Moment of the Muse

How often do you struggle for something to ‘write about’? or face the so-called writer’s block because you cannot find a topic for your next piece?

I know many writers frequently struggle with finding subject matter. It is something I hear often via author groups and writing associations.

I am a prolific writer, yet have never suffered from either of the above.

Most often, I can be found tapping away on my keyboard as I continue my ‘works in progress’.

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I usually have a few of these on the go at once; non-fiction, a novel, some short stories, a compilation, it is pretty much par for the course.

I have files called ‘stuff & stories to read’; ‘story Ideas & notes’; ‘more writing notes’; ‘other stuff’, and so forth. Each file has sub-files, documents, snipped pages, images, sticky notes and a plethora of summaries, transcripts, annotations, memoranda, footnotes and odd bits I am unsure what to call.

The overriding connection is, they are all my Aide-mémoires to moments.

Some of these notes were transferred from my notebooks. I tend to carry at least one notebook with me at any time, generally, a small flip-type book. If I am leaving the house for any length of time. On long journeys and holidays, I take several, so I always have one to hand.

The jottings in these books can be about a place, a view, something said to me, part of an overheard conversation, or an observation. I even have notes about signposts I find amusing or incoherent.

Other items have been stored from browsing the net, finding ‘stuff’ while researching something entirely different. Some are from messages, spam, sales emails and so forth.

Occasionally reading another’s story sets my mind racing along parallel paths, so I need to scribble down my thoughts of the moment. The result of the stories which develop from these are a far cry to the original stimulus, but sometimes one needs the initial jolt to send the imaginings down a certain pathway. image_block_full_iStock_68956147_XLARGE

These files also include part stories of various lengths. They are from a single sentence or paragraph through to several thousands of words… unfinished works if you wish.

Some are my deletions and edits of other work. The bits I cut out. The parts which did not make the final manuscript or published book. Waste not, want not. They can all be used again in one form or another.

But, the point of this post, each and every one of the notes in those files have come from a ‘moment’, a single moment I have experienced during my life.

After all, life is simply a matter of moments, one after another, after another, like the single frames of a cinematic film they whirr past us in a seemingly continues unbroken stream.

I believe great writing is having the ability to capture any one, or more, of those given moments and revealing its secrets, sharing them with all who will read your words.

Even the longest of novels is created by producing a string of ‘scenes’. Each scene depicting a moment.

Personally, I have a fondness for creating shorter stories, anywhere from about 250 words to, say, twenty or thirty thousand. My favourite though is around 2,500 to 6,000.

This proposes the challenge of making a captivating tale, one with a ‘proper’ beginning, middle and end, with so few words.

I feel the main test of writing such a short story is to examine the writer’s skill, in not only having a complete story but one which burns its presence, its being, into the mind of those reading it. A great story should ask questions, probe the beliefs, principles and convictions of the reader.

Which leads me back to the start of this post where I asked,

“How often do you struggle for something to ‘write about’? or face the so-called writer’s block because you cannot settle on a topic for your next story?”

My belief is you may be overthinking the issue.

Do not try and think of an entire story, of a whole scenario, before you put pen to paper. Just take one moment, one seemingly insignificant moment of your life and write about that.

Think about today. What has happened to you, with you, so far today?

It does not have to be anything exciting.

Not all stories need to have a romantic outcome or bloodshed, murder and mayhem splattered across their pages. The characters do not have to be heroes or superhuman, to have suffered or survived.

Ordinary people, people like you and I have stories to tell too. Try telling one or two of those. Stories and tales regular, normal people can relate to and understand.Article_wakeup_tired

What did you think of the moment you awoke today… write about that?

Expand on that.

Why were you thinking it, what does it relate to, who was involved, what will be the outcome, can you change it? Do you want to change it? Can you stop it changing? and so forth.

Become your character. Believe you are they. Wholly, totally convince your muse you are.

Open your heart, let your soul pour forth. Be honest with yourself. Don’t force it.

Your story will come and it just may be the best thing you have ever written.

Grab the moment, grab the moment of the muse.

 

I’ll leave you with an instant.

A while ago, I read a social status in which a young lady was distressed regarding her writing.

It seems her family, particularly her father, not taking her wish to write seriously, held little interest in what she was writing about, suggesting it would be better if she wrote about him.

Of course, this is not what this young lady wanted to write about. She did not want to write about her father. She wanted to write about something she knew, something she understood.

