As our world grows increasingly smaller it’s easier than ever to seek refuge in the comfort of familiar places. Yet, we live in a time when thoughts and ideas manifest in flashes of delight, th blink of an eye and round-the-world travel is at the fingertips of risk takers and adventurers alike. I see Marco Polo and Gertrude Bell in the men and women I met abroad. Sharing the road, sharing tales of individual split-second experiences worth more than time itself.

I started blogging back in 2012, shortly after moving to Jordan — not only to share my story and to learn from others, but to inspire, to instill the momentum it takes to lace up ones boots and hit the road. It wasn’t until I found myself alone in a most foreign country that I felt the hot passion of life. Where my native tongue was about as useful as the moo! of a cow and most the time, I had no idea what the hell I was putting in my mouth… but it tasted good and I wanted more! And that is why you must hit the road.

Don’t be victimized by the culture of fear. Our planet is waiting to be explored, to reveal it’s secrets to you, to me, to any who dare ask, it will expose you to the raw truths of life. To the quarks of distant cultures and alien tongues. To disgusting foods and delicious cuisines, to dangerous and countless blessings.

Let’s take control of 2015. Don’t be afraid to leap without looking. I encourage you to take off the training wheels and take the road less traveled.

-Yallah!

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What an immense pleasure it was joining fellow author Maria Rochelle in what became quite a revealing conversation… A discussion on travel, literature, writing, life, love and losing oneself in the beautiful madness of all things.

Since reading Knausgaard i’ve determined to take several wide steps away from the ego (easier said than done, right!). Giving my literature room for accuracy, honesty. It’s too easy to dress yourself up with fancy words, credentials, achievements etc. but what I want to hear, what I need to hear, comes from the fabric of reality — the truth.

So, it’s my objective this year to be more honest, with myself as much as others. Learning to say “no” more, and feeling less obliged to the prophetic “yes.” And in turn, taking care of my very self — I have a tendency to overcompensate, to be “too nice,” as they say.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy our conversation and be sure to visit Maria’s work as well. As a multi-genre author, she’s covered some very impressive territory, including her tour de force children’s series, Jasmine Dreams.

Read the full interview here.

On Reading and Translating the World’s Stories: Catching Up with Ann Morgan — Discover

Book blogger Ann Morgan of A Year of Reading the World had a fantastic 2015. We caught up with Ann and chatted about connecting with fellow book lovers, translating more of the world’s stories into English, and her unique journey from blogger to author and speaker.

On Reading and Translating the World’s Stories: Catching Up with Ann Morgan — Discover

Translation, an art growing every more demanding as our world grows increasingly smaller. Cross-cultural connections, empathy, compassion, and the peace process are all contingent upon our understanding of one another. Translations and transference of foreign language works is one of the greatest approaches to recognizing our essential needs and desires.


“A line will take us hours maybe,
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching have been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather—
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world. “

So there you have it: writing is hard work. Now, the question remains, what will you do with this condemnation? Will you pitter and patter and moan and groan (which is my general state): or, will you buckle up and DO the hard thing, the work?

“So a weird thing about making money writing words and making money doing art and sometimes making money writing code is that people really want to define what it is you do, exactly. This becomes especially important when people are, for example, a publisher who needs to see your book or a radio show that is having you on to talk about your book.

And one of the words those people decide to use is “journalist” and when you hear those words your internal organs start to collapse and maybe you want to have a nervous breakdown. For reasons. And you ask them not to use it and they use it anyway.

That being said: I have had bylines in real publications! Writing things that involve actual facts and not just opines about things in the world (OK sometimes opines too though). I interview people, I transcribe interviews, I file records requests, and I fact-check with sources before going to publish things. That all sounds like journalism, Ingrid. Why can’t you be an artist and journalist?

This isn’t a blog post about my extremely goth tortured relationship to why I can’t ever be a Real Journalist (TLDR: imagine how you’d feel about being adequate enough to be a journalist when your role model for journalism is your dead father who covered Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination). This is about the blurring of art and journalism as a consequence of late capitalism and the attention economy, and why that’s worrying. I don’t think that it’s bad to do art and do journalism, I just think it’s important to have clear boundaries between art and journalism, and in a moment where basically all forms of self expression (be they art, journalism, or tweets) are boiled down to interchangeable commodities, it’s really easy to ignore those boundaries, and that’s bad for both art and journalism.

