(Instagram – Not All Browsers Display This Feed.)
5th Nov: AI as a writing tool?
Last week, a friend of mine left her job. She got Artificial Intelligence to write her a professional resignation letter. She felt she couldn’t say what she wanted without getting emotional about how toxic the work culture had become. She told AI the facts and it spat out the results. It needed no editing at all. She copied and pasted the text onto a new document and waved the company goodbye.
And then Margo and I were at a dinner the other night and someone commented about AI taking over the creative arts, including the world of novel writing. Margo wasn’t convinced it could do as good a job as a human author. Given that I have dabbled in AI to increase my blog frequency, I thought I’d show her what AI’s creation engine could achieve.
“I’ll make it write us a Haiku,” I said. “Give me something you’d like to read in a haiku.”
She replied, “Okay, ummm, a ginger cat walks into a bar. Try that.”
Ginger cat strolls in,
Whiskers twitch with curiosity,
Bar’s eyes all on him.
It took less than a second for AI to return the above response.
“What? Really? Okay, make it write an 18th-century poem,” she demanded, thinking the process would be harder to complete than a three-line Haiku. Less than a second later, AI gave us this text:
In a tavern of old, with timbered grace,
A ginger cat did stroll with stately pace,
Its fur ablaze like autumn’s fiery leaves,
In this age of powdered wigs and eves.
Amidst the patrons, whispers filled the air,
As they beheld the feline’s regal flair,
With amber eyes that gleamed like molten gold,
Intrigued, they watched this tale unfold.
The tavern’s patrons paused, mid-merry jest,
As the cat, a noble guest, did manifest,
In the flicker of candlelight’s gentle sway,
It wandered, as if to have its say.
No mere stray, but a creature of delight,
In the dim-lit bar, a charming sight,
They toasted to this feline’s daring quest,
In that eighteenth-century tavern’s nest.
“No way!” She said.
We then turned the same subject into a humourous limerick, a five-hundred-word murder mystery, a news article, a dialogue written in script form and then a telegram message. Each took less than a second for AI to produce. Margo was amazed each time. She shook her head.
“That’s not fair. What happens to writers now?” She asked with a look of concern.
“I guess we start learning how to write code for AI,” I replied.
8th Oct: Backing up files day.
It was Spring Cleaning Time for My Computer this week. Occasionally, I move aged files from my main drive to an SD drive. When that drive gets full, it’s time to relocate everything to an external drive.
Document files don’t occupy much space but video, picture, and sound files do. It took more than two hours for all the files to transfer across to that drive! (It’s an old drive from USB 2.0 days. SD transfer speed sucks too.) Thank god it only needs to be done once a year or so.
This inspired me to write a post on saving documents, not just backing up old ones but protecting the ones that are currently considered to be works in progress. The frequent saving of docs and then storing them in a cloud service saves much disappointment. It only takes one major loss to instil fear in us and to change our ways. A special procedure or two added to our daily work practises will protect what’s our blood sweat and tears. Have a read of it and let me know what you think. Did I leave anything out?
The only files I’ve ever lost are those I stored on CD-ROMs in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Some of those disks have become unreadable. Several are virtually transparent. The data has faded away. Fortunately, I won’t be recalling data from that period of my work any time soon.
While I was working on my laptop, I also replaced its internal battery (down to half an hour of power) with a new one. I’m now enjoying the freedom to move around again and work for hours at a time without a power lead being attached to me. How liberating it is!
1st Oct: Readership grows.
SEETHINGS has had a flurry of interest of late. It looks like the US is overtaking Europe in those stakes. It might be due to the podcast but I suspect there’s a seasonal thing going on too. As we came into this period last year, something similar happened. Figures increased in US downloads just as the US podcast downloads increased. (I wonder what it is?)
My beehive has also attracted some interest — of a few native birds this week. It is not surprising — all those juicy sweet insects sitting around the outside of the hive (see the Instagram history for videos) would appear to be a tasty treat. From a bird’s perspective, it’s a buffet. Ironically, most catch them on the wing. They swoop back and forth collecting the bees in their beaks. I’d love to get a photograph of it happening and put it on the above feed!
The blogs are holding steady. Have you dropped by to read one yet?
15th Sept: I’m refreshing old podcasts.
Stay tuned. -M
10th Sept: I’ve just posted on Medium.
The article looks like a missing person’s piece — and it is — but there’s a switch built into the text that shifts attention from who the readers thought the person might be to who it is. Just a few paragraphs in, you’ll see an obvious change.
It’s what I like about writing (also annoys me). Just when we think everything is orderly and predictable, a narrative comes along and proves us wrong. We have to stop to think about why it did that. And it’s not the writing that’s deceiving. It’s our expectations in the story that cause it to go that way. It’s about our perception of life and how things ought to be.
