Marie-Thérèse Henriette Hughette Février Sagnier

Sunday marked the 27th anniversary of my mother’s death. Marie-Thérèse Henriette Hughette Février Sagnier was an amazing woman, a liberated person long before it was fashionable, a feminist, an artist, writer, painter, an amateur actor and musician.

She was a soldier, too, and my favorite photo is of her and her new beau—my father—both wearing the uniforms of the Free French and smitten with each other. They are standing in a Dresden-like scene of total wartime devastation. Their feet are firmly planted in bombed-out rubble, and a spectral vision of a half-destroyed church is behind them. They are smiling and in love.

This icon was always in a prominent place in our family homes. I never thought to ask about it, and only recently a friend noticed that in the photo, my mother is holding a dog on a leash, a large black thing that may have been a poodle. Another mystery. When I was growing up in Paris, we never had a dog.

She was not an easy person with whom to get along. She was ambitious, anxiety-ridden, an early user of pharmaceuticals to ease her angst and force a smile. She could be critical and judgmental, traits she inherited from her own father, a man from whom she ran away when she was sixteen years old.

She had an uneasy relationship with her two daughters by an earlier marriage, one of whom wrote and published a series of books my mother found unfair, short works that roundly criticized everything about my mother’s life—her divorce from my sisters’ father, her remarriage, her decision to come with her new family to the United States. The books pained her, even as she was proud of her daughter’s rise to a moderate fame in the French literary world.

America confused her. She did not speak English when she arrived, and always struggled with the unfamiliar tongue. The newness of the country left her both amazed and wanting to go back to the familiarity of France.

She and my father returned to Paris after his retirement. Cancer took her quickly. She never complained, and on the eve of being hospitalized for the final time, she hosted a bridge party and served hors d’oeuvres she had assembled in her kitchen.

She gritted her teeth and smiled through the afternoon, and the next day was taken by ambulance to the American Hospital in Paris where, decades earlier, she’d given birth to me.

Our love and relationship were tumultuous. She wanted me to become a diplomat and serve in the Foreign Service. I didn’t. She forgave my shortcomings when my stories appeared in the Washington Post. She would call her friends and, “oh, by the way,” mention my byline in that day’s newspaper.

It made me happy to please her. Twenty-seven years later, she is still a daily presence in my life.

 

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…And if Elected I Will Not Serve.

So I’m going to put this out there right now so there’s no confusion, in case one day I am selected to run for public office.

You can see my scholastic records any time. I was a lousy student, C+ at best, though I did get a cum laude on my French Baccalaureate. Since I am being buck-naked honest, I will also reveal that I failed the Bac the first time. It was embarrassing; I majored in science and couldn’t tell you the difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. I still can’t. The second time arounds, I did the Bac with an emphasis on philosophy and literature. I positively shone. Mind you, majoring in philosophy means you can do one thing and one thing only, and that is teach philosophy.

I dropped out of Georgetown University to take a job as a copy boy (that’s what we were called back then) with the Washington Post. I worked from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. and loved every minute of it. No one ever asked me about the sympathetic/parasympathetic systems. nor did they test my knowledge of philosophy. But I wrote a whole bunch of articles for the Post, including several Sunday magazine covers, and one of those stories got me a contract with Harper & Row for a book.

Before anyone else does so, I will also tell you that I flunked out of typing school. I still type with three fingers, or four if I’m really excited, and I make a dozen errors per paragraph. I would suggest anyone wanting to be writer not learn to type. Since I look at my fingers and at the screen, whenever I type, I am editing as well. In other words, I write a first and second draft at the same time, which I think is pretty clever.

I did go back to school after a few years and there met a Creative Writing professor who taught me an important lesson, that being When To Let Go.

Professor C was an amazingly erudite man. He was impressed that I knew the difference between Plato and plagiarism. He had a novel in his desk drawer, a 1000-page thing he’d been working on for a dozen years. He allowed me to read a few chapters and it was an amazing experience. He wrote flawlessly. His characters were brilliant, as was his plotting. The dialogues and trilogues were so real I felt as if I’d just stepped into the pages and conversed with his people.

