Time To Celebrate…. I Guess

Well, Frontiers is finished….

Front cover.

Front cover.

….and so, for all intents and purposes, mentally am I (for the time being). Lastly, final checks as it goes through Amazon’s processes. After it has appeared, I’ll put a link up here in the sidebar…. and perhaps set off fireworks too:

Free Stock Photo: Colorful fireworks in the night sky.

Free Stock Photo: Colorful fireworks in the night sky.

Okay, short of fireworks, how about a celebratory drink?:

Cognac!

Cognac!

Uh, about that. It’s rather early here in Britain right now to consume any of that; naturally that photo is merely for show. At least until tonight. ;-)

I’ve written previously about the first time I’d had one. It was, shall we say, “memorable”…. insofar as I can, err, fuzzily remember it:

The first time I’d had one was in France a rather, uh, relatively long time ago. … I remember having had, umm, one too many. And so had a girlfriend. We were saved when her (sober, designated driver) friend “poured” us two into her tiny (French) car as we three left a party. I recall a lot of laughing among us being involved too.

In Frontiers, at one point James gets himself in a degree of trouble in France due to having imbibed a bit too much of that. His problem is much more serious than that which happened to me in real life. As to what goes on with him, well, you know I will say no more about that here of course!

On a serious note, I’d like to thank you again for reading and following my site. If you can bear it, in weeks to come I’ll probably start yammering on about the third volume in progress. 2015′s project.

Have a good weekend. :-)

Absolute Must-Haves Der Saison

I ordered a pair of Merrell walking boots from Amazon.co.uk. Upon opening the delivered box, other than my shoes I found some additional advertising. No surprise that, of course….

Vinos.de

Vinos.de

Absolute Must-Haves Der Saison.

Absolute Must-Haves Der Saison.

….other than the fact that, umm, as you may have noticed from those photos, the leaflets are in German. By that I mean those ads are entirely in German. (Aside from the obviously borrowed English.) Not a trace of any other language.

Not even, uh, French? Is that allowed? ;-)

Hmm, I do have to say, though, that’s a pretty good deal for that Spanish wine, from a German web site, sent to me unsolicited in England (and that, other than a few words, I don’t know much German).

Welcome to the European Union! ;-)

Have a good Thursday!

November 11, 1918

At 11 AM, Britain falls silent for two minutes to remember Armistice Day. That tradition began after World War I, which ended on November 11, 1918. In the U.S., November 11 is now observed as Veterans Day.

Screen capture of the American Battle Monuments Commission's WWI page.

Screen capture of the American Battle Monuments Commission’s WWI page.

As Americans, we tend to remember World War II more than our role in World War I. The reasons why are varied, of course. On each 11th of November, though, while we honor all veterans, let us offer perhaps an extra nod to the end of the horrific First World War.

Have a good day, wherever you are in the world….

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 Stuff of Fiction, Yet All Too Real

If you have a dry eye after reading this, well you’re sure as heck a lot tougher than I am. CBC News shares the tale of how a Canadian World War One soldier’s unidentified remains were identified recently:

Sidney Halliday died in the Battle of Amiens, 1918

How was he matched to his body nearly a century later? Thanks to having also unearthed with him in that French field a locket engraved with his Winnipeg girlfriend’s name (which inside also contained a lock of her hair) and, vitally, because he had also left her $10 in his will. Her name was found in his will.

Free Stock Photo: Canada flag. However, it's not the one Sidney Halliday and his comrades would have recognized. Canada's was different in 1918.

Free Stock Photo: Canada flag. However, it’s not the one Sidney Halliday and his comrades would have even vaguely recognized. Canada had a totally different one in 1918.

If you’d woven that into a novel, some middle-aged reviewer who hadn’t written an original anything since university creative writing would probably have laughed at you for being gooey, trite and sentimental.

Anyway, a bit of the romantic mixed with the historian coming out of me again. :-)

Have a good day, wherever in the world you are reading this….

