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.
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.)
American Revolutionary patriot and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, is quoted as once saying, “Either do something worth reading about, or write something worth reading.” As writers, most of us probably lean a bit more towards trying to achieve the latter. And that’s not unreasonable of us either.
After all, doing something could well mean that something will be something that means we won’t be around to read about ourselves anyway. So it falls to us to write. Yet, as if writing something worth reading isn’t fundamentally tough enough, we’re told everyone has to “know” us now too.
Okay, ahem, so, who are *you*? Tell us all about yourself. Don’t be bashful. We’re all listening. The world stage is yours. The spotlight is on you!:
Previous generations of writers shared mostly their books and stories. Authors were only rarely as well-known as their outputs. What they were as people pushing their pens, and/or typing their pages, was largely unknown to their readerships.
In contrast, today, as authors, we must use “social media” to become better-known to the world:
Who is she? She’s Ana Franco, a Brazilian writer. And she deserves to be better known.
So now you know about her. Her post also got me thinking about this issue. When was the term “social media” first used? I suppose I could Google or Wikipedia that question, but I just can’t be bothered to right now. ;-) Presumably it has been in regular use less than 15 years.
The default position seems to be everyone wants to be “famous.” The assumption narrowly in our context here is if you blog, or use social media, you are cravenly just seeking attention. However, I don’t buy that as applicable across the board.
Yes, out there are certainly the likes of my HarperCollins published uncle. He is a complete extrovert. He loves being on TV. He relishes being the center of attention in the room. Facebook is the worst invention imaginable for him: he can carry on to a couple of hundred “friends” about how he wishes he’d been in the Spanish Republican army in 1936 or something. (God, I hope he never sees my blog. Then again, he’d probably laugh, because he knows I’m right.)
Myself, I just want to write entertaining novels that stand on their own, which when a reader finishes she/he says, “I enjoyed that.” I seek to use this blog and Twitter to help spread the word and to be there for those curious about my books. However, I have no desire to be a “celebrity”…. as odd as that may sound in the novelist biz today.
So we understand why we do it. While it may be amusing to write entirely for your own amusement, if you aspire to write for others they have to know that your writing exists or no one will read it. “Social media” now makes getting the word out about your work easier than ever before.
Still it feels strange how we are expected to share so much of ourselves to the world. It’s also important to bear in mind that, although it’s highly unlikely, it is theoretically possible that any post – ANY post – you casually publish could end up being seen by millions around the world. So, uh, no pressure there then. :-)
These things seem to happen unpredictably and in bunches. As of yesterday, I had only about 160 shares on social media for the entire lifetime of this modest blog. (And that naturally included my occasional tweets of my own posts here.) This morning – only 24 hours later – that total has jumped to 274 and counting.
I have not the slightest idea why? I’m scratching my head? I did a screen grab of what I had noticed last night, and then again a little while ago this morning:
Still how the internet works, eh? I have to admit I don’t really understand how WordPress tallies all this; and it’s not translating into more visitors than usual. Still, I suppose it’s interesting info to have.
Have a good Thursday!
UPDATE [8:05pm UK time]:
We had a laugh yesterday. You may recall Tuesday’s Purple Parrot post. About 8:45 AM UK time, I had posted about store-owning friends in Chipping Sodbury, near Bristol, who’ve said they will stock my novels.
In doing so, I had linked directly to their site. About 11:30, I got an email from the Mrs. half of the store-owning duo, pounding happily on her keyboard that she had been inundated with web site visitors. About a thousand of them, she wrote.
She wrote that on an entire normal day, they do far fewer than that. The only explanation, she asserted, was me. My post was the only thing that she could ascertain had been materially different yesterday morning.
But I was stunned and shocked too. I wrote back that I wished I could’ve taken credit for it, but I get nowhere near 1,000 visitors daily – and certainly NOT by 11:30 AM. I took a quick snapshot of my internet-sourced visitors from midnight to that time yesterday morning:
I usually finish the day at around 50-100 max. Looking at those, I told her no way that her sudden “cyber mob” could have come from me.
But I also know many of you follow here via the WordPress reader. (Thank you!) I know I also sometimes kid about WordPress’s reader, but I do like it – it makes following blogs easy. Still, there is no way all those visitors could have come to them via my reader followers either.
