A free short story, just for you.

For those who don’t know…

I am Paul White, a multi-genre author of fiction, non-fiction, and semi-fiction.

Many of my short stories are available under the ‘Electric Eclectic’ brand, some are eBooks, others paperback collections, while a growing number are those wonderful Pocketbook Paperbacks that are increasingly popular because of their size, as they really do fit into your pocket. Perfect for reading while commuting or away on vacation.

You can find my books on Amazon and many other bookstores. All are shown on my website

Now, on with the story.

This one is titled ‘Free Spirit’, enjoy.


FREE SPIRIT

.

When I walked into the apartment, I knew this project was going to be fraught with difficulties.

Firstly, the place has been unoccupied for some time; a musty dampness prevailed its entirety. I sensed this staleness was not simply neglect but an ethereal odour of others’ lives, of previous tenants.

Secondly, there were many pieces of furniture still in situ; old, dusty brocade curtains hanging at the windows, personal effects, a small trinket box sitting on the dark wooden sideboard, a silver-backed hand mirror laid on the dresser, and a time-worn leather-bound book on a side table, near the musty, torn chintz-covered armchair, all emitting a staleness of abandonment.

Before I could start the repairs and redecoration, I would have to clear all this old junk from the building. That would involve putting in some extra hours, late nights I had not planned. I was sure the extra effort would be worth it in the end because it is not often one can find such a large home for such a low rent in a neighbourhood of this stature.

On Friday, after work, I hurried to the apartment, eager to begin the clear-out and clean-up.

Once achieved, I could start on the repairs. Tearing off the old wallpaper, ripping up the musty carpets, filling the holes where pictures once hung, all that sort of stuff.

Then I would be in the position to begin to decorate what was to be my new home, my first home.

Fresh paint, light colours on the walls, modern, sleek, designer-style furniture, new light fittings, and mirrors. I like mirrors, they lighten even the dullest corners. I wanted the place to be what I can only describe as understated urban chich.

I was excited.

Tonight, I would be alone. My friends, the ones who offered to help, were all out on the town, or so they said. I don’t blame them for not being here today, after all, it was a Friday night.

Tomorrow, I had promises, commitments from them. I would have a small troop of workers grafting away all day in return for cold beer and snacks, oh, and pizza at the end of the day.

But tonight, it was just me.

My first task was to wrestle the largest items of furniture into a group by the lounge door, so my team of workers could easily carry them out to the skip, which was due by eight o’clock in the morning.

I was surprised by the weight of the old furniture. I’m uncertain if it was Mahogany or Oak, but it took all my effort to ‘waltz’ it across the room. No wonder the previous occupiers had left it where it stood.

By the time I had shifted all the pieces, I was sweating from the effort.

Opening the window did not cool me down. The air was too heavy and humid, and too weak to do more than slightly move those heavy curtains.

It was now midnight, but before I finished for the day, I wanted all the drapes removed, the litter from the floors swept and binned. I wanted this room ready for paper stripping, and carpet removal.

By the end of the weekend, I would be happy if this room and the hallway were ready for my creative attention. If I could get at least one of the two bedrooms stripped too, well, that would be a bonus.

Right now, my stomach was grumbling. I needed to eat. Anyway, it was time to take a break. A stroll to the all-night cafe on the corner, where I could grab a coke, a sandwich, a pork pie, or toasted sandwich. It would do me the world of good to eat something.

Once in the café, I decided I would be wasting time if I stayed to eat, so I carried my refreshments back to the apartment.

Wearily lowering myself into the tatty chintz armchair, I froze. Looking around the room in disbelief. The coke slipped from my grasp, spilling over the threadbare carpet.

The furniture, and I mean all the furniture I spent the last few hours moving into a group close to the doorway, was now back in its original position.

It was as if I had not moved a single item.

The window was closed, the curtains still, the lingering scent of neglect somehow stronger than before.

There was something more.

I could hear a faint melody floating into the room. Trumpets, brass. Smooth music. Perhaps a nineteen-forties swing band?

I shook my head, trying to gather my thoughts. This was not possible.

I moved the furniture. Placed it by the door.

I was trying to convince myself I had not, purely for my sanity.

The music was playing softly.

Surely it was coming from another apartment. Yet it sounded far closer, emanating from somewhere in this apartment.

Maybe I was overtired. Whatever; I needed to get a grip on myself.

I followed the sound, walking slowly along the hallway until I was outside the room where the music was coming from.

Someone was playing a joke on me. My friends have seen me leave, deciding it would be funny to mess with my head.

Angrily I snatched open the door, ready to yell at whoever was doing this, whoever found it funny to try and scare me.

The volume from the gramophone blasted out a crackling version of Chattanooga Choo Choo as I stepped into the room.

I halted, standing stock still.

I could not comprehend what I was seeing. This room was perfect. A nineteen-forties parlour. No damp, no faded wallpaper, no rotting furniture.

It was bright, new, perfect.

“Come in, David,” she said, “sit yourself down. I have been waiting for you.”

To my right, I saw a handsome-looking woman. She was wearing a flowing evening gown, long white gloves, and a pearl necklace.

In front of me, a well-ordered room, brightly lit and warm. Behind me, a cold dank hallway, the discoloured wallpaper peeling from the walls.

This was surreal.

“Don’t be shy,” she said, “come, sit, enjoy some champagne.”

She was holding out a wide-rimmed coupe glass at arm’s length. Hesitantly, feeling I had little option, I took the glass from her hand.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Oh, you young people, you are always in such a hurry,” she replied, smiling, and lifting her glass towards mine.

We touched glasses. Automatically I said, “Cheers.”

She smiled at me again, replying with a “Chin, chin.” She sipped her champagne without wetting her dark red lips.

I sat, bolt upright, in a small chair, and as nervous as hell. She lay back, relaxing on a chaise lounge opposite my chair.

If I were dreaming, this was far too real.

The woman spoke. “So, you want to move into my home, to come and live with me. Do you, David?” Her eyes were firmly focused on mine.

“There must be some confusion,” I said, “I have just bought this apartment, it’s mine.”

“Oh no, David,” she answered, shaking her head, “It will never be yours, it belongs to me, and forever will.”

 “I don’t understand,” I replied.

 She nodded understandingly, reaching out, placing a gloved hand on my knee, patting me like a reassuring aunt.

“My husband built this building back in the early 1930s. I have lived here ever since the day it was completed. I shall never leave. Now, I like you, David. You are a fine young man, so I am willing to let you stay if you wish to share my home with me?”  She left the sentence hanging.

I sat motionlessly, my mouth ajar. I did not know what to say.

“Well, David” she prompted, “what have you to say?”

“This place, it’s a mess, all old and rotting. I need to clean it up, do repairs, redecorate, get new furniture… except this room, your room, its lovely, I mean it’s really nice.” I knew I was gabbling, the words tumbling from my mouth faster than I could think.

“Oh, David.” She said, “don’t worry about that for now, just tell me if you will be happy sharing my home.”

“But when people come, my friends, family. How do I explain this room, or you?” I asked.