ALthough, this is based on a very specific (and, probably, naively antiquated) idea of what constitutes “journalism” and what constitutes “art.” Journalism is a field that, as far as I understand it, is defined really strongly by its mandate to serve a “public interest” (which can mean a lot of things) and by an assumed code of ethics. It’s not really a Hippocratic Oath-type code. Guidelines and codes of ethics for journalism are mostly defined and published by professional associations and can vary from institution to institution.

Here’s one from The Society of Professional Journalists. A quick glimpse through this list is basically a sample of positions that, in contemporary art, would effectively be “conversation topics” or “just your opinion.” For example:

Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. (This exhibition brought to you by Credit Suisse…)

Boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience. Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear. (The art world’s kind of getting better about this, kind of, but I invite you to look at the most recent Whitney Biennial and Joe Scanlan’s both insulting and embarrassing work to consider how that tends to get fraught real fast because institutional legacy.)

Never plagiarize. Always attribute. (so let’s talk about the history of appropriation…)

OK, there’s a whole section called “Minimize Harm” here, I don’t know if I need to belabor my point. This obviously gets way more fraught and weird with art that looks at pointed political issues and especially art that enteres into the weird blurry space of computers and things. People who do ethically questionable things as journalists have historically been excoriated and tend to lose their jobs. People who do ethically questionable things as artists tend to like, keynote fairly high-profile art and technology conferences in mid-sized Midwestern cities (ahem, ahem). So who sits between those worlds and how, exactly, does that work?

The people who I see do it well tend to have clear parameters. Molly Crabapple as painter with exhibitions produces very different work from Molly Crabapple who spends months reporting in conflict zones. And I am not saying that people who work in the ethically ambiguous space of art can’t work in the ethically non-ambiguous space of journalism. What has me kind of anxious are two things I see happening: the in-housing of artists in news environments with vague definitions of roles and expectations, and the classism implicit in labeling an artist who works with certain privileged political topics a “journalist artist”–as opposed to those dilettantish “activist artists” who, say, spend time with grassroots organizations or raise up the work of marginalized communities or address topics that don’t attract white hacker boys. Both of these topics probably merit their own write-ups, so I’m going to focus more on the emerging thread that makes these two things that worry me possible.

Maybe one one reason for the conflating and collapsing of art and journalism into each other is just an aftereffect of the fact that the tools digital artists employ don’t look all that different from the tools employed by digital artists (a D3 visualization on the ProPublica website and a D3 visualization by an artist both…look like they were made by Mike Bostock; videos in the Whitney and videos on the New York Times website could have the same production company working on them). But I also think it has to do with the economic model of journalism increasingly resembling the value metrics applied to art–attention and “engagement” rather than, say, public interest or service. So maybe it’s less that I worry about what it is for artists to do journalism as I worry about how an attention economy rewards the worst and most ethically problematic tendencies in both fields.

I’m thinking about the similarity between an egregious art project and an egregious act by a journalist, both of which happened in the past year: artist Dries Depoorter’s Tinder In, in which he found womens’ LinkedIn and Tinder profile pictures and presented them side-by-side as artworks (without permission, naturally), when Nico Hines outed gay Olympians in Rio for a Daily Beast story, potentially risking the lives of Olympians from countries where homosexuality is essentially a crime. Very different contexts, but similar ethical dilemma–using pseudo-public data from social media and placing that data in some context for public viewership, without the individual’s permission.

Depoorter has since apologized and now shows the work with faces blurred–but he’s obviously very cheeky and aggrieved by the kerfuffle, pointing out that he’s included himself in the series so isn’t he, too, under surveillance? But he’s a white male media artist in Europe. He doesn’t owe anyone decency, and I don’t assume as an artist he’s entering into any “do no harm” contract–that art project isn’t bad because he’s acting like a cretin (although I think he is), it’s a bad art project because it’s an insipid premise (surprise, people present themselves differently on different social media platforms, welcome to 2011, buddy).

