Rethinking the Virtues of Being Hyper-Connected to the Digital Realm

Over the annuls of history, numerous products were successful at one thing but created unanticipated impacts.

Invented in 1885, Coca-Cola made people feel good. It was billed as a “brain tonic and intellectual beverage.” It initially contained cocaine. It was addictive. Cocaine amounts were reduced over the years and eventually eliminated by the late 1920s.

DDT was billed as a miracle insecticide. It was promoted by the government and industry for many applications. It was used by farmers and mosquito control authorities. It was popular because it worked. Over time, thanks to the work of Rachel Carlson and many others, we learned that it was leading to rapid declines of numerous birds, such eagles, pelicans and peregrine falcons. Turns out that DDT persists in the environment for a long time and has many harmful impacts likely to all living creatures. Its use was largely banned in the 1970s. We have seen a significant rebound in these bird populations.

I could list many more products that had to be pulled off the market. You get the point. Something that is really good in some ways can be problematic in others.

Recently, I’ve been applying this concept to our being hyper-connected to the digital realm. Since at least the 1980s, we’ve each year become more reliant, some would say addicted, to the internet and its various products.

Like the products described above, the internet has offered so many benefits. Obviously, we have more data at our fingertips. Some of the data is accurate, some not. It has made so many things we do more efficient. We use far less paper and energy to do many tasks. All in all, it has produced many substantial improvements to our life and perhaps even the environment.

But is it a little like Coca-Cola or DDT in that there are negative impacts? Impacts that are real and perhaps warrant mitigation? Can such potential impacts even be mitigated?

Were this photo taken now, would half the people be staring at their phone? Early 1900’s picture of Camp DA Russell, Marfa, TX — Courtesy Marfa Public Library

I’ve recently been asking myself was I happier pre-internet or post internet? I don’t really know when the pre-internet period was. Personally, I’ve experienced a gradual increase in screen time since the 1980’s. I sense I was happier and felt more connected “pre-internet,” whenever that was. I think I sought out more in person contact and human connections. More walks, more outside, more reading, more hiking, more just sitting around with friends and listening to music and talking. I had more time.

My generation may be the last that can attempt to answer the pre-internet versus post-internet question. Does my generation have a unique responsibility to share our insights?

Has screen time eroded my doing the things listed above? Aren’t those things important to feeding community, feeding one’s soul? Are we now happier? If not, why do we surf more, binge more, post more?

Has this addictive, consumptive technology just snuck up on us so we didn’t note the changes in our world, our community and our personal happiness?

Since humans evolved in a tribal setting, do we need in person contact and support to feel comfortable? In other words, is the virtual world able to give us what we need as a species to thrive? Is it that our virtual world doesn’t meet our habitat and evolutionary needs? Animals in degraded habitat experience stress. It isn’t just happiness; it is health as well. Persistent stress leads to health declines.

How many souls are all alone, staring at their phones? New Orleans by night. ©CE Hunt, 2021

But it is not just a question of whether we are as happy and healthy. Has it affected our safety?

I really feel less connected to my countrymen. Now 30 to 40 percent of my countrymen concern me. The digital realm has accelerated that. There are so many people I feel like I have to be careful what I talk about for fear they will shut down. Facebook technologies feed you more of what you have consumed in the past. If you consume content about birds, you get more content about birds. That seems harmless. But if you consume extreme political or hateful content, you may get more, similar extreme or hateful content. That is proving to NOT be harmless. It may be radicalizing people. Since they live in an often virtual, tailor-made world of supporters, it appears to embolden them to act out on fringe theories.

I don’t have answers. I’m just sharing thoughts. One step would be for Facebook and other social media platforms to stop engineering what we are exposed to. Facebook should stop trying to figure out what we want to see, especially for content that will lead to radicalization. We are divided enough as it is!

Food for thought.

I welcome feedback. I may be missing something; I probably am…

Just talking, just connecting. French Quarter late at night ©CE Hunt, August 2019

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If you enjoy having your world paradigm challenged a bit, you might enjoy “Pauline” and “Beach” in my new novel, The Sommières Sun. Check it out.

Now available on Kindle or in paperback

True Writing and the Gift of Photography

Some people seem to just let experiences come and go. Little conscious effort is made to keep a part of what just happened to them. Life is just about experiencing things and that’s it. What’s next?