She smiled like an understanding aunt looking at a child. Patting my knee again she said, “No one will know, David. No one except you.”

“But this room, when people look around, they’ll…”

She interrupted me. “More Champagne. You look pale, you’re shaking. A good drink will settle your nerves.” She continued, “Think, David. This apartment, how many rooms are there? Don’t answer, but this room is not one of them, is it?”

I was mentally counting, walking through the apartment. She was right, this room was not one of them. This room did not exist.

My mind was in a whirl. “I, I, I don’t know. The furniture, I moved it. I put it by the door, now it is all back where it was. Then I heard the music and… and, I followed the sound. It led me to this room.”

Her laughter filled the room, “Oh my dear boy,” she said, “I have thrown you into a right tizzy, haven’t I?”

I gulped the last of my champagne.

“I have something stronger if you prefer?” she said, “a whisky, perhaps. I know what you men are like.”

I was nodding. It was an almost unconscious action as my mind was whirring. Random pieces of thoughts flew through my mind.

“Do not fear. You may decorate the apartment as you wish. I will not stop you, David. That is, if you want to live here? Now, before you worry too much, I don’t leave this room, well, only when the need arises, and I am sure I‘ll have no reason to venture out while you’re here.”

“I would like to live here but, who are you?”

“Oh, my. I have been remiss, haven’t I? How rude of me for not introducing myself. My name is Evelyn, Evelyn Keyes-Johnson.” She held her hand towards me. “So, David, are we friends. Shall you be sharing my home?”

I took her hand and shook it, although slight, Evelyn had a firm grip.

“I would like to stay, and I would be happy sharing with you,” I said, although I had not totally convinced myself. “I do have a question though.”

“Ask away, young man.”

“Are you a ghost?”

Her laughter filled the room with lightness. She smiled a wide, bright grin.

“As I died many years ago some people may call me that,” she said, “but I prefer to consider myself a free spirit.”

END.

Free Spirit©PaulWhite2022

Projection of Thoughts through Space and Time… or Show, don’t Tell.

It’s been a while since I found time to write an informative post for ‘Ramblings’. The reason is, I have concentrated on writing, publishing, and marketing my books, as all good authors should.

The stimulus for me to write this blog post is, recently I have seen many people asking about ‘Show don’t Tell’. Questions such as “How do I do it?”, “What does it mean?”, and ‘why!”

In my regular rambling way… (hence the title of this blog), and without using any more technical terms than necessary, I shall endeavour to share not only what ‘show don’t tell’ means but why it is the golden criterion for all creative writers.


SO, HERE WE GO…

Firstly, and without any reservation, to write well an author must understand narration.

Creative writing, which includes fiction, principally relies on narrative. The purpose of narration (sometimes referred to as the story’s voice) is to tell a story or ‘narrate’ an event, or series of events.

Inevitably, a major quantity of narration involves description. Description creates, invents, or visually presents a person, place, event, or action, allowing the reader to visualise what the writer is attempting to portray.

Descriptive narrative aims to make vivid a place, an object, or a character. It acts as an imaginative stimulus, allowing the reader to relate to the writer’s notions.

The writer should not simply aim to convey facts about the subject but give the reader a direct impression, thus allowing the reader, the recipient of those words, to create a mental picture that is in union with the writers’ thoughts.

Simply put, through the correct usage of narrative, a writer can project their thoughts into the reader’s mind. Virtually, a form of compliant subliminal connection. One which can transcend both space and time.

To achieve this, writers utilise a practice generally referred to as ‘Show, don’t Tell’.

<<>>

SHOW, DON’T TELL.

This term is often attributed to the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, who is reputed to have said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

What Chekhov factually said, in a letter to his brother, was,

“In descriptions of Nature one must seize on small details, grouping them so that when the reader closes his eyes, he gets a picture. For instance, you’ll have a moonlit night if you write that on the mill dam a piece of glass from a broken bottle glittered like a bright little star and that the black shadow of a dog or a wolf rolled past like a ball.”

You may notice Chekhov does not go into a mass of detail in this explanation. Descriptive writing does not mean the author should attempt to portray the subject in every excruciating detail.

Ernest Hemingway, a notable proponent of the “Show, don’t Tell” style, sustained his ‘Iceberg Theory’, also known as the ‘Theory of Omission’, which he developed while employed as a newspaper reporter.

The term itself originates from Hemmingway’s 1932 bullfighting treatise, Death in the Afternoon.

Hemmingway writes.

“If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows, and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

Creative literature, in general, hinges on the artful use of a wide range of devices (such as inference, metaphor, understatement, the unreliable narrator, and ambiguity) that rewards the careful reader’s appreciation of subtext and extrapolation of what the author chooses to leave unsaid, untold, and/or unshown.

<<>>

George Singleton explained this concisely with this notable quotation.

“You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop – H2O. The reader will get it.”

These examples suggest the writers understood the need to respect their readers, who should be trusted to develop a feeling for the meaning behind the action, without having the point painfully laid out for them.


Examples follow.

Telling:

He knew something was wrong because he could see the fear in her eyes and that she was trembling.

Showing:

She trembled, looking up at him with fear in her eyes.

In this example, ‘Showing’ uses fewer words but packs twice the punch, because you are seeing her actions demonstrating her fear, instead of being told what one character noticed.

It is rarely the function of a character to notice something, that is the reader’s role. By showing the action, the reader (and the characters) figure it out simultaneously, creating a wonderful ‘aha’ moment using a gripping narrative.

<<>>

Telling:

Roger was never very bright when it came to figuring things out, he could never seem to do even simple things right.

Showing:

Roger worked on the crossword puzzle for two hours, scribbling out more incorrect answers than correct ones. The result of all his hard work? Ink stains on his hands.

This example demonstrates the character’s qualities by showing he cannot complete a crossword puzzle and does not realise a pencil would be more practical than a pen.

Showing how your characters behave, readers will interpret their traits automatically. You should not need to endlessly describe every characteristic they have.

<<>>

Telling:

There was broken glass on the floor and a pool of blood behind the bar.

Showing:

His boots ground the glass shards on the floor with each step. He let out a gasp as his eyes focused on the puddle of blood behind the bar.

Showing allows the reader to experience the scene through the character’s experience, and places it in context, as does the character’s emotional reaction.

<<>>

Telling:

The pancake tasted bitter; he couldn’t stand it.

Showing:

He spat out the pancake. The congealed mess landed on his plate. “Darlene, why have you put so much baking powder in these pancakes again?”

<<>>

You can use dialogue to show ideas, emotions, and actions, which is far preferable to telling the reader. Tasting, for example, is an experiential verb, never tell readers about the experience a character has. Let your reader find out by being part of the action.

When your characters have experiences, you should be showing your reader those experiences through strong scenes and action, not by talking to them from a third-person perspective. This disengages the reader from the story.

If an author understands and utilises ‘Show don’t Tell’ effectively, they will project the essence of their narrative onto the reader in such a way the reader will become fully immersed.

Once the author has ‘captured’ the reader, and they become ‘lost in the book’, then the book becomes ‘unputdownable’, simply because the reader, by their own will and desire, creates a compulsion to find out ‘what happens next’ to the characters within the tale, with whom the reader will now be totally, and emotionally engaged.

