Once Upon a Time…

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This post was triggered by one I read recently by Sacha Black.

https://sachablack.co.uk/2017/07/24/5-tips-to-write-more-in-less-time–mondaysblogs/

It got me to thinking rather deeply about the writing process  and what we are prepared to do or give up in order to do it. This turned out to be quite revealing for me …

 

I never thought I would ever say this, but I have begun to realise something important lately. In my determination and busyness, some of the magic seems to have vanished. My writing has not become the be all and end all of my whole life after all. This came as a massive shock.

Don’t get me wrong,  I won’t stop writing, couldn’t if I wanted to, but a spark of creativity in one of the crafts I used to enjoy, has been calling me back and I realise now how much I have missed it.

There was nothing for it but to rearrange my schedule yet again to make room for it.

Maybe it has something to do with that old adage “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy…” and looking back at the last three years, this would appear to be the case. I think I have turned into a very dull person.

I have almost driven myself into the ground, trying first one thing and then another in my quest to be a successful writer/blogger. So many things have been left behind in the process, but I have had a lot of fun along the way, meeting so many wonderful people. But I had a long hard look at myself the other day and realised that I was becoming exhausted… almost burned out. Added to all of that, is the knowledge that time is slowly running away from me, and I should at least try to be happy.

The spark that has re awakened in me gleams silently in the corner of my mind, waiting patiently for me to pick it up where I left off. Suddenly my mind is full of new possibilities, new ideas, as if I had never gone away from it. This spark is somehow connected to my soul and is the one thing that usually takes me to a calmer, more peaceful world. I know that connecting to this world again will reflect on the rest of my life, for I was in danger of forgetting who I really am and what I can achieve once I am grounded again.

In the beginning, I thought sacrificing everything else was necessary in order to focus on the main objective, which was becoming a successful author, but now it would seem that I have to make room for this spark or there is no point to any of it.

 

Editing ‘Lazy Days’…

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My learning curve has taken a bit of a battering lately.

I have always been painfully aware that I have a lot to learn, and that my non-fiction writing could be missing that special element that would lift it from good to being brilliant.

It was to this end that I posted a request for beta readers for Lazy Days to try to steer me in the right direction. Although I only received one offer, it turned out to be the right one for me. All of my shortcomings were described in detail, along with helpful advice as to the best way to remedy them.

As I said, Lazy Days is non-fiction and not something I have had much experience with, but I was beginning to suspect that some of my failings might be affecting my fiction work too.

Briefly, I expect my readers to have a crystal ball, as I tend to leave out far too much detail. In my defence, I think this might have something to do with long years of being an editor, writing endless synopsis, but hardly a good enough excuse really. We are constantly being told to ‘show and not tell’ and I don’t think I do either most of the time.

I have just finished the first post beta edit and nearly doubled the word count, which kinda proves the point. An improvement, but I know I have barely touched the surface.

I also know that I have my crime thriller books to edit, once I master Lazy Days.

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This post is also a call for more beta readers for our Writers Group Inky Fingers, for although I am still trying to improve my own writing, I want to help other writers too. So if there are more writers like me out there, come and be a member of Inky Fingers and let’s share our knowledge!

The Cruellest Blow!

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Yesterday, fate dealt me a nasty blow, literally knocking me for six. My stomach hit the floor with such a thump, I swear they heard it miles away.

I had finished some routine paperwork and wanted to work on my WIP, Lazy Days, so I slid the relevant USB (I call them sticks) into the port and tried to open the file. The message was chillingly clear. “Unable to open File”.

Undeterred, I tried again, knowing these things can happen and it would be fine this time.

Only it wasn’t.

I investigated further, unable to believe what I was seeing. Of all the 30 files on this USB, the one I wanted was apparently corrupt and gone forever. Weeks of work on Lazy Days had just gone up in a virtual puff of smoke.

I didn’t know what to do, or if there was anything I could do. I checked everywhere I could think of, but I had no other copy. I don’t usually back up a WIP, which I had just discovered was a grave mistake. There is usually a copy saved by Word, but this turned out to be corrupt too.

I was torn between wanting to howl like a dog, losing my considerable temper or just sobbing my heart out. It was only the stubborn thought that there just had to be a copy somewhere, that kept me from losing it, big time.

