Writing, Recording and The Next Blog Post

Well, I’ve had the Big 500, that was last week so time to move on and get on with Blog #501. Things are the same for every content creator whether it’s me and my blog or Martin Scorsese and his next film. One project finishes and we move on to the next one. It’s great to put together a creative piece of work but I’ve always felt a little sadness leaving a completed blog or video behind and moving on to the next one. In fact, I wonder if it’s a feeling experienced by all creative people? In the movie The Bad and The Beautiful, Kirk Douglas plays a film producer who goes into a deep depression every time a project is finished. Was the author or the director putting his own experiences into the film?

The other day I was scanning through my diary from 2021 and I noticed in one entry I was feeling pretty pleased with myself because I had put together not one but three separate blog posts. I must have been feeling pretty creative that week because these days I often seem to be struggling for ideas.

Lately I’ve done some beta testing work for the online editing website Animoto. I put together two short video projects for them and reviewed a new facility in their software and in exchange they sent me an Amazon gift voucher. Now it just so happens that my subscription with Animoto has expired and I tried to barter the gift voucher for a discount subscription but despite my charm, which I’ve always thought was one of my great assets, they declined. Pity really because I rather like Animoto.

During my separation from them I’ve tried other online editing sites but I’ve not been totally happy so I suppose that soon I’ll just have to cough up the appropriate fees and re-join Animoto.

In the meantime I’ve been wondering what to do with my voucher. Eventually I decided it might be an idea to invest in a good microphone so I can improve the voiceovers I put together for my YouTube videos as well as my podcasts. That seems like a good excuse as any to publish a link one of my videos with an extensive voiceover. The video below has a narration based on a number of my blog posts as well as text from my book. the voiceover isn’t actually bad but a new recording might make it sound a bit more professional.

I sent off for my selected microphone and the one I chose came in a set with a telescopic arm, just like the ones you see in recording studios. Later I thought I might as well have bought the usual one with a little tripod as I don’t really have the room for the arm. I don’t have a room, a special room for writing and recording but then I don’t think a lot of writers do.

My workspace: Laptop, cup of tea, notebook and the TV remote not too far away

Recently I decided to take a short demo screenplay I had written ages ago and rewrite it as a short story. I did so and feeling fairly pleased with it decided to send it to an online magazine that was looking for just such a story. I was actually going to use the story as a blog post but I noticed in the small print that the magazine didn’t want work that had been printed elsewhere. Well, if I recorded the story as a podcast then really it wouldn’t have been printed elsewhere, would it? That was my cue to set up my new microphone and start recording. The sound quality was so much better than my previous recordings.

Not long ago I read Agatha Christie’s autobiography and in it she mentions that many people ask her where her famous novels were written. The fact is, they were written any place that was handy at the time. She didn’t have a special writing place and I wonder if writers, or indeed any writer has a particular writing place? I like to write in the dining room but then I also like to write in the lounge with the TV on in the background but the sound on mute. Sometimes I’ll write in bed or jot down ideas at my desk at work.

The interior of Dylan Thomas’ writing shed.

Dylan Thomas famously had a writing shed in the garden of his ‘house on stilts’ in Laugharne. I daresay he didn’t write everything he ever wrote in there but of course he did write there when he was at home. I visited the house once many years ago. I was really impressed with it. The national trust or some such organisation had rescued the building, saved it from sliding into the sea and reopened it as a museum. I arrived late in the day, just before they were closing up so I returned the following day for another look. The staff didn’t charge me as they remembered me having to leave prematurely and so I bought various items from their museum shop.

One place I’d like to visit would be Charles Dickens’ home; Gad’s Hill Place in Kent. Dickens spent the last 15 years of his life in the house and it was one he had seen and fallen in love with as a child when he and his father took long walks together. It must have seemed quite an achievement for him to buy the house, even in a life filled with great achievements. Dickens died in the house on June 9th, 1870 aged 58. What would Dickens make of a present-day writer’s life I wonder? Writing blogs to promote his work, tweeting Tweets, and making Facebook posts. I’m not sure he would have been impressed.

My minor problems of wondering what to write pale into insignificance when I watch the terrible news from the Ukraine. A few weeks ago, the Ukrainians had similar problems to us here in the UK. Things like getting to work on time; would the bus be late? Picking the kids up from school. What to have for tea. Now they wonder if their homes will be destroyed by bombs. Will their loved ones be safe? Only the other day I watched a newscast where a distraught woman went to a makeshift hospital with her young daughter who had been hurt in the Russian attack. Doctors fought to save her and the cameraman followed their efforts. One man, a doctor turned and began to rage at the camera. I guessed he was complaining to the cameraman for intruding but when his words were translated, he was calling for the camera man to take the video and show it to Mr Putin: let him see what he has done raged the doctor. Sadly, the young girl died.

So, here we go. My laptop has been cranked up. The Saint is playing on the TV with the sound muted. A large cup of tea is ready to be sipped. I pause for a moment to nibble on some toast and marmalade then press the button for NEW BLANK DOCUMENT and I am ready to write.


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The Big 500

Yes, here we are, the big 500. My 500th blog post. I have to say that I had big plans for this post but plans, as we all know, don’t always work out. I started out wanting to write on the theme of 500: Things named 500, famous 500’s and so on. The problem is, the only thing I could come up with was the Indianapolis 500, the famous Indycar race in the USA.

That was fine of course, I’m a big motor racing fan and I do know a little about the Indianapolis 500. The Indianapolis motor speedway where the event takes place is known as the brickyard as it was originally paved with bricks. Graham Hill and Jim Clark were famous European winners of the Indy 500 back in the 1960’s. Emerson Fittipaldi, another F1 driver retired after two world championships in the 1970’s but made a comeback in Indycars winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1989 and again in 1993.

OK, that’s it off the top of my head. For anything more I’d have to head for Google. To be honest, I did do a search in Google for some ideas. Some suggestions from over there were the dog recently rehomed after 500 days in the kennels and the Fiat 500 motor car. I did hire a Fiat 500 once in Lanzarote which was fun. I’m OK driving on the other side of the road but sitting in the left hand seat and changing gear with my right hand, well I’ve always found that to be the difficult part. Anyway, the Fiat 500 was a pretty tasty motor car, even for a big lug like me but I’m not sure I can say much more about it. Glad to hear about that dog getting rehomed though.

Perhaps a quick troll through my blogging landmarks might help.

Blog 100: Mr Todd and the Sound of that Elusive Next Blog.

Looking back to my 100th blog I see I was still searching for things to write about. A blog post prompt tasked me to write about a sound and the one that came to me was Mr Todd’s projector. Who was Mr Todd? Well he was a teacher at my junior school, Crossacres Junior School in Manchester and every Christmas Mr Todd set up his projector and we filed into the hall, sat down cross legged on the floor while the curtains were closed, the lights switched out and Mr Todd’s projector took us into another world, the world of films. They were mostly cartoons, things like Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny and sometimes he showed a few Walt Disney animal documentaries.

Those Christmas film shows were just wonderful for us children, sitting in the dark watching those slapstick antics on the screen. I used to like to sit near to Mr Todd and marvel at the projector. He would open up little doors in the workings and make adjustments, and little shafts of light would escape until he closed the small doors again, and the whirring of the reels and the clicketty-click sound was a sound I loved.