But Nico Hines does owe the subjects of his reporting basic decency. While the Daily Beast took the story down and the editors issued an apology, Hines himself has yet to issue any public apology. In fact, his online activity has pretty much stopped since the Olympics. If he was fired from his job, it happened quietly–no epic Stephen Glass-style denouncement (although the distinction between the kind of shaming of a journalist fabricating stories versus the shaming of a journalist potentially harming someone’s life with their reporting is itself a pretty interesting thing). In all likelihood, Hines will land on his feet.

In the case of both Hines and Depoorter, both ultimately got a fuck ton of attention for doing ethically questionable things and neither, apparently, faced particularly heavy professional consequences for it. And frankly, in the case of the *Beast it was professional damaging, but ultimately also probably got them a lot of traffic. Those pageviews of the now taken-down story might cover the cost of Hines’ severance package.

(Reminder: this is a blog post where I am speculating about things, please don’t sue me Daily Beast you of all people who know the bloggers vs journalisms dichotomy too well.)

Anyway this was supposed to be a blog post and now it’s a few thousand words, and maybe it’s not clear what my point was. As my very goth backstory suggests, I have a really, really high, arguably romanticized opinion of journalism as a field. I believe that the denigration of journalism is one of the biggest contributing factors to the fucked-up discourse of the present moment–and I consider the denigration of journalism into vacuous attention-economy commodity by people like Jonah Peretti as bad for the field as its denigration into blunt ideological tool by Roger Ailes. Artists who choose to enter into journalistic spaces or take on the badge of journalist have to do so with the understanding that journalism is not in the eye of the beholder or something done merely to provoke. The political choices of journalists need to be held to a higher standard than the political choices of artists, because if the politics of both are merely contingent conversation pieces with no real cost, the work of both (and the human beings and ethical harms potentially implicated in both) become mere fodder for capitalist churn.”

See also: notes

The 9-Minute Novelist: How to Write a Novel in Just Minutes a Day
Story 1

Writing a novel is a complicated equation involving a lot of variables and moving parts — not the least of which are the authors themselves. In fact, the process of writing a novel is so arduous and soaked in magical thinking that many writers struggle to explain the process coherently, and about the only thing anyone seems to agree on is that writing a novel requires an author. While artificial intelligence has certainly come a long way, you still need a human being to get a great work of fiction. And if you ask that human being about the most important aspect of their writing process, they’re likely to say “time.”

In fact, “not enough time to write” is probably the number-one complaint of most writers when asked. Between jobs, school, families, chores and everything else that comes along with a busy life, it often takes a superhuman effort to find time to write, much less write a fully fledged 80,000-word book. Much less 80,000 words that make some kind of sense.

Except that’s actually a fallacy. Because all you need to write a novel is nine minutes a day.

FAMOUS FAST NOVELS

It’s common knowledge that every year a bunch of perfectly mad writers challenges themselves to write 50,000 words in one month — and plenty of them succeed. There are also loads of examples of well-regarded published novels that didn’t take long to write:

  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac: Three weeks.
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne: Two and a half days [4].
  • The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: 26 days.
  • I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane: Nine days.

You get the drift — great novels don’t need thousands of man-hours. Of course, there are caveats. Kerouac spent months on the road making notes and experiencing the things he synthesized into fiction. Dostoyevsky was broke and desperate and agreed to deliver a novel by a specified date or lose the rights to future works, providing inspiration. But the fact remains that if John Boyne can write a novel in less than 72 hours, you can write a novel in short daily segments.

STRIP IT DOWN

None of that means the struggle to find writing time isn’t real. We have only so much mental, emotional and spiritual energy — all three of which are required to write something true and beautiful.

Most often, the real problem isn’t so much time, but how we use it. This is one of those situations in which Perfect is the enemy of Good; we’re often stymied by the desire for a “perfect” writing environment — the right spot, with the right implements, in the right mood, with the right music, sipping the right cup of tea, basically the right everythingincluding the right amount of time.