This is what makes a good story, a great story.

It is why people read, to escape, to be immersively absorbed and entertained.

It is what sells books.

Remember, someone could be reading your book, anywhere in the world, and at any time in the future, even one hundred years from now, an exchange of extraordinary connection through space and time.

This is one reason I love being an author.

Keep happy, Paul 😊


Paul White is a prolific author with more than twenty-eight published books, including an Amazon no.1, and an international bestselling author.

He is the Principal of Electric Eclectic books, a founder member of the Authors Professionals Cooperative, and a member of #Awethors, an independent authors’ international alliance.

A good introduction to Paul’s works is, ‘Within the Invisible Pentacle’, a collection of short, and not so short, stories.

Available via Amazon. UK, https://amzn.to/3HRUGrC All other areas, mybook.to/wtipentacle

On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion

For far too long I have been working, albeit intermittently, on a title called, ‘On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion’

This book-to-be, (I shall complete and publish it… one day), is full of recollections, personal views, my ‘sideways look’ on life, friendships, and society.

The contents of this book are loosely stitched together, taking place during a fictitious road trip. The following chapter is one which starts as I enter Scotland.

Enjoy.

Outdoors

I have just crossed the border.

The sign said, “Welcome to Scotland.”

In all truth, the change is unnoticeable at first; but as the miles disappear and the number of people dwindle, the changes begin to reveal themselves.

Scotland is significantly different to England, not only on a political level and in a geographical sense, but of spiritual connotation.

Scotland retains many of its ancient origins, its Celtic traditions. It is far more natural, raw, and autochthonous.

Like many wild places, the character of the environment harks to our latent memory. It stirs within us feelings and dreams which lay dormant, subdued, smothered, covered, and repressed by our modern world of steel, glass, concrete, and unnatural plastics.

Fleeting half-thoughts, mists of the long-forgotten, stir within the recesses of our brains, our subconscious, and subliminal minds. Sights, smells, senses peak as we feel, and see much the same as our ancestors did a millennium before.

This is genetic memory stimulated. This is where tales of déjà vu are born, this is where life is re-lived, echoes replaying like an old record crackling to life.

It is this very ancientness of wilderness, of wide-open space, of freedom and memory, I was now passing through, which took my wandering mind to my childhood, my outside childhood.

You see, when I was a child, I spent most of my time ‘outside’.

Maybe, I am just of ‘that’ generation? possibly the last generation whose young lives were honed and shaped by the playing fields and parks, the waste grounds and streams, the woodlands, the scrapheaps, the dumps, and all the inaccessible, and off-limit areas, in which we played and adventured.

Areas now considered far too dangerous by the health and safety ‘police’; they who insist on secure fencing, notices, warning signs, and patrols to protect, not the children, but the pockets of the wealthy landowners, or the coffers of the local councils, and multi-conglomerates from litigation.

The second ‘concern’ is of abduction, and paedophiles.

No longer are parents comfortable in allowing their young to venture unrestricted into the great playgrounds of ‘outdoors’ unsupervised.

Which is not only a great shame, but an indicative reflection of our so-called civilised society.

I believe this loss of freedom, the forced imposition of restriction is detrimental to the well-being and development of our current, and future crop of children.

The actual risk of attack, according to recent statistics, is no higher than when I was a young boy. The years of the two-thousands are no more dangerous than those of the sixties.

The difference is the media, who are no longer satisfied by reporting events, they now have a penchant for sensationalising everything, to speculate and hypothesise.

They find extraordinary pundits to postulate and theorise.

It is this current trend of media frenzy, the over-dramatisation, the addition above facts, of overstatement and embellishment, which lends itself to the social hysteria, and collective knee-jerk reaction of fear.

It is they who created the ‘me too’ society.

A society where everyone is no one, unless they are a ‘me too’. Unless they stand and claim their fifteen minutes of fame… well, of media hype, or internet trending moments.

Now, to be ‘normal’, to be well balanced, happy, fit, healthy, and not claim you are a ‘me too’, is considered ‘weird’ or ‘strange’, or both.

If that is you, perhaps you need help?

Serious help?

Now, I have no wish to see any harm come to anybody, child, or adult, but consideration for facts and freedoms should take precedence over fear and speculation.

Children playing will, at times, harm themselves. It is an inevitable fact. It is risk; a part of growing, of learning, of development, and should not be eliminated from a child’s life experience.

As I have said, I was an ‘outside’ child and youth. I climbed trees, waded in icy cold streams looking for sticklebacks and newts.

I was one who found the high heaps of scrap metal, waiting to be turned into pig-iron, a fascinating source of props for make-believe play.

Derelict buildings were castles or forts, woodlands, great forests, where battles were fought with sticks and shields, (often found on those scrapheaps).

The hedgerows, or parcels of wasteland housed our secret dens.

We lived in a world unseen and unknown by ‘the others’, those strange creatures who are known as adults.

Our world was only accessible to the few, the chosen young of few years life.

I have many images and memories of my childhood pass through my mind this morning, and never, not in a single instance was it raining.

Snow yes, ice yes, wind, puddles, sun… yes.

But never rained.

It never rained when I was a young boy.

Never, not once, at least not when I was playing.

I can recall looking out from my bedroom window on a rainy evening, watching cars passing by, windscreen wipers flicking and rain spraying from the wheels in their wake, hanging in the air, a faint mist swirling in the light wind.

I recall my father, who was balding, saying the rain made his head itch, as we walked to the local shop from my grandmother’s house.

I have a memory of sitting in the warmth of a bus with my mother. I was drawing doodles with my fingers in the condensation on the windowpane as the rain lashed down, and the thunder crashed above.

But it never rained when I played outside.

I know this is simply my memory being selective, choosing to falsify my recall, to enhance my fond recollections, but I kind of like that.

I prefer remembering my childhood being this way, however inaccurate; after all, these are my memories, mine alone.

I might tell you about them, explain what I experienced, but I cannot share them with you, not unless you can enter my mind and see what I saw, feel what I felt, smell what I smelt.

Going ‘out to play’ with my friends was not always a straightforward affair.

First, I would call at their homes. Either they were in, but often they, like me, were ‘out’.

There were days when I would walk miles searching for my friends.

Back then, we had to travel to find one another.

We had no phones, no means of instant communication, so we made vague arrangements to meet at a location, or a choice of two… maybe three.

These are the places where we looked first.

Sometimes we would find one another immediately, on other occasions we would have to hunt around.

If my friends were not where they said they may be, I then searched our usual haunts, the places we would gather, where we generally hung out.

This too, was all part of being from the ‘outside’ generation.

I have I plethora of wonderful, and fond memories of ‘playing out’ during those halcyon days of my childhood.

Which brings me to this though:

What memories will the young children of today hold?

Will this new generation have anything substantial to recall of their childhoods as they age?

I know many who seem to live their lives absorbed in a netherworld, a semi-cyborg existence of Playboxgaming, and i-texting, of cyber friends, and avatar existence; rarely seeing the natural light of the sun.