But everything she had written so far was slighted by her own father. Not very supportive, encouraging or helpful.

This made it extremely problematic for her to choose a topic or subject which would not amplify the situation further.

I shall not repeat the derogatory remarks made or the well-meaning, but pathetic and ultimately unhelpful, words of comfort offered on social. But all the responses took this young ladies post on its surface merits.

The deeper conflict was her relationship with her family, particularly her father and the anxiety it created within her.

This stress was heightened by her desire to write something meaningful while not adding to the household turmoil. Yes, she could have written in secret, but it was obvious she wanted, even desperately needed the encouragement and backing of her family.

All this young girl was looking for was some reassurance. She needed positive reinforcement from her family.

I suggested she write exactly what she posted about. The conflict with her father, why she wished to write and why she wanted to write the things she did. How hurtful her fathers’ remarks were and how the lack of support was so dispiriting.

I proposed she then gave her family the manuscript to read and await a response.

She now has a new laptop her father bought for her writing and a small desk in the corner of the room where she can work uninterrupted.

This is a true story.

As I said above, my advice is;

Open your heart, let your soul pour forth. Be honest with yourself. Don’t force it.

Your story will come and it just may be the best thing you have ever written.

Grab the moment, grab the moment of the muse.


If you want to see my books, find out what I am working on or contact me, then visit my website, HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

Hluhluwe Umfolozi, feeding lions and a rather intangible abstract notion.

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©PaulWhite

I was asked recently, by Francis de Aguilar, a writer friend, what first caused me to “Become interested in African wildlife.

 

A simple question.

I told him it was after visiting South Africa, particularly the time I spent in the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve. 

However, Francis’s question stayed in my mind; although I answered him, it left a nagging doubt in my mind I was wrong.

I was.

After pondering for a few days, the truth unravelled itself. I now knew the correct answer.

My interest with Africa and its diverse multitude of wildlife was first stoked by reading the novels of Wilbur Smith.

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©PaulWhite

Back in the early seventies, I picked up a rather dog-eared and worn copy of ‘When the Lion Feeds’, which I devoured within two days. I followed that book by purchasing ‘The Dark of the Sun’, again read within a few days.

I was about sixteen years old and, for the first time, ‘hooked’ on a particular author.

I read all of Wilbur Smith’s books up to the 1991 publication of ‘Elephant Song’. My favourite book, (excluding any of the ‘Courtney or Ballantyne Novels’) must be ‘Eagle in the Sky’…or ‘Cry Wolf’…or ‘A Sparrow Falls’….or…

But I digress.

 

The real answer to the question posed to me by Francis is, it was reading these books when I was a young man that stimulated my imagination, made me think about the heat, the vastness, the veld, the bush and, of course, the animals of Africa.

For years, I carried my imaginings of the world Wilbur Smith planted in my head with his words, until one day I had the opportunity to visit Africa myself.

I was not disappointed.

The continent is mind-bogglingly vast. The scenery, the smell, the sun, the animals, the people, everything exceeded my expectations, bettered those imaginings I held onto for so long. This I find is something rare, very few places ever exceed our own imaginative conceptions.

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©PaulWhite

I have returned to Africa many times, to different areas, different countries within this vast dark continent.

You may have heard it said, Africa captures, not only your heart but soul and once you have been, you can never really leave.

These are some of the most honest words ever spoken.

I am here now, but part of me will forever remain in Africa.

Now, being a writer, I cannot leave an article like this with just one conclusion when I know there are always several stories to be told about everything.

Therefore, I would like you to also consider this from Wilbur Smiths point of view; or maybe it is just my own interpretation of what I think his view may, or could, be.

Who knows? But I’ll write my thoughts out anyway.

I wonder if dear old Wilbur thought of me when he wrote his first novel?

I don’t mean me as an individual, as a single person but as a conceptual being. I wonder If Wilbur thought he may influence some young man, somewhere in the world, to fall in love with Africa as he typed out his very first paragraph of ‘When the Lion Feeds’ way back in the early 1960’s. (The book was first published in 1964).

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©PaulWhite

Then, my thoughts ask the very same question of myself.

Do I have an image, a conceptual ‘personage’ in my mind who may, one day, be influenced by my own work, by my writings, by the tiny little black shapes, these strange runes of ink I scattered across countless pages?

The answer is yes, I do have such a notion, albeit a rather intangible abstract.