I took all the classes he taught. At the beginning of each semester, I asked him when he’d submit the book to a publisher, and he would say it wasn’t ready yet; he was still revising.

Some eleven years later, I ran into Professor C in a restaurant near where I worked. He had aged a bit and my first question was, what happened to your novel? There was a brief, embarrassed silence, and then the professor said it remained in the same drawer. He was still revising, but he was almost done.

If it’s possible to be intellectually sad, that’s what I was when I left the restaurant. I don’t know what happened to Professor C, but I’m willing to bet his novel is still in a drawer somewhere.

Winston Churchill once wrote, “Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” This is my favorite quote on writing.

I’ve had seven books in print and letting each one go was painful. Another dozen-or-so works are in various stages of completion. Some will have legs—in a while if I keep writing them, they’ll begin to write themselves. Others, after 150 pages or so, will let me know there’s no future there. This is okay; not every project has to come to fruition. These works become like friends I rarely see, and every couple of years I’ll take an unfinished book out, reread it and see if, perhaps, it has sprung limbs while left to its own device. That hasn’t happened yet.

My second-favorite writing quote is, “Writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” This was the advice writer and activist Mary Heaton Vorse gave to a young Sinclair Lewis.

I have no intention of running for office. If elected, I will not serve. And did not learn either quote in school.

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The Very Best e-Books Titles–Part 1

A challenge for online authors is to find eye-grabbing titles that scream, “Read me!”  And so writer friends and members of an informal group that meets every so often rose to the task. Here are some eBook titles guaranteed to hit the bestsellers list.

Holy Mary and the Mauser: An Illustrated Guide to Guns for Virgins

The Christian Gun Owners Guide: Using Scripture to Pick the Right Weapon

The Illustrated Guide to Guns that Jesus Would Have Owned0116ebooks

God Wants You to Be Fat: Biblically Sanctioned Obesity for Today’s Robust Believer

Saints and Swastikas: The Illustrated Guide to Faith and Nazism

Incest, All in the Family

Masters & Johnson, The Secret Files

This Pussy Has Teeth—The Truth About Vagina Dentata

Obama: The French Connection

Trump: The Viagra Connection

Lose 20 lbs in One Night While Watching TV

Eat Pork, Lose Weight

Companion volume: 30 Sausage Recipes that Shed Pounds

The Porn Murders—The Graphic Files

Brittney and Justin, A Love Story for Our Times

Revealed at Last: The Secret Sex Lives of Rotarians

Revealed at Last: The Secret Sex Lives of Rosicrucians

Jennifer Lawrence Wants to Talk Dirty With You and Other Secrets of Degenerate  Hollywood Stars Who Date Really Boring Ordinary Guys

Candy Kills Cancer! The Sweet Truth the Medical Industrial Complex Doesn’t Want You to Know

Aliens in My Soup:  How Tiny Extraterrestrials Have Infiltrated Our Food Supply

All Sex, All Violence, All the Time

Loose Women, Tight Prose

The Velcrovian Revolution—An Alternative to the Fly

15 Ways to Painless Enhancement for Men and Women

How to Make a Six-Figure Income Helping Kindle Writers

 

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Perks

A very long time ago, when America was a bit saner than it is now, I became friends with a Senator from a Western state. He lived in my neighborhood, often went to a bar where a band I played with performed, and we discovered a common interest in Dobro guitars and Jack Daniels bourbon.

The Senator had been elected by a wide margin over his opponent. He believed in Native American rights, fair wages for all, and that the American Constitution was not a holy manuscript but a working document that should reflect and keep up with the times.

He had told his constituents that, if elected, he would serve a maximum of two terms, and then return to private life, which is exactly what he did.

We played music together and drank a lot and discussed Martin versus Gibson guitar strings and old-timey blue grass music. He was interested by the fact that I had interviewed the legendary Maybelle Carter, who wrote Wildwood Flower, played a mean autoharp, and was Johnny Cash’s mother-in-law. I was interested by a minor scandal where a member of the House of Representatives had been found in flagrante delicto with a pocket full of cash and an expensive call-girl in a New York Avenue motel.

