“What have you done lately, to make you feel proud…?”

Identify Your Target Audience…

We are often told we have to do this, being the one sure way of actually ‘making it’ or getting to that most cherished of places, the successful author.

I have lost track of how many articles and blog posts I have read since we started.

We are constantly told that a writing career TAKES A LOT OF WORK and I don’t know about you, but there simply isn’t enough hours in my day to do much more. So the question is this, are we doing the right things in the first place?

Who exactly are your Ideal Readers?

I have thought long and hard about this one. This is the person you should be concentrating on, and building a relationship with. And this is where I am very confused. Surely, most of the people we interact with, are authors just like us, not necessarily readers?

But when you think about it, we are all readers. Some more than others, but I wouldn’t mind betting that how much we read is relevant to how far we go in our respective careers.

Hold on a minute…

Think of all the big names, the very successful authors. You don’t see many of them on Facebook or Twitter, do you? Might that suggest there is another way, or are they simply discarded when not needed anymore?

Are our priorities in the right order?

No matter what some of us do, we don’t seem to make much progress, if any at all. Something seems to be holding us back, and it cannot be the lack of trying. So, back to the original question…

Are we doing the right things?

Being eager to learn, we read and digest all the advice, and implement it (as best we can manage, anyway) and arrive at a point where we cannot possibly squeeze one more thing into our schedules. Even then, we have a sneaky feeling that either some aspects are not being fully utilised, or we have missed the mark completely.

However, we are doing better than we did a year ago, so must be on the right track at least. So, although we ARE doing better, some areas need more thought.

You have probably gathered that this post is trying to teach me something, but if you found it interesting (or not) please leave a comment. They always that say two heads are better than one.

Time to Step Back…

I took myself to one side and had a serious talk with myself, and after much soul searching, I realised the current state of my head was caused by cramming too many things inside it, most of them completely unreasonable and beyond my control. It was time to take a long hard look at my workload and come to some sort of understanding. It was at this point that I remembered the serenity prayer . . .

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There are more verses to this prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) but the first verse should be indelibly written on the inside of my skull. I am usually the most patient person on the planet, but due to an unfortunate combination of circumstances, I must have decided to forget those details.

Everyone has been so supportive, and all their messages to me and my predicament were the same. I must take a step back and soon, in order to regroup and concentrate on the do-able, as opposed to the impossible.

Even though patience is my strong point, I know I have been slowly falling under the spell of doing far too much and expecting miracles. I always expect to stumble upon a magical doorway where everything miraculously works or happens yesterday, and when this fails to happen, I get depressed. Against my better judgement of course, but what can you do when you want need to succeed?

Therefore, I am going to stop shoving so many irons in the fire. Common-sense is telling me this is not the way to do anything.

I am going to concentrate on doing one thing at a time and see it through to the end, before moving on.

I am also going to rearrange my schedule to include some ‘me’ time, for life is getting shorter by the minute, and as they say, we will always regret what we didn’t do. There will be another post soon, where I tell you about my plans. Plans that have nothing to do with writing, the internet or our ambitions. Well, maybe not directly, anyway…

 

The Ten-Minute Rule…

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I have been blogging now for nearly five years, and the amount of data I have had to learn has simply astounded me.

In the beginning, I was incredible stubborn, still can be should the need arise. However, just lately, probably due to old age and some minor health issues, I have discovered that there is an end to my patience. This came as one hell of a shock, for I assumed my patience was infinite. It always had been, so why not now?

The last few years have been difficult, and this is me still downplaying the enormity of it. Discovering I had cancer was like being hit by a truck, one that kept coming back to do it all over again.

But it has gone now, and I am still having troubling believing how incredibly lucky I was. I thought life would just pick up from where I left it, and it has, sort of. I really don’t feel any different, no lasting ill effects. The small aches from the radiotherapy are fading, so where has all my get up and go gone?

It is still down to me to run the blogs and promote our books, as Anita and computers do not and will never get on. She helps with the posts and general ideas, and brainstorming is her speciality. She can take ‘what if’ to an entirely different level, and even though she tries to understand the finer points of marketing and promotion, I am basically on my own.

I know how to do most of it, so not exactly up a creek without the proverbial paddle, but there are still a few things on my to do list.

This is where The Ten Minute Rule comes in.

I have decided that in the future, when presented with something I want to learn, I will try to grasp the principles for about ten minutes. If my brain screams at me and  I fail, I will walk away and forget about it. (That’s the hard part!)  I may relent and try again on another occasion, but the same rule applies.

For I have decided that with the best will in the world, there are some things I will never be able to do, even if I bash my head against the wall for ever. The frustration of these things removes me from the joy of writing, something that remains so important to me. I will keep trying to learn new things, for being stubborn is another one of my blessings, and I do want to reach new heights competency.

