“Viewed You Today”

As you may recall, I signed up for About.me a few weeks ago. Based on my initial impressions, I like it. It strikes me as a kinda Linked-in that’s more entertaining, artistic, and driven by “people” and “interests” – including, but not overwhelmingly, career interests. I certainly see where it could prove useful in a networking sense.

In just these first couple of weeks, I’ve had something around 4,000 visits to “view me.” I suppose that’s flattering. But I have no idea yet what those “views” really mean.

I have also spotted certain careers and “interests” predominating among those who are stopping by to “view” me, “add” me to a list, or even to “compliment” me. There are lots of IT, marketing, and other business professionals. Some have extraordinary educations and skills sets. For instance, one who “viewed me” the other day was a Turkish graduate of MIT, and she also plays classical piano. (Good grief. When I discovered that, talk about suddenly feeling inadequate about yourself!)

There are journalists. There are entertainers. There are regular international travelers. There are quite a few academics and students. Some people don’t display “amazing” bios, but seem merely friendly and interested in following others as on other social media. All appear to be something of a cross-section of our world; it’s astonishing how diverse the site is. And thankfully, so far, weirdoes and – insofar as I can tell – sp@mmers mercifully seem at a minimum.

A screen capture from within my About.me yesterday.

A screen capture from within my About.me yesterday.

Now something of a downer. I’m also seeing quite a few authors – certainly enough to have caught my attention – have a book cover as their photograph. Meaning literally they have a cover of their latest novel as “their picture.”

My gut reaction: that’s misunderstanding the site. Why? Even as an author myself, my take is the site’s used as a platform to present oneself as a unique individual. It’s about getting to know each other as people. Ultimately, it is about building relationships - business and otherwise.

For example, a market research specialist doesn’t usually represent her/himself with a photograph of the cover of a recent research report. It’s far more likely to be a Hi-Res photograph of her/himself climbing a mountain, or snorkeling, or gardening, or standing on the Great Wall of China. He/she aims to make him/herself “memorable” and – above all – “human” to you, thus leading you to want to know more about them.

Hence the site’s name?: “About.me?”

As an author, it seems fine to note one’s book titles and why you write. A writer’s works and motivations are part of what being a writer is. In that regard, they are no different from anyone else in terms of explaining their occupation, career aspirations, and listing former employers on their CV.

But to me you must never lose sight of the fact that it’s supposed to be about you as “a person.” It’s not first and foremost about your novel(s). Social media – to me, anyway – is about sharing yourself.

Too many authors appear to think “building relationships” and “interacting” on social media is about pushing their book(s). That, to me, is exactly backwards. On social media, your works flow from you as the person who created them.

If upon discovering you someone wants to read your book(s), he/she certainly will. However the “bells and whistles” approach we often see employed by authors on social media is close to “sp@mmer-like” and, frankly, just annoying. It has never led me once – not ever, not anywhere, not anytime – to want to buy a book.

But, then again, maybe I’m the one who has it all wrong? Well, even if I do, I don’t care. Just my take.

Have a good FRIDAY…. wherever you are in the world. :-)

Oh, I just thought of this. I’ve never played piano. However, I think I may have to pull out my old guitar from the closet, practice a bit, and add that to my About.me bio. Hey, don’t laugh: as a teenager, I used to play lots of Beatles’ songs fairly well. ;-)

To The Ski Slopes… And, More Importantly, After

We’re having some necessary electrical work done. The power’s switched off in the house (here in Wiltshire); I’m “tethered” to my phone for some internet. Nothing to do now but wait as the electrician – a nice guy – gets on with things.

Earlier, I was having a look around at some of my “web presence,” and noticed my Gravatar:

My Gravatar.

My Gravatar.

I know lots of people use Gravatar. However, there’s a tendency we all have, I think, to spread ourselves out “too much” over the net. I know there are sites I’ve long ago “abandoned,” but I’ve probably still got something up there, someplace. (A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue I got an automated email from Classmates.com that someone “remembered me.” I didn’t know “Classmates” even still existed? And how many of you had a My Space page you’d forgotten about?)

Anyway, here’s a bit of insider info about my Gravatar. The background photo is of a ski slope in La Clusaz, France. I took that picture about a decade ago.

