I know, I know. [Hangs head contritely.] Sorry. I went all “academic” yesterday.
You may know I used to teach “Politics of Western Europe.” That guy on Fox just reminded me of a few students I’d known. Aside from the “French and perfect” finish, ;-) I realize now it was rather too heavy a post.
So today it’s back down off my soapbox. Hey, how about some Bath photos? Georgian English splendo(u)r.
First, a close up of a portion of one of those big, fold out walking maps:
I took these yesterday afternoon. We’re probably moving (yet again) in a few months, and were out apartment [flat] hunting:
The Royal Crescent homes were built starting in 1767. They are probably the quintessential “symbol” of Bath. So I decided to go all “tourist” myself and grab a few photographs.
It’s a shame it wasn’t sunnier. It had been. But by the time I took those it was approaching 4 pm, and the sun was fading for the day.
Have a good Tuesday, wherever you are in the world. :-)
You may have noticed the new template. I really like how “clean” this one is. It’s very easy to read, and the rotating banner photographs make for a nifty feature.
Just saw this myself the other day. Given recent events, that “France” has moved up to be my top tag is probably not a huge surprise:
It’s been a tough couple of weeks. Let’s have a moment of photographic serenity:
Hope you had a nice weekend. On Saturday evening, our overnight-visiting friends (on both arrival and departure, she hugged and kissed me on the cheeks; he shook my hand) were pitching plot ideas at me over gin and tonics. Alcohol seems to bring out the potential author in everyone. ;-)
That said, unrelatedly (or perhaps somewhat relatedly, given in “relaxing” with them maybe my mind “opened up” a bit), I had a “major idea” knock me over last night.
As I have the main plot for the third book already laid out, it’s a great addition. It was one of those light bulb going off over your head moments that includes chastising yourself: “Rob, why the heck didn’t you think of that before?” It led “naturally” – and that’s what I love: I hate when subplots seemed “forced” or “contrived” – to other, related, necessary new bits as well.
I tap, tap, tapped the gist of it down as quickly as I could. That’s how this “game” is played. You never know when it – whatever “it” is – might hit you.
It’s finally back here in Britain. Last night, we watched the second episode of Revenge for 2014-2015. (We saw the opener last week.) I’ve written about that escapist show before, although not in this context.
The program does accurately reflect aspects of the incredible wealth (often “weekend wealth”) seen on Suffolk County’s “South Fork” – in east end towns such as Southampton and East Hampton. But when I write of “Long Island” in the novels, it’s about the “middle class” island. In one exchange in Passports between Uncle Bill and Joanne (James’s mother), I decided to slip in this reference to the dramatic difference in lifestyles:
As her brother gave her a long look, Joanne added caustically, “You know, we were always imagining Lake Ronkonkoma as the sublime setting.”
“Really? What? Not East Hampton?” he joked.
“Oh, yeh, us Brookhaven billionaires,” she smirked.
Brookhaven is a large town (that would probably be better described as a “township” – encompassing many hamlets and villages) in central Suffolk that runs the width of the island from north shore to south shore.
Yesterday, ending their nearly week-long, post-Christmas visit, we drove my in-laws home to Enfield. After depositing them, and a quick lunch, we returned to Wiltshire. It’s about a 2 hour, 15 min drive each way.
So Mrs. Nello drove to London and I drove back. During the day, she began to develop a bit of a cold. No surprise: her parents had them too. Half of England seems to have the sniffles at the moment. (I’m still okay, but fully expect now to get sick also within days.)
The weather had been great, but cold (by English standards) – clear and frosty:
Friday was warmer, sunny and pleasant; but that was apparently a blip. Wednesday into Thursday, frost gave way to the rain. It is rainy again this morning. (I can hear it hitting the house. It’s about 7 AM as I write this.) Everyone has been mostly inside, sharing germs.
At one point, I glanced over at Mrs. Nello as I drove; and I saw she was snoozing. Much of the M4 is long, straight and dull – especially in the dark of an early evening. Tired of the radio, I decided to play a Christmas gift CD.
