technology

To blog or not to blog?

I made a decision recently to blog more often.   The reason was the lack of visits and comments which had almost made me give up the blog.  Up until then, I’d blog when I had something definite in mind to blog about but then I noticed that many others blog far more frequently than I do, sometimes several a day.  So I decided I would make an effort to blog every day, which may mean you’ll sometimes get little more than rubbish but hey, it’s worth a try.

Is it simply a matter of quantity over quality that gets readers and comments?  It’s not for lack of followers as I  have around a hundred (approx) so maybe it’s just that I get lost amongst the others who spam the feed with multiple daily posts.  Social networking, if blogging can really be labelled as such, is a rather unpredictable thing.  There doesn’t appear to be any hard and fast rules to rise up the ladder and get yourself noticed.  It’s all a bit hit and miss.

There’s a lot talked about SEO, which as far as I can gather, is a way of manipulating the way your blog appears when people do google searches so that your blog is higher up the list.  I know zip about such things as SEO so I won’t be fiddling with that side of things, although I do take care to do the ‘tag’ thing before posting.  And I have categories, which I also gather are important.  Sometimes I wonder if my blog is visible at all and I’ve thought maybe there’s a button I haven’t clicked yet and no one is seeing my shit at all.  That would be so me..!

Writing is what I do.  It’s my thing.  I find it easier to write a 100,000 word novel than to speak to a group of people face to face for five minutes.  Funny then, that I should so often be stuck for an idea to blog about.

On a brighter note, I got $25 today from Smashwords for 1st quarter royalties, which is delightful.  I also did another short story for my planned horror anthology which will be released later this year. My Saturday hasn’t been a total washout then.

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New Laptop – hp Pavilion g6

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I recently had 3 lucky breaks that netted me 500 quid to splash.  Firstly, I won £80 on the lotto the day before my birthday.  Then Mother gave me £100 for my birthday and then I got offered £300 to format, design the cover and publish a book for a pc illiterate new author.

So today, £500 grasped in my sweaty palm, I headed off to my local PC World to buy my very first laptop.  Having been a desktop user for the past several thousand years, the world of laptops, netbooks, ultrabooks and the like is somewhere I’ve never had the good fortune to venture into.  I am, however, pc literate and know what I want the machine to do and can ask most of the right questions.

What I wanted was my desktop, in a laptop.  I want to do everything I’ve been doing in a newer, faster, smaller and portable machine.  I also want to be able to sit on the sofa while I’m doing it, or lie in Sunday mornings and watch a dvd (I’ve no tv in the bedroom alas) and it would be fabulous if, at last, I had a machine powerful enough to finally be able to play the Riddick pc game Mother bought me a couple of years ago.

A friend recommended a couple to me so I strolled up and down the laptop section for a few minutes and eventually found the tiny machine lurking amongst big slick looking laptops.  Eventually, (this store always keeps you waiting ages for service) a cute looking guy with a sexy accent and an engaging smile called Richard strolled over and we talked laptops.  After hearing what I wanted from a laptop and how much cash I had to spend, he showed me my options.  It came down to one – the hp Pavilion g6.  It has all the right ‘stuff’ inside, enough of all the things you want a lot of, a big enough screen and it will allow me to watch dvd’s in bed and play my Riddick game (so he said anyway, I haven’t tried yet).

This Richard guy gave me a helpline number and said when I got home and unpacked everything, to ring the number and they would talk me through setting it all up.  Great says I and handed over my wedge and grinned all the way home.  After a quick pee, I ripped open the box and rang the number, only for the guy to say I’d been given wrong information and that they don’t do set ups over the phone.  I was really angry as I hadn’t a clue how to get the thing to ‘see’ and recognise my router so in desperation I rang my isp – EE and spoke to a guy called Sandeep who guided me through opening a remote help thing so he could see my screen and got me connected and running within 5 minutes.  Lovely.

3 hours later I’d finally got Norton anti virus and Office loaded and sat back and started using the machine.  My first battle was with the Windows 8 startup screen, which seems like a nightmare to a dedicated xp lover of many years, but once I’d figured out how to rearrange my tiles and pin my chosen apps to my startup screen, I was smiling.  Another 5 hours later and I’d downloaded my favourite photo manipulation software, and used the new Word to design a press release for my books.