T. J. On The Wall

A late in the day post, relatively speaking, from me, I know. It’s just that our domestic broadband just went “live,” and I’m taking advantage of it over a cup of coffee. After over a week “in the internet wilderness” (restricted only to spotty and at times even totally unusable mobile broadband), I feel I am properly back with you all! And with solid (and no longer astronomically expensive) net access, in coming days I can FINALLY get the new book polished off! (And then immediately begin fretting over the next volume, which I’ve already started.)

No desk yet, though: the last of this book will be completed on the dining room table. And we’re unpacking still, post-move. I’ve been at it much of the day. I’ve also reconstructed – for the third house – some cool bookshelves we like:

I can be relatively handy, believe it or not. Order slowly arising from the chaos of a house move. Bookshelves reconstructed. Trowbridge, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

I can be relatively handy, believe it or not. Order slowly arising from the chaos of a house move. Bookshelves reconstructed. Trowbridge, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Getting that done felt good: they are a jigsaw puzzle to rebuild, to say the least. Yes, top left hand corner, is an American flag clock: a gift from my parents back in, I think, 2002. It has been on numerous walls here in Britain over the years. To the top right, caught in frame, that’s a print of Sydney, Australia – a fantastic city we love. Best of all, hey, look at what I unboxed a little while ago:

Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860): "Thomas Jefferson." [Photo by me, 2014.]

Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860): “Thomas Jefferson.” [Photo by me, 2014.]

He’s soon to go up on yet another office wall. That print was another gift many years ago from my parents. Mr. Jefferson has followed me across the Atlantic, and this here in Trowbridge will now be his fifth English home.

It’s no secret. We all know. He was not exactly the biggest fan of the British government of his day:

I am sincerely one of those, & would rather be in dependance on Gr. Br. properly limited than on any nation upon earth, or than on no nation. but I am one of those too who rather than submit to the right of legislating for us assumed by the British parl. & which late experience has shewn they will so cruelly exercise, would lend my hand to sink the whole island in the ocean.

So I find it mildly amusing hanging him up on walls all over the country. I also firmly believe he would have a much more friendly view of the British government of today. I’m also pretty sure he would be ecstatic at the stable republic that eventually evolved on the other side of the Channel. (What he would have thought of the two huge, twentieth century, U.S. military interventions in that country is, of course, another question.)

Have a good what’s left of your Monday, wherever you are in the world. :-)

Closing Another Book

If you have stopped by here throughout 2014 (Hello again!), you know it has been something of a difficult year for me. Now, I don’t claim I’m unique, of course. We all have personal challenges and troubles.

For me, 2014 will forever be the year of the death of one of my dearest friends, the near death of my father (and he is not out of the woods yet by any means), and being told the other day of the soon to be death of another friend.

And it’s not even stinkin’ October yet.

During all of that, I wrote a sequel to a novel I’d completed in 2013. In the new one, I’ve tried to pen (technically, I typed) 94,000 words that I again hope captures in entertaining fashion the ups and downs of a group of international friends and lovers. I hope it manages to convey both a youthful optimism as well as a need to never forget the fragility of what we think we so firmly possess in this life.

Free Stock Photo: A beautiful sunset over a lake

Free Stock Photo: A beautiful sunset over a lake

Yesterday, having concluded re-reading it for “errors, dopiness, [and] continuity issues,” I sat back in the desk chair feeling mildly depressed. Again. Much like I recall having felt as I had completed the first book about the same time last year. (Long before there was this site.)

Is that how it will always feel in winding up a novel? There’s an interlude of satisfaction at having conquered a personal mountain. But there’s also almost a sense of loss too: that book is, shall we say, closed as well.

I had also run its 380 pages through the spell and grammar check. (My characters’ conversations are often so deliberately ungrammatical, it took ages.) Next I will read it “as a reader.” As I do that, I make further corrections. After that, I hope I can ship it ’round late next week or so to my faithful volunteer reader/ critics.

As I finished late yesterday, I also realized that in the background Sinatra’s version of Send In The Clowns happened to be coming out of my iPhone. I’ll just leave that where it is. I’m not going to even attempt to interpret the meaning of that coincidence.

When all is said and done, like the first novel this one will stand or fall on its own merits. I think it’s at least as good as the first, and maybe better. But who the heck knows really? Whatever I went through in composing it is meaningless to anyone who will read it. Still, I had quite a headache by the end of the day. I was exhausted.

