Jaye’s Journal… week 13

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Swings and Roundabouts…

 

I was watching Theresa May (the UK Prime Minister) this morning, and for the first time saw what looked suspiciously like signs of defeat. The normally serene and smart woman we are used to seeing looked tired and a little scruffy, as though she had been up all night. Which I suppose she might well have been, at this delicate stage of the Brexit negotiations. I got the definite impression that she is barely hanging on by her eyelashes.

I can identify with that state of affairs, for at 75 years old, with cataracts in both eyes and rampaging arthritis, I might be approaching the end of my rope too.

It has been a week of highs and lows, or swings and roundabouts if you prefer.

From a major disagreement with Microsoft, who thought I wasn’t me anymore and refused to accept several new passwords. They kept insisting I had to contact them on a mobile phone to resolve the problem. That was an even bigger problem for me, as I don’t have such a thing! But once I borrowed one, everything was okay again.

Then I finally managed to claim our website on Pinterest, something I had been trying to do all week.

I still don’t understand why any of this happened, or why using a mobile phone made Microsoft like me again, especially as it wasn’t mine, but that was the closest I want to get to HTML or all things SEO!

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The minute I feel life returning outside my window, it’s like a wake-up call for me to pull my socks up and get cracking. You never know, this could be the year when all things become possible.

Spring is finally here and the sun is shining, but it is very cold. I know this because I have ventured outside to check on the garden. I still call it a garden, even though I now need a machete to go very far! The grass has begun to grow, heralding the start of much fruitless pushing and shoving of my equally ancient lawn mower. Luckily, I think it can wait a while longer.

My Bonsai are all sprouting, cold or not, their winter sleep is over and it will soon be time to check their roots to see who needs a trim, fresh soil or a bigger pot. This is about all I am capable of these days, as I really cannot cope with the ever-present growth of brambles in my jungle of a garden. The last time I tried to tame them I had to retire wounded and bloody, so now they have my permission to run riot.

If I do get the urge to blitz them, I will get a flamethrower and do the job properly!

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#Jaye’s Journal ~ week 12

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There has been a noticeable air of determination in the office this week. Even Merlin, our cat has spent more time with me, sitting on my desk for all the world as though supervising the whole shooting match.

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And what has triggered this state of affairs?

I think it started when I realised I was in danger of drowning under the growing piles of paperwork on my desk, and that something needed to be done about it and sooner rather than later.

I have known for some time that we have been drifting like a rudderless boat. It was never spoken about, but I think we had slowly abandoned all hope of ever achieving our goals. ‘Maybe one day,’ had turned into ‘In your dreams.’ almost without our noticing.

It was while sorting through the pile of paperwork, that I think I was bitten by some kind of creative bug. I became determined to do something about our state of inertia. Everywhere I looked it seemed, other people were making progress so it was reasonable to assume we could too.

Somewhere among all the paper in front of me had to be the key to our future in the writing business. I was in the habit of saving helpful articles, all claiming to turn me from hopeless to genius in no time at all. So I systematically sorted through the pile, keeping some and discarding others. I started a list of things to do, determined to master or learn one new thing every day.

On day one, I updated our Pinterest boards, adding new pins relating to our book promotion and adding our URL to them all. This, apparently, will increase the traffic to our website.

Day Two, I updated the header menu on our website, adding all of our #BlogBattle posts. Not essential, just something I had been meaning to get around to.

Day Three, we need to find readers, so I start with Twitter. #Amreading. and follow some readers.

Day Four, update our book promo posters. I also took the afternoon off and spent it cuddling our new Great Grandchild, something far more rewarding!

Day Five, read up on creating a street team. We need several readers to help promote my almost finished crime mystery novel. If anyone has any helpful hints for this, please holler!

 

My days are beginning to look quite different now. I write first thing in the morning for at least an hour, more if it’s flowing well. Then I attack the emails. This can take up to two hours. Then it’s social networking and follow-ups until lunch.

I like to do an online jigsaw while I eat, something that is supposed to help my ageing brain! so no guilt there!

After lunch, I post whatever articles we have available, and the rest of the afternoon is dedicated to the new learning routine and or research.