So far I love it.  I’m sitting comfortably on the sofa so I will no longer have to stub my toe on that annoying leg that sticks out of my desktop trolley, nor try to balance my ashtray on the corner of the sofa so as not to get ash and muck in my keyboard.

The only downside is that it’s red.  I’d prefer black or even silver but all they had was red.  The only other downside is the pad thing instead of a mouse (that takes some serious getting used to, believe me) and it took me a couple of hours and several pleas for help on facebook and twitter to learn how to right click and click and drag without a mouse, and as for scrolling down a page, well don’t even ask.  Basic stuff but I’ve never used a pad before.  Now I’ve learned those basic things I can start to feel at home on it.  I still have to find out how to attach my printer and my external hard drive I used with the desktop and if both of those are easy, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that I could get rid of the desktop altogether.

So, in the week following my 51st birthday, I’ve taken another step forward into the technological age.

Direct links to The Lilean Chronicles on iTunes

Just letting you all know that I’ve just found out how to get direct links for my books on iTunes.  I’ve added the links to to the relevant pages here.

I’ve been wondering how to do it for ages and in fact it took me months to even find my own books at Apple at all.  Not because they weren’t there as Smashwords distribute them pretty quickly, just because I simply didn’t know how to find them and it took months to find someone willing to tell me that I needed to download iTunes to my pc first.

If anyone out there is having the same difficulty, here’s a link to the iTunes link builder.  It’s fab.

David The Hayemaker Haye and how he punched me in the face (virtually)

I used to be connected to David Haye’s facebook page.  I say used to be, because I’m not anymore.  I unliked his page this morning because something weird and strangely hilarious happened overnight that once again reinforces my somewhat sceptical view of the morals of most celebrities.

David recently brought out an iphone game app and he’s been spamming facebook with ads for it for a couple of weeks now.  I don’t have an iphone (I’m android) so I’ve not taken any interest and I have to admit that the amount of spam he’s been chucking out about it was becoming a tad annoying.  Anyway, a couple of days ago he posted a comment moaning about how few people seem to have downloaded his new game app and asking “why” we all hadn’t rushed to buy it (yes it’s a pay to download one, not free) and telling us that we should borrow an iphone from our friends or family so we can buy his new game.  Loads of people commented, and some of the comments were uncomplimentary about his new business/money making stance he seems to be taking since leaving the jungle.

I commented that as I don’t have an iphone, nor do I have a family and nor do I have friends who will loan me their iphone just so I can buy and play his new game app, I wasn’t interested.  I think I actually used the term “stick it.”  Not very ladylike I agree but it was extremely tame alongside some of the other comments I read (and laughed out loud at).

This morning I log onto facebook to find he’d banned me from commenting on his pics..!

I must admit I was amazed at that but then I laughed and am still giggling about it now (several hours later) and now I just think, what a self important asshole and how glad I am that I didn’t waste too much time being a fan.  Actually it was only the sight of his naked butt in the jungle that made me aware that he even existed as I hate boxing and think it should be banned, but I digress.  This is no loss to me at all and in fact it’s given me an interesting subject to blog about so I reckon I gained from this hilarious experience.

I often wonder whether it’s the money or the fame that turns what may have once been normal nice people into these self important megalomaniacs.  I then wonder if there is a cure.  I then realise I’m thankful I have the insight and self awareness not to ever become like that myself.

At the end of the day, I’ve been proved correct in my views on celebrities yet again.  I haven’t lost anything and my life will continue just as it always does.  He on the other hand, is famous and should be more aware that people talk to one another.  Word gets around and when you’re famous, you really shouldn’t piss off the folks you’re hoping are going to make you even richer.  He says he wants to become “an established actor” within 5 years.

That’s plenty of time for word to get around and bite him on his cute ass.

Facebook Fan Pages – heralding the imminent exodus

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed something troubling going on over at facebook.  I have my own personal page there (doesn’t everyone?) but also a fan page for my books and I’ve taken the trouble to trawl for fans and managed to achieve a none too shabby 447 fans.  Like a lot of people I felt it would be a more professional way to present my books and writing without the personal stuff that goes on at my personal page.

Several weeks ago those of us with facebook fan pages noticed an innocuous little thing at the bottom of everything we posted which at first we ignored until the truth of its function made us sit up and scream WTF..?  At the bottom of each post it says “seen by” and then a number.