We finished off just scratching our heads. Who knows what happened? It’s the net. However, if you did visit Purple Parrot yesterday, uh, thanks! :-)
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?
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.”
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.
It was widely reported the other day that when Facebook went down for a time, some of the web site’s users actually dialed 911. The L.A. Times noted:
Officials at one Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department station were not happy after getting calls from residents because Facebook went down Friday morning.
“#Facebook is not a Law Enforcement issue, please don’t call us about it being down, we don’t know when FB will be back up!” Sheriff’s Sgt. Burton Brink of the Crescenta Valley station wrote on Twitter. In a later tweet, he said an unknown number of people called 911 about the outage….
The Smartest People Prefer Twitter To LinkedIn And Facebook, Research Shows [STUDY]
Meaning the Sheriff would have been addressing the wrong audience in terms of, err, brainpower. ;-)
I love Twitter…. although I’m not a genius. And I do also use Facebook – but primarily as a keep in touch with family and friends sort of thing; and I’m not on it much. (I’m not on LinkedIn at all.)
Which led me to thinking about where we are here: WordPress. When I first used it for another blog about 10 years ago, I had found it refreshingly straightforward.
However, when I returned to it last autumn to start this blog after several years’ break, I felt far more out of it than if in my absence someone had merely moved the furniture around. It seemed more like I had been dropped into another technological era. To borrow from Catskills literature, it felt rather Rip Van Winkle-ish.
On the Dashboard, very little was where I remembered it. There were vast changes throughout the site. Trying to navigate, I sat there utterly lost at first.
“What is that blue screen for? How do I get back to the Dash? I clicked on that, and it’s leading me here? And what the heck does THAT symbol mean?” (Uh, I didn’t always say “heck.”)
What happened to my Atari 800?
That was then. I now have matters under control. Well, mostly anyway. :-)
Happy Saturday! If you’ve dropped by here via the web in the last couple of days (and not the WordPress reader), you may have noticed the templates keep changing. I’ve been fiddling with them. Although I may never quite nail it, I’m trying to hit (what I consider to be) a better “tone” for the site.
I like stability and try to avoid altering the page too much. I’m sure some of you find constant messing around off-putting. Then again, I know some people love change.
So I ask your indulgence. I will settle on something soon. I’ve not suddenly gone off my internet rocker. :-)
….No, no, no, the post title doesn’t mean I’m calling *you* (friendly reader/ visitor) a “fascist.” Please don’t misunderstand. I used it because that (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) accusation is hurled in Passports during a morning, uh, “friendly exchange of views,” between Isabelle and Uncle Bill at Bill’s Rhode Island coastal cottage:
Next Bill called to the dining room. “Isabelle, toast and eggs?” Unexpectedly, he expanded the menu choices. “Want anything else? If you were being polite last night, don’t be. This is a continental house. Feel free to smoke.”
Despite being unsure if she had again misunderstood Bill’s English, Isabelle nonetheless dived in.
“White coffee and toast please, Uncle Bill. That will be lovely. Thank you.” Both feet on the floor now, she crossed her legs and pushed aside hairs hanging down on her forehead. “And so you know,” she added, “I don’t smoke. You think all the French are the same? We all smoke?”
“Well, all the French I know seem to smoke like chimneys,” Bill maintained as he advanced to the table and chose the seat across from her. Next he changed conversational topic mid-paragraph as he often did. “So what about that Mitterrand? He’s done over there soon, isn’t he? Who’ll be the next president?”
James sat on a longer side of the slightly rectangular table, between them, as if positioned inadvertently to referee. Taking some toast, he joked, “Uncle, you been watching the news on public television again?”
Isabelle responded from across the table without hesitation, “Balladur or Chirac, of course.”
Pouring orange juice, Bill questioned, “Who?” He moved the toast plate closer to Isabelle. “Please, have some more. You know, I sensed it last night. You’re a Gaullist. You fascist! Gaullists hate Americans!”
“No, they don’t,” she answered softly. “They love France. It is the Socialists who hate Americans. Mitterrand has been a disaster for France.”
