🇺🇸-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?)😂
[Country walk. Hertfordshire, England. Photo by me, 2018.]
…is the tiny village of Ayot Saint Lawrence. It is most famous for being the home of writer George Bernard Shaw. Less well known is it’s where historian/novelist Carola Oman (pronounced, her niece noted, “…not Oman like an oil-rich sultan. It’s pure Viking with the stress on the first syllable.”) also lived for a time, and died in 1978; and over in the US on a Catskills bookshelf, I have a first edition of her 1953 Sir John Moore biography, which I’d bought in a second-hand bookshop in St. Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly (pronounced, uh, “silly”) thirteen years ago…
…and obviously, uh, I’m digressing there. 😉
Anyway, back at the weekend, I was sitting in the beer garden in Ayot’s only pub: the Brocket Arms, which is far older than either George or Carola…
We had planned a visit to the Catskills in August and bought our airline tickets several months ago. All good to go. Aside from discovering since then from the friend who keeps an eye on our house there that our normally reliable Subaru (sitting in the garage) won’t start (the battery must have gone low), all otherwise seems well.
It was going to be a routine visit: check on the house, see my dad, maybe take a side trip somewhere…
[Rainbow over the Catskills. Photo by me, 2012.]
…until a couple of days ago. On the spur of the moment long-time friends here in Britain asked if they could join us. We were surprised.
I remember a singer – I don’t recall who it was, though – a few years ago saying he felt he always had to be at his “best” in a live performance because how he came across at that moment would make a lasting impression on a fan. He could not afford, he said, to have an “off” night. In comparison, a listener could play a CD and he would always sound “perfect” on that.
If you have been following me for what now amounts to a long time (in internet and blog terms), you may recall this post from September 25, 2015. Yesterday I shared it to Instagram. I did so because I’d had several visitors recently appear out of nowhere after finding it:
That it attracted those outside visitors also got me thinking – which as you know is “dangerous.” Within that 2015 post I included a photo of the first page of Chandler’s novel. Here it is once more:
A blog in this small way is like a live performance as well. It gets readers’ reactions nearly immediately; and if a reader clicks to your blog at what they consider an “indifferent” post, they may never look around at anything else on your site. There is no such thing as a “throwaway” blog post.
Kidding aside, we’ve started watching Billions. Thus far we’ve seen the first five episodes. Any program featuring “John Adams” and “Rachel Menken-Katz” is one I’ll certainly give a chance.
And it is worth doing so. To be specific, the drama is. In contrast, the sex?
[Roses on the kitchen window ledge. Photo by me, 2018.]
This post began to germinate form in my mind after I uploaded that roses photo to Instagram yesterday. Of course roses lead us regularly to think about romance. That led me next to recall that television program…
Another weekend happily approaches. My previous post was pretty heavy; but if writing is meant to entertain (as I hope to), a writer should not be afraid to laugh a bit about it all either. One of the risks in writing is sometimes we can take it perhaps somewhat too seriously:
Yes, it is difficult at times. But no one is forcing anyone to do it. We do this because we want to and believe we have something that is worth readers’ valuable time… and money.
In my first year on here, naturally I did not have the number of readers and blog followers I do now. On a blog it is also easy for older posts to get buried, but sometimes they are worth revisiting. Last night, thanks to seeing The Big Bang Theory episode in which “Leonard” reveals to his wife and pals that he’s writing a novel, I remembered this one.
Replying to my point that I have many more women readers than men, a man commenter noted a few weeks ago that he believed that probably wasn’t due primarily to the women characters in my books. He suggested it was perhaps explained in part by women liking my fictional men. I had not really considered that possibility before.
It led me to recall a woman reader early on writing me that she loved “Mark” in Passports. Unfortunately, “Mark” isn’t based on just one man. (Sorry.) I remember thinking also that I had gone to great lengths to write the women well (particularly the French women, who in our “Anglo-Saxon” literature are too often caricatured as nutcases, fiends, deviants, or “exotic”), and she had zeroed in on a man.🤔
[My novels so far. Photo by me, 2018.]
As a man, who is my “favorite” fictional male character in literature?
The business innovation magazine Fast Company has an “old” (by internet standards) article on “introverts vs. extroverts” that I stumbled on yesterday by accident. The 2013 piece holds that the words are often poorly understood. It notes that most of us are likely closer to being an ambivert – which falls “midway” between the extremes.
It goes on to explain what we all display are greater tendencies towards one or the other personality-extreme. We are either more of an introvert or more of an extrovert. No “sane” person is fully an introvert or fully an extrovert.
It offered these summations. I took a moment and pondered them. Based on these, if you deal with me, I believe I am much more these personality traits:
We spent last weekend down in north London. I aim to take a day or two every week NOT to write. There are times you do have to “turn off” and “recharge.”
