A funny thing happened this week in Italy. I noticed that the stove top fan and light were not working. Granted, I noticed it last year but forgot to mention it to my landlord. Fast forward to when the maintenance technicians arrive. First they both look at my duct taped refrigerator lining. A few nods and the door closed.
“We can’t fix, will need different technician,” one of the two shared.
I shrug off the exchange and watch as they move on to the stove top.
The English speaking one examines the fan while the other observes. After borrowing a chair, he climbs on top of the counter and look at the wiring for the device behind the cabinets. The technician nods his head a few times, and then calls the landlord.
Given the phone, I hear my landlord say, “No problem.”
“What do you mean no problem?”
“It was never installed, so no problem.”
I hand the phone back over to the technician. He exchanges a few more words, puts away his phone and bids me adieu.
Processing the entire exchange, I put together the pieces. When they remodeled the kitchen, the exhaust line for the fan and the utility plug were never installed. In effect the light and fan are only there for esthetic purposes.
As I have learned over the last year, this only happen in Italy.
When sharing the story with my coworkers they asked when I would be writing a story about my time here. I have several handfuls of baffling stories to the American mind at least.
Even yesterday I was walking home and I watched a man driving his fiat with a Boston terrier on his lap, paws on the steering wheel. They came to the stop light and the dog looked over in my direction. I swear the dog said, “What’s your problem?”
As a writer, I don’t write about a location until I’m gone. I need to acquire as many experiences as possible and then when I move to a new spot, it feels safe and right to use that previous time as motivation. All of my books were written after I was in a given location. Luza and Riley were developed while living in Florida of all places, not Gilmanton, New Hampshire where I had taught previously.
For those wanting an Italian story, I apologize but you will have to wait a bit.
After much reflection the pen name of Frankie Yandow has come to an end. Intended to pay homage to my maternal grandparents and a play off my middle name, the name never caught on as much as I had hoped. I’m not sure why I thought it would, but it seemed like a cool idea at the time. Understanding that shifting Luza and Riley to Jonathan Kuiper will potentially confuse my readership, I decided to do it anyway.
For all practical purposes nothing changes. Luza and Riley are the same books they were but the series name has shifted to focus more on the direction and purpose of these seven (5 to come) novels. Not to mention, I no longer have to explain to my students why there are different author names on my books. If you are lucky enough to have the first edition of Luza, you my lucky reader have a collector’s item.
In the weeks ahead I’ll update you more on future books in the series. In the meantime, happy reading and enjoy Keira and Luza’s favorite season.
Summer was a whirlwind hopping from one location to another. After crisscrossing the Atlantic Ocean visiting two different countries and four states, I was ready to stop living out of a suitcase. My fourth weekend back in Brindisi, Italy, I find myself pining for those summer days.
That’s how it works right? We go constantly and then when we are back in our work routine, those summer days spent with family and friends are the ones we reminisce on. Perhaps my situation is more peculiar than others, with the ones I care for thousands of miles away, with a significant time gap until I see them again.
Yet, in this crazy world we live in, having any time is better than none. For that I’m truly thankful. As I hunker down for this new school year, just like all of you that have shifted back to the non summer routines; have faith the holidays are fast approaching. Before we know it, a new year will come, spring, and then back to the summer. For those keeping count, I have nine months and seven days to go….
Summer vacation is but a week away and I reflect on a busy year. From relocating to Italy, to living in a new culture, teaching internationally, and traveling; there have been many new experiences. Despite these experiences, I am eager to return to the States to re energize my soul. My native New Hampshire calls. It almost sings a daily song saying that it is time to say hi again.
I wonder if I will see things differently returning for the summer. Yet with the conveniences, the familiar language, and all that makes America great; the fact is I am returning a changed man. The slower life of Southern Italy gets under your skin. While you never quite understand why it takes weeks to get things done, or months, the fact is as time passes you no longer get frustrated about the process.
“It is what it is,” rings truer here than any other place I have lived. You can fight it and get upset, but in the end enjoying the little moments of life along the Adriatic Sea is far more important and rewarding.
Perhaps this lesson will come in handy this summer. In the very least, I know I will need that perspective with the continued twists and turns that life continues to bring my way.
Despite living in Italy since August, this past weekend was the first time I had actually traveled in country. From an obsession with anything near the Baltic Sea and a desire to get a touch of any Slavic language, I didn’t feel the urge to explore. Nevertheless, in January I booked a ticket for Pisa. This was supposed to be for a conference and with the best intentions that’s what I had planned. For that matter, my time actually exploring Pisa was going to be limited to a few hours at best.
Fast forward several months and Pisa turned out quite differently than expected. To begin, I was mentally exhausted from work and physically my body was revolting from months of marathon training. Not knowing what to expect, I only printed out a map and the 3.5 mile route to my hotel.