Mrs. Nello has always been an excellent skier; she’s done it from childhood. I learned in my early thirties, when, I suppose, we all become a bit more physically risk-averse. I can do it, but I never fell in love with skiing the way she has.

Too often, I just fell. Come to think of it, I’ve fallen down in some of the most gorgeous ski resorts in the world. In western Canada. In Italy. In France. Uh, and in the Catskills too. ;-)

I never really hurt more than my pride, thankfully.

We’re going back to La Clusaz for a short stay in January. I always wanted to glide down a slope rather like David Niven in The Pink Panther, but I never managed it. Trying to do so is made all the tougher by so many around you whooshing by and taking it all so seriously that you’d think they were looking to World Cup qualify or something.

Regardless, as there was for Mr. Niven, for me there absolutely needs to be a brandy at the end. Or maybe just forget the skiing entirely, enjoy the views, work on “Book Number 3,” and have a brandy? The latter sounds like a great idea!

Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. :-)

Rule #1 For Any Author

I just discovered, by email notification, that a blogger I follow on WordPress has apparently read my first novel, Passports. The blogger evidently devoted a post to it. Understand that (as of this writing) I have no idea what that blogger thinks of the book because I have not read the post.

And I probably will not read it. Why not? When I saw the notification, I instantly thought of my uncle, who has told me he studiously avoids reading reviews of his novels.

It’s a quandary. Think about it. It’s inappropriate, and even tacky, for an author to bask in a positive review’s sunshine, and perhaps even to “like” it.

On the other hand, if a reviewer doesn’t like a book, well, what’s to do? Do a Chris De Burgh? Probably not.

Back in 2009, the Irish singer fired off a scathing retort to The Irish Times, berating a concert reviewer. In it, De Burgh launched some real zingers. He was furious at the reviewer’s negative take on a recent Dublin show:

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That strikes me as almost never the way to deal with even vicious criticism. Almost no one even days later would have really remembered that review, but they will long remember it courtesy of De Burgh’s angry response. One would’ve thought someone like De Burgh would’ve known that.

If someone directly approaches you (with an email, say), you are entitled to respond if you wish. That’s now a personal conversation: a correspondent is seeking you out, either positively or negatively. However, I feel the best way to react to public reviews is with silence, mixed with unseen appreciation people out there think enough of your books to buy them, read them, and discuss them.

First rule for every published author: Once your book is released, it ceases to be “yours.” It now belongs to each and every reader separately, and every one of them approaches your work from his/her own intensely personal perspective. In the end, as with music, how the book is interpreted is out of your control, and you won’t please everyone.

Have good day, wherever you are in the world. Me? Uh, time for more cold medication. Ugh. :-(

_____

UPDATE: For more on this issue, from (by pure coincidence) today as well:

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Enjoy!

World War II: “What does it say about us?”

If you visit my modest site here regularly, you know I write novels revolving around young Americans abroad in the 1990s – in France in particular. Unsurprisingly, I have many French characters, one of whom is a Second World War veteran. Before heading down that literary path, as an academic I’d studied the war and its impacts on post-war Europe.

So please pardon an extremely serious – even depressing – post. For whenever American WWII involvement is cited non-chalantly in present political debates, I take notice. In this case, a former comedian (who now has a chatter show on HBO) tweeted breezily the other day that the U.S. had won WWII without resorting to torture:

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We’ll leave aside his Cold War reference. We don’t know much that happened “quietly” in “black spots” and out of sight during the Cold War. But his raising it in that manner merely demonstrates he probably has only cursory knowledge about how the West and the Soviet bloc intelligence services went at each other viciously during those years, including resorting to umbrella poisonings, and in involving themselves (and sometimes succeeding) in overthrowing unfriendly governments, and then supporting torturers within the new governments.

Let’s focus instead on asking about “us” during the Second World War, which is a conflict that in U.S. lore today is now the last “good war.” Yes, millions of Americans served honorably. Yes, they helped liberate Nazi-occupied Europe. Yes, they helped end Japanese militarism. Freedom and democracy in Europe and much of the Pacific today owes a great deal to their sacrifices and accomplishments.