What we need to do, is set up a schedule that will mostly run itself, freeing up some time for other activities.

As that old adage is slowly becoming true around here.

The one about all work and no play…

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Jaye’s Journal ~ week 11

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Do you ever think that fate is not on your side?

That every time you think you have it sorted, something comes along and puts obstacles in your way, every single time?

After what seemed like a long period of confusion, my muse slipped back into gear last week, enabling me to make some headway with PayBack, my WIP.

I always write first thing in the morning, long before most of the world wakes up. I have been enjoying the return to normal and I can tell that the WIP has appreciated it too.

That phrase springs to mind, ‘It’s a glorious day, watch some buggier ruin it,’

That was when the computer crashed.

Just to prove a point, the kitchen light failed too. Not as simple as changing the light bulb, this needed one of those circular tubes, something most shops don’t stock any more. Luckily, Amazon is not most shops and I managed to order one. We will have to cook and prepare our food by candlelight until it gets here, but not too much hardship.

The computer is another matter.  It needs replacing, and I cannot really afford to at the moment. I just pray it lasts a little longer!

 

Caught a glimpse of the news this morning, where they were going on about this new survey a photographer was involved in, about people with birthmarks. They were trying to increase awareness or something along those lines.

I was expecting the usual, oddly placed patches, so was not prepared for what some people are born with. Huge dark areas, covering most of their bodies. One poor man had a birthmark all over his face. And really pretty women, almost invisible behind the ugly marks.

When I think of all the things I moan about, they fade to nothing compared to their daily torment.

Then, for some reason, I thought of all those people who cover themselves in tattoos. Not the odd artfully placed roses or butterflies, but the random haphazard determination to cover every inch of their skin.

Sometimes, I think our DNA or whatever controls our lives, has it backwards…

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Jaye’s Journal x7

 

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It is the beginning of the week, the sun is shining and it seems warmer. Optimism had lifted its head and was smiling at me.

Then I heard a load of noise outside my house.

Close inspection from the front room window revealed a horde of workmen, clad in bright yellow reflective jackets. All busy moving heavy machinery and what seemed like miles of orange barriers right outside my front door. We would be drowning in noise at any minute.

They say there is no peace for the wicked, but I couldn’t possibly have been bad enough to warrant so many roadworks. This is the third time they have dug up the road outside my house!

