Metrics and the Art of Social Media.

You might think having been a blogger for over three years now I’d be an expert in the art of social media? Think so? Really? Forget it!

For the past three years I have concentrated my social media promotions on Twitter. OK, I have a Facebook writer page and a Pinterest account and  Google+ account but it’s Twitter where I have really pushed myself. So much so that I am the proud possessor of over 5,000 followers. Sounds good doesn’t it? If every one of those 5,000 people were fans of my blog and each and every one bought a copy of Floating in Space I’d be quids in. The fact is, out of those 5,000, I’d say only a handful are genuine fans. The rest want to be friends with me for one reason -because I have 5,000 followers and every time someone Tweets one of my Tweets I am honour bound by the unwritten Twitter users code to Tweet them back, Tweet them to my 5,000+ followers.

Yes, I feel good with that power; 5,000 followers. Wow, that’s power. Of course, if you have ever read the Spiderman comics or indeed seen the film you will know that with great power comes great responsibility.

Not so long ago I made a video, a spoof of Woody Allen’s opening to the movie Manhattan. It was good, I thought. I made the video over on Animoto and exported the result to everywhere I could think of: YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter and so on. Then I sat back and waited for the results to come in. Next day I had four views on YouTube. Yes, I have to admit I was kind of disappointed. The thing is, everything I have ever written, particularly on WordPress, that I personally thought was really good has never had such a great reaction. Conversely also, those things I have just knocked out quickly because my Saturday deadline was looming have actually done pretty well with lots of hits and comments.

Anyway, not to be daunted I added the video to one of my WordPress posts and hoped I might get more hits that way. A few days later I checked YouTube again. 17 hits. Not bad I suppose. So, next move: check my Twitter analytics. I took a look and saw this:

Yes right in the middle there as you can see, there is a big spike. What was it? Well it was a Tweet created by Vimeo, a sort of automatic Tweet that is created when you post something there. The Tweet had over 12,000 impressions and 411 engagements, which is people actually clicking on the video and watching it. It looks like, in this case at least, that despite Vimeo being the poor cousin to YouTube, or so I thought, it was actually Vimeo that was performing for me!
Why?
How should I know? I’m still just an amateur!

Anyway, over on YouTube I not only have numerous videos encouraging the world to buy my book or subscribe to my web page, I also have various other non-marketing videos available.

My top watched video is this one below with, at the time of writing, over 30,899 views. You might be thinking hey, bet he makes a tidy little sum out of that video. However, if you did you’d be wrong because that video, which I made back in 1986 or 1987 is enhanced by an Elton John album track and all the royalties goes to Elton’s music company, despite my hours and weeks of filming and editing.

The video was one of my early video efforts, filmed using a JVC VHS-Compact camera, similar to the one Marty McFly uses in Back to the Future. One day I must get around to deleting Elton and adding some royalty free music.

Next in my video chart is this one about Manchester Airport;

Manchester Airport 1986 was such a long video I had to split it into two parts to upload it and strangely, part one has 6,839 views while poor old Part Two only has 4,762! Once again no royalties are forthcoming from either video as I used music from the pop charts of 1986.

Anyway, time to take another look at my Twitter account and schedule some tweets for this weekend. Should I do the usual stuff plugging my videos and blog posts or perhaps I should Tweet something a little more thoughtful to my 5,000 plus followers? Something about saving the environment or some heartwarming stuff about love and relationships?

After all, with great power comes great responsibility!


Now the nights are drawing in, why not settle down with a good book? Floating in Space is available from amazon as a paperback or Kindle download! Click here to buy!

Icarus, the Pool and Five Weeks in France.

Book Bag 2017.

If things had gone to plan, today you would have been looking at Holiday Book bag 4 (or should that be 5?) However, an urgent issue has been spotted by staff at Steve Higgins Tower, the home of SteveHigginsLive.com. Yes, the photography department has cocked up and I have been advised that the imaging for the post, that had duly been checked and sent on to the graphics department for blog titling to be added, had, shockingly, one of the seven books that make up this year’s Book Bag missing. Two major gaffes in as many weeks! Can this blog post recover? I can see as manager and CEO I will have no choice upon my return to the UK but to implement a new and drastic management review, perhaps even convene a Departmental Review Board! Ha! That will show my staff I mean business.

Five Weeks in France.

Five weeks in France? Wow! you’re probably thinking. Yes, five weeks is a hefty chunk of time to spend in France. Probably longer than the average holiday (wonder if I could claim a tax break? Probably not!) But all in all a nice stretch of time doing not much except, relax, swim, drink wine, eat cheese, swim, drink wine, eat cheese and so on.

One of the great qualities of this part of the world, Germigny  l’Exempt in the Cher region of France is the quiet. Almost everywhere in the UK, particularly in big cities like Manchester, silence is hard to find. Here in the country as I lie on my sun lounger I can feel a faint breeze and all I can hear is the hum of the pool’s machinery, some occasional birdsong and the distant drone of a car or motor bike. Wonderful.

