Why The Crowd?

Just a quick follow up after my regular, daily post. I’m doing this because for some reason my stats are telling me I’m seeing lots more of you than usual today. By that I mean a horde.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a woman clicking with a mouse attached to a house.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a woman clicking with a mouse attached to a house.

Obviously the polite thing to do is introduce myself: “Hello.” :-)

[Now – he wonders to himself, and taps his desk repeatedly – where are you all coming from? And why are so many of you suddenly so interested in “Béatrice”?]

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[He shrugs.] Ah, the internet. ;-)

Bluntly Tweeting

Singer James Blunt has been in the “non-musical” news here in Britain in recent days. He got into a dust up with a Labour MP over that politician’s assertion that artists from elite educational backgrounds disproportionately dominate the U.K. entertainment scene. Many onlookers have sided with Blunt.

One of Blunt’s statements in his very public reply published in The Guardian:

….I got signed in America, where they don’t give a stuff about, or even understand what you mean by me and “my ilk”, you prejudiced wazzock, and I worked my arse off. What you teach is the politics of jealousy. Rather than celebrating success and figuring out how we can all exploit it further as the Americans do, you instead talk about how we can hobble that success and “level the playing field”….

The politician came back at him immediately and condescendingly….

Stop being so blooming precious….

Thus perhaps another difference been the U.S. and U.K. In America, I believe a politician would have instead at that point sought to “tone it down” and “make nice.” Advisors would have been nervously at him, warning, “Don’t alienate his fans! They’re potential voters!”

Anyway, never mind. And debating which of them is more right is not the point here. What’s intriguing is how it all kicked off because in making his remarks that MP had made the huge mistake of mentioning Blunt by name. The singer apparently read on Twitter of the MP’s having done so when a third party pointed out the MP’s comment….

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Some time ago Blunt had found another “voice” through his social media presence. During last week’s “confrontation,” I read one conservative political tweeter who had joked, “Who weaponised James Blunt?” He’s razor sharp, unafraid to poke fun at himself and his image, and can be very humo(u)rously dry in his interactions.

So be forewarned: if you so much as mention him on Twitter you could well find him replying directly @ you in your timeline. And his outreach won’t necessarily be along the lines of, “Great to hear you’re a fan!” Although, then again, he might observe something like that…. sarcastically:

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And he has a sense of humo(u)r about his persona and impact:

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He will outwardly challenge a major newspaper’s negative reviewer with a zinger:

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Or he’ll tease:

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He also manages to perhaps look edgier by not posturing that he’s some musical god:

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And he mocks musical “snobs” mercilessly:

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Have a good Wednesday. :-)

I Write Novels, But – Shush – They’re Meant To Be A Secret

The other day, Bookshelf Battle raised an issue I think is worth addressing here:

Sometimes with all of the blogging, twittering, and social media-ing, I just wonder if all writers are doing are talking to other writers. It’s like we’re all door-to-door salesmen, knocking on a door, “Wanna buy my book?” And the person answers, “No, but do YOU wanna buy MY book?”

I gave that comment (and the post where it appeared) some thought, and figured I’d drop in my two cents/ pence.

Writing is a largely solitary endeavor. (Even those closest to you cannot fully understand.) Most of my days are taken up researching, organizing, proofing, and tapping, tapping, tapping out the draft for my latest book. (They don’t get written unless you write them.) So I like now and then to lean across the “office partition” and have a “glance” at what other authors at nearby desks are doing, or to take a break near the “water cooler” and have a “gab.” This site and other social media, like Twitter and About.me, are the ways I do that.

I’m on Twitter intermittently during the day – usually yammering (as you may know) about international happenings, travel, and expat stuff, and only very occasionally about my novels. I post here most days as well (as you also may know), and I do that early in the mornings – before I start the day’s novel writing.

