R. J. Nello

🇺🇸-born, 🇬🇧-based, novelist.📖 Writing, travel, culture and more. Always holding "auditions" – so be careful or you may end up a character in “1797”…and perhaps an evil one.🎭 (And why do I suspect some of you might like that latter in particular?)😂

Not A Kids’ Game

July 23, 2018
R. J. Nello

Most who write fiction were at some point in their lives probably struck by lightning. There was no overarching plan: they merely found they were hit with some (what they consider a great) idea, and eventually they just ran with it. As I’ve previously discussed here (somewhat humorously), I was one of those:

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….

I was also one of those who had toiled in academia. For over a decade, I tore apart others’ works. They were mostly research books, history/non-fiction, but, still, they were others’ works.

However, some were also fiction.

Since I starting writing novels in 2012-2013, I have discovered it is decidedly another experience to be the one who is actually doing the creating. The one aspect of my writing about which I am now uncompromising is this one: NOBODY lectures me as to what characters to write and how they should be presented. I am the writer. I DECIDE.

[Photos by me, 2018.]

On the other hand, I do believe that children’s books – what are given to impressionable pre-teens – are somewhat different. They do require standards and critiques beyond what an adult book might reasonably warrant. That youthful, still innocent, audience is not capable yet of understanding wider life contexts.

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When “The Future” Is Over

July 20, 2018
R. J. Nello

The troubled current relationship between the US and Russia resonates its in own way with many Americans of my generation, known as “Generation X.” We are the ones born from 1964 until about 1980. Our grandparents fought in World War II; and our parents were raised with the Cold War.

It saddens us. We had experienced for a few years something that was radically different: what we had thought was “reconciliation”:

Many Russians in our age group experienced much the same – but from of course their own perspectives. If you are interested, you should read Anastasia Edel’s February 2018, New York Review of Books article. It’s a fascinating recounting of where we were then and how we are here now.

In the 1990s, back in New York, I knew several “Anastasias.” For a time, post-1991, it was an almost surreal US-Russia relationship. Russians (and other former Soviets), America’s former Cold War adversaries/ enemy, people most of us had never met in person and had been “demons” for our entire lives, were now newly free to travel post-communism, and even free to attend university in the US.

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“One of my favorite Psalms…”

July 19, 2018
R. J. Nello

It’s no secret. Those of us born as Christians today often appear on a daily basis to be on the whole much less observant in comparison to our ancestors. Yet even if you are a Christian in name only (and rarely to never go inside a church), I’ve found as a writer familiarity with the Bible is nonetheless definitely useful.

It is often sloppily described as “a book,” when it is more accurately characterized as a library compiled from over a millennia of writings. “Bible” is the English translation of the Greek plural “biblía” – “books” – which stems from the name of the ancient Lebanese port of Byblos, which exported papyrus. As a writer, you need not believe a word of the supernatural in it. What is more vital is that it contains the roots of so many of our metaphors and cultural references; and although certainly not academic “history” as we now understand it, the Bible is also, in numerous ways, “historical.”

[Photo by me of The New Jerusalem Bible’s introduction to the Book of Esther.]

The Book of Esther is an example. That above is the New Jerusalem Bible’s introduction to it. (That is the version of the Roman Catholic Bible used here in England and Wales.) Indeed whenever I see someone else pop up on social media or in general media declaring that “strong women” were largely absent from literature until only recently, I have thought: “Have you read the Book of Esther?”

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July 17, 2018
R. J. Nello

British and European schools are starting their summer holidays this week or next. Most American schools finished several weeks ago, to resume in late August or in early September. So with (northern hemisphere) summertime now fully upon us, are you looking for backyard, poolside, or beach reading?

Well, of course I have, uh, suggestions…

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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 Elysées 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, doesn’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 “real” 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 reader’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. 🙂 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

I’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 “sea lion” IN YOUR COMMENTS under the pretext of carrying on a “discussion.”

This deserves the bright light of blog day. First, what is “sealioning?” 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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