There’s nothing wrong with that. It is a way to travel “light” through the journey of life. These people can be very pleasurable company. They are experiencing new things, as others are pausing to process, document or reflect.

Those of us who attempt to process or document, however, are often good story tellers. We use the experiences of our lives to develop a personal narrative. That narrative is part of our conscientiousness. As long as we are alive, that narrative is always growing.

These experiences can be most anything, such as a great meal, like the one I enjoyed in Spain in 2013.

Lunch at Tatos in Platja d”Aro ©CE Hunt, August 2013
Lunch at Tatos in Platja d”Aro ©CE Hunt, August 2013

The good story tellers (and many writers) try to cling to a memory or two of many experiences–what something smelled like, how a person smiled, the taste of a steak or wine, how a person laughed, or the speckles in a lover’s eyes. The photos above will aid me should I ever write about that magical meal.

Photography can be an enormous gift to writers, especially when writing a scene from the past. (My favorite approach is to write in situ. Think of it as writing en plein air, but that is often not possible.) A well-taken, iconic photo can really open the memory floodgates. Writers can use journals and other tools as well. I find photographs and a few notes in my pocket journal of what I was feeling often works best for me.

By documenting a memory, it gives people something to latch onto and often many others aspects of the memory will flood back. That is a gift for writers, especially writers seeking to deploy what Hemingway termed “true writing” or “knowledge of life” as I discussed my novel, The Sommières Sun.

“Good writing is true writing. If a man is making a story up it will be true in proportion to the amount of knowledge of life that he has and how conscientious he is; so that when he makes something up it is as it would truly be.” ― Ernest Hemingway

I used the memory of my favorite steak place in Paris to create a scene for my protagonist, Steve, and his friend, Beach, to really bond. Food has a magical way of letting people relax and build relationships. I wanted the food to be phenomenal to intensify the bonding experience.

Le Relais de Venise on a rainy night in Paris ©CE Hunt, 2013

I used a couple of photos I of mine plus a discussion with my daughter to prepare to write this scene. I reflected on how I felt the times I ate at Le Relais de Venise, especially the first time in 2010. The following quotes share a bit of what I wrote.

A few minutes later…

I don’t believe I could have captured this scene without having experienced it, but the photos and conversation enriched the prose a great deal and made it even “truer” writing.

It doesn’t have to be just the big moments. Just capturing a simple scene or two can be so pleasurable as well…

Paris in the Sunshine ©CE Hunt, May 25, 2013
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar on a hot evening in the Quarter ©CE Hunt, July 28, 2019

But it can be bigger moments…

Trucadéro ©CE Hunt, January 19, 2013

I probably took 100 pictures that night. I will never forget how cold and beautiful Trucadéro was that night in January.

Whether you are a writer, a story teller or a person who just enjoys reliving and reflecting on special moments, capture those moments you value. It is a balance. Obviously, experience the moments too! It is just that a photo here and there and a few notes in a journal can make a big difference.

Now available on Kindle or in paperback

Readers Wanted

Many of my friends are changing. They are reading less and watching (or binging) series on Netflix, Amazon or similar services more. I don’t altogether like it. It is making my world a bit less interesting.

First of all, I feel a bit of pressure to watch these series in order to maintain cultural touchstones. After I watch a series, they strike me almost like mindlessly eating a bag of potato chips. I enjoy it immensely at the time, but feel a little sick afterward. Now, that’s an overstatement. I don’t actually feel sick after watching a series (normally). What really bothers me is how much less interesting my discussions are with friends about these series versus discussing a book.

Why do I find the discussion less rich? Maybe it has something do with that old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Maybe through the use of pictures, actually moving pictures, the viewer inserts less of herself into her perception of the story.

I’ll illustrate this with a passage from the The Sommieres Sun.

Reflect on this passage just a bit. We’ll come back to it.

Think about it like art. I find paintings that look almost like photographs less interesting than paintings that deploy a degree of abstraction. With a degree of abstraction, the viewer projects a bit of themselves into interpreting the subject.

Compare looking at this painting with looking at a photograph of a woman and a glass vase.

Chicago 1927 ©CE Hunt, 1994

Just reflect on the vase.

Study of Chicago 1927 ©CE Hunt, 1994

Again, think of how much different a discussion would be with a friend concerning this painting versus a photograph. Not to say photography can’t be abstract or interpreted as well. I do love photography, but you get the point.

