The Curse of the Muse

I first posted this about two years ago, but like many bits & bobs, it became lost in the never ending scroll of past posts. I guess that is a modern phenomenon we all have to come to terms with.

Anyway, on with the post…

 

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Tonight, I walked home along the same route as always, habitual, predictive.

As I turned the corner onto Star Street, I noticed at the entrance to the multi-story car park, next to the twenty-four-hour parking sign, an illuminated soda machine. My stride faltered, I paused, standing looking with curiosity.

I passed this way a hundred times, a thousand times without noticing the machines existence. How could that be? How could I not notice such a prominent fixture, a glowing block of red and white? The machine was designed to scream out ‘look at me’.

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Silhouetted against the glowing structure was a woman’s figure. She was standing still, totally immobile. The hair on each side of her head was like sharp shards radiating outwards. I wondered for a moment if she had been struck by lightning, or shocked by the machine.

I looked on, the woman remained immobile. It was then I noticed how quiet everything had become. Vaguely, in the background was the ever present rumble of city life, a cacophony of indistinguishable sounds, punctuated by the occasional siren.

But that was it.

Here, within the realms of my vision, all was still. No cars, no people, no movement. This is when my seventh sense kicked in, my writer’s sense. My mind started to ask me questions, sparks leapt from one neural pathway to another, reflection, consideration, conjecture meshed and melded into a fast flowing string.

Was this a frozen moment, a rift in the time-space continuum? What choices did I now have and what were the possible outcomes? Was I standing at an intersection of the multiverse? Was this the place where a thousand possibilities lay, invisible threads, a twisting mesh of crossing fortunes, a complex delta of potential and probability?

Would my next actions, or inactions, lay my out future, would they alter my destiny. Wealth, fortune, life, death. Choices. Or was all predestined? Was I merely following a predetermined path towards an inevitable future?

Did she, the silhouette, hold the key, the answers? Was the light surrounding her flooding from the soda fountain or emitting from her very being? Did she hold the secret?

My heart was pounding. I wanted to approach her, ask her. Yet something held me back. I do not think it was fear; apprehension maybe, or something undefinable, something there are no words to describe.

The woman moved. Walking forward towards the machine. I heard three coins drop. Saw a slender finger extended, pushing her selection. A rattle and thump as the can fell. Still not moving I watched as she stooped and retrieved the can.

A click, a hiss. The woman tilted her head back and drank thirstily. Gulping the contents. Lowering her head she drew a cuff across her mouth and casually tossed the empty can into a waste bin before turning and walking away.

Once she had been swallowed by the darkness. I found the ability to move. I sauntered over and looked into the bin. An excess of brown fluid was still dripping from a Dr Peppers can onto the waste below.

My imagination had not finished with me yet. Questions kept springing into my mind. Had she actually brought a can of Dr Peppers? Or did the fact I looked, that I observed, changed the very nature of this reality? Had my presence altered the state of things, transformed the material quality of being? After all, our actions, our existence is subject to the laws and principles of quantum physics, are they not?

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A car wound its way down the ramp, headlights blazing as it exited the car park. A group of people wandered around the corner, talking, joking, and laughing. Their voices seemingly activating an ‘on’ switch. Suddenly the city sounds became loud and clear. No longer the muffled white background noise they were a moment ago.

That was it.

The quantum gate had closed. The rift sealed. My chance to alter my destiny whipped away by an ethereal wind, stolen by inexorable march of time. Yet my writers mind still wrestles with the possibilities.

Maybe my thoughts, at least some of them, will find their way into a story, or become the premise of a future novel. Or maybe they shall just haunt me forever more?

Such is the curse of the muse.

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  © Paul White 2015


Have you read my Tales of Crime & Violence collection yet?

If not grab yourself volume one now at

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A bit on Anthologies

Euphoric winner winning at home

This year I have only two stories destined for anthologies. One is for a summer anthology, due out soon, another a children’s book scheduled for Christmas.

This is the lowest number of stories I have given for inclusion into collective tomes for several years.

I know some writers stay away from this form of publication. There are many reasons.

Some do not write short fiction, others focus on just one genre, some believe these books a waste of effort, while others only give licence if the book is a charitable or fundraising edition.

I appreciate everyone’s point of view on this matter.

To give a story away, even secured by a simple first serial rights licence, is a big thing. To take time out to write a specific tale for one is a commitment. Then, there is the fact of finding the extra time to write in the first instance.

If someone does not wish to commit to an anthology, so be it.