However, all of that did not come about without misery and death on what is now an incomprehensible scale. Two thousand years ago the Roman Tacitus famously wrote of his countrymen, “They make a desert, and they call it peace.” It could well be said that, between 1941-1945, America helped do much the same…. to “win” that former comedian’s version of the Second World War. Just a few examples:

  • U.S. soldiers raping Frenchwomen was not nearly as rare as we all might like to think it was.
  • After entering Dachau concentration camp near war’s end, U.S. soldiers herded captured guards together and shot them:
29 April 1945. Dachau, Bavaria, Germany: This picture shows an execution of SS troops in a coalyard in the area of Dachau concentration camp during the liberation of the camp. (Public domain.)

29 April 1945. Dachau, Bavaria, Germany: This picture shows an execution of SS troops in a coalyard in the area of Dachau concentration camp during the liberation of the camp. (Public domain.)

  • There were other occasions U.S. soldiers murdered captured PoWs, as in Sicily in 1943.
  • Following the D-Day battle, U.S. Rangers at Pointe du Hoc reportedly shot dead in cold blood French civilians they believed had fought alongside, or had artillery spotted for, the Germans.
  • In the several months’ long pre-D-Day air campaign that sought to hamper German movement by bombing roads and railways in German-occupied France, it is believed “we” may have also killed some 14,000 French civilians.
  • President Roosevelt oversaw years of carpet-bombings of Germany and Japan, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians – including children.
  • President Truman ordered two atomic bombs dropped on cities full of Japanese non-combatants – including children.

Some of us either want us to think, or actually vaguely believe that, the U.S. fought WWII without engaging in “dirty” behavior – as if it were, say, a John Wayne movie. But the problem is even a “John Wayne” movie isn’t even always a “John Wayne” movie. In The Longest Day, the 1962 blockbuster about D-Day starring Wayne among a “cast of thousands,” note that in a brief scene a soldier behind Omaha Beach guns down a group of surrendering Germans…. at least one of whom clearly has his hands up.

“Private” Exchanges

You may have seen something on the massive Sony Pictures hack. Films, emails and all sorts of data have been dropped into the “public space.” Buzzfeed shares some “juicy” bits of several emails, including how, in one, a prominent producer wrote a Sony executive what he thought about actor Angelina Jolie:

Buzzfeed screen capture [by me].

Buzzfeed screen capture [by me].

Reading the piece, my reaction is those film people spout privately like many of us do of course. They certainly also write like my crime novelist uncle has emailed, and speaks privately with me – “God, she’s younger than my daughter!” Even his semi-public posts on Facebook can include choice harsh words, as several did the other day when he was debating U.S. policing and got into a dust up with a film guy he knows well: he called him, among other things, essentially, a “space cadet.”

So is it actually any shock that those execs “rant” too? Do you? I admit I have at times, because to me emails and private exchanges are often simply chatter – “informal conversation.”

What those Sony execs and producers were doing was “thinking out loud” privately while working in an environment in which hundreds of millions of dollars may be at stake in any given project, and they need to be sure those they green light are going to make the company a profit, not bankrupt it. They likely don’t see each other face to face across a table often, and phone calls are not always convenient. They do their jobs often by “firing off” emails to each other.

Gee, that said, I’d hate to think what some people may have written privately about, uh, me? (“You see that recent book he wrote? Who the hell does he think he is? God, he’s so tiresome.”) ;-)

On that optimistic note, have a good day, wherever you happen to be reading this in the world. :-)

Monday Musical Interlude

I haven’t posted this “live,” but scheduled it last night to appear this morning. My Dad’s heart procedure is set for 8 AM. (He is having a small device implanted that will help his heart squeeze better.) We had to get him to the hospital for 7 AM, which meant we left the house well-before that…. which meant I barely had time to roll out of bed, much less post.

I’d been thinking I wasn’t going to be able to stay here in the U.S. for the procedure after it had been postponed a week. But my wife insisted, saying my mother needed me. We pushed back my return ticket to Britain so I could be here for it.

My Dad should be fine. But we are all still – perhaps understandably – a bit apprehensive. So how about a couple of blog-appropriate, upbeat songs?