Which leaves you to ask yourself the same, do you?

Think about it carefully, do you?

If you would like to take part in making my rather intangible abstract notion a reality, then please start by reading ‘Within the Invisible Pentacle’ a collection of thought-provoking stories which are not quite as you may think they may be…

Just click the cover image.  WtIPV1small

Thank you, Paul.  

We are now one step closer to Governmental control of the internet

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World Wide Web Map

Before I start this post proper, I am not a conspiracy theorist, neither am I paranoid, even if they really are after me.

I simply want to make this situation crystal clear.

Unless you have been living on Mars, or never use the internet, you will have heard about a new European regulation which comes into full force on the 25th of this month, May 2018, called GDPR, (General Data Protection Regulation).

I have blogged about this in the past, most notably way back in December 2017, https://wp.me/p5nj7r-1fK and notified people of the huge effect this would have on ALL of us when it came into force this year.

Of course, the 28-member states of the European Union: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom, would all deny, collectively and individually, that GDRP is yet another step in the global creep towards state control of the Web.

But they would say that, wouldn’t they?

I am sure many, if not all of you, have heard about ‘The Monkey, Banana & Water experiment’ even if you are not familiar with the details.

It is a modern-day fable which was inspired, in part, by the experiments of G.R. Stephenson, found in “Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys” as well as certain experiments with chimpanzees conducted by Wolfgang Kohler in the 1920s. Over the years, it was pieced together to form the urban legend as it now stands.

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The tale goes something like this;

Start with a cage containing five monkeys.

Inside the cage hang a banana on a string from the top, then place a set of stairs under the banana.

Before long one of the monkeys will go to the stairs and climb toward the banana.

As soon as that monkey touches the stairs, spray ALL the monkeys with cold water. After a while another monkey will attempt to climb the stairs, with the same result, ALL the monkeys are sprayed with cold water.

Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will prevent it.

Now, dispose of cold water and remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one.

The new monkey will see the banana and attempt to climb the stairs.

To this monkey’s shock, all the other monkeys beat the crap out of him as soon as he tries to scale the steps.

After a second attempt and another attack, the new monkey knows if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys, replacing it with a new one.

The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment, with enthusiasm, because he is now part of the “team”.

Then, replace a third original monkey with a new one, followed by the fourth, then the fifth.

Each time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.

Now, the monkeys who are beating up the newcomer have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs.

Neither do they know why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

Finally, having replaced all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water.

Nevertheless, not one of the monkeys will try to climb the stairway for the banana.

“Why,” you ask?

Because in their minds that is the way it has always been.

This, my friends, is how Governments operate, therefore we collectively accept these new rules with little resistance.Gatso_2225649c

MORE…

Take the introduction of ‘Speed Cameras’ in the UK. When first introduced they were called such.

The backlash of public opinion and media comments such as ‘Big Brother’ & ‘Nanny state’ along with vandalism and destruction of many of the ‘Gastco’ machines gave Government cause for a re-think.

In the year 2000, the system allowed local authorities to receive a percentage of revenue from their cameras. Local police and councils joined forces to form safety camera partnerships, picking out sites which the government would then fund.

Gatso camera numbers multiplied from 1,600 in 2000 to 4,737 in 2007

This caused another media frenzy and more arbitrary destruction, with the added claim these cameras were purely a revenue raising machine which bore no relation to road safety.

Anti-camera groups reacted by becoming more militant.

This was when the Government’s message changed from calling them ‘Speed Cameras’ to Safety Cameras’ and trotting out the know well-known mantra ” “It’s not about the fines or making money, but about reducing fatalities and injuries.”

Once this mantra became established ‘pressure’ groups of local citizens joined with the Government to install more ‘safety cameras’ as they were now ‘good’ for us. The revenue and money-making issues seemed to evaporate with this new dawn.

Since then Gatso have made way for the ‘Average Speed Camera’ and soon, not yet officially announced, the ‘tyre tread depth Cam’, that’s ‘tire’ for my American readers.

These cameras are embedded into the road surface and, with the aid of Lasers, that’s ‘Lazer’ in Americanese, The Treadcam reads if a car or truck that passes over it has sufficient tread depth.

Aside from just measuring the tyre tread depth, the device can also determine tyre wear patterns, tyre pressure, the tyre type and the axle load, at a cost of £43,000 pounds each, these machines will have to ‘earn their keep’.