I, however, am a sucker for these books.

Partly, it is because I am a prolific writer of short stories and flash fiction. I always have some unpublished works on hand which need a good home. Another reason is, I enjoy writing from simple, given prompts. I belong to some writer’s groups, such as ‘500 – Iron writer’s spin-off‘ who regularly exercise their quills by doing just so.

I find scribbling a short tale a fantastic writing exercise, as I do with poetry and blog writing, even this post you are reading now is teaching me something about my trade as a wordsmith.

It is called, gaining experience.

I believe we can and should always strive to become better writers and, like modern athletes and sportsmen, we should ‘cross -train’. That may mean writing poetry and short stories, trying our hand with a genre we have never approached before, writing non-fiction too. Whatever it takes, we should often step outside of our comfort zone, we should do it to improve ourselves.

For me, committing to someone as a guest blogger, or agreeing to contribute a piece to an anthology, encompasses that training; it allows me to be creative, try something ‘new to me’, or come at a subject from an alternative perspective. It also allows me to get my work in front of readers who may not have found me otherwise.

It is not something I do for a direct reward. I have, where there have been shared royalties, had my allocation directed to charity.

Which brings me nicely to this point.

Many collections of short stories are put together as fundraisers, or for creating http://authl.it/6boawareness for worthwhile causes.Looking into the Abyss: Saving the Rhinoceros one story at a time’ an anthology designed to spread the word about the Rhino’s fight for survival, and ‘Sticks & Stones and Words that Hurt Me’ which supports anti-domestic violence, along with ‘Storybook, Individually together, Vo 1 (no longer available) are three charitable books I have close association with.

 

However, not all anthologies have to be for charitable causes.

awethologyLIGHTSMASHWORDSThe ‘Awethors’, a group of likeminded indie authors from across the globe, have created three anthologies crammed with a wealth of wonderful tales. These books, The Awethology Dark, The Awethology Light and the December Awethology Dark & December Awethology Light, were produced for several reasons.

These books are to show what an alliance of indie authors, living in various countries around the world, can achieve when working in unison.

The Awethors collective produced not one, but Four great works, proving such co-operative action can be repeated and maintained.

These anthologies also bring the contributing authors closer together, it strengthens the collective and in some cases, creates new, long lasting, genuine friendships.

If you have never contributed to an anthology before, I ask you to consider doing so. I am certain you will know at least one other writer who has a link with at least one. Do it for yourself, for a literary exercise, for learning, for betterment, but most of all do it for fun.

To finish, I quite fancy contributing to a Sci-Fi collection, (I don’t write Sci-Fi), or something from a female perspective perhaps?

Any offers, contact me.

 

Thank you once again for reading my Ramblings, Paul.


Looking for something different, a gift with thought? Take a look at the Pussers Cook Book.

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You Won’t Finish This Article

This is an interesting article I found while searching for something completley different!

It is primarily about online writing, blogs, posts, articles, websites etc.

Let me know what you think.


Why people online don’t read to the end.slate

By Farhad Manjoo                                                                                                For Slate.com

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She’s already stopped reading
Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

 

I’m going to keep this brief, because you’re not going to stick around for long. I’ve already lost a bunch of you. For every 161 people who landed on this page, about 61 of you—38 percent—are already gone. You “bounced” in Web traffic jargon, meaning you spent no time “engaging” with this page at all.

So now there are 100 of you left. Nice round number. But not for long! We’re at the point in the page where you have to scroll to see more. Of the 100 of you who didn’t bounce, five are never going to scroll. Bye!

OK, fine, good riddance. So we’re 95 now. A friendly, intimate crowd, just the people who want to be here. Thanks for reading, folks! I was beginning to worry about your attention span, even your intellig … wait a second, where are you guys going? You’re tweeting a link to this article already? You haven’t even read it yet! What if I go on to advocate something truly awful, like a constitutional amendment requiring that we all type two spaces after a period?

Wait, hold on, now you guys are leaving too? You’re going off to comment? Come on! There’s nothing to say yet. I haven’t even gotten to the nut graph.

I better get on with it. So here’s the story: Only a small number of you are reading all the way through articles on the Web. I’ve long suspected this, because so many smart-alecks jump in to the comments to make points that get mentioned later in the piece. But now I’ve got proof. I asked Josh Schwartz, a data scientist at the traffic analysis firm Chartbeat, to look at how people scroll through articles. Schwartz also did a similar analysis for other sites that use Chartbeat and have allowed the firm to include their traffic in its aggregate analyses.