Don’t think for a moment though we have forsaken the pleasures of the UK. At great expense we have had driven over, especially from the UK, a large supply of UK tea bags, Cheddar cheese, English Marmalade, English bacon and of course, who could do without English sausages? The result is a couple who eat like the English at breakfast and dine like the French at tea time.

Of course, everything is not all that rosy in our garden. We have forsworn TV for the duration of the holiday which means missing out on the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix. I have however duly downloaded the BBC F1 podcasts but sadly after sitting on my earphones the other day they have been rendered hors de combat as we natural French speakers say. Cue for this weekend’s brocantes and vide greniers:  Look for earphones!

The summer, even a long, hot one like the one here in France, does not last for ever. One thing I have noticed about the end of the seasons here is that it is usually abrupt. A few days ago, Liz and I were sitting in the garden, drinking wine and eating cheese, which of course is compulsory in France. Those lovely creamy French cheeses had softened in the heat and spread easily on some fresh French bread. Sweat was pouring down my face and we were slurping iced water in between vin rouge like it was going out of fashion. I was wearing a vest in the best Bruce Willis tradition and even though it was hot it was just wonderful to feel a gentle warm breeze on my shoulders. In the UK we just don’t have warm breezes! The next night something happened that I have experienced every year for the last ten years that I have been visiting France. There was a thunderstorm and a huge downpour and the next day things had cooled considerably.

Summer I fear, has departed.

The Pool.

This next section is a little heavier, some serious writing for a change. OK, it’s about the pool and a sun lounger, the focus of my holiday life but, way too heavy for a sun lounger thoughts post, I think . . .

As I sit reading, perspiration pours from my head and into my eyes. The sun is burning me alive and it is time to swim. From the first splash of my body into the pool, the warm water is all around and it comforts rather than cools me. Either way, it’s cooler than out on the sun lounger.

The pool is my father confessor. If I have sacrificed myself to the gods of the sun, here, in this pool, the waters give me redemption. The thermometer, floating in the water, says the temperature is ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Outside these waters it must be what? One hundred, one hundred and ten degrees perhaps.

As I slip forward all my mind is focussed on swimming and my thoughts of home and work vanish as the waters part to let me through. The effect it has on me is like a cleansing. The waters clean the outer body, sweat and moisture are washed away. Inside the effect is the same. Worries and negative vibes are cleansed.

As my body slips through the water, all my thoughts coalesce, thoughts mesh and words tumble together. I take them and store them away in a room in my mind until I can get to my notebook and set them down.

The best part, the part where it seems I commune with nature is when I leave the pool. I lie down on the sun lounger and the water drips away from my body in tiny streams of water, then all my worries drip away too. Any final drops of moisture are warmed by the sun and slip silently upwards into the atmosphere, changed for a short while into something lighter than air, drifting ever upwards and inside, inside my mind, I almost feel that with a little effort, I too could drift upwards, floating on the currents of air, warmed by the sun, until like Icarus I slip closer and closer to the sun.

The heat eventually melts my wings and I plummet towards the earth, once again in need of the rejuvenation of the pool. I step up from the sun lounger, slip easily into the pool, and at once the warm waters embrace me.


Floating in Space is a novel set in 1977. Find out more by clicking the links at the top of the page or click here to go to amazon.

Blogging and the Art of the Visual Image

I’ve been a blogger for a few years now and I tend to think three years is the extent of my blogging experience but thinking about it, my blogging experience goes back even further, the only difference is when I started doing it, it wasn’t called blogging.

As a schoolboy I used to publish (OK, write out on pages torn from an exercise book) a blog every week. It was called ‘The latest from the Perverted Press!’ It was mainly a spoof on the then current news stories from the late sixties and early seventies. They were things on the lines of, President Nixon issues apologies after visiting the Nuclear command centre and saying ‘time for launch’ when in fact he had really said ‘time for lunch!’

I used to bill myself as the celebrated author of that great trilogy, the ‘Master’ novels. There was the first one, ‘Master Smith’, the follow-up, ‘Master Jones’, and the one that caused a great deal of unwarranted attention to the Perverted Press, ‘Master Bates’.

I had a friend called Jeff Langdon who created a rival blog, sorry, I mean pamphlet. He decided to write about me and called his pamphlet The Steve Higgins Story, so I was forced to reply with The Jeff Langdon Story. Mine, I have to say, was far more popular and Jeff always complained that my popularity stemmed from the fact my pamphlets looked better because of the liberal use of coloured pens and drawings. Alas Jeff, art always was one of my top subjects. I suppose to a great extent things haven’t changed much. It’s still images that tend to pull in the reader to our work whether it is a pamphlet or a blog and it’s impossible to ignore the growing power and value of visual content. Just look at four of the fastest-growing social networks: Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr.

I read an article the other day that stated, amongst other things, that posts with images produce a higher reader engagement of 650% as compared to text only posts. So how do you get images for your posts?

Well, one easy way is to take them yourself. As an amateur photographer I have a big stack of pictures for use in my blogs and nowadays its even easier to produce a picture, especially with my iPad and the various apps you can get to manipulate the image however you want. https://www.picmonkey.com/ is a great site for editing your images and for adding text and there is also an iPad version. Another great one I use frequently ishttps://www.canva.com/  which has easy to use templates for Twitter, Facebook and all the main social media sites.