I had a brandy last night. In the tale, some of the characters are partial to those. They are because I like that drink…. and they are my characters, gosh darn it! :-)

The first time I’d had one was in France a rather, uh, relatively long time ago. (Now, I’m getting depressed again.) I remember having had, umm, one too many. And so had a girlfriend. We were saved when her (sober, designated driver) friend “poured” us two into her tiny (French) car as we three left a party. I recall a lot of laughing among us being involved too.

Mind you, I’m far more mature, staid and intellectual nowadays. ;-)

Have a good Friday, wherever you are…

______

Oh, by the way, I’m up to 444 social media shares as of this posting. In 48 hours, shares of my posts out there have about tripled. I don’t know where that’s come from, but I hope it’s an omen of good things to come. :-)

Saturday Interview: All About Vampires

Questioner: Thank you for joining us. Welcome to this major, first-time, blog interview I’m conducting with myself, R. J. Nello – novelist, traveler, expatriate deep thinker, intellectual extraordinaire….

R. J. Nello: What the hell are you talking about with that title? Vampires? There are no vampires in my books. Although as my wife loves to barb me, they are full of French girls….

Q: It’s a grabber. A headline that wows ‘em. We want people passing through to read this, don’t we?

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a vampire.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a vampire.

Nello: And I’m an intellectual? Thanks for the pat on the back. But you sure as hell haven’t seen my SAT scores.

Q: We’ve got to get those using WordPress reader to stop and look for two seconds at least. Putting your photo up sure won’t work. You’re not an attractive woman.

Nello: Uh, huh. Okay, dude, here’s another grabber: my uncle is friends with a man who was friends with Gore Vidal. Really. Top that? Okay, Vidal’s dead now. But you probably think I mean Al Gore.

Q: No, I don’t.

Nello: Oh, and Sean Connery – yes, that Sean Connery: Mr Bond, Mr. Scottish Independence – once asked for my uncle’s autograph. How’s that also?

Q: Is that why you write, to try to compete with and better your uncle?

Nello: What are you, a psychiatrist? And I don’t think I need one of those. Well, at least not yet….

Q: Okay, to Passports. What got you started? Where did the basic idea for that novel come from?

Nello: James Blunt.

Q: Excuse me?

Nello: I’d always wanted to write non-fiction. I’ve got bl-ody degrees coming out of my…. well, but who gives a damn about what I have to say about anything. Or you for that matter. Everyone’s got an opinion. Like should Scotland be independent? How the hell should I know?

Q: We all have new things to learn?

Nello: Okay, you really wanna know? One morning, I was listening to that “1973″ song of Blunt’s on my iPhone for about the 247th time and I thought, ‘He’s too young to remember that year. Hell, even I don’t!’ Ah, but how about circa “1993?” Bingo! My brain shifted forward into a fictionalized historical memoir type thing….

Q: That’s fantastic!

Nello: Wait, I’m not done. Then I made my wife a cup of tea. I stopped thinking at that point. She’s English. Damn it, I can’t be distracted making tea for her. She tells me off if it’s not good.

Q: Obviously evidence of sheer genius in knowing exactly when and how to focus the mind. F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t match it. May I have your autograph?

Nello: Look, take it easy with that suck up stuff. It won’t work. Well, buy a copy of my book at least. A little encouragement always helps. We novelists are a fragile lot.

Q: About the content. It sounds fascinating. You’ve written fact as fiction?

Nello: No, I haven’t! You think I wanna get sued? I base my fiction on general events and on people I knew in another century. Sorta my life – very broadly – at one time way back when. But very SORTA. As many a fiction writer has done. It’s not fact. No one in Passports is a real person. Got that? No one. Not a soul.

Q: Understood. So you don’t want to end up in court. Understandable that. Okay, but I’m sure your wife wants to know, “Who’s Isabelle?”

Nello: I’m certainly not telling you. But she knows this much: I dated a French girl in college long before I knew her, today’s lovely, gorgeous, perfect Mrs. Nello. My mother’s reaction at the time was about what you’d expect after she had met mademoiselle: “Are you nuts? They hate us.” Next question.