Barba Gwen31 is an “independent” singer. Several months ago, on SoundCloud, I stumbled on her version of The Box Tops’ 1967 smash, “The Letter.” She sings it with a decidedly French panache:

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Next, if you click on her photo below, it will take you over to her cover of “On Ira” …. but please, uh, do come back here eventually. ;-)

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Hopefully, I’ll be back on the web “live” in a few hours and check in here with good news. Fingers crossed all will be well. Until then, umm, bonne journée. :-)

“Good grief, that’s just embarrassing….”

Writing, you are your best critic in some ways. If something bothers you as you re-read, it’s definitely not quite there. As in everything in life, listen to that little voice inside you.

I had a moment like that yesterday. It was only a few lines, but it just didn’t read quite as I wanted. Arrgh!

So, on the verge of publication, yep, yesterday I rewrote some of a Frontiers love scene.

I’ve discussed this problem previously. “Intimacy” is so difficult to write well. A real pain. There’s the narrowest of lines between “Got it! That works!” vs…. “Good grief, that’s just embarrassing….”

That issue off my chest (again), how about a “romantic” landscape photo for midweek? Iford Manor, Wiltshire:

Iford Manor, on the River Frome, Wiltshire, last Sunday. [Photo by me, 2014.]

It’s not a “Carson, would you please ask the new chauffeur to bring the motor around,” Downton Abbey type of manor. However, the house is thought to date originally to the late 1400s. Its garden was used a few years ago for a wedding in an episode of the TV series Mistresses.

Have a good Wednesday. :-)

If You Use Twitter….

….you aren’t necessarily following someone you may for a moment think you are. Twitter is slipping in follow suggestions among people you actually do follow. Yesterday, I noticed this:

Twitter, slipping in a "follow" suggestion among your actual follows.

Twitter, slipping in a “follow” suggestion among your actual follows.

I’m a fan of India, and follow some India-sourced media. That may be why “Make in India” was parachuted in for me as a suggested follow. But still, Twitter’s gettin’ increasingly Facebook-like slippery and “sneaky” at times, ain’t it?

Oh, and don’t you sit there being all judgemental at my following new! magazine. In an often all too ugly, nasty world, we all need some vacuous stuff now and then in our timelines. You may know already I follow Closer as well. ;-)

Try to have a good Tuesday, wherever you are….

And You Ask Where Novelists Find Material?

Here’s a UK TV listing for a showing of The Longest Day. I screen grabbed it back on Saturday. Why? Because it made me chuckle:

Screen capture of The Longest Day listing on Sky, on Saturday afternoon.

Screen capture of The Longest Day listing on More 4 on Saturday afternoon.

You gotta love it. The British do “subtle” like almost no one else. Notice that the British cast – despite John Wayne’s photo – get first national mention. And also note which country gets last mention…. after even…. the Germans.

I love stumbling on stuff such as that. We all seem hard wired to have a bit of a dig at each other. A couple of decades of encountering the likes of that has helped provide me with material in two novels so far. ;-)

Happy Monday [grumble, grumble], wherever you are in the world. :-)

The Soundtrack

Yesterday, while I was doing more unpacking (after that heavy post), I had my iPhone playing background music. Mostly, I was conscious of it only occasionally. In fact, at one point, I’m sure it must’ve repeated “No Reply” by the Beatles at least three times before I noticed.

I suppose I was just humming along. “Hmm reply! Hmm reply!” I usually write with music playing too – from classical to pop.

Some writers need SILENCE, but I don’t really require a library style hush. Mostly it has to be just consistent, reasonably volumed, sounds around me. Someone in an adjoining room with a TV blaring AND channel surfing totally wrecks my concentration. (And drives me nuts!)

In the novels I make veiled references to various 1980s and 1990s singers, but never mention any by name explicitly. Having thought about it this morning (Classic FM on, as I prepare to tackle some of the last post-move mess), I asked myself that if I wanted a “soundtrack” for the tale (in the same vein as the “Which actors?” for the film adaptation game), which songs would I think reasonably captured it? I created a quick iPad playlist of ten:

A playlist.

A playlist.

Some were hits, urr, way back when in ye olden days of the 1980s and early 1990s. Some were lesser known. There’s also a timeless one by Frank Sinatra, covering a Beatles song.

Those generally convey the spirit of the tale. They reflect tone pretty well too. It’s just interesting to think about that sort of thing. :-)

Have a good Thursday!