If you are not a photographer yourself you need to subscribe to a stock photo site such as https://pixabay.com/ or https://unsplash.com/

Another great site that I use often is http://quotescover.com/  and it’s this site I used to create the title banner you can see at the top of the post.

In Quotescover, simply add your quote or in this case, blog title, add a name or the name of your website and click create. You can choose what type of image you want, for instance for a social media post, for Pinterest, or for a Facebook cover or whatever, then you have a choice of image shape; portrait, landscape or square. After that keep clicking ‘next fonts’ until you get the font that you like.

Here’s a picture from many years ago, taken with my old Olympus OM10. It was pretty handy when I came to post an item called Adventures with A Camera. In the picture is my old Zenith TTL, my first SLR camera and the picture was taken with the camera I upgraded to, an Olympus OM10. As you can see from the picture, I was becoming more and more interested in photography, buying new lenses, experimenting with filters and reading all about photography techniques in the camera magazines of the day.

The picture below was a simple one of me posing with the statue of John Lennon in Liverpool. It was edited in Picmonkey, darkened, given a blue hue and some laser like light beams, some arcing electric lights and some text. It helped to draw in numerous readers to a post about my music loves, The Soundtrack to my Life Part 2.

Picmonkey is a really helpful site for manipulating images and adding text. For a post on my Formula One racing book collection I decided to make a few montages with cover shots of my books. To do that, go into Picmonkey and click ‘collage’. This takes you a page where you can choose from various preselected collage frames or design your own. When you are ready, it’s easy to just upload the pictures you want to create your own collage. Save the design and then you can choose edit and add text or other items.

One thing you might want to try on your blog is an animated image, a gif. It’s quite easy to make a gif using a website like http://gifmaker.me/

All you need to do is have two or three related images that can be animated together, upload them and the site does the rest. On my main page I have a number of gifs and they are all pretty simple. here’s one showing the cover of my book, Floating in Space.

Of course, there’s also video content that you can use to entertain your reader but that’s a whole other blog post!


Thanks for stopping by and if you want to find out more about Floating in Space, click the links at the top of the page!

How to Write a Novel

So why do you want to write a novel? For fame, fortune or financial gain? Do you just like writing? Anyway, here are few tips.

Plan your novel. Yes, don’t think you can sit down and just start typing away. Do some planning and research, then start writing.

Start at the beginning! Well, not necessarily. Sometimes the beginning is hard. It’s a sort of slow part of the novel, introducing people and places. Sometimes it’s easier to start right at the heart of the book and then add the beginning on later.

Got stuck already? Again, start writing a different part of the novel. When you have got the old creative juices flowing, then you can come back to the section that was difficult to write.

Editing. Now this is pretty important, especially if you write the way I do, in a pretty disjointed way, moving back and forth within the novel as I’ve outlined above. I’ve always felt that it’s important to keep banging away on my laptop or notebook or whatever and if I’m not banging away (writing) then I need to do something to make me write so that’s when I open my diary and write about last night’s night out, the shift I’ve just had at work and so on. Perhaps that’s why so much of me spills over into my blogs and books. (OK: Book, the one book, the only one book I’ve ever written!)

Where do you get your ideas from? Well, let’s face it, if you haven’t got an idea why do you even want to write a book? (Fame, fortune and financial gain?)

Can you see it through? It’s hard work. Floating was started in the 1980’s although not as a book but as a series of essays. Years later I decided to make it into a novel so I put the essays together which formed the second half of the book then I had to write the first half. I was still writing it when the PC revolution began and I typed it all out onto Microsoft word. I was ready to give up after two computer crashes. I lost the third quarter of the book when my PC crashed so I had to rewrite it and then found the lost quarter on a back up disk! Confusion then reigned until I sat down, deleted lots of multiple versions, re edited the book and added a new ending. That was hard work, believe me.

Enjoy what you are doing. Writing should be enjoyable and satisfying. If it is neither, then you should be questioning why you are doing what you are doing. If you think it’s an easy way to make money, think again!

Find somewhere to write. Find your own space, relax and be comfortable while writing.

Always have something to write with. Even when you are not writing, ideas can still come to you so make sure you have a notebook handy to jot ideas down, no matter where you are. You can even record yourself. I have a dictation machine in my car because ideas always come to me when I’m driving. Whether it’s on a nice pleasant drive or a trip to the supermarket, you never know when a good idea may appear.

How do you write a bestseller? Well, wish I knew. I enjoyed writing my book and I love the fact that numerous people have read it and enjoyed it but it’s far from being a best seller. Every now and then a few pounds are pinged into my bank account courtesy of amazon but I won’t be giving up the day job yet.

What do famous Writers advise? I saw an interesting article by PD James which started off by saying this:

You can’t teach someone to know how to use words effectively and beautifully. You can help people who can write to write more effectively and you can probably teach people a lot of little tips for writing a novel, but I don’t think somebody who cannot write and does not care for words can ever be made into a writer. It just is not possible.

