December 24, 2012

Christmas Cheer?

I was talking to my cousin yesterday, who had gone to a large well-known supermarket for some last minute shopping. He arrived not long before they opened and was greeted with queues of people all with the same idea.

The manager was broadcasting to the waiting hordes telling them how long it would be before the store opened.

December 20, 2012

Dreams And Daydreams As Writing Prompts

EEG of brainwaves in REM sleep
I've been reading the new post on Writing Forward about using dreams and daydreams as prompts for stories. Melissa suggests keeping a journal of dreams and daydreams and using them as a way to inform and inspire your writing.

I've written a couple of posts about dreams (Hiram B. Redfern and Premonitions or Dreams) but never used them as stories or ideas in stories. Perhaps it's about time I did.

December 18, 2012

Unexpected Writing Prompts

It's amazing how the most unexpected things crop up and give an idea for a story. I was talking to a colleague at work and the usual 'Did you see...?' conversation struck up. 'No, I didn't ...' because I don't have a TV. So she told me anyway.

There had been a programme on the night before about grown men who acted out being babies and the women who 'looked after' them. While I sympathised that there may be deep-rooted psychological problems, not least for the women concerned, I didn't really want to know more.

December 14, 2012

Don't Forget To De-Stress Regularly

A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, 'half empty or half full?'

She fooled them all ..... "How heavy is this glass of water?" she inquired with a smile. Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

She continued, "And that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on." "As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down.

Don't carry them through the evening and into the night... Pick them up tomorrow.

1 * Accept the fact that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue!

2 * Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

3 * Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

4 * Drive carefully... It's not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker..

5 * If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague

6 * If you lend someone £20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

7 * It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
8 * Never buy a car you can't push.

9 * Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.

10 * Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

11 * Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.

12 * The second mouse gets the cheese.

13 * When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

14 * Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

16 * Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once.

17 * We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names and all are different colours, but they all have to live in the same box.

18 * A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

19 * Have an awesome day and know that someone has thought about you today.

20 *Save the earth..... It's the only planet with chocolate!*
 

December 07, 2012

Taking Time To Read

Reading a book is always an inspiring thing to do. I find inspiration in the language used, the crafting of each sentence, and the ideas behind the story. I find myself savouring little nuances of language that can convey so much and admiring the plotting that carries the story forward. It is not at all distracting from a good read to note and remember the way it is written.

I don't always find the time to read as much as I would like. I have a full-time job that can be emotionally and mentally demanding and I'm often too tired to read by the time the evening's chores are done. Weekends can seem full of things to do as well and there is always my writing. I want to write more often than I seem to have the time to write.

The trouble is, I forget how much reading inspires me. I also forget that to find the time to read, I have to make the time to read, just as I have to make the time to write. I worked as a psychotherapist some years ago and would often suggest to people that they make appointments with themselves when they were feeling stressed and that they had little or no time for themselves. This is something anyone can do. You don't have to tell anyone who the appointment is with or what it's for - just that you are booked out for that time period. After all, we can keep appointments at work and in our personal lives so why not make appointments with ourselves?

As is often the way with advice-giving, I'm not always very good at following my own. Time for a kick up the backside methinks.

December 04, 2012

Thunderbird Puppet Appears On TV

Wow! Lady Penelope is real after all ... or is this an impersonator? I'm sure Lady Penelope looks less wooden (see picture below right).

This is one of the characters from that abject farce entitled 'The Only Way Is Essex' - a so-called reality programme. I'm talking about the picture to the left in case you were wondering.  Well, as you can see from the face in the picture, there is nothing real about it. Oh, maybe the props behind the pink-faced puppet are real.

TOWIE - as it is called - must be the furthest thing from the real Essex you can get. There is nothing of the rural beauty of the county in the programme - just look at the photograph! And yet, it seems there are gallons of females, young and middle-aged, who aspire to look and talk like the artificial face here.

How anybody thinks this is attractive is beyond me. What really puts the icing on the cake is when she opens her mouth and utters sounds. You won't be able to hear what she sounds like here because I refuse to put a link to the programme on these pages. It would be as insulting to my blog as the programme is to the people of Essex.