Q: You used that very line opening a chapter, when one of James’s workmates disparages his going out with her!

Nello: Hey, you did read Passports pre-interview! That’ll win you brownie points for a question or two. I can be as tough as Gore Vidal was on ignorant interviewers, you know. People expect us novelists to be nasty sorts. Bitter. Angry. I’m working on that. Makes us more interesting, I suppose.

Q: Is that girl how you seem to know Isabelle’s mind so well? And that of her friends? What she told you? What you learned from her? All of them?

Nello: Oh, God, more pop psychology. But you’re on the right track again. That’s two good questions. Makes a refreshing change for this dumb interview.

Q: So that’s who she is? That girl from then? Your readers are dying to know?

Nello: Now you’re annoying me. I told you the answer to that. Back up. Don’t badger me. You aren’t Jon Stewart and I’m not some Republican. I swear I’ll get up and walk off this set.

Q: Sorry, sorry. May I ask, do you ever still hear from her?

Nello: The last time was through a relation of hers years after I’d last seen her. Her sister emailed me days after September 11, 2001, asking if everyone we knew in NY was okay. By then they had both married Frenchmen who weren’t too keen on them having male friends outside marriage. Shocker, ain’t it? Even if those male friends were married to other women? Probably because it’s you know, France, and they’re Frenchmen and they know how they themselves might behave…. [cough, cough, François Hollande] and why the hell am I telling you this?

Q: Because I’m the interviewer! Moving on. The tale’s got culture, travel, and politics, yeh; but also love and mushy stuff. Did you fear it perhaps being labeled, uh, “chick lit?”

Nello: I’m a romantic, okay. I admit it. I’m also an historian. Historians are, by definition, romantics. I will admit one of my proofreaders used that phrase. It made me cringe. I wasn’t aiming for that and that’s not what the books are. I also knew the tale isn’t Rambo Returns, Part XVII. No one would call The Winds of War “chick lit,” or Casablanca a “chick flick.” Or maybe they do? Anyway, I suppose anything touching on relationships in which men are also not invading a small country runs the risk of finding itself labeled “romance.”

Q: So what is your goal in writing? Is it artistic? For the generations? Do you hope to make a statement?

Nello: I hope one day my niece and two nephews will be able to cash massive cheques that their dead uncle’s typing and struggles made possible, and then they can write of what a wonderful man I was and how no one ever appreciated me while I was alive and that’s a shame. That’s the English spelling of “check,” by the way, given we’re doing this interview in London.

Q: But what about now? While you’re living? What do you hope to achieve?

Nello: If I’m totally honest, I hope people who stop and read this will buy my book, love it, and tell 900 of their closest friends on Facebook. And then they’ll also contact major film studios demanding, “Have you optioned this? It’s my favorite book! When’s the film version coming out?”

Q: So you’d like to see a film of it? Heh, heh, ya got any French actresses in mind?

Nello: No one you’d know, I’m sure. Like you know French cinema? Did you vote for that buffoon George W. Bush or something? Sorry, sorry, that’s just more Mr. Vidal popping out of me for a moment. Hey, how’s my being moody and nasty working for you interview-wise? Making this more compelling?

Q: You are telling your blog readers a sequel due for November release is in the works. Sounds great. So where are you going from where you left off in the first book?

Nello: Ahem, well, as Albert Camus once said….

Q: Uh, I’ll have to stop you there, Mr. Nello. It’s been an unadulterated pleasure speaking with you. I’m sorry, but we’ve run out of time. And frankly, I’ve had enough.

Nello: But I didn’t finish sharing my Camus quote? Damn it, I knew I should have held out for Charlie Rose.

_____
UPDATE: The interview continues here. ;-)

“Tough Without A Gun”

Having finished the sequel’s story, to clear my head for a few days before plunging into revision, corrections, etc., I’ve decided on some, uh, relaxing reading:

"Tough Without A Gun: The Extraordinary Life of Humphrey Bogart," by Stefan Kanfer. [My photograph.]