Disciplining yourself into something of a work routine is far better than chaotically attempting to “write all the time.” Ernest Hemingway, for example, used to write in the mornings; his kids knew not to bother Dad when he was in his study at that time. My uncle – whom we in the family had jokingly nicknamed “Hemingway” – worked much the same; he got his best work done for the day between about 6am and noon, Monday to Friday.
The countries listed as “better” than the US in 2018 on that annual US News and World Report list are these: Switzerland, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, Sweden, and Australia. Three of those European countries are – for now, at least – members of the European Union, which is often cited as being “equivalent” to the US. Yet notice the EU overall is not here compared directly to the US, only individual EU countries are.
That sort of disconnect is all too common, and creates various perception problems. I find that what often is missed in such comparisons is the US isn’t a country as much as a continent – much like the area that makes up the European Union. The US contains about 325 million diverse people. (That is over ten times the population of Canada – which has a total population equivalent to EU Spain’s – and most Canadians live within 200 miles of the US northern border.) Americans inhabit four time zones, and most types of geography and climates “from sea to shining sea,” so to speak.
[Waiting for a Metro train. Washington, DC. Photo by me, 2017.]
Europeans experiencing the US in person for the first time are often taken aback at the country’s sheer size. “We can’t drive to Ohio [from Windham, New York] and back in one day,” I finally had to tell my mother-in-law, who wanted to do a round trip visit to distant American relatives there without a sleep over. “It’s at least 7 hours, one way…”
That said, mostly I prefer to keep my partisan political opinions to myself. However, I wanted to address this even more bluntly than before because we are seeing a relentless and insensitive effort from some at historical hijacking. Evidently this needs to be pointed out in no uncertain terms…
Some internet Friday fun. Listed in descending order, these are the “Top Twenty” countries in visitors to my site here from its start in December 2013 until yesterday. As you can see also from the world map, most countries have had some visitors come here, although obviously in smaller numbers:
[All Time “Top Twenty” RJNello.com Visitor Countries, 18 January 2018.]
Notice this also about those twenty named countries. Only ten of them – United States, United Kingdom, India, Canada, Ireland, Australia, Philippines, Puerto Rico, New Zealand and South Africa – contain mostly native English speakers, or lots of them. (As Americans, most Puerto Ricans are bilingual Spanish/English, so I include it in those ten.) The other half are far more “learned English” – meaning English as an additional, and not first, language.
In writing about other topics over the last few days, I had not mentioned this. I suppose better (two days) late than never. 🙂 November 28 was the fourth anniversary of Passports being published in paperback…
[Screen capture of Amazon.co.uk.]
Before 2013, I had been solely a reader. And I found a lot to critique sometimes over the years. Often I thought, “I can write BETTER than this!” (Sound, uh, familiar?)
I finally decided that I would put my neck on the public publishing line and try to prove it (to myself at least). Having written it, I had been thinking, “That’s enough. I did it…” However, quickly I also realized I wanted to write more and I had only really just begun.
I think “my voice” four novels later is now pretty clear. The novels reflect my personality and my worldview. I am proud of them and I have sold more than I had thought I would.
Which brings me here: I noticed this on Instagram yesterday. I won’t identify the author who shared it – whom I do like. But when I saw it, I sighed…
Following on from yesterday’s post (on the short story I’m writing, Conventions, and Amazon’s samples), I thought I would link to Amazon Kindle samples of my earlier novels as well. Doing so makes sense. After all, these are where it all began for me.
[Bastille Day parade, Paris, France, July 14, 1995. Photo by me.]
If you are a new follower, I know I have not discussed them much recently, but prior to writing the late-1700s drama that is Conventions: The Garden At Paris, I was immersed for four years penning the travel-romance series you also see in the sidebar. It follows a group of twenty-somethings in America, France and England in the 1990s. Those three Atlantic Lives novels are more or less fictionalized autobiography/biographies: they are based generally on my own life and experiences, and draw also upon people I knew, and even still may know – all of which is why names have been changed, etc., “to protect the innocent.” 😉
As you may have seen, CNN is caught up in a social media controversy. One of its reporters unmasked and confronted the pseudonymous originator of a “meme”/”gif” that sees U.S. President Donald Trump standing next to a wrestling ring and suddenly smashing to the ground – World Wrestling fashion – another suited man whose head has been replaced by the CNN logo. The “gif” attracted CNN’s attention due to the fact that Trump himself tweeted it on July 2:
For today’s topic – the obvious one. I’ve found that writing romance is one of the most difficult things to get right as an author. It is too dangerously easy to produce sappy, or unrealistic, or simply unbelievable relationships.
It is also easy to poke fun at romance writing. However, if you try to write even a few romantic paragraphs yourself you will quickly develop a respect for those who craft romantic tales. Since 2013, I have.