Schwartz’s data shows that readers can’t stay focused. The more I type, the more of you tune out. And it’s not just me. It’s not just here. It’s everywhere online. When people land on a story, they very rarely make it all the way down the page. A lot of people don’t even make it halfway. Even more dispiriting is the relationship between scrolling and sharing. Schwartz’s data suggest that lots of people are tweeting out links to articles they haven’t fully read. If you see someone recommending a story online, you shouldn’t assume that he has read the thing he’s sharing.

OK, we’re a few hundred words into the story now. According to the data, for every 100 readers who didn’t bounce up at the top, there are about 50 who’ve stuck around. Only one-half!

Take a look at the following graph created by Schwartz, a histogram showing where people stopped scrolling in Slate articles. Chartbeat can track this information because it analyzes reader behavior in real time—every time a Web browser is on a Slate page, Chartbeat’s software records what that browser is doing on a second-by-second basis, including which portion of the page the browser is currently viewing.

A typical Web article is about 2000 pixels long. In the graph below, each bar represents the share of readers who got to a particular depth in the story. There’s a spike at 0 percent—i.e., the very top pixel on the page—because 5 percent of readers never scrolled deeper than that spot. (A few notes: This graph only includes people who spent any time engaging with the page at all—users who “bounced” from the page immediately after landing on it are not represented. The X axis goes beyond 100 percent to include stuff, like the comments section, that falls below the 2,000-pixel mark. Finally, the spike near the end is an anomaly caused by pages containing photos and videos—on those pages, people scroll through the whole page.)

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Chartbeat’s data shows that most readers scroll to about the 50 percent mark, or the 1,000th pixel, in Slate stories. That’s not very far at all. I looked at a number of recent pieces to see how much you’d get out of a story if you only made it to the 1,000thpixel. Take Mario Vittone’s piece, published this week, on the warning signs that someone might be drowning. If the top of your browser reached only the 1,000th pixel in that article, the bottom of your browser would be at around pixel number 1,700 (the typical browser window is 700 pixels tall). At that point, you’d only have gotten to warning signs No. 1 and 2—you’d have missed the fact that people who are drowning don’t wave for help, that they cannot voluntarily control their arm movements, and one other warning sign I didn’t get to because I haven’t finished reading that story yet. Or look at John Dickerson’s fantastic article about the IRS scandal or something. If you only scrolled halfway through that amazing piece, you would have read just the first four paragraphs. Now, trust me when I say that beyond those four paragraphs, John made some really good points about whatever it is his article is about, some strong points that—without spoiling it for you—you really have to read to believe. But of course you didn’t read it because you got that IM and then you had to look at a video and then the phone rang … The worst thing about Schwartz’s graph is the big spike at zero. About 5 percent of people who land on Slate pages and are engaged with the page in some way—that is, the page is in a foreground tab on their browser and they’re doing something on it, like perhaps moving the mouse pointer—never scroll at all. Now, do you know what you get on a typical Slate page if you never scroll? Bupkis. Depending on the size of the picture at the top of the page and the height of your browser window, you’ll get, at most, the first sentence or two. There’s a good chance you’ll see none of the article at all. And yet people are leaving without even starting. What’s wrong with them? Why’d they even click on the page? Schwarz’s histogram for articles across lots of sites is in some ways more encouraging than the Slate data, but in other ways even sadder:

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On these sites, the median scroll depth is slightly greater—most people get to 60 percent of the article rather than the 50 percent they reach on Slate pages. On the other hand, on these pages a higher share of people—10 percent—never scroll. In general, though, the story across the Web is similar to the story at Slate: Few people are making it to the end, and a surprisingly large number aren’t giving articles any chance at all.

We’re getting deep on the page here, so basically only my mom is still reading this. (Thanks, Mom!) But let’s talk about how scroll depth relates to sharing. I asked Schwartz if he could tell me whether people who are sharing links to articles on social networks are likely to have read the pieces they’re sharing.

 

The Wind & the Sun

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  This is a story my father used to tell me as a young child.

  Way back then I had no idea that this story was his version of an Aesop’s fable.

  I loved listening to him regale it over and again; although I had heard this story many times, it was not until I was about seven that I began to understand how the moral of the tale, or at least the basic message it carried, related to life.

   My father has now been dead for over thirty five years, yet I still recall his voice when I think of the Wind & the Sun.

   Moreover I am still learning the true extent of how the simple and basic message this story carries can affect every part of our lives, in work, play, socially, and in our domestic and love life relationships.