But is anyone complaining, no, because we are all monkeys now and your Government knows this.

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Which brings me back to GDPR, the new rules… read LAW introduced by the 28 Eurostates but, because of its far-reaching regulations affects just about everybody in every country worldwide.

Of course, YOUR countries own Government(s) could reject GDRP outright, but then that would set back their part of total internet control too.

THIS IS WHY.

Recent history has made it clear any direct attempt of any government to ‘take over’ the internet/world wide web would be met with much hostile resistance.

So, this is what is happening, this is the reason why no Government outside of the European Union is opposing GDRP.

QUOTE…

“Unable to directly regulate the Net, it has become necessary to curtail, under various guises, the ability for the common man to exploit the internet’s capabilities.”

GDRP is ‘for your protection and privacy’ just as Speed… sorry… Safety Cameras are for your protection and safety.

Sound familiar?

Imagine you have a car which you enjoy driving, only the government wants to control where, when and how you drive it.

Now, they cannot have an official sat next to you all the time and they can’t take it from you, so they make you pay a ‘Tax’ to use it on a road. Even so, they charge you more to drive on certain roads by way of a toll.

Then they insist on a Government test every year to ensure your car works. They make you insure the vehicle, so they can raise more revenue by way of tax on tour premiums.

Further taxation and duties become payable on the fuel you use.

Very soon pleasure driving is a thing of the past, you now only use your vehicle when it is necessary, and you have a much smaller vehicle because it is cheaper to run and maintain.

So, without touching your car the Government has controlled what type of vehicle you have when you drive it and where.

GDRP has taken us one step closer to Governmental control of the internet.

Because to control the Web there is no need to touch the Web, just everything and everyone around it, to stifle its reach and its use, to regulate everything associated with it.

What’s more, nobody will complain as it will all be for ‘our own good’.

Anyway, as those monkeys will tell you, “It’s always been this way”.

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Like I said at the start of this post, I am not a conspiracy theorist, neither am I paranoid, even if they are really after me or control of the interweb.

Believe me, after all, I am an author.


Thank you for reading this post.

I hope you found this post both informative and entertaining, but not as entertaining as my fictional stories you can find on my own website, which is not, as yet, under the control or domination of one or more collective Governments.

Take a look http://bit.ly/paulswebsite, while you still have the freedom to browse around at your leisure.

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Stop whinging, get off your arse and DO something about it

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It is some time since I wrote a ‘Rambling’ Rambling on this blog.

Partly, this is because of the large number of commitments I have undertaken recently. Commitments which have left little time to indulge myself in creating an informative and entertaining Ramble.

Which I hope this post shall be, (at least if you read on from this point.) Although this post may seem to ‘go around the houses’ to reach its point, bear with me. It will be worth it in the end… Honest 😊

During the absence of such Ramblings, I have posted a few pertinent, factual and I hope helpful articles about internet security, publicised ‘The List – CQI Magazine’s must-read books for 2018, and posted about the launch of Electric Eclectic books,  a new way to find great authors and amazing books.

My last Rambling style post was a bit of a rant, but one which shares the truth about how ineffective giving away free books is and how doing so is damaging all indie author’s prospects.

grumpy_old_man-Converted-1024x953This post sort of follows suit regarding ranting… maybe I am becoming a ‘Grumpy old man’ or maybe I am already one?

The basic theme here is “Stop whinging, get off your arse and DO something about it.” In fact, I think I’ll use that phrase as the title of this post.


 

First, the ‘whining and whinging’, the consistent, droll, mind-numbing drivel I am hearing from too many indie authors recently.

“My sales are bad.”

“Facebook doesn’t help anymore.”

“Things are getting worse.”

“People don’t even want my free book.”

“Nobody leaves reviews.”

“Adverts are so expensive and don’t reach enough people.”

And so forth. All one must do is read the comments and posts in various social media groups and pages to find a torrent of such remarks.

Now, I may or may not agree with all the above. Okay, the first three are stupid statements, the last three have some if little, merit.

But this wave of despondency seems to be sweeping the internet at present and gathering momentum as it does.Facebook-Finger

Fuelled, no doubt, by the rumours about CreateSpace, Amazon and Goodreads along with the recent and forthcoming changes and alterations to Facebook.

 

Don’t ask me for details, go read Gisela Hausmann’s books on the subject, she is far better informed than I.  Read more Here

Now, nobody said writing a book would be easy. Nobody told me marketing and selling would be a cinch.