We’re prepared to conclude with few facts and can be easily led.
It makes me wonder how many times people misunderstand each other in real life because of this. They’ll reach an outcome that suits a perfect conclusion supported only by a few facts and an expectation to get there sooner rather than later. I wonder how many divorces, breakups and wars have come from simple misunderstandings like these.
Go have a look at the article. Tell me the headline and tagline aren’t deceiving at all. Tell me you figured it out right away! (LOL)
3rd Sept: The front page changes – having some Audacity – I only want to say.
I’ve been tinkering with the site again. To keep up with the latest speed metrics, I’ve had to reconfigure the opening page (yet again). Mobile users call the shots for metrics. If a site is delayed in reaching a mobile browser in any way, it is downgraded (milliseconds matter!). This time, it was a shift layout issue that needed cleaning up. As a table loaded, text moved around the screen until the formatting finally shifted it into its proper place. To most users, it happened so quickly that it wasn’t noticeable. Three one-hundredths of a second. That’s all it took. As quick as it was, it’s still a metrics fail. It pushed my site’s ‘A’ rating to a ‘B’.
When I think about the sites I visit today, they are laden with so many objects that they push text and pics around for seconds after a page has loaded. Pop-ups, videos, subscription and cookie statements, etc (take this page as an example, with the Instagrams at the top) continue pouring in — make them so laggy and unstable that I can’t see how they manage to exist and succeed at all. Oh well, you can still buy your way to the front of the market, right?
My site is back to a solid ‘A’ again.
Audacity is audio editing software: I got a copy of it to try out on my podcast last week to see if it would improve the sound of my recordings. You see, I’ve been using an old clunky thing I bought way back in 2008. Back then, I wasn’t podcasting. I got it to remove vocals from popular songs so I could create my own karaoke backing tracks. It just so happened that it had an interface full of other options to edit audio. When I got into podcasting, I started using it for that. Podcast creation doesn’t need much. A filter here and there. Multitrack options. Different bitrates help. But one thing it didn’t have was a good compressor or noise filter. Audacity solves those two problems. The latest tracks will be processed through it from here on.
My musical theatre days have left me wondering if I could tackle the great Gethsemene from JC Superstar. Ever since the close of our production in ’12, I’ve had this niggling thing inside my head about that song. Could I get that magical C5 out of my throat? I wasn’t Jesus. I didn’t audition for the part. I wasn’t ready for it. I played other roles in the show and watched someone else perform the role. After weeks of rehearsals, I wondered if I could carry the tune myself. My voice was close. I know the topic of understudies came up. All the principles had them. All but one of them that is. I know the director was unhappy with our Jesus over something. Could it have been that?
And so I’m going to learn it, to try it, and to find out for myself. It’s not for any show. I won’t be performing it to anyone. I just want to know. For myself. -M
20th August: Just in case you missed the character spotlights page, here’s a sample of it on this one. It includes links that lead to expanded comments on each of the people appearing in the novel SEETHINGS.
|Nina De Jong|
29th July: Hi. Just finished writing this!
Character spotlights are a peek into my stories. They give readers a snippet of what’s going on in a book. You get the tone of the writing style through them. I hope you enjoy reading this one!
The other piece I wrote today talks of Thought Cohesion, rather, Psychological Slippage — the moment when a mind breaks down and loses its grip on reality. When I write, I’m always looking for the moment when a character’s mind snaps, a trigger event that takes our story in a strange new direction. As I writer, I apply just enough mental pressure to my characters to create a believable twist for any reader to enjoy.
What do you think? Is there a time when you’ve lost touch with reality? Let me know.
25th June: An adjustment to SEETHINGS.
The novel SEETHINGS has had a small amendment made to it since it was originally published. Sales have grown since those changes were made. (I woke up one morning last month with a revelation: “That’s a better way of doing it!” and made the alterations to the book right away.)
While I was doing that, I came across a formatting error. Smashwords informed me of those mistakes a long time ago but it was only a warning. Some browsers might’ve displayed a blank page. Due to the enormous amount of work done to get things right before publishing the book, I decided to let it go and deal with it later. A blank page wasn’t all that bad, turn the page and the story would continue.
But Smashwords established connections to many online bookstores since it started. One of the conditions it has to get books listed on the other store’s catalogues is to supply them clean files (it’s a way to ensure quality products). It can come down to one too many carriage returns that set a book back. (Mine had that.)
Poorly formatted margins, page sizes, headers/footers, fonts, links, line spaces, paragraphs, etc, can ruin a book’s chances of being listed. It’s hard to write a good book but it’s easy for that book to get messed up this way. Books become invisible when it happens. I can’t stress enough to new authors who want to self-publish that there’s a whole other world of technical stuff