How many shall never smell the primaeval scent of ancient heather carried on the breeze, or hear the screech of a wild eagle echo from the mountains?

How many will never truly venture ‘outdoors’?

I wonder, and I fear.


Paul White is a multi-genre author of fiction, semi-fiction, and non-fictional works.

His books range from Children’s stories to tales of Crime and Violence, from true accounts of those who live in the worlds War Zones, to recording the humorous social history of Royal Naval Life.

Stories of Heartache and Lost Love stand alongside episodes of Psychological Terror, and the plain absurd.

The common denominator which runs through many of Paul’s works, is the most important matter of all, the Human Condition; that of Life, of Love, Happiness, Laughter, Anger, Anguish, Fear, Hope, Uncertainty, Pain, and Loss.

​​​Paul is an ardent independent traveller and globetrotter, a nature lover, and supporter of ecological and wildlife preservation.

He says he has a “warped sense of humour, is a lover good food, good wine, and great company.”

You can visit his website here, http://bit.ly/paulswebsite


Interior Book Layout & Design Principles

I have recently been helping several new-ish authors, along with some quiet well-established writers, with the design and layout of their book’s interiors.

It appears many authors, even those with some experience, do not understand the established and recognised principles of interior book design.

The standard layout of books is no accident. It has evolved from the first medieval printing presses to the current day online publishing, and POD.

The issue here is, if these basic conventions are not followed, at least to the greater degree, your book will look and feel amateurish to readers.

Thus, leading to slow take-up of your title, and possibly, maybe probably, eliciting poor or bad reviews.

In short, an inadequately formatted book, even one which has undergone meticulous copy, line, and development editing, will fall short of the standards expected and required by today’s avid readers.

This post, unusually for me on this blog, directly addresses the basic principles and concepts of interior formatting of paperback & hardcover books and, to some degree, that of their lesser cousin, the eBook.

I have not called this post ‘Interior Formatting,’ as that covers a much wider and far more complex set of procedures, and is covered elsewhere in greater detail, as in my books ‘The Frugal Author’ and ‘Lots of Author Stuff you Need to Know’.

At the end of this post, you will find links to these two books which address many, if not most aspects, of independent and small press authorship.

Both books are ready to download now and, I am certain, you will find the answers to many of the questions you have, but have never asked.

NOW, WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, HERE IS THE PROMISED POST….


BOOK DESIGN AND SECTION LAYOUT

Note: a page is one side of a leaf.

When you ‘turn a page’ you are actually turning the leaf of a book, which is two pages. Each side of the leaf is a single page.

In this post, ‘Blank’ indicates a page typically left blank by traditional mainstream publishers.


FRONT MATTER

The front matter of a book consists of its very first pages: the title page, copyright page, table of contents, etc. There may also be a preface by the author or a foreword by someone familiar with their work.

First Page: Blank/Flyleaf

Leave this blank.

2nd Page: Frontispiece/Blank

Page 2 is the back of page 1 and remains blank unless you include an illustration.

Such an illustration is called Frontispiece.

This decorative illustration or photo appears on the page next to the title page.

Traditionally, a Frontispiece will be placed on a left-hand page.

Title page

Usually opposite the Frontispiece.

It shows the full title of the book, along with the author’s name as they appear on the cover.

Copyright page/Colophon

The Colophon or copyright page includes technical information about copyrights, edition dates, typefaces, ISBN, as well as your publisher and printer.

Usually positioned on the reverse of the title page.

Blank Page

Accolades

Quotes from esteemed reviewers and publications in praise of the book.

This praise, or some of them/it, often appears on the back cover too.

Dedication page

A page where the author names the person, or people, to whom they dedicate their book, and why.

This typically comes after the copyright page.

Blank Page

Table of Contents

A list of chapter headings and the page numbers where they begin.

The table of contents, often abbreviated to ToC, should list all major sections that follow, both within the body and in the back matter.

Blank or Epigraph

A quote or excerpt which indicates the book’s subject matter.

An Epigraph can be taken from another book, a poem, song, quotation or almost any source.

It generally immediately precedes the first chapter.

Preface:

Reason for writing, word of thanks.

An introduction written by the author, a preface relates how the book came into being or provides context for the current edition.

Blank

Foreword

An introduction is written by a person other than the author.

Often written by a friend, or scholar of the author’s work. Otherwise by a recognised authority of the books subject’s matter.

It is an honour to be asked to write a Foreword.


BODY

The body of a book is pretty self-explanatory: the main text that goes between the front matter and back matter. For readers and writers alike, this is where the magic happens — but it’s not just the content that’s crucial, but also how you arrange it.

Prologue (for fiction)

The section before the main story begins.

A prologue aims to set the stage and intrigue the reader.

Many prologues contain notes of intriguing events which only become contextualized as the reader gets deeper into the story.

Introduction (for nonfiction)

A few pages that usher the reader into the subject matter.

The introduction clarifies the book’s setting and/or events linking to the content, along with other information relating to the main narrative.

Note: The difference between a preface and an introduction is a preface is personal to the author, discussing why they authored the book, and what their process was.

An introduction relates directly to the subject matter, it establishes the position of the book in relation to its content.

Chapters

All books have chapters, or sections, into which the narrative or content is divided.

Epilogue (for fiction)

An Epilogue is a scene that wraps up the story in a satisfying manner.

Often an epilogue takes place sometime in the future from the last chapter.

If the book is part of a series, the epilogue may raise new questions or hint at what is to come. A technique known as a ‘Hook’.

Blank

Conclusion (for nonfiction)

This section sums up the core ideas, values, and concepts of the text.

Explicitly labelled conclusions are becoming less frequent in nonfiction books, which now commonly offer final thoughts in the last chapter, but academic dissertations are still formatted this way.

Afterword

This allows giving final notes on the books content not otherwise addressed.

It is a useful tool for edited, revised, and new editions.

The Afterword can be written by the author or another person.

Postscript

A brief final comment after the narrative comes to an end, usually just a sentence or two.

For example, “Mr Archibald Carruthers died at his Cotswold cottage three months after this book’s publication. Happily, he saw his story come to fruition.


BACK MATTER

Also known as the ‘end matter’ is the material found at the back of a book.

Authors utilise the back matter to offer readers further context or information.

The back matter is also an excellent marketing tool, listing the authors ‘other publications’ and giving links to websites.

Acknowledgements

A section to acknowledge and thank all those who contributed to the book’s creation.

The acknowledgements generally appear directly after the last chapter.

About the author

Is where the author gives a summary of their previous work, education, and personal life.

For example,  “John Doe lives in Hampshire with his wife, two wayward daughters and two, even more wayward, Great Danes”.

Copyright permissions

If the author has sought permission to reproduce song lyrics, artwork, or extended excerpts from other books, they should be attributed here.

Such items may also appear in the front matter.

Discussion questions

A section rarely used nowadays, but worth considering for inclusion.

Thought-provoking questions and prompts about the book, intended for use in an academic context or book clubs.

Appendix or addendum (nonfiction)

Additional details, or updated information relevant to the book, especially if it’s a newer edition.

