Finding the Holy Grail of writing

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Many, if not all authors know writing is never straight forward; I am not talking about the technical aspects or grammar, but about finding the time to write when your mind is focused, when it is in the ‘zone’ for ‘that part’ of your story.

The Holy Grail of writing is when your thought processes are at a peak and you have the time, the undisturbed, uninterrupted time, to transcribe your contemplations cohesively into your manuscript.

Finding this Holy Grail has been an elusive search for me over the last year or so, regarding the novel I am currently working on.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking of writer’s block, that is something I do not suffer. It is also nothing to do with finding the time; I have written and published three books in the past year and I am working on three more as I write this.

I am speaking purely of the mental alignment of skills, mindset and time when in search of perfection. (Although we shall never attain such it is always good to have it as a goal.)

I should have published my story, FLOYD several months ago but I am still working on it in short dribs and drabs. I never seem to have the right mental disposition and the amount of time I need together; hence the book is half drafted and half a jumble of odd notes, part paragraphs/chapters and such.

By the way, I am not downhearted and this is not me moaning, although it may sound that way! It is just me clearing my head by sharing my frustration with you.

It is, however, a frustration I bought upon myself by having several projects on the go at once… and then tasking myself with more. Which makes it even more frustrating.

I doubt if I shall find much time to continue writing FLOYD before December… oh wait, then there is Christmas and family, followed by New Year and Friends… so, maybe I can continue in earnest come mid-January, or maybe February or…

In the meantime, I would love to know your views on this (first draft) excerpt from FLOYD. It is (at the moment) the start of the opening chapter, or at least somewhere very early in the story, as it sets the scene, a sort of preamble to introduce Floyd himself and the background of his, let’s say, delusions and future actions.

Oh, FLOYD is a revenge story, in the blood-bath slasher genre. It is not for the queasy… although this section does not contain any of the gore… that comes a little later, but it comes in big bucketfuls. 😊

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FLOYDan excerpt.

Floyd jumped out of bed with a start, uncontrollably staggering two steps backwards. In that half-awaking instant, Floyd saw his wife, Molly, lying with her hands above her head, wrists bound and fastened. Pools of blood soaking into pristine white bedsheets. The fear in her eyes sent shivers running down his spine and a cold sweat to form over his skin.

This dream happened every night for the past four weeks. But tonight, was the first time he saw anything in full colour. The other times it was blurry monochrome, or just a voice, a sweet, lilting voice whispering to him. Tonight, was different, it did not simply wake him but startled him into jumping from the bed. He could feel his heart pounding.

At first, Floyd thought the voice echoing in his head was nothing more than a remanence of a dream as he woke. He let it go. Tried to forget it. But the whispering came back night after night. First a giggle, then a sigh, which faintly smelt of spearmint, before turning into those softly spoken words. A voice so close he could feel lips brushing his ears as she spoke.

“Kill the bitch.”

“That’s the way.”

“Did you see the surprise on her face?”

Tonight, Floyd did not hear her voice; but he knew she was there, watching him. Smiling.

He blinked twice, shaking his head to clear the image from his mind.

Molly pushed the quilt away from her face exposing a tousled mess of blond hair. She half-opened one eye and, disgruntled, wearily mumbled, “What are you doing? It’s the middle of the night.”

Floyd slid back under the cover and snuggled close to Molly. It was a dream. It was just a dream he told himself as he shut his eyes. Her body was warm and comforting, but it could not dispel the dark foreboding lingering within his mind.

She groaned, slurred something unintelligible, turned, moving away from him. Floyd lay quietly on his back, willing sleep. Each time he began to drift off he was jerked awake by the vision of blood and the scent of spearmint. Sleep was fugitive.

At three-fifteen he carefully slid from under the covers, trying not to disturb Molly and crept downstairs. By six-thirty Floyd had drunk two pots of tea and re-read yesterday’s newspaper, twice.

When Molly eventually arose, he was grilling bacon for breakfast.

“I couldn’t sleep, so…” Floyd gesticulated towards the grill with the tongs in his hand.

Molly tore off some kitchen roll. “Put mine in here. I must dash, busy, busy day ahead. I’m not sure when I’ll be home.”