Then I remembered something. I had sent copies to our beta readers.  Would I be able to retrieve a copy from one of their emails? Turns out, I could, but all the work I had done since then would have to be done again. What made it worse, I think, is that I was so close to finishing Lazy Days.

The lesson I learned was an important one.  I think this happened because I was getting a little complacent with my USB’s. I have quite a lot of them, and they are invaluable for backing up everything we do. They are so simple to use and hold a vast amount of data.

I hadn’t been treating them with the respect they deserve. Sometimes I would just remove them without going through the procedure. Nothing bad ever happened when I did, so I assumed (wrongly) that it didn’t matter. But apparently, this is the major cause of USB failure.

I guess I won’t be doing that again!

I’m Still at It!

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(Part two of me trying to be productive!)

It took me all afternoon to track down the source image for the Scarlet Ribbon cover. I was just about to admit defeat and find a new image, when I had the idea to run through ALL my images again, only this time, set to a bigger size. I have no idea where this idea came from, but it worked. I soon find the image I wanted and realised why I hadn’t seen it before. I had originally enlarged a small section of the image, which is why I couldn’t see it in the smaller size.

I thought I would have another go at following KDP’s guidelines. I even downloaded a template to make their amazing one piece cover (back, front and spine) and started to upload my images. I managed the front and back with no trouble at all, but what was I supposed to do about the spine?

I watched their helpful video, but it fell short of any helpful advice.  This is my main gripe about most of these companies. They assume that we all have these remarkable computer skills. It never dawns on them that there are people like me out there who don’t know their backside from their elbow, and need a bit more help than the usual nudge.

Sadly, I had to abandon the KDP cover maker and return to Lulu.

In no time at all, I had created the perfect cover. Nothing got cropped, now the image was the right size, so I was happy…

Moving on to the Next Challenge

Someone had suggested that Triberr was a brilliant way to increase the traffic to our blog, so I high tailed it over there and booked ourselves in.

That turned out to be the easy bit!

Then I had to connect Triberr to our blog. Well, I tried, but whether it has or not is anyone’s guess. Again, none of these sites cater for the brainless, no help menus anywhere, so I appealed for some help. The jury is still out with this challenge, but it’s not looking good.

I know that nothing good ever comes easy, but why does everything have to be so complicated?

Here’s one I did earlier!

I have been meaning to remove one of our books from the exclusivity of KDP for a while now, as I am unconvinced it is any better there than anywhere else. So when Scarlet Ribbon approached renewal, I didn’t do it. I had heard good things about Draft to Digital, and wanted to try them out.  For once it was as simple as they said it would be, and The Scarlet Ribbon is now available at all these other book stores.

Now, either I read it wrong, or done something wrong, but so far I am slightly underwhelmed. More on this when I find out more!

 

I’m at it Again!

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I have been noticing that KDP (kindle direct publishing) have been going on about how easy it is to create paperback copies of our books using their new system.  Just upload your files and they will do the rest.

I needed to change the cover image on The Scarlet Ribbon, so I thought I would have a go. I never know when or from where these ideas come, I just can’t seem to help myself!

I hadn’t gone far into the process, before I was informed that they didn’t like the format or the size of my content file and offered me a template to use. My first instinct was to run screaming from the office. But I must have been feeling like a bit of a challenge. (this does happen frequently and gets me into more trouble than enough!)

This turned out to be relatively easy to do, so I moved on to the cover image. This time they insisted it had to be a PDF format. I didn’t know what they were talking about. Not only had I never heard of such a thing, I didn’t have a clue how to change it. This is when I really should have run for the hills!

But determination makes me stupid at times, and I tried to change the format with Adobe. I used the image I used on the kindle copy, but the result was so huge, only a tiny piece was visible on the screen. Again, KDP offered me a template to make the cover, which I learned had to incorporate the front, back and spine. Red flags were now in evidence, and my temper was baying at the door. There was nothing for it, but to abandon KDP.

Two cups of coffee later, my brain was still trying to think of a way.  Up to now, I have always used Lulu for our paperbacks. They have complications too, but I have learned to manage them, so I decided to renew the cover on Scarlet Ribbon with them in an effort to rescue my sanity.

