Shopping Till They Drop

Our house in the Catskills has no internet. (When we’re in Britain, I suspend it.) That should not have been a problem. We knew we could rely on T-Mobile wifi.

But when we got there Sunday, T-Mobile failed for some reason (although it has worked before). Over the few days we were there we managed to get flashes of internet via our “suspended” line (and I have no idea how that could have been), but that was all. So I was “silent” on here for a few days. Sorry.

Although maybe you liked the quiet? ;-)

With a snowstorm due today, en route to my parents’ in Pennsylvania yesterday we did some Christmas shopping among the Woodbury Common crowds pre-Thanksgiving…. alongside half of Europe and half of Asia:

Screen capture of NYC tourist's Woodbury Common page.

Screen capture of NYC tourist’s Woodbury Common page.

Many of those shoppers are seen wheeling around newly bought luggage with which they will carry their purchases home. I’ve always found it hilarious: the existence of those shopping outlets in a non-descript location off of I-87 in upstate NY, about a hour and a half from our house. It is about as “international” a location you can find north of Manhattan. (A niece of a friend in Ireland has even been there during a visit to the city.) Hearing an American accent among shoppers is something of an oddity.

We’re now back with my parents in Pennyslvania. I may well stay for my Dad’s December 8-9 surgery. We are still talking about that…. as the forecast 12 inches of snow begin to fall.

With no internet of consequence at our house, I couldn’t publish Frontiers as I’d hoped. Moreover, it still awaits my toughest critic’s final approval: we’ve been unexpectedly busy and she has been unable to read the finished product, but once Mrs. Nello has given her nod, and now with internet again, I can wrap it up. I’m hoping to do that over Thanksgiving…. while we remain trapped visiting with my parents during a snowstorm. Ahhhh! :-)

Where, Where, Am I?

Had a good flight from Heathrow yesterday. It was a full plane – a 787 Dreamliner. Love that plane. It’s comfortable – even in economy – and with large overhead bins. It also has excellent cabin air: I never disembark feeling “beaten up” from a “stuffy” cabin. (Have always disliked the 777.)

Watched six Mad Men episodes on the way. That made the hours, uh, “fly” by. ;-) (I think “Roger Sterling” is one of the best written characters I’ve ever seen on TV.)

My Dad’s looking excellent. And it’s now just after 7 AM here in Pennsylvania, U.S. of A….

Tweeting at 4:30 AM Eastern Time. Awake!

Tweeting at 4:30 AM Eastern Time. Awake!

….but I started today a lot earlier. Love jet lag.

Just thought I’d say, “Hello.” Have a good Sunday. :-)

“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. :-)

“God, she’s younger than my daughter!”

My HarperCollins novelist uncle was messaging with me on Saturday. He’d just spoken to my mother (his sister) about my father’s pending heart surgery. He also dropped in yet more authoring advice:

Engaging with a writer uncle on Facebook Messenger about writing when he doesn't know you have already written one book and are nearly finished with the second. [Screen capture by me, 2014.]

Engaging with a writer uncle on Facebook Messenger about writing when he doesn’t know you have already written one book and are nearly finished with the second. [Screen capture by me, 2014.]

On Facebook, as you can see, he’s not always exactly, ummm, a wordsmith.

His first novel appeared in the early 1980s; and he has also written short stories, screenplays, and, recently, a stage play. “I’m why they have editors,” I vaguely remember him once saying. I also recall some years ago how, when one of his books was being edited by “some 21 year old” woman and evidently feeling his age a bit, he shook his head and harrumphed to me, “God, she’s younger than my daughter!”

Free Stock Photo: A pair of glasses with an open book.

Free Stock Photo: A pair of glasses with an open book.

Yes, life is indeed endless “fictional” source material. ;-)

I started this “I think I’d like to write a novel” tease with him. I admit this little game is entirely my fault. But now he won’t stop offering me advice.

So now I just have to figure out how to get out of this “literary” corner into which I’ve painted myself. :-) Hope you have a good day. Happy Monday [grumble, grumble].

English Countryside Views

I spoke with my father in Pennsylvania last night after he’d gotten the results of his heart test on Thursday. In August, he had been ambulanced to the hospital with only 15% heart function. It is now, three months later, up to 26% – thanks to medication, exercise, a much reduced salt intake, and totally following doctor’s orders.

His cardiologist was impressed at how he has done EVERYTHING he was asked to do, but 26% was not enough to satisfy the doctor that he was out of danger; he wanted to see at least 35%. He said that after 3 months’ recovery that 26% is likely the peak the heart will ever reach on its own, so recommended an implant.

On December 1, my Dad will have put into his chest a 3-wire, tiny device that helps the heart squeeze, which should take him to about 50%. (My Dad said the cardio had previously explained that “elite athletes” like runners tend to be at about 60%.) The device should end the chance his heart will simply slow to a stop. He will have it implanted the rest of his life.