Floyd gave her a quick peck on the cheek as she headed for the door. With a half-hearted wave, she left, hooking the door closed with her foot. He watched from the window as she drove her Range Rover off the drive and along the street until she was out of sight. He felt a certain disappointment wash over him. He was hoping to talk to Molly at breakfast this morning about his recent feelings, his nagging doubts which were growing daily.

Floyd looked at the clock, six fifty-five. The house seemed exceedingly quiet; which, on consideration, was rather strange, because from three-fifteen this morning he sat alone, the only sound the rustling pages of the newspaper. The house was no quieter now than then but somehow the silence was louder.

Being alone in the house was something Floyd was becoming accustomed to. Since Molly moved companies she had become…become…now, what was the word…fixated? obsessed? with her job. When he commented on the amount of time she was spending working, Molly said it was a thing called ‘commitment’.

Whatever it was Floyd felt it was pushing them apart, an inexorable drifting kind of parting. One which was almost imperceptible day by day. But when he looked back over the months, the changes were there, noticeable, obvious, definite.

Molly generally ignored him now; she was always on the phone or laptop when she was not working late, or early, or both, or at the gym or the hair salon, or having her nails painted or legs waxed.

The main thing which irked Floyd most was none of this, not one little iota was for his benefit. It was all for her work. All those new suits, the blouses, the stockings and shoes.

Once, not so long ago, when Molly slid into a pair of stockings it was to tease him, to excite him. It was a signal sex was unquestionably on the agenda. Not any longer. It seems stockings were de rigueur in Molly’s new corporate world.

Several weeks back Floyd began wondering if she was having an affair. Maybe a seedy sexual liaison with someone from her company. He followed her one morning; sat the whole day outside her office building.

Nothing.

When she left the office in the evening, he followed her. She did not do anything other than visit the hair salon.

Which was a problem for Floyd.

Not that he wished for his wife to be having an affair, but because it left him with a dilemma. What changed between them? Why was Molly so distant? What, if anything had he done…or not done? These were unanswered questions; questions he wanted to broach this morning over those freshly grilled bacon sandwiches.

Floyd glanced at the clock again. Five minutes past seven. His first appointment was at nine-thirty, so he needed to leave the house around eight o’clock. As he threw his bathrobe onto the bed Floyd flashbacked to his dream: Molly spread-eagled, bound on the bed. Eyes staring in terror. He looked down at her.

He shivered. It was all too real, unlike any dream he experienced before.


While you wait for me to finish writing FLOYD I have many more books I am certain you will enjoy. Have a browse around my WEBSITE  or check out my Electric Eclectic novelettes HERE.

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About:  Questions on Editing.

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I often see writers asking for an editor on social groups.

Frequently the post asks for ‘someone’ to ‘help edit’ or ‘look over’ their book. (Which is not a book at all just a manuscript and more often than not, only part of a first draft.)

Occasionally the person posting may ask for a ‘beta reader or editor’.

The common factor is, to the eyes of an experienced author or publisher, the people asking have no idea who they need, what skill set that person should have or, indeed, the actual reason they need ‘someone’ to ‘edit’ their work, which, in all honesty, will be a far cry from the thoughts they hold when they ask the question in the first instance.

This naivety is not wrong. We have all been novice writers.

However, my issue is twofold.

Firstly; whilst inexperience throws up challenges and situations one has not encountered previously, we live in an age of information, of high-speed access to seemingly limitless data.

It is simple to research almost any subject using the interweb.

Therefore, the questions posted should, at the very least, show some understanding, reflect some basic perception of the subject enquired.

My second issue is; those who openly show such naivety are susceptible to exploitation by those who prey on the gullible and there are many sharks swimming in the social media pond.

Too many times do I hear or read about a writer paying a large fee for very little, if any, return or results from the promises made by charlatans and thieves.

Too many times, do I see indie authors and newbie writers fall foul of ‘schemes’ run by the scammers who scoured the internet looking for those types of naïve questions.

Don’t get me wrong.

We all need help and to ask questions from time to time. But please, research first. Do some homework beforehand, so when you do ask, if you still need to ask, you can define your question to specifics.

This will not only deter many of those sharks looking for easy prey but will allow genuine respondents to answer your queries more accurately and with alacrity.

Nuff said.images 

Now, here are twelve, yes, twelve editorial roles.

