R. J. Nello

๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ-born, ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง-based, novelist.๐Ÿ“– Writing, travel, culture and more. Always holding "auditions" – so be careful or you may end up a character in โ€œ1797โ€…and perhaps an evil one.๐ŸŽญ (And why do I suspect some of you might like that latter in particular?)๐Ÿ˜‚

Our Friends’ Views

July 16, 2018
R. J. Nello

If you are in the US, you probably saw reports of large protests over the weekend here in the United Kingdom directed at the visiting current President of the United States. In the wake of them, I just want to note this. It is a sensitive subject, but one that should not be avoided:

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. The top line is not my invention: it’s a full tweet I saw by someone with, sadly, 75,000 followers. The protester I referred to there in the second sentence is, of course, Charles James Fox:

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Twenty-Three Years Ago

July 14, 2018
R. J. Nello

I know that I had yesterday – and yet again – wished you a good weekend. But I had to pop up and acknowledge this today. Below are some moments in time (pre-iPhone, pre-digital), snapped the old-fashioned way (a camera using 35mm film developed weeks later), by a rather, uh, younger version of myself.

Twenty-three years ago this morning, July 14, 1995 (yes, yes, that was indeed before some of you were born), in Paris I was standing along the Champs Elysรฉes and meandering around the immediate vicinity. Among those who went by was then recently elected President Jacques Chirac…

French soldiers on parade:

[Photo by me, 1995.]

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Tuned Balloon

July 13, 2018
R. J. Nello

Yesterday, I wished you a happy weekend, I know, but as we know new developments… sometimes develop. I’d felt there were a couple of slightly irritating issues with my previous blog template – particularly the lack of a date stamp on the individual posts themselves (which I had not realized when I had changed it from the previous one) that could be confusing to visitors.

[Screen capture of WordPress.]

I gave up trying to fix it and decided yesterday just to change the template. As you see ironically that previous one was named “Rosalie” – a bit of an unanticipated “inside” joke you may understand, too. This one, though, doesnโ€™t have that date problem, and I think it’s easier to read. So this is the new template:

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The “Vanishing”

July 12, 2018
R. J. Nello

You may know by now that England lost yesterday evening to Croatia in the World Cup semi-final:

I was not one of those who thought this English team were good enough to win the whole thing. (That “doubt” really irritated my Mrs.) I felt even if they had managed to have beaten Croatia (which they nearly did), France would probably have trounced them in the final. Better to have lost, in some respects, at this hurdle than at the last one.

What England do have is the core for a brilliant team in coming years – for the next European Cup, and for the next World Cup in 2022. England having a football future? Wow!

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“While I like to hope I have changed your world…”

July 11, 2018
R. J. Nello

I noticed on Instagram yesterday another writer yet again announcing a new book release as if it is an upcoming Apollo moon launch. We’re all getting a daily countdown. It was ten days to go… then eight days… six, five, four, yesterday three, and I presume today will be two…

[Apollo Saturn V rocket on display. Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Photo by me, 2014.]

And that’s not the end of it.

It all makes me want to bash my head down on my desk repeatedly.

I do like that author most of the time. I’m mentioning that purely as an example. It is all too common behavior.

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Out To The Ball Game

July 9, 2018
R. J. Nello

We headed to Cambridge on Saturday to have lunch with my nephew:

[Photo by me, 2018]

England – and western Europe – are currently enduring a heatwave; over the weekend, it exceeded 30C both days. There has been no appreciable rain for over two weeks. In fact, I can’t recall the last time it rained…

…which is quite a statement for Britain.

[Photo by me, 2018.]

We headed to The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie, where we cooled off before we ate:

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That Handwritten Past

July 7, 2018
R. J. Nello

I hope you’re having a good weekend. Yesterday, I paused at one point to have a look through my first (and only) printer-generated copy of my Conventions manuscript. As I turned pages, I also asked myself: “Why the heck am I keeping this?”

As with my earlier books (I’ve got similar copies of those someplace), I never really considered it โ€œrealโ€ until I had used up seemingly half of my printer’s ink supply to print the entire book out on that paper. It also required quite a bit of paper: about 260 pages, fronts and backs. Once it was on that paper, though, I felt, I was almost there.

[The first printed version of Conventions: The Garden At Paris. Photo by me, 2018.]

It is essential, I believe, in finishing a book, to review a printed version, page by page. Most people still do not use e-readers, and I feel a reading experience of a printed book is different from that of an e-book. It’s vital to put yourself in the paper readerโ€™s place as well.

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My 500 To 700

July 5, 2018
R. J. Nello

A writer – I won’t say who – I follow on Twitter tweeted the other day that there is some sort of another #Nanowrimoblahblah this month. I clicked over and had a look. Yes, it seems there is:

I thought that was in November? Having a further poke around I see this is not as “intense” as November; but in any case, I’ll say the same thing here I always say about this sort of thing. If you seriously want to write, my advice is to keep your distance from this type of exercise. For as #Nanowrimo tells us:

Our experiences since 1999 show that 50,000 words is a challenging but achievable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. This is about the length of The Great Gatsby.

And I don’t know where to begin with that sort of a misleading commentary offered right off the top. Seeing something like that in the very first FAQ leads me to doubt anything else that they would assert afterwards without my ever clicking another link. I’m immediately seriously underwhelmed.

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The 2018 National Birthday

July 4, 2018
R. J. Nello

Most Americans (I hope) know what today is. ๐Ÿ™‚ I thought some lesser known words once offered by the drafter of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 might be interesting reading today. At age seventy-seven, in 1821, five years before his death, Thomas Jefferson wrote this recollection in his autobiography:

[From “Jefferson Himself,” Bernard Mayo, 1942.]