All told, that’s a huge relief. So I thought, for this post, how about some beautiful views?

We had taken a long walk last Sunday – 7.9 miles, to be exact; distance marked courtesy of an iPhone app – up and down hills around Bratton Camp, which borders on the Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate. We finished at the Westbury White Horse. My legs ached for 24 hours afterwards!:

Bratton Camp and White Horse, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Bratton Camp and White Horse, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Sign noting the bridleway as well as the next door military firing range, part of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Sign noting the bridleway as well as the next door military firing range, part of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Don't open that gate or cross that fence! Edge of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Don’t open that gate or cross that fence! Edge of Salisbury Plain Defence Training Estate, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Quiet, solemn, St James's Church, Bratton. [Photo by me, 2014].

Quiet, solemn, St James’s Church, Bratton. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Westbury White Horse [Photo by me, 2014].

Westbury White Horse [Photo by me, 2014.]

Being new in the area, it was naturally a new hike for us. Sadly, though, we didn’t encounter a pub en route. So besides its unexpected length (we’d taken a wrong turn and walked about a mile out of our way), that was the only big disappointment. ;-)

Have a good Saturday.

______
UPDATE: November 17:

Bratton does have a pub: “The Duke.”

It’s an attractive one too. We drove by it yesterday. On our walk last weekend, we hadn’t wandered into that part of the village.

“Are You Italian?”

Time Magazine tells us that a New Zealand newspaper tried its own “catcalling” experiment:

Remember that video of a woman getting catcalled more than 100 times? The one that took over the entire Internet and launched approximately 87 million think pieces, tweets and blog posts? Well, the New Zealand Herald decided to test out a similar experiment, but in Auckland instead of New York City…

You have to watch the 2 min, 22 second video:

Model Nicola Simpson is spoken to exactly twice. Once a man asks (seemingly innocuously) directions. Another, however, does try this:

image

Ah, Europeans.

Well, at least he wasn’t American.

Suppose that’s one way to, uh, try to start a conversation: “Are you Italian?”

If you’ve been to New Zealand, you may agree: I felt it was one of the most polite countries I’ve ever visited. Stress seems non-existent. That video was shot in Auckland, but I’d bet the same would have been the case in Wellington (I’ve not been to Auckland): I will always remember it as the calmest, most relaxed, national capital I’ve ever seen. :-)

That’s enough now! Back to work! All of you, stop messing around on the internet! ;-)

Wiltshire Wildlife

Time for a West of England wildlife photo:

Unidentified cat on picnic table in our back garden. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Unidentified cat on picnic table in our back garden. [Photo by me, 2014.]

The other day, he made me jump when I looked out over the sink through the kitchen window. I snapped this photo right afterwards. He kept looking at me.

He reappeared yesterday, scratching at our sliding glass door. Obviously he thinks this house – which we’ve now been living in for under two weeks – is part of his turf. I mean, look how bl-ody comfortable he’d made himself! :-)

What Does “Oksana” Want?

We all know that genuine romances have begun thanks to the web. Marriages have even resulted. Numerous people’s lives have been happily transformed.

Then, looking on, there are certain relationships that begin over the net that give us pause. “Melvin” is divorced from a friend of my wife’s. After their breakup some 8 years ago, he had told his ex-wife about a Ukrainian named “Oksana.”

Yes, that’s right. I had vaguely thought they were reasonably close in age, but have recently been told she’s about 25 years younger than he is. (He is about ten years older than all of us.) Apparently she lives near Odessa. (In case you ever wanna stop by.) I’ve also been told he insisted he did not know her while they were still married.

Okaaaaay. Yes, you there, I can’t see you, but I bet you’re shaking your head too. Given the divorce, most of our info naturally comes via third parties. Over the years, we’ve had loads of unanswered questions.

Because it has long sounded, well, fishy. (There’s a shocker, eh!) Yet perhaps it’s a legitimate romance? Who are we to draw conclusions?

Still, even among an American or British, or European couple from the same country, we outsiders would probably gently question any such May-December relationship. What is “Oksana” getting out of it? Understand, “Melvin” is not exactly a British version of George Clooney either.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a couple being served a romantic dinner.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a couple being served a romantic dinner.

Then again, maybe there is love? But if there is, after 8 years a marriage usually happens in a long-distance relationship. Or at least some form of cohabitation has appeared.

A few weeks ago, when we were visiting his ex-wife, unexpectedly “Melvin” appeared. He had popped by for some reason, but the women were out. So I was able to chat with him alone and for longer than at any time since their divorce 8 years ago. Before it, he and I had been cordial, and even friendly.

