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. :-)

Bits And Pieces

The title of this post has to do with clearing up a few loose ends. Hopefully, that will also not be what our sofas are reduced to by the end of today. Why?

On short notice, our friend desperately needed someone to watch her Devon Rex cats for 24 hours. And guess who she thought of? Why, us, of course:

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Obviously I’m not there. So the Mrs. has the entire cat-sitting responsibility. She sent me those photos yesterday after the pair were dropped off.

* * *

We also talked via FaceTime last night about my Dad’s hospital release. At the very end of our chat, knowing my mother was in hearing distance, but couldn’t see the iPad, my wife mischievously dropped in, “What was that about some nurse?” [She then winked at me, knowing she was stirring the pot and would get my mother going.]

“Oh, it was nothing,” I said. “Just silliness.”

My mother turned all uptight at hearing that, and blurted out, “She knows?”

Quickly I looked across the room at Mom and added, “I told her [my wife] before. It was funny.”

My mother rushed behind me and got in frame to see her daughter-in-law in England. Mom then proceeded to let loose: “Well, I was gonna smack her! I was thinking, ‘In my 72 years, I’ve seen your type lots before, cookie. Forget it. You should see my daughter-in-law. She’s a helluva lot more attractive than you!'”

* * *

Yes, Dad is now home. He looks really well. Long may it continue.

The implanted device sits just below his breast bone, on his left side above his heart. In the hospital, my mother was able to see where it is briefly without the temporary bandage that now covers the incision. The device outline is slightly visible beneath the skin.

He has been told that for the next five weeks he is not to move his left arm above his chest, and not pick up anything with his left hand that’s heavier than a cup of coffee.

When recuperation finishes, his life should be pretty normal. He will have only one major “no, no”: No contact sport. So playing for the Dallas Cowboys will be definitely out. ;-)

Have a good Wednesday, wherever you are in the world.

A Legendary Author Graciously Sits Down With Us Again

Questioner: Hello. We’re back once more with the extraordinary R. J. Nello, interviewing himself. It’s now three months since his last self-interview, and comes shortly after the December 1st release of his new book, Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. Mr. Nello, welcome….

R. J. Nello: Uh, thank you. You’re making me nervous. That was actually a reasonable introduction. How am I supposed to make fun of you now?

Q: I thought I’d throw you off a bit. It’s an old interviewer ploy, trying to make you comfortable before I go for the jugular. But I also did figure you deserved at least a little respect after another nearly 100,000 words. A second book makes you a real, ongoing novelist. Big stuff, you are. I’m trembling in your mere presence.

Nello: You got that right. After nearly another year of struggle. I suppose it’s also time for me finally to give in and appear on Jay Leno. When they ring, I suppose I’ll tell them I’ll do it. I don’t really want to, though. I’m very shy. Why do you think we’re doing this interview in the Catskills? Woodstock is just down the road. That town, wow, they got people walkin’ around who think it’s still 1969….

Q: Leno’s not on the air any longer. He left the show.

Nello: What? No Jay? What happened? Geez, you miss lots living in Britain.

Q: There are other people doing U.S. late night TV now.

Nello: Who watches those programs anyway? 12:30 AM? Can’t be anyone with a day job?

Q: I think it’s mostly college students.

Nello: Figures. Then they become exchange students and represent America throughout the world among people who have never been to the U.S., and perhaps never met an American in person before. Then get themselves arrested and convicted of murder in Italy. Delightful.

Q: Not all of them are that bad.

Nello: I know. But still, if I see another 21 year old given a Guardian column I may jump through my skin. “People with more money than me suck.” That’s what passes for deep thinking today.

Q: But the young do tell us….

Nello: They’re allowed to be young. We all were. I remember being 21 and thinking, “Oh, I’ll put the world to rights! Why didn’t anyone think of this before?” Within a few years, I grew up.

Q: What about idealism? Where would we be without it?

Nello: Indeed. But “Dude, everything stinks!” is a 5 year old’s worldview. We’re also blessed – if that is the right word? – with aging former comedians given cable shows. They can’t even fall back on age as some excuse. But eventually they say something so rude and over the line that they get fired. Until then, we learn from them the likes of, “God ain’t up there in the clouds,” and “the Pope wears a funny hat and doesn’t like birth control.” How groundbreaking! I’m supposed to pay HBO for those insights?

Q: If you’re talking about who I think you are, some think he’s funny and has interesting things to say.

