Will the Real Steve Higgins Please Stand Up!

“All relationships are transient, friends who stab you in the back. People you network with at a fancy party. Relatives who die. The love of your life. Everything is temporary. People come into your life for a limited amount of time, and then they go away. So you welcome their arrival, and you surrender to their departure. Because they are all visitors. And when the visitors go home, they might take something from you. Something that you can’t ever get back. And that part sucks. But visitors always leave souvenirs. And you get to keep those forever.”

I didn’t write that first paragraph. I found it on the world-wide web after a surfing session. I was actually looking for something else but when I found that paragraph I had to stop and think. The writer, a guy called Sam Lansky, called it the Theory of Visitors and his post (you can read the full post here) is a post about dating and relationships but it highlights a fundamental fact of life; it is temporary and everything changes. That can be a bad thing if you are happy with your lot and don’t want things to change, but then again if you are not happy with things then hang on because someday, they will change.

Anyway, I might as well try to get back on track. I was diverted by the Theory of Visitors and good writing always has the power to take me way off track. I was writing about me and social media, and one way to try and gauge how I am doing and how visible I am in cyber space is by searching for me on the internet. I don’t know if that’s something you have done yourself but looking for you yourself on the internet is always fun. The first things that pops up on Google about me, Steve Higgins, are plenty of hits for various other Steve Higgins’s and the most popular Steve Higgins on the internet is a guy I have never heard of, the Steve Higgins who apparently is an American comedian and talk show host. That particular Steve Higgins was born on 13th August 1963 and is also a writer, producer, announcer, actor, and comedian. He currently serves as the announcer of The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon and as a writer and producer of Saturday Night Live, a TV show over there in the USA.

On page 2 this very website appears in the results, Steve Higgins: Letters from an unknown author. Page 3 shows my amazon author page which is good but nothing much else could be found about me personally although it was interesting to hear that Steve Higgins was performing at the annual Caribbean Voices and Pan Show, giving a ‘spectacular’ musical performance. I was also happy to see that the Steve Higgins who appeared in the obituaries was not me and at the moment I am currently alive and well.

Clicking on the Google video tab I found myself on page three of the results one day and then a week later relegated to page six. disappointing but at least it’s good to know that I actually feature in Google searches which is probably more by accident than design although I do pay a lot of attention to SEO otherwise known as Search Engine Optimisation. What is that all about? Well it’s about making sure that you are using the right keywords in the right places so that you will show up on Google searches and one big tip I would like to reveal is this one. Instead of adding an image titled DSC34567 to your post, give it another title, rename it to something more relevant to your post as Google searches will also pick up on the names of your images!

 

Anyway, getting back to me. On a very dull night shift not long ago I was sitting with my colleague Paul and we were watching the old TV show Bullseye. As usual in our control room the TV has no sound, just subtitles and Paul mentioned how great it would be for a contestant on the show to tune in and see either himself or a loved one guesting on TV from the 1980’s. The show started in 1981 and ran for quite a while. As I thought about it I remembered that I myself was on a TV show in the late 80’s or early 90’s. It was a show called A Word in Your Era. It was a spoof quiz show, that is to say it wasn’t a real quiz show at all. It pretended to be but all the questions and dialogue were scripted in advance and the guests were comedians who were playing a part. In fact I remember that the warm up man was the writer of the show and he seemed to be very pleased with himself, poor deluded fellow that he was. On the show that I was part of, Steve Cougan played Casanova and he answered various questions, in character, all of which were pre arranged for Steve to give a comedic reply to. When we entered the TV studio, the old BBC studios in Oxford Road in Manchester, members of the audience were asked to give questions to the performers in a fake question and answer session. The question I was given was to ask ‘Casanova’ was had he ever been involved with a man?

Now A Word in Your Era never really took off and although I remember my episode being on TV the series fizzled out soon after. Anyway, I didn’t imagine for a moment that the show would be out there on the Internet but then again, one should not under estimate the power of Google or the Internet. There am I, just as I was in 1992 with large glasses and a not very attractive shirt . .

