R. J. Nello

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ-born, πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§-based, novelist.πŸ“– Writing, travel, culture and more. Always holding "auditions" – so be careful or you may end up a character in β€œ1797”…and perhaps an evil one.🎭 (And why do I suspect some of you might like that latter in particular?)πŸ˜‚

“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 “biblΓ­a” – “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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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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The Scariest “One”

May 16, 2018
R. J. Nello

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:

Good morning!πŸ™‹πŸ»β€β™‚οΈI had several blog visitors turn up yesterday having clicked in via a 2 & 1/2 year old post, and I have no idea why.πŸ‘¨πŸ»β€πŸ’»πŸ€” I hadn't re-read the post in quite some time and since there are photos I thought I'd share it on here in full (if you swipe). Some classic reading fun.πŸ“šπŸ˜Š . Discovering a long-forgotten "70 year old" Kindle just won't be the same… even assuming that same someone who does can even figure out what this ancient tech was, how to power it up, and it isn't password-protected.πŸ“±And if they do and can "open" it they might discover what someone was reading… and had wanted to, uh, keep a secret.πŸ˜³πŸ˜‚ . #bookstagram #bookshelf #books #travel #detectives #adventure #crimefiction #TheBigSleep #humor #humour #novels #novelists #fiction #bloggers #blogging #reading #photos #photography #expat #expatlife #writers #writing #authors #socialmedia #writersofinstagram #authorsofinstagram #Hertfordshire #England

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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.

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That Name

May 11, 2018
R. J. Nello

It has by now entered “everyday” English. Even if we have never read a single thing he wrote, we recognize that name. And anyone with a male – and perhaps “wayward” – writer in a family may fall back on it… sometimes humorously…

[Excerpt from Distances. On iPad for Kindle. Click to expand.]

…as my fictionalized mom and my aunt did there. To us my uncle was often – jokingly – “Hemingway.” Yesterday, I stumbled upon James Mellow’s 1992 biography of the actual Ernest Hemingway in a box full of old books:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

He was a literary giant for nearly four decades and has remained big since his 1961 death. To be honest, though, I find his life and his times more interesting reading than his books: hence the biography. Although I’ve been to his Key West, Florida house, the only one of his novels I’ve read cover to cover is – perhaps unsurprisingly – The Sun Also Rises.

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“All for one, one for all”

April 16, 2018
R. J. Nello

How many film versions of it (I feel the 1973/74 version remains the best one) have we seen? But it’s one of those classics that SHOULD be read. I couldn’t post this photo until today because it was one of the birthday presents we got for my younger nephew (and godson), who turned 16 yesterday and has apparently entered his “musketeers phase.”

[Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers. Everyman’s Library hardcover. Photo by me, 2018.]

I remembered first reading it in my teens, too. I found this The Three Musketeers on Amazon.co.uk in an Everyman’s Library hardcover. It’s the sort of book you give as a real present.

It was written as primarily entertainment, not “highbrow” literature. Originally published in 1844 as a serial in a small circulation Paris paper, today it would’ve started life possibly as a cable TV or Netflix series. I have a paperback in the Catskills, and another version on my Kindle.

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In The Manner Now Lost

March 23, 2018
R. J. Nello

Upon reading a tweet yesterday by our incumbent president of the United States, much known already for his sharp and unapologetic debasement of our language, it became widely discussed that our late vice president, one too known always for his directness and at times fumbling inability to make himself as clear as we believe he wishes he might, had declared of his recollection of his youth and that had they shared that youth in the same school that he our former vice president would have accosted our current holder of our highest executive office and pummeled him unceasingly behind the school building constructed mostly to accommodate athletic endeavors. After reading of their heated communication and momentarily fearing a meeting of honor with pistols might result from it, although quickly recovering my full knowledge any duel would not result from such threats and mutual questionings of the public honor of each gentleman as such is now illegal and no longer in our tradition as it was in earlier days, I could not also but think on how our English has changed. This post next jumped to the forefront of my mind also, after sharing this photograph below to our social media Instagram:

[John Marshall, Writings, Library of America. Photo by me, 2018.]

That letter there is from a Mr. John Marshall, a gentleman who of course as we know now would be the future Chief Justice of the United States from 1801-1835, and would in that position through his determination of personality and strength of intellectual capacities, steer the judiciary into an equality of governance alongside the legislative and the executive. He was then at The Hague, having successfully endured the hazards of an Atlantic voyage, and en route to Paris. Sir is writing there to our then late President General Washington at his home in Virginia, sharing of how he hopes Mr. Washington would welcome any of his insights into the affairs of Europe while he is in residence on that distant continent.

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β€œAy, surely, mere the truth…”

March 1, 2018
R. J. Nello

When I was a teen, with my friends fascinated with the likes of Tolkien while I had my nose in history books about Ancient Rome, France, England, America, and historical novels such as The Last of The Mohicans, my mother laughed that I had “no imagination.” I never forgot that jibe. It did hurt somewhat to hear it put that way – even lightheartedly – by my own mother.

I just preferred reality. I wasn’t at all interested in fanciful places such as a “Middle Earth.” Assigning me to produce a “book report” on a novel about… “half-humans, half-Tantors waving their ompuim swords while seeking the secret castle of Antrippil on the lost island of Yrg in the Sea of Despaire”… would have caused me to despair.

As I’ve written before, I haven’t even read Harry Potter. I tried once, but gave up after a few pages; I’ll probably die being one of the “thirty muggles” out here who haven’t; but Potter is actually mild stuff compared to so much else out there now. And now we have libraries pushing “fantasy,” too. For example, this tweet from one in upstate New York, sharing a Newsweek piece telling us what we need to read:

My mother is gone nearly 3 years and I’m still being told I need to read nonsense fantasy. Yet I do wonder also if I’m simply rather “tone deaf?” Or if I’m that awkward person who looks at a Van Gogh and declares, “Nope, I just don’t see what all the fuss is about?”