One day, and I think it must have been my last year at junior school, Mr Todd retired but not only did he retire, he took his projector and films with him and the last Christmas at Crossacres was empty without him. I remember sitting in the hall listening to the choir or some play or other and hoping that eventually someone would give the signal to close the curtains and the projector would be wheeled in and the fun would begin. Mr Todd and his projector however, never returned and Christmases were never the same. Still, whenever I hear the sound of a projector the memory of that Christmas film show returns to me. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Hitchcock movie ‘Rebecca’, but there’s a sequence in the film where Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier start watching their home movies and we hear that clicketty click projector sound again.

The World of the Vinyl Single

My 200th post was actually about TV Spies. It was OK but nothing exciting but for my 201st post I found myself writing about The World of The Vinyl Single. In 2022 there are still music charts although youngsters today prefer downloads to actually owning a physical copy of their chosen music. They have never known the joy of spending Saturday afternoons flipping through the singles in the numerous record shops of cities like my home town of Manchester. Not for them the allure of the soft dark vinyl or the album art or sleeve notes. No personal annotations like there were on my record sleeves with the discreet addition of the date I bought the record. The first single I ever bought was in 1973 and it was Olivia Newton-John’s version of ‘If Not For You’. Reduced to half price it was 24 pence. I sometimes wonder what was the last ever vinyl single I ever bought. One day I’ll have to search through my boxes of old records and work it out.

Edit: An Alternative 200th Post

WordPress is pretty good at showing you how many posts you’ve done but finding the 100th, the 200th and so on meant having to count back to blog number 1. I have to admit here that I made a big cock up looking back and after a recount I think my 200th blog post was actually one about photography. It was called Adventures with a Camera. I showed the reader some of my favourite pictures and talked about my favourite cameras from my first one, an Instamatic 126 to my current one a Nikon D100.

Night Shift

My 300th blog post was a poem, not one of my very best but my 301st was a post called Night Shift. What I did was string various threads together and link them to my night shift. As I’m now semi-retired I don’t do night shifts anymore so reading this post was a nostalgic look back for me at how things used to be: Trying to get some sleep during the day, the burst of activity at the start of the shift, the gradual winding down of things. The endless cups of tea, the midnight sandwich and finally the relief when the morning shift came in to take over. Going outside and getting into my car after the last one was a good feeling and so was the feeling that while everyone was off to work for me it was the other way round, off home for a sleep and remembering to set the alarm so I wouldn’t sleep away what was really my first day off.

Edit #2

After a substantial recount I found out later that my 300th post was (surprise, surprise) The Big 300. I think I was a little surprised to have got to that milestone and I talked a lot about writing and finding inspiration and also about the film and TV scripts I have written and had rejected. Writing scripts isn’t so hard but it’s what to do with them afterwards. Who will read them? Who can I send them to? Most companies are not interested in unsolicited scripts or ones from an unknown author or writers who are unrepresented by agents. For a while I paid to list one of my screenplays on Inktip.com and although I had some interest, producers weren’t queuing up to buy my script.

The Big 400

Blog Post 400 was about Things to Do During the Pandemic. Well, I guess we are all pretty happy to have put the pandemic (mostly) behind us. The things I was doing during the pandemic were watching TV, drinking wine and ordering restaurant meals to be delivered. Nowadays I’m doing pretty much the same thing although I’m actually back visiting restaurants instead of asking them to deliver food. Of course, the food is only part of the restaurant experience. Chatting to friends, having banter with our waiters and being waited on is really what a restaurant is about as well as good food and wine. In 2022 Liz and I have discovered a different restaurant called Spago and we have currently been taking advantage of their January and February offers. We have already found our favourite table (table 12) and the waiters are by now pretty used to our little idiosyncrasies (we like to pour the wine ourselves, we don’t like sweet stuff dribbled on our food, we like a lot of lemon in our table water to name but three).

The Big 500

Of course, we also like to visit our regular restaurants too like Ego (table 30 please) and Allegria (table 16). I also still watch far too much TV. Interestingly in the 400th post above I talked about watching Rocketman, the Elton John biopic. Last night we watched Bohemian Rhapsody the 2018 Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic.

Just like those earlier blog posts, in 2022 I’m still trying to flog my books, Floating in Space and A Warrior of Words. I’ve got a few more followers than I had back in 2014 when I first started blogging. Have I made any money from my blog posts? Er, no. Have my posts gone viral? No. Has writing and blogging made me a better writer? Well, those 500 blog posts haven’t hurt me in any way and more writing can’t be bad for a writer, it can only be good. Do I still like blogging? Of course, I do. The only problem is, what can write for blog #501?


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The Idea, The Inspiration and The Kebab

A few weeks back I was asked to test some new editing software for a company whose software I used to use regularly. They were trying something new, in fact a feature that I had advocated a few times on one of their forums. It was a surprise to be asked to test the new feature but also rather nice. It’s always nice to be acknowledged so anyway as soon as the feature was enabled I set out to make a test video.

I thought about doing a new version of my usual content. You know the sort of thing, the videos that you usually find down at the end of my blogs extolling the virtues of Floating in Space and A Warrior of Words. Instead, I thought of doing a quick few minutes on the subject of poetry writing. It was called Ideas, Inspiration and Effort.

Nothing can start without an idea. Amateur writers like me just tend to wait for an idea to come but to be really professional you have to make the ideas come. You have to sit down and start writing. It’s only then that the ideas come. The same is true for blogs. I do get ideas. I get them driving to work. I get them while watching television. Sometimes I get no ideas at all but then I can always write about the books that I read, the old TV shows that I like and the classic black and white films that I watch on TV. Either way, blogs or poems, everything starts with the idea.

Next comes the inspiration. Again, when I’m in amateur writer mode I usually just wait for the inspiration to come. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. The thing that makes it come is just to start writing. Sitting down at the keyboard with the TV on and the sound off, that’s usually when inspiration strikes. Last week if you may remember I was doing battle with my electric company because they wouldn’t give me my money back, the money that I had paid, in error, into the wrong account. I wasn’t happy about it at the time but on reflection I could see the funny side and that is hopefully what made that particular blog post rather amusing. The good thing as well is that it’s that kind of self-deprecating humour which Floating in Space is all about so if you liked that post, you should like Floating. (An in-post plug for Floating! Hey, I’m pretty pleased with that.)

The same is true for poetry, once I have an idea I start playing with words until inspiration finally comes. Then of course I need to make the effort. The effort to get down to work, typing away until the first draft is ready. Then more effort comes, the effort to edit and to develop the blog or poem until I think it’s finished. That of course is where I usually fail. I don’t have my editor on my back, I don’t have a publishing company that has paid me a million-dollar advance and is waiting for the book I promised them. The only promise I have made is to myself, a promise to one day complete another book which actually may be a long time coming. The thing is there are so many other things to do, restaurants to visit, books to read, TV shows to watch and so on.

Anyway, it’s time for another blog post and as usual lately I’m struggling. What I need is an idea. So using my own method above I thought about an idea and I came up with disappointment. Yes, what has disappointed me lately? Let me see, well there was the pizza I made the other day.