IT’S NOT.

It takes commitment, persistence, patience and determination… and lots of it. I said lots of it, that’s much, much more than you are considering or believing right now. So, treble the difficulty factor and then multiply that by the power of 92 and you could be approaching reality.

imagesCalculate the exact opposite for difficulty and obstacles. The resultant sum should reflect the starting point of your journey into the realms of authorship.

Bilbo Baggins exploits were a simple walk in the park, in comparison of what you shall have to endure.

That is why we love being indie authors.

However, (for those who may not be familiar with my Ramblings I love the ‘However’s’.)

So, to continue.

However, I cannot take this downhearted view as one expressed solely by the Indie community, or for that matter, one voiced on social media alone.

I think this mood or at least the pessimistic and depressed expression of disappointment and negativity concerning the present and, more so, the cynical distrust of the future is something which is sweeping our society.

This attitude has now reached such proportions everybody has to have ‘a condition’, be it a simple skin complaint, a dietary need or speech impediment, let alone a major physical or mental syndrome.

As an alternative, or as an added factor, one must also be a survivor… of sexual or mental abuse, a victim of crime, a recovering drug user or alcoholic with latent effects of reoccurring PTSD… and so forth.

Nowadays everyone must have an underlying ‘Backstory’ to be accepted as part of our modern society, however truthful or however factitious that may be.

Personally, I blame Simon Cowell and the XFactor… which traumatic experience I have survived, by the way.

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I am an exexfactorbackstorysurvivalist, in tentative remission.

NOW… don’t get me wrong. I am not speaking of genuine suffers from such disorders, I am speaking of the media hype and their insatiable appetite to present all who become ensnared in their tentacles as some form of miracle entity. A god or goddess-like warrior who has fought off the evils life has thrown at them.

Such influence affects us and our children’s perception of ‘normality’ in the most ambiguous ways. It is this seeking of constant sensationalism which clouds many of the authors and writer’s minds when they complain about how difficult it is to sell their books.

Instead of ‘doing something‘ to alter the situation it is far easier for many to shout “I am a Victim” and “Facebook is abusing my rights” and such like.

This is where, if you are still with me, I refer you back to the title of this post. “Stop whinging, get off your arse and DO something about it.”

I shall finish with one simple and short example-

I recently launched an initiative for indie authors called Electric Eclectic. I doubt very much if you have not seen at least one blog, post, comment or advertisement concerning such.

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Electric Eclectic allows indie authors a way of using, or recycling, short stories to market and sell their prime titles. This is a form of promotion which actually earns the author money while working as a silent salesman on their behalf.

I have offered, both on major social media sites and by personal email invitation, the opportunity for a limited number of other authors to join us.

The take-up has been dismal, even though our own authors have seen sale generated via Electric Eclectic already and indications of ongoing success.

YET, I have seen some of those who know about this opportunity continue to whinge and whine about sales, the cost of promotion and the ‘state of the market’ while ignoring the offer from Electric Eclectic and other genuine initiatives.

My suspicions are these people enjoy the attention their complaining creates and, I wonder if, they like to ride the current media bandwagon of portraying themselves as victims, casualties and wounded sufferers of circumstance?

Thank you for reading this Rambling. Paul.

To find out more, or to request becoming an Electric Eclectic author, visit the website HERE and use the contact page to message Electric Eclectic.

reflection

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.


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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, a synopsis or copy text for a 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 

There is always a tomorrow.

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It has been over a month since I last posted on this blog.

That is not because I have been lazy, or that I have had nothing of interest to share, it is simply that I have a full life and priorities are in constant flux.

Take this morning for an instance; I awoke with three tasks on my mind. Three simple little chores that needed attending to. The same three chores I thought of last night when I crawled under the duvet.

I have now, at seven o’clock on an evening accomplished all three of those jobs. They are done and dusted. Finished.

BUT…and this is the point…I have only just completed the last of those three tasks.

You see, life came between the plan I had in mind when I retired last night, the same basic idea which was in my head, as I stumbled from my bed and bounced off the walls on my way to the bathroom, while rubbing the sleepy-man’s dust from my eyes this morning.

Other things swam to the top of the quagmire of the ‘urgent’ lake. Like festering bubbles of noxious gasses, they rose swiftly to the surface of ‘to do now’ forcing other tasks and more pleasant jobs back under the surface of crucial undertakings.