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Your Favorite Woman?

February 27, 2018
R. J. Nello

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.πŸ€”

[My novels so far. Photo by me, 2018.]

As a man, who is my “favorite” fictional male character in literature?

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Here Are “The Top Five”

September 14, 2017
R. J. Nello

In the last few days I’ve seen a currently mega-popular male writer pop up in my Instagram feed repeatedly praised by several people I follow. Read his book! they declare. It changed my life!

I’ll pass. However, when others effusively push a current-day wildly popular writer you’ve read some of and couldn’t stomach (you understand why I’m not naming him), you can also wonder about yourself. You may fret, “Am I utterly out of step with the world?” You may well be, but that’s fine; everyone is entitled to their literary tastes, of course, and don’t be afraid to follow your own.

After all, we aren’t in school anymore. We fork out money for what we want to read. And there is no English literature test on Friday.

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Not Even An “Iron Mask” Will Do

February 10, 2017
R. J. Nello

Most of you know I write under a pen name. Since the publication of Passports in December 2013, I have gone to some lengths to try to separate my real-life self from my authoring identity. To do so, I created social media accounts for myself as an author that are different from my personal Facebook account, which is under my real name.

That does not mean I am some dramatically different person on here as an author, and on my Instagram, etc., than I am in my real-life. (Yes, it may disappoint some of you to learn perhaps that I am not, for example, secretly actually a 6 ft tall blonde Swedish woman.) I have sought merely to keep my two social medias apart for primarily creative reasons.

I’ve written novels to date that stem in large part from my own life experiences. And they feature characters based on people I know, or have known, and events that often happened in my life and in the lives of people I know, or have known. When I’ve told some close to me in real-life about the sort of fiction I’ve written, I’ve more than once been asked: “Am I in your books?”

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Love Letters: Duchess And Diplomat

February 3, 2017
R. J. Nello

I must be pretty high up there in search engines for this subject. An old post is attracting looks most days lately. This was just yesterday:


Visitors are headed to this about Rosalie de La Rochefoucauld and William Short, which I wrote in February 2014:

Falling Short In The Pursuit Of Happiness

Anyone who knows details about Thomas Jefferson’s years as an American envoy and then Minister to France from 1784-1789 has likely at least vaguely heard of their relationship. Since that 2014 post – for reasons that will become clearer soon enough – I have researched them more deeply. That post back then has a few minor (but generally unimportant) mistakes.

To update things. Who were they?

Rosalie de La Rochefoucauld (born Alexandrine Charlotte Louise de Rohan-Chabot in France in 1763, but friends and family called her Rosalie) was then the attractive young wife of a French liberal duke – Louis-Alexandre, Duke de La Rochefoucauld. The duke was a friend of America and close to Jefferson while Jefferson was in Paris in those years just before, and at the start, of the French Revolution. Love having little to do then with marriage in their strata, the duke and the young duchess were almost certainly married for “dynastic” reasons: his mother was her grandmother, and he (born probably in 1743, the same year as Jefferson) was also twenty years older than she was.

In comparison to the duke, William (born in Virginia in 1759), Jefferson’s private secretary from 1785 until Jefferson’s departure from France, was only four years older than Rosalie.

He was probably introduced to her alongside Jefferson at a public gathering possibly in 1785, but more likely in 1787; and probably with her husband standing right there. It seems that from William’s first encounter with her that she reduced him to, well, mush. From then on, when he wasn’t working, he seemed to spend a lot of his time contriving somehow to see her.

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Once, It Was 1840

January 2, 2017
R. J. Nello

Another new year is upon us, of course. I’ve seen in 2017 here in the Catskills, a low mountain range about 100 miles north of New York City. They are scenic, as well as awash with history – including literary history: for example, New Yorker Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” (which Irving wrote while in England) “lived” here.

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What Fiction Is Supposed To Do

October 3, 2016
R. J. Nello

A well-regarded children’s author on what “kids need to see” in books:

Screen capture of Twitter.

Screen capture of Twitter.

And who could really take issue with that? It seems reasonable enough. And not being a children’s author I have no opinion about what children’s authors believe “kids need” – kids are their audience after all.

Yet as I thought about it, something about that sentence bothered me. If that declaration may be made so definitively about what “needs” to be in youngsters’ books, one would think something similar may be asserted about books for everyone older than that. Indeed I have here and there seen that “need” raised about books for “oldsters” as well.

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When “They” Spoke “Olde English”

July 8, 2016
R. J. Nello

I loved Cas Blomberg’s post: “What do you like in a story?” She lists the sorts of things – her personal “likes” and “dislikes” – that should make any author think. As her take would apply to any reader, it is worth reading her post in full.

This “dislike” naturally grabbed my attention:

Difficult language β€” Victorian, Venusian, the Tyk’gkt’der language, etc.

“Victorian?” Uh, oh. Well, I’m not using “Victorian,” but I’m definitely employing what might be termed “Georgian” and “early American independence” – the later 1700s mostly – in Conventions.

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Alone At The Keyboard

June 7, 2016
R. J. Nello

I realized yesterday as I was thrashing around in one chapter in “1787,” I had opened with a journal entry, and that “first person” perspective helped better illuminate what happened immediately afterwards in the narrative. I’d stumbled on that approach by accident and it seemed to work. I may do more of it.

Or I may not. Or I may revise it. I’ll see how it goes in the months to come.

Kindle "art." [Photo by me, 2016.]

Kindle “art.” [Photo by me, 2016.]

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