When I spend a little time on my own I tend to eat a lot of snack food. I do love sandwiches as you might have guessed if you had read this old post about sandwiches but sometimes I like to do something a little more exciting. I do like cooking with my slow cooker and I’ve made numerous bologneses, chillis and curries in this way but the other day I thought I’d try and make a pizza, a proper pizza made from scratch. I had some flour and yeast and I had Jamie’s Italian, Jamie Oliver’s Italian cook book to guide me so what could go wrong? I mixed all the ingredients and made some basic dough then I gave it a good kneading and eventually I got a good spongy dough. I left it to prove and a bit later made it into a few portions. I left one to rise once again and made a simple tomato sauce using tinned tomatoes. Later I slapped on the sauce then some cheese, some pepperoni and some onions and I was all ready to bake. Jamie recommended putting the oven on its hottest setting, gas mark 9 so I slapped the pizza in and about ten minutes later it was looking good.

The crusts were ok but the rest was a bit soggy. Even so, it was pretty reasonable. The next day I tried again and looking at some other recipes I thought it was better to cook the base first and then add the toppings and cook again. I did that, added the toppings but this time I left it in too long and the pizza emerged a little frazzled. Maybe I should just stick with chilli in future.

Here’s something else that was disappointing. Sitting down to eat I was happy to find that The Time Tunnel, the sixties Sci-fi TV show was about to start on the Horror channel. It’s about two American scientists ‘lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages, during the first experiments on America’s greatest and most secret project, the Time Tunnel. Tony Newman and Doug Phillips now tumble helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the infinite corridors of time’ as the opening blurb used to go.

The Time Tunnel starts off with a Congressman coming to investigate the growing budget of the time tunnel complex and threatens to close things down unless he sees results. Scientist Tony Newman decides he must therefore travel back in time to prove that the tunnel really works and save the project. Tony ends up on the ill-fated liner Titanic. His colleague Doug follows him back to 1912 and the control room struggle to shift the two in time before the ship sinks. Unable to return the duo to the present, the technicians struggle every week to shift the duo to somewhere new just in the nick of time. One episode that I particularly remember was when the pair land in Pearl Harbour, just before the Japanese attack in 1941. Tony meets himself as a young boy and finally solves the mystery of the disappearance of his father in the attack.

The Time Tunnel was a sci fi series from the 1960’s and as a child I was crazy about it. I thought it was wonderful but it only lasted one season before producer Irwin Allen moved on to something new. I had missed the first few episodes of this latest re-run but as I settled down I realised that my favourite episode, the one about Pearl Harbour, was about to start.

Tony lived there as a child and his father was reported as missing in action so the first thing Tony and Doug decide to do is to go and visit him. Cue some rather daft dialogue and some clumsy situations which led on to more clumsy dialogue and daft situations. What a disappointment that episode was and yet for years and years I’ve looked forward to finally seeing it again. There are some things which just don’t stand the test of time.

Another thing that I found rather disappointing this week was a large donner kebab. My last few shifts at work this week went pretty well and as I drove home after the last one I thought it was time to treat myself. I ordered a large donner with salad and chilli sauce, took it home and settled down with a small beer.

The salad was as limp as the Time Tunnel dialogue, the chilli sauce didn’t have much get up and go and the donner meat had seen better days. All in all, I could have done with a trip through the time tunnel to Manchester city centre in 1986 and gone to my very favourite kebab emporium where they served donner on naan bread with fresh salad and a tasty hot chilli sauce. Yes, I had the idea, I had the inspiration, I just wish I hadn’t made the effort and got that kebab!


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From Blog Post to Video

I’ve had my YouTube channel for quite a while now but unlike this, my WordPress blogging page, I’ve always found it rather hard to create regular video output. Don’t get me wrong, I like making videos, I really do although the best part of making a video, at least for me, is the editing. With virtually every one of my videos there are multiple versions to be found in the video folder on my laptop. Yes, videos are just something I cannot leave alone. Every time I rewatch one I start to think didn’t I have a better clip for that scene? Why have I put that scene before this one? Wouldn’t it work better if I swapped them round? Why did I say that in the narration? I should have said this! And so that’s when I start tinkering and re-editing.

A few years ago I thought about making my whole blog into a YouTube Vlog. Of course, that would involve shooting and editing and then adding in the music and perhaps sound effects. For someone like me who has taken laziness to new heights, I’m not sure that would be possible, at least not for a weekly Vlog.

When I’m stuck for video content I usually find myself looking back at my older blog posts and wondering what would work as a video. One regular blog I’ve managed to convert to video are my Book Bag blogs. It’s pretty easy to make them into a video. I sit myself in front of the camera, glance through my notes and then wax lyrical for the camera about the various books I’ve been reading.

The first Book Bag Vlog was difficult though. I made it on holiday in Lanzarote. I hadn’t brought my tripod along but I picked up an adjustable clamp in the market place, actually a gadget for taking selfies that worked pretty well once I had got things lined up. Back then I was using a small Panasonic video camera which looked a little bit like a mobile phone. Today I have a Canon GX7 with a viewing screen that can be flipped over so if I’m shooting myself I can easily frame the shot. With the Panasonic, it wasn’t so easy. The filming for that first Book Bag Vlog went something like this:

Take 1. OK, went pretty well, I blathered on a bit and forgot the author of one book so time for take 2.

Take 2. OK but I’m holding the books slightly out of camera shot.

Take 3. I lift the books higher but gradually as the take goes on the books are getting lower and dropping out of shot. Cut, I shout, getting my director’s hat on.

Take 4. I’ve reframed and lowered the camera a little. I’ve actually cropped off the top of my head but the books are centre stage. I fluffed one of my lines calling Noel Coward an historical figure instead of a theatrical one but recovered that one OK with a little laugh at myself. I also say the Germans were ‘disappointed’ with Hitler at the end of World War Two when discussing a book about Albert Speer, one of Hitler’s ministers. Bit of a understatement there, I meant to say shocked or devastated, anyway, time for take 5.

Take 5. Start to stumble a little here, perhaps I need cue cards. Dorothy Parker wrote what for New York Magazines? Check the blurb on the back of her book again and time for take 6.

Take 6. Looked pretty good. Wait a minute, did I really say ‘my holiday blook blag‘? Time for take 7.

Take 7. Radical re think needed here I think so I’ve smartened myself up a little, put on my favourite holiday shirt and re positioned the camera and my clamp gadget. Wish I’d brought my tripod along! Anyway here we go. Action: ‘Hi I’m Steve Higgins and I’m here in . . er . . ‘ CUT! It’s Lanzarote!

Take 8. Slight camera adjustment as take 7 wasn’t particularly well framed. Forgot to mention who Albert Speer actually was. Will people know who he was? Well, if they are interested in history and World War Two yes, otherwise no . .

Take 9. ‘Bleak House by David Copperfield’? What is this guy talking about? Cut!

Take 10. Not too bad, faltered a few times over some words, mumbled a little perhaps but generally not bad. Sure I can do better though; still a little slow. Needs more pace.

Take 11: Whoa, slow down boy! I said pace not rabbit on and on without taking a breath!

Take 12: Not happening! Time for a swim!

