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!

Frustration and Halloween…

 

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Halloween

Pumpkin pie is a must

Along with cobwebs and dust

With lanterns alight, bowls of sweets you cannot eat.

Children come, their faces aglow

Doorbells ring, sweets to go

Painted witches, ghosts and ghouls

Could be your nightmare has come to call.

Strange entities look back at you

Or has your mother-in-law arrived at last?

Doorbell rings, don’t let them in

They’re not just children, disguised within.

A night when ghosts roam the land

Who can tell what stands without?

Is it sweets they want, or your soul to take?

Don’t let them in, blow your lantern out…

 

When Anita wrote this stunning Halloween poem, I just knew I had to do something special with it. When I read it aloud, it sounded so dramatic and creepy, the idea of creating a video trailer with it seemed a really good idea.

Now, I have made a few trailers in my time, but I am not an expert by any means. Most of the ones I made for our books are pretty basic, as understanding all the complicated instructions sometimes had me running screaming from the building!

So, knowing how much fun I have had in the past, I really threw myself a curve ball by wanting to make this video more stunningly complicated than anything I tried before, with moving images, spooky music and narration.

This is how I have achieved some really wonderful things in my life. I get an idea, and in no time at all, I can see the finished item in my head and I will move Heaven and high water to bring whatever it is, to life. This is what was happening right then with my idea for a trailer.

I discovered that Pixaby.com has free video clips, so I collected a good selection of suitably dark and spooky ones. Then I visited YouTube and their audio library. I found some very similar music to the Halloween film. My dream was taking shape!

With my first trailer efforts, I used Movie Maker and as my teachers used to say, “Could do better!” So I knew there was nothing else for it, I would have to learn how to master the finer points if I hoped to create a masterpiece.

I watched so many tutorials on YouTube and wrote copious amounts of notes and bit by bit, I learned the basics.

This was a month ago. I knew I needed time to practice, as nothing happens in much of a hurry around here, but wasn’t prepared for just how long it would take. Time and again, I tried to get it right and time and again I failed miserably.

Trouble was, it didn’t look that hard. But, and this is what always happens to me and anything to do with technology, it never quite seems to work for me. I get lots of nearly’s and almost’s, but like most people, this would never be good enough for me.

I learned how to shorten the clips and move them about. I added a title page and one for the credits at the end. I had my music and knew what to do with it. All that was left to do was plug in my microphone and narrate the poem.

This took several attempts as something kept stopping my voice from registering.  Much later, I managed it, but when I played it back, parts of my voice were missing.

I was on the verge of pulling my hair out by then, so I closed everything down and walked away. This procedure seemed to go on for days and I was no nearer perfection than I was at the beginning.

I don’t compromise easily, but in desperation, I tried Photo Story.  This system only allows static images, not exactly what I wanted, but I tried anyway.

I also tried Movie Maker again, but the result was the same.

My dream was fading.

In the end, I conceded a temporary defeat and posted the poem on our blog.

My determination has not dimmed though. I will keep trying to conquer Movie Maker or something similar, and future trailers will be better, and you can take that to the Bank!

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Jaye’s Journal:10~16th September

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This past week has almost been the straw that nearly broken everything.

I mean, you can only struggle for so long, can’t you?

Bang your head enough times and something will break, and I guarantee it won’t be the wall!

I have recently discovered a new way (at least for me) of getting more book sales, but learning how to set it up is sorely testing what’s left of my remaining grey cells.

I managed to finish writing the interview with one of the characters from The Scarlet Ribbon for Lisa Burton, Craig Boyack’s amazing robot assistant. This aired on Thursday 20th.

This week was beset with gremlins and glitches, on the PC mainly. Caused, I believe, by an incompatibility with Chrome. Trouble is, I have run out of options, as I left Firefox for similar problems. There is always Internet Explorer of course.

Sometimes I am really fed up with everything not being quite right, despite working hard to make it so.

Then, Armageddon arrived.

We lost all connections with the phone line and the internet. And we don’t own a mobile phone!

We enlisted the help of Anita’s daughter and her mobile phone, and she managed to convince BT that we needed help and soon. I have to say that even if we did have a mobile phone, we wouldn’t have been able to follow all the instructions that she had to follow. From photographing the different parts of our phone system, (which involved downloading apps) to a series of complicated messages. Our minds were shattered and we weren’t doing any of it!

Somehow, we managed to get an engineer appointment for the following day, and this never happens!