“Tough Without A Gun: The Extraordinary Life of Humphrey Bogart,” by Stefan Kanfer. [My photograph.]

That biography of Humphrey Bogart was a birthday present from my mother-in-law. She knows Bogart is my favo(u)rite actor. Technical assistance in making the purchase was provided by my wife: her mother barely knows what the internet is, much less how to use it. ;-)

About Bogart’s now by far best-known role, and his taking Hollywood by storm after over a decade of mostly second-rate (and often third-rate) parts, author Stefan Kanfer eloquently sums up on page 87:

….Rick Blaine was not just the fulcrum of a melodramatic movie. He was a symbol of the nation itself, at first wary and isolationist, then changing incrementally until he headed in the opposite direction. At the finale Rick Blaine had turned into a warrior. That was the way moviegoers, especially male moviegoers, saw themselves in 1943. That year they did the most unlikely, and unrepeatable thing in the history of American cinema. They made Casablanca a smash, which was not unexpected. But they also made the middle-aged, creased, scarred, lisping Humphrey Bogart into a superstar. No one expected that. Not even Humphrey Bogart. Especially not Humphrey Bogart.

From the profound to the decidedly less so. Here’s a distinctly lesser-known quote from Bogart himself, which appears on page 12. Years afterward, he recalled his own “lofty” eighteen year old’s motives for enlisting in the U.S. Navy in May 1918, during World War One:

The war was great stuff. Paris! French girls! Hot damn!

Hardly “Lafayette, we are here.” But that was how he saw the world in 1918. Clearly, by 1941, a more world-weary Bogart as Richard Blaine – having, as we know, previously fought in Spain and in Ethiopia for what had proven to be ultimately the losing sides (“and been well paid for it on both occasions,” as he also informed us) – was not nearly as easily wowed:

Yvonne: Where were you last night?
Rick: That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.
Yvonne: Will I see you tonight?
Rick: I never make plans that far ahead.

Which is how we will always see him. He is Bogart on film, playing “Humphrey Bogart” in a variety of roles. It’s difficult for us to imagine the perpetually “middle-aged, creased, scarred, lisping” superstar ever having been eighteen and so immature.

Have a good Sunday. Kanfer’s book is excellent. So, today, for me, it’s back to more Bogart. :-)

Quai d’Orsay

I watched this on the plane over to the U.S. last week. Thoroughly entertaining, it even made me laugh out loud several times (embarrassing on a plane), and took my Dad’s illness – which was why I was flying to the States – off of my mind for a little while. As such, it deserves a post:

How to characterize Quai d’Orsay? In simple terms, it struck me as sorta loosely a combination of, say, Yes, Minister and The West Wing. Like the former, it satirizes a shallowness in politicians. Similar to the latter, it’s fast-paced, with lots of rushed conversations while walking through hallways at a retreating camera.

You have to follow along [read the subtitles] closely, or you’ll miss lots. Forget it’s about France. (If you feel you don’t know much about French politics.) If you like well-written, political comedy on screen, you’ll probably like this.

The ensemble contains an actor now likely most famous outside of France for a closeness to the, uh, current real French president. Leaving that aside, she’s at times hilarious in this fictional role as an adviser on Africa policy. For instance, when, during a foreign policy crisis, she’s drafted into keeping the Maronite Patriarch busy for an hour, the expression on her face, and her reaction, is priceless.

Naturally it also has a decidedly French flair and cultural grounding. The fictional French Foreign Minister fancying himself standing up for France’s “grandeur,” sharing his pretensions to personal literary and intellectual prowess with a patrician pomposity (that is somehow not ultimately off-putting), and topping it off with an “I know best” glint in the eye – while it often also seems he is about to poke himself in the eye – would not readily fly written for a U.S. on-screen politician. I don’t think U.S. audiences would buy it.

Meaning I suspect it would be close to impossible to portray a U.S. Secretary of State in a manner similar to that French minister. Yet you have to believe someone in Hollywood has already optioned the rights to this (because *it’s French*) to try to concoct some U.S. version. And they’ll probably eventually produce some predictably weak, watered down film, over-straining to be funny.