The book bag posts are pretty easy to make, it’s just me in front of a camera chatting away. As long as I manage to chat without mumbling, getting words wrong, forgetting the name of the book author and so on, I usually end up with a reasonable result. I somehow don’t think I have a career as a TV presenter coming anytime soon. Here’s a video I made with a whole lot of out takes, How not to Not to Make a Promo Video.

As I said earlier, I’ve always found it hard to leave a video alone. After all, no work of art is ever finished, only abandoned, as someone once said. A few years ago I made a video about the Graves and Cemeteries of Two World Wars.  It was shot in Northern France and for the narration I used in part, the text from one of my blogs. I talked about time and how time seems to have slowed at those sacred places where once so many people fought and died and how it must have seemed, in the past, in the heat of the battle, that time flowed so quickly.

The big problem with that video, and I only seemed to realise it much later, when the video had accrued a sizeable number of viewings was that the opening sequence was not really in keeping with the tone of the film as a whole. I had started out with an idea that came to me while shooting at a French municipal aire, a quiet motorhome stopping place. I’d started off a sequence with a really impressive motorhome and then panned over to our, much smaller vehicle implying initially, that the first vehicle was ours, before showing the smaller one. It might probably have worked for a general motorhoming video but the humour was out of place for something about the sad subject of war.

For the re-edit, I removed that sequence, tidied up various fades and added some stock photos from the war years. To promote it I added it to various video festivals and at one, the Think Shorts festival, they decided to publish my video on their platform. I even got a special badge which I proudly added to the video icon.

I think I mentioned a few weeks ago about the challenges of making an audio recording into a video, which I did for a radio interview in which I had to participate by phone because of Covid 19. I started by thinking, foolishly, that I could mime to the audio recordings to create a fully lip synced video. That didn’t work out at all so I made a video with still photos and screen grabs with a few shots of me talking into a phone although making sure my mouth wasn’t visible when I spoke. I think I got away with it.

I did make a video called A Letter to my Younger Self, the text of which came straight from a similarly titled blog post. The blog post was pretty good, at least I thought so. The video lacked something in the voiceover department as my monologue seemed a little less than dynamic. Another post derived straight from a blog post was 4 Simple Secrets of Self-Publishing which is not a bad little film which reminds the self published author that if anything needs doing in regards to his or her book; promotion, press releases, advertising and so on, the author is on his or her own. Being a self published author is a one person operation.

Over at the busy end of my YouTube page there is a video called Trucking: 1980’s Style. It was shot on my old VHS compact camera and I followed my old friend Brian for a weekend in the late 80’s delivering goods in his wagon. It was a tough old job, lugging great trolleys and boxes of Sharwood’s curry sauces about the country. Stopping in Truckstops, sleeping in the cab and finding his way about with the help of his CB radio. It is currently my most watched video with over 140,000 views at the time of writing. Lots of trucking enthusiasts follow me on YouTube expecting more of the same and what they think when they find a new poetry video in their notifications, I don’t know. I did think of making a follow up video with Brian, something on the lines of Trucking; 40 Years Later. Brian was still a truck driver until a few months ago but unfortunately for me and the YouTube world, he has just retired.

Last year Liz and I drove our motorhome up to Scotland for a few days visiting the Isle of Skye and various other places. I should perhaps have asked proofreader Liz to check the resulting video film because right at the end I announced that the music in the film was called Soul Grove instead of Soul Groove. I rectified that and some other blemishes which I won’t go into in a re-edit which I uploaded to Vimeo. Vimeo has some great little advantages over YouTube, the main one for me is that if you choose to edit a video you can just replace the new version with your old one, without losing any of your viewer count. One disadvantage though is with a free Vimeo account, there are restrictions on how much content you can upload per week, which is why I had to make the resulting video into two separate parts.

Here are two final videos, both inspired by blog posts. The first is yet another re-edit. Manchester 1977-2017 is a visit to my home town of Manchester where I look at the city as it was then in 2017 and how it was in 1977, the year in which Floating in Space, my self published book is set. A lot of the narration is taken from a blog post about the city, Manchester 41 Years On. I talk about the pubs I used to visit, the square where I used to eat my sandwiches on sunny weekday lunchtimes and how the city centre has changed.

I have quite a few poetry videos both on YouTube and Vimeo. Most of the ones on Vimeo are re-edits where I’ve tried to improve on the original, either with the visual content or my usual weak point, my narration. In one blog post The Secret of Writing Poetry, I tried to impart my ideas on writing to the reader showcasing a few example poems on the way. That in turn inspired the video version which is pretty much the same, me talking to camera and delving into the background of three particular poems. I did it all one one or two takes and perhaps I might have been better going for take three but at least I think I have managed to get my general idea over.

Which of your blog posts would you make into a video?


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Diana, Meghan, Nixon and Me

As I’ve mentioned in a number of blog posts, it’s not enough to simply write a book, you have to get out there and start to sell it. Marketing is the bane of any self-published author’s life. Videos, Tweets, Facebook posts and WordPress blogs; I’ve done them all endlessly trying to bring my two short books into the media spotlight and flog a few copies.

Now that the lockdown has eased, I thought that perhaps I should try something new. In a local freebie newspaper in my home town of Wythenshawe in Manchester, I noticed a small article about a local writer who had recently had his work published. I contacted the paper asking if they might be interested in writing about me. We exchanged a few emails and I told them how I had self-published Floating in Space and how Cyberwit publishing had approached me offering to publish a collection of my poems.

After a few emails that was apparently that and I heard nothing more until in my junk mail I spotted another follow up message saying that the paper might have enough space to write about me and did I have a picture of me with my poetry Book A Warrior of Words?

Quickly, with a speed I am not usually associated with I put on a smart shirt, grabbed a copy of Warrior, shoved a camera into Liz’s hands and got her to snap off a few pictures of me with my prized book.

I heard nothing back but while I was shopping at Asda, I saw a stack of the free paper The Local Voice and picked one up. To my surprise there I was, beaming at the camera on page 8 proudly displaying A Warrior of Words to the unsuspecting reader. If that small article will get me any new sales only time will tell. Until then I’ve put the order for my new Ferrari on hold. I have to say though that seeing my picture in the paper did give me a sense of pride, just like whenever someone presses the ‘like’ button on one of my posts. Writing gives me a sense of accomplishment and like everyone, the occasional pat on the back – or picture in the newspaper – gives me that feel good factor.

Just while I’m on the subject of newspapers I sometimes wonder how they have kept going during the digital revolution. Many years ago, I used to buy a newspaper every day. I’d read it on the way to work if I was travelling by bus or train. I’d read it on my break and do the small crossword and the word games, trying to find the nine-letter word and make as many smaller words as possible out of the letters. I’d even scan through the sports pages in case there was something in there about motor racing.

My mum and dad used to read the Manchester Evening News from front to back. Once, when scanning through the births, deaths and marriages section, she spotted the death of the mother of an old school friend, contacted the newspaper and as a result was able to meet up with her friend again.