Nobody could make me into a musician. Somebody might be able to teach me how to play the piano reasonably well after a lot of effort, but they can’t make a musician out of me and you cannot make a writer, I do feel that very profoundly.

Interesting. Read the full article here.

Ernest Hemingway thought the key was to write one true sentence. Click here to read this fascinating article on Hemingway.

Charles Dickens was the author of my favourite book, David Copperfield. Click here to read 10 writing tips from Dickens himself.

Finally, here are 20 writing tips by author Stephen King. I’ll quote my favourite one to end this post. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

So settle down, open your laptop or notebook, and write.


If you liked this post, why not try my book, Floating in Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

Marketing, Social Media and the 1970’s.

I read a lot about promotions and marketing, all in pursuit of selling my book, Floating in Space, to the unsuspecting public. Many marketeers recommend giving away free copies as a way of driving sales forward. Other marketeers are not so certain. A book is a product of many long hours, even years of hard work and for some, giving it away for free is not an option. For a registered tight wad like me that is something I go along with wholeheartedly.

Another reason is that at the moment I only have one book to sell. It’s not like having a trilogy or a series of books, where giving the first one of the series away will drive sales of the other books. Having said all this, I did run a giveaway lasting for three days in the hope that some new reviews might drive sales up but sales seemed to just run at their normal rate.

Reviews are important to an author. Quite a few readers have given me good reviews on Facebook but where I need them are on my amazon page where the buyers go to look directly at my book.  I suppose not being the pushy type works against me but I have recently added my book to Goodreads where readers with a Facebook profile can log on there and add a review. There are links on my Goodreads author page straight to amazon.

Dear me, bet Charles Dickens never had this trouble!

One of the nice aspects of Floating in Space is that because it has been born out of my past, as well as my imagination, reading it is a rather nice nostalgic experience for me, drawn back into the world of my youth, Manchester in the late 1970’s. Reading the book I can once again soak up the atmosphere of Manchester City Centre and remember those late afternoons and early evenings drinking in pubs like the Salisbury after a day in the office, or evenings playing snooker and pool after a shift going up and down the roads of Manchester as a bus conductor. Sometimes I can almost feel the polished wood of the bar in the working men’s club I used to frequent and even smell the cigarette smoke of the smokers, now a long gone sensation in British pubs. The past is inside all of us and I’m sure many people could do what I have done and take their past life, mix it up with a dash of imagination and some humour and write it all into a book.

So how easy is it to write a book like this? Well, not that easy, I can tell you. However, my book started life as a series of essays about my life in the late seventies. I started to compare the worlds of insurance and accounting and the world of passenger transport. Accounting wasn’t that easy in the seventies. Everything was added up by hand and entered into huge ledgers. There was the rough ledger where all the rough entries and working out and cash balancing was done and then it was all entered neatly into the big blue main ledger.

I am sure that today it’s a much easier process with software that does all the additions and calculations for you. One job that really used to tax me was arranging fire insurance for the offices rented by our tenants. They paid a percentage based on their office space. So for instance, if they rented 50% of the available space, they paid 50% of the insurance. There again, there were other tenants who rented a small office on the ground floor that measured 12 by 8. Now, try converting that into a percentage!

Coming back to the present day, here’s another set of maths questions. If I have 4,619 followers on Twitter, (correct at the time of writing although according to Twitter analytics, I get an average of 4 new followers per day so please make the necessary adjustments when you read this) why then don’t I get that figure following my blog? After all, all my Twitter posts lead, directly or indirectly, to this website. I recently had my Twitter page analysed by one of those writers’ sites that offer stuff like that. This is what they said.

Followers are generally people who just want you to follow them back. There’s no love there or loyalty.
Put it this way. 
Say you had a coffee shop and 2 people walked in:
person a) who is an ardent coffee fan and
person b) who came in basically to get out of the rain.
Who are you most likely to get a sale out of and be able to convince to join your email list to send them more coffee ideas?
Clearly person a) – they already love coffee right?
Person b) – harder work to convince them to do anything. Not impossible but definitely more work.
You need a bunch of person a)’s Steve.
The 2nd thing you may be doing ‘wrong’ is HOW you are going about trying to funnel those blog views. Let me give you some generic advice.
With all due respect nobody is interested in you. 
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that nobody is interested in any of us (so don’t take it personally!)  : )
People are interested in what YOU can do for THEM.

I have to admit, that’s a pretty shrewd assessment of Twitter. Everyone who is on there, with the exception of those who just want to Tweet to their friends about their social life, is out there to sell something, just, as my Twitter reviewer pointed out, as I am. I want people to read my blog and then perhaps think, “hey, this isn’t bad, wonder if its worth buying Steve’s book?” Bingo!

Just one last thought. There was no social media in 1977, the year in which Floating in Space is set but imagine if we tried to do the sort of things then that we do now on Facebook?  Suppose we went for a meal and wanted to share the experience with friends. We had to take a big bulky camera, take a picture of our meal, take the film to Boots or Max Spielmann or wherever, have the film developed, have the prints made and then get copies and send them out in the mail to your friends. By mail of course I mean mail, the Royal Mail, put the picture in an envelope, get a stamp and actually send it after adding a brief message for your followers -I mean friends- such as ‘this looks yummy!’

