Who’s Following Who?

On Monday I got a Christmas letter from Australia. For a moment I wondered if 2020 had all been a nightmare and we were still in 2019. But alas, it turned out a friend from long ago had been tidying her office, no doubt a Covid stayathome activity and had found the unsent Round Robin. On the reverse side was an updating handwritten letter. But this blog isn’t about Round Robins or my friend’s ‘far more interesting than mine’ life. The salient point was that she had been reading and enjoying my website, which was pleasing and also made me wonder how she had arrived there. Had I enclosed a business card in her Christmas card, had I even remembered to send one, or had she just looked up my name on the internet – for experimental reasons I tried this and my website came up first.

An artist’s impression of my website

We started my website ages ago after publishing my first novel on Amazon Kindle in 2013, when I had even less idea what I was doing on the internet than I do now. It is a paid for website, a series of templates, a scrap book waiting to be filled in, without the glue, but for me just as messy; we accidentally created two domains, there were too many pages, which themselves had more pages… what to fill it with, lots of pictures?

My first positive step was discovering you could add a background colour, turning it yellow brightened the outlook, but what next? Over the years I have discovered skills at a slow rate, often there have been changes as soon as I got used to how things were done. How to change the size of words and pictures so people could actually see them, how to do links. At one stage you could put artistic frames around the pictures; that disappeared, but some interesting boxes turned up – perhaps I have been using blocks all along without knowing.

When I realised everyone except me was on WordPress I started this blog, the advantages are obvious, it is interactive, you know who is Liking or commenting and you can respond. On my Big Yellow Website visitors can only Like if they are on Facebook, there is also a visitor counter which records far higher numbers than the Likes. In the unlikely event a visitor is moved to comment they must make the effort to turn to the contact page and find my email address, I think only my sister and a few friends have ever done that.

If I share a link to the website on both my Facebook pages I get some Likes and lots of visits, so who is visiting apart from the friend in Australia? Of course none of this translates into actual book sales, which is why authors are told to start a website in the first place, but perhaps my website is happy in its own right, floating in yellow bliss in the ether waiting for its next visitor.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/

In the meantime back to WordPress to tackle the new blocks…

Every Picture Tells a Story

We have shelves full of them, boxes in the loft; barring a house fire or aircraft crashing onto our roof, a large collection of photograph albums, some inherited, could be passed on into history. Black and white pictures on black pages, sticky pages unpeeling, flip up albums of 6×4 prints. But the days of calling at the chemist to collect a packet of prints, the hoped for best shot out of focus, are a mere memory.

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When we joined a camera club over a decade ago, only half the members had converted to digital, now the colour slide show has been replaced by digital images projected from a computer onto a screen. Charity shops are full of old cameras. The real enthusiast used to be someone who had his own dark room, now he has a computer, sophisticated software packages and a good quality printer. Digital photos can be printed out by anyone, a trip to the supermarket machine, put in your memory device and collect.

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Unlike a roll of film, digital never runs out. Many computers are full of thousands of unseen images, lost to history as technology changes. From pictures taken on mobile phones of news as it happens, to bumble bees captured with the most expensive macro lens; everyone is a photographer now. I prefer compact cameras that point and shoot. But for the ‘technowhiz’ with the right software and a lot of patience, there is nothing that can’t be done to a digital image; cut down to size, lamp posts erased, colours altered, several snaps melded together or the photograph turned into a painting. My book covers are all created with digital designs using original photographs.

Authors are advised to have a website; you can build your own or find a website provider. I found myself with a template; a digital scrapbook waiting to be filled, not just with words, but with pictures. The means to an end became an end in itself.

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Visit my website for seasonal pictures, travel views and a picture quiz.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/

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Facebook; social interface, time waster, or something more sinister? It does not need to be filled with family photos and intimate details of your life. Artists and photographers just enjoy sharing pictures and many of us relish seeing places we are never likely to visit ourselves.

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I have my camera or my smart phone with me all the time, still recording holidays and family events, but looking out for the unusual and interesting, snapping anything that might be suitable for future blogs or Instagram.

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Ironically, despite this revolution and the explosion of digital colour everywhere we look, people love old black and white photographs; most of us are intrigued if we visit an exhibition. We enjoy the iconic images and the best photographers of that era took beautiful pictures. There is a clarity and sharpness in black and white photographs that has never been present in colour images. The other attraction is that past lives are captured, whether it is a crowded city street or an individual’s gaze, every picture tells a story.