Like Brindisi, the locals in Pisa don’t feel the need to label every street or road. This made my map virtually useless with the exception of the locations of the train station and the river Arno(?). I didn’t care though due to the setting sun, the lush green trees and grass, and the clean smell to the air.
While I had never been to the city before, the looming mountains in the distance and the sight of the river brought me back to growing up in New Hampshire. I walked with a purpose towards my hotel, zigzagging in what I considered the general direction. I knew the hotel would be west of the leaning tower and that would have to be enough to make my way.
More walking ensued and I stumbled across Galileo, a statue at least, pointing up to the moon above. Paying my respects, I took a right along a busy intersection, jaywalking after a police car rumbled past. I laughed at my carelessness, but after months in Brindisi, I knew the police didn’t care about me. I continued to walk, into a tunnel, across a railroad track, and then I spotted the road for my hotel.
The sidewalks were gone, replaced by overgrown weeds and grass. I picked up my pace and ran against the oncoming traffic. I could sense I was close, not to mention I was quite hungry. Then without expecting anything special, I was pleasantly surprised.
Not only did I find my hotel, but across the street was this majestic field with no structures to speak of. In the distance, on the other end of the field, I spotted the leaning tower and the mountains.
All I could do was smile. The tower of Pisa begun in 1173 and completed in 1372 was there for me to enjoy. There were no crowds or buildings to impede this moment. I felt part of the tower’s history. That night as I dined, looking out onto the tower, I decided the tower became part of my journey too.
The rest of my time in Pisa went fast, as expected, for any weekend trip. On Saturday, I played tourist and spent most of my time hiking the countryside, to the west of the tower, far away from the fray of locals and travelers alike.
As Sunday came, before catching my flight, I made it a point to visit the tower in person for a second time. With the clouds and rain gone, the crowds arrived and the insanity of posing for pictures ensued. I didn’t stay long. No I simply gave a wave to an old friend, one I had gotten to know in my history books over the last 30-something years. I’m sure the sight of the tower will stay far longer than any postcard, picture, or story and for that I’m grateful.
(For those eagle eye readers, I also used this post on my Frankie Yandow page)
I’m proud to announce I’m the wanderer in the family. Another title would be the family “gypsy.” This isn’t meant to be condescending or demeaning; far from that. I always do my best to trust my instincts and to have faith that I’m exactly where I need to be. Due to this, I have moved frequently over the years and even in my current location have one more year till a new posting.
In my poetic goodbye last weekend, a temporary one at that, I thought the wind was taking me one way towards my goal. In truth, I had another wake up call, a wink during a classroom lesson, to stay the previous course (more on that in a future blog).
From the time I graduated college, I felt a kinship to teaching. Granted, I spent a significant part of my college years working on screenplays and novels. When I wasn’t writing, I was working on my BA in History or partaking in a social life. Nevertheless, I recall watching Dead Poets Society and being enamored by that world.
I remember well the draw to that admirable a path, to educate young minds and on the same token get some well deserved cyclical vacations. I’m a creature of habit, so being in an education setting not only made sense but works. Furthermore, utilizing those vacations is not only necessary but food for my soul.
As much as I try to shift from this mindset, when summer approaches I turn into a kid at heart. I look forward to the warm summer days, the time on the lake, and the quietness that the countryside of Northern New England brings.
For years I have wanted summers free to focus on my writing. That was one of my plans. Since I entered the self publishing world (still trying to shift away from that one), only in July/August 2014 was I able to experience a summer of writing.
Now the light has turned on. The summer of 2017 is fast approaching and instead of
taking college courses or working, I will visit family and friends…and most important write. I don’t know what that means on the road ahead, but I’m living my dream and that is what’s important.
I contemplated writing a poetic blog, filled with whimsical deep thoughts, to send my readers off with. I even considered using the phrase, “my final published piece.” Yet, the more I try to think in that manner, the words refuse to form. Instead, I will simply write on this transition I find started years ago.
Perhaps it was when I returned to live in New Hampshire and finished the third book in The Vincent Chronicles series. I still remember when Vincent says goodbye to his brother, not because he wants to, but it’s the only way for Christian to move forward along his path.
Like my fictional character, I have been pulled, maybe even tugged in different directions since Stephen’s death. Twelve years in and I wonder how time passed so quickly. I still yearn and dream of returning to Manning Lake, to the serenity and peace of the surrounding mountains, and the many memories I shared with my twin, our siblings, family, and friends. To have a home in the area like Christian had, to be near a resting spot of Stephen’s, would be a dream come true.