Does it get any more “guy” than the likes of those?
Hmm. Suddenly I also remember attending an Alison Moyet concert (longer ago than I now care to recall) with a girlfriend. At some point, it hit me that I was one of about the “50 guys” in the audience of a few thousand. Or so it seemed anyway.
[Shrug.] I suppose we never really change. As a teen, and in college, I always gravitated more toward “girl friends” than “guy friends.” I had guy pals, but I always preferred hanging out with women.
There were guys who made fun of that tendency. Somehow, you’re supposed to want to do lots of “guys only” stuff – with no women around.
I’ve never understood that. “Men’s only” clubs? Seriously? Why the hell would you – as a man – not want women around?
Probably to feel freer to lie about the women you don’t actually know, that’s why.
Eventually, those same “guys only” types also end up wondering how you know the cool girls you do.
It’s not rocket science. Younger men, take note. ;-)
Have a good – and healthy – Saturday, wherever in the world you are reading this. :-)
After yesterday’s heavy post, let’s have some photos for New Year’s Eve. With my in-laws, we took my now newly 20 year old nephew to lunch at Cote Brasserie in Bath on Tuesday. A couple of Bath snapshots:
Back on Monday evening, we’d already – three of us – had a birthday brandy at home, including my nephew. This being the U.K., it is perfectly legal for 18, 19 and 20 year old adults to consume alcohol. I know some of my fellow countrymen may be shocked and scandalized to learn that…. but, please, no fainting spells. ;-)
Having a walk at a favorite spot earlier on Monday, I grabbed a photo of some people next to the Westbury White Horse who thought they could fly:
Have a Happy New Year, wherever you are in the world. :-)
It’s almost upon us. If you celebrate, I hope you have a Merry Christmas. If you don’t observe it, I’d like to offer you best wishes for the coming year.
I almost forgot. You have to see it. Hey, you like our tree? The tree stand is doing its job well:
We spent yesterday in Bath doing last-minute shopping. It is one of the most attractive city centers in England. One of the possible reasons: some of the shops. For example, it seemed everything in the Hilfiger store started at £100 and only went up from there.
Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. Still, by comparison, £60 shirts at the shop in Bath would’ve probably gone for $45 at the Woodbury Common Outlets Hilfiger in upstate New York. Yep, they don’t call Britain “treasure island” for nothing.
In some ways it has been a very mixed year. Yes, I got Frontiers finished. And my Dad survived heart failure. Those are certainly positives.
On the heavily negative side, we lost someone who is utterly irreplaceable. An emptiness that will never be refilled will stay with us forever. This is the first Christmas without her and I’ve been trying not to think about that. Instead, when her absence crosses my mind (as it is now), I’ve tried to imagine that, come mid-January, she’ll just suddenly appear via a text or a phone message, saying she’d just got back from Rome, or Dubai, or Chicago, and her parents also introduced her to yet another man she’s not really interested in, and she wants to meet up for lunch at a brand new restaurant she’s been wanting to try. But I know that won’t happen of course.
There’s no law written anywhere that says a next year has to be better than the last. Sometimes it’s definitely not. But let’s be optimists anyway, not only about our own lives, but about the wider world as well that 2015 will be better for all of us.
We have some fun here too as you may know if you stop by regularly. We have to laugh now and then. I just wanted to use this short post also to thank you again for reading and following my modest, novel-writing site. :-)
My father – he’s feeling excellent now, post-surgery; the implant is working well – sent me these photos that were supposedly taken on the New York City Subway. They’re obviously making the rounds. Some appear to be from other mass transit sources, but most do appear to be from New York.
I have no idea who owns them, and reproduce them here only for a laugh. (We all no doubt sure could use one given ugly events of late in my birth city.) As you scroll down (click on them to make them larger), smile and enjoy:
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:
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. :-)
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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….
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.
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: 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.