But very few things in life can be perfect. The first step toward writing a novel in nine minutes a day is to think objectively about where your writing time actually goes. For the majority of us, much of it probably isn’t actually spent writing. We search the internet and do on-the-spot research, we review yesterday’s pages, we procrastinate. Sometimes that’s part of the process, of course — but sometimes it’s just wasting time. Chances are if you strip away all the rituals and the idea that everything has to be optimal before you can concentrate, you’ll find that much of what you think you need isn’t really necessary to the process.

After all, aside from those novels that were written super fast, many great works have been penned under terrible conditions. Jean Genet wrote Our Lady of the Flowers while in prison, mainly so he’d have something to, uh, entertain himself with. Peter Brett drafted his debut epic fantasy, The Warded Man, on the subway commuting to and from work. And William Carlos Williams wrote most of his poems in-between seeing patients while working as a doctor.

Like them (and countless other writers who are typing “The End” on novels every day while working under imperfect conditions), you don’t need a perfect nook or endless free time. You just need those nine minutes.    Read More…

Sometimes between the sun and us, I can a see this filter, almost like a glowing. As if the world were cast in a fragrant haze of bougainvillea and rose. A saffron sunrise. A malbec night. The moon circulating, all the time drawing us closer together as if the world were rushing into the singularity of us. This is all I will ever see again, in the morning, the evening, night, fall, and spring. The red castle haunts the periphery of my every moment. Could it ever be the same?

–Between the Sun and Us, Nicholas Andriani
Coming 2019

Our story is never-ending.

That to say, I will always love you.

Aware of this dream state which is my tendency to romanticize the past. Regardless of the truth, of fact — all those details are less real than the world I remember. Our twirling through the markets on the jackknife edge of recklessly falling into one another. A hopeless, twisting, deep down belly falling. Weightless in the Sierra Nevada.

To Ingvild, the one who never was but always will. My forthcoming novel is in part an apology to you. For everything.

I’m going to be extremely honest in this one…

It all began in the Spring of 2011 when the East caught fire and revolution spread across North Africa and the Middle East. Something in that moment struck a chord and I before I knew it, I was on a one-way flight to Morocco.

There I nurtured a desire to understand our world and a burning passion, not only to see and share in the rich complexities of life but to explore our past in hopes of answering such questions as, How did we get here? and, Where are we headed?

 

Since then I’ve traveled across the regions of Arabia, Europe, and the United States working as an archaeologist, journalist, ditch digger, butcher, cheesemonger, and a variety of odd jobs.

Now returned I’m seeking a formal education at the local community college in hopes of having a greater impact on our world.

I currently work 60+ hrs/wk and, after the subtraction of rent and investments in start-ups, I’m struggling to achieve the funds needed to return to school and complete my degree.

My wishes are simple: to complete my education so that I may pursue a career in Elementary Education and Comparative Literature

I feel nothing but excitement for the future of humanity, of this extraordinary planet, and it would be an immense honor to have your support along the way.

Thank you for your time and please feel free to reach out at any moment should you have any questions or like to discuss my intentions.

–Nicholas Andriani

Student Grant

$5.00

P.S. This in no way will prevent the progress of my novel work! Which is going along quite well and I thank you for the continued readership and support as I work towards publishing

SaveSave

“So from populist demagogues, we will learn the indispensability of democracy. And from isolationists, we will learn the need for global solidarity. And from tribalists, we will learn the beauty of cosmopolitanism and the beauty of diversity.”

Author Elif Shafak presents a stimulating call to action, urging PEOPLE, all people, we the people, the collective, the hive mind, who actually have control and authority than we realize, to stand outside our comfort zone. To defend the weak. To life untethered by tribe, whether its “American” or “Arab: “Black” or “White:” “Muslim” or “Buddhist:” “Young” or “Old.”

More than ever we must resist the temptation to follow leaders who are unwilling to acknowledge these very truths.

I hope you find her lecture as moving as I do and please share your thoughts. Would you agree with Elif?

travel blog morocco zellij tile nicholas andriani

be confident — not sad sap, sipping quietly in corner bar.

be, act, speak with intention.

be finished, shop your novel. 

be-gin and finish the next one.

be published, and write freely.

be mindful and in tune with your environment

be kind

be gentle

be better.

be 29

be.