Nello: Sorry, I’m more challenged by that porcupine that’s been chewing at the edge of our house. You’d think someone would’ve told me they like the salt in our wood stain? Ah, the Catskills. Some people also think Elvis is alive. Some also see aliens in woodwork. Here, this is in our house. Check this out:

A main support in our house. Catskills, New York. [Photo by me, 2014.]

A main support in our house. Catskills, New York. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Q: I don’t see Elvis. Sorry, I see an empty wine rack….

Nello: No, no, look at the post, not the rack. That’s right, you’re being watched. Two aliens are living in our woodwork. Definitive photographic evidence.

Q: What does this have to do with that guy on HBO?

Nello: Nothing. I just thought I’d mention it.

Q: Uh, very impressive….

Nello: Or that other guy on Comedy Central. Let’s be honest: he’s just like uncounted other back of the room smart alecks we all went to school with. Make a funny face at how idiotic ___________ is! Yippee! Pay me millions! Well, why not? As the Irish would say, in the long run we’re all feckin’ doomed anyway. [Shrug.]

Q: Hmmm, you aren’t some secret conservative?

Nello: Don’t get me started on the right. I just want to say one thing about Fox News. I remember over the summer seeing some woman on a group jabber show on there. She’s about, oh, maybe age 12, and she was lecturing millions of viewers around the world about the so-called “Islamic State” and how the Middle East is, you know, all so complicated and messy. It was like sitting through a 7th grader’s book report. Look, I’m sure she’s a nice person. I think I heard she has a radio show. Of course she does. Everyone has a radio show. Why not her too? Yet for all that I’d have given her a C+. True, I wouldn’t have pressed her on where Aleppo is on a map, or about Hezbollah’s intervention. But at least she seemed to know where Syria is. Yet it all makes you want to ram your head through a wall.

Q: So you’d never promote your books on TV?

Nello: One of my relations is a TV news producer on a program you might recognize. Like on “The Newsroom,” except it’s actually crazier than that in real life. Years ago, she told me her boss used to wake up and the first thing she did every morning was throw up. Does Emily Mortimer do that?

Q: That’s disgusting. Anyway, your point is?

Nello: “Pointless!” Not everyone wants to be on TV. I want to write books people will like, not mug for a camera. Besides I’ve noticed my hair is thinning a bit on the top of my head in the back. Oh, well, I’ve made it into my 40s. Not bad. Have you seen Mr. Armstrong on “Pointless” in Britain? A great voice. Pleasant host. But on no account should he ever turn his back to the camera. It’s thin back there.

Q: Yep, you’re evidence for sure that pen names are a good idea at times…..

Nello: They’re freedom. So is independent publishing. Don’t kid yourself. It would be nice to make some money, but you don’t write to get rich. So what I do is going to be mine. One of my proofreaders is a published children’s author. I had told her I was adamant that I would indy-publish because I didn’t want anyone telling me what to write. Like anyone told PBS TV painter, the now late Bob Ross, “Oh, put another tree in there, Bob. You know, it also really needs more spice? Hmm, how about a half-naked woman?”

Q: I can’t….

Nello: But writers are supposed to be edited? Really? In whose rulebook? You could give the same manuscript to ten different editors and be left holding your head at what each of them decided wasn’t necessary and what was.

Q: Editing is very important….

Nello: Yes, has its place of course, but leave me the hell alone about my story. Everyone tells you what to write. Damn it, write your own book then! Since books exist forever, I’m not going to leave behind my (pen) name on anything someone else wanted me to write, but probably won’t earn me lots of money anyway. Why do that? Sell one’s soul for nothing? No! No! Non! Last time: I will not make “Isabelle” a vampire!

Q: Please, Mr. Nello, here, have a sip of water….

Nello: Whew. Sorry. Thank you. [Gulp, gulp, gulp.] Wait. This is actually water!

Q: Uh, I said that.

Nello: I thought you were kidding. You saw that empty wine rack. I thought it was white wine. But I’d prefer a brandy. Sorry, I forgot. You don’t work for France 24. Typical prohibitionist American.

Q: Now, to the covers.

Nello: Yes, please. If we can’t drink to escape, let’s talk about my novels.

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Q: Your covers are intriguing?

Nello: They are my photographs that I’ve taken over the years. I suppose I could employ someone to do photography or artwork. I promise if I ever sell millions of books, I’ll hire lots of staff. We should all help each other.