Chronology or timeline (nonfiction)

List of events in sequential order, which may be helpful for the reader, especially if the narrative is presented out of order. A chronology is sometimes part of the appendix.

Endnotes

Supplementary notes relating to specific passages of the text, and denoted within the body by superscripts.

Most often used in nonfiction, but occasionally found in experimental/comedic fiction.

Glossary

Definitions of words or other elements which appear in the text.

In works of fiction, the glossary may contain entries about individual characters or settings.

A glossary should appear in alphabetical order.

For example, in a science fiction book, the Glossary could list the names and details of individual planets in the story.

Index

Generally used in non-fiction.

A list of special terms or phrases used in the book, along with the pages on which they appear, so the reader can find them easily.

An index should appear in alphabetical order.

Bibliography/reference list

A formal list of citations, a comprehensive breakdown of sources cited in the work.

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Here are those two books I mentioned earlier, books no author should be without.

The Frugal Author

Amazon Kindle UK: http://amzn.to/2EYcJjZ

Amazon Worldwide: http://authl.it/B07B27SPBL

Non-Amazon bookstores: https://books2read.com/u/3JynnB

Lots of Author Stuff You Need to Know

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/301nGYY

Non-Amazon bookstores: https://books2read.com/u/bP5O9

Amazon worldwide: http://authl.it/B07K5Z3F9K

Realistic character building, regarding novels, series and sagas.

character

While many authors are proficient in creating individual personalities for their fictional persons, it is imperative when developing such characters’ lives, for one to write in a convincing and accurate mode to cultivate believability from the readers perspective.

Failure to originate plausible credibility of personality and interactions of fictional characters, over prolonged periods, proves detrimental to the reader’s gratification as it detracts from the overall principle and foundations of the author’s storyline, the very premise of which the reader chose for their entertainment.

Reality is fiction is all-important.

Therefore, understanding the social structure your characters inhabit is paramount to building such authentic originality. National, regional, fiscal, domestic and public constructs all constitute facets of each fictional character’s composition and structure.

Below is a list, created to assist with placing your complex and sophisticated character natures in a sound literary context. Therefore, accurately reflecting personality traits found in factual, genuine, true-life people of your chosen genre of state.

Such traits are often referred to as the ‘Hidden rules among Class.’

Following the subject heading, in bold text, are three subtexts. In order, they refer to; Lower Class (poor) – Middle Class (rich) & Upper Class (Wealthy).

Example,

Money: To be spent (Lower class) – To be managed (Middle Class)  – To be invested (Upper Class)

Money: To be spent -To be managed – To be invested.

Personality: Sense of humour – Achievement – Connections.

Social emphasis: Inclusion – Self-sufficiency – Exclusion.

Food: Quantity – Quality – Presentation.

Time: In the moment- Against future – Tradition.

Education:  Abstract – Success & Money – Maintaining connections.

Language: Casual register -Formal,(Negotiation) – Formal,(Networking).

Family structure: Matriarchal – Patriarchal – Heir/Sucsssesor, (Who has money).

Driving forces: Relationships – Achievement – Financial/social.

Destiny: Fate – Choice – Expectations.

 

I hope this helps as a useful guide for your character creativity and development.


I am associated with Electric Eclectic, the place for authors and readers, so why not follow Electric Eclectic on Facebook.

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Why you should take signing and inscribing your books very seriously…

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But first, here are a few bits of book lore authors may not know.

By tradition and convention, authors should always sign their books on the title page, the page which has the author’s name printed on it, generally under the printed title of the book or nearer the foot of the same page.

If the author wishes to add an inscription, a message along with their signature, it should also go on the title page if it is very short, about a word or four in length. Longer inscriptions should be written on the half-title page, the page preceding the title page, or on the front endpaper, sometimes referred to as the flyleaf, if of a serious length.

An old tradition has the author put a line through their own printed name when they sign their name on the title page.

There are, by historical anecdote, two views of why this practice is undertaken.

The first, is a book only needs a single validation attributing its author, the authors own handwritten signature makes the printed attribution unnecessary, hence it is crossed out.

The second accepted reason goes back to the earliest days of printing when it was the practice for authors to sign each copy of the printed material by hand as proof of their authorship, a kind of early copyrights protection if you will.

My own view is, the tradition of crossing out one’s name arises from a combination of both, developing over the years as the printing revolution gained credence.

signed vs inscribed

I do like the thought, even nowadays, these hundreds of years later, there is some conservative part of us writers who continue this practise as a nod to our literary forebears. That we authors like to keep a connection with our history and heritage.

Another tradition for book signing is when someone asks you to sign or personalise their copy. (This is inclusive of book signings, or under any other circumstance.) Say the person is ‘George’, then the author should write the words ‘For George’. ONLY if the author is giving the book as a gift should they write the words ‘To George’. (Note Stephen King’s inscription in the above photograph).

Of course, these are only conventions, accepted literary etiquette and in no way are enforced rules or regulations. Authors can sign any way they wish.

I do hope, however, you are one who embraces historical values, discernment and class.

Here is what some established authors say on the matter;

malcolm_gladwell_signed_title_page-e1381421633946Tom C. Hunley says. “I asked Rodney Jones, American poet and retired professor of English at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, why he crossed his name out in a book he signed for me. He told me it makes it more valuable for collectors. Also, if it has a date and location, it makes it even more valuable. So, I’ve been crossing out my name and writing in a date and location at every book signing since.”

(Tom is the director of Steel Toe Books and a prolific writer and Professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY.)

Nicholas Belardes, a Chicano writer of speculative, literary, YA and MG fiction said, “Sometimes I cross my name out and sign. I do it out of respect for myself, for the idea of accomplishment, for the idea that writers are real people, that we can touch our manuscripts in ways that transcend the printed objects they’ve become. Our works become even more personal this way because our signatures are more physically attributed to us in the world than even fingerprints.”

“I do it. My understanding is it dates to the historical tradition of small press runs, where the author would hand-sign each copy as an authentication of the text.Sandra Beasley, American poet and non-fiction writer from Virginia.

Note: Sometimes authors sign additional copies, ones intended for future sale by the store or organisation where the signing is taking place. This is encouraging for people to purchase the book from and even attract custom to, that retailer.

However, there is also an ulterior motive; once a book has been signed, it is no longer classed as a ‘new’ book according to many publishers’ rules. Therefore, it cannot be returned to the publisher for a refund by the retail vendor. (Neat trick or not. I guess it depends on your viewpoint?)

Okay, now we have those tidbits of information, let’s get on with the reason why you might take signing your book as a very serious matter…

 When you buy a signed book, you are purchasing a signature, but when you buy an inscribed book you are getting a story.

One of the questions I’ve been asked often is “Which is better, having a book signed by the author or having them inscribed it?”

Without any hesitation, my answer is the more writing by the author in a book, the better. I even encourage collectors to have their own copies personally inscribed by the author whenever they can.

For a long time, generations, literally, there was a clearly established hierarchy of values pertaining to books signed by their authors.

I shall clarify…

The best copy is the dedication copy, most usually there is only one of these. The one gifted to the person for whom the dedication was written.