   I will try my best to recount this tale as closely to my father’s recitation as I can recall, because I still prefer his version to that of Aesop!

   Maybe you would too, if you could hear his voice as clearly I still do.


One day the Wind and the Sun were looking down upon the earth when they saw a man walking along a footpath.

‘Look at that man’ said the Wind, ‘I bet I can get his jacket off him quicker than you ’.

‘You think you can?’ answered the Sun.

‘Of course’ the Wind replied ‘because I am strong and powerful’.

‘Go on then’ said the Sun ‘let me see what you can do’.

So the Wind began to blow. As the Wind blew the man’s jacket flapped in the breeze. The Wind blew harder, whipping up clouds of dust and blowing the leaves from the trees.

The man buttoned his jacket, turned up his collar, lowered his head and continued walking.

Displeased with his efforts so far the Wind let a howling gale bellow over the ground. It was so forceful that the man had to fold his arms across his chest to stop his jacket from being blown off.

The Wind saw what the man was doing took a huge puff and let loose a tempest.

The man clutched his jacket tighter to himself, holding it firm with both hands.

Again and again the Wind blew and blew. The harder the Wind blew the tighter the man clung to his Jacket.

Eventually the Wind had puffed so hard for so long that he blew himself out.

The sun laughed and said to the Wind ‘Now it is my turn to try and get this man’s jacket off’.

So the Sun smiled and shone his gentle rays of warm sunlight upon the earth and upon the man.

The man took his hands from his jacket.

The Sun continued to smile and spread his warmth.

The man unbuttoned his jacket and loosened his tie.

After a while the man, bathed in the glorious heat from the sun, removed his jacket, slung it over his shoulder and began to whistle as he walked.

‘You see, Wind’ said the Sun, ‘you can accomplish far more by being gentle and giving than you can with brute force alone’.

.

I hope you enjoyed my father’s version of this story.


You can read more by visiting https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

How to be very, very SEXY and attract lots of attention.

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I have recently posted a number of articles intended to assist you with self-promotion and the marketing of your books, blogs and other writings. (If you have not read them scroll down and take a look after you have read this).

In this post I am not going to get technical or start preaching, but simply ramble away about how you can use the oldest attractor to help generate many more ‘hits’ to your site, Blog or book promotions.

It is something you know well, even intimately! Yet are still hesitant about showing it off to the public at large!

You will, no doubt be aware of the old saying that ‘sex sells’.

It is one of the most truthful quotations ever and one which continues to prove its own legitimacy on a daily basis.

Now before you go off in a huff of indignation or embarrassment let me make it quite clear this is not a post about sex per se, but the use of sensuality and titillation to initially attract readers to your works.

I have already demonstrated the simplest of these methods, the word itself.

In this case the word sexy made you stop and read this blog today. Okay I teamed it up with a few other words to make a sentence, but it was that single word ‘sexy that has bought you right here, right?

Therefore, as long as you employ some link however tenuous it may be, to lead the reader from the ‘sex’ word to your content you have made the first step, you have attracted another potential follower, or purchaser of you goods.

If you are averse to using the word directly you can substitute it with other words which create passionate or sensual imagery adopting a subtle ‘softer approach’. The outcome however will be the same to the reader, a mental stimuli which is difficult to ignore!

The next step is to add an image, which again I have done here, (at the top of the post).

Whether you use the soft curves of a female torso or the squarer, muscular masculine is dependent to which audience you are directing your writing towards.

Although overall the female form has a greater impact on the general populace as both sexes are attracted, albeit for a variety of reasons, including gender and sexual persuasion, which I shall not endeavour to delve into in this particular post.

Once again however, I am not speaking of pornography, unless you are solely directing your work to that market, in which case I would then suggest looking at a very different approach altogether so as not to become enmeshed in the mass of generality.

For the most part soft suggestive stimuli is all that is required, after that it is you work, your content and presentation which must endear your readers.

Basically I am saying that, yes…SEX does sell.

Do not be afraid to use it for your own gain; after all you won’t know how good it is until you have tried it!

Enjoy, Paul.

Have you read my Blog ‘Further Ramblings’ yet? It’s all about life and living, go take a look now. http://wp.me/5njAU

Better Blogging. (keeping readers engaged and winning followers)

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In my last post about Blogging I covered Hooks, PAS & Call to Action.

In this post I will cover text layout, pagination and a few more things which lose readers if you do not get them right.