Yes, this site is a “shop front” of sorts. Anyone is free to come by and browse. And to walk out empty handed too. As I do elsewhere. As we all do. Everywhere. I don’t buy something every time I click on Amazon.

Or should I not mention my books? Are visitors supposed to read my mind down their broadband lines? No one will ever know what you do unless you, uh, happen to bring it up.

Free Stock Photo: Home sale signs along a street.
Free Stock Photo: Home sale signs along a street.

The old-fashioned Yellow Pages are FULL of businesses, large and small, trying to let you know what THEY can DO for YOU if you PAY them. No one says they shouldn’t share what they do? How will any of us hope to find that (real) estate agent, that plumber, or a store that sells live Christmas tree stands, if they don’t advertise their existences?

I don’t target this at other writers. Others might like to produce something so narrowly focused. But my site is for anyone who clicks in from the big, wide internet.

That said, I’m not one – and never have been one – to stride into a room, wave around one of my books, and proclaim, “Look what I do! Tah! Dah!”:

Mingling, my wife mentioned my novel to one man. Trust her always to know how to work a room. (She’s much better at it than I am.) Moments later, he sought me out.

And he was keenly interested in the smallest of details. How do you write? What time do you start? Do you do it every day?

Others jumped in as we stood around the kitchen island, drinking and eating. Later, general conversation in the dining room drifted briefly to my novel, including the plot and my inspiration. “Why do you think I come to get togethers like this?” I joked. “I need new material!”

Grinning, our Danish girlfriend observed, “I was reading it on the Kindle, wondering, ‘Hmm, am I in here? Am I one of those French girls?’”

“Don’t worry. You’re not in this one,” I smiled. “Would you like to be in the next one?”

And let’s recall also, there should be fun in this as well!

If you blog – as an author, or because you travel, or because you live in a country different from the one where you were born, or for whatever reason you do – I enjoy reading what YOU have to say. We live in an insane world. Every individual’s experiences matter and illuminate it better. I have learned quite a lot courtesy of many of you.

If you like what you see here, great. If you are interested in my novels, I’m flattered, and I hope you enjoy them. In the end, it’s entirely up to you.

It’s very simple, really.

Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. It’s almost the weekend! :-)

Calming The Storm

It was 1998. I remember it happening like this.

A woman friend and I weren’t sure about having lunch at what was a non-descript, although decent looking, roadside diner/restaurant we happened to be driving by. It sat just outside of Swellendam, near Cape Town, South Africa.

It was a sunny, warm day. We pulled in, parked and started to amble to the restaurant door. Even as we walked towards the building we were still unsure if it was where we wanted to eat; but the parking lot was pretty full, and the place seemed to be buzzing. We shrugged, it would probably do.

Continue reading

Short Attention Span Literature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I love you!’

‘No, you can’t!’

‘I do!’

‘No!’

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

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

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

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

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

2014’s Top Views

A quick review. Happy January 1st!:

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

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

Now, we see what 2015 brings. :-)

“Viewed You Today”

As you may recall, I signed up for About.me a few weeks ago. Based on my initial impressions, I like it. It strikes me as a kinda Linked-in that’s more entertaining, artistic, and driven by “people” and “interests” – including, but not overwhelmingly, career interests. I certainly see where it could prove useful in a networking sense.

In just these first couple of weeks, I’ve had something around 4,000 visits to “view me.” I suppose that’s flattering. But I have no idea yet what those “views” really mean.

I have also spotted certain careers and “interests” predominating among those who are stopping by to “view” me, “add” me to a list, or even to “compliment” me. There are lots of IT, marketing, and other business professionals. Some have extraordinary educations and skills sets. For instance, one who “viewed me” the other day was a Turkish graduate of MIT, and she also plays classical piano. (Good grief. When I discovered that, talk about suddenly feeling yourself inadequate!)

