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…

Where Am I?

Dark events are inevitably connected to the dark side of the internet, a far cry from what Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, intended.

The worldwide web turned 30 last week. To mark the occasion, its inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee — in an event at the Science Museum in London — offered a cri de coeur. With more than half the world now online, Berners-Lee pleaded with every one of us to fight for “the kind of web we want”. It is, he said, “one of the most important causes of our time”.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/tim-berners-lee-calls-for-a-fight-for-the-kind-of-web-we-want-wk95rjxls

 For those of us enjoying the many benefits of the internet and for authors using it as a ‘platform’ it seems incongruous that fellow bloggers, full of good cheer, have their positive posts deleted from Facebook while terrorists and extremists manage to post hate and the unthinkable.

Ever since I reluctantly joined Facebook nine years ago I have heard talk of it being ‘finished’ and people leaving, but most of us are still there. However, a few writers have now joined ‘MeWe’, planning to use it as their new platform. I had a look at it on Sunday and as it seemed simple to sign up, I did. What next I’m not sure, especially with my dodgy technical skills and the fact I keep forgetting what it’s called – WeMe, WeWe?

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Eons ago I tried joining Twitter, accidentally joined twice then lost both accounts. I have since recovered one, but I have not yet got a grip on it. It seems to be a lot of retweeting of greetings. My WordPress blogs are linked to Twitter, apologies to any fellow Tweeters I have ignored or not thanked for retweeting… I find WordPress easier to negotiate and blogs more satisfying to read.

My website I also started long ago, another ‘must have’ for new authors; it is a paid for template, a photo album with pages to fill in! If I had known about WordPress back then perhaps I would have done things differently, but when the most unexpected people mention that they have been looking at my website, I think it has a place in the ether.

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

Instagram is a more recent venture; as I love photography I enjoy the challenge of seeking new views to snap most days, but I am not sure how one is supposed to use it to promote books or any other business.

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Meanwhile back at Facebook I have an author page where I post links to my blogs and website; posts there are all mine, though how many people find their way there is another matter! On general Facebook pages there is no logic as to what will pop up on your page and which of your own posts will be seen by friends and family. Facebook Messenger is a boon, so easy to send messages and photos instantly to groups of friends or family. Facebook groups are as good as the members in them. It was Author Chat Forum that started me linking in with other writers on line. Local groups can be handy, but sometimes lead to ‘discussions’ about dogs, cats or coffee shops and hundreds of comments that go on for days. I think I’ll be sticking with Facebook for a good while yet; after all, I would miss the hilarious cartoons and genuine fake news that get shared around.

Choose social media you enjoy for its own sake; otherwise you could be spending a lot of time for little in the way of book sales if that is your only aim.

What social media do you like to use?

Sunday Salon – Floating in the Ether

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It’s Sunday, a good time to go visiting, a good time to float through the ether and see who or what you might meet.

As it is the end of the month I have been dusting and vacuuming my website. My website has been floating in the ether for a good while longer than Tidalscribe Blog. It was one of our first ventures On Line and as with all my ventures into the unknown I had no idea what I was doing. First of all we couldn’t find it again and ended up with two domains. Then I realised I had a scrap book with pages that needed filling and I started using my camera again, so long neglected while I was busy writing. I also discovered you could change the colour of the background. As lots of writers have blogs that are black or pink I decided to go for sunshine yellow. The website took on a life of its own.

Another trip into the ether was to go on Goodreads, as writers are told to do. Not sure what one was actually supposed to do there I started a blog. I still post my book reviews there, but somehow seem to have lost the bit where you post new blogs, but never mind because in the meantime…

It slowly dawned on me that every other writer was on WordPress and I was feeling left out. So I joined the party.

But if you have nothing better to do on a Sunday please come and visit the website where the sun always shines. Stories, photo journals and you can even read about my books…

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

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/

Confessions of a Photophile

I laughed at the radio comedy; the woman in a state of panic who couldn’t go out to dinner with her friends because she had lost her mobile phone and wouldn’t be able to take a picture of the meal…

Have I become that woman? Of course not, when I take pictures of meals or glasses of festive mulled wine, it is with a large dose of irony. Besides, I love taking pictures of everything, thus proving I am not obsessed with recording the minutia of my everyday (dull) life.

I do belong to a camera club, but I don’t ‘do technical’. My enjoyment comes from looking out for interesting shots, not working out what lens to use. I point and shoot, but my photography has evolved from black and white prints to a computer full of digital images. First of all I joined Facebook and started sharing pictures, then I acquired a website with blank pages that needed to be filled with more than writing. Soon I was taking pictures not merely for family and holiday memories, but searching for original images for FB and my website. At this stage I had only my compact digital camera and marvelled at people instantly downloading images on line from the dinner they were about to eat or the tropical seas they were about to dive into.

But when I acquired a second hand smart phone I was hooked. Seeking shade from the glaring sun so I could see properly to send instant images to Facebook; fumbling to share my picture to the camera club FB page before Cyberspouse could. Mostly if I am out with other people I lose sight of them as I continually stop to take pictures.

My latest media outlet is Instagram. I’m not sure what the actual point of it is; you can only use your phone, but you can also share to Facebook and numerous other destinations in the ether that I haven’t yet navigated.

Yesterday, with a long winter walk planned, I had camera and phone in my rucksack, but vowed not to take them out till we reached our destination; firstly because it was too cold to keep taking gloves off or stand around and secondly I was looking forward to unpacking the flask of mulled wine, glasses and mince pies the long suffering one was carrying in his rucksack. But near the end of the woodland road that leads to the beach with the most expensive beach huts in the country, our route required us to manoeuvre round huge puddles and in the muddy puddles were interesting reflections of trees. We were planning to return a different way, so I just had to take my camera out…

And when we finally reached our scenic destination, the answer to the question ‘Where shall we sit?’ was obvious. ‘Where can I get the best shot of the red wine against the late afternoon sky, so I can post it on Instagram?’

Visit my website to see local seasonal scenes, the illustrated Beachwriter’s Blog and a winter picture quiz.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-two-coastal-views