Social media was hard work in the 1970’s!


If you liked this post, why not try my book, Floating in Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

Writer’s block, Russian Women, and my In-box.

It’s great to have lots of extra time to myself now I’m semi-retired and for me as a writer, well, amateur writer I suppose, (and blogger) I tend to use a lot of that time for writing. The crazy thing is, when you get a nice quiet day, all your jobs done, they’re the jobs Liz arranged for me before she went out to work, it’s great to fire up the laptop and get cracking. The big problem though is this, what do I write? Yes usually ideas seem to just flow for me, especially when I’m at work and it’s all getting pretty busy.

Now I’m not at work and I’m not really busy, the ideas aren’t coming. I could tell you about my TV viewing but I did that last week. Then there’s dealing with semi-retirement but I did that one the week before. I have actually got twelve posts in my draft box but none of those seem to be calling to me, not one of the twelve is saying “finish me!”

One of the problems of writing on a laptop is that eventually, even if you are beavering frantically away on a new post, the internet will eventually beckon. What has been quite amusing this week is how a shocking and outrageous event on a United Airlines flight has spawned an increasing number of spoofs using footage from the movie Airplane. If you’ve been away holidaying in the jungles of Borneo and have been without wi-fi then you won’t know that on an overbooked United Airlines flight, the staff simply picked a passenger at random and ejected him from the aeroplane! Smartphone video footage of the incident has gone ‘viral’ as they say. How the airline will recover from this PR disaster is anyone’s guess but the poor fellow in question, hauled off a flight because they were short of a seat for the staff, must certainly be considering legal action and American lawyers will probably be queueing up to take on the job. Fame and fortune and an easy legal victory must surely await the man who takes that one into the courtroom!

Anyway, Internet surfing done, next is a ‘quick’ look at my emails. I see I have one from the National Westminster Bank saying there is a problem with my account and I need to click on a link and enter my password to get it sorted. As it happens, I don’t have a Nat West account so whoever you are with your beady eyes on my hard earned cash, this scam didn’t work but people are falling for these scams in increasing numbers. Never click on emails asking for your passwords and if you are not happy with any type of mail you receive, call your bank but don’t use any links or numbers in the suspect e-mail.

This Russian lady is probably an Internet Scammer!

Also in my inbox is yet another e-mail from a Russian lady wanting a relationship with me! Poor girl! I have been targeted lately by numerous Russian ladies and not long ago I e-mailed one of these women back and said, look, I think you have fallen for a scam. I’m not on any dating sites and I’m not interested in you. The lady in question, her name was Kristina and she even enclosed a photograph, wrote back a very long letter telling me about her life in a small Russian village, how she was orphaned as a youngster and how she loved my picture and longed to be with me.

Sometimes, when the light gets me in a certain way and I’m wearing my leather ‘pulling jacket’ I tend to think I look quite good, hardly in the Bruce Willis class but acceptable though hardly deserving of anyone’s longing. Not only that, my picture, as far as I am aware, is not on any dating site, Russian or otherwise. Anyway, I wrote back again, told the lady her dating site was a scam and not to pay them a penny, or a ruble more. She wrote quickly back that luckily she had come into a small amount of money and was ready to fly over to the USA to spend some time with me and although she would be low on funds she was desperate to see me.

Yes, I’ve always wanted to visit the USA but hopefully when it happens I won’t be bumping into Kristina from the Russian City of Izhevsk. Of course she could also be after another Steve Higgins, or even the Steven Higgins from Ventura California, who I am constantly advised by the My Life Backgound Monitor Company Dot Com, that important personal details of mine are freely available on the Internet! No they are not and my name is not Steven and the only person who calls me Stephen is my Mum and even then it’s Stephen and not Steven!

Of course some are my details are freely available, for instance my novel set in 1970’s Manchester! Click the links at the top of the page to find out more. Now, back to this week’s post, what can I write about?

Writing, Elvis Presley, and the Year 1977!

This has been an interesting week for me because it has been my first week as a partially retired worker! Yes, instead of the grind of six days on, three days off I have completely reversed the equation. Now I work three days on and six days off, a much more agreeable working pattern as you can imagine.

This should leave me with more time to relax, more time to drink beer, see old friends, drink beer, have meals out, drink beer and, well, you get the picture! It should also leave me more time to indulge in my favourite pastime; to write. I still have my blogs to produce and one day I hope to actually get round to finishing the sequel to Floating in Space.

The problem which arises there is that I have two favourite places for writing, well, not actually favourite places but places where I seem to be most creative, where ideas seem to flow. One is my car. I settle down in my motor, slip something relaxing in the CD player and after a while something will come to me and I either remember it, or if it’s a little bit more complicated I switch on my hand-held tape recorder and start blabbing away into it. (Just a minute, hand held device in the car, is that still legal?)

The other place is my work desk. As soon as I sit down and start to do some work, ideas start coming to me. Just lately we have had an internet ban at work so I tend to email myself at home with an idea or start off a word document and add to it as the day goes on. Now, as my hours at work have been reduced and correspondingly, my time in my car, I can see my output reducing.