Just be – be OK with that. 


I wish you prosperity. I wish you health and wellness. I wish you success, and that all those dreams and whimsies come to find you.

How are your goals for 2018 coming along?

Rhythmic swells reverberate trough my lungs. The back streets of Valencia.

Back street Europe.

Romani enclaves and gypsy parts of town.

We’ll sit here in the Plaça de la Virgen with our stiff sangria, smartly bashful in red-faced delerium.

For it is Spring and the blossoms have begun to sing.

A nod to blanco nerium.

A strange thing happens when you begin to contemplate the end. It’s as if setting such a definitive goal opens the world to endless possibilities

A phone is buzzing

It’s occurred to me that with the end comes the potential of a new beginning.

There are many types of death. Just as there are many types of love in which the subject, or subjects simply depart from one existance to another. Trading this for that, and in exchange receiving a fresh beginning and a new life, a new identity.

We are flowers forever teetering from Spring to deep Winter.

Forever waiting for Summer. For Fall

Our chance to really live.

Only to rise and be struck down.

Spring. Winter. Awakening. Death.

Where is Summer?

Where is Fall?

This realization came so urgently, slapping me across the face, I shot right out of bed that morning. Before the sun herself could shine and make me straight again, before the day could cleanse my palate as it often does and, in the deadpan winter, shuffled across my frozen, miniature tundra in snow flurry Kansas City, and drained my savings account in exchange for a one-way ticket to Morocco.

That will show em, I thought. Still unsure of who them was. For some reason, whenever I looked outside my window, hoping to spot them, all I saw was the hollow reflection of myself…

A phone buzzed, gliding smoothly across the bistro table. I don’t recognize ringer until realizing it’s mine: I’ve never heard it ring.


It was a cold spring night.

The city still reeling from the previous year’s terror attacks and whispers of Al Qaeda carried through the streets like cautionary tales foretelling the bogeyman. Maybe that explained the police on every corner, their unwieldy machine guns and serious frowns. They had no effect on me. That’s not true: I found it absolutely intoxicating, that life or death appeal is what lured me here in the first place. 

“Nobody said it was supposed to be so cold in the desert.” I said, catching my scarf as it fluttered in the sharp wind. It only occurred to me then that I hadn’t checked a single forecast. 

Moona laughed, “That’s because this isn’t the desert.” She said, looking up at the snow covered mountains. “It is winter isn’t it?”

“Is it?” I cringed as another gust came down from the mountain, lifting table skirts and extinguishing candles.

The waiter returned with my drink just in time for us to leave. I paid, left a few coins tip, downed the drink, shay ma nana, tea with mint, and flagged down the first cab on the square. A big burly man, mustachioed and jolly.

“Where from? Where? Oh, Kansas City! I have cousin in Kansas City, maybe you know him? Welcome to Morocco, America. We love America. Welcome to Morocco!”

He shook my hand as we paid and crossed the street to the souk on the other side. The shops were being washed out, dirty water came surging over the cobbles. And the streets were being watered down, to keep the dust from rising when the tourists arrive.

“And that is how we do it in Morocco.”

“You know it… Do what?”

“He just ripped you a big one. Do you realize what you paid him. What, like twenty dollars.”

My heart sank with shame. OK, so I didn’t check the forecast. But what about the exchange rate? The currency? The mysteriously scrolled dirham papers, lined with calligraphy and stained in pinks and greens. I could count to one-hundred in Arabic by then, but what did that mean of money, of value. Not a thing.

I had just paid twenty dollars for a two block ride down the boulevard.

“Now,” Moona said with her big smug way, “you are in Morocco.”

What are you wrapping this year?

Books. Cold Brew. Star Wars Gadgets. Pokemon Cards. Friends. Family. Brother. They’re all on my list and for the first year in my collected twenty-eight Christmases, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve completed my Christmas List!

Feeling rather mature about this.

Tell me, are you on the naughty list? The nice? Or that oft forgot, list’o’krampus?