Okay, I am being a little loose with the term ‘editorial roles‘, but I am doing so in response to the type of questions asked on social media, the ones which prompted me to write this article in the first instant.

The first two roles, possibly three, of the following are not, at least officially, considered ‘editors‘ in the true sense of the word.

The reason I have added them here is they do or at least can form critical roles in the process of readying a manuscript for publication.

 

The first is the oft-misunderstood role of the Beta Reader.

Beta readers are people you ask to read your work, often at a relatively early stage, to get their opinion.

Experienced authors will give each beta reader a certain task and will often create a questionnaire for them, ensuring the author gets the correct form of feedback they request.

Beta readers are initially chosen from the public, as volunteers. Often authors build up relationships and trust with several readers and ask them to review on a frequent basis.

However, there is a rather scary rise of the ‘professional’ beta reader. This is someone who will charge you to read your work on the premise of ‘experience’. It is doubtful they will hold any editorial, journalistic or academic qualifications.

This anomaly of the growth of the ‘professional beta reader’, is due to Amazon clamping down on ‘paid for/professional’ book reviews.

Those people have simply changed the way they operate, the outcome is as false and as fake as it ever was.

My advice; give them a wide berth. No, even wider than that… RUN in the opposite direction, fast!

 

The second is the frequently overlooked Critique Partner.

A critique partner tends to be a writer, or experienced author, who coaches another writer to help raise the quality of their work.

Not a true editor but will undoubtedly play a part in identifying editorial issues as the work progresses.

You only need a critique partner for guidance when developing a story for publication.

 

I find this a ‘dodgy term‘, Online Editor.

Basically, the term ‘online editor’ includes anyone you can find online to look over your content.

The people who call themselves online editors are most likely freelancers and their skill sets will vary enormously.

If you hire an online editor, it will be in your own interest, both financially as well as regarding peace of mind, to ensure they are well-versed in the type of editorial work you are employing them to undertake.

AND… I cannot say this clearly enough. Be certain they are qualified AND experienced to edit in the language you require. For instance; even a well sort American editor may not fare well with a British English work.

Some online editors are genuine professionals with qualifications and a good client list. Others may not know one end of a pencil from the other.

Okay, that is those three out of the way. Now the list of professional editorial roles.

A Commissioning Editor.

Sometimes referred to as an Acquisition Editor.

These people are the ones who look for books and/or articles for publication.

This is the person you address your enquiries to should you not use an agent or if you are a freelancer who wishes to pitch an idea.

Commissioning Editors are generally employed by organisations and companies and have little to do with the indie community.

 

The Developmental Editor. 

Developmental editors work with writers to get their manuscript ready for publication.

If you need guidance on moving your story forward, it is the developmental editors place to help. They will also aid you in producing a manuscript to a publisher’s house style or preference.

Some Developmental Editors are also professional ghostwriters.

 

Content Editors is the role most writers refer to when speaking of an ‘editor’.

Content Editors consider all the writing encompasses.

Regarding fiction, a Content Editor takes a full overview of the story. They will highlight inaccuracies and suggest changes to the plot, the characters, settings, locations and such.

 

Copy Editor.

Copy editors, also known as Line Editors. Occasionally these are also Content Editors, look at everything from the factual content to the writer’s use of grammar and the formatting of the manuscript.

These editors can and often do, do it all.

Often whatever they find will go back to the Content or Developmental Editor who will make, or advise the writer, to make certain changes to the work.

 

The Proofreader.

While you can ask friends and fellow writers to read your work and pick up any errors, nothing beats a good, experienced and qualified proof-reader, not Spellchecker or even Grammarly, ProWritingAid, WhiteSmoke or GingerSoftware combined.

A Proofreader will look over your content, usually after it has gone through the other stages of editing. This means a Proofreader is the last type of editor in the chain of editing.

Major publishing houses contract proofreaders for a final perusal of a book just before it is due to go to press after it has been typeset and formatted. This is to pick up any glaring grammar and punctuation errors created during these processes and any that have been missed previously.

Generally, a proofreader will not give feedback on quality, content or development.

 

This is not one many indie authors will use. Associate Editor.

Associate editors mainly work for newspapers or magazines. This position is also called the ‘section editor.’

