent my type of fiction.

Agents need writers as much as writers need them in this age of self-publication and e-books. Without us, you’d have nothing to represent, nothing to get a percentage of. Without you, who’d know about our scintillating work, let alone publish it? It also seems you have so many queries you don't have time to respond unless you're interested; providing more information on what you're looking for would cut down on misdirected queries. So, agents, please give us something more than a photo and a CV to base our choice on. After all we give you a whole book to judge us by. The least you could do is give us a well-crafted paragraph.    

Sunday, August 12, 2012


JOHN LE CARRRE knows how to create ambiance and whole characters with one sentence, sometimes, one word. His characters always writhe with thought and anguish and his plots are never dull although recently they’ve not had the same empirical intimacy as his spy novels. Le Carré is one of the few male writers who can create not only a believable female character but one who lives thrillingly on the page and with whom a female reader can identify; like Tess, in THE CONSTANT GARDNER. Rachel Weisz won as Oscar for playing her exactly as vividly written. Le Carré can do back-story like nobody else, you hardly notice you’ve slipped into it and you're even sorry to get back to the main story. None of the movies made from his books have come close to doing the books justice which, I think, tells you how good his writing is. Or maybe, how crap the directors are at capturing his worlds. It’s not the actors’ fault, they’re always wonderful but I think you have to be English to successfully direct a le Carré novel. The wonderful BBC television series of TINKER, TAILOR, SAILOR, SPY almost captured Smiley’s tortured but razor-sharp persona and the general murk of the times. A now we can look forward to the film of A MOST WANTED MAN, with Robin Wright, possibly Willem Dafoe and directed by Anton Corbijn.
My favorites: THE HONORABLE SCHOOLBOY,  A PERFECT SPY, THE NIGHT MANAGER (Soon to be a major motion picture from Brad Pitt’s production company and Paramount Pictures).

ANNIE PROULX can break your heart and make you squirm. She knows that terrible things can and do happen to people and this is such a relief from relentlessly unrealistic happy outcomes we usually find in books and movies.  She knows life is hard and unrewarding for most people, that we tell ourselves too many lies based on television shows and movies. Harsh reality is the only villain in many of her stories. CLOSE RANGETHE SHIPPING NEWS                                                                   

Sunday, August 5, 2012


 When my friend Sam (whose real name is Ralph) bought a new boat in the UK, he sailed her back home to Cannes through the beautiful canals of France and on the way, he stopped in the Port de Paris. Who knew there was a port in Paris?  In fact there are many, including: le Port des Champs Elysées, le Port de la Concorde, le Port des Tuileries (The best way to get to the Louvre: tie up near the Pont du Carrousel, step off the boat and there you are.)  
     What a wonderful thing to get a call from an old friend who usually only writes once a year at Christmas time from Cannes which he considers the centre of the universe: “Come to dinner and see my new home.” And what another wonderful thing to be able to take a taxi to the Port de la Concorde instead of a TGV to visit Sam at home. 
     The new boat (it’s considered crass to call a yacht a yacht, apparently) was much more luxurious and comfortable than Sam’s previous boat. Its gleaming wood paneled “salon”— I’m not good at nautical terms—was warm and cozy and Sam's dinner, made in the tiny galley, was delicious. Afterwards, the bliss of cognacs on the poop deck patio overlooking the magnificent Pont Alexandre III with the Seine slapping at the quai. 
     What a wonderful thing to be able to move your home around the world and find a different city at the end of your gangplank every now and then.  
     I subsequently spent many summers in Cannes on Sam’s boat although I’m not really a boat person.  I tend to like my boats attached to a quai and I panic if we put out to sea; all that vastness and deepness and wetness with whales and octopi, ugh.  But I do enjoy bobbing about, finding my sea legs and having endless summer meals on deck with a chilled rosé and radishes carved like roses and lots of laughs.  I like being able to walk down to the shops for chocolate truffles, saucisson à l'ail, soup de poissons and the other fabulous food to be found on the rue d’Antibes and in the pungent market. 
     It’s a wonderful thing to get up in the morning and see the misty blue Esterel, Le Suquet dominating the orange tiled roofs of the old town, smell the marine diesel fuel and hear the sound of rigging slapping against masts.