For the present, I am in Italy, near the end of year one of my overseas experience. Some might think I’m taking the roundabout route to accomplish my goals. How many people head overseas to find direction when they could just drive a day’s ride up the road? I never claimed to be the conventional type. Ask how many times I have zigzagged up and down the Atlantic coastline and you would agree with that assessment.
Now in early April 2017, I feel like I have a plan in place, one that I can follow and achieve. The first part was teaching overseas. The next part is to say goodbye to the self publishing world. With A Second Chance and I Should Have Known released it seems like a good time for a break.
My eleven books have entertained many readers. I know from letters and emails that some readers were helped during times of grief, and others got a well deserved break from reality. More recently, I know several children who have found a new escape with friends Keira and Luza in my Frankie Yandow series.
I don’t believe this will be the end of my publishing experience, but it will be an undetermined time off. I won’t pretend that blog writing will make up for this departure, nor will I intend it to fill that void. As much as I have fought the urge to take a break, I have other pieces in my plan that needs my focus and attention.
For those looking for new books, you’ll have to wait for now. This won’t be goodbye, but a time apart, until I can bask in the late autumn sun under the vibrant, colorful leaves of New England. When that day comes, be ready…
It is that time of year where I reflect more on when my twin Stephen passed over. We had a good run together of 25+ years. I find it hard to believe that almost 12 years ago there was that dramatic change to our relationship. Running With Vince and the follow up books, Swimming With Angels and Standing With God, were influenced by our unique relationship. Vincent embodies many of Stephen's traits and flair.
Occasionally, I think about writing another book in the series just so that I can hear his voice racing through my head. I wonder if there is more to tell, more that he wants to share with the world. As I wait for potentially new ideas or stories to tell that focus on Christian and Vincent, I am doing something different this year for my twin's anniversary.
I have traveled quite a bit since moving to Italy and have ample options for the Easter break. Yet, for the last six weeks I have been pulled to Manchester, England. With some research on the nearby waterfront communities, I found Southport. A quaint retreat community away from the hustle of Liverpool and Manchester, it reminds me already of several New England coastal communities.
Familiarity aside, I know it's where I need to visit. Aside from a walk along the metal pier, there is a spot, a wink if you will from Stephen. Did you know that the Vincent Hotel is located in Southport? Fittingly, I'm heading that way for the 12 year anniversary. I plan to toast to Stephen at the Vincent Hotel bar. While I don't expect him to reappear with the tip of my glass, I do know he'll be close by probably whispering something about Vince and Christian heading to the UK.
Regardless, I'm looking forward to a shared moment with my twin. From a writer's perspective, there could be far worse things to experience over the Easter Holiday. This will be far from that, but instead a perfect bookmark to the story I continue to live and cherish.
May this Easter season treat you and your families well. Remember that even with loss, there can be much happiness and fulfillment looking for those winks from those we love.
Instead of having two blogs this week, I am taking pieces of my Frankie Yandow blog and pasting them here. I know that might seem a bit lazy, but frankly how many writers keep track of two blogs? For that matter, the purpose of both blogs is to update you on my comings and goings.
After releasing A Second Chance earlier this week, I have now turned my focus to I Should Have Known. This book is going to turn out quite different that I expected. After going through my editor's comments I am actually reordering parts of the book and changing the format to make it more like a traveling journal.
Still, editing is a grind. Yet without editing even a good story can become a bad one. I hope to be done working on this book by the end of February. I'm going to work on it daily till I leave for Poland and hopefully it will be done by then. If not, I'm still shooting for a mid April release.
I’ll update you more when I have finished my revising of the book. In the meantime, I think some of you have some other books to read first.
I appreciate the fact that I set out on these lofty writing ambitions and then decide to go in a different direction. I did nothing related to my adult books until Christmas. When I was home I saw the proof copy of A Second Chance and decided that the book needed another read. Fast forward two weeks and I'm almost done with my edits. Then I will be sending the book out to my editor for comments and you the reader should be able to see a final copy before April. The date might be sooner than that, but let's not get too far ahead of the process.
I decided to switch over to A Second Chance for many reasons. One that sticks out is a coworker of mine who lost her battle to cancer in the fall. She was a big fan of Hanna Jones in My Shenandoah Love. After reading the book, she asked for another story. While I wanted to use Hanna and her mother Diane, I had to settle for a her cousin in New Hampshire. In a way the story is more pliable and realistic then MSL. Wanting to give readers a reason to keep trying and to put their best foot forward regardless of their circumstances, A Second Chance is a reminder of the message. It also speaks true to the fact we are always where we need to be.
With 2017 underway, expect to see A Second Chance in the months ahead. Thank you Chantal Sisco for giving me that kick in the butt to finally get an edition out for others to read. I suspect you already have a preview copy. I know you are missed by your friends, family, and the Franklin community, but certainly not forgotten.
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