Whatever you’re up to, know that you are loved and that everything, from the large swaths of snow covered trees to the dust bunnies collected under your sofa, is simply a figment of our collected imaginations 🤔💫

SCENE:
I landed in Andalusia, via Morocco, a few weeks/scenes before. In this text I’ve just met the Belgians Ingrid and Petra, We’ve been traveling together for a few days now and i’m beginning to feel a sort of tugging deep down, in my heart of hearts whenever she appears. Ingrid, that is. Of course, this feeling conflicts with my already strained, long-distance relationship (with Shay), yet I allow myself to be swept away by Ingrid’s presence. 

I remain unable to confront my own feelings. Therefore, before I say anything to Shay, before coming clean to Ingrid, I, selfishly, want to feel out my options.

The nights, dancing, tossing back jugs of Roja, the piles of Manchego, the furious foot stomping, hand clapping Flamenco, twirling through cavernous Gypsy grottoes and aimlessly, drunk on it all, wandering across the cobble stone markets. The old castle that was planted over the city have a millennia ago… this is all I’ve ever wanted. To be where I truly see excitement. To be where the world interests me and for the first time in my life I felt a purpose. 

And caught right there at the center of all that purpose nonsense were the two most extraordinary people I have ever met: Shay and Ingrid…


 From my working draft of The Outsider

     “I can hardly make out the old pointed steeple across the clay rooftops. A fog rolls in over the mountains and blanketing the village in that amber streetlight glow of Old World Europe. Church Bells pulsate through the clouds, as if echoing off canyon walls, a sort of wobbling, underwater sound. Even my own hands look strange in this light held before my face. The fog sweeps over the palm, through the fingers and the golden crown of Ingrid’s long curls. Blinking lights, something I can’t identify in the hazy distance, so foreign in this event –for haze so rich really is an event, isn’t it? Like a sunrise you never forget or the tail of a comet– glowing like dragons eyes… 

A sudden burst of red hits the rooftop as Ingrid’s glass falls to a shatter and wine washes over the Spanish tile where, beading at the edge of the terrace, it drips over the cobbles below.

“Shit.” Leaping up from the weathered futon, “–right back.”

When the coast is absolutely clear I dial the number.

“Hello?” It’s her. 

“Shay” My heart leaps, she’s answered!

How long has it been? A week, or two at least.

“Hi.” unhappy.

“Shay, how are you?” 

“Fine.”

Pause.

“I miss you.”

“Really? Because it seems to me that you’re having a great time on your own. In fact, I don’t know why you’ve called to begin–”

“–please don’t do this.”

“Do what? I’m doing nothing here. This is all you. If you want to go out and forget about me until it’s absolutely convenient then don’t even bother because I’m busy too y’now, i’m not sitting around, waiting for your call. This is all on you.”

“What are you talking about?” My voice cracks. Oh, how I revert to the desperate codependent puppy that I am. “I’m doing the best I can here. It’s not easy finding a phone, let alone a spare moment just when you’re available. The countless times I’ve called and gone straight to voicemail–”

“Words. Words, Nick. I want to see action. I need to feel you with me. To know you mean what you say. This is the first I know of these missed calls. You called this morning, well guess what, calling at 3 A.M doesn’t cut it.”

“Shay, please understand.”

“I do. You’re obviously onto bigger things and you should be. I’m not going to hold you back anymore. Don’t worry about me. Forget it. Go on and do you. It’s clearly what you want.”

“What I want? Would I be calling you from the other side of the world, busy and stressed and manic and missing you and in the middle of life, would I be calling you if this wasn’t what I wanted?”

“I don’t know what to say to that.”

“Be reasonable.”

“It’s never been so clear. You need to figure yourself out. Maybe someday that means us having something but now.” Shay pauses. “Now there’s just empty space.”

I can’t believe what she’s saying. A veil of darkness settles over my thoughts, muddling my vision. It’s all I can do not to crack this headset into the wall. To hurl my phone through the adjacent window across the chasms, stained glass raining over the alley below… but I hold tight. Oh, but to drain this bottle and hurl it through the window, wouldn’t that feel so good. I want to start a fire and watch something burn.

“Hello? Nick?”

I want to hang up. Give her a taste of what distance really feels like. But i’m still that codependent puppy in the throes of loneliness, hurling myself at the closest thing I know to be real.