The video should start just as I make an appearance but if not, fast forward to 17 minutes 54 seconds!

After that experience I became quite interested in being on TV and applied to be a contestant on another TV quiz show. At the audition I was understandably rather nervous. Sitting with various other TV hopefuls I was asked to stand up and talk about myself. I did so, chatted about my job, my new house move and so on. After a few minutes I faltered and asked ‘was that enough?’ Fine said the producer or whoever she was. As I returned to my seat, a girl sat next to me shook her head. ‘Oh God’ I asked. ‘Was I that bad?’

‘No’ she answered. ‘It’s just that you have to keep talking until asked to stop. If you stop too early they expect you’ll dry up on the real TV show and so they won’t go for you.’ The lady, like quite a few of my neighbours in the audition room, was a veteran of various daytime TV shows and knew what she was talking about. I never made it onto the long forgotten TV quiz show.

Going back to Google I thought I’d might as well try the Google image tab. I scrolled down and there I am on row 22 of the image results, nestled between Steve Higgins with Cuba Gooding Junior and Steve Higgins @stevehigginsok of Twitter. Steve sadly has only 478 Twitter followers compared to my 6,743! Never mind Steve, perhaps you need to do a little more networking.

Looking back over http://www.stevehigginslive.com (not http://www.stevehiggins.com -that wily US comedian has snapped up that domain name!) I see that I have revealed a great deal of myself to the unsuspecting public, all in the name of marketing my one and only book. My hobbies of writing and video production have been revealed. My love of 1960s TV shows. My classic film addiction, my music loves. Have I revealed my true self, the inner Steve Higgins that is really me? Perhaps. Then again, perhaps not. Either way, everything is only temporary. People come into your life for a limited amount of time, and then they go away. So you welcome their arrival, and you surrender to their departure. . . .


Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

Some Hints and Tips from my Adventures on YouTube

I was checking my YouTube page the other day and noticed that I have eighty four videos there. That figure was quite a surprise to me. Eighty four videos? I have to admit, some of those are in my private file and are for production use only. (That makes me sound like a real film producer – production use only!) By that I mean some were uploaded so I could use the soundtrack on another video, some were uploaded without a soundtrack so I could add YouTube music later and some were promotional videos that use the old Floating in Space cover and were made before I introduced the newer version and rather than delete them I have just taken them offline.

By far my most popular video is this one, Trucking: The life of an HGV driver, 1980’s Style! I’d like to be able to tell you what a cracking video it is and that it is well worth watching although, in fact, it isn’t. It’s one of my first videos made before I even went on a media course at the Manchester WFA. I spent a few days with my friend Brian who was an HGV delivery driver and I made a short film about him at work.

I think people watch the film because of the nostalgia factor. I can see perhaps former HGV drivers watching it because that’s how things used to be, no sat navs or other gadgets, just get your map out and get trucking. They are certainly the ones who leave comments. Apart from that it has no particular merit. Pity I didn’t remove the title sequence, done on my old Sinclair Spectrum with music from Elton John, because if I had, the 35,917 views I’ve had at the time of writing could be making me a few quid in royalties. Instead the video is subject to a copyright claim by the owners of Elton’s music.

That’s probably the best lesson I’ve learnt from my time on YouTube; if you made a video years ago and used your favourite tracks from your record collection, replace them with royalty free music which you can download free from YouTube.

One of my favourite videos is another I made in the 1980’s, A Welsh Journey, Manchester to Porthmadoc. It’s a short documentary made about a rail trip which was inspired at the time by a documentary film presented by Michael Palin called Confessions of a Train Spotter. It was part of a Great Railway Journeys series and unlike some of the travel films made later by the former Monty Python performer, it was a great little film full of enthusiasm for the subject.