There are journalists. There are entertainers. There are regular international travelers. There are quite a few academics and students. Some people don’t display “amazing” bios, but seem merely friendly and interested in following others as on other social media. All appear to be something of a cross-section of our world; it’s astonishing how diverse the site is. And thankfully, so far, weirdoes and – insofar as I can tell – sp@mmers mercifully seem at a minimum.

A screen capture from within my About.me yesterday.
A screen capture from within my About.me yesterday.

Now something of a downer. I’m also seeing quite a few authors – certainly enough to have caught my attention – have a book cover as their photograph. Meaning literally they have a cover of their latest novel as “their picture.”

My gut reaction: that’s misunderstanding the site. Why? Even as an author myself, my take is the site’s used as a platform to present oneself as a unique individual. It’s about getting to know each other as people. Ultimately, it is about building relationships - business and otherwise.

For example, a market research specialist doesn’t usually represent her/himself with a photograph of the cover of a recent research report. It’s far more likely to be a Hi-Res photograph of her/himself climbing a mountain, or snorkeling, or gardening, or standing on the Great Wall of China. He/she aims to make him/herself “memorable” and – above all – “human” to you, thus leading you to want to know more about them.

Hence the site’s name?: “About.me?”

As an author, it seems fine to note one’s book titles and why you write. A writer’s works and motivations are part of what being a writer is. In that regard, they are no different from anyone else in terms of explaining their occupation, career aspirations, and listing former employers on their CV.

But to me you must never lose sight of the fact that it’s supposed to be about you as “a person.” It’s not first and foremost about your novel(s). Social media – to me, anyway – is about sharing yourself.

Too many authors appear to think “building relationships” and “interacting” on social media is about pushing their book(s). That, to me, is exactly backwards. On social media, your works flow from you as the person who created them.

If upon discovering you someone wants to read your book(s), he/she certainly will. However the “bells and whistles” approach we often see employed by authors on social media is close to “sp@mmer-like” and, frankly, just annoying. It has never led me once – not ever, not anywhere, not anytime – to want to buy a book.

But, then again, maybe I’m the one who has it all wrong? Well, even if I do, I don’t care. Just my take.

Have a good FRIDAY…. wherever you are in the world. :-)

Oh, I just thought of this. I’ve never played piano. However, I think I may have to pull out my old guitar from the closet, practice a bit, and add that to my About.me bio. Hey, don’t laugh: as a teenager, I used to play lots of Beatles’ songs fairly well. ;-)

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. :-)

Monday Musical Interlude

I haven’t posted this “live,” but scheduled it last night to appear this morning. My Dad’s heart procedure is set for 8 AM. (He is having a small device implanted that will help his heart squeeze better.) We had to get him to the hospital for 7 AM, which meant we left the house well-before that…. which meant I barely had time to roll out of bed, much less post.

I’d been thinking I wasn’t going to be able to stay here in the U.S. for the procedure after it had been postponed a week. But my wife insisted, saying my mother needed me. We pushed back my return ticket to Britain so I could be here for it.

My Dad should be fine. But we are all still – perhaps understandably – a bit apprehensive. So how about a couple of blog-appropriate, upbeat songs?

Barba Gwen31 is an “independent” singer. Several months ago, on SoundCloud, I stumbled on her version of The Box Tops’ 1967 smash, “The Letter.” She sings it with a decidedly French panache:

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Next, if you click on her photo below, it will take you over to her cover of “On Ira” …. but please, uh, do come back here eventually. ;-)

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Hopefully, I’ll be back on the web “live” in a few hours and check in here with good news. Fingers crossed all will be well. Until then, umm, bonne journée. :-)

About.Me

I’m not sure anyone really craves “a big picture” of me, but otherwise this looks interesting. If you use About.me, let me know. I’m now on it as – yes, as shocking as this may sound – R. J. Nello:

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In the set-up’s “find friends” auto-search, I stumbled on a small horde of Twitter friends on it, nearly all of whom I’d had no idea were on it.

We can all never have enough social media, no? ;-)

Have a good Sunday.