 

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It might seem that in modern life onlookers are all too ready to snap or even film disasters with their smart phones, but keen photographers are often reluctant to take photographs of people going about their normal day, fearful they will be seen as terror suspects or unsavoury characters. It would be a shame if the early Twenty First Century was represented by rural scenes and cityscapes devoid of human beings, I enjoy taking natural shots of people.

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Visit my Beachwriter’s Blog to see my latest pictures of people and places.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

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Multi Media Muddles and Miracles

When I was four years old my parents got their first television; I thought the people on the screen lived in the cabinet underneath and I was too scared to open the doors. For all I know about computers, it could still be the case that the people who spring to life on Facebook or utube live under my desk, in the black magic box that is called a desk top computer, though it is sitting on the floor.

Even those exalted friends and colleagues who are in computers, do programming or the person who turns up in your office when you call ‘IT’ probably don’t know how the magic really works.

Until it stops working, writers don’t need to know how their computer works; they only need to know how to type and how to use the internet. Indie Authors come via many routes to arrive in the same virtual meeting room, but we have all been told along our journey that we need a media platform.

Ideally this is supposed to be in place before you start your novel, let alone finish it, but many of us would never have got our books written if we had jumped in at the deep end. Instead we learn by osmosis and help from fellow writers; probably once a month discovering some technical short cut that is second nature to everybody else.

My guide to computer technology should not be followed… Never click on any strange symbol in case you wipe out everything you are doing. If something goes wrong, switch off every piece of equipment and announce loudly that you are going downstairs to cook dinner. Then sneak back in when the computer least expects it, turn on and hope for the best.

Anything I have created that appears on line is more by luck than judgment, perhaps even a miracle. When I joined Goodreads my picture insisted on being sideways, it was a long time before I figured out how people put pictures on Facebook and it was only a few weeks ago that I managed to change from a snowflake to a human representation in those little boxes next to LIKE at the foot of Worpress blogs…

But as fast as we establish one base it changes, or our superiors tell us nobody is using that anymore. Hopefully WordPress will be around for a while. I was a latecomer, realising nearly everyone except me was on it. Domains, websites, Amazon Author pages, Facebook pages; whatever you use needs to be fed, nurtured and updated. Nothing looks worse than a website that even the owner has not visited since October 2016. Of course there is no guarantee that anyone will visit your website or blog among the millions out there in the ether. Every day, in cathedrals all round the country, choirs will be singing evensong; even if not a single member of the public turns up the service will go ahead. That is the cathedral’s main purpose. And if a single soul does turn up seeking God, they will be ready for him.

Our websites are unlikely to have such a high calling, but just in case someone finds themselves in our own special domain we want it to look good and grab their interest. My website does not have moving pictures, falling snowflakes or firework displays, but there are topical pictures and enough to read for your coffee break.

Not only is it a miracle that I am on the internet, the internet is a miracle.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/

Into Infinity

 

 

Do you keep a diary or resolve to keep one every New Year? Many years ago I was given a five year diary which lasted at least a decade of good intentions and still has many blank pages, but it does record some major life events; if anyone can ever decipher the tiny writing crammed into the allotted space per day and year.

In more recent years I received a handsome note book blissfully free of dates. I vowed to keep a journal for the purpose of preserving the art of handwriting and recording family history. Released from the obligation of daily jotting I would devote several pages to important events and places and people visited. I haven’t yet recorded Christmas.

But I am onto the third gift journal. Each entry begins with a few neat sentences but quickly deteriorates into a cramped scrawl, especially if I am lounging with my feet up on the sofa. I imagine the diarists of old would need to sit upright at their bureaus to be able to handle their quill and ink.

In the unlikely event of me becoming a famous author posthumously, will my family be tempted to burn these diaries and journals to protect my reputation? If they bother to look at them they will find no scandal (there is none to help in the fame stakes), no salacious details of non writing activities at home. Hopefully my jottings will be a unique personal account of everyday life in the early years of the Twenty First Century.

And which will last longer, the paper books or this Blog? When I needed to look up a previous Goodreads blog about the River Thames I typed in ‘Janet Gogerty Sandscript River Thames’ and up it came, from over three years ago; will it be there forever? Will our WordPress Blogs  float through the ether into eternity or only until the internet is switched off?

Like radio waves going on forever into space will the billions of words on the internet still be out there somewhere when the whole infrastructure collapses and the electricity is switched off for good? Will our Facebook posts and e-mails be accessible to clever alien archaeologists or future earth scientists? If so then, Greetings from 2017 A.D.