That is the beauty of reading and books, writers are never able to completely describe a scene. The reader always has to robustly use his imagination to supplement the words on the page.

In a sense, the reader forms a partnership with the writer to visualize what is happening. As a result, when you discuss a book with a friend, your perception will be different than theirs. You are comparing your interpretations versus literal scenes that a video series explicitly prepared for your consumption.

When you discuss a book with a friend, you are in a sense, discussing a bit of yourself with them. Your experiences, your imagination, colored and helped shape your perception of what happened. That’s generally less true when you discuss video productions.

Okay, to illustrate, think about what you envisioned from the above passage at the start of this post. Did you see anything like this?

Château-Thierry Monument, Château-Thierry, France, November 2013 ©CE Hunt
Château-Thierry Monument, Château-Thierry, France, November 2013 ©CE Hunt

Probably not precisely. You injected your imagination, your knowledge of monuments and France or whatever, into your perception of the scene.

Here’s another example.

What did you see?

Think about what you really saw in your mind.

Did it look like this?

Fountain at Place Saint Saint Sulpice, December 28, 2012 ©CE Hunt
Fountain at Place Saint Saint Sulpice, December 28, 2012 ©CE Hunt

Probably not exactly. But that gives us a glimpse of why discussing books is so interesting, so rich. We are in a sense discussing ourselves a bit as well.

Of course, writers selfishly want you to read. That’s a big reason why we write. But we also think the world is a more interesting place when you do. It can, just like abstract art, transform the consumption of art away from a spectator sport to a participation sport. I like that.

Now available on Kindle or in paperback

A Celebration of Hemingway…and Marfa, and Paris, and the South of France, and New Orleans…and More

The Ken Burns series on Hemingway will begin airing on PBS on April 5, 2021. The promos to his series got me to thinking about what was going on in my mind as I was writing A Moveable Marfa. The series looks like it is going to be incredible and honest.

I worked on A Moveable Marfa during the years I lived Paris, 2010-2013. I knew additional books might also emerge from this experience. Which is now happening. The Sommières Sun, my next novel and a sequel to A Moveable Marfa is in the final stages of pre-publication editing. In telling of my story of protagonist, Steve Miles, both novels feature content on Hemingway’s life in Paris and his philosophy on writing.

In 2011, I challenged myself to visit and document many of the sites in Paris Hemingway identified in Paris. I visited where he and Hadley first lived and the nearby writing studio he rented. A portion of the episode I describe in Chapter 21 of A Moveable Marfa really happened. I still vividly recall the downpour that began as I was admiring the location of Hemingway’s old writing studio at 39 rue Descartes. Slightly drenched and standing under an awning, I really did chat with a man of African descent there. I think in reality we conversed in French, even if my character, Steve, chatted with him mostly in English.

Anyway, I visited and wrote about many sites Hemingway described in A Moveable Feast, including the places he lived, Gertrude Stein’s flat at 27 Fluerus, Michaud’s (now Le Pre Aux Clercs), the original location of Shakespeare and Company at rue de l’Odeon, Hotel Venitia, and the Dingo Bar (now Auberge de Venise), among others. In a A Moveable Marfa, I described Steve’s feelings as he visited these places seeking inspiration to write his novel.

Throughout A Moveable Feast, Hemingway described so many places we can visit today. Here’s his description of the fountains at Place Saint-Sulpice.

I visited this fountain numerous times.

Fountain at Place Saint Saint Sulpice, December 28, 2012 ©CE Hunt
Fountain at Place Saint Saint Sulpice, December 28, 2012 ©CE Hunt

Of course I hung out at the Jardin de Luxembourg numerous times and wrote parts of the book there. Hemingway referenced this park many times and wrote of going to the Musée du Luxembourg to see the Cézannes, Manets, Monets.

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Marie De Medicis Fountain in Jardin du Luxembourg, May 25, 2013 ©CE Hunt
Marie De Medicis Fountain in Jardin du Luxembourg, May 25, 2013 ©CE Hunt
Musée du Luxembourg, March 5, 2013 ©CE Hunt

In Chapter 22, I describe a scene in the below bar, Le 10 Bar. Right next door, was the original location of Shakespeare and Company. I describe a scene that Hemingway reportedly made on this very street after receiving a bad review.