But… something has to give… and I need my brain for a bit longer yet!

Throwback Thursday: Am I Losing My Edge?

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I have begun to realise something monumental, lately.

Something that could be significant, although I’m not sure how.

Not sure how to explain it either, but I’ll try.

For quite a while now, I have been unable to do much of anything after 9pm. The brain just refuses, and I put it down to tiredness and thought nothing of it.

But just lately, this has been getting earlier and earlier, and the funny thing is, I don’t feel particularly tired. It feels as though someone throws a switch, leaving me incapable of rational thought. Any kind of thought, come to think of it!

After 6pm these days, I can still function, watch TV or read a book, but don’t ask me about any of it. I am beginning to feel like an evening robot.

I’m not unduly worried. There is no pain or confusion, and the brain works perfectly well all day. I say perfectly well, but do still have the odd weird thing going on, like trying to put the milk in the bin. And I repeatedly forget why I went upstairs, only to remember when I come back down again.

Am I wearing my brain out these days, a natural thing, or is there something more serious going on? No one in our family has ever developed dementia or Alzheimer’s, so I have no clear idea of what to look for. I don’t feel ill or anything, and it doesn’t bother me that after 6pm I can’t think straight.

I am 74 years old, so it is conceivable that something could have decided to malfunction. It happens to everything else around me.  The PC, keyboard, toaster, TV and just yesterday the microwave. So why not me too?

And no, I will not be bothering my doctor with it. Not a lot he can do about it anyway, right?

#Throwback Thursday. Second Tries, or How to make the right decisions the first time?

 

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My brain must be like Emmental cheese these days, soft, spongy and full of holes. I am getting really fed up with trying to think and decide what to do, or even knowing if the final decision is the right one. As they say, if I had half a brain, I would be dangerous!
I can’t decide (or remember) if I have always been like this, or if this state of affairs is yet another symptom of my advancing years.

Time is becoming problematic, far too much of it is spent second-guessing. Wouldn’t life be more efficient if all deliberation could be removed? Easier to pick a winkle out of its shell with a pin, I hear you say. But I am heartily sick of wondering which item to buy, which programme to watch, whether to cut my hair, the list is endless.

Added to my inability to choose anything, is the sure and certain knowledge that whichever one I pick, it will be the wrong one. Always is. I never get anything right on the first try.

Could life be more like plotting a book?

Now, I know that many writers don’t believe in plotting. They believe their characters will do most of the hard work for them, and I have experienced this first hand too. But other writers firmly believe in careful plotting, even using a story board.
All my life, I have been a ‘winger’, hurtling from one idea to the next. Sometimes getting it right, but more often not. Advancing age has changed all that. I no longer have the time for hit and miss. Decisions I make now, have to be right, although how this will happen, remains to be seen.

Now, I am still virtually new to this writing business, and with the idea of getting it right first time (could be a novelty in itself!) I tried plotting. With a lot of practice, I’m getting better. So much so, that the sequel to my fourth book has been thoroughly plotted, storyboard and everything. But this is not something you could really do with your life. Too many decisions, and so many ways of dealing with them.
In addition, other people tend to make your life awkward, sometimes it seems, just to be bloody minded.

Could it be as simple as throwing a dice?

Then I remembered something. (It does still happen sometimes!) I once read about a man who always made every decision with the turn of a dice, and apparently, his life was glorious. Maybe it was worth a try, as my way was getting me nowhere.
On second thoughts though, that sounds worse than ‘winging it’.
But if I were younger…

They say there are ‘two sides to every story’ and ‘everything happens for a reason’, but what if neither of these things is true? What if it is as simple as right or wrong?
Could it be that when life gets too difficult, we are simply trying to force wrong into being right?

Should we blindly follow our instincts?instincts,

Recently, I have been thinking back through my life and all the different choices that I had to make. To that small, persistent voice that nags you, insisting you do this or that. How many times had I ignored it, thinking my own choice was better, usually for all manner of reasons? Would my life have been better if I had obeyed that still, small voice? If I had not always chosen the path of least resistance, the path that always looked inevitable. Maybe the choice that looked the hardest, the most impossible, would have turned out better than what actually happened?

Maybe then, I wouldn’t have so many things to be sorry for, so many people I should apologise to.
If there is such a thing as reincarnation and I get another chance to live a better life, I hope I remember some of the things I have done wrong, all of the people I have hurt, and do it better next time…

God Bless and see you all next week…

That Way Madness Lies…

This post was partly created as the direct result of reading Eleanor’s post, from realtastypages.wordpress.com and the thought provoking image that accompanied it.