This tells you how many of your fans actually saw this post, and it’s never anywhere near the number of fans you actually have.  As I say above, I have 447 fans on my facebook fan page, but my posts usually get “seen by” no more than 30 or 40.  In order to ensure your post is seen by all of your fans you have to – yeah you’ve guessed it – pay..!  Facebook charges $10 to ensure your post is seen by up to 3000 fans and that cost is PER POST, not a once in a lifetime thing.

There is a way around it and it’s very simple to do.  All you have to do is hover your mouse over the ‘Like’ button and wait for the drop down box.  Then click on ‘add to interests lists’ and voila, all of that page’s posts will be visible to you.  I’ve been posting this information for ages now, and so have a lot of other fan page owners but the problem is that no one can be bothered to take the 5 seconds to actually do it.  This is what fucks me off more than anything, more than facebook expecting us to pay.  The simple truth that people are too selfish and lazy to take 5 seconds to ensure they can see your posts, dismays and troubles me but doesn’t surprise me.    People are selfish and book people are notorious in their lack of desire to help out other authors.  They’re violently competitive, which I find, well frankly rather uncouth.

This makes the recent trend for facebook ‘like parties’ rather redundant now.  What’s the use of having thousands of fans if only 50 of them see your posts?  This also makes fan pages themselves almost redundant because there’s no way people are going to be persuaded to actually give those 5 seconds to click on the add to interests button unless you pay them.  With this rather sad realisation comes a decision – I’m giving up my facebook fan page.

I simply cannot see the point in maintaining the page when only 20 to 30 people will see my effort and rest just can’t be fucked.

Yes I’m annoyed.  I’m constantly amazed and annoyed at people’s capacity to be unhelpful, insincere, greedy, snooty and selfish.  So I’ve decided that since people don’t have the intelligence to be led by my example of helpfulness and giving, I’m going to do exactly what they do.

I spent over an hour last night ‘unliking’ every single writer’s fan page I’d taken the time and trouble to like and ‘add to interest lists’ and I shall never ‘like’ a writer’s fan page ever again.

I love writing my books and I’m good at it, better than many others I’ve seen and read and I will always write.  I love writing, it’s writers I hate..!

Headers and Footers have a mind of their own

I’m not the most technically minded person in the universe and all things internet and pc based really try my patience.  Since I’ve had access to the internet, which is a few years now, I’ve learned so much and all of it by trial and error and google. I’ve not had any lessons in using computers or the internet so although I’m still a bit of a bonehead, I’m proud of my level of ability.

Since I started writing my novels I’ve had to learn all about self publishing and it’s been an uphill task all the way.  Thankfully, lulu and smashwords make it very easy to understand what to do to get your book published and out there.  I’m  now finding the amazon publishing platform much easier to understand and use now that I’ve gained a little experience.

Actually uploading the finished document is child’s play; it’s the formatting of the bloody thing that is so awkward.  Word is easy enough to use but it’s a bit lacking in explanations and instructions.  The problem I’ve battled with today is headers and footers.

Jeez I hate those things; they always give me trouble.  I always have problems with getting my page numbers to start at Chapter 1.  It always seems to insist on giving page numbers to the front matter too and I always end up tearing my hair out.  Today I finally worked out how to do it.

It’s all about breaks.  Page breaks and section breaks are the way you divide up your manuscript and it is essential you use them in a certain way to make sure your headers and footers do as they’re told.

For the front matter – title page, copyright page, dedication and so on, use a section break (next page) at the end of each page.  This will make each page of the front matter be treated as a separate section and any headers and footers will be only for that page.   For the chapters, use ordinary page breaks at the end of each chapter.  This will enable you to make sure that your headers and footers don’t continue from the previous section.

Then it’s just a case of doing each header and footer and making sure you delete any automatically  inputted text and making sure the ‘same as previous’ is switched off so that your front matter is clear of any headers and footers.

You can then input the headers and footers for the chapters and since you used page breaks, the whole body of the manuscript will be treated like one giant section and the whole thing will heave headers and footers in one go.

I know you probably all know this already, and really this blog is as much for a reminder for me when volume 4 of The Lilean Chronicles comes out, as it is for anyone else’s gain, but if it helps someone else then all to the good.