Next best are the association copies, books inscribed by the author to someone notable or important in the author’s life, a relative, a friend, a mentor or possibly another writer.

After that were ‘presentation copies,’ which means the books inscribed by the author to someone who was not (as) important to the author, or whose importance was unknown.

And finally, at the bottom of the hierarchy, are books that are just signed, with no further inscription, no other writing, etc.

The logic of such a hierarchy is more or less self-evident.

The dedication copy is usually unique or, at most, limited to a couple of copies, inscribed by the author to the person he or she thought important enough to dedicate the book to, in print.

Association copies involved significant figures in the author’s life (or in the general cultural life of which the author was a part) also have a self-evident value, although not one as unique or specific as the dedication copy.

Presentation copies are more ambiguous, the mere fact a presentation copy could sometimes, with a little bit of research, luck, or specialised knowledge ‘become’ an association copy argued for their importance, and the closeness of the two in the hierarchy.

Signed books are last, and there is the suggestion of a ‘taint’ to them, as though the only justification for a book having an autograph is celebrity worship which is inappropriate to the book (literary) world.

Because this preference is clear and longstanding in the book collecting world, dealers prefer to have presentation copies over plain signed copies, collectors prefer them and there is a premium placed on their price in the collector’s marketplace.

Now, a true story of how this hierarchy was thrown into turmoil…

An enterprising bookselling from the New York area, recognising this preference, decided to exploit it, relentlessly.

Somewhere in New York, even before the days of routine author tours on the publication of a new book, there were author readings every day. The same with lectures, talks, and seminars, most open to the public.

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Frequently one could visit several in a single day.

The bookseller in reference was a family business. They attended many readings and talks, en masse; often five or more family members at each, all carrying a bag full of the author’s first editions. Each asking the author to inscribe the books to them personally.

Then, when they issued catalogues, nearly every book was listed as a ‘signed presentation copy, inscribed by the author’, a most desirable designation, especially for modern first editions, many of which are not inherently rare unless there is something special about a particular copy.

This exploitation continued for several years. As it did the family grew bolder, branching out its operation to reach more authors, those beyond the boundaries of New York.

Stories began to circulate among writers as they began to receive identically worded, ingratiating letters from a correspondent claiming to be the author’s greatest fan and sending a box of books to be inscribed personally before being returned.

Some writers began noticing the ‘fan’ would then write a follow-up letter some months later, sending another batch of books to be inscribed,  often including copies of titles the author remembered signing previously.

Authors began to dislike it, feel manipulated, deceived and exploited. Several undertook to go along to bookshops and signing all their books in each store.

Booksellers eventually recognised the fraud of these ‘signed presentation’ copies. Whereas a plain signed book carried no such taint.

Collectors began to absorb the preference for plain signed books the booksellers now favoured, although they did not realise it was only the books inscribed to this family’s members which were ‘tainted.’

The public’s perception (wrongly) grew that all inscribed books were now less desirable than those which were simply just signed by the author.

The whole episode created a self-fulfilling prophecy: if collectors’ value inscribed books less than books which just have the authors signature, for whatever reason, it becomes far more difficult to sell inscribed books than those which are signed…. The perception of which is, it ‘proves’ inscribed books are less valuable…. and so, the merry goes around.

Such a view not only defies long-established historical precedent it also diminishes and demeans collecting.

Not only can a presentation copy, to an unknown third party ‘turn into’ an association copy (after a little research), but a collector’s own copy can become an association copy if the collector stays with it long enough and seriously enough for the collection to become recognisably important.

Hemingway’s first bibliographer was Louis Cohen, a fan and book collector.

A Hemingway book inscribed to Cohen would, at the time, be a simple presentation copy to a person of no particular consequence.

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Today, it would be viewed as a highly desirable association copy.

 

Similarly, if Carl Peterson managed to get Faulkner to inscribe a book to him, it would now be viewed as a major association copy.

The time-honoured practise of identifying books from an important collection, ‘the Doheny copy‘ or ‘the Bradley Martin copy,‘ for example, underscores collectors themselves can become significant figures.

Perhaps, most telling in terms of underlying values is the cases of long-dead authors like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Joyce, it is true a presentation copy has a higher value in the marketplace than one which is just signed.

They are more interesting, they can provoke interesting questions leading to discovery, which is one of the pleasures of collecting and ‘the more writing by the author in the book, the better’ is still generally the accepted truth in this market.

Now, this is where it matters to you most…

Since we do not know, cannot predict or even guess who will be part of the next generation of Faulkners, Hemingway’s, James Joyce’s or even Stephen Kings, is there any reason different criteria should apply to the inscriptions of we contemporary authors than to those we now deem as ‘classic’?

I don’t think so.

Therefore, I suggest you take your book signings very seriously indeed, because one of those people may well be you, or me, or… maybe it will be the author who just inscribed your copy of their new book.

Keep Happy, Paul.


If you want to know more about creating books, your covers, being indie, the publishing or printing world, editing, Copyright, ISBN’s, or what each part of a book is called and what it does, then you are in the right place.

I have two books especially written to give authors and writers a ton of useful information. These are NOT ‘how-to’ books or ‘step-by-step’ guides but a distillation of my time and experience as an indie.

These books chapters are rammed full of helpful and useful information about everything concerned with indie authoring your books. These books will save you time, effort and money along with saving you making a ton of mistakes and suffering the anguish which goes along with it… because I have already been there, done that & got the Tee-shirt on your behalf.

Redbooks2

Lots of Author Stuff You Need to Know <<< >>> The Frugal Author

Where to Start?

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I shall start this post with a quote attributed to that most literary of bears, Winnie the Pooh.

“The beginning is a very good place to start.”

I cannot agree more.

BUT…

Knowing where the beginning is, is not always as clear cut as many may think.

You see, your story, any story, must start somewhere, but that start is often not at the beginning.

Take yourself. Take a tale you told about yourself the last day you did something… silly/forgetful/made a mistake… whatever it may be.

Now, consider how you began to tell your tale the first time you related it.

I bet it was not at the beginning, at least not the real, the true beginning of the string of events which led you to such an occurrence.

First, you would, by our very nature of communicating, have plugged it with a strong opening statement, or a soft lead-in, dependant on whom you were telling the tale, be it your Boss, you Mother, BFF or Lover.

You may have said something along the line of…

“You know, Sally and I often go to the bar on Staithes Avenue? Well, we went this lunchtime and, you’ll never guess what happened….”

OR

“I’ve driven down that road for the over ten years and I have never before…”

MAYBE it was, “Oh, my goodness, you just have to listen to this…”

None of those are really the beginning of anything but are leads to an section which is part way through your story, one which, during its telling, you will flit back and forth in time, building your tale of joy or woe into as a believable an anecdote as you can manage/feel right in doing, according to the circumstance.

Therefore, the same story told in the office to your boss will differ slightly to the version you tell your colleagues, or your family, once you are in the comfort of your own home.

girls-talking-restaurant-windowIt will definitely not be as richly dressed as your recount of the occasion in the bar later that evening, or as detailed with the emotions you felt during its unfolding when you share it with your lover while lying in bed.