Associate Editor often has the same type of responsibilities as an Acquisition Editor in that they seek stories or content for publication, but it is more often limited to a set area, such a politics, celebrity or world events and so on.

 

Contributing Editor.

Contributing editors usually work with publishers of magazines and newspapers. An older term not used so much nowadays is that of Roving Editor or Editor at Large, both mean the same thing.

Some indie authors and writers may cross paths with a Contributing Editor should they write articles for publication in magazines or newspapers on or offline.

 

Chief Editor.

Also, Executive Editor. The person in overall in charge of articles, story and/or content. They are the ones responsible for the final product.

 

Editor-in-Chief.

The Editor-in-Chief oversees the editing department and manages the other editors.

They are responsible for maintaining the voice of the publisher’s imprint, upholding its philosophy and mission.

I hope this clarifies the editorial roles and where they apply to indie authors.


Paul White has produced two books especially to help writers and authors of all abilities to make the most of their resources.

Each of these books is crammed with facts and information which answer most of the questions posted to writers and author groups on social media. 

These books contain tips and links to many author resources. Download your copies of The Frugal Author and Lots of Author Stuff you Need to Know right here, right now.

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A word of caution about FREE & some other stuff worth knowing about.

You may, or may not, have noticed I have not posted here for a while.

This is because there is so much happening in the book and publishing world; two areas I am involved in.

Here is one major ‘continental shift’ which is taking place right now.

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FREEBIE books have lost their appeal.

“The general public has become immune and dissatisfied with the mass of FREE and GIVEAWAY books.”

What was once a novel, loss-leading marketing tool has become a haunt for freebie hunters who just want free and have NO interest in the author, or on many occasions the book itself.

In fact, Amazon’s own download figures show that ONLY 2% of ALL free books are read, with over 70% being deleted within 14 days of downloading. (or discarded in the case of paperbacks.)

The probable reason is, as free loses its appeal authors and publishers are now giving away vouchers, gifts and running competitions to entice people to download their free books.

Basically, they are paying people to download in an attempt to manipulate the figures and gain a ‘ranking status’, in the hope it will influence genuine readers to purchase.

Whilst this may have worked in the past, it no longer has any substantial legacy, particularly as Amazon has once again changed their logarithms to combat this ‘false’ accounting of sale.

Now only verified ‘paid for’ purchases will count towards rankings.

Which leaves only one possible benefit of giving a book away… that of building a mailing list for future direct marketing and sales.

BUT… this now only tends to create a false list of possible future people who may read another of those books, because once downloaded the ‘reader’ then cancels their subscription/listing (as is their legal right). Only dedicated Freebie hunters stay, waiting for the next free book you offer. Which is one of the reasons why only 2% of such downloads are actually read.

This means, most indie authors who give their books away in the belief they will gain readers in the long term are going to be out of pocket for a long, long time. Those who pay companies, the free book marketing businesses, are losing far more.

If it sounds too good to be true… it is.

In the cold light of day… paying someone to give away your book, the book you may have spent a year or so producing, spending money on editing, formatting and cover design, in the vague hope that free will earn you an income, let alone cover your initial costs… without any guarantees…

Hmmph, doesn’t sound so good in the cold light of day, does it?

Read more about this here

 

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AMAZON

Genuine reviews ONLY.

Sales logarithms are not the only change AMAZON have recently made. They have changed, once again the way customer reviews work.

This time for the best, in my opinion.

No longer will pay for, swopped or gifted reviews count, and if things work well, they will not even be shown.

ONLY true, verified, genuine purchases by readers will count. NO form of solicited or professional reviews will be accepted.

If Amazon can and do strictly enforce this rule, then for the first time will all authors get, and all readers have a genuine, believable overview to the quality of the books they are looking to purchase.

I hope this works and the cheats and charlatans are cast out.

 

Goodreads

GOODREADS becomes the ‘GO TO’ platform.

Goodreads has been around for a long time and has slowly progressed to become a mecca for book lovers.

This trend continues and is now being enhanced on several fronts. Goodreads shall soon be THE place for readers and authors to talk and deal with all thing literary. There are many changes which will be implemented during the next year or two.

If you do not have a presence on Goodreads, either as a book lover or as a writer… get on with it… go now and sign up before you are left behind… and remember… you heard it here first.