Bill smiled broadly and looked over at James sitting to the side. “Nephew, you sure can pick ’em.”
“Okay,” Isabelle began to question Bill mockingly, and a bit flirtatiously, “who should be President of France, as you sit here, great American writer, judging the world from, ooh, what little state is this again? Uh, Delaware? I forget.”
Bill lobbed a calculated grenade at Isabelle. “Whoever the Socialist is. We need socialism in the U.S.”
“Bah!” she dismissed that out of hand. “You have not lived under socialists. I know communists, yes, but I do not want them to rule France. You have been with Spanish writers and Cubans. They do hate America. I bet they are communists. We thanked God that Mitterrand had to spend so many years sharing power with Chirac.”
Ignoring her charges, Bill went another route. “God? I thought young Europeans today were a lot smarter than our Bible-thumping Americans?”
Isabelle was at a loss. “Aren’t you Catholic like James and your family?”
Taking a breath, he explained, “Right. You know, Isabelle, I think of myself as a Unitarian.” Seeing her appear to go blank at the word, Bill appended, “We believe in sort of everything.”
Isabelle was underwhelmed. She knew what a Unitarian was. “But do not Unitarians believe in God?” she grilled him pointedly while grasping her coffee mug. “And to say one believes in everything is to hold nothing sacred.”
Bill pronounced, “Nephew, she is definitely French!”
James complained, “Uncle, I didn’t think I was in this breakfast debate?”
Had enough? As James has? What? You mean that back and forth didn’t cause you as a conservative to turn socialist, or vice-versa?
I follow many of you who are also authors – or musicians, or actors, or you travel blog, or you’re interested in cultural issues, or you’re just sharing thoughts with us. It should go without saying I’m flattered if you follow me. In organizing my followings here deliberately along mostly “apolitical” lines, WordPress has become for me a welcome island of friendliness, learning and calm compared to much else out there in major media.
As we know, nothing exists in isolation. In recent days I’ve been surprised by several generally “non-political follows” who’ve suddenly taken to mounting Everest-height soapboxes. They’ve filled posts with barrages of heavy-handed political invective. (That’s being “charitable” in describing the content. I could use stronger language.)
If you wish to read diatribes from those who support your “worldview” (whatever it is), it is usually easy enough to find out there. Follow a few of the crazies on Twitter. Or just click over to commenter cesspools that are found on sites like CNN’s.
In a friendly Twitter exchange I had had with a CNN.com producer about so many of the incredibly nasty online comments, he noted that he simply tells op-ed contributors not to read the comments below their pieces. Can you imagine? Yet it’s easy to understand why: the bigotry and viciousness some spew via keyboard is appalling – and, one has to believe, mostly also from those who would likely never be so rude to someone’s face.
I know I have on occasion blogged here on somewhat contentious issues. Amanda Knox, Devyani Khobragade, and immigration, immediately come to mind. But when I do, I try to do so with moderation, within the framework of my own knowledge and experience, and while remembering my self-imposed guidelines for this blog. (See the top banner.)
Civility and respect: where have you gone? If you want to scribble vitriol online, of course you are free to do so; but I did not follow YOU to read that. I firmly believe that chest-thumping, name-calling, and jumping up and down usually wins no friends who don’t already agree with you, and rarely changes minds.
Twitter knows whom you follow. But Twitter does not know why you follow them. So the company [is] doing something fairly straightforward—and, for a tech company with reams of data bout its users, unlikely: It’s asking. Politely.
The same question could be explored here on WordPress. So let’s.
For starters, I’d like to follow more than I do. But I don’t follow for following sake; I like to read what writers/bloggers actually write. So I have to control myself in following or I’d find myself overwhelmed with reading.
Generally, I follow those who strike me as interesting and honest and real. I usually read lots of a blog – including the “About Me” – before following. (Do you do the same?) There’s so much junk and spam out there, some judiciousness is required.
Overall, do you follow in hopes those you follow will follow you back? Or is it because you really like what he/she blogs and don’t care about a follow back? Or is it, uh…. because maybe you’ve developed, urr, an “online crush”?
On that last one there, behave yourselves. No passing notes under the desks. Yeh, you know who you are. They’ll be detention… ;-)