Luckily, my office is at the back of the house, reducing the noise to an annoying buzz that I can almost ignore.

~~~~~

As I make a conscious effort to slow down, I have discovered that I am actually noticing so much more these days. Before, in the daily struggle to get more done, I think I was starting to lose sight of the trees.

This week, while editing the first twelve chapters of PayBack, my WIP,  I found not one colossal error but two.

The first stopped me my tracks. How many times had I been going over these chapters? I had already rewritten and restructured them and yet I had my protagonist driving to work several times, and in the same chapters, he was catching a train!

Finding this mistake almost floored me, but I tackled it and moved on.

The next error I found was a plot hole. Not a very big one, but a hole nonetheless.

 

When I edit, I keep a running storyboard, listing events as they happen. This is so important in a mystery thriller novel and usually avoids plot holes. For the first time ever, my system had let me down.

I decided to edit these first chapters again after correcting the first mistake. My writing senses must have been working overtime, for I could feel something was missing. I kept checking my storyboard but it seemed okay.

I never like to ignore my brain when it tries to tell me something, so I decided to compile a new storyboard just for my protagonist (the detective), as I had a feeling this would be where I would find the problem.

And I discovered a missing chapter.

Now, whether this happened during the rewrite, I couldn’t say, but it looked pretty obvious to me that I will need a few good Beta readers when I have finished.

Therefore, I have an important message to anyone who loves reading mystery thrillers. If you could read PayBack for me sometime in March, I will love you forever!

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Jaye’s Journal ~ week six

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The Wonder Miracle of Survival

One morning a few days ago, I awoke to find the world outside my window had turned white, but it wasn’t the snow we had been promised. A thick frost lay over everything and a mist crawled slowly along the ground like a predatory animal. A perfect picture postcard.

I was up early and had the house to myself.  I was feeling so much better this week, so I sat down at my desk to edit PayBack, my WIP. At first, it went well, no apalling errors or plot holes, but after about an hour, I found a problem with one of the characters. A problem that needed serious thought, as the story hinged on this particular theme being right and written well.

That was when I discovered that my brain had not recovered enough from the mind-numbing virus that has been plaguing all of us these past few weeks, and was as cold and empty as the scene outside my window…

We did finally get some snow.

I say some rather scathingly because although the signs were promising and the initial snowfall encouraging, it fizzled out and stopped far too soon, leaving meagre patches here and there.

The temperature fell to bone-chilling depths, increasing my daily trips down the garden to make sure our feathered visitors had enough to eat.

It was after one of these trips, as I sat at my window and watched these lively little creatures happy to feast on the seeds and fat balls hanging from my favourite tree, that I began to think about their lives. So incredibly small and delicate, how did they keep warm all night in the bitter cold?

Where did they sleep?

In the safety of my home, I felt the cold. Even with the extra layers and thick warm socks. My mind was full of images of small huddled scraps of feather, spending each night roosting in a hedge while the temperature fell to new lows.

Worrying about them all was beginning to keep me awake at night, fearing the morning. However, the next morning, the same jolly crew appeared, unaffected by having survived one of the coldest nights for seven years.

They are just like us, with a tiny heart and blood. Flesh and bone covered with an inadequate supply of feathers. We wouldn’t survive out there, so what supernatural force keeps them safe in conditions that would kill you or me?

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Jaye’s Journal ~ week 5

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Nearly time, to be honest, I think, something I have been trying to ignore for some time now. It is becoming harder to pretend I am the same as I ever was.

It’s not just my general health, which, to be fair, is not brilliant. Or the eyesight, which is becoming a problem, along with arthritis.

I am talking about my brain.

Those magical grey cells that shuffle all my ideas around and manage to figure out the best way to make them work. At least, that’s what I have always imagined was going on!

Late last year, I started to notice a reluctance to come up with the goods. Things that were once simple and routine were becoming difficult and often forgotten completely.

We make excuses for this all the time. Stress, tiredness, or life daring to get in the way. But I think I knew the writing was appearing on that proverbial wall. Well, the first few words, anyway.

My family are very supportive and continue to be amazed but what I have learned and what I can still do, bless them. They say it is normal to slow down a little at 75 years of age.

Now, my hackles usually rise at the mention of my age and slowing down, but it is probably time I acknowledged that I am the elephant in the corner of the room and that it might be time to start to act accordingly.

Time to have a serious think about the future, and what we can actually achieve. It might well be time we slowed down, but frustration has other ideas.

There is still so much we want to do, so much more of the fun stuff to learn and enjoy.

Seriously though, I do appreciate the need to slow down a bit, but I’m sure that won’t spoil all the fun we are having!

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#Jaye’s Journal ~ week 4