Please don’t think I am in love with Goodreads. I am not.

The site is overbearingly confusing, they [Goodreads] do nothing to assist authors with marketing… but will soon offer paid for services, so I am told, which I guess will be expensive as they boast a high number of readers even if few of those will want to read your genre/book/narration/style etc. unless heavily incentivised… but I wander off track again!

Read more about current trends here

 

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ELECTRIC ECLECTIC

 Electric Eclectic is the new kid in town, but its founder has a great track record in the indie publishing market with established brands, CQ International, TOAD Publishing and PeeJay designs.

Simply put, Electric Eclectic is a brand of books written by a variety of authors from various nationalities.

Each Electric Eclectic book is a Kindle Novelette, (Pocketbook paperbacks arrive soon), generally short stories of between six thousand and twenty thousand words. These novelettes are designed as introductory books, shorter reads to give you a taste of the narration and style of your chosen Electric Eclectic author.

Unlike the freebie books mentioned above, the quality of storytelling of each Electric Eclectic book has undergone a quality and selection process, before publication, to ensure each book reaches our exacting standards.

When you buy an Electric Eclectic book, you have confidence and reassurance of its quality, which makes it the perfect way to find great reads and even your ‘next favourite author.’

Electric Eclectic books hope that once you find a story or an author you are excited about, you will read their other books too.

That is what Electric Eclectic is all about, putting great authors together with ardent book lovers and readers… a match made in heaven. (Or a sort-of literary tinder?)

As Electric Eclectic books cost just 1.00 (dollar/pound/euro), the reader will have made a verified purchase so their review will be accepted by Amazon, letting them voice their view and airing their opinion too.

That must be a win, win situation all around.

Visit the Electric Eclectic website HERE

The LIST 2018 – The definitive guide to this years ‘Must Read’ books.


The list pub

Surely, The LIST is the best collection of ‘must-read’ indie books anywhere.


 

Each book listed here has been recommended, commended or selected by CQI Magazine or the publications respected and trusted literary connections.

The LIST is one publication you will want to constantly refer to when looking for a new book for yourself or as a wonderful and unexpected gift for a friend, colleague, or family member.

I suggest you bookmark The LIST to make re-visiting and reading a sinch in the future.

Got friends… how about sharing The LIST with them?

For notifications about future great publications like CQI Magazine, and The Gift Collection followthis blog 🙂

Click on the cover image above to read The LIST now


 

Looking for a darned good short story?

Then check out the Electric Eclectic novelettes, great reads and the perfect way to find your next ‘favourite’ author.

Go take a look at Electric Eclectic books

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Steamy windows (All about the writers muse)

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    I was silently musing, as is my bent, when a certain thought kept returning. No matter how many times I dismissed the notion it would not leave me alone; eventually waking me in the early hours with its persistent nagging.

    I guess all writers, at least those of us who are serious about our craft, have such occasions?

    Personally, I find the only way to rid such daemons is to submit to their will, writing about whatever it is which plagues the mind.

    When I say write, I mean exactly and precisely that. I mean scribble the thoughts down in any way, shape, or form possible. Be it in a note book, a journal, incorporate the idea into your current novel, or do as I am now doing, write it as a blog post.

    As one writes the thoughts begin to unravel, they start to form strings of coherent meanings and possibilities. Unlike the tangled mass of haphazard notions previously running amok in the brain.

    As now, many threads appear, each one a possible tale or the premise of another book. This post is but one of those threads, others will follow.

    I already have a new short story to tell from these very words and shall write a draft as soon as I can, as soon as I finish this.

    I think of it, each idea, each notion, much like a kettle on the hob. The kettle is full, the gas burning brightly beneath. Slowly, as the water heats it begins to move, agitations growing as the temperature increases, until inevitably, the water comes to a galloping boil.

    This is the moment the lid starts to rattle, the whistle screams, steam escapes to fill the kitchen and condense on the windowpanes causing rivulets of water to run down and form puddles on the sills.

    That is how the muse builds up inside of us, the writers and authors. The note pads and keyboards are our lids and whistles. Our editors and proof-readers the rivulets and window panes.

    It is not until we have wafted away the steam, opened the said windows, letting fresh air circulate, can we finally put everything together and make that nice pot of tea.