My old friend Steve and I wanted to recreate Palin’s journey but instead decided to do something cheaper and easier, a rail trip from Manchester Victoria to Porthmadoc. I did a great edit with a documentary style voice over and some top notch sound, music and effects mixing, courtesy of the new sound mixer I had just picked up. The big problem with that video, as regards YouTube, was that I used music from a great album by the Crusaders called Images. Now, that was fine in 1986 when the video was viewed just by me and my friends. Fast forward however to the 21st century digital age, upload it to YouTube and suddenly you have a whole lot of  musical rights owners who are not happy that their music is playing on my video. Result: YouTube have muted the entire soundtrack. You can still watch it but you cannot hear it.

The only thing to do was to take my original VHS video, slip the digitised version into my Windows Movie Maker and then re-edit and add some royalty free music provided by YouTube, in this case a little track by a guy called Kevin MacLeod called Local Forecast. I re-did some of the commentary, faded in Local Forecast in place of the Crusaders and even tidied up the video as a whole.

Some time ago videos could be edited on YouTube using their on-line video editor, hence the reason for uploading videos for ‘production use only’ as I mentioned earlier. You could trim videos, use the soundtrack from a different video and so on. Alas, the YouTube editor is no more, so it’s important to have your video all ready for viewing before you upload it.

One handy little thing on YouTube are YouTube cards. They are just that; a little card that appears in the top right hand corner in which you can add a link to other videos or even to your website.

Just going back to my Trucking video, two other reasons why that video does so well might be as follows.

a) The title is very SEO compatible. It’s straight to the point and tells you all you want to know and it also has a pretty good thumbnail or icon. That’s the image when you see when you first find a video on YouTube. If you look at the railway video above, you can see the icon has all the basics, a simple but relevant picture, the title, and a little explanation that it’s the updated version, not the one with the sound muted!

b) Thumbnails are important as a  good one can pull the viewer into watching your video.

A lot of my more recent videos were made on the Animoto web site. Animoto is a video editing website that comes with templates so you can easily upload your photos and video clips and the template will do the rest. You can even create a whole slide show video with just a collection of still images. Here’s one of my favourites, even though it’s just a little advert for my book:

Here’s another one, this time a collection of photographs of Lytham St Annes :

Right, so so far we’ve got documentaries from the 1980’s, promo videos, and slide shows. Not only that but I also have my book reviews on YouTube. Yes, I’ve always added a video version of my Book Bag series. Here’s the last one, filmed in sunny France in 2017:

Just as I’ve finished this post and pretty much finished re-editing my Airport 1986 video by adding royalty free music, I’ve had an email from YouTube advising me that because I have under a 1000 subscribers I can no longer ‘monetise’ my videos! Oh well, the Internet is a fast moving and ever changing place. Perhaps I should look at shifting my videos over to rival video channel Vimeo.com! Anyway, here’s my updated airport video, split into two parts for ease of uploading.

So, just to finish, here are three points that are key to developing your YouTube channel:

1. Use royalty free music!

2. Think carefully about your video title.

3. Add a simple but effective icon for your video; that and your video title can be the key to bringing in your viewers and subscribers!

4. People have very short attention spans these days. If they are not interested in your video in the first few seconds, they will navigate away from your video to something else so make those first few seconds count.


Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page for more information or watch the short promo below.

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?

The Blogger Recognition Award

blogger-recognition-awardFriends and Bloggers. I have recently been made the recipient of a Blogger Recognition Award. I feel very humble in accepting this and I have to thank my fellow blogger Dave Kingsbury for his nomination. Thanks Dave, much appreciated. If can you let me know when the silver cup and cash bonus will be coming my way I would really appreciate it!

The rules for this award are very specific:

1. Select 15 other blogs you want to give the award to.

2. You cannot nominate yourself or the person who has nominated you.

3. Write a post to show your award.

4. Give a brief story of how your blog started.

5. Give a piece of advice or two to new bloggers.

6. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

7. Attach the award badge to the post (right click and save, then upload.)

8. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them.