Le 10 Bar, May 25, 2013 ©CE Hunt

The Sommières Sun will be out soon. If you haven’t read a A Moveable Marfa now is a great time. The Sommières Sun is a sequel to a A Moveable Marfa. Reading A Moveable Marfa is not essential, but reading it first will make reading The Sommières Sun all the more enjoyable.

A Couple of Cool Books on the West

I wanted to do short reviews on a couple of books I recently enjoyed. I find inspiration in the American West. I love the beauty, the isolation and the mystery. Having lived in the West multiple times, I have feelings there I seldom have elsewhere. The West offers the absence of people and distractions, the abundance of beauty and sunsets and the palpable sense there are some aspects of those sweeping landscapes that our conventional five senses cannot fully detect.

As an example, I was once poking around the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in Otero County New Mexico just as the sun was about to dip below the horizon. My world was bathed in orange light with foreboding shadows coming from the petroglyph-covered boulders surrounding me. I had strange a sensation I was in a sacred place similar to what I experienced when visiting the Chartres Cathedral. Hard to explain unless you have experienced it. I had been there earlier on other days, and it didn’t have that feeling. It was as though the sunset “activated it.” The photo section of this site (under the New Mexico tab) has a couple of pictures I took of this place on other days.

But I digress, let’s talk books…

Let me start with Abandoned New Mexico by John M. Mulhouse. Having lived in New Mexico for three years, I explored the remote corners of this magnificent state as often as I could.

Mulhouse does an excellent job of documenting places across the state that have been largely abandoned yet still have many great stories to share. Though Mulhouse doesn’t necessarily emphasize this, it is a persistent story of the futility of man working against mother nature. Mulhouse’s main emphasis is what brought people to a place, what was built to support civilization and, typically speaking, how precious little still remains of that struggle.

Dunlap Church and School ©John M Mulhouse (From Abandoned New Mexico)

The book is filled with incredible photos documenting what remains of ghost towns and near ghost towns across the state. I actually visited the above structure in 1996 and documented it myself. There used to be other buildings around this structure. There was no sign of them even in 1996 when I visited. Now, the building sits in splendid isolation out on an Eastern New Mexico prairie.

Here is the building I documented in 1996 ©CE Hunt

Sadly, other images of this structure in the book reveal that the building has deteriorated a great deal from the time I visited. But, I digress (again).

Mulhouse’s book does an impressive job of documenting so many forgotten places across the state.

Simply put, I loved this book. Having lived in New Mexico and having explored its backroads, this book brings back so many good memories and gives context to many of the lonely, beautiful places I visited. I loved the way Mulhouse coupled his stunning photography with just enough history to give context without overwhelming the reader. His occasional dry humor adds much as well.

Another thing I liked is that he offers explorations in parts of the state that are seldom discussed but have rich histories and interesting stories to share.

Now, I’ll provide a brief review of a second book concerning the Southwest. It is a totally different kind of book.

Desert Oracle by Ken Layne explores some of the mysterious aspects of the Southwest. It shares a number of stories, some short, some long, that describes mysteries surrounding disappearances, cults, murders, UFOs monsters and other desert mysteries. The stories are all based on accounts from several sources about these strange occurrences. Layne balances “keeping it real” and keeping it interesting quite well.

One of my favorite stories was about a mysterious Swedish fellow named John Samuelson who left his life philosophy carved on some stones now part of Joshua Tree National Park. The man led a bizarre life including selling the rights to his (possibly true) life story to Earl Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason.

The book has an old school feeling to it and is ascetically very pleasing. The stories are well written and interesting. All the content is presented in a plausible fashion and will likely hold your attention. Once finished, you will step away from the book wanting to go experience some of these mysteries of the Southwest yourself.

Coming spring 2021

Cover photo: ©Matt Walter, 1 Jan 2021, Sunset over Alpine, TX

Storms and Feeling Alive

Hurricane Zeta, October 2020 ©CE Hunt

“Just one more minute. Je me sens si vivante!”

“Wow! You changed.” I stared in her wide open eyes. “I feel so alive too, I feel so alive when I am with you, hurricane or not.”

Moi aussi mon cher!” and she dug her face into my chest. The rain was so hard, the wind so strong, you could no longer see out into the distance. It was just a swirl of black, gray with a few city lights appearing at times. Lightning towards the Gulf occasionally made a strange greenish light in the distance.

