In Her Memory

Following on from yesterday, some “insider” info. If you’ve been stopping by since February, you may know. They were not idle words: I am going to do it. She will have her own page among the front matter:

image

The cameo appearance has made it into the tale as well.

I’ve left everything I could on Frontiers’ pages. It’s not perfect, naturally, but hand on heart I feel I’ve given it my best effort. That’s all we can ever aim to do, isn’t it?

Free Stock Photo: Sunflowers in a field.

Free Stock Photo: Sunflowers in a field.

A thought, a dedication, a nod. Just something. In a two decades’ long friendship, she never let us down. I pray I haven’t let her down now.

Whew, I need a cup of coffee….

The Initial Unveiling

Well, the full sequel is now “out there”…. being looked at for the first time by others besides myself. This may be even more of a “story shocker” for them than the first book. It is also making the “proof read” rounds in a far more complete form than did the series opener.

Bracing myself for impact: Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996, is the now full, official title.

Almost a year’s worth of struggle. A personal hell at times. To say that I’m feeling “nervous” – even a bit sick to my stomach – is an understatement.

Free Stock Photo: A tree in fog at night.

Free Stock Photo: A tree in fog at night.

Having broadband finally installed meant I had, uh, no more excuses for avoiding sending off large files. It was past time, and I well knew that. You can write yourself silly, producing hundreds of thousands of words, but if no one ever reads what you’ve produced, if it never touches someone else, or gets them thinking, there’s no point really.

Anyway, time now to pursue something of the mundane, but decidedly necessary: to put a second bed back together. ;-)

Have a good Tuesday, wherever you are reading this. :-)

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. :-)

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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.

Men, As You Go Out Today, Remember….

Another one worth sharing:

From NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP!!! Non-Profit Organization. Via Facebook.

From NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP!!! Non-Profit Organization. Via Facebook.

Separately, in a similar vein, I recall once seeing this line somewhere:

Behind every successful man is a proud wife…. and a surprised mother-in-law.

Have a good Monday! :-)

Saturday In Bristol

Bristol is one of England’s most attractive cities. It often also has traffic to rival London’s. It certainly did yesterday afternoon.

The M32 crawled. The roads winding through the center crawled. We also discovered Rupert Street was closed.

“Is that a street we drive on [to get to our friends' house]?” my wife, behind the wheel, asked as we were stuck in traffic.

“I have no idea,” I said, scanning street names on the sat-nav on my iPhone.

It wasn’t.

Once you get into the city, it’s more than worth it:

Tiny portion of Clifton Downs, Bristol. Yes, I take photos occasionally of signs.

Tiny portion of Clifton Downs, Bristol. Yes, I take photos occasionally of signs.

Call this an English cheeseboard, laid out by a Danish woman. Which it was.

Call this an English cheeseboard, laid out by a Danish woman. Which it was.

Port.

Port.

We’re in, uh, recovery this morning. I like to call evenings like last night, umm, “research” for a future novel. ;-)

______
UPDATE: Beautiful Sunday morning:

View over Bristol. [Photo by me, 2014]

View over Bristol. [Photo by me, 2014]

Sworn To Secrecy

Not exactly an uplifting Monday post. For that, I apologize in advance. Sorry.

Sunday evening, my wife got an email from a friend whom we, and most everyone else, already know has a serious, long-term illness. She wrote that she has just been told she probably has only months to live. She noted that the only person who knows that is – unsurprisingly – her husband (they have no children).

And now, so does my wife; she’s second. She asked my wife not to tell anyone else; but, naturally, my wife immediately told me. However, I don’t really count as someone else, because I’m essentially a “dead end,” a cul-de-sac: I’m certainly not going to tell anyone.

There I was yesterday morning, thinking, oh, I’ll have a quiet day and try to “de-stress.” In my creative cocoon, I was seeing light at the end of the latest tunnel: the sequel is almost done. Finally, that struggle is nearing its end.

How unimportant the likes of that always seems whenever we are unexpectedly thrust back into unforgiving, actual reality.

View of a section of Trent Park, London, at dusk. [Photo by me, 2014]

View of a section of Trent Park, London, at dusk. [Photo by me, 2014]

Earlier this year, we’d already endured the worst death I have ever experienced. “I wonder if that’s what they told Kam?” was my knee-jerk response when my wife told me about this, more distant, friend. Later, we tried to lose ourselves in the first episode of the newest season of Downton Abbey.

Life is full of harsh moments like this. Yet this is new to me: What does one do with information like this when you are asked to keep it in confidence? The person facing the terminal illness has shared what she has been told of her fate, yet where does that leave those few who are told and then sworn to secrecy?