If you read enough of Jefferson’s writings, you notice he had a tendency at times to sensationalize and exaggerate, and sometimes quite a lot. That is not a surprise especially about “1776” if we remember he was of course a “propagandist” for American independence. He wasn’t about considering matters “fairly” as an historian looking back on events should.

Of course Americans did have friends in England opposed to the Government’s “crush the rebellion” policies, including prominent ones in the House of Commons itself. The most well-known today remains Edmund Burke, but noisier – and actually more supportive – was the larger than life Charles James Fox. For example, in 1775 – even before the Americans declared independence – Fox denounced the first minister (today called the “prime minister”) Lord North, terming him:

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“Sea lion, you’re in my house”

July 2, 2018
R. J. Nello

Iโ€™m not one to do this sort of thing – in fact, I don’t think I ever have. However, there are those times when you must plant a flag and not just “nod” politely. I feel doing that is especially necessary when you are faced with another writer who drops in to โ€œsea lionโ€ IN YOUR COMMENTS under the pretext of carrying on a โ€œdiscussion.”

This deserves the bright light of blog day. First, what is โ€œsealioning?โ€ It’s an expression to describe a type of commenting misbehavior, which Wikipedia defines this way:

Sealioning (also spelled sea-lioning and sea lioning) is a type of trolling or harassment which consists of pursuing people with persistent requests for evidence or repeated questions. The harasser who uses this tactic also uses fake civility so as to discredit their target. The term arises from a 2014 edition of the webcomic Wondermark, where a character expresses a dislike of sea lions and a passing sea lion repeatedly asks the character to explain.

Here is how it works, as that cartoon suggested:

Keep that in mind as you read on. This exchange stems from this post of mine last week that included a bit on author Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) and charges of racism hurled at her for some things she wrote in her Little House books. I have screen captured the entire “conversation”:

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When You Are @-ed

June 30, 2018
R. J. Nello

A quick post I hadn’t expected to write yesterday when I wished you a good weekend. My uncle once revealed to me that he felt an author should avoid reading his book reviews. He believed they are best read instead by potential readers.

[My novels so far.]

He thought reading reviews is usually unhelpful to a writer. Bad reviews are likely to discourage you without actually providing much help for future writing; on the other hand reading good ones might go to your head and bring on a sense of complacency. So he did his best to avoid reading any of his reviews.

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Only The Beginnings

June 29, 2018
R. J. Nello

In exchanging comments on aspects of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books with another writer, she got me thinking and I found myself stating this:

The US has most definitely sadly not always been fully for everyone even if they were born in the US and desperately wished to be fully accepted.

America. Where we have been to where we are now. Today, we are so different it is almost impossible to re-picture the United States in the year of George Washington’s winning election as first president: 1789.

[From a parking viewpoint on Route 23, which winds westwards up into the Catskills from the north-south New York State Thruway (I-87). New York State is spread out immediately below. Off in the distance, to the right (on a clearer day than this) you can see to Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Photo by me, 2015.]

In 1789, the original 13 US states, hugging the Atlantic seaboard, held a total human population of about four million, which is fewer than only Connecticut in 2018. (In comparison, Great Britain and Ireland then had about nine million; France about twenty million.) Ethnically the free inhabitants of the country were mostly composed of those from the British Isles and/or their descendants, with some possessing Dutch birth or ancestry, or German, or Scandinavian, or French. There were also a tiny number of Italians, Portuguese, Spanish, and Jews (the first Jews came to the colonies in 1654) mostly in port towns. The largest “city” was Philadelphia, with about 25,000 residents. Nearly a quarter of the population – Africans and their American-born descendants – were enslaved, with most held in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia; some forty percent of Virginia’s population was enslaved; over fifty percent of South Carolina’s was: whites were a minority there.

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“I had arrived at long last”

June 28, 2018
R. J. Nello

I was once a regular letter writer. I was not alone then: posting long, thoughtful, detailed letters by mail was not uncommon before the 1990s. It is amazing when I think on how that was not that long ago either – although if it was before you were born, I guess it is now “history.” (See previous post.๐Ÿ˜‚)

[Excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

Yes, we may still use stamps in 2018. We even use Star Wars ones:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

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And A Century From Now?

June 27, 2018
R. J. Nello

Books are what we as writers leave behind. So it is human to wonder about the longer-term reactions to what we write. We may ask ourselves occasionally: “What might I be thought of a century or so from now?”

Case in point. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of her childhood memories. Some of those recollections are framed in ways we would not usually in our present:

[Screen capture of Outside The Beltway.]

I feel as decades pass a fiction writer gradually shifts from being a writer worth reading for purely reading sake to becoming increasingly a useful historical voice and source for his or her time. I’ve noted previously that’s how I read Ernest Hemingway: not as a toxic male man of our time, but as a man of his time. Similarly the likes of an early-1800s writing Fenimore Cooper – employing memories of his own childhood and with access to older people who remembered those times – fictionalizing the pre-United States in New York and New England in The Last of the Mohicans: that is almost, to us in 2018, another galaxy.

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A Secret Location No More

June 25, 2018
R. J. Nello

Saturday, we went to historic Bletchley Park, about an hour away, just outside of Milton Keynes:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Its enduring fame rests on what happened there during World War II:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

The intelligence complex was built around, and prominently includes, a small former stately home – Bletchley Park – that the British government bought in the 1930s:

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