Ingrid. On the stairs. She’s laughing and coming my way.

Shit.

“Nick? Hello?”

“You’re right. Maybe we’ve let too much air fill the space between “

Shay, hurt. “You really think that?”

Was she bluffing?

Now, agitated. “Isn’t that what you just said to me?” I let that sink in, feeling justified.

“Let’s talk about–”

“–how about I call you later. Let’s think about it. Email me. I have to go.”

“OK.”

I grab the bar as a wave of exhaustion crashes over. I need a drink.

“Hey Cowboy, how you holding up there?”

Ingrid’s cherry presence and brightness fills my cup once more. 

“I need a drink. Shall we?”

I mean, it’s not cheating if nothing happens. Oh, but emotions run deep. Which begs the question: What’s worse, an emotional or a physical affair?

The sky out my window is that fiery red which makes the heart swell with life and there it is again: that sensational expanding within my chest, rising to my throat, gripping and stinging my eyes.

Oh, no.

I bury my face into the scarf. Traces of fig leaf and sandalwood bring her rushing back to me as the mountains stretch into fractals, the tears come. The puddle on the red sky horizon, where the sun has fallen and melted, flickers with a faint shimmer and so suddenly the desert goes dark and I have never been so mysteriously out of sorts than I am on the six o’clock from Casablanca.

Gliding to a stop, the train hisses and pops, and ever so tentatively the doors stretch open, as if waking from an ancient sleep, creaking, stretching and finally, almost there, quit so those deboarding turn sideways, sucking in bellies and removing packs and balancing boxes upon trained heads. There’s no telling where we are. Out there, way out there, I mean stretching-your-eyes out there, is a city or at least a cluster of lights. Is that it? But here, it’s just a lamppost and a platform of backlit women, veiled and watching our subtle roll and pass through as their smiles fall into frowns, and they go on waiting and we lurch deeper into the African night.

Each one’s the same. Hiss, pop, impossibly congested desert town platforms, lampposts blackened with moths and large scaly things as the moon, rising beyond, lends a silvery glow over all the details she touches as the desert comes to life once more in this reversed role as nature returns to her rightful place and it’s our turn, us humans, to hide away within dens and shrubs.

So. Completely. Alone.

Every single desert town. Platform of veiled women. Waiting. Sometimes I catch sight of their villagers beyond, dusty main streets and always the shadowy figures of children running amok, kicking cans and beating the tattered remains of saggy cardboard boxes with twigs and old broomsticks.

Cracking the seal with a sharp click I down the bottle and bury the evidence deep into pack as the tremble in my hand steadies and I drift away…”

 


 

Scene:
The protagonist has just landed in a mysterious town in Africa. With nothing but a rucksack and a name scratched across a piece of paper: Djemaa el-Fna, “whatever that means…”

We open as he’s feeling deep regret for the past year and taking this tremendous leap into the unknown. But, at the same time, aware of this need to liberate the self from the old life which has led to a deep pit of depression and drinking…


 

While my novel is entirely true, there are moments which I allow artistic license to paint scenes with more interest.

I would love to know what you think.

Yes, this is only a small glimpse, but I know the importance of landing an intriguing opening. And this is my goal here…

The sky out my window is that fiery red which makes the heart swell with life and there it is again: that sensational expanding within my chest, rising to my throat, gripping and stinging my eyes.

Oh, no. Not again.

I bury face into the scarf. Traces of fig leaf and sandalwood bring her rushing back to me.

The mountains stretch into fractals as the tears come and the puddle along the red sky horizon, where the sun has fallen and melted, flickers with a faint shimmer and so suddenly the world goes dark and I have never been so mysteriously out of sorts than I am on the six o’clock from Casablanca.

From my working draft of the Outsider.

I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts. I know this is a short excerpt but this is the piece i’d like to hear about.

Do you feel connected? Interested? Invited to dive deeper into the novel? Are you left curious?

Or, lackluster? Bored? On to the next one?

Again, i’m aware of it’s length. The idea is to pack a heavy blow into these first lines so I want to hear from you good people out there!

As always, cheers!

–Nicholas