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Jaye’s Journal ~ Week Four

 

We are halfway through the week and not yet free from the virus in this house. Just when we thought we had backed it into a corner, it seems to be having one last fling. There should be a sign on our front door, as we have been sneezing, coughing and aching ever since Christmas and we are at our wit’s end, wondering what we have to do to shake off the germs.

The weather isn’t helping either, freezing cold and miserable.

We try to keep working, more to keep our minds active than anything else, but all we really want to do is sleep. There was one very welcome high spot yesterday, when the letter from the hospital arrived, declaring me cancer free again for the third year since my treatment for breast cancer. So not all doom and gloom around here.

PayBack, my WIP is ready to edit, but I am dragging my heels a little, not wanting to begin when feeling less than capable.  I know it will be impossible to create any magic now. The pile of scribbled must do’s on my desk is getting higher, so I hope normal service will return soon before I drown in guilt!

In readiness for the wonderful moment when I can think straight, I have been making sure all my story locations are in order and as accurate as I can make them.

Despite feeling like death warmed over, I have been trying to get to the bottom of the Draft2Digital  mystery. When we first joined them, we were impressed by how easy it was to upload our books and all their promises to help make promoting our books easier. I did wonder why we couldn’t access other people’s books, but put that down to my limited knowledge, figuring I would probably discover more as we went along.

When several people reported problems getting our books, I had to find out for myself. An email to D2D didn’t provide any understandable answers.   To try and figure out how it worked, I tried to buy one of Anita’s books from their site. It was hopeless. I kept being directed to iTunes, which turned out to be just as hopeless. I have never used iTunes much, and only recently found out they sold books. After much googling to find help, I found out about iBooks.

To cut a long, boring story short, I think I have discovered that D2D is basically just for iPad or Apple users. I can access our books on iTunes, but can only buy them with an iPad. I think this is such a shame, even though the US market is huge so maybe not too bad in the end.

We still needed to increase our book distribution though, so have started uploading our books on Smashwords. com.

Hopefully, next week will see a more cheerful workplace, for I could use some productivity and optimism round about now…

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#Jaye’s Journal Week Three

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Jaye’s Journal. Week 3

 

Despite still feeling like the remains of a dog’s dinner, I am determined to sort out the mess that is masquerading as my WIP, PayBack.

I knew it was a mess, but not how bad it really was. The experts say you shouldn’t worry about the state of your first draft, that it is more important to just get it all down on the page. You get to make it shine during the editing process.

I kept trying to tell myself this, but obviously wasn’t very convincing, so over the weekend, I tackled the first Act, all twenty sprawling chapters. After much rearranging and second thoughts, I reduced it to twelve chapters and felt quite smug pleased with my efforts.

This week has not been like that. All I can think is that some other idiot must have written the second Act. Although I was an editor long before I became a writer, this did not prepare me for the shambles I found. Continuity was simply not present. It looked for all the world like I had completely forgotten the basics. Instead of throwing it away in disgust, I kept reading, as a good editor should. There can be a brilliant story hiding under the waffle and confusion.Well, that’s what I hoped!

Gradually, I began to see what needed to be done to create a better story. The thread was there all along. PayBack would need substantial editing, but the framework was taking shape and I felt so much more confident about it.

I’m not sure how it all went so wrong, but my other books didn’t give me so much trouble.

 

Something else has been happening too. Even though I have been spending a lot of time sorting out PayBack, I seem to have more time available for other things too. I know this doesn’t make sense, but I have noticed before that time can stretch if you lose yourself in a project.

For all we know, time is not constant. This would explain why some days seem so much longer than others. All I can say, is I am grateful for the help, wherever it came from…

 

 

I am trying to discover just how good D2D is. They talk the talk and it sounds wonderful. So easy to have all your books on there and all that, but can they walk the walk?

Some of our prospective buyers have reported problems when they try to buy our books, so I am wearing my detective bonnet!

Has anyone else experienced problems with these people?

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#Jaye’s Journal: Another Visit?

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I have found myself thinking about my mysterious visitor at odd moments this week, despite having one of the worst depressions ever.

I did spend a lot of time trying to do as he suggested, going over my characters life in PayBack, my current WIP. Instead of inspiration and enthusiasm leading me on to greater depths, my mood became blacker by the minute.

After some time trying to pretend that everything was fine, I had to admit defeat, probably because other things were becoming unglued.

I was within an eyelash length of giving everything up, walking away (well, running away, to be precise) when I realised I wasn’t alone.

My visitor was back.

His familiar figure had made himself comfortable in my office chair and was swivelling backwards and forwards with a whimsical smile hovering on his lips.

