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!

Am I my own worst enemy?

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How many times have you moaned about manufacturer’s insistence on changing and improving things?

It’s never for the better, is it?

It has recently dawned on me that I am guilty of the same behaviour, I am ashamed to say.

My problem is that I am never happy with anything I have created. At first, I am, but then the doubts start to creep in. What seemed brilliant in the beginning, starts to look shabby and inadequate, and nay I say it, inferior.

By this time, of course, I just know I can do better.

I do this with most things, but the ones that give me the worst trouble, are our book covers. They are so important to get right, aren’t they?

We have many books under our belts now, and I am not happy with quite a few of their covers. Some of you may have noticed, (and admitting this makes me cringe) just how often I change them.

 

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I have just changed the title and cover for Anita’s book, Scarlet Ribbons, mainly because the story is about just the one ribbon. It was only when I realised what else I would have to change, I began to see the enormity of my dissatisfaction.

The cover had to be changed on:

  • Our website
  • Amazon
  • Goodreads
  • The books trailer
  • Book links
  • The end matter in several of our other books
  • Buffer
  • Facebook

New posters had to be made, and replaced on just about every site I ever visit.

All of this took two days, and so far, so good, but I just know there will be other places I haven’t thought of yet, but right now, after doing all of that, I never want to change another cover.

But…

There is one that could be better…

A Writer’s Bucket List

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Like an ancient building, parts of me are wearing away, falling down or missing. My joints ache unbearably, and my head doesn’t work the way it used to. The eyesight is appalling and the memory almost non-existant.

I have been ignoring the signs for a while now, adopting the attitude of just ignore it, and it will go away… but try as I might, I cannot deny that I am getting old. Too old for so many things these days, but nothing I will ever admit to, not yet. If I want to do something, I will, even if it costs me later, as I can’t believe that my time is beginning to run out.

Already, certain members of my family are treating me like an ancient relic, constantly reminding me that ‘I have to be careful at my age…’  And that going up ladders or even walking into town on my own is just not on. In case something happens…

I catch them looking at me and know what they are thinking. I know I forget things and I’m not as steady on my feet these days, but seriously, I think I am fitter than most of them, even if it does take me longer to do things.

Secretly though, I quite like the slower pace, and the ready excuse (should I decide to use it) for not doing so much. In fact, I don’t remember saying no to so many things before, and I quite like it.

But before anything else gives up the ghost, I thought I would give some thought to some of the things I haven’t yet achieved. Not a proper bucket list, you understand, as riding a wild horse along the edge of the sea, or getting really close to Niagara Falls and getting soaked to the skin, is beyond even my dreams, this is purely connected to my writing and blogging endeavours.

My Writing Bucket List

Book trailers    Should do more of these, and/or improve the ones already done

Paperback copies of our books   Some of the covers/editing could be better?

My own blog tour   Could do another one?

Character Interviews   Could do more of these too

Guest posts   Always need more of these

Box set of my crime thriller series

Our own newsletter    A work-in-progress

A well-known author endorsement    Wishful thinking?

Write a best seller   More wishful thinking

Start a writing team    A work-in-progress

 

My memory lets me down again, as I’m sure there are more things I want to do, but you get the picture. And another thing… Anita is just two years younger than me, but not suffering from old age at all! Well, nothing she will admit to, anyway…

Oh well, I’m off to do some work on current WIP, that’s if I can remember where I was up to!

Help Needed!

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I have long suspected that some, if not all of the work we produce could be better, for despite polishing each book until our arms drop off, and employing beta readers along the way, sales are not improving.

Another reason that prompted this post is that I am struggling with a memoir/travelogue of a holiday we took over 40 years ago.

It is called Lazy Days, a light-hearted and often funny account of our first family holiday on the Norfolk Broads. We were two adults, four kids and two dogs, a young family who had never done anything like this before. We didn’t get to do it again, which was a shame, but none of us will ever forget that exciting time.

Lazy Days is very like the very popular ‘Narrow’ books by Marie Browne of life on a narrow boat.

We all remember this holiday as one very special time, so I have finally transcribed the skipper’s logbook that we kept back then. Having never written a memoir before, I need some help to make sure it is good enough to publish.

What we need, I have discovered, is to be part of a critique group or Team. Sacha Black calls it a ‘street team’, a small army of readers dedicated to making a book the best it can be.  This group once formed would benefit everyone in the group, sharing the editing, beta reading or whatever is needed.

If anyone would be interested in being a part of such a team or has any better suggestions, please get in touch, either in the comments or via the contact page.

 

Lazy Days…

This travelogue is the true story of our family’s first proper holiday back in the Seventies. Looking back, I wonder what made us think it was a good idea, but despite all the things that could have gone wrong, we had a fantastic time. I was the Skipper most of the time, and for some reason decided to record our adventures in a small notebook. We were young and without husbands, Anita was a widow, and I was glad to be rid of mine. (and that is another story) Money was precious and scarce back then, but all the saving and sacrifice turned out to be worth every single memory we all cherish.

 This notebook has been kept safe, despite numerous house moves and family disasters, as a symbol of our courage and determination. It could so easily have been one of the stupidest things we had ever done, but even after 40 years, we have such good memories of that time.

Over the years, I often thought of making it into a proper book, but along with everything else in our often-complicated family life, it was something I never got around to. Until just recently, when I was looking for some old photographs, found the now fragile notebook and knew it was time.

It wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be either, for my logbook writing skills leave a lot to be desired, but there was just enough information entered on those pages to get me started.

 

 

Has anyone seen my enthusiasm?

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I started the week full of good intentions. It was a new week – new mood – new energy.
There was none of that – ‘It’s a beautiful day, watch someone ruin it.’

But someone did.

BT did. Someone had tried to hack into my e-mail account over the weekend and had promptly been frozen out, me included!  To make matters worse, I had temporarily forgotten the answer to my security question, so couldn’t change the blessed password either.

Thoroughly frustrated, I finally managed to speak to someone in an Indian call centre who said she would e-mail me a new password.  Words cannot sufficiently explain what happened to my temper after trying several times to get her to see why this would not work, and I was passed on to someone else. This young woman was so helpful and immediately understood my problem, that my temper had no choice but to high-tail it out of the back door!

So, not a good start, you might say. But this was only Monday, surely the week could only get better?

I should be thinking about what I want to do next. Anita has a book almost ready for proofing, and I have begun a new crime mystery, but something doesn’t feel right. I ought to be re-editing some of our earlier work, as some of the covers need replacing and the descriptions are just not good enough. The trouble is, I’m a bit short of enthusiasm at the moment, my ‘get up and go’ has done a runner!

What I cannot understand is why some days are good and optimistic, and then you get that other kind. The ‘what the hell do you think you are doing’ days. Closely followed by (give it up, you know you are too old to bother with it) ones.

I am basing my understanding of this writing business on what I have observed with my sister Anita. She has six good books to her credit and just seems to get on with it (and enjoys the process!) She does have bad days of course, but they never seem to be writing related.
I know we are all different, and that is how it should be, it’s just not very helpful.

I think it is my age that seems to be the problem. I forget far more than I remember and find myself wondering where all the time has gone and know that I have wasted most of it. Why didn’t I want to do this when my brain was younger?
Don’t get me wrong, on a good day I quite like my brain and how it works. It’s just that my good days are getting pretty thin on the ground these days. Today, for example, I’m not even sure I have a brain!

By the way, what do you think of the new blog header? I liked it yesterday, but now I’m not sure… please tell me what you think…

 

The Dreaded Mailing List

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An e-mail list is a valuable commodity and something we should all strive to get. Not just names on a list, these are people who like YOU and what you do. They are there for you and can be incredibly useful if you need help, from beta reading to promotion…

 

We are all familiar with the advice. ‘Create an email list!’

And for the first two years in Blogland, I really did try.

As I increased my knowledge, I kept on trying, but nothing much happened. I assumed I must be doing something wrong, and strived to do better.

But the first time I logged into MailChimp to learn how to get subscribers, my brain took one look and literally imploded. It all seemed impossible and totally beyond my capabilities.

I get this reaction all the time, as my brain would rather I spent my time gardening or something equally undemanding. It is only the huge stubborn streak I was born with that I manage to get anywhere in the technical world.

Eventually, though, I have managed to cope with Mailchimp and other just as confusing sites. I even had a subscriber pop up on our blog, which I’m still not sure was a good idea!

But it was slow going, and at this rate, I thought, I’ll be ninety before I have a decent email list!

Then someone introduced me to Instafreebie, a promotion site where you can add your e-books, free to everyone. The only proviso is that they have to subscribe to your email list.

In hardly any time at all, I had over 300 names on my list, and it grows every day.

The idea behind Instafreebie is for people to read your books and hopefully review them. There’s not too much of that going on just yet, but increasing my email list is a bonus.

The next thing I have to learn is how to use Mailchimp to create a newsletter to connect with all of my subscribers and remind them about writing a review. It only needs to be a few words, but SO important to writers!

The learning has begun, and I’m glued to Youtube. There are so many tutorials on there!

More about this development in a later post…

The Perfect Review

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Although I have only recently joined Rosie Amber’s review team, I have been reviewing the books I have enjoyed reading for a while now.

Reviewing is easy enough to do and it makes sense to tell the world (and the author) what you thought of it. Something we wish more readers would do, but that’s another post!

Most of our reviews have been well received, which was one of the reasons I applied to be an official reviewer for Rosie Amber to help other authors by spreading the word.

I had read all the guidelines for successful reviewing, but this week I slipped up, and badly. In my enthusiastic response after reading Suzanne Rogerson’s The Lost Sentinel, I included not one but two spoilers in my review! In my defense, when a book is as brilliant as Suzanne’s, you want to share the good stuff with everyone, just not key moments and I will admit, I got carried away…  Luckily, this was not one of Rosie’s recomendations,  or I would be out of a job…

Spoilers, you see, tell any prospective reader what happens at key moments in the book, and can ruin any desire to read the book. So what I did was bad…

After much red-faced embarrassment and a lot of humble apologies, I have amended the review and pray that I don’t do it again.

Not the first time my enthusiasm has landed me in trouble, but hopefully it will be the last!

Rosie Amber supplies these helpful guidelines, and I must remember them!

Book Title and Author Name

Genre

Book Setting – time and place

Introduce the main characters

Describe the storyline in general terms (avoid spoilers that give too much away)

How was the book set out? (If this was obvious) For instance alternating chapters from different characters, or chapters from different time periods.

What did you like about the book?

What would have made it better?

What didn’t you enjoy in the book?

Would you read another book by this author?

Your star rating.

And finally, add links (I’m always forgetting to do this!)