Now I rarely buy a newspaper. I read them on the internet but whenever my quota of free news has been reached and I’m asked to pay to read more, I always decline. I can read the news on the BBC website for free as well as some excellent articles on the Guardian website so why should I pay? How do newspapers survive I wonder when people always go for the free option? Well, if you want to read quality journalism you have to pay for it and although many newspapers and magazines occasionally give you a snippet of an article for free, if you want regular content, they will always ask for a subscription. Even some of my favourite racing magazines like Motor Sport and Autosport are both now only available digitally.

I am happy to report though that one outlet of quality writing is still free, yes, you’ve guessed it, you’re reading it!

Advertising brought in a great deal of revenue for newspapers in the past, indeed motor car sales and estate agents must have funded most of the free newspapers we used to see but now specialised websites for property and motor cars have appeared and all that advertising revenue has been diverted to them. Nice to see that some free papers are coming back though, especially one with my picture inside!

Another spin off from that small item was a call from a local community radio station wanting to do an interview with me. Covid restrictions meant that I couldn’t go into the studio which was a pity because I did rather want to be invited inside. I could actually imagine myself as a DJ. I think the late night shift would suit me, playing chilled down music as the sun slips down, perhaps even mixing in some poetry and some chit chat to go with the tunes. Oh well, enough day dreaming. Denise, the local DJ and I had some introductory chat and went on to talk about my books. Unbeknown to Denise, I had just arisen from a dreadful night’s sleep, my arm and shoulder had been hurting and had kept me awake most of the night. I’d finally nodded off when it was time to get up and only just got to the phone at the agreed time for our telephone talk. I didn’t have time to crank up my laptop and access my notes, ready made in advance with useful hints about writing poetry and also about how Floating in Space took shape.

This was only the second time I’ve been interviewed so I’m hardly an expert. The first time ever was a few years ago on Salford City Radio and the DJ and I planned the interview in advance, in fact he asked me to give him a list of questions that he should ask me so I had my answers already rehearsed and also had a list of some facts and figures about blogging which I could quote when we got talking about that subject. That was a really interesting experience and I was able to bring my video camera and mini tripod along so I was able to make it into a YouTube video.

Afterwards I started looking at TV interviews in a different light, how rehearsed are they I wonder? Did Oprah give her questions to Harry and Meghan in advance? Did they give specific questions to Oprah to be asked on air? I was watching a documentary the other night about the late Patrick Swayze and he was interviewed on TV by a US TV host I’m not familiar with. His friend advised him to be careful because the host was known to ask questions that surprise the subject, even to the point of them crying. Swayze dismissed the advice but when they were on camera, the interviewer asked Swayze about his new ranch and his father who had just passed away. Swayze choked up straight away as it was his dad who had got him interested in horses and he had bought the ranch specifically for his dad to manage. That interviewer had certainly done her homework!

Which other TV interviews are remembered as classic ones? Well the two that immediately come to mind are the David Frost interviews with disgraced former President Richard Nixon and the famous Martin Bashir interview with Princess Diana. That latter interview has been in the news recently as it has been revealed that Martin Bashir apparently falsified various documents in order to get Diana on board with the project. Devious that may have been but clearly Diana had her own agenda which was to get her story over to the public and gain public support and sympathy. The quote most often associated with that interview was when Diana said ‘well there were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded’ referring of course to Charles’ relationship with Camilla.

The Nixon interviews were really compelling watching and what was just as good was the film version Frost/Nixon which starred Frank Langella as Nixon and Michael Sheen as Frost. The film shows the background to the interviews, the financial stakes as well as the political ones and finally Nixon and Frost commence a verbal battle about Watergate in which Nixon makes his famous quote ‘when the President does it, that means it’s not illegal!’

When I came review it, my interview was not quite as interesting as the ones I have mentioned above but at least I remembered some of my prepared thoughts and managed to get them over. I am always impressed when on TV and in films, people just seem to press a button and their laptops are up and running. My laptop takes a lifetime to get going and my notes appeared just as I was saying goodbye. Anyway, the good thing was that as the interview was recorded, Denise, my interviewer, should be able to cut out all my mumbling ums and ahs and make me sound reasonably interesting.

Well, I hope so!


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The Secret of Writing Poetry

I’ve been looking through my poetry work lately and I started to think that I could write a blog about writing a poem. Now I’ve started I’m not sure how this is going to work out but anyway, let’s give it a shot.

For me there are two ways to write a poem. One is where I have to work at it and the other is when the whole thing just comes to me. I once read that Paul McCartney thinks that his songs and melodies are just hanging in the air and all he does is to entice them down to him. I’m clearly not on the same level as McCartney but that image just captures exactly how I feel when a good poem comes to me.

There is a particular state of mind that I enter for this process to happen. The best time is when I’m driving my car. I don’t know why, and I can only guess that driving sends me into that perfect state of mental concentration where a poem or an idea will come to me, enticed down, as Paul McCartney suggested, from the cosmos. That is the purest way to write a poem, one where either the whole thing or at least a couple of verses present themselves and then I have to sit down and work at the rest.

Sometimes an idea comes to me in odd ways. Some years ago in one of my old jobs, I used to return home from work in the mid afternoon. I started very early and usually worked through my break, getting home between 2 and 3pm. I would get changed, have a quick wash and come into the kitchen to put the kettle on. The kitchen was in the front of the house and in the summer months I noticed the cat from the house across the road would usually be getting comfy under the small tree on their lawn while I waited for the kettle to boil. I often watched that cat. I never noticed it as I reversed my big van into my drive but later, in the kitchen, I would invariably see the cat settle down for an afternoon nap.

One day I came home from work, got washed, and from the kitchen noticed the cat getting into position as usual under the tree. I took my tea and toast into the lounge and settled down with the TV. Later I heard something, a commotion of some sort but nothing that was compelling enough for me to shift my lazy butt and see what was happening. Not long after that, my partner came home and I could hear something going on. She seemed to come in and go out again. When she finally came in I asked what had happened and it seemed that the lady opposite had returned home and found that her cat was still under the tree but not sleeping, it had died.

That particular lady was someone who was a bit of a diva and very often made a lot of fuss about things that really, weren’t worth making a fuss of. Apparently, she began shouting and screaming and various neighbours came over to assist while I, in blissful ignorance, was busy dozing. Still, that little event became the inspiration for the poem The Cat Across the Road. I made the assumption, rightly or wrongly, that the cat was ready to depart his life; maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he felt he had a few more years left of sun lounging, mouse chasing and bird catching. If he did his heart must have stopped without warning during his or her feline slumbers. All in all, not a bad way to go.

 

Everything seemed in order, I suppose, to die

It was a warm enough day

Certainly

 

The sun shone and birds sung

Even though birds would cause a feline heart to race

Normally

 

I’ve had my fill of life

Of titbits and cosy sleeps, sometimes in next door’s shed

Informally

 

And I’ve had my chases and midnight hunts

And I’ve always remembered my owners and left them a mouse or two

Naturally

 

A last cuddle would have been nice

Still, all in all it’s been a good life, and I’ve loved it

Enormously

 

I’ve always liked this tree

I can keep my eye on the birds and the sun comes down

Warmly

 

So now I’ll just close my eyes and die

And go on to the next of my nine lives

Expectantly.