Q: Specifically, the back cover of the new book, Frontiers. There’s no photo description anywhere. Ahem, now, uh, that young woman pictured, she is….

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Nello: Nice try, pal. Not a chance. No way. I’m not saying who she is. Not ever. Not even if you spiked my water.

Q: Umm, you write about lots of people from various places. Can’t you at least tell us her nationality?

Nello: I’ll say only that she’s French. That’s all. Fin. Next question.

Q: And….

Nello: Stop now, or I’ll go all Gore Vidal on you. I mean it.

Q: Sorry, sorry, I forgot you have been practicing your authoring smugness and arrogance. You’ve much improved since September.

Nello: Ah, you’ve noticed. Good. I think I’ve about got it down now. I’ve also got pompous American expatriate down too. “Oh, daaaarling, everyone else does everything better outside of the U.S.” Actually, uh, they don’t. Take a train in central Brussels, and you’ll be wishing you were on Amtrak. Yes, they do some things better, but hardly everything. Like in The Winds of War….

Q: Please, not back to that book again. Mr. Nello….

Nello: I have vowed I will finish it! I will! All 1,100 glorious pages of it!

Q: In Frontiers, we learn a lot more about most of the characters. And “Uncle Bill,” well, he really makes his presence felt.

Nello: He deserved to. As you know, he is partly inspired by my real novelist uncle. But “Uncle Bill” is not him, you understand….

Q: Oh, yeh [wink, wink].

Nello: Don’t start with the wink, wink stuff. You suddenly turned into another know-it-all guy on HBO? I told you in September that no one in the books is a real person. They are drawn from people I’ve known over the years, but none are any one individual. These books are FICTION!

Q: There are some surprises. The beginning, well, with “Valérie,” wow….

Nello: Did it grab you? Good, that’s what I wanted.

Q: And by the end, you’ve got us all wanting to know what’s going to happen to them all.

Nello: Again, that’s the plan. That’s why it’s called “a series.” Geez.

Q: You do tackle some serious stuff. The fall of the Soviet Union. Israel. Lebanon. Racism. Immigration. And other things mixed in.

Nello: Fiction allows that in a way that isn’t necessarily preachy. The characters can get some facts wrong too. It’s not an encyclopaedia. My own views are not necessarily those of the characters. I try to write from behind their eyes. I actually disagree with quite a few things I’ve written.

Q: Gee, that was thoughtful. You aren’t as all arrogant, smug, expatriate author as you pretend to be. I think you’re hiding that you’re really a mush.

Nello: I just try to be realistic and, yes, I suppose, reflective. None of the characters are decision-makers, or heads of corporations or bazillionaires. They deal with the world the way we all do: Imperfectly. And this is supposed to be entertainment, after all. I remember reading about a famous director who was confronted by a fan who had spotted a minor inconsistency in one of his films. The director answered, “It’s only a movie.” Absolutely. We have to have fun too.

Q: It is the case that some people do take some things way too seriously.

Nello: Some of the new book is lighthearted also of course – like sharing a flight across the Atlantic and going through U.S. immigration. Always an “amusing” experience.

Q: So, on the whole, are you pleased with it?

Nello: Honestly? After I hit publish, I wanted to throw up. I felt a bit like a TV producer must feel. But I’d given writing it my best effort. When it’s over, as the Bangles sang, let it go.

Q: So it means a lot to you?

Nello: It does. A great deal. I know I have done three interviews with you often kidding about a lot of things. But when it comes to what’s in my novels, it’s no joke. I take what I do very seriously. I strive to do the best I can. Readers deserve the best you can give them. Yes, as with that director no doubt something must be “imperfect” in it. But that is life too. If I have one aim, it is to produce works I am proud of, and that readers will enjoy and want to follow in coming installments in years to come.

Q: Uh, that’s really two aims?

Nello: Sorry, I got a bit carried away. But you know what I meant.

Q: Just pulling your leg. Let me stop you there. Let’s end on a high note.

Nello: Oh, before I forget, one thing. No Good Morning America appearance. I won’t do it. I mean that. That program is in la-la land.

_____
NOTE: The first two parts of this scintillating interview started here, back on September 13. ;-)

NOTE 2: Indeed we so often have to try to laugh. Try to have a good day, wherever you are in the world. :-)

_____
UPDATE, December 5: Not everyone in Frontiers is fictional[ized]. One person was quite real and is portrayed in the book as herself. I explain why here.