9. Provide a link  to the original post on Edge of Night 

Well, first of all, here are 15 other blogs I’d like to give the award to. I love them all but the fact of the matter is this, 15 blogs, that’s a bit of a handfull; 5 would have been easier. Anyway, I’ve got stuff to do, places to go so I picked 15 sites very quickly from sites I happen to follow and they must be good otherwise I wouldn’t follow them! (Unless I only followed them because they said they’d follow me if I followed them. That’s the blogging world for you – fickle.)

https://larryhancock.wordpress.com/ Thanks for keeping me up to date with the JFK assassination news Larry.

The B Movie Blog

I Started Late and forgot the Dog

http://journeysinclassicfilm.com/

http://abbyhasissues.com/

https://kaitkingthewriter.wordpress.com/

https://manchesterarchiveplus.wordpress.com/ (Hey, as a pround Mancunian I always check the archives blog!)

https://iheartingrid.wordpress.com/

http://catherineryanhoward.com/

http://mostlyblogging.com/

https://unsolicitedtidbits.wordpress.com/

http://filmdoctor.co.uk/

http://aopinionatedman.com/

https://alicerene.wordpress.com/

https://pleasureforpleasure.wordpress.com/

https://wayneej.wordpress.com/

OK, what’s the next thing? How did I start my blog?
Blogging for me is primarily to promote my work but I do love writing and I do love writing my blog. One good thing about blogging is that it gets the creative juices flowing. It gets you thinking, what can I write about? What can I write about next time? So far the ideas have kept on coming and I’ve got six or seven draft blogs in the pipeline although I do worry about the day the ideas will dry up. When that day comes I’ll probably pack the whole thing in. Many people ask me how do I do it, how do I come up with a new post every week? Well it’s a good job I don’t have to write a daily blog; I’d be pretty pushed to do that I can tell you! Anyway what I do is this: I keep an eye and an ear out for a blog idea all the time. I read a lot and one of my great loves is trolling round for second hand books so if I’m stuck I’ll write about books or writers. I’ve already done posts about James Hilton and Dylan Thomas, two of my favourite writers, and I recently wrote a second post about my finds in second hand bookshops. If ever I see something on TV that might inspire a blog post, I jot it down in my notebook or even sometimes on my mobile. In my car, which believe it or not, is a prime creative space for me, I have a small hand held tape recorder and I can be seen frequently jabbering into it as I drive to and from work.

Recently I switched on the television and an old James Bond movie was showing. Now, I’ve read all of Ian Fleming’s Bond books and seen all the films so that looked to me to be a prime target for a blog. A little research on the internet will tell you that a lot of popular posts will have a number in the title, things like ’10 different ways to promote your blog’ or ’20 ways to get more blog traffic.’ OK I thought, how about ‘8 Things you didn’t know about James Bond!

Advice for Bloggers: Read other blogs. See how they are put together. Use good graphics and pictures as they pull the readers in, I create mine on sites like picmonkey and quotescover. Write about things you like and things you are interested in. If you’re not interested in something, how can you expect to interest others?

If you like humour, books and classic films, check out the blog list above. If you would like to read more of my work, why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more info!

 

The ups and downs of the Internet

quotescover-JPG-11As you can guess if you’ve read any of my other blogs, I just love the digital age. It’s enabled me to do so many things; share my writing with everyone here on wordpress, share my pictures on Tumblr and Flickr and my videos on you tube.