This Representative was a Republican who announced that he was indeed a sinner and, though he would not resign from his elected post, he would go on a cold-water religious retreat to atone for his shortcomings and be reborn, he told the media, in the bosom of Jesus. My Senator friend was a Democrat; he found the situation both depressing and hilarious. Between sips of bourbon, he told me something I have never forgotten.

“You know,” he said, “All these people on the Hill, they’re gonna hang on no matter what. They’ve never had a job this good, and they never will again.” He repeated it for emphasis, “They never will again.” He drained his glass and shook his head sadly.

Over the ensuing decades, I’ve had good reason to ponder the wisdom of my friend’s words. The people we elect to serve us are basically handed a free pass.

According to the website Money $ Career, most Senators and Representatives:

  • Get almost $200,000 annual salary. Some get a lot more.
  • Receive a $3000 bonus tax deduction each year for living expenses while away from their home states and congressional districts.
  • Work from plush (and free) offices; have access to a gym, an inexpensive cafeteria, and free parking, which in downtown Washington is an incredible perk.
  • Have access to both a pension and a 401(k). Those who serve five years are guaranteed an annual pension of more than $14,000.
  • Receive federal subsidies covering 72% of the cost of their healthcare premiums.
  • Fly free. Most flights between their home states and Washington, D.C., are funded with taxpayer money. According to USA Today, Congress spent at least $14.7 million on taxpayer-funded trips in fiscal year 2016. Lawmakers can also book themselves on multiple flights without additional charges.
  • Get free death benefits. Should—Heaven forbid—a member of Congress be killed while serving out a term, the surviving family members are entitled to death benefits equivalent to one year’s salary.

These are only the most obvious financial benefits. There are dozens of others, including the overseas junkets to Majorca; the endless free meals; the weekends in the mountains or by the sea paid for by lobbyists.

Do you still wonder while the Republicans on the Hill appear to have checked their testicles (and their morals) at the door? Why they are so willing to support and endorse an administration whose dishonesty has become instantly legendary? Why they champion a man who cheats on his wife and his taxes, is a racist, and a serial liar?

Here’s your answer: They’re terrified of losing the best job they’ll ever have.

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Unabashed Self-Promotion

Anyone who has published a book in the last few years knows that writing is the least of it. Nowadays you have to decide if you’ll self-publish or try to get a publishing house to carry your work, and then you have to do all media stuff to promote your masterpiece.

So forgive me if I sound like a vacuum cleaner salesman trying to sell you a Roomba . I hate doing the promotion stuff. I really do, but if I don’t, I won’t sell books, and if I don’t sell books I can’t pay the rent…

So here is what’s happening. I am promoting Thirst starting tomorrow. The Kindle version will sell for $0.Thirst Cover small99 but it’s only for a couple of days. To make it worth your while, if you buy Thirst, I’ll send you my other book, L’Amérique free of charge. Notice I am not advertising a free gift, which is a godawful use of the language; I have some pride.  Anyway, buy Thirst, let me know your platform (Mobi, epub, PDF, or Word) send me your email address and I’ll send you an online version of L’Amérique.

End of the pitch. I would truly appreciate it if you’d tell your friends and neighbors, your family and workmates. I need to sell a bunch of books over the coming week so Amazon takes notice.

Some of you may receive this request on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, as well as through this email. I apologize for the duplicated messages.

Thank you ever so much, Thierry

L'Amerique cover small

PS, at the risk of touting my own horn, Thirst got some really good reviews—

 

An Excellent Read

I really enjoyed this book. The main character is flawed and complex. And many of the supporting characters have a rich backstory. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good thriller.

 

This Guy Really Knows How to Write!

What a find! I usually don’t like the “faced-paced, hard-boiled” school of crime fiction, but this book is one fat exception to that rule. The author really knows his business and writes clear, compelling sentences (not too common these days), as well as creates very colorful characters. Maybe it’s just me, but I also found the book very funny in parts.

Forgive the cliche, but I couldn’t put this book down.

 

 

Great, well-written thriller!

