My Phone Buzzed….

….and, from far away Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.A., messages from my uncle started appearing out of the blue yesterday afternoon. He does that. Unexpectedly, thoughts and advice disjointedly come flying my way.

I usually try to jump to and – if possible – answer him immediately. You may know he’s a HarperCollins published crime novelist. (His first book appeared in the early 1980s. And he, urr, also sorta resembles one of my characters.) We got involved in a back and forth about reading and my writing.

This starts the revealing bit: it opens with the end of my response to a reading suggestion he’d made:

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Refreshing The Background

The other day, I changed my About.me background photo for the first time in a while:

Screen capture of About.me
Screen capture of About.me

I like that site. It’s sort of an “artistic” version of LinkedIn, and I find it’s used by some interesting people. I may know you courtesy of it. [Waves.]

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Unexpected Interruption

We are on a short break in Devon. Problem is the rental house doesn’t have the promised internet.

Arrgh!

And getting mobile net on the phone in this rural coastal area is unpredictable at best. I’m sitting outside a shop right now, and just had a pile of emails come thru! I was able to check Twitter as well finally.

You feel so lost without the net nowadays. I’m seeing if anything can be done. If not, well, I’ll get lots of writing done on my down time.

Hopefully, all will be back to normal next weekend. If not before, see you then. :-)

I’m On Facebook (At Long Last)

Gazillion-selling author Harlan Coben’s recent, unfortunate, “Poland problems” led me to reflect. Actually, they probably “pushed” me over the line. I’ve decided I need a Facebook page.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a laptop computer.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a laptop computer.

As you may know if you’ve popped by here regularly over the last year and a half, I write under a pen name. That’s because some of what’s in my novels is based on real-life people I know, and some of them are also Facebook friends of mine under my real name. So I had not been rushing to use Facebook for my books even under my pen name in order to minimize the chance I’ll be “unmasked” by them as an author.

But once my Harper Collins published uncle became fully aware of what I’ve been up in to writing, I’d started to have second thoughts. Most authors are now on Facebook, and – more importantly – readers seem to like it and expect it. It’s an integral part of the social media “office furniture.”

So, yes, I give in. It’s overdue. Here’s a screenshot of it during “construction”:

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When Social Media Turns Ugly

If you are reading this, you may be on social media yourself too – with a blog, a Twitter account, Instagram, etc. Recently, some “guy” I’d never encountered before evidently took umbrage with my voicing my opinion on too many U.S. study abroad students’ immature behaviors. Regular visitors here also know I attribute those primarily to overzealous parenting coupled with inexperience with legal alcohol; but apparently “he” thought attacking me on Twitter personally would get a reaction.

Free Stock Photo: Bright colored computer mice.
Free Stock Photo: Bright colored computer mice.

I yawned: I’ve seen much worse. When you put yourself out there publicly in even the smallest way, you have to expect criticisms and even degrees of nastiness. We all know it comes with the territory.

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Marooned In The Catskills (For 24 Hours)

Hello once more! This is a ridiculously early post, New York time. It’s before 5:30 am.

Ugh! It’s also called “jet lag.”

Yes, yes, it’s great to be back in the Catskills for a bit:

Windham Mountain in the distance. [Photo by my, 2015.]
Windham Mountain in the distance. [Photo by my, 2015.]

I wrote most of two novels here. Now you see why! ;-)

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A House In Ukraine

I was wrong in my post the other day. “Melvin” didn’t go to Ukraine. I’d thought he had, but his ex-wife rang Mrs. Nello late Saturday and said he hadn’t gone after all.

And it looks like he won’t be going there again. After about 8 years of involvement and visiting for only short periods, it seems “Oksana” is suddenly not keen on him moving there for a semi-permanent stay.

The end of another routine, long distance romance? We hope it’s just that. But it looks much worse.

He had indeed just paid for a house there – and the house is evidently in her name ONLY. I won’t say how much money went towards it, but according to his ex-wife it was A HELLUVA LOT. One never knows, but right now it’s hard to believe he’ll see any of that money again.

Why in only her name? My initial reaction was to shake my head in disbelief. I said to Mrs. Nello that this “Oksana” is probably a “pro”: she knows how to “handle” foreign “suitors.”

If what has happened has indeed happened, it makes sense. Naturally she didn’t want “Melvin” moving there. It would have hampered her “business” if other men were also handing her money and visiting her occasionally.