    Of course, that is all a writer’s metaphorical whimsy. But I guess you get my gist?

    Now I sit at the kitchen table, drinking such tea and reading a book. Possibly your book, the one which you wrote as when your conceptual kettle boiled.

    Now all I need is a sweet biscuit to dunk…but that really is another story altogether!

    Happy daze, Paul.

    Why not read some of my short stories at https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

The existential existence of SpongeBob SquarePants.

Once again it has been too long since I wrote a meaningful post for these Ramblings; but life has that way of knocking you off course when you least expect it.

Although we should really anticipate that to happen, because that is what life is; a series of random, arbitrary events one after another.

Some of those events affect us instantaneously, shock us into immediate reaction. Others slowly reveal themselves through a string of smaller incidents which accumulate, gradually pushing us to a point where we are forced to take notice, to take action.

Yet the most disturbing are those which only reveal themselves after the event. The sly, stealthy spone2little beggars that inexorable invade our lives, like fine plant roots microscopically threading their way through solid concrete, destabilising and destroying it progressively yet unnoticed, until it shatters or crumbles.

This is where many of my thoughts have been over the past few weeks.

You see, even though I have been busy publishing, designing, writing and doing all sorts of whatnots, my mind, or some sections of it, have been chewing over and considering the world, life, the universe and the deeper meaning of SpongeBob SquarePants existential existence.

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All of which brings me to this:

So, there I was one morning, standing in the bathroom and looking into the mirror. This was not a vanity thing; (I was considering if I could get away another day without shaving!) when I looked at myself directly.

Now, let me explain what I mean about the term ‘directly’.

spone4Generally, when we look in the mirror we are not looking at ourselves, we are looking at and for parts of ourselves. We are looking for stray hairs, grey hairs, wrinkles, blemishes, spots, pimples, dark patches and crow’s feet and so on. It is not often that we take that step back, at least in the mental perspective, to look at ourselves as a whole.

 

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Once more, we are too distracted by our ever expanding waistline, or drooping…(jowls?), the slight hunching of our shoulders or offset bend of our neck. Our eyes are taken from our whole. We fail to see ourselves in our entirety.

But that is what I did that morning. For the first time in an absolute age I saw myself. I knew the reflection was me, I accepted that.

Yet I had difficulty in recognising the fact.

You see life’s events have caught up with me. Those sly, stealthy little beggars, the ones that inexorable invade our lives, like fine plant roots microscopically threading their way through solid concrete, had worked their threadlike tendrils into every conceivable part of my body, with perhaps, the exclusion of my eyes.

Yes, it is natural. It is what life does. It is called aging and it will/is happening to us all.

But that is NOT where I am going with this Rambling.

I am going here…

Looking in that mirror was a point of reference for my personal diary. A mark placed upon my life’s calendar. It was a recognition point.

My life, and I suspect yours, are full of these reference points; the moments when you realise that one stage, one phase of your life is over and another begun.

I can think back and recall many such stages. Most like this one, unrealised until after the change has occurred.

I can do much the same with my writing. In fact, they have often gone hand in hand with a weird synchronicity. But then again that is, on consideration, not so strange.

You see, I am not the type of writer who focuses solely on one genre; I write more from the foundation of heart, of feeling, of whatever may be blowing my frock up just now. Which is probably why I have so many works in progress at any given time.

DovesHard3tttAs an example I have published works ranging from a fictional novel about C&Vfront1abduction and love, to books of emotive and disturbing poetry, through to short stories of crime and non-fictional historic chronicles.

I love writing fiction as much as I do non-fiction, such as this Rambling. But I can still trace the changes in tempo, in cadence and style of each period of time, each phase of my life in which they were written.

My writings and words reflect the beat of my heart, the pulse of my soul and my temperament. They have changed and aged over time as has my body.

Which brings me to a question.

How is my mind?

Is that as clear and agile as it once was, or are the threads of invasive destruction even now winding their unseen fibres within?

I wonder.

I know that, at least until the next time I look at myself in the mirror, I shall continue to write, to leave a trail of my existence behind, a legacy of my being.

I am, for now, ready for any event life may wish to throw my way, just as I am in my continued ponderance behind the theory of SpongeBob’s existence.

Feel free to check out my website