Another issue is that at home, my laptop is at the centre of my universe. I use it for writing, for creating my videos and graphics and for editing my photographs. Now I put that sort of activity down as ‘creative work’. I’m sure you can see where I’m coming from but Liz on the other hand marks it down as ‘twatting about on my laptop.’ Now, you can see how a difference of opinion could occur.

Last week as I mentioned in my previous blog post, my brother and I went into Manchester to chat, have a meal, drink beer, and shoot some video. Now I did have something of a plan for the shoot. Floating in Space is set in 1977 and I wanted to evoke the feel of that particular year by mentioning some of the year’s events and characters. I had not brought my notes with me and relying on my memory was not a great idea. Later I realised I had forgotten to mention the most shocking event of 1977. The death of Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll!

Elvis Presley was once one of the most famous people on the planet. The man who almost single-handedly started off the modern pop music phenomenon and yet by 1977 he could only really be considered as a sort of easy listening musician. His days at the cutting edge of the music business were long gone. Elvis was a religious man who hated drugs but at the same time was a drug addict, only he was addicted to prescription drugs. In his mind, drugs prescribed by a doctor were something different to illegal drugs. In some ways you can see where he was coming from but he would ask a doctor for a prescription of some pill and the doctor might only prescribe two boxes of the drug. Elvis would then go to another doctor and they, flattered by the situation of having Elvis as a patient, would happily write out another prescription.

Elvis had long lived in a sort of twilight world. He slept all day and was awake all night. A big problem for him was insomnia and he used numerous drugs to help him sleep. Being so famous meant that normal life was  hard for him. If he popped  to the local store he would cause a riot so he did everything at night. If he wanted to see the latest movie, he would pay the manager to open up the cinema during the night. On the day of his death he even paid a visit to his dentist at night, after all, everyone would bend over to help the King and to be on his payroll. Elvis took pills to help him go to sleep and pills to help him wake up.

Elvis’ gifts of cars to friends, family, employees and even fans was legendary. What I think is sad is that when the local car dealers knew Elvis was on a spending spree, they would hike up the prices of the cars to make an even bigger killing. Elvis and his stepbrothers, who worked for him as bodyguards and assistants had a favourite saying, ‘taking care of business’, but it was Elvis himself who took care of business for all his extended family, however, in 1977 his business affairs were looking a little rocky. His records were not selling as well as they used to and he was particularly poorly served by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker who took not ten percent, not twenty percent, but a whopping fifty percent of Elvis’ earnings.

Elvis was beset by numerous health problems and on the night of 16th August, 1977, they finally overcame him. He was only 42 and I remember being very shocked by the news. When told by a reporter about Presley’s death John Lennon could only comment dismissively ‘Elvis? He died years ago.’ Liz was in France at the time and Elvis only warranted a small inch high column in the inside pages of the newspaper. When she mentioned it to the owner of the newspaper he asked ‘who is Elvis?’ Perhaps even his considerable fame had not penetrated to the South of France.

Perhaps I should have talked more about Elvis in my video or more about the other events and characters of that year. Still, if you want to find out more about life in 1977, you could always buy my book!

Anyway, I’ll have to be off now, I need to do some writing  -sorry, some twatting about on my laptop!

Pinterest, the Lion, and a Visit to the Cinema

Pinterest
Pinterest is one of those social media sites that are a little different from other ones. You don’t shout out about what you are doing, you don’t tell people which bar or restaurant you are in or post pictures of your friends being silly. No, you post pictures of things you are interested in onto your various ‘boards’.

My Pinterest page has various boards mostly about subjects similar to those of my posts on this blog. I’ve got movie boards, TV boards, music boards and so on. My favourite board is probably my Cult TV board which has pictures, sorry pins, from TV shows like The Time Tunnel, Doctor Who, Department S and The Avengers. (Not the superhero Avengers but the John Steed and Mrs Peel version!) Bowler hatted John Steed and his partner Mrs Emma Peel were sixties icons who battled quirky criminals in the offbeat 60’s espionage series. Mrs Peel sported a nice line in leather figure hugging cat suits and dealt karate kicks and chops to the numerous villains that came her way.

What I’ve noticed lately though on Pinterest is things getting a little political. I saw a picture the other day and it was a picture of a woman in America holding a placard which said ‘Donald Trump is not my President.’ The best thing though was the comment underneath which said ‘I have a poster too which says Hilary Clinton is not my President and I know who would be right!’’ That’s democracy for you. Sometimes those you vote for get elected, sometimes they don’t. That doesn’t make the winner any the less legitimate.

Another pin I saw the other day was one of a series of pins about the Rothschild family and how they are mega rich and actually rule the world via their multi-billion dollar banking empire. I’m not sure how true that is but what is strange is that in the past, American millionaires like Randolph Hearst, Howard Hughes and Joe Kennedy all paid money into the campaign of their preferred candidate and in return the candidate, if he got elected felt bound to return the favour. The new President might pass a bill easing the tax burden for his oil millionaire supporters for instance or in the case of Joe Kennedy, a grateful Franklin D Roosevelt made Kennedy Ambassador to the UK. This time round in 2017, rather than favour a particular candidate, one of the millionaires has run for office himself –and got elected!