He balanced on a sofa arm on the other side of the lounge, and breaking the momentary silence between us, he started the conversation: “I guess you’ve heard? Uh, Ukraine? Oksana?”

I said I had.

He seemed a bit uneasy. He said he’s moving to Odessa in the spring. I decided not to judge, to see if I could find out anything more.

I pointed out matter of factly that Ukraine’s not in the European Union, and unmarried he can’t just up sticks and settle there as if it were, say, Poland. He seemed a bit caught out, and replied he can stay 90 days without a visa, which is what he has been doing all these years – going back and forth for shortish periods.

He seemed to relax as we spoke, perhaps relieved I didn’t call him names or laugh at him or something.

“Is she Catholic or Orthodox?” I asked. (He’s CoE, but irreligious.)

“You do know there’s a war going on there right now?” (Hundreds of miles away from Odessa; and I knew that. I was just asking questions.)

“I’ve not been there,” I noted, “but I’m guessing living there is a lot different in some ways to living in Western Europe or America?” (He nodded.)

“How much Ukrainian have you learned to live there?” (A little. Not much, he said.)

I also voiced polite surprise at his saying “Oksana” has no desire to move here to Britain. To me, if you love someone – truly love someone – you’d live anywhere. (After all, he says he’s moving to Ukraine.) And a move to Britain is not exactly moving from Ukraine to Mars. He mumbled something about her not wanting to leave her family….

I write this post today because last night his ex-wife phoned Mrs. Nello, and during their chat noted that “Melvin” says he bought a house there several months ago. He also told her that in buying a house the Ukrainian authorities will let him stay. That would seem unlikely; but, then again, maybe Ukraine has some “foreign investment” scheme whereby if you bring in money, you are given residency?

Hmmm. Who knows the truth in all this? I do know he either chose to be evasive with me in not mentioning the house purchase, or he’s lying to his ex-wife about having bought the house. (As if lying to an ex-wife – lying to me hardly matters – has never happened ever before? I know.)

I don’t really care what he does with himself. “Melvin’s” an adult, and if he’s been content flying back and forth to Ukraine to see “Oksana” for nearly 8 years with no evident commitment from her, that’s his business. One has to believe money almost certainly went her way too.

My gut tells me it’s about money. I suppose I just feel a bit sorry for him too. Eight years? Geez. I hope he’s not going to feel like a complete fool at some point if he arrives there unannounced and walks in on “Oksana” and a Ukrainian boyfriend who’s about the same age as she is.

I know this post has zero to do with my books. Ah, but given what I write, I look for inspiration all over the place. At the very least, this episode provides me with some potentially useful “fiction” future story material! ;-)

Hope you’re having a good Saturday, wherever you are reading this in the world. :-)

____
UPDATE: Having seen this post, Mrs. Nello said I’d “had quite a go at him.” Actually, if I sounded harsh, I didn’t mean it. It’s just the whole situation sounds to me, well, decidedly odd and full of potentially big trouble for him.

Genius Will Not Be Rushed

One of my proofreaders emailed me last night asking, essentially, “Where’s the book?” She wants it. Actually, she wants it “yesterday.”

I tapped back hurriedly that it’s almost ready for her review. Really!

I will admit here I was at one chapter again tinkering last night. I’ve extra-wrestled with this one, and fought with it, and struggled with it for months. It’s a “dream sequence.” I have redone it several times after each version read to me, quite frankly, as ridiculous.

Please don’t suggest it. A vampire swooping down cannot solve this problem! No! No! No! ;-)

I’ve finally gotten it now, methinks. It’s subtle enough, but a bit of a shocker. My main problem all along has been I don’t want it to read “like” a dream for the overwhelming bulk of it. I want readers to think it’s “real”…. and then, at the last second, in the manner of our own dreams during the night…. WHAM, when we awaken we realize we aren’t living it and it was all in our mind. And then it dawns on us what had led our mind down that “weird” route while we’d slept.

For readers, during the dream clues are also cagily dropped in…. and they have to seem innocuous, and similarly “real” too. Eventually they create an “AH, HA!” moment later in the text, when what had led to the bizarre dream becomes clear.

So if you’re reading this post (and YOU know who YOU are), the book’s nearly there.

Narrow street. Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Narrow street. Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

It’s also pouring outside the cottage here in rural England this morning.

Time for more coffee.

Have a good day, wherever in the world you’re reading this. :-)

The Local Library

Technological evolution is a constant in our lives, of course. For example, we all well-know how writing and publishing has been changed dramatically by the appearance of e-books. That newest technology, we are also told, seems sure to end print books as we know them.

But I remain skeptical. Yesterday, we happened to stroll by the local library here in Turleigh. It is in space vacated by the disappearance of another piece of one-time cutting edge technology:

The Village Library, Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

The Village Library, Turleigh, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

The English sense of humo[u]r is often really second to none. :-)