To be honest, I wasn’t really in the mood for another literal lecture, my mind busy trying to remember where I had seen him before.

 

As he became aware of my presence, he turned the chair in my direction and smiled at me. Not that I could see his mouth properly, the snow white moustache all but his it from view, the only clue the upward ripple of his whiskers and the light in his eyes.

“There you are, Jaye. I have been watching your progress, or should say the lack of it and could not stay away any longer. I take it my advice did not help much?”

“I’ve had a bad week, can’t seem to do anything right these days…”

“But you do want to finish the book, I take it?”

For the briefest of moments, I couldn’t answer his question. Many times this past week I had wanted to burn it, but could the reason I didn’t, be because I did want to finish it and do it well?

“Yes, I do, but it’s not happening…there is such a lot of everything else to do each day, I just can’t keep up.”

 

He looked at me for the longest time, as if trying to read the state of my mind. I nearly laughed at that thought, there wasn’t much of interest going on in there and that’s a fact.

“That could be the problem right there, ma’am…”

I couldn’t help it. I groaned. The last thing I needed right now was another problem.

“I am duty bound to tell you, so you might as well listen.”

“Before we go any further, any chance you can tell me who you are? You seem so familiar, but my mind is not obliging…”

“My name is Samuel and I have come a long way to help with your predicament.”

My brain was doing the rumba, searching my damaged database for anyone called Samuel, but nothing was forthcoming. In the meantime, Samuel went back to swivelling my chair and enjoying every minute. He seemed like a good man, one with a sense of humour. He spoke with a soft American accent, southern, I think and his dark clothes were old fashioned. None of which helped to identify him. I’m usually good with faces, hopeless with names, but I had no idea who he was.

“Okay, I’m game. What pearls of wisdom have you for me today?”

“I have the feeling you are spreading yourself a little thin, trying to do and think of so many different things. The result is that you accomplish very little. Maybe you should narrow your focus, concentrate on just a few goals. You need to succeed in something and soon, or your confidence will shrink even more.”

 

His words sounded familiar. Someone had said the self same thing to me just that morning. I had to admit that the thought of actually managing to achieve something was very appealing, as I couldn’t remember the last time I had.

“But what about PayBack, should I try to finish it?”

Even as I asked the question, I knew what his answer would be. Of course, I should finish it, that’s the reason I get up every morning, isn’t it?

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Jaye’s Journal 26Aug -2 Sept.

 

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Earlier this year, I had my annual eye check-up. Not something I was looking forward to as I had the feeling that the slowly growing cataract in my left eye would finally be big enough to warrant being removed.

And it was. My optician said she would send her recommendation to the eye clinic at the Queen Alexander Hospital in Portsmouth. They would then, if they agreed with her, agree to see me to discuss the next stage.

Ever since that day, despite my eyesight fading fast, I have not been able to stop the nightmare of having someone slicing away at my eyeball.

But wait, the nightmare was about to get much worse.

The hospital duly agreed to see me, so it would seem I wouldn’t be escaping the knife after all. The day of my appointment arrived and the eye specialist, after administering drops to my eyes, proceeded to make his own judgement.

You could have pushed me over with a feather when he started going on about my right eye. How bad he thought it was and how he would be glad to sort it out for me. At first, I thought I had made a mistake (it does happen these days) but after a quick think, I realised it was he who had made the mistake. Of course, being a stroppy cow at the best of times, I wasn’t about to smile sweetly and thank him, was I?

Not on your life.

When I mentioned what my optician had said, he listened and then repeated what he was going to do, to my right eye. My turn to listen, and then I asked if he had received her letter. To be fair, he did find it in my file and read it but didn’t change his mind. He did, however, offer to see me again to conduct more tests.

To cut a long story short, I thanked him and left in a dignified manner. Straight round to my optician to see what she thought I should do. Her opinion was unprintable, but she did recommend that I go for the tests just to see what would happen. He is the only eye specialist around here, so it was worth checking out. If I didn’t like what he said, he wouldn’t see me for dust!

Two months later (this was last week) I presented myself for these tests. To say I had misgivings would be putting it mildly, but I needed to check this out, as my eyesight is getting worse by the minute.

Drops were administered and I waited for the tests to begin. But I was shown into the inner sanctum and told to put my chin on this contraption. After the briefest of inspections of both of my eyes, he sat back and I swear he was smirking and said they would be doing nothing to my eyes this year and maybe not next year either.

I stared at him with admirable composure, my mind turning somersaults. So many things could have happened then, and in my mind, I was tearing his hair out with my bare hands. After the briefest of pauses, I stood up, thanked him politely and turned to leave. As I reached the door, he said, “So good to see you again…” and this time he was definitely smirking.

Now, was I imagining all those things he had said about my right eye way back at the original appointment?

It would seem that I must suffer from my diminishing eyesight indefinitely unless I see someone else next year.

I wonder if this is even possible?