Hey, He Got A Fire Started

I’ve been unwinding post-Frontiers publication. It snowed a bit late yesterday here on the Catskills, uh, “frontier.” I snapped this from our house just before dusk:

Dusting of Catskills snow yesterday. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Dusting of Catskills snow yesterday. [Photo by me, 2014.]

I got a fire going too. (And yes, yes, in the fireplace!)

Our fireplace. [Photo by my, 2014.]

Our fireplace. [Photo by my, 2014.]

And I messed around on Twitter for a while. After polishing off a nearly 100,000 word novel, my brain currently feels like mush. 140 characters at a time on Twitter is about all I can manage. ;-)

My Twitter page yesterday. [Screen capture by me.]

My Twitter page yesterday. [Screen capture by me.]

By the way, if you use Twitter, feel free to follow me (if you’d like to). I’ll follow you back. I ramble on about, well, just about everything on Twitter (not just writing), and I also enjoy chatting and just having a laugh on it.

I then finished with a pizza. In the background, for a time some Sir Paul McCartney played. After, I watched the NY Islanders defeat Ottawa in overtime. (No matter where I live, having been young on Long Island when they were NHL champions four years in a row in the early 1980s, and never having forgotten that, I will always have a soft spot for that since mostly underachieving team.)

Yes, and as you can gather I really know how to live it up when the wife is not in town. ;-)

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

Give Thanks

Yesterday, sitting around the kitchen table chatting, my Dad (who has never been out of the U.S.) raised the issue of Qatar hosting the World Cup. He thought it was amazing it would be held there. I said it’s not; many visit the Gulf states every year, including millions of Europeans.

Without thinking, I happened then to mention that Kam had been to neighboring Dubai and she had…. loved…. it….

For a moment, I’d totally forgotten. In February, we lost her – a dear friend who was only 45.

Dad himself almost died in August of heart failure. My uncle (now 74), of whom I write a great deal about on here as a novelist and a writing inspiration for me, has major health troubles arising increasingly. I’m sure you too have much the same in your life.

View from my parents' house yesterday. Pennsylvania, U.S.A., post-snowstorm.

View from my parents’ house yesterday. Pennsylvania, U.S.A., post-snowstorm. [Photo by Mrs. Nello, 2014.]

Cherish those you love. We never know who won’t be at the table a year from now.

If you observe it in the U.S., or abroad, have a good Thanksgiving. :-)

“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. :-)

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.

At The 68th Floor

Did you see this yesterday? Wherever we are in the world, because of the net we all see most everything now. CBS 2 TV in New York was one of the mass of global media covering this, which fortunately ended well:

Two window washers, who became trapped on a scaffold near the 68th floor of One World Trade Center, were rescued and brought to safety Wednesday afternoon….

….The incident began at around 12:45 p.m. on the south side of the building — about 820 feet off the ground at the 68th floor. Initial reports suggested the washers were done cleaning the windows and were about to ascend to the top of the tower when the cable that pulls the scaffold up became loose….

I’ve seen chatter on Twitter wondering how much they get paid. It’s a reasonable question. However, frankly, you couldn’t pay me *enough* to do that job.

1 World Trade Center, photographed from safely behind the fencing on the Empire State Building, summer 2013. [Photo by me, 2013.]

1 World Trade Center, photographed from safely behind the fencing on the Empire State Building, summer 2013. [Photo by me, 2013.]

In Pennsylvania, today is my Dad’s 3 month heart assessment which will determine if he has an ongoing condition that requires a permanent, surgical implant. He says he feels fine and his cardiologist is pleased he has not had any further “events”; but he’s still wearing the life vest. We are naturally hoping he has recovered from his summer heart failure and won’t need the implant. [Prayers.]

The window washers’ near disaster led me to recall how my Dad had worked in construction. He had many a time been in the frame of unfinished Manhattan skyscrapers, and occasionally walked across steel girders in the open. Although he didn’t do so on structures anywhere near as high as 1 World Trade Center, they were nevertheless still on buildings us ordinary mortals would no doubt have considered more than, uh, *high enough.*

“The view is great,” I remember him once telling me.

“I don’t want to know what the hell he’s doing all day,” my mother also used to say to me.

And I’ve actually been complaining on here recently about some self-assembly furniture? All that rather puts matters into proper perspective. (By the way, I’m making progress!) Have a good day! :-)

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! :-)

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. :-)