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For the past month, I have been driving myself insane trying to come up with an idea for new covers for my soon to be finished Crime Thriller Series.

This came about, because it struck me that the covers I had already chosen were unsuitable. In my opinion, they didn’t reflect the genre or anything about the storyline, and as the last book was almost ready, time was of the essence.

 

BUT . . . the harder I tried, the harder it became. It was turning into a nightmare, keeping me awake at night and completely ruining my established schedule. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else, making ever more ridiculous covers, each one worse than the last.

I think the trouble was that they were for a series. Something had to link them all together. I even looked for ready- made covers, but didn’t like any of them either. I began to realise I was in danger of coming unglued. The family were beginning to avoid me, and I would have avoided me too, if I could.

I scanned Amazon, searching through different genres. I prowled around bookshops, but nothing seemed right. Anita was worrying about my ears, likening me to Van Gogh, expecting the worst.

I knew I had to come up with something, and soon, or my three books were in danger of going nowhere, languishing in a drawer, coverless.

 

No, they deserved good covers, good covers are important. I had to do something. In the end, I resolved to create three covers that looked attractive with a shared theme.  Although the idea that I wanted them to look dramatic and intriguing haunted me, but was proving to be impossible for me to do.

It began to dawn on me that I might never find what I wanted. That it was yet another unattainable thing, like searching for the Holy Grail. The secret, I knew, was in the looking, not the finding. It was then that I stepped away from my obsession, finally recognising it for what it was. A symbol of the futility of everything in my life, that endless search for perfection.

 

That was when I found Eleanor’s post.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

Here are the covers I started with . . .

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And here are the final covers . . .

 

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Please don’t be afraid to tell me what you think . . .

 

I made a video!

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As a practice run before I start creating videos for our books, I decided to shoot some footage of the Southsea hovercraft when I went there last week.

There is something incredibly exciting about watching this huge craft as it powers along; almost concealed at times by the cloud of spray it creates. I am a speedboat fan, and in my youth, I was often to be found on one, hanging over the edge of the boat and getting soaked to the skin. My idea of a fun day out!

I love being anywhere near water, although I have never been on a hovercraft. Probably wouldn’t enjoy it though, as they are so noisy! These days I am content to watch from a distance, I think.

Not having used my camera like this before, I tried to hold it as steady as I could, and later when I checked the results, I was reasonable pleased. The day was overcast, so the conditions weren’t idea, but hey, this was a learning curve!

Microsoft’s Movie Maker was recommended to me as it was free to use and relatively easy, both elements that were right up my street. Proof of the pudding and all that, I thought. Depends what my aging brain can do with it, of course.

After much deliberation, I managed to upload the footage from my camera and I was quite impressed by the quality of the recording, even though it was cloudy that day.

It took a lot longer to learn how to insert the title and credits pages, and then I moved on to all the different effects you can use. You can change the colours and the font sizes of the pages; fade in and out of the transitions (scene changes)

One thing that did annoy me, was the inability to have different sized fonts on the one page. No can do, apparently.

Feeling quite full of myself, I played around with the special effects, just to see if I could improve on what was turning out to be a brilliant afternoon’s work. The title page now looked brilliant, if I do say so myself. You can also add a voice over, adjust the volume or add music, but make sure its music you are allowed to use! Not mastered this yet, but I will, for the book videos.

The result was amazing. I loved the layout and the roar of the hovercraft and the shouts of the holidaymakers as they watched with me.

What do you think? Did I do good, or is it a case of back to the drawing board. Please let me know what you think, for I need to start work on the book videos next!

 

If at First you don’t Succeed!

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Last week, I finally managed to make sense of the Mailchimp website. Something I have been trying to do, on and off, for the best part of two years.

We are told it is important to build a mailing list, but up to now, my brain had resolutely refused to grasp the finer points. So imagine my delight, when I managed to create a pop up for our subscription list, something I never thought I would do, for they are not my favourite thing in the world. Annoying things, usually popping up (no pun intended) all the time.

I understand they are not meant to be. Once you subscribe, it shouldn’t appear the next time you visit. I felt a bit happier knowing that. So far so good, I thought.

But.   And there is always a but, at least when I’m around. One of our subscribers contacted me, wondering why she hadn’t received a welcoming email from us. Obviously, I had done something wrong, so I hot- footed back to Mailchimp to see if I could put it right.

Over an hour later, I gave up, frustrated to the point of chewing my hands off. But I have learned a thing or two on this blogging lark. When in doubt, google your problem. Chances are, you are not the first one and someone will have written a post on how to solve it.

Not all of these posts are well written or easy to understand, and it can take several searches to find the one for you. I am always amazed at how two people can explain the same thing to me, but only one of them will switch on that light bulb in my head.