Free Stock Photo: Female hands typing on a laptop keyboard
Free Stock Photo: Female hands typing on a laptop keyboard

You usually read about stuff like this in the Daily Mail, but never would imagine it could happen to someone you know. He did all of this with his eyes open. If it has gone as it seems to, he’s probably pretty embarrassed about it too.

It’s sad. I can’t comprehend what on earth he was thinking? He’s not a “stupid” man.

You may wonder why his ex-wife cares? That many another woman would revel in an ex-husband’s romantic misfortunes? Especially something like this?

Not in this case. They aren’t on bad terms. Yes, their marriage ended (he ended it), but she has since re-married happily. “Melvin” and her new husband even get along well.

It sounds a bit like a sitcom, I know.

In any case, we hope we just misunderstand. Yet I’m trying to think of another plausible explanation, and I can’t. One wonders how many men actually fall for this sort of thing?

Time for another cup of coffee. Hope you’re having a good Monday, wherever you are in the world. :-)

Short Attention Span Literature

Over pre-lunch drinks before he headed to London (on the train) on New Year’s Eve (why would he want to spend New Year’s with his aunt and uncle, right?), I had an interesting chat with my 20 year old nephew. An Oxford Classics student, he is so bright he is frighteningly intimidating.

We ended up discussing modern writing and my books. “I sell Kindle books mostly,” I explained. “For some reason, I feel the print versions may ‘read’ better, but they can be ten times as expensive, and I’ve got no control over that. But if there weren’t e-books, I probably wouldn’t sell many books at all, given the price of the paperbacks.”

We also laughed about the evolution from print to e-reader not yet taking hold everywhere. “The Kindle isn’t big yet in the Classics,” he joked.

Free Stock Photo: A young businessman holding a tablet computer
Free Stock Photo: A young businessman holding a tablet computer

We then moved on to how we write today. Social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc. – has changed us so much, we agreed.

He suggested they have especially impacted how we follow news. “But no one has any time to reflect anymore,” he added. “Journalists rush to publish online, and sometimes they really get it wrong.”

Definitely. So much is happening in so many places, on so many platforms, shared by so many people who also aren’t officially journalists but are certainly worth reading. It’s great in so many ways – we follow people who are everywhere in the world.

Yet we also struggle to keep up. Our feeds overwhelm us. Tolerance for long passages, much less wading through complicated ones, is apparently becoming less.

Despite all the books out there, even e-books, one suspects many people now don’t really read full novels. That’s not a surprise. We all know even newspapers are not what they once were, although there are still some who do read print papers:

My father-in-law, immersed the other day in Britain's Daily Telegraph. There are still people who read print, day old, news. [Photo by me, 2014.]
My father-in-law, immersed the other day in Britain’s Daily Telegraph. There are still people who read print, day old, news. [Photo by me, 2014.]
In my writing, I said, I try to take into account what may be a “short attention span” among some readers. So I deliberately compose short, tight paragraphs. I aim for no more than about five sentences, tops.

“I’ve noticed that,” my nephew replied, having read my first novel.

“But I also want depth and nuance. It’s a heckuva balancing act. Write too wordily, try to say too much, and you’ll lose your readers,” I related. “It’s a shame, because some things do take more than a few sentences to describe properly. A well-written descriptive paragraph is like a beautiful painting.”

Think about it. Look at so much fiction today. It is – bam! bam! bam! – so quick:

‘I love you!’

‘No, you can’t!’

‘I do!’

‘No!’

Eh, no stealing that. That’s mine. I think it’s gotta be the opening lines to a future prize-winning, best seller. :-)

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UPDATE: By sheer coincidence, clicking over for a “read” a little while ago, I noticed CNN has dramatically changed its web site:

Screen shot of CNN's new web site.
Screen shot of CNN’s new web site.

As I looked around, it appears very blog-like. It reminds me even of some WordPress templates. ;-)

There seems heavy reliance on photos, videos, and short headlines. Yes, you can click through to longer pieces of course. But “reading” in depth seems assumed to be almost something that’s done by only the minority of visitors.

2014’s Top Views

A quick review. Happy January 1st!:

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Not a huge surprise to learn that. “Officially” it confirms what I had noticed. Those posts drew lots of views all year. (For several posts the comments noted in that snapshot seem “miscounted” though.)

If you’re interested, here are links to those posts: 1) “Shades”, 2) “Vampires”, 3) “Minitel”, 4) “Human Needs”, 5) “Movie Version”.

Now, we see what 2015 brings. :-)