The other way of writing a poem is where I sit down determined to write something. Recently I saw in one of the poetry newsletters that I subscribe to, an item about a poetry contest. They wanted a poem about love. Now I am not a person who can describe himself as well qualified to write on that particular subject, but I settled down and began to play with ideas and words. After a while I came up with the beginning of a poem, one that I had to return to in the following days to flesh out. As I mentioned before, love isn’t one of my specialist subjects and I took that thought literally into the poem. As I am a cool sort of customer, not one for spouting or talking about my feelings I thought that might be a relevant message for me and others like me.

I don’t think I can remember my mother and certainly not my father ever talking about love. They loved me, I knew that. I knew it when my dad picked me up off the floor when I fell off a ride in the park. I knew it every time my mother washed my jeans and shirts and made my favourite meals. Still, there are others who need love spoken in words. I realise and respect that but for me there is No Need to Talk of Love.

To save me typing the poem out here and also to liven up this post a little, here’s my YouTube video version:

That’s about it really. Take an idea, try and boil it down into a phrase, something with resonance and some lyrical attributes and go with it. I was actually pretty pleased with the poem above. I sent it off to the poetry competition with high hopes. I have to admit, I didn’t send it off in the form it is above. Since then I’ve worked on it some more and edited it a little but sadly it wasn’t a winner or even a runner up.

As a writer though and not one who can really call himself a professional one, the fundamental result of writing and the reason for doing it has to be the pleasure of crafting something that is satisfying to me; satisfying to write and to read. It is the process of writing itself which is most rewarding to me, perhaps that is why I am always skimming back over my past work. Well, someone has to read this stuff, it might as well be me.

I do love it every time someone presses the like button here on WordPress or over on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube but the Ferrari, the motorboat and the Spanish villa that I expected, or more accurately hoped I might earn from all this scribbling has not arrived. Indeed, those things may never arrive but even so if you come looking for me you’ll probably find me with a notebook or my laptop in my hand, writing.

By the way, if you’d like to watch a video version of this blog: click here.


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Locked Down Blogger Part 2

It finally happened last week. It had been rumoured and expected. It had been predicted many months ago and so here it is. I’m talking of course about the second wave of the Coronavirus epidemic and the resulting second lockdown. There was some advance notice and as a result Liz and I were able to book a table and enjoy a last meal out. We even thought what the heck and went for a second bottle of wine just like the other couple in the next table sitting a socially distanced two metres to our left.

So that’s a month coming up with no nights out at the pub, no meals out and no quiz nights. The big problem with this second lockdown is the weather. In the first one I was quite happy sitting out in the sunshine reading a book. Now we have entered November here in the north of England it seems as though it has been constantly raining. What can we find of interest then? Well the big interest for me just lately is the American election. Like many people, I thought the election was a foregone conclusion, that Trump would be out and whoever the democrats chose would be in. It just so happened that the democratic candidate was Joe Biden. Joe is getting on a little bit for the top job and wouldn’t necessarily have been my choice but then again, neither would Donald Trump. As I write this the election is still ongoing, they are still counting the votes in a few remaining states. Both candidates are claiming victory and one is claiming huge voter fraud. Biden has so far been pretty much acclaimed as the winner, having received congratulations from previous presidents Obama and George W Bush. No congratulations have been forthcoming from Donald Trump and his legal team has already initiated legal action. I’m not sure who exactly they are planning to take to court but either way, that has not stopped Joe Biden getting his transition team together and making plans for when he takes office.

I wrote something back in 2016 about the smooth transition of power in the great democracies and even wondered what would happen if ever the outgoing president refused to budge. That was just wild blogging speculation but now some commentators are saying it could actually happen. This is almost as interesting for me as Watergate.

There was a time when I thought I understood the US election, now I’m not so sure. Hillary Clinton and Al Gore both won the popular vote in previous elections but failed to get enough electoral college votes to take them to the White House. I’m even confused about the primaries, I mean I was convinced Bernie Sanders would be the democratic candidate, but he stepped down earlier in the year and then Biden seemed to become the candidate virtually unchallenged and his projected walkover victory over Trump has just not happened. Many people actually support Trump. Some give their support because they are dyed in the wool Republicans, some presumably admire him but either way, 48% of the votes were for him.

I was watching TV the other day and a female black voter was being interviewed and surprisingly, she was voting for Trump. She wouldn’t vote for Biden she said because he was a socialist, which in the USA is one step from being a communist. Maybe that explains why Trump has such a following; in many places he must be seen as the anti-socialist. Trump did well in Florida where many Cubans found home after leaving communist Cuba.

When Nixon won the election in 1968 he spotted a supporter in a crowd with a banner proclaiming Bring us together and made that a campaign slogan. Bringing Americans together is a big ask for whoever wins in 2020 but I wish him luck in doing just that.

Theoretically this should be a great time for writers. What could be a better time to write than the lockdown, after all there isn’t much else to do. A few months back I shelled out a hundred or so dollars to list my screenplay on a web site called InkTip. InkTip is a way of bringing producers and writers together. They produce a newsletter for producers listing scripts and also provide subscribers with weekly lists of producers who want scripts. My screenplay has seen a lot of action lately with various producers reading either the synopsis or the script itself but that million-dollar deal has yet to surface. I live in hope.

My screenplay was one I wrote quite a few years back and I read through it recently and had an idea for a new ending. I added the new ending, tidied everything up and that final version was the one I added to InkTip. As I reviewed it again the other day – I don’t know about you but I’m always reviewing my old stuff- I realised that it was written before today’s mobile phone, Twitter and Instagram age. Not one of the characters has a phone. I might have to spend the lockdown adding mobile phones to my screenplay and bringing it into the 21st century.

Another project I’ve been working on during the lockdown is a video covering my recent trip to the Scottish Highlands. It’s mostly GoPro video from a camera stuck to my motorhome window. I’ve added some stills and some bits where I talk straight to the camera. I had a lot of technical problems putting it together, particularly recording the voice over. The voice over is pretty important because the actual visual stuff isn’t that exciting. When I recorded it, my laptop clearly couldn’t keep up with playing video and recording sound at the same time, so I had to record my voice separately and then add it to the video. That makes it difficult because normally as I’m reading the narration I tend to react to what is on screen so I can slow down or speed up if required or just add lib if I need to.

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I finished it and quickly got it uploaded to YouTube. I added the video to a video creators page that I follow and got some pretty reasonable feedback. What was really annoying was when I decided to tinker with it and spotted a couple of things I hadn’t noticed. One was in the credits at the end where I credited the music as Soul Grove instead of Soul Groove. Oh, and there was one more. In one of the stills of the motorhome I hadn’t picked up that Liz was rather cheekily giving me the V sign through the window! The thing is, the video had already garnered 72 views so do I delete and add the updated version or just leave things as they are? Decisions, decisions.

I’ve has a couple of nights on my own this week, as usual keeping my mothers house ship shape and lived in. One night I thought I’d make one of my favourite dishes, bruschetta. It just so happened I had some ciabatta in the freezer as well as onions and tomatoes. So here we go, I sliced the bread and popped it in the toaster for a light toasting. While that was going on I chopped the tomatoes and onions, mixed them up with a little garlic and olive oil. I Popped the bread out, slapped on the tomato and onion mixture and settled down to eat. It was wonderful.