Armed with this new knowledge, I go back to Mailchimp only to discover I had only completed half of the procedure and once this was put in place, our subscribers received their welcoming email.  Yay!

I also leaned that Mailchimp can amalgamate your subscribers from several places, building a comprehensive email list. Handy for us, as we have two blogs. For those who don’t know this,  we can be found on Blogger at http://anitajaydawes.com or www.anitajaydawes.net.

This was our first attempt at blogging, and a world away from WordPress, but we are quite fond of it. Can’t bring ourselves to close it somehow.

The next thing I want to learn is Paint.net, as everyone says how good it is. The ability to merge layers of images sounds good to me, but so far, a lot of it is going over my head. Mind you, it took me long enough to learn how to use Picmonkey, but I am so glad I did.

It’s a great pity you can’t find new and improved brain cells on the net, isn’t it?

Is This The End of the Road?

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I have been having an increasingly difficult time coming up with writing ideas for blog posts and current works in progress, and I’m not happy about it.

This has never been a problem before, and could be due to an assortment of things, but I am becoming more and more concerned, for it seems to be reflected in other areas of my life. I think I can feel the enthusiasm waning, at least that’s what it feels like.

We have been blogging for nearly four years now, and clocked up an amazing list of posts, quite apart from the posts about our books. I have never been at a loss for things to write about and life has been kind enough to supply bags of interest too.

It is possible that the fault lies in my head, something I have strenuously denied up to now. But seeing as how I have just tried to remember what I was in the middle of doing just a few minutes ago, I have to admit I may have a problem.

Despite leaving copious amounts of post-it notes everywhere, creating a virtual forest of pastel leaves all over my desk, my brain seems to be on strike or something, not exactly sure what.

When all this first started happening, it was amusing, but the novelty has worn off.  What makes it worse is that I can remember things from last year with no trouble at all, and my long-term memory seems fine.

In the beginning, I blamed everything. The stress of all the marketing and promotion; problems with the current WIP, and family and health problems. (and there have been far too many of those!)

It is becoming increasingly obvious that my dwindling collection of grey cells is just not functioning properly anymore. Maybe this is normal at my age?

I don’t want to believe this, for I love my life and everything I do, and don’t want the wheels in my head to grind to a halt. I never thought my brain would ever let me down.

But before I shuffle off this mortal coil, there are still some things I haven’t quite pulled off yet, and it occurs to me that maybe I can’t do it all.  Shock Horror! Maybe it is time to get professional help, even if I have to part with some money. It is the only option I can think of, for I’m not quite ready to return to return to my knitting!

This will be a new experience for me, as being stubborn; I have fervently resisted any suggestion that I can’t cut the mustard. In the past, I have eventually managed most things and there is not a lot in my failure pile. Perseverance usually gets me where I want to go.

Whether I am any good at asking for help, remains to be seen, but it’s worth a try.

Better than the alternative, anyway…

A Following Wind…

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I recently wrote a very smug post about how clever  productive I think I am being, but have since come to realise that although I have learnt so much more than I ever thought I could, along comes another truckload of stuff that I would love to be able to do. So much more to learn about book promotion, for a start.

This is on top of a workday crammed with so many things; I doubt I could fit anything else in. And if I thought my brain lacked something before, this is nothing compared to the state of it now.

I am talking about all the times I come to a standstill in the middle of the room, without a clue as to what I was doing or about to do. Could be either! And the times I catch myself doing something crazy, like trying to shove the kettle into the fridge!

Writing is becoming a bit of a problem too. If it wasn’t for the existing outline, storyboard and a pile of post-it notes, I don’t think my work would be coherent these days, unless my muse’s brain is in a better state than mine. I pray that it is.

I can manage to work on the PC efficiently enough; as I have an extensive filing system of all the lessons I have learnt at my fingertips, without which I could not function. Adding to these problems is the cataract in my left eye. Even on a good day, my vision is reduced; leading to feverish cleaning of the glasses, convinced the fault is there.

The rest of my body is starting to convey dubious messages also. Messages I try to ignore, but refuse to go away. After my tussle with cancer earlier this year, I felt remarkably well, but something still seems to be wrong and this state of euphoria has gradually faded, leaving me with more questions than answers.

Basically, all things considered, I know I am fighting a slowly losing battle on all fronts. It all seems to be downhill from here, and I had no idea how steep the incline would be. When did I get this old?

I still get good days, and not about to hang up my pencil just yet, though. Despite everything, I am still having fun, loving every confusing minute, even those annoying head banging ones. All the wonderful people we have met have made the journey worthwhile, and with a benevolent God and a following wind, the journey isn’t over yet!