All I can say is that, having slept on it, possessing such information leaves me with a guilty sense of awful insider knowledge. Even if keeping it “quiet” is based on the best of intentions (to spare feelings, worry, etc.), important people are being left out of the loop; and they shouldn’t be. Ultimately, in my humble opinion, it’s never fair to them.

Under Surveillance

My wife pops by here on occasion. She says she likes to keep an eye on what I’m up to…. here on the internet potentially in the view of the entire world. My sublime, groundbreaking interview with myself last weekend attracted her especial attention:

“You’re losing it, man!”

At least she was laughing – albeit rather demonically – when she told me that. Yet that opinion actually was an excellent appraisal.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a cartoon television screen

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a cartoon television screen

After all, to try to “explain oneself” before our increasingly informationally borderless world, anyone can offer an “About” page. (Which I have.) In a sidebar we may also share a brief list of “important” posts. (Which I’ve also done.) But we uniquely perceptive, great novelists, should indeed offer more – given we inhabit a higher plane of reality compared to the rest of middling humanity.

Uh, see, see! I’m getting there! That above paragraph demonstrates it again! My efforts at mastering a haughty, know-it-all, novelistic pomposity and condescension I had been working on in that “interview” is paying off! ;-)

Have a good Saturday!

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. ;-)

The Sheer Terror

As we know, dreams make good fictional plot devices. However, our “real” ones are often stranger and funnier than anything we can concoct, of course. How bizarre our brains can be.

I woke up about 5 this morning all disturbed after a nightmare. Wide awake, I slipped downstairs. I poured a glass of milk and sat for a moment in the kitchen before going back to bed.

I’d thought I’d been quiet. But my getting up had disturbed my wife. As I returned, in the darkness she asked, “Is everything okay?”

“Fine,” I whispered. “Sorry. I had a nightmare, was all dry and just needed a quick drink.”

“About what?”

As I climbed back into bed, I admitted, “It seems ridiculous now, but it was frightening while I was dreaming it. It was about Kam.”

I heard a sharp intake of breath from my wife.

I continued, “No, no. It was weird. I haven’t dreamed of her since she died. We were in a restaurant together and no one would serve us.”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a waitress with an empty tray.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a waitress with an empty tray.

My wife burst out laughing. Kam was an avid restaurant goer. Countless times we had all ventured to places she had chosen. She had excellent taste.

If my wife wasn’t completely wide awake before then, she was now. After regaining control of herself, she asked, “Was anyone else there with you two?”

“No. Just she and I.”

“Well, wherever she is,” she smiled, “she must be trying to tell you something.” :-)

Life: Endless Source Material

I spoke to my parents last night. I thought it was going to be a routine chat. What was I thinking?

“Rob, we had an incident,” my Dad calmly started to explain. “My Zoll defibrillator went nuts.”

I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. “What?”

Zoll Life Vest.

Zoll Life Vest.

He detailed what had happened. “Monday, I took it off to wash. After putting it back on, I walked downstairs. At the bottom of the stairs, the alarm went off. You can’t misunderstand it. What a f-cking noise! Holy s-it!”

He was laughing, so I realized there had been no problem. They had spoken to Zoll, and the woman operator said he probably had not dried himself enough after his shower. Likely a bit of moisture impacted an electrode.

“Your mother was in the kitchen on the phone with your uncle,” my Dad continued.

“Oh, God, not him!” I laughed. The literary giant. “Of all the times.”

“Yep. She comes running out to me, and while the alarm is blaring its electronic voice is also yelling, ‘Don’t touch him! Don’t touch him!’ I pushed the button and silenced it, so it knew I wasn’t unconscious and it didn’t defibrillate me.”

I sat here, 3,000 miles away in London, listening to this semi-farce.

“Your mother dropped the phone at the alarm, so your uncle heard the alarm and all the commotion. After she got back to the phone, he started screaming at her to put me on. ‘Is he okay?! What’s going on? You want me to call someone?!’ Then he starts complaining his breathing is bothering him.”

I held my head. “You’re a comedy, the three of you.”

The Zoll operator asked for an upload of my Dad’s heart data off the device, just to double-check his heart hadn’t “malfunctioned” in any way. He did so promptly. She called back and said his data was fine.

Speaking with her after the “all-clear” had been determined, he said he laughed, “That thing going off like that almost gave me a heart attack!”

As a fiction writer, no way should you ever say you’ve run out of material. If you have, you’ve stopped living. Life is an endless source. ;-)