December 03, 2012

Secrets And Story

I was listening to the 'Infinite Monkey Cage' on Radio 4 on my home from work this evening. They were discussing code-breaking and the extraordinary achievements of the team working at Bletchley Park during WWII.

There were about 10,000 people working there and all were sworn to secrecy, with something like only 6 people in the world who knew the extent of the work at Bletchley Park in the war effort. This secrecy continued for decades after the war.

As is the way with the Official Secrets Act, there are various time periods when secrets are no longer secrets. As deadlines passed and knowledge could be shared, some extraordinary stories began to emerge. A husband might turn to his wife 30 years after the war and tell her, 'I have something to tell you. I worked at Bletchley Park during the war.' To which the wife might reply, 'So did I. Which hut were you working in?'

This shows the lengths to which ordinary people like you and I would go to to keep the secrets they were sworn to. It also set me to thinking about the secrets people keep from each other and how we choose whether or not to reveal them. My story entitled 'The Secret' was based on a similar idea - two people living with a secret they both knew about. There are always things we do not discuss with others, however close they may be, and it is these things that weave subtly into a story-line to create interest and suspense.

December 01, 2012

Self-Publishing?

Have you ever wanted to see your own book in print or at least on sale? I know I have. Well now you can. Heard of Fifty Shades of Grey? I’d be surprised if you haven’t. You might be surprised to learn that half of the author’s success is because she published it as an e-book. It wasn’t just the sex that put it in the top sellers. It was the fact the sex was in an e-book that did it.

People who might have been embarrassed to hold a book with a cover that told the world what they were reading are more than happy to download an e-book. It can be read on the train on the way to work without anyone knowing how steamed-up you are getting.

So, even though I’m not writing steamy sex scenes (honestly - although there’s a big market for it, so watch this space) I’ve been trying to get to grips with Amazon’s ‘Kindle Direct Publishing’ - one way in which to self-publish your stories and books.

The sign-up process was a bit fraught, particularly going through the bank accounts bit and trying to find out what my International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and Bank Identifier Code (BIC) were. I discovered these were available at the bottom of an online statement … I only had to look.

While I haven’t gone into it too much at the moment, it looks as though anyone could be self-publishing quite quickly. This seems to be a rising fad and an easier way of getting your books and stories (and blogs, I discovered) out there in the public domain. Publishers are notoriously difficult to get past and rightly so. If they have a reputation to keep up they will be very choosy who they publish.

Anything from short stories to full-length novels can be published. It’s up to you what you publish and how much you set the price at. Be reasonable about the pricing - it probably helps to look at what others are charging for similar products. Don’t overcharge, you won’t be thanked for it and customers will only too gladly give you bad press.

There are various services available, including the option of choosing a suitable cover, good layout and having a hard copy of your book published. You can even have your book translated into multiple languages! Some of these services come at a price but the basic self-publishing to Kindle is free.

If you are going to self-publish it will help to take a leaf out of the publisher’s books (see what I did there?) and put yourself through the same kind of rigorous examination before you even think about putting your book on the shelves of the world’s library. It is really important that you edit and proofread and re-write until you are satisfied that you have the best you can give.

This is going to be your shop window on yourself and if people don’t like what they see, you have no chance. Your customers are more picky than you can imagine. Bad grammar, bad layout and a bad cover will drive people away. Don’t think you can slap your book together willy-nilly, whack it on the shelves and expect it will be a best-seller … it won’t. You need to polish until you have the deepest shine possible and then give it a bit more spit and polish. Make it look as professional as you can and you stand at least half a chance.

I also discovered that there is a ‘Kindle Publishing for Blogs’ section. Put in a few details about you and your blog and publish it to the store and wait for the interest to grow. Make sure you have a blog worth reading though. I’m hoping my own blog is one people will be interested in and I’ve gone through the process of publishing it (see Add to Kindle button in the sidebar) to see if I can make a few cents/coppers here and there. I live in hope.