Lion
This week I went to the cinema for the first time in ages. The last film I saw at the pictures was probably the last Bond film. Actually no, it was the Bond film before that -Skyfall! This time Liz and I went to see the movie Lion. Have you heard of it? Well if you haven’t that doesn’t surprise me as I had never heard of it either as it’s not exactly the most hyped film. In fact even if you do a search on the web the word ‘Lion’ brings up all sorts of things and not necessarily this movie.

Anyway, back to our local picture house in St Annes. It is a pretty small one. The screens are more like a sort of big TV lounge than a cinema. When we visit there we always like to sit right at the front. You can stretch your legs out, relax and enjoy an unhindered view of the big screen.

I was looking forward to the usual Pearl and Dean advertisements and that little jingle that always accompanies their advertising sequence. It’s one of those jingles you remember from your childhood and lets you connect long ago cinema visits to your present one. Sadly it never came. There was a preview though; it was a trailer to the upcoming Lego Batman film. Yes, that’s right, the Lego Batman film. An animated movie made using . . Lego. I’ve heard of product placement but this is taking things to a new level!

Anyway, back to the main event, Lion. Liz had heard about the film from friends and had been warned to bring plenty of tissues. Straight away that had set off a warning bell for me. I knew this wasn’t going to be the film for me. Wrong! Lion was one of the best movies I have ever seen! Well shot and acted, the film tells a moving and original story about a young Indian lad and his brother who go out collecting coal to sell and bring some extra food back to their poor family. One night they go into the local railway station where the older of the two brothers looks for work. Seru, the younger boy is tired and falls asleep on the platform. Later he wanders onto an empty train and when he awakes later the train is carrying him to some distant place far away from his family.

I won’t say any more about what happens but if you have an ounce of feeling in your body believe me you will shed a tear or two at the end of this movie.

Make sure you look out for this wonderful film.

 

If you liked this post then why not try my book Floating in Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

The Problems of a Self-published Writer.

quotescover-jpg-91I was at a pub quiz the other week and one of the questions was ‘name an author who has written 723 novels.’ Seven hundred and twenty-three novels. Can you believe that? The answer, in case you didn’t know is Barbara Cartland. She has a place in the Guinness book of records and is known as one of the world’s most prolific authors. At the other end of the scale there is me, Steve Higgins, with my one book, Floating in Space.

I have probably written more words, in my blogs and tweets and other social media posts promoting my book, than are actually in the book itself. Oh well, that is one of the facts of the self-publishing world: Writing a book is one thing but marketing is an entirely different ball game altogether and of course the competition is fierce with more than 5000 new books released on Kindle every day! Is it worth it you might ask? Why do I do it? Well, quite simply I do it because I like doing it and when the enjoyment has gone I’ll start thinking about doing something else with my spare time.

Nothing improves and hones your writing skills more than the writing process itself and as a blogger with a deadline of 10:00 am on a Saturday morning I have even started to feel like something of a professional writer. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to log into WordPress and find someone has liked one of my posts, or better still has left a comment. I’ve always thought that an intrinsic element of the human condition is finding that out that there are others in the world who think the same way as you do and like the things that you like.

I do tinker quite a lot with Floating in Space and some time ago I added a version which hopefully corrected the book’s various grammatical mistakes and I also added a small index to help explain 1977 to my younger readers. Recently I went a step further. I’ve not always been completely happy with the cover of my book. I used the cover designer built into createspace and KDP select to create a cover from various stock elements but I’ve always thought I could do better.

Using the web site canva.com which has a Kindle cover template I designed a new cover using a background photograph I had taken myself. I’ve always envisioned the cover as being a lovely cloud filled sky and the image of a man floating there, hands outstretched. That image is the whole essence of floating in space and although I’d like to explain further I don’t want to give away the ending for any potential readers. Anyway, there is no floating man on the new cover (yet) but there is a rather lovely cloud filled sky. I was pretty pleased with the result so I exported it to Kindle and there it was, working pretty well I thought as my new cover. Take a look below at the old and new versions.

picmonkeybook-collage

Old cover to the left, new cover to the right.

I then added it to my paperback version in createspace and after uploading it I ordered a copy for promotional purposes. Now I’m glad I did that because the book arrived with its smart new cover but I found there was no lettering on the spine and the entire back cover blurb had gone. Now, after some research, I find that to create a cover for the paperback, you have to create a full book jacket including the front and rear of the book! Looks like it’s back to the drawing board for now for the paperback cover!

I’ve had to be a little creative in using the paperback for my web site photos. The one below shows the new version but the one underneath showing the rear cover is the old version!

dscf1792_31219045553_o

A lot of the videos I have on this site were made at animoto.com and it was great to find I can just edit my original videos, take out photos of the old cover and insert the new one, except of course for shots where I’m actually holding a copy of the book.

Wonder if Hemingway ever had all this trouble!