It was so good I decided on another Italian favourite for the second course. aglio olio peperoncino. It’s basically spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and chilli. What could go wrong with that?

The quick answer is everything, overdone spaghetti, burnt garlic and those chillies I used last week on a curry that weren’t very hot: this week they were hot!

When is my favourite Italian restaurant opening again?


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Writing, Blogging and making those Ch-Ch-Changes

I sometimes wonder why I go to all the effort of banging out a new blog post every weekend. My words like those of many others go forth into the internet and some multiply in terms of ‘likes’ and followers and some fall on stony ground. Still, what do I care? I have enjoyed the process of writing and have done ever since I was a child. I’ll go on banging out blog posts until the day when, well, the day when I don’t want to bang blog posts out anymore, when presumably I will either have found something more enjoyable to do or just shuffled off into the next world.

Of course I do want people to read my work and every time I get a new comment or a new ‘like’ it feels good, in fact it feels very good indeed, even though my blog is probably out there on the lower rung of popular blogs. Some of my WordPress colleagues have huge followings and I have to admit to a feeling of envy when I see their posts with lots of comments and lots of likes.

One of my fellow bloggers has a large following even though he posts things that wouldn’t look out of place on a Facebook status post. Things like My favourite Bowie song is ‘Changes’. Now that particular post, which garnered about 80 likes last time I looked, took very little effort even though there wasn’t a picture of David Bowie or a link to a music video which he could have easily added, like this:

I do spend a lot of time on my posts and my deadline of 10am on a Saturday morning keeps me on my toes. It makes me write when I could very easily be watching TV and sometimes, a lot of the time in fact, I do need a hefty shove to get going. Some of my posts have been written with a sense of urgency on a Thursday afternoon or even Friday night and strangely, those last minute posts always seem to do well. A while ago I published a post about Watergate which I researched very thoroughly, reading various Watergate books and watching a few documentaries on the subject. The resulting post which I personally loved, didn’t get a great reaction from the blog reading public.

On the other hand, 3 Films about Films, which I wrote on a Thursday when I knew I would be busy Friday and Saturday did very well indeed. There was minimal research because I wrote about three films that I loved and have seen many times and apart from checking a few dates and spellings online, I knocked the post out in one fell writing swoop.

3 Films About Films netted about three times my usual readership and the annoying thing is that I don’t know why. It was lovely to have that extra readership and I’m glad readers liked it but I still wonder why my Watergate post didn’t go down so well. Perhaps, unlike me, people aren’t really interested in Watergate. Perhaps I didn’t include the right keywords in the title or use the most appropriate tags or just made some elementary blogging mistake. Those little blogging mysteries do make me wonder.

Every week I seem to pick up the odd new follower here and there and one day, hopefully I may move up into the stratosphere of popular blogs. I do like writing and blogging and that is the reason I keep on going, as well as to publicise my book Floating in Space for which, as usual, you will see a short plug down at the bottom of this post. Floating came from a love of writing too and I enjoyed writing it even if no one ever buys or reads a copy. The fact that people have bought a copy and read it and enjoyed it is a great feeling, even if my plans for using the proceeds to buy a penthouse in Barcelona have been put on hold for now.

This in some ways might be a breakthrough week for me as a writer. I have to stress the phrase might be though. A while back when I hit a bit of a blank wall whilst writing, I decided to look back at some of my older work. A few years ago I wrote a script  which went from psychological drama to murder mystery and while reading it I thought of a great idea for an alternative ending. I re-wrote the ending (added some ch-ch-changes) and thought great but what can I do with the script now?

Well I decided to list the script on Inktip.com a US site that puts together a newsletter that is read by many film industry professionals, at least that’s what they say. It was a mere $40 to list my script on the newsletter and all I had to do was create a logline, a short phrase that encapsulates the whole scenario. OK, that was sorted but then I find that the log line has to link to a script or synopsis and to add that it’s another $60. OK I sorted that but then it turns out your script has to be registered. Registered how? Well you can register a script with the Writer’s Guild of America which ensures no one can steal your ideas. I registered the script and that was another $20. If any film producer decides to option my script I’ll let you know. That could well be a hundred and twenty dollars (£92) well spent, on the other hand . . Well, I might just keep my options open on that Barcelona penthouse, you never know.

Getting back to my blog and Floating in Space, I do wonder about views and likes. Perhaps I need proof that I’m doing things right or that my work is engaging. Over on Twitter I have roughly 6500 followers but most of those are bloggers and authors and amateur video makers just like me and only a small portion of that following has ever bought Floating or even followed me here on WordPress. Sometimes I wonder just what is the point of Twitter? Is it just a collection of thoughts and comments that go off into cyberspace never to be heard of again, unless of course you are someone the world seems to takes notice of. I was thinking perhaps of Donald Trump whose Tweets seem to be reposted and commented on endlessly. Then again, maybe that isn’t really a good example but Trump really seems to have cracked what I might call the Twitter bubble.

I spend a lot of time wondering not only about my posts but also about my book. Who is buying it and why? How can I sell more books? Should I perhaps edit it again or perhaps do more advertising or make more promo videos?

I have to admit to making some elementary mistakes in self publishing. A while back I made a big update to Floating and rather than getting an increased readership, sales dropped back to nothing. After a couple of months I did a check on Amazon and found that due to a slip of the keyboard Floating was retailing for £70.10 rather than £7.10! That mistake was quickly resolved and sales gradually began to move again but I felt like such a fool.

A few weeks ago I had a message from an old schoolfriend saying she had read Floating in Space and how much she had enjoyed it. The lady in question was (all names have been changed to protect the innocent) a girl called Stella Smith. Now Stella and I were in the same class together in Junior school and High school and except for a few chance meetings here and there, I don’t think we have have ever met up since our schooldays.

Stella was a popular girl and it was nice to talk to her again via the internet. When we had finished talking about schooldays and Manchester I asked her how come she had bought Floating? Had she seen one of my Tweets? Caught one of my YouTube videos? Had she seen one of the occasional advertisements I have tried on Google? No. None of these. She had been told about the book by another schoolfriend, a guy called Laurence.

I didn’t know Laurence or at least didn’t remember him but Stella mentioned that he had ‘friended’ her after talking on a Facebook page dedicated to our old school, Sharston High.

I joined the Sharston page and looking through it I found a number of interesting posts relating to old teachers and pupils and so on. After I had posted something myself Laurence commented on it and we got talking. It turned out he was in the year below me which is why I didn’t remember him. He mentioned how much he had enjoyed Floating. How had he heard about it I asked? Facebook? Youtube? No, he had been told about it by his old friend Eddie White.

Eddie wasn’t a former pupil, he was a colleague from my bus driving days. He and I were in the bus driving school together and while we weren’t great mates we were friendly. Eddie was a mate of Brian, another busman who I am still friends with today. Brian had told Eddie about the book, Eddie told Laurence and Laurence had told Stella.

Holy smoke, am I wasting my time with YouTube and Twitter! Perhaps I need to make some marketing ch-ch-changes . . .


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Things to do during a Pandemic

I’m pretty much of a stay at home sort of guy normally although I do like to go out now and again. I do love dining out for instance. However, staying  at home day after day may stop the corona virus spreading but it can get a little boring. What can we do to entertain ourselves then?