I am not a list man, not any longer anyways. I now, in my years of semi-retirement, prefer the ‘Mañana’ approach to life. I am a firm believer that ‘Irie’ is a far better way to avoid a heart-attack than a daily dose of aspirin.

Therefore, slotting another job into a day, or in fact removing one, causes me no stress or bother. Even the prioritising of these tasks are not really my concern, I allow other people, notably my wife, to dictate the order in which they should be undertaken, if not completed.

I am happy to simply bumble along, plodding my way from errand to errand. Those that are concluded are concluded, those that remain undone, or partial are left as such until the next sunrise.

Simple.

 

This is the way I think it would be best for all of us to live our lives.

As I said at the start of this post, I have a fairly full life which means that all things in my world are constantly and consistently changing, which is the one thing which stays the same!

It is a way of life I have got used to, I have honed the skill of relaxation so that now it looks like I am working. The truth is the same of work, only of course vice-versa.

I consider that to stay de-stressed, calm and collected in this high-speed, terabyte infused, interweb fed technological day and age is a rather rare talent.

But please, consider this…

I have not seen many Rastafarians that look particularly stressed-out if the electricity bill is a day late being settled.

The Spanish Lothario, your amante muy joven, will not be rushed from the bedroom to attend a job interview.

All those things will happen; they will come again in due course. There is no reason to stress about them right now.

Yes, as with my day today, things will alter.

Some things will transcend others, they will, for a short period of time, become prominent in your mind, urgent if you wish to use that term. But they are transitional, they are themselves just another ripple in our flux of life.

Many of these urgencies, the pressures of time and such restraints, are unworthy of true measure. They are false, fake, self-imposed, self-accepted limits.

Take a step back I say. Reassess exactly why it is you are rushing around, why you are stressing out.

Consider this…what is the worst thing that could happen if you do not complete that task within the time limit you have set?

Accept that.

Think. Is it really important enough for you to become so agitated, for your blood-pressure to soar, for your heart to pump so fast?

I think not. Do not allow them, do not allow circumstance to rule your life like that.

Live your own life. Chill out a little.

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There is always a tomorrow.

If there is no tomorrow, there will be no worries either.

Simple.

Now, my own tasks for this day are done, or can wait until ‘later’.

I am going to sit and write some more of my forthcoming novel ‘Floyd’, which I have FLOYD6finalfrntjpgneglected for too long. It will be nice to get re-acquainted with this psychopathic murderer. 

 

I may get one thousand words written tonight, I may get absolutely none down on paper at all.

But then I have tomorrow.

Don’t I?

See you all on the other side, Paul.


To find out more about me, my works and what I am up to right now take a mosey around my website at

 http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

It’s not just, “In God We Trust”.

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 Here is something that has crossed my mind recently (on several occasions).

TRUST.

So much can be read into that single word, can it not?

Honestly, how many people do you actually trust?

It would be passé for me to ask who you would trust with your life.

Firstly, because that could take so many forms; from combat, to saving you choking on a chicken bone and because we trust people with our lives each and every day.

When you fly you are trusting the pilot, when you take a cab you are trusting the driver; there are doctors, surgeons, police and such like; so in the grand scheme of things trusting someone with your life is not so alien, in fact it is most common.

But let me ask you this:

Who would you lend your last few dollars to?

I mean your last dollars; the money you depend on; the money you need to live by. Who would you trust to repay that money on time?

Who would you let house sit, or house swap with you? Who would you trust not to pry into your private closets, or rummage through your underwear drawer?

To whom would you show your browsing history, or private files, without the fear of being judged?

I guess you could count those people on one hand?

Maybe I am wrong; maybe you are lucky. Or maybe you have more fingers on your hand than I do!

Okay, so trust can be considered on many levels, I agree.

But I have a feeling that you may trust someone you have not met, or have never seen, a little less than you might trust your neighbor, or a work colleague, even an acquaintance; you know, one of those people who are almost your friend!

Am I right?

Generally, I think I am.

Which brings me here, to the point of this rambling.

I often ask people, complete and total strangers to trust me every day. I ask many of them for money, in return for promises.

Why?

Because I offer some services. You see, apart from being a writer and an author, I design books covers, I have an online magazine and a book promotion site.