This is an amazing book – Sagnier plots it like a thriller, writes it like an angel. Half way through I thought I had it figured out, but then came plot twist after plot twist, all of it logical, all of it unexpected. An amazing ride, fast but never slick.

 

 

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Runaway Trump

Imagine this: You’re finally headed to the beach on vacation with your family. It’s been a hard year and you’ve been looking forward to this for months. The weather is sunny, mild, cloudless; you’re happily driving along secure in the knowledge that for once, you haven’t forgotten anything.

The day is right out of America the Beautiful. The kids aren’t fighting and the report for the coming week calls for clear skies and warm oceans. You got an incredibly deal on a house right on the beach. Life is good.

Far down the road you see a growing speck approaching fast. The speck grows and grows and you can see it is in the very middle of the road, straddling the twin yellow lines. It’s a huge Trump & Co. trash truck! It’s heading right at you! You honk your horn but the driver of the truck takes no notice! The Trump truck is going 90 miles per hour, and now the driver is blowing his air horn, a deafening noise! At the last possible instant, you swerve onto the shoulder. Your car begins to spin and you steer into it like you’re supposed to. You feel the nifty Thule Roof Box that makes your SUV look so sporty detach and fly off, and all the other stuff on the roof-rack—the kayaks and the bicycles and the box full of groceries—are flung off. You struggle to control your vehicle and only your above-average driving skills save your life and those of your loved ones. Your dog, a moment ago sleeping on the passenger side floor, is now wide awake and howling.

“Oh my God,” says your shaking spouse. “What was that?”

“I think it was a Trump truck,” you reply, knowing it was a Trump truck. The weird orange paint is a dead giveaway, and you’ve heard of situations like this, where Trump vehicles have disregarded all the traffic laws and rules that keep us alive. Hundreds have died, thousands have been dispossessed.

“I think he was texting, or tweeting.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

Your spouse is sweet but on occasion not that bright.

My latest book, L’Amérique, is available from Amazon  

“L’Amérique is an utterly compelling, enjoyable read. The story of a French family’s transition from the deprivations of post war Paris to the squeaky clean world of suburban Washington DC is seen through the sharp if occasionally bemused eyes of a growing boy.” Jane Feather, New York Times Bestzselling Author of The Blackwater Brides series.

 

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Things That P*ss Me Off

I grow older. The stuff I once allowed to pass by me without so much as a shiver now causes a full-body tremor. I remember seeing the same thing happen to my father as he achieved a certain age. He was once a fan of highway billboards, but toward the end of his life, something changed. He became not only a critic, but a froth-at-the-mouth naysayer of whatever was being advertised on the signs. Toothpaste ads, for some reason, really fired him up. “How do they know it will clean your teeth better than baking soda,” he would hiss in a most proper Oxford accent (he was educated in Great Britain.) South of the Border ads, ubiquitous along 95 South, rendered him almost speechless with fury. “I went there for one night with your mother,” he once told me. “They glued the ashtrays to the night stands?”

I used to smile at these vexations. I no longer do, and have developed a set of my own.

The Most Recent—I am are listening to news radio in my car. A woman comes on to pitch the services of a bank. She has a friendly voice, and you can tell by her intonations that she has your best interest in mind and will become a good friend if only you’ll listen to her. “At NewNited Bank, we care about you. Come and visit! Open a checking or savings account and we’ll give you MONEY. We will!” And then a much less friendly voice, always male, ads: “Restrictionsapply.Youmustinvestfiftythousanddollarsinournointerestaccountonfridays

betweenthreeandfourandshakethelimphandofourcustomerrepresentative.Offeronly

goodthroughsaturdayfebruarythirtymoredetailsatwww.nuwnunitedbanck.com.”

The male announcer says this one one breath, and the postscript last about six seconds. I used to work in radio, so I know how they do it, speeding up the voice artificially because nobody alive can talk this fast.

I’ve no doubt these announcements fulfill a legal requirement of some sort, but it amazes me that the legislators who framed the regulation didn’t bother to slam shut this loophole. But then again, most legislators are fast-talkers too

My latest book, L’Amérique, is available at your local bookstore or on Amazon.

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