–The Sommières Sun, to be published spring 2021

If you’ve ever been through a hurricane, you may understand the above conversation between Steve and his friend from my upcoming novel, The Sommières Sun. Hurricanes can be scary. If you feel like you could die, you might be too terrified to feel “si vivante” or “so alive.” However, if you can experience a storm from a place where you feel relatively safe, you can have an amazing experience just as Steve and his friend find out as they are visiting New Orleans. From the 9th floor of the Ace Hotel, they witness the awesome power mother nature can unleash.

There is something very primal about witnessing the awesome forces of wind and rain coming together at such a force. The feeling of the wind making it being hard to stand up, or the pelting of horizontal rain or even the smell of a hurricane affects one viscerally.

The scene I describe in The Sommières Sun is based on what I witnessed during Hurricane Zeta in late October 2020. As the video I captured shows, it was a force to be reckoned with. I tried to capture my characters encountering the forces described above and depicted in the video below.

And going through something like this with a person you care about can somehow make you feel even closer, like you shared something really important or even “cheated death” together.

I invite you to experience this scene this spring upon publication. It is one of my favorite scenes in the book!

The Sommières Sun is a sequel to A Moveable Marfa, published January 2020.

To keep up with the latest and see more of my photography, please follow my instagram account here. There are more videos and photos of Hurricane Zeta there.

Coming spring 2021

Why I write

I just finished the first draft of The Sommières Sun. It now goes on to editing and it is still on track for a spring release. I thought I’d take a short break from the book to blog about why I write.

Marfa, Texas (from the Sunset Limited) April 2008 ©CE Hunt

I write to entertain, educate and inspire. I also write to provoke thought. I find many of us lead lives, myself included, that don’t often offer time to think. I mean time for us to reflect on what we actually think about something. Far too often we “outsource” our thinking to others, political commentators, journalists, celebrities, pastors or, even worse, propagandists.

In the past, many of our jobs featured time to be alone and offered moments of reflection. What else could you do walking behind a mule or sitting on a tractor or the like? I know my grandparents, who were farmers in Deep East Texas, had much time to think. Many of their daily tasks were performed alone without any distraction other than the task before them, often a task that didn’t require a great deal of attention. They had no internet or radio to “keep them company” as they went about their tasks out on the farm. They had a newspaper and some fuzzy television of three channels if the weather was right.

Picture of my grandmother I took in 1979 in East Texas with my hand me down Minolta SLR.

I loved talking to my grandparents because their ways of thinking didn’t fit into any box. They didn’t let anyone do their thinking for them. They certainly didn’t organize their world view around what a political party told them to think. I didn’t always agree with them and frankly a few of their views were farfetched, but the beauty of it was that they were were “their” views. Nowadays, tell me what networks or media outlets you follow and I can probably accurately guess your views on things ninety percent of the time or more.

Okay, so what’s this got to do with writing? I like to entertain and inspire people, but I also like to provoke the reader to think about things from a different perspective. In both A Moveable Marfa and The Sommières Sun, I use people from other cultures to provoke Steve, my protagonist, to think about things from other perspectives.

Port-en-Bessin, Normandy. December 2009 ©CE Hunt

Travelling and truly listening to people from other cultures is another way to help people to develop “their” views. Often times, the “pre-packaged” views we embrace don’t in reality square well with the complexity of the real world. So, I have sought to journal or somehow record the moments where my worldview was challenged.

I have also attempted to record or at least remember things that have happened to me that I found interesting, challenging or surprising. Hemingway offered–

“Good writing is true writing. If a man is making a story up it will be true in proportion to the amount of knowledge of life that he has and how conscientious he is; so that when he makes something up it is as it would truly be.”

I strive to keep my writing “true” by writing from my “knowledge of life.” I work to avoid writing pure fiction. I weave my knowledge of life and enough informed fiction to make a story flow and enhance the reader’s experience. I really feel like a fraud when I write about something of which I have no personal experience. It makes my writing feel less “true.” Probably most writers share this feeling.

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Le Relais de Venise (steak house), Porte Maillot, Paris 2013 ©CE Hunt – Look for a scene here in The Sommières Sun.

