Anita Dawes & Jaye Marie

We Read – We Write – We Review


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Balls in the air

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This year is finally getting going after one of the slowest starts ever. Already the jobs are piling up, and my to-do list has never been this long before.

Under normal circumstances, this would not be a problem, but certain conditions are conspiring to slow me down. Whether it is due to a slowly growing cataract or not, my brain is beginning to tire easily, requiring me to break up the amount of time I spend at my PC.

I have been arranging my working day to try to minimise the tiredness and still manage to be productive, but another aspect has decided to rear its ugly head. My memory always had its share of holes, but nowadays it has more holes than a colander. I can forget things faster than you can blink. So despite all my safeguards, it is beginning to look as though my days are numbered. But what does this really mean? Just how many computing days do I have left?

I am now 73, (although I swear certain parts of me are older), and I have no intention of hanging up my mouse or my pencil, but it seems fate might have other ideas. All I am hoping for is the ability to take my foot off the gas pedal now and then. So I might not be posting as often, even though it really hurts me to say it. I have a feeling there might not be any new adventures in my marketing attempts either as I find it hard enough keeping what balls I have already in the air.

I started this post last week, and that was pretty much how I was feeling then…

Fast forward to today… Gallons of determination have arrived from somewhere, making everything look so much better than they did before.

All the routine stuff, e-mails, marketing, and social networking, is being done quickly and efficiently, well I think it is, and that’s what matters, isn’t it? My brain is happy, and if I could just get my muscles, bones, and eyesight to buck their ideas up, I’ll be good to go and laughing my socks off!

 

 

 


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Where I find Courage…

Whenever I am down or feeling one of many shades of blue, I usually need a piece of music to get my soul moving again. I have had many favourites over the years, both songs and instrumental, but this piece has kept me going now for years.

I defy anyone listening to it, to ignore the challenge it presents. The challenge to rise above yourself and take wing is overpowering and always fixes all my broken bits.

So today, on this special day of resurrection, I pass on to you my gift of a moment I will remember forever…

 


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The worst of times…

 

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Looking back to a week from hell…

When my desktop PC died and went to the shop to be resurrected, I proceeded to have, in some respects, the worst six days ever.
I haven’t had my laptop long and getting used to it was proving to be very difficult. Windows 8, I think, could send a saint mad and I’m no saint. But it was all I had so I had to buckle down and make the best of a bad situation.

Well, six days have passed, my PC is back and normal service can be resumed, I hope!
Apparently, they had to strip all the components from the motherboard, test everything to find the fault and then reassemble. This complete overhaul, by a wonderful company called Syn-Star, cost just £49 all in, although I did pay a bit extra to jump the queue. (I didn’t think I could survive too long without it, you see.) and I think it was worth every penny.
The time I was without it was not wasted, as being forced to use the new laptop for just about everything, I have had a major crash course in Windows 8. Although I still loathe and detest it with a passion, I can at least work with it now.

 

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In the meantime, I have discovered that two of our books need new covers (what was I thinking?) One of these books is in entirely the wrong category on Amazon as it not really a horror. It should really be renamed as maybe the word ‘Bad’ is not entirely conducive either.
Also with all this going on, I haven’t done any work on my book, so will be playing catch-up for a while.

In the midst of all this drama and frustration, I have discovered something called ‘PicMonkey’ and what fun it is to use. Normally I create our covers on ‘Paint’ but it doesn’t have the scope of ‘PicMonkey’.
Hopefully I can learn to create more impressive covers in the future.

 

 

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While all this was going on, I did manage to get away from it all for a while and take a walk around our lake, where I spotted this nest of baby ducks. The swans are nesting again, so that’s something else to look forward to.

 

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My Resolutions…

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New Beginnings…

 

I have long thought that it was time I sorted out those parts of my office (and my life) that were getting out of control.

I am a compulsive hoarder, and hate to throw anything away as you never know when it could come in useful. Most of the time this is a good trait to have, for things have come in handy sometimes.

I have already made a start on my pictures library on the PC, as this was a serious mess. There was no system or organisation of any kind. What was I thinking of?

So when it is time to pack away the Christmas decorations, they will have to be ruthlessly sorted out too, as we buy new stuff every year but never seem to throw anything away.

We started out with one box and now there are three. There is absolutely no room for another box under the stairs, so something will have to go. It needs to be done, but I will hate it, for I know that at some time in the future, something I need will not be there.

For the want of a better word, downsizing has to be done sometimes with people and relationships too. But how can you hope to make any decisions about the people you have known for years? Throwing any of them away, figuratively speaking, will probably be the worst thing you have ever done, and may possibly haunt you for the rest of your life.

Knowing what to keep and what should be thrown away, is something I have never been any good at. The times I have had to empty the dustbin, trying to find something thrown away in error, not something you can do with a discarded relationship…

So this year will be one of streamlining my life and everything in it. That’s my goal, but whether I will be any better at this than anything else, remains to be seen.  I also need more space, more room to breathe, as 2016 was far too hectic and complicated for an old timer like me.

Time to grow old gracefully, I think!


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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.

 

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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 . . .

 


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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!

 


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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?