If you want more information about Floating in Space click the links at the top of the page. Have a look at the updated video below to hear more about the way the novel was written and a little bit of background information:

Update.
I wrote the above post last week and now, after a few days work, here’s the finished cover which is now live on Amazon if you fancy a paperback to read while you while away those dark winter nights.
webversbook-cover

My 10 Best Posts of 2016

best posts 2016It’s that time of year again when we look back and take stock of what we did in the last twelve months and try to arrange everything neatly, tidy things up, add labels and pop everything onto the shelf of past memories before it gets consigned to the distant past. Bloggers are pretty much the same and I thought I might be a good idea to look back at my last twelve months of blogging.

I started 2016 by flying to Lanzarote for some winter sun and a welcome break from cold and wintry Britain. The Marina Rubicon in Lanzarote was lovely and warm, very much like a mild UK summer. The temperature was in the 70s (that’s Fahrenheit, sorry, I don’t do metric) and Liz and I spent a lovely five weeks swimming, sunbathing, reading and dining out in the restaurants and bars of the Marina. The evenings were a little cool I must admit but we dined outside every night, either at our rented villa or at a local eating place. Sometimes a fleece over the shoulders was necessary, sometimes not. I had taken with me my trusty laptop and I-Pad of course and kept myself busy blogging, promoting my book, Floating In Space and, supposedly, writing the follow-up novel. Alas, the follow-up never materialised but, what the heck, we had a great time anyway.

1.Being an avid TV viewer I had a post in the pipeline already, written in advance just in case of Wi-Fi issues on holiday. It was called M*A*S*H and the Emotional Leap Indicator. M*A*S*H is the star contender for my favourite comedy show ever and a show that is close to my writing ethic; that of combining humour with drama, and in this post I go on to analyse and talk about a comedy show that is funny as well as sad and routinely combines humour with tragedy.

2016-01-28 (2)ed2.While on holiday in Lanzarote, I did one of my usual posts, My Holiday Book Bag. I do love books and this is one of a series talking about the books I take on holiday. The idea stemmed from reading a biography of Richard Burton, who had a voracious appetite for books and always took a book bag away on holiday with him. On this occasion I’d thought I’d go one step further and make the post into a VLOG, a video blog, with me sitting in front of the camera giving out a good old rabbit about the various books I had with me. Later this spawned another blog, Making the VLOG about the whole experience of filming, narrating and so on.

IMGA03533.Whilst on the subject of books, I wrote a post about Marilyn Monroe books back in July. It was called 10 Books you should read about Marilyn Monroe. I have a large collection of books about Marilyn and in this post I introduced ten of them. Michelle Morgan, the author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed was kind enough to add a comment on the post.

4.During 2016 I’ve had a few health issues particularly with my back and my neck. I first hurt my neck over ten years ago and I don’t have a lot of mobility in that area but I told the story of my visits to the doctor, my diagnosis and experience of physiotherapists in Lost Horizon, Samsara and a Visit to the Doctor.

5.I regularly write posts about writing and how I work as a writer and blogger and a pretty good post about how I manage my blogging life was Bankers, Potboilers and J Edgar Hoover.

6.You may have realised as you troll through this blog that I do like my TV. Not any TV of course. I like my classic TV from the 60’s and 70’s. I like sci-fi and espionage shows and I adore old movies. I’m a great recorder too, regularly recording and watching stuff which I tend to watch in batches, sometimes watching part of a movie one day then the second part another day. Aliens, Frank Sinatra and Three Days in the life of a Couch Potato documented my TV watching habits.

Sigourney Weaver as Ripley

Sigourney Weaver as Ripley

7.Bicycles, Barry White, and a Man with a Chip on his Shoulder was a nostalgic look back at my younger days when I forced my younger brother to take part in sketches and plays I had written, all recorded on cassette tape for posterity. Music came into the equation when a teenage friend and I recorded interviews with each other discussing our top twelve records. Once again, faithfully recorded on tape!

8.American politics is one of my great interests and Howard Hughes and the Watergate Tapes discussed billionaire Hughes involvement with President Nixon and the Watergate affair.

9.Thoughts from a Sun Lounger Part 4 was written on holiday in France and is part of a series revealing the various musings that have come to me while indulging in one of my favourite experiences, that of lazing in the sun on a sun lounger. This post amongst other things involves another instalment about physiotherapists!

a so called writer!10. The Holiday Diary of a So-Called Writer. This was another post written on holiday in rural France. It was about my efforts, as a writer, to focus on writing rather than reading, swimming, drinking wine and eating and might go some small way to explaining why a follow-up novel to Floating In Space has yet to appear.

Last year, 2016, I published my 200th blog post. Although I tend to focus on books, film, and TV I write about almost anything that comes to mind, always focussing on that Saturday morning deadline. Customer service, Cillit Bang, Captain Kirk and the Beatles were just a few of the diverse subjects I posted about in 2016. I also wrote about my long-term love of F1 racing in Confessions of an Armchair F1 Fan.


Hope you had a great Christmas. All the very best for 2017 and if you are an avid reader and you find yourself stuck for something to read, why not try Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

my novel