Whether it is the taste of an incredible steak-frites meal I had in a Paris steak house, the emotions I felt during a hurricane, the curiosity that filled me when I experienced a good Tiki bar or my reaction to a beautiful West Texas sunset, I try connect the reader to the beauty of these experiences for the reader’s enjoyment or inspiration. However, as appropriate, I also use experiences to provoke thought on the part of the reader by sharing different ways of thinking about things. Of course, readers have the sovereignty of their own thoughts and feelings.

Latitude 29 Tiki bar, New Orleans 2020 ©CE Hunt – Look for a scene here as well in The Sommières Sun.

That, in a nutshell, is why I write.

Coming spring 2012

Tiki Anyone?

My upcoming novel, The Sommières Sun delves into the tiki culture of Paris and New Orleans.

The philosophy, if you will, is living moments of a peaceful life. Let the magic of the ocean and the breeze heal you and wash away your cares. Think white sand and the smell of an ocean breeze. It’s primal.

The above quote is from “Beach” Roberson, Steve’s new acquaintance in Paris in The Sommières Sun. In the novel, Beach owns one of Paris’ hottest bars, Tiki-Paris. He will have much more to say about the importance of tiki culture in the American experience. For him, it is literally spiritual.

Perhaps, you might wonder, “What’s tiki?” It is a complex question to answer. One could start with tiki bars. Donn Beach (He was born Ernest Gantt, likely in New Orleans.) is often considered the “founding father” of tiki culture. He opened the first tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber, during the 1930s in Hollywood, CA. It was later expanded and additional Don the Beachcombers opened in the United States. 

Donn Beach (left), Don the Beachcomber. Source: Don the Beachcomber Restaurant, Huntington Beach, CA (currently closed.)

What makes a tiki bar a tiki bar? Traditionally tiki bars are south seas-themed drinking establishments that serve elaborate cocktails, especially rum-based mixed drinks such as the Mai Tais, Zombies, Nui Nuis, Suffering Bastards, etc. Tiki bars are aesthetically defined by their trappings of Polynesian culture.  Most bars also incorporate general nautical themes or aspects of retro culture such as 1960s iconography.

Vintage “Pre-Tiki” Bar, Source: Don the Beachcomber Restaurant, Huntington Beach, CA (currently closed.)

Purists will point out that the tiki iconography didn’t surface until the mid-1950s and that the initial “pre-tiki” bars mostly featured decorations that evoked south pacific island life (vestiges of straw huts, bamboo, driftwood and palm trees) and nautical items such as Japanese glass floats, fishing nets, nautical lanterns, etc. The tiki statues, such as representations of Moai, the statues of the Easter Island, and many other forms started to appear in the mid-1950s.

Tiki iconography in the Tiki Tolteca bar, New Orleans. October 2020 (c)CE Hunt

The history of the whole tiki cultural phenomenon is rich and complex. Urban archeologist, Sven Kirsten, has written some outstanding histories of the culture. Book of Tiki and Tiki Pop are both impressive. He goes into some of the earliest literary foundations of the culture as well as other aspects such as the impact of movies of the era and the once close realtionship between tiki bars and the Hollywood film industry.

Source: Don the Beachcomber Restaurant, Huntington Beach, CA (currently closed.)

In recent years, tiki bars have begun to resurface on the American landscape. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, owner of the excellent New Orleans tiki bar, Latitude 29, is a highly regarded “mixologist” and tiki anthropologist. He has published numerous popular books on vintage tropical drinks. Sippin’ Safari would be a great one to start with.

Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s Latitude 29 in the French Quarter, October 2020 (c)CE Hunt

Popular American artist, Josh Agle (Shag), has incorporated tiki themes into his work and captured the imagination of a lot of Tiki fans. Pictured below is sample of his work. It was for the opening of a new tiki bar in Kansas City, Tikicat. Click here for more samples of Josh’s incredible work.

Tiki Cats and Kittens, an example of Josh Agle’s (Shag) fabulous work (acrylic on panel) https://shagstore.bigcartel.com/

There is also a great magazine, Exotica Moderne, to keep one abreast of Tiki culture. It covers many aspects of the Tiki scene, including music, drinks, food, bars, “Tiki Lit” and art.

Exotica Moderne Magazine

I look forward to you delving along with Steve, my protagonist, into tiki culture in The Sommières Sun this spring. Meanwhile, search out a good tiki bar near you, imbibe a couple of great cocktails and see if the “tiki” vibe affects you the way Beach suggests above.