Well first of all the weather in the UK is pretty nice so why not get the deckchair out and have a read of a good book? The obvious one for me to recommend is of course Floating in Space but I’m trying not to make this post into a plug for my book, although if you fancy getting a copy, click here!

The Murders at White House Farm.

Recently I’ve been reading a great book called The Murders at White House Farm by Carol Ann Lee. The book was made into a TV drama series not long ago which I thought was really interesting and that made me buy the book. In case you’re not familar with the story, back in 1985 Jeremy Bamber called the police to say he had received a telephone call from his father to say that his sister, staying at his father’s White House Farm had gone berserk with a gun. He didn’t call 999 but called his local police station directly. He and the police went to the farm and after waiting for a firearms squad, they broke into the house -locked from the inside- to find Bamber’s mother and father, sister Sheila and her two young sons, all dead from gunshot wounds. Sheila was suffering from schizophenia and the immediate assumption was that she had murdered her family and then turned her father’s rifle on herself.

Some officers weren’t so sure about that scenario and a number of things didn’t add up. For instance a struggle had ensued between the killer and Jeremy Bamber’s father Neville, so how did the 27 year old daughter manage to overcome the bigger and stronger Neville? Sheila shot herself after the murders but there were two shots to her head. How could she then shoot herself a second time? Blood was all over the master bedroom where Neville and his wife June were first shot yet Sheila’s feet were clean and free from bloodstains. Some officers and family members were concerned at Jeremy’s lack of emotion and his plans to sell off and convert into cash his parents’ assets.

Later Julie, Jeremy’s girlfriend came forward to reveal Jeremy had told her of his plans to murder the family. Her story though had a number of flaws; in particular she claimed Jeremy had used Matthew McDonald, a friend, as a hitman for a fee of £2000. McDonald had an alibi for the night and vigorously denied any involvement in the murder.

When the case came to court Bamber was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. This was a fascinating read but I found myself confused about some elements of the case. The author focusses on many aspects in detail but is a little unclear on others. The really strange thing is that Jeremy Bamber was convicted without any forensic evidence showing him to be the murderer. There was no evidence showing him to have been present that night, in fact he was seen leaving for home after working on the farm that day but he supposedly returned on a bicycle to do the murders. Again, there was no proof of that. He was found guilty only by his ex-girlfriend’s testimony which I find a little scary. Maybe he did it, but then again, maybe he didn’t.

TV

Of course, in a situation like the corona virus lockdown the TV comes into its own. We need entertaining but also, we need information. Information about what to do and how to keep ourselves safe during the crisis. The other day we downloaded Rocketman, the film about Elton John for viewing when we get bored with the usual TV output but so far we haven’t got around to watching it. We have watched Flesh and Blood on the ITV hub. In case you didn’t see it, Flesh and Blood “is the modern story of three adult siblings – Helen, Jake and Natalie – who are thrown into disarray when their recently widowed mother Vivien declares she’s in love with a new man,” according to ITV.

“This is no ordinary relationship drama, as someone in the family will be dead by the end of the story – but the question of who dies and who is the killer keeps us guessing right up to the last moment,” the channel added. I found it really good and I look forward to seeing series 2.

Jobs around the House

There’s a joke I’ve seen on facebook a number of times. It’s the one where the guy says ‘If a man says he’ll fix it, no need to remind him about it every 6 months’. Anyway, recently during the lockdown I’ve repaired the garden gate, fixed the leaky gutter and given the lawn it’s first 2020 mowing.

Writing

I read somewhere that during the plague in Elizabethan times, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre was closed down just like other places of entertainment. People at the time had no idea how the bubonic plague was transmitted so the authorities of the day banned mass gatherings, just like 2020 in fact. Between 1603 and 1613, the Globe and other London theatres were closed for 78 months according to an article in the Guardian. Plague was an ever present threat for Shakespeare and other actors and performers of the day and in fact, there is some evidence to show that King Lear was written during a plague outbreak in London in 1606. Everywhere was quarantined so Shakespeare clearly thought, might as well get down to it and write something new!

I had the same thought and maybe by the end of this outbreak I might even have completed something new. Well, one or two pages anyway.


10 Incredible Tips to take your Writing to the Next Level

As the writer of some 394 blog posts I thought it was perhaps high time that I tried to impart some of my hard earned blogging and writing knowledge to you, my esteemed readers. Not only that, I read somewhere that those ‘how to’ kind of blog posts get some great readership so here goes . .

1. Writing.

Now this might seem to be a bit of a lame subject to start with but writing these days usually involves a keyboard of some sort, unless you’re from the old school of pen and paper writers. Even then, all your hand written work still needs to be transferred to a computer so try this link which has quite a few handy keyboard tips.

27 Handy Keyboard Shortcuts Every Writer Should Know

2. How many words should you write?

If you are writing a novel how much is enough? Have you written too little or too much? Floating in Space is only a slim volume so maybe I should have written more. Click the link below to find out.

https://self-publishingschool.com/how-many-words-in-a-novel/

3. Displaying a link for your book.

Now when I search Amazon to get the link for Floating it is always a long, long link which takes up perhaps two lines of text. I usually try to hide an unwieldy link like that within the text so for instance, why don’t you click here. Let your mouse hover for a moment to see just how long that link is. To get yourself a much cleaner universal link, one that will direct your readers to the Amazon store relevant to the country in which they live, click this link https://books2read.com/

Using this link will direct you to a page where you can enter your page link and convert it to something not only a little leaner but also one that is universal. Here is my resulting link:

https://books2read.com/u/3LD92N

If you fancy settling down to read about Manchester in the 1970’s give it a click!

4. Stuck for Book Marketing Ideas?

Try this link for 119 ideas!

119 Book Marketing Ideas That Can Help Authors Increase Sales

5. Wanting to write a novel but short on ideas?

Try this link for 8 novel writing ideas!

8 novel writing tips from accomplished authors

6. Have you got a Facebook Author Page?

No Facebook author page? Can you really afford to ignore Facebook in this social media age? Surely not! Click the link below to get your Facebook page up and running!

https://kindlepreneur.com/facebook-author-page/

7. Are there any YouTube pages for authors?

Yes there are plenty. Here’s one from Joanna Penn, a writer who also has a blog page and a YouTube channel where she shares information and inspiration about writing fiction, writing non-fiction, self-publishing, book marketing and making a living with your writing.

https://www.youtube.com/user/thecreativepenn

8. Any Twitter Tips?

Twitter, in case you didn’t know is a great place to market your work and send it out into the world of social media. Here’s an excellent post by writter and blogger Rachel Thompson, 5 tips for marketing your book on Twitter. The one about optimising your author bio is one I’ve used myself.

https://writingcooperative.com/top-5-twitter-tips-to-powerfully-market-your-books-81de1a9af202

9. What about Instagram?

Try this link for information on creating an author page on instagram:

https://kindlepreneur.com/instagram-for-writers-and-authors/

10. How did I find out about all this stuff?

Well, some of it was pure research, some of it I just stumbled upon as I bumbled through the internet and some was by following some great author and writers’ pages like Roxanne who publishes a very handy list of helpful links every week right here on WordPress.

https://moonrox.wordpress.com/


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