When it comes to designing covers I promise I shall do my best to create an eye-catching cover, one that will attract people to take a look, to ‘pick the book up and investigate’. Initially I only have my word to give.

I rely on a person’s trust.

The same is true of my magazine.

People buy features and advertising, often two or three months in advance. They are trusting me to produce the magazine, to distribute it, to hold up my end of the bargain.

On my book promotion website, the trust is, that I will provide information as promised, list books as agreed, market the site and so on.

I know I am honest. I know I will do everything within my abilities to ensure I deliver, to keep my promises. Yet many of those who place their trust in me do not know that, not initially, not the first time we make an agreement.

Luckily, I have a track record of successfully completing the tasks I undertake.

I have lots of happy clients and that, in a strange way, turns the tables. You see, once I have done business with someone, once I have done ‘a good job’, I trust them to return to me. I trust that they shall, at some point in the future ask me to help again.

Thankfully, most do.

Now that may, at this point, sound like standard business practice. But what makes all this stand-out for me is, that most of what I do is with people who are, in the physical world, (the Meat-Space), strangers.

I may belong to the same social media ‘groups’ as they. I may have ‘messaged’ or emailed them many times, over many months or even years. I may know (vaguely) what they look like, at least in the best photograph they have, even if it was taken twenty-years ago!

BUT…I have never met them, never heard their voice naturally, or felt their flesh, smelt their scent, seen how they walk, talk and laugh, not in the real world. Yet some I consider to be friends, not the i-space, ethereal electronic type of friend, but Friend with a capitol ‘F’.

And I trust them.

As, (hopefully!), they do me.

Please, do not deceive yourself by thinking that I am a product of this technological age. I am not.

I am far older than that. But I accept it, even somewhat embrace it; although with a certain amount of mistrust and caution as to its future influence and where it may eventually lead us.

But a little vigilance is no bad thing.

So, here I am, connected tentively to un-met people around the globe, via fiber-optics and satellites, yet conducting business on less than a physical handshake; often simply on a few keystrokes that spell out the word ‘Yes’, or even the lesser ‘OK’.

I suggest that is a form of true trust?

If it is, then in my world that is not a bad thing.

If something that can be isolating, even as divisive as the internet, can bring ‘people who have never met’ (we used to term this as ‘strangers’ when I was a child), together by the bond of trust my fear for the future of mankind is somewhat diminished.

All we need now is for those who in power to take note, for those who print ‘In God We Trust’ on our banknotes to realise that, in an ideal world those words would actually read ‘In Us We Trust’.

Just a thought that was running through my mind.

 

Please feel free to comment, like, share or ‘whatever blows your frock-up’

Paul

Find out more about me, my writings, books & Cover design 

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Dumbing down

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     The term dumbing down describes a ‘deliberate diminution of the intellectual level of education, literature, cinema, news, and culture’.


The term dumbing down originated in 1933 as slang used by motion picture screenplay writers to mean:  ‘revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence’.

I have also heard the phrase that information should be designed for ‘the lowest common denominator’ of intelligence.

The nature of dumbing down varies according to the subject matter and the reason for the dumbing down, but it usually involves the over-simplification of critical thought to the degree of undermining the intellectual standards of language and of learning; thus tending to trivialise cultural, artistic, and academic standards, as in the case of popular culture.

Here is simple example, television advertising no longer use the word ‘Twice’ as in ‘Twice as many’ or ‘Twice as fast’, preferring to use the term ‘two times faster’!

Researchers at the Institute for Studies have warned that it will soon be impossible to dumb down news and entertainment media any further.

Professor Henry Brubaker said: “Most television is about cooking, the paranormal or poor people having arguments. The news is just opinions and conjecture punctuated with pictures of ‘extreme weather’.

‘The only books being published are ghost-written celebrity biographies or thrillers about serial killers called things like ‘The Face Collector’. Apart from that people just read lists of ’10 facts about muscle growth’ off websites.

‘The problem is that if the mass media continue to further dumb down information human intelligence will continue on its downward trajectory. (thedailymash.co.uk)

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In the latest instance, a research team from universities in Sweden, Holland and Ireland found “a pronounced decline in IQ since the Victorian era, three times bigger than previous theoretical estimates would have us believe.”

