Setting the Scene

I’ve begun drafting my Beirut story and it’s certainly pulling up a lot of memories. Here are some visual clues to the neighborhood in Ras, Beirut where I’m setting my novel. (I think I’m going to have to create a link in my menu for Beirut Photos.)

While the family in my story is fictional, the street they live on–Rue Manara–certainly isn’t. Those of you who know French may have deciphered the first word (rue means “street” in French…Lebanon was a French protectorate from 1920 until sometime in the 1950’s). The second word, manara is Arabic for “lighthouse.”

About a hundred years ago, this is what the same area looked like from a different angle (thanks to a website titled Al-Mashriq run by a fellow ACS graduate) You’ll notice the Pink House existed that long ago, as well:

If you go to Beirut today, you won’t find the black and white striped lighthouse in operation any longer. Indeed, it was supposed to be torn down to make room for the city’s reconstruction program, so it may not even be there. It’s sad, really, for the same family had operated that lighthouse since it was first built back in 1850.

As for the pink house, I’ve been trying to pin down its origin. Even while we were living there in an apartment overlooking it, we heard all kinds of rumors (some not so savory) about what went on within its walls. I can’t believe it’s still standing. It certainly needs a paint job. Before the civil war, its walls were a much deeper and freshly painted pink.

This is what it looks like more recently:

Originally posted 2011-06-02 17:32:48.

Beirut it is

I’ve gone back and forth over which story to write next.

First, it was going to be an historical women’s fiction piece set in a convent in 17th century Milan, Italy. I really had begun to give the main character shape and even mentally thought through her development over the course of the tale. Despite my fluency in Italian, however, all the research required intimidated me (not to mention the fact that I would likely need to return to Italy for some of that research…and we simply cannot afford such a trip just now).

Then I got all geared up to write a novel based on my experiences as a teenager in Beirut when the civil war broke out there in 1975. (I learned at the recent conference that such a story would be classified as historical YA fiction. Yes, I am officially old now.) I even began writing it until some other flashes of inspiration struck and stalled me…all speculative.

They’re good ideas, but not for now. I’ve been advised to go with my gut, not the market or even the suggestions of others. Today, I’m back on course with the Beirut story of a dysfunctional American expat family that finally comes together as a country begins to fall apart. (Now, don’t get ideas that this story is based on my own family. We were not, and are not, dysfunctional…but we were there.)

P.S. – I’ve submitted a partial of Laps to another agency. Keeping my fingers crossed because this agent is a dynamo.

Originally posted 2011-05-18 07:37:59.

I’ve Emerged From the Fog of Querying

No, I haven’t taken a Digital Sabbatical, but I should. In fact, I’m going to blog about that tomorrow over at ANWA Founder & Friends.

My exciting news is that I’ve begun my third novel and it’s set in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s the story of an American teenager trying to hold her family together as the capital collapses into civil war. Since I graduated from high school there (ACS – the American Community School) at about that time and was, indeed, on hand in 1975 when things began to get dicey, I can draw on my own memories as well as my imagination (because, yes, this is fiction…not my family).

As you know, however, from an earlier posting…my memory is rather unreliable. Thank goodness my mom kept a family log all those years we lived overseas. So what did I just do last week? I took advantage of Allegiant Air’s new direct cheap flight between here and LAX and flew down there for 10 days of fun and research. The day before I left, I gathered my parents, my younger brother, and one of my younger sisters and started shooting questions at them. Every now and then I’d have to interrupt all their cross talk (after all, my dad’s got a hearing problem and he’d usually start telling me something in the middle of one of my brother’s responses). My sister found the whole process hilarious. But at least I came away with some great notes…AND the family logs for 1974-77.

It may have cost me $20 to check an extra suitcase on the return flight (these journals are big, thick, and heavy), but it will prove invaluable in the end. And the time with family? Priceless!

Originally posted 2010-08-05 17:13:52.