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. :-)

Published: “Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996″

My wife has had to fly back to Britain. I am staying on here in Pennsylvania through my father’s heart implant procedure on December 8. Before she left on Saturday, with a wink and a smile she gave me her final approval on Frontiers.

So today, Frontiers is now – FINALLY! – officially published. It doesn’t seem for sale on Amazon.com just yet. However, I presume it will be available on Amazons everywhere in paperback and for Kindle within the next few hours.

FrontiersCoverPublishedDecember1

This long year (for me) is now, at last, winding down.

* * *

The characters we met last year in the first volume, Passports, are, by the end of Frontiers, much more familiar to us. By the end of the latter, we’ve gotten to know them pretty well. We’re been with them in their laughter as well as their pain.

There are right decisions made. There are the right things said at the right time. There is humor. There are also shortcomings. There is stupidity. There are foolish statements. There is naïveté. There are loose ends. We see there are no pat answers.

In short, we are parachuted into their lives. I want them to be “three-dimensional,” to read as if they are real people, and perhaps even become your friends too. I hope I have even partly achieved that ambitious goal.

* * *

What happens to them subsequently is for a planned third volume. When you create characters, you suddenly feel “responsible” for them. They are words on a page, yet now almost 200,000 words and two novels later, I care about them all very much. I hope you will too.

Having read Passports helps greatly in better understanding Frontiers as its follow on. However, doing so is not absolutely essential. If you do choose to read Frontiers, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed – well, if I’m honest, not 100 percent of the time, but often – writing it.

I will add sidebar links to it on here, etc., and so on, shortly. First, I may take a few days off. You know of course that it’s not that I don’t like you all. ;-) It’s just I’m drained and need to “recharge” a little.

It is a good time to say this once more: Thank you again for reading and following my modest novel-writing site.

Have a good Monday, 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….

“Woman’s name omitted”

Given what my uncle had messaged me recently about my perhaps writing a “cozy mystery” novel, I’m now really pleased I’d soldiered on with that Frontiers chapter I’d struggled with getting “right” for months. Whew. Apparently it was worth the effort. One proofreader has emailed me that she was floored by it:

Wow!…. (Woman’s name omitted)’s dilemma certainly holds the reader’s attention….

It is, shall we say, something of “a shocker.” Naturally I don’t want to give away too much. The only hints I’ll drop here are, uh, alcohol, a razor sharp knife, and a scarf, are all involved. ;-)

I was privately quite full of myself over her take. (As you see, I deleted her mention of the character’s name.) And I’ll admit, yes, I couldn’t wait to share it here. After all, that’s what novel-writing is essentially all about: wowing readers and holding their attention. [#fistshake]

A cozy.” Ha! Take that Uncle! I can do…. a bit of “thriller!”

The “Frontiers” proof open to where I am now as I do final corrections. I wasn’t a big fan of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, but it has grown on me. Aside from the keyboard (sold separately by Microsoft) being hypersensitive – which can be annoying at times – it’s excellent as a combination tablet/PC. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Now back to polishing off Frontiers. I’m almost across the final corrections’ finish line. I may actually get there today. :-)

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

Here’s The Proof

Drumroll please….

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a toy drum

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a toy drum

It arrived yesterday afternoon. The first paperback copy! Here it is!:

Frontiers cover. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Frontiers cover. [Photo by me, 2014.]

You may know you’ve written 100,000 words. And you may see it on a screen. However, it never seems quite real and legit until you finally see your struggle in print. (To me, anyway.)

Oh, and here they are, posing together:

Passports and Frontiers, side by side. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Passports and Frontiers, side by side. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Passports and Frontiers, side by side. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Passports and Frontiers, side by side. [Photo by me, 2014.]

I think they sit well side by side. And they should. Being a series, I’ve made sure they are laid out similarly.

Now to the next task: re-reading and scribbling in that Frontiers “proof” copy. Time to scour it word by word, pencil in hand, for small errors. Final corrections.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo, a word of advice: you should’ve penned fiction. Young adult perhaps. Maybe vampires too. (Note: I have already apologized for the lack of vampires in my work.)

Although many might also assert that a political memoir could be, uh, rather “fictional” too.

What I write about here revolves around a group of intriguing twenty and thirty-somethings from several countries and a variety of cultures and upbringings. And their families. And, uh, crime novelist Uncle Bill too. (Don’t want to forget Uncle Bill!)

Frontiers tentative back cover. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Frontiers’ tentative back cover. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Have a good weekend, wherever in the world you are reading this. :-)

Oh, and Happy Halloween. Be mindful of the politicians the vampires roaming around out there tonight!

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. :-)

____
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! :-)

“Passports” At The Ready

Hello! Made it! Feeling really jet-lagged this morning UK time, we’re back in London.

Some posts just write themselves – and this is one.

If you enter the United Kingdom by air and hold a non-EU passport, you must complete a short landing card to give to passport control. Among the standard name, address in the UK, etc., info that it requires, it asks for your occupation.