Everything was going well, until I reached the cover wizard. This is definitely the wrong name for this stage, for nothing magical happens when you get there. In fact, you need the stubbornness of a mule, luckily something I do possess, to get through it, as tasks never quite turn out as you intended. Sometimes I can spend an hour just getting the spine print right!

I uploaded the new cover image and placed it on the template. Cue instant groan. The title is too close to the top of the cover and has been cropped off. As my patience was still in attendance, albeit in tatters, I knew that all I had to do was create the cover again and lower the title.  But…

I couldn’t find the source image anywhere. I searched through my picture library several times, my mind spinning with the frustration. That was when I did run screaming from the office…

 

What will happen next?

Will I ever manage to publish the paper back for The Scarlet Ribbon?

An Exercise for the Mind…

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I am in the habit of changing my screen saver/background image quite often. I  like to have something lovely on my computer screen, as it is the first thing I see every morning.

This picture appealed to me for several reasons. I love trees and this one is lovely but also ethereal, the mist hiding most of the scene. I particularly like the contrast between the nakedness of the sleeping tree and the tree covered in blossom.

I have recently found myself  ‘skimming’ when both reading and writing, and I am not seeing or describing anything enough which is not good. This post is an exercise, not only for my eyes, but also for my imagination. I don’t want to think of my old age robbing me of so much of my enjoyment of life.

The blossom tree in this image attracted me first, being frustratingly out of focus enough to prevent an easy identification. The blossoms are pure white, no hint of colour on them, and the petals are delicate and small. The branches look old, but the slender double trunk would suggest otherwise. Are there any more clues in the picture?

The tree is blooming very early. The companion trees still bare, their branches stark and austere looming through the mist. Winter has not long departed, as I imagine the chilly dampness of the morning on my skin. The shrubbery in the background is sparse too, confirming that Mother Nature is not fully awake yet.

My mind sifts through my knowledge of flowering trees and comes up with a likely choice. Is it a Magnolia, one of the small flowered varieties, maybe Stellata?

Moving on from the details of the image, my mind is not finished. I wonder where this lovely little tree is. The setting would suggest a park, for the area seems too big to be someone’s garden. There are vague images hiding in the mist, indicating far more space than first thought.

Could that be a roof I can see? It doesn’t look like the roof of a house though…

My mind yearns to explore this scene, to visit the tree and then walk into the mist to see what I can discover…

 

 

Upside Down?

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Yesterday I did a very stupid thing. I had been playing one of my favourite computer games, but the exit button refused to close it down when it was time for me to move on to more productive things. To close it, I had to press CTRL+ALT+DELETE.

This is what I thought I did, but as I watched the screen, everything literally turned upside down! Not only couldn’t I believe my eyes, but my heart sank to the floor. What the hell had I done now, and was it even fixable?

I tried pressing the same combination of buttons, but nothing worked. I literally pressed everything sight, trying to goad my brain into some kind of solution, a long forgotten memory of how to extricate oneself from similar predicaments, but ten minutes later, I still had an upside down computer.

Undaunted, and this was another surprise but I digress, I decided to try System Restore. This is a wonderful way to get rid of mistaken downloads and other errors. The computer takes you back to a previous update point, usually the day before, so I thought it was worth a try. Using an upside down cursor was almost impossible, a bit like trying to cut your own hair while looking in a mirror.  After much trial and error, I managed it, although my eyes were crossed at the end.

As I sat and watched the computer doing its work, albeit upside down,  I got really angry with myself . Why was I so stupid?

(don’t all rush to tell me!)

But System Restore didn’t do a thing, everything was still upside down. Frustration arrived and grabbed me by the throat. The feeling of sheer helplessness  was doing nothing at all for my peace of mind. What was I supposed to do now?

Gradually, my mind began to sift through different possibilities. I knew there had to be some of those in my head somewhere. Then I remembered that the last time I screwed up, I used my laptop to google for help. Not that I could remember what that was all about, but at least my brain had supplied me with the relevant facts.

Half an hour later, I had my answer and it was so simple I could have cried. All I had to do was press CTRL+ALT+ and the up arrow and my world turned up the right way! It was as simple as that!