What’s been a highlight in particular is that I’ve been a motor racing fan since I was a school boy and when I was younger I spent a lot of time at my local circuit, Oulton Park in Cheshire, watching motor races and taking pictures. I had a whole mountain of pictures that had only been seen by me and have been sitting in an album upstairs in my back room for years. Now Flickr has enabled me to share them with other race fans and my Oulton Park collection has had hundreds of views, when a few years back it was just one.

image courtesy everystockphoto.com

image courtesy everystockphoto.com

Social networking is so interesting and varied. The main social sites are probably Facebook and Twitter. I’m on both of those sites but they are very different. Twitter is in a lot of ways a real-time web site. Many people comment on sport and TV shows while the shows or events are still in progress but personally if I’m trying to comment on an F1 race I feel as though I’m missing the action whilst I’m tweeting. I suppose in that way Twitter is ideal for the smart phone whereas Facebook is somewhere you can post your status and then come back another time and respond to further comments. On Twitter most of my friends are pure internet acquaintances, especially now as I’ve been promoting my work heavily on that site. I get other authors asking me to like their pages and posts and in return I like their pages and posts so we both benefit with extra web exposure.

The same thing has been starting to happen on Facebook with increasing traffic from non-friends, people who just like my blogs, so I’ve had to create a Facebook page for myself as a writer so that I can keep separate my business and personal friends.

Another aspect of the internet is that it enables you to check out your old and long-lost friends and a site like Friends Reunited started a trend for connecting with old friends. Friends Reunited was one of the early success stories of the internet but in the last few years it fell by the wayside, it’s popularity overtaken by sites like the aforementioned Twitter and Facebook. Now the site has been taken down and it’s web address is just a dead link.

I’ve traced quite a few of my old school friends thanks to Friends Reunited, for instance one of my primary school pals that I have made contact with emigrated to Canada, was successful in the computer industry and now lives in semi-retirement on an island off the west Canadian coast. Pretty good for a lad from a Wythenshawe council estate. That was an interesting find and my friend Paul and I have exchanged a fair few e-mails. Both of us are happy and literate writers, perhaps we’re really old-fashioned letter writers now turned to e-mails but I find that today it’s easy, at least for some people, to fall into a kind of text speak even on social media that sometimes slips over into e-mail messages.

I had one e-mail a while ago from an old school friend asking if I was the same Steve Higgins who he knew at school. I replied back that yes I was and added a good few paragraphs about my life, what I had been up to in the intervening years and what I was doing now. Nothing came back for months and when I wrote again to say ‘did you get my e-mail’ a reply finally arrived. ‘Yes, great to hear from you LOL.’

That particular friend I’ve not seen for over thirty-five years and I’m none the wiser about him now, despite him wanting to contact me! Oh well, that’s the internet for you.

One more area of life that’s been revolutionised by the Internet is shopping. Yes, from the comfort of your own home you can search the Internet for all those tricky Christmas presents. There’s Amazon, and E-bay, and all the big stores have their own web sites and many frequently e-mail us about some great bargain. I had one a while ago offering me thirty razor blades ‘compatible’ with my Wilkinson’s razor at a very cheap price indeed. Blades are pretty pricey these days, so, OK, I clicked on the link, bought my voucher, then went to the razor blade site, and added my voucher code. OK so far but then I had to add a few quid for postage. Not happy! That extra money was eating into my savings. Anyway, eventually the blades arrived at my door. Not sure what kind of service was used but one wonders if a camel or even a tortoise was involved. OK, I get the blades but then there’s another problem: They won’t fit on my razor! Now, things get confusing because there are so many razors available these days. There’s the Hydro, the Quattro, the Quattro Titanium, and a shed load of others I couldn’t even begin to name. The blades were for a Hydro which I didn’t have but guess what? Someone on E-bay was selling one for a pound with free postage. Not only that, I had mentioned to Liz the previous day about some of the things I had noticed being sold on E-bay. A used razor for a pound? What plonker would even think of buying that?

Yes, that would be me . .


If you liked this post why not check out the links at the top of my page for my novel, Floating In Space, or click the icon below to go straight to my Amazon page.