To cut a very long story short, the engineer turned up this morning. When the light on our PC hub turned green, there was a big cheer. But our joy was to be short-lived.

For some reason, I couldn’t log on to our provider. At this point, I wanted to pull my hair out or run down the road screaming. I tried everything I could think of, every troubleshooting programme I could find, but the harder I tried, the more convinced I was that something was trying to kill my brain!

I tried to switch from Chrome to Internet Explorer, but this didn’t work either. I was almost resigned to telephoning BT and asking for help, but I hesitated. The last time I was forced to do that, I ended up more confused than ever.

In the end, I did manage to get Internet Explorer to cooperate and swiftly downloaded Firefox.

Within minutes, normality was restored and the rest, as they say, is history!

(Until the next attack by the ever-present gremlins, that is!)

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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?

#Jaye’s Journal (or how to Juggle a Couch!)

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image by Pixabay.com

 

Most weeks in our house are usually a mishmash of incidents, some good and a few of the other kind. But whatever happens there is never a dull moment around here!

This past week has excelled itself, hurtling from one mini-disaster to another. At one point, I contemplated staying in bed, just to break the cycle, but as I am the nosiest person for miles, I couldn’t bear to think of anything happening without me. Seeing as how I was born with a sword in one hand and cleaning mop in the other, I could usually cope with anything!

It all started to go wrong when we spotted a fantastic bargain in our local charity shop, a two-seater couch in black leather. It was in perfect condition and a price that would n’t bring our bank account to its knees. So without thinking things through, we bought it, to be delivered the following day.

But what to do with the dilapidated broken down couch in our living room?

The local council have a collection service, so all we had to do was get it out of the house. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? In case you were wondering, it definitely wasn’t.

We are both in our 70’s and not the fittest people on the block, but we were determined. We would do this, even if it meant dragging the couch out of the house in pieces. A not so small nightmare later, two broken and bad-tempered women sat on the old couch in the front garden, swearing never again. We didn’t understand why it had been so difficult, it was a two-seater after all. We clearly remembered the day years before when it was first delivered, so either the couch had grown, or the house had shrunk.

The next day, tempers and difficulty forgot, the new couch was delivered and peace reigned once more. How I wish the story ended there.

At this point in the story, I can blame Anita for what happened next. She had seen (and fallen in love with) another couch in the charity shop, which she assured me, would be far more comfortable than our old three seater. You couldn’t make up what happened next.

To cut a long and painful story short, we bought the three seater and managed to drag the old one out. Slightly easier this time as it could be dismantled. Shame it was so bloody heavy though!

Shortly after the new three-seater was delivered, it became obvious that the blessed thing wasn’t comfortable at all, and had to go. By this time we were exhausted,  unhappy and tempers were flaring. Again!

After three days of juggling large, heavy and unresponsive pieces of furniture, I have banned the word ‘couch’ from ever being spoken of in my hearing again. The furniture we have will just have to last, for there is no way I am going to lift anything heavier than the kettle for the foreseeable future!

 

 

Who Keeps Moving the Goalposts?

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My week of disasters began when the reblog button on our website vanished. Then I started to notice that other people had lost theirs too. I wanted to believe it was a glitch, that somehow the button would return, but nagging doubt told me a different story. While it was at it, it managed to convince me that I was on a downward spiral and it was only a matter of time before it would all be over bar the shouting.

I soldiered on, trying hard to convince myself that one way or another, I would be fine. I mean, the world wouldn’t end if I couldn’t reblog all my favourite posts, would it? Sue Vincent had shown me how to use Press this and  pingbacks on WordPress, so all was not lost.

Then our browser, Firefox crashed. Nothing I did, made any difference, it was gone. I had to switch to Internet Explorer, just to get some work done. It has none of the bells and whistles that some of the big names have, but it works. Looks like I am being forced to go back to the basics, but as long as it works and gives me no more trouble, I am fine with that.

In the middle of all this, I was offered Google Chrome on one of those pop ups. I hesitated for a while, then something made me accept. I hate getting used to new systems, so this was quite brave of me, considering. Everything went well with the changeover, and I loved their speed and efficiency in importing all of my favourites and data. It was one of the most painless transitions I have ever experienced. All of which, unbeknown to me, was setting me up for more trouble and disappointment.

I was doing my best to cope without the reblog button when I noticed something odd.

Every Sunday, I schedule a week’s posts on Buffer to be posted on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I have been doing this for over a year now, with no trouble. I think it is great way to promote your work and spread your presence around the net.  But now, for some peculiar reason, our posts were not appearing anywhere! At the same time, Twitter was behaving strangely too, with duplicate tweets appearing like a rash.