I know some of you have written books and are using Blogging to help promote and market them, while others only write Blogs. The common factor is that people from both camps, the experienced and amateur writer, frequently write blogs appallingly, some get it so wrong that you just cannot read them.

A well written and formed Blog is a discipline all of its own!

I shall try and explain, without getting too technical, where you could be going wrong and how to make your Blog more appealing.

But first let’s take a look at something simple, the Blog layout, or as it is called here on WordPress the ‘theme’.

In the publishing industry the ‘page layout’, includes text, titling, sub-headings, numeric, and images. Deciding on this ‘layout’ is an important factor in the success your Blog will have.

WordPress and other Blogging sites often have templates to assist with this.

Clearly the theme you choose has to suit the type of Blog you write. The various posts you produce must not only sit comfortably with the page format, but should be easy on the eye of the reader. This sounds obvious, but honestly so many Blogs are confusing or distracting to the eye.

Here are my suggestions for a clear, easily read Blog layout which will make it effortless to read and keep people engaged for much longer.

 

  • To start with a pure white background can be glaring and harsh on the eye, so choose a soft palate, pale or pastel shades work well.
  • Try to avoid black or very dark colours which necessitate reverse print. (e. white text on black background). Again this can cause eye strain and can be disquieting.
  • Blogging

Ok, you may have a fantasy or vampire Blog and want to portray a dark mood, but please try a mid-grey or maybe a lighter red. You can still create the ‘mood’ with good graphics and images.

  • Next choose a font for your headlines and sub-headings. Keep the same typestyle for both throughout your post, just alter the font size.

Then select a font for your main text.

Try and keep to just these two fonts, (The heading / Sub-heading and body text), use a third if you think it is really necessary but bear in mind that using more font styles will only make your post look messy and amateurish.

When using just these two font styles you will be able to play about with them in many ways; Bold, Italics, Underline, Strikethrough, block quotes, and font sizes (Point size).

This should give you a mass of flexibility whilst maintaining a smooth uniform and professional look to your post.

  • Consider also how your words will look on the page as a whole. Take a lead from the newspaper and magazine publishers. Break your Blog into two (or three) columns. This makes it far easier to read. I know this from my experience of working on high end glossy magazines such as the Conde Nast Vogue, Vanity Fair and others like Boat International and Robb Report.

While two columns mean your reader will have to scroll back to the top of each page to continue reading, this is an intuitive reaction and does not detract from their overall enjoyment. Whereas trying to read elongated lines of text from page edge to page edge is not such a natural act, it is more akin to standing near a large poster and having to twist your head to read it all.

  • Break your text up occasionally with a relevant picture, sketch or diagram. Images attract and hold attention and create curiosity by those ‘scanning’ the page. You are more likely to gain and hold people’s attention when you include images. But do make them relevant and, unless you have a pure pictorial Blog, do not over do it!

Once again take a lead from the professionals, look at both print and online magazines to get ideas that you can employ on your own site.

  • Unlike newspapers and glossy magazines online publications have the effect of ‘cramming’ the written word. This is why all publishers like writers to submit their manuscripts with ‘double –line spacing’.

A constant and consistent block of words on a computer, tablet or ‘phone screen is very difficult to read if not spaced and ‘broken up’ into bite sized pieces.

You will note that I have done precisely that within this post.

If this post was intended to be printed, say in a paperback book, then my paragraphs would be longer and not divided into these smaller clusters of a few sentences for each paragraph.

  • Another consideration for this is that many people do not have excellent eyesight, or suffer with varying degrees of dyslexia, whilst others may not read English, or whatever language you write in, as their first or primary language.

By breaking your paragraphs into small sections you are helping to be inclusive of these conditions or learning needs, which I think is a good thing.

  • If your post has an instructive, educational or coaching bent, as does this, then using ‘bullet points’ is a great way to determine each subject change within the string.

Otherwise employ the use of block quotations to highlight or firm-up your major opinions or facts.

  • Lastly consider the length of each post. You will not hold everyone’s attention for ever!

So if you do have a lot to say, or a large amount of information you wish to share, consider dividing your subject matter into two or more posts.

I do hope you find the above some use when considering writing your next Blog, especially when taken in conjunction with my previous post ‘Stop writing boring Blogs!

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I am constantly endeavouring to help my fellow writers in any way I can, so please feel to follow and share this blog with as many of your friends and contacts on any social media sites as you wish.

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If you would like to know more about me, my works, my books, in fact anything at all, my website is

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white-writer

Feel free to browse about at your leisure!