Floating in Space

 

 

 

 

 

How to deal with Laptop Failure and the Rules of Writing

quotescover-JPG-23Take a look at the picture just below. Not a particularly outstanding picture I know but that house is the one where I grew up. I took the picture a while ago after a sort of nostalgic drive around the old neighbourhood. Yes, the house with the white door, thats my old home. It’s changed a bit since I lived there. The privet hedge has gone and the car space is new. One amazing thing I found out on that visit is that the walk to my old junior school, which seemed to be a heck of a walk as I remember it; surely at least a thirty minute walk, was actually more of a ten minute walk: Well, it was a long time since I walked to my junior school. I stopped in the road, took my picture, thought for a moment as a thousand memories crowded my mind, then drove off.

14nuffieldThose memories and other ones always come back every time I look at that picture. I happened to be looking at it because my new laptop finally arrived and all my files had been moved over by the guys in the computer shop and I was just checking through them. It’s been over a week since my trusty old laptop overheated and expired and I’ve missed it. I’ve not been separated from my e-mails because I have a tablet, actually a Blackberry Playbook which is good but there’s a lot I just can’t do on a pad. Writing is difficult; in fact, it’s not unlike writing a text on a mobile phone and there’s no way I could write a blog post using it.

It was quite a shock, my laptop failing as most of my digital life is stored there. Luckily I have a portable drive on which I store my files although I mostly save completed works; fully edited videos, fully written blogs, that sort of thing. The half-finished ones, and believe me I have plenty; half-finished scripts, fragments of poems, ideas for blog posts; they were all there on the hard drive of that old laptop.

I felt a little like Carrie in Sex and the City. Remember that episode when Carrie’s laptop –an apple mac actually- conks out? Her boyfriend Aiden vainly hits the control alt and delete keys and makes things worse and Carrie, a writer with a column in a New York newspaper had lost all her work. Now I know how she felt.

Just looking at the clip above brought it all back. I was just as wound up as Carrie. My laptop couldn’t be repaired but not long ago I’d picked up a laptop that had a broken screen at a car boot sale. It was a sort of impulse buy but at least the computer guys could fix it and transfer my data over. I’d had the other laptop four years and it lasted longer than my previous two laptops. Wonder how long laptop number four will last?

One more connection with that picture and it’s to do with writing. Creative writing. I subscribe to a lot of blogs and groups and on Facebook there’s this writer’s group I’m a member of and members are always, naturally, posting stuff about writing. One post I read recently was ‘never start a novel off with the beginning of a day.’ Why the heck not I thought? It seems to me a pretty normal way to start a novel: The hero wakes up and the writer describes the surroundings and introduces the characters naturally as we meet them and so on. In fact, my novel, Floating In Space, starts off in exactly that way with my main character, Stuart Hill, waking up and getting ready for work.

Another thing you see on this writers’ page are graphics. You’ve probably seen the sort of thing I mean all over the internet. This particular one was about rules of writing. Rules? What rules? Well it said that if you’re describing something, some incident, your description shouldn’t last longer than the actual event! Now that just sounds bonkers to me on a whole lot of levels. Where did the writer get that information? Who decided on that ‘rule’? The only rules that I stick to as a writer are the rules of grammar, and believe me, a lot of the time, either accidentally or on purpose, I bend those rules too! One more thing; did Dickens and F Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway and all the other great authors adhere to these ‘rules’? Did they even know about them? I doubt it!

Anyway, I decided to comment on this graphic. I said that it didn’t matter whether the real event was long or short-lived, it’s the importance of the event to the narrative that matters, and that all depends on the author. The person who posted the item replied by adding a comment that included a link to a police report that showed that when shocking events happen, people don’t always take much in. Anyway, what that meant I don’t know so I added another comment about how the writer should take control of the reader and make events either important or unimportant depending entirely on his vision of the novel.