Yes, those repressed prudes – notoriously obsessed with keeping table legs covered up in case they gave men sexy thoughts about finely-turned ankles – were actually substantially smarter than the free-wheeling techno-nerds of today. The scientists compared reaction times – regarded as a key indicator of general intelligence, productivity and creativity – from the late-19th century to the present and discovered that our brains are definitely slowing down. The Victorians were positively whizzy: the average man in 1889 had a reaction time of 183 milliseconds, while the present-day Mr Dopey can only manage a sluggish 253 milliseconds.

I’m not surprised. We don’t need studies and statistics to tell us this stuff, the evidence is staring us in the face every day.

Last year, I made a radio programme about the Belfast writer and poet Helen Waddell, who became one of the biggest literary stars of the 1920s and 1930s.

Her historical novel, Peter Abelard, was a runaway success, praised by everyone from Queen Mary to factory workers and prisoners. It was the must-read novel of 1933, reprinted an incredible nine times in the first year of its publication.

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    But Waddell’s breakthrough novel would never, ever make the bestseller lists today. Why? Because the writing, while beautiful and resonant, is simply far too challenging. Reading it takes a certain effort of concentration, not to mention a passing knowledge of medieval theology. With Fifty Shades of Grey, today’s popular publishing miracle, all you need is some basic literacy and a sick, prurient interest in getting lashed with a whip for pleasure.

In culture, in politics, in everyday life, superficial froth and twaddle regularly triumphs over substantial, thought-through ideas. Attention spans attenuated by the 140 character demands of Twitter, we often behave more like bored toddlers than sentient adults, expecting to be continually indulged and entertained.  (Fionola Meridith)

Sadly, our country has been hijacked by a compulsion to homogenise society, to control individualism and turn us all into one classless soup.

In Bog-Standard Britain, defenders of crisply enunciated English are told they are ‘toffs’. This class neurosis lowers standards. It spreads mediocrity. It permits pre-Victorian levels of coarseness to pollute our streets.

Intervene? No, that would be an act of class prejudice. Opprobrium has been driven from our public life. Shame and propriety and judgments of right and wrong are replaced by whispered orthodoxies about what is ‘appropriate’, codes which can be understood only by sociology graduates.

Manners have disappeared, to be replaced by strict ‘ guidelines’ about sexism and racism. Classy people once knew instinctively how to behave. Now manners have to be taught in rehabilitation classes. They have lost their humanity and become ‘codes of conduct’.

Commissions, working parties, think tanks, steering committees, conferences, charities, consultancies: egalitarianism has become an industry for the self-righteous.

From university admissions to unisex hospital wards, tokenistic equality runs like bindweed, strangling common sense. Officialdom towers over us, wagging its disapproving finger, instructing us to observe equality codes or face the withdrawal of public funds.

Despite all this, equality has not achieved its aims. Social mobility is dropping. The wealth divide broadens.  ‘Equality practitioners’, as they call themselves, have simply become brahmins amid the beggars, sixth-form monitors of thought who draw their salaries from the pockets of the very poor they profess to help.

Clearly, as with most topics that affect mass populations, there are those who believe in conspiracy. The following paragraph is an extract taken from the vigilantcitizen.com

Is a dumber population something that is desired by the elite? Hitler once said “How fortunate for the leaders that men do not think.” An educated population knows its rights, understands the issues and takes action when it does not approve of what is going on. Judging by the incredible amount of data available on the subject, it seems that the elite want the exact opposite: an unhealthy, frightened, confused and sedated population. We will look at the effects of medication, pesticides, fluoride and aspartame on the human body and how those products are being pushed by people from inside the power structure.

To end this post I have included the following, which is supposed to be a rant against Dumbing Down, but actually is an extremely good example of dumb media in action.

This, as you will see, also supports the Goebbels view on propagandaDr__Joseph_Goebbels_by_tree27

‘From the minute you get up its trashy soap and Celebrity and Hollywood gossip and programming aimed at bored housewives. Dumbed down breakfast TVs followed by This Morning which is obsessed with soap and reality TV chit-chat and z list guests, sex change couples and fashion tips like what’s the latest handbag or which nail file should I buy and general couch potato crap aimed at people who read National Enquirer and Heat magazine. Nothing of any actual intellect at all.

Then its Jeremy Kyle interspersed with ads for online bingo and debt management and quick cash adverts. Afternoons are dominated by more gobshatting by Loose Women or other such drivel. Dumbed down quiz shows for thickies, dumbed down news for the less intelligent, and soaps’.

Thank you for reading, your comments and feedback welcome as always.

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