The same is true of our fictional novels and stories; because the way we perceive them as we write is only a version of the whole. What we feel today will alter by tomorrow. By the time we re-write ‘that’ section of the first chapter, our entire viewpoint has altered.

Therefore, what we once perceived as the beginning was, in fact, only a starting point for us to begin writing. The true beginning is still to reveal itself to us.

The matter is, we should never believe our own opinion during one sitting, but allow ourselves the opportunity to alter and change the picture we carry within our mind. Each time we reconsider our work we must see it in differing light, simply because we are not writing to entertain ourselves, but others.Bloods-Veil-page-one.png

Consequently, by revisiting our works and by teaching ourselves not to become immovably fixated on any factor of it, such as the juncture where we originally started to tell our tale, we can then see our story from the viewpoint of others, those who will read our story.

Once again, Winnie the Pooh says it well…

“When you are a Bear of Very Little brain, and you Think Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

We want other people looking at our work, it is, after all, the whole point of writing; yet we want them to understand, to feel and to ‘live’ our story, empathise with our characters and lose themselves from the real world into our fantastical fictional world, we want and need them to believe.

To do so, we must see our books through their eyes, not our own. If that means starting the story from another place, be it a location, another moment in time, a different character’s perspective, then we must change the start of our story to this new beginning.

It may still not be the real beginning, you may alter it again before publication, write a prologue, an introduction, a prequel, or another book which leads on, even in an abstract fashion, to this one.

The point is, there is no true ‘right’ place to start your story, even the true beginning of your own life was far, far before any human existed, so where would you begin to start that story?

Now, while I much admire the genius of Winnie the Pooh and agree, “the beginning is a very good place to start,” I often wonder where the start actually is.


Looking for more literary insights, articles and short stories? Then look no further. The Electric Press magazine is available to read right HERE, for free.

Electric PressMay2019pub (2019_01_08 20_58_35 UTC)

Internet data breaches, Google+ and more…

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Yesterday, the news broke that Google is to kill off its social media platform Google+ because of a massive unreported data breach.

The official line is reported to be:

“The company discovered a bug in one of Google+’s People APIs that allowed apps access to data from Google+ profiles that weren’t marked as public. It included static data fields such as name, email, occupation, gender and age. It did not include information from Google+ posts. The bug was patched in March 2018, but Google didn’t inform users at that point. “We made Google+ with privacy in mind and therefore keep this API’s log data for only two weeks,” the company said in a blog post. “That means we cannot confirm which users were impacted by this bug.”

However, Google+ will continue as a product for Enterprise users. It’s by far the most popular use of the social network. Therefore, the company has made the decision that Google+ is better suited as an internal social network for companies, rather than a consumer product. Google will announce new Enterprise-focused products for Google+ soon”.

(engadget.com)

A ‘leaked’ memo included:

‘Disclosure will likely result “in us coming into the spotlight alongside or even instead of Facebook despite having stayed under the radar throughout the Cambridge Analytica scandal”, Google policy and legal officials wrote in a memo obtained by the Journal. It “almost guarantees Sundar will testify before Congress”, the memo said, referring to the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai. The disclosure would also invite “immediate regulatory interest”.

(theguardian.com) 

 

My own view is:

As Google is re-developing a form of G+ for inter-corporate communications, yesterdays confirmation of data loss is timed to coincide with their new platform’s progress. Large-scale commercial internal networks are major revenue earners. They require far less maintenance and development than massive public platforms.

My conclusion is, the move by Google, seen by many as ‘dumping’ their dedicated public users, is one of pure commercial practice. We must wait and see if G+ simply fade away as Google hope, or if this decision will alienate users to the point they ditch Googles other products.

I know there are many other companies, both large and small, waiting to grab a slice of Googles internet cake who are ready to provide alternatives.

We shall have to wait and see. But looking at Google’s history, G+ will simply become history and Google will have made another profitable corporate decision.

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Now, I use Google+ along with Facebook and other (social) media platforms. I shop, online and on the ‘high street’, at major retailers. I bank, have a passport and a driving license. I am registered with the National Health Service and the Inland Revenue. I do the thousand and one things most of us do in our everyday lives.

Which means I am on one million and one billion various computer databases, from Government statistical through to tax, health, police, social and political. I am sure, somewhere, I am in MI5 and MI6’s database, most probably the CIA, Mossad, SVR, GRU, and MSS because I have a military background and a connection with the British Royal Family.

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I know, without any doubts whatsoever my information is on and shared by/with, thousands of commercial enterprises around the world. I have junk mail, email and phone call logs as proof.

I know this, yet I do let it worry me because there is nothing I can do about it unless I escape to the lost world of Neverlandislandjungleretreat and never raise my head above the totally off-grid parapet. Which sounds pretty good in some ways but is impractical for most of us.

So, I accept my details are not private and live accordingly.

Data breaches and hacking are as much part of this world’s current situation and social culture as is terrorism, gender disruption and socio-economic inflation.

Personally, I cannot understand what satisfaction someone could get from creating and spreading a computer virus, although I can see the intent with ransom-wear and state-sponsored cyber-attacks. (Practice for the cyberwars to come?)

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Sadly, I can also see where the criminal element of data theft fits into the larger information technological world we all now, by default, live in.

Greed, avarice and power have always been the prime motives behind most illegalities. Nothing has changed except the methods and opportunities presented.

Governments and the less informed members of society will jump up and down and stomp their feet each time a major breach of information protocol is reported.

The government ministers will shout, saying it is their job to do so on behalf of the electorate, while most will be doing so simply to be seen, for self-promotion, regardless to what ‘spin’ or ‘party line’ mantra they mutter.

The less informed members of our society because, they are influenced, even controlled, by fickle, shallow, manipulative journalistic propaganda and bullshite.

So, Google has issues with G+ and what else are they not revealing?

Facebook still has ongoing issues.

But so, do:

Yahoo, Reddit, Instagram, FedEx, Ticketmaster, Adidas, U.S. Air Force, The FriendFinder Network, eBay, UnityPoint Health, St. Peter’s Surgery & Endoscopy Center, TaskRabbit, Equifax, Ticketfly, Heartland Payment Systems, Air Canada, University at Buffalo, Target Stores, Partners HealthCare, TJX Companies, Inc., Uber, Facebook, Aultman Health Foundation, Orbitz, Aetna, JP Morgan Chase, Inogen, US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), British Airways, Sony’s PlayStation Network, BJC Healthcare, Anthem, Dignity Health, RSA Security, CarePlus, Stuxnet, VeriSign, Home Depot, Jason’s Deli, Click2Gov – Midwest City, Under Armour, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bithumb, Med Associates, Chili’s, Nuance Communications, Lord & Taylor, SunTrust Banks, Panera Bread, City of Goodyear, Rail Europe, LifeBridge Health, MyHeritage, Coinrail, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Adobe?

ALL THE ABOVE SUFFERED MAJOR DATA AND SECURITY BREACHES IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, MANY DURING 2018.