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In the coming weeks, as a bonus to those of you who enjoy a good tiki bar, I’ll review my two favorite tiki bars in the Big Easy–Latitude 29 and Tiki Tolteca, both of which are featured in The Sommières Sun.

Coming spring 2021

Why a Sequel?

After I finished A Moveable Marfa, my brother, Carl, also a published writer who played a key editing role in the book, asked me, “Are you ready for a sequel?” He said the characters in A Moveable Marfa were rich and well-developed, and there was more story there.

My response? “No! It’s finished!” I honestly thought I was done with Steve and what I thought was a colorful cast of characters on both sides of the Atlantic. I missed those characters and the interactions they had with each other and their distinctive worlds, but I just wasn’t feeling like I needed to say more. I just didn’t want to write a sequel for the sake of a sequel.

I thought it was settled. It was time to go enjoy a sunset or something…

Sunset, Paris 2011 ©CE Hunt

Then a few other readers reached out to me and spoke. They asked me when was the next book coming out? With those readers I knew personally, I challenged them with a “why do you ask?” The response was that they wanted to know what happens next. I thought it was settled. They felt otherwise. They felt there were numerous unresolved issues and the characters needed to tell us more about themselves and their worlds.

I reflected.

Driving into France on N-260 2009 ©CE Hunt

Maybe my readers were right. Certainly, there’d be curves in the road ahead for Steve. What was around the corner? Would things work out?

On a lark, I sat down in the spring of 2020, to just play around, see if I was feeling it. Maybe the readers were just being kind. I wasn’t convinced.

Then a funny thing happened.

I was shocked when the follow-on story almost started writing itself. The text I’d written almost literally handed me the title, The Sommières Sun, and I was all in. I called my brother and told him something that brothers are sometimes loath to do. I told him he was right.

Meanwhile he had begun writing a book: Paradoxes of Power. Knowing my passion for nature, he asked me to co-author a chapter with him on our society’s dysfunctional relationship with nature. I agreed, so for a while, I was working on both books at the same time.

Meanwhile, Carl was occasionally reviewing the text of my sequel and saw a passage he wanted to quote in a chapter on which he was collaborating with other authors on the dysfunction of power relationships concerning race in America. Consequently, there is an excerpt in Chapter 4 in Paradoxes of Power from The Sommières Sun, even before it is published. In the excerpt, a friend of Steve’s is laying into him about how our nation often takes for granted the contributions of non-white Americans and those who desire to join the ranks of US citizens.

Llança, Costa Brava, Spain, 2009 ©CE Hunt

When I started writing The Sommières Sun, I quickly realized Steve had many mysteries and challenges on his horizon. While the end of A Moveable Marfa signaled to the reader a possible outcome, Steve’s fate was far from sealed. Further, he still had a lot of growing to do to become the person and writer he wanted to be.

I am hopeful and modestly confident that The Sommières Sun won’t disappoint the reader. Many surprises and some intriguing new characters await Steve and their readers as we continue on this life journey with them, which, in some respects, is really universal to all of us.

The projected publication of The Sommières Sun is spring of 2021.

Paradoxes of Power was published last month and available now. All, I ask is, please finish A Moveable Marfa before you read the lengthy except in Chapter 4 of Paradoxes of Power. I wouldn’t want the ending of a A Moveable Marfa to be spoiled for you!

Spring 2021

Monique and the Gift of Resilience

Steve’s life in France seldom goes the way he expects. Surprises are not uncommon when traveling outside one’s nation. An acquaintance of his, Monique, offers up a few more surprises than most.

Steve, sitting in front of Au Petit Suisse Café, realizes he’s likely been stood up by Monique. He has a decision to make. He could sulk or move on and see what’s around the next corner. His new friend, Chester, helps him to move on. The group of friends he meets that night changes his experience in Paris mostly for the better. Within an hour he’d be drunk on sangria and laughing the night away with his dear old (new) friends.

Definitely a life lesson here. We’d all generally be better off reassessing situations after a disappointment to see how we can best rebound or even profit. Sometimes, the rebound is better than the anticipated “bound,” whatever a bound is.

No matter how one expresses it, “Carpe diem,” “Profitez du moment” or “Seize the moment,” it is generally good advice.