The bit that really got to me, was finding out that all of our Buffer posts were finding their way to Facebook. I ended up so confused, I wanted to scream. No one seemed to know what I was talking about, let alone be able to help. Unable to understand what was happening or who could be doing it, I started to panic. I had to step away from the computer before I did something stupid!

Overnight, rational thought took over from nagging doubt and I managed to think clearly for the first time in over a week. I had no idea where the problem lay, so would have to systematically eliminate the possibilities, one by one.

The first to go was Chrome. Bit of a prime suspect this, as I thought my life was less complicated before I installed it. But, you guessed it. Nothing changed!

The people at Buffer were brilliant in offering helpful advice, but they had no more idea of the source of the problem than I did. I loved Buffer, they were so helpful and easy to use, always a blessing with my brain! But my instinct told me to change my scheduler. I waited another day before deciding to try and schedule a post with another scheduler. Not something I was looking forward to, as most of them were far too complicated for me. But I was determined to find out if it would succeed where Buffer might be failing. I was almost ready to do this when Buffer came back to me with another idea. I tried it out and it actually worked.

I suspect that Buffer has been tweaking a few things along with Twitter and WordPress. Why on earth do these companies insist on tweaking all the time?

Personally, I live by the motto, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’

 

As I said yesterday, the dust has now settled, but it has left me a nervous wreck, wondering what will happen next. The only good thing about it all is none of it has stopped me writing. My current WIP is growing, and the one part of my day that I totally control. No glitches or gremlins!

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current WIP!

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!

Giving Up!

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It’s not often that I give up on anything. Being one of the most stubborn people on this planet, means that I usually persevere or (drive myself and the rest of my family insane) until I master whatever it is I want to do.

But giving up doesn’t happen often, and I am ridiculously happy to be able to say that. I gave up on a job once. It was well paid but strenuous, and after two weeks, I was forced to admit that it was slowly killing me. I gave up on my marriage for roughly the same reason.

What this usually means, is I regard it as a personal failure, rather than the acceptance that it was a mistake and not for me. It has to be my fault, you see, that I had to run away/or give up.

And yesterday, I gave up on my first mobile phone.

Sounds silly I know, when you consider that I have tackled the world of computers, the internet, self publishing and the vagaries of Twitter, to mention but a few.

I had wanted a mobile phone for a while. Everyone I knew had one, so they couldn’t be that difficult to use, I thought. What I didn’t realise, was you are essentially looking at a computer system in a very small box.

“Just charge it up and switch it on…” the attractive young man in Carphone Warehouse told me. Adding, with a smirk, that I could return it inside two weeks, if I changed my mind. And that should have alerted me. For if it was that easy to use, why would I need to change my mind?

I chose a Samsung, nothing too fancy, assuming it would be easier for me. It had a nice big touch screen, and I remember looking at it in the shop and wondering how on earth it could be operated with just the one button.

The first day, I opened the box and stared at the phone for most of the morning before switching it on. I was immediately assaulted by several messages – all requiring me to do various tasks. I tried to understand what they wanted, but after just one hour of insanity –I switched it off in disgust and not a little frustration.

I had been assured it had an instruction manual, but a small leaflet explaining how to change the battery did not cut the mustard!

On the second day, I tried again. After several attempts to enter the required information, I gave up again. Mainly because it logged me out after two attempts. I moved on to more interesting subjects, installed a few apps and explored a bit. But even with my stubborn streak operating at full throttle, I ended up switching it off again.

Undesirable traits.

The damned thing goes into stand-by mode every time you stop to think.

It also makes countless annoying bleeps, for as yet unknown reasons.

None of the menus appear to work, switching you to other screens as and when it feels like it.

I eventually found the help screen, but even following the advice to the letter, nothing helped. The instructions were concise but didn’t seem to be referring to my phone. And even when I found something to actually try, it didn’t work.

I was beginning to feel increasingly more stupid than usual, so I decided to quit. I didn’t really need some crazy, non functioning nightmare accessory to highlight my faults, so I put it back in the box and went back to my regular means of frustration. Most of which has already learned who was boss…

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PS:  Just a little mention that Books 1& 2 of Jaye’s crime thriller series ‘Lives’ are now on #Instafreebie !   FREE copies for everyone !

Click on the links:  bit.ly/2ifRwBU      bit.ly/2i930ah

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 . . .