In 2017, the world saw more data breaches than any year prior. On December 20th, the downloadIdentity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported that there were 1,293 total data breaches, compromising more than 174 million records. That’s 45% more breaches than 2016.

 

In truth, what can ‘Little ‘ol you and me’ do when major multi conglomerates and the world governments agencies cannot protect their own systems.

The answer is “Not a lot”.

Like any other crime, do what you can to stay safe, hope you are not a target and carry on with your regular, normal life.

Data breaches and information theft is, sadly and ashamedly, something we must learn to live with. Fretting and worrying about cyber attacks and data loss will not change a single thing, but it will give your face wrinkles and make you look older sooner.

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©PaulWhite2018

Personally, I have better things to do with my life than sit here worrying.

Which is why I am such a handsome, young looking lad!

 

Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome and Alexia. (This has nothing to do with Amazon gadgets!)

While this post focuses on writing blogs, website content, social media and emails rather than stories and books, much of the following could be adapted by authors and publishers of books.

As independent authors, our ability to write such is of paramount importance to our promotional and marketing strategy. Yet the way you write could be alienating those who are not quite as apt as you or me at reading.


How-is-All-Started

A couple of years ago, I had a wonderful comment from a person who suffered from dyslexia about a post.

Although his comments were primarily about the content and not the presentation of the post, he mentioned he found my post far easier to read than many, if not most.

Curiosity got the better of me.

Why I wondered, could he read and understand my posts, when he struggled to read so many others?

Over the next few days, he and I conversed, by email, about his reading on a personal AAEAAQAAAAAAAAxCAAAAJDdmZDE5N2IxLWUxZmUtNGMwNi04YzE3LWYyNGUxYjA3MDE1MQlevel and Dyslexia in general.

 

Before I carry on and explain the outcome of our conversations, I think as writers we should all know and understand what dyslexia and some of the most common reading difficulties are. So, I am including the following few paragraphs & bullet points, (which I cribbed from the internet), for clarity.

 

A formal definition of dyslexia used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states, “It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. “

Unsurprisingly, the International Dyslexia Association defines it in simple terms. “Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.”


In contrast, Irlen Syndrome is a perceptual processing disorder, meaning that it relates specifically to how the brain processes the visual information it receives. It is not a language-based disorder and phonics-based instruction will not help someone with Irlen Syndrome improve in the same way it will help someone with dyslexia improve their reading skills.

At its core, Irlen Syndrome is a light sensitivity, where individuals are sensitive to a specific wavelength of light and this sensitivity is what causes the physical and visual symptoms that people with Irlen Syndrome experience. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty reading not because their brains have difficulty connecting the letters they see with the sounds those letters make, but because they see distortions on the printed page, or because the white background or glare hurts their eyes, gives them a headache, or makes them fall asleep when trying to read.

Unlike dyslexia, difficulties experienced because of Irlen Syndrome can reach well beyond just reading. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty processing all visual information, not just words on a printed page, so they often have trouble with depth perception, driving, sports performance, and other areas not generally connected with dyslexia.


Alexia is a form of dyslexia, but dyslexia is developmental, meaning that it does not happen from an occurrence such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Alexia is an acquired reading disability because of an acquired event such as a stroke. It is most common for alexia to be accompanied by expressive aphasia (the ability to speak in sentences), and agraphia (the ability to write).

All alexia is not the same, however. You may have difficulty with the following:

Recognizing words ● Difficulty identifying and reading synonyms ● Difficulty with reading despite your ability to sound out pronunciation of words.

Although you can read words, it is too difficult to read for very long ● Blind spots blocking the end of a line or a long word ● Focusing on the left side of the paragraph or page ● Double vision when trying to read ● Reading some words but not others. Of course, this makes reading impossible.

A stroke survivor with alexia that can read larger words, but cannot read tiny words such as “it,” “to,” “and,” etc. ● Any combination of some of these traits.

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My conversations with, (I shall call him ‘Jay’ during this post), led me to take a close look at how I was presenting my blogs, what made them so different and, could I improve them further?

It turns out the style I chose… I was going to say developed, but that sounds arrogant. So, the style I was using at the time was to write in small(ish) chunks, using relatively short sentences and paragraphs, as I have so far in this post.

Unlike the following.

This differed to most blogs and posts on the interweb which were, (and still are), long blocks of continuous sentences and sub-sentences, forming large paragraphs with very little line spacing or breaks. This may be a ‘style’ welcomed by universities and those writing technical/medical/professional and some literary journals. I have seen many papers which follow this style. I have even read a few and I must agree it makes for extremely uncomfortable reading. To read such a document, one must concentrate fully and focus on each word of each line. Whenever the eye moves from its forced liner motion, even for a moment, is when the reader finds some difficulty in returning to the exact location they were at previously, often meaning one must, annoyingly, re-read sections already read. Like you have possibly just done when reading with this last long drivelling, over-worded paragraph I have written in just such a manner to illustrate my point that it makes for uncomfortable reading, even for those of us blessed with good eyesight and adequate skill. A point which I hope I have now made adequately clear with this paragraph which is representative of many blogs.

Writing in this form creates such a large block of words it becomes challenging to separate them into clear concise ‘bite-sized‘ and manageable ‘lots’ of information.

This is one of the areas of written presentation which was highlighted to me by Jay.

I already used a style of writing which broke long paragraphs into much smaller ones, whenever practicable, but I was not aware of the impact doing so made on the reader. From then on, I broke paragraphs down even further than I did ‘pre-‘Jay’

I was also made aware of unnecessarily long sentences, sentences with too many superfluous words.

This simply meant cutting out all those unnecessary words to make sentences read far more precisely and clearly.

OR

Eliminating irrelevant words.

You see, this is not fictional or creative literature as when writing a novel, or even a short story. This is describing and sharing thoughts, ideas, information and data. Another skill set entirely.

Authors often discover this when having to write a precise about their latest book, like the back-cover blurb, an agent’s query letter, synopsis or copy text for promotional activity.

We all know, or at least should, that mixing sentence lengths makes for a better reading experience. But so does spacing and breaking them up as I have done in most of this post.

Please do not get me wrong.

I am not solely writing or directing my words specifically to those with reading difficulties, but I am looking to be as inclusive as possible and not simply because I am attempting to be politically, or socially correct.

I do it because I want as many people as possible to read my words. That is why I write.

Looking at how one presents their posts on the screen does not take much effort. Neither does adjusting one’s style to make it clearer and easier to read… for everybody, including you and me.

To finish, look at this Git-Hub virtual reality page. It shows how we can best comprehend the way those suffering from dyslexia and associated reading difficulties may see the written word.

https://geon.github.io/programming/2016/03/03/dsxyliea

My lesson, following those conversations with ‘Jay’, is, 

“We can all learn from others, even those we may have previously considered had nothing to give us. After all, I never thought a dyslexic could teach an established author how to write clearer, even better.

How wrong I was.”

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings. Please subscribe to this blog if you will.

I am open to all comments and try to reply to them all personally.

Keep happy, Paul


Oh, take a peek at my website, I have a ton of good stuff waiting there 

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.

.

  © Paul White 2015


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