The last few times I’ve filled one out, I’ve written “Author.” (The first time, it had been at my wife’s urging: “You are one now.”) None of the previous border officers had showed the slightest interest in asking me about it. They had also all been men.

Yesterday’s officer, a pleasant woman, did. Friendly and efficient (but you knew she was doing her job thoroughly), after the entrance formalities, including, “How do you two know each other?” (My wife: “We’re married.”) and comparing my old passport’s (which has my UK visa stamp) photo to my current one – “Look at you!” (I was a bit younger in the older passport photo, obviously) – the officer glanced down again at my form and asked me, “What do you write?”

I smiled and replied, “I’d guess you’d call them travel romances.” I added a moment later, “Would you like to buy one?”

final-cover-2-december-2013.jpg

She appeared genuinely interested. Taking hold of a piece of scrap paper, she noted with a grin, “I might. You write under this [your real] name or another?”

When I shared my “R. J. Nello” pen name, she laughed, checking the spelling as she scribbled, “Let me get that right.”

Finished, she wished us a “Welcome back.”

As we made our way around the corner towards baggage reclaim, I chuckled to my wife, “Us authors will talk about our books just about anywhere.”

At that, she joked, “Wait until Carol and Stu hear about this. You may soon have fans in the UK Border Agency.”

Wheels Within Wheels

I was so pleased that Sandra Wheeler commented twice yesterday on my “What Women Like (To Read)” post. In it, I’d made reference to her online erotic novel. And, by the way, if you read any of it, be forewarned: it’s definitely for adults.

Amidst my first comment in reply, I noted this:

As with you, I don’t pretend [my writing is] “high art,” but “art” is in the opinion of the reader. I do know I put a huge amount of effort into creating a barrage of characters, happenings and relationships because I believe the real world functions like that – as a mess of people interacting unpredictably on a variety of levels. “Wheels within wheels,” so to speak. And maybe that’s “art?” In the end, that’s always for someone else to decide.

I realized after I’d clicked “post” that one of the efforts in the sequel I am most proud of is in this draft chapter (click for larger version):

image

It is an example of “inspiration” taking me in a story direction I had never anticipated. If you are a recent follower, you may not know that I decided in that chapter to fashion a bit of “immortality” for a dear friend of ours who died back on February 2. You may (or may not) have seen the sidebar link to a “memorial” post I wrote about her shortly after her death.

Free Stock Photo: A burning candle.

Free Stock Photo: A burning candle.

I placed that now late friend, Kam, in a scene in her native London with fictional James and Isabelle. I also orchestrated it to have Kam talking about two other real life people: myself and my real life wife, Helen. Call it my little effort at being a bit “Hitchcock” – and then some – in slipping us into my own otherwise fictional tale.

In addition, unbeknownst to Kam on that page, I had James and Isabelle agree how Kam reminds them of fictional Valérie.

A bit of “wheels within wheels” there which you, and only you, a reader of this blog, would know about. Why? Because I have also explained previously how, in Passports – which was written entirely while Kam was alive, and published two months before her death – I partly based Valérie on real life Kam.

The other day, Book Quotes shared this on Twitter:

“You can love someone so much…But you can never love people as much as you can miss them” – John Green.

So painfully true. Kam is gone from our lives far too early and totally unexpectedly. In Valérie, she lives on for me somewhat “ghostlike” in these books – in small asides, in certain behaviors, in comments. But now, in having Kam walk on properly as herself, she will now make her presence felt forever as the lovely, real person she was – even if only briefly.

I think there’s probably at least a little bit of “art” in that. But when it comes to the living and “art,” we have to be careful. I commented separately to Sandra:

….I’ve noted on here that my uncle (my writing name is a pen name) is a HarperCollins police/crime author. He has been writing for over 30 years. He’s written for TV and film too. Growing up I couldn’t understand him very well – his world was not mine at all. Frankly, until I was in my early 20s, I thought he was “odd.” Now, a couple of decades on, I “get” him much better. But I always admired what he produced, even though it wasn’t what I really liked to read.

For years, we’ve been good friends. He told me recently that he believes I should have “a blog” and write about my experiences – traveling, living abroad, etc. When he wrote that (on Facebook) I had to control my laughter – especially because I fictionalize him in the books, and he has no idea my books exist.

This is my secret – known only to very trusted friends, and certain (all English, no American) family, and that’s fine for now. But when my uncle does discover it, I suspect he’ll laugh; yet I’m not entirely sure that will be the reaction and don’t want to cross that minefield until I have to. I am uber-cautious in that regard because we had an ugly family experience some years ago when he wrote a biographical piece for an anthology in which he discussed my grandfather using my grandpa’s real name. My mother went absolutely ballistic when she read how he had described their late father….

More “wheels within wheels.” Sometimes it’s hard to keep track. Being a writer is, uh, indeed at times, “odd.” ;-)