Straight away another comment came back at me saying it was the reader in charge, not the writer. Well, of course the reader is in charge as to whether he reads your book or not, but as soon as he does decide to read, it’s the author who is in control, it’s the author who shows the reader what he wants to show him, hides what he wants to hide, and reveals in whatever way he wants, whatever he wants to reveal. Anyway this annoyed the other guy no end and a sort of internet argument began. The sort of thing you’ve seen before probably. After a while I stepped back before things got nasty. I do hate those internet arguments you see in the comments section of posts and anyway, I’m convinced I am right and the other guy was a complete plonker. Tempted as I was to say that on the post, I’m happy to say I resisted!

That of course brings me back to the picture of my old home. The photo only took a moment to take but it’s nice to think about that house and all the happy times I had there. Not only that, my Grandma and Grandad lived there before us. They moved to Prestatyn in Wales and my Mum and Dad took over the house when they were first married. I could go on and on about that house: about how I learned to ride a two-wheeler bike just in front of it: About the soap box cart I made with my friends with some wood and parts of an old pram and how we careered through the streets with it. One time my friend Gary Chapman was given a set of walkie talkies by his dad for Christmas and he and I used to chat to each other at night as our houses were pretty close together. I could tell you much more but the thing is, if I did go on and on I’d go over my allotted time.

Dear me, can’t go breaking the writing rules can we?


If you liked this book, why not try my novel, Floating In Space, set in Manchester in 1977? Click the links at the top of the page for more information or click the image below to go straight to amazon.

 

The ups and downs of the Internet

 

As you can guess if you’ve read any of my other blogs, I just love the digital age. It’s enabled me to do so many things, share my writing with everyone here on wordpress, share my pictures on tumblr and flickr and my videos on you tube. What’s been a highlight in particular is that I’ve been a motor racing fan since I was a school boy and when I was younger I spent a lot of time at my local circuit, Oulton Park in Cheshire, watching motor races and taking pictures. I had a whole shedload of pictures that have only been seen by me and have been sat in an album upstairs in my back room for years and now flickr has enabled me to share them with other race fans and my Oulton Park collection has had hundreds of views, when a few years back it was just one.

 

image courtesy everystockphoto.com

image courtesy everystockphoto.com

Social networking is so interesting and varied. The main social sites are probably facebook and twitter. I’m on both of those sites but they are very different. Twitter is in a lot of ways a real time web site. Many people comment on sport and TV shows while the shows or events are still in progress but personally if I’m trying to comment on an F1 race I’m feel as though I’m missing the action while I’m tweeting. I suppose in that way Twitter is ideal for the smartphone whereas facebook is something where you can post your status and then come back later or the next day and respond to further comments. On Twitter most of my friends are pure internet acquaintances, especially now as I’ve been promoting my blogs and book heavily on that site. I get other authors asking me to like their pages and posts and in return I like their pages and posts so we both benefit with extra web exposure.

 

The same thing has been starting to happen on facebook with increasing traffic from non-friends, people who just like my blogs so I’ve had to create a facebook page for myself as a writer so that I can keep separate my business and personal friends.

 

Another aspect of the internet is that it enables you to check out your old and long lost friends and a site like friends reunited is all about connecting with former school friends. Friends reunited was one of the early success stories of the internet but now it seems to have fallen by the wayside a little, it’s popularity overtaken by sites like the aforementioned  twitter and facebook.

 

I’ve traced quite a few of my old school friends thanks to Friends Reunited, for instance one of my primary school pals that I made contact with emigrated to Canada, was successful in the computer industry and now lives in semi-retirement on an island off the west Canadian coast. Pretty good for a lad from a Wythenshawe council estate. That was an interesting find and my friend Paul and I have exchanged a fair few e-mails. Both of us are happy and literate writers, perhaps we’re really old fashioned letter writers now turned to e-mails but I find that nowadays it’s easy, at least for some people, to fall into a kind of text speak even on social media that sometimes slips over into messages.

 

I had one e-mail a while ago from an old school friend asking was I the same Steve Higgins that he knew at school. I replied back that yes I was and added a good few paragraphs about my life, what I had been up to in the intervening years and what I am doing now. Nothing came back for months and when I wrote again to say ‘did you get my e-mail’ a reply finally arrived. ‘Yes, great to hear from you LOL.’

 

That particular friend I’ve not seen for over thirty five years and I’m none the wiser about him now, despite him wanting to contact me! Oh well, that’s the internet for you!

 

 

 

 

Arrested Development and the advent of the Internet

As a child growing up in the 1960’s one of my favourite television programmes was Tomorrows World, a BBC show about technology and the future. I was acutely interested in science, science fiction and all things related to the future. The future was hi-technology, gleaming metal and plastic cities, hover cars, and space travel. The movie 2001 A Space Odyssey predicted manned missions to Mars, powerful computers, and lunar space stations. But, 2001 is now  thirteen years ago, so what happened? Why is 2014 not really that much different from 1968?

Movies like 2001, produced in 1968, were made in the sure knowledge that the incredible leaps in manned space flight made since 1960, and the technology that made it all possible, would continue. How wrong they were. When Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the surface of the Moon in 1969 the space race was over. It was a case of mission accomplished and the Apollo programme was cut short when Apollo 17 made the last manned trip to the Moon. To a great extent, space exploration, or at least manned space exploration stopped there. Space travel had become too expensive even for the Americans. The NASA space programme continued with Skylab and the development of the space shuttle, but none of those projects went further than orbiting the Earth, and that feat had been accomplished easily on the Mercury and Gemini programs.

Take a look at your kitchen and think to yourself how different is it from the kitchen of thirty years ago? Apart from advancements in electronics, probably in the form of your microwave and your freezer, the answer is not much. Step back further and look at your home. Are your living in a gleaming metal and plastic ‘future home’ or is it a modernised terraced house. Terraced houses are over a hundred years old but many people live in them happily today. Differently from our counterparts of a hundred years ago of course. Bathrooms have been added, and extensions with kitchens and indoor toilets, but terraced houses all the same.

Many writers and film makers have chosen to look at the future as a separate place altogether from the present and this has been their mistake. The future is the continuation of the past. Cities, homes, society itself is all an evolution of what has gone before.

Heathrow Airport was recently in the news because of protests about a possible new runway. New Runway? Why is a runway even necessary when the Harrier Jump jet has been taking off and landing vertically since the 1960’s? The answer is two words, arrested development. Perhaps VTOL has suffered, like Concorde, in not being American. There is no doubt in my mind that had Concorde been an American aircraft instead of an Anglo-French craft the skies above us would have been substantially populated with supersonic passenger aircraft. The United States is the land of opportunity, especially commercial opportunity. The space programme of course was also American but perhaps commercial exploitation in visiting the moon was limited. The great technological advances in the last thirty years have come in computer orientated technology that is full of commercial applications like, pc’s, laptops, tablet computers, mobile phones, and of course the internet.

Having a book published has been the dream of many people, including me but today, with the advent of internet technology, that dream is easy to realise. My Book, ‘Floating In Space’ is one that I have been working on, off and on, for thirty years. I found it, uncompleted on an old disc, reacquainted myself with it, finished it off and now you can read it as a kindle e-book available on amazon. There were no meetings with publishers, no discussions, no chats with an editor, no re-writes. It was just a case of upload the files, proof read then press a button and it’s live on-line.

That of course has its drawbacks. As a writer I have discovered a sort of word blindness when it comes to my own work. I’ve proof read my book a multitude of times but how many times have I come to put an extract on this blog only to find missed words and other errors. When the paperback proof version came (in the wrong size: I’d made it far too big!) more errors jumped out at me and my girlfriend Liz, a fully paid up member of the Grammar Police has pointed out so many punctuation issues I sometimes feel like taking it off the market. Anyway, the good thing is that in the digital world, errors can quickly be resolved. A quick update, press the save button and we are all sorted.

Lets see, where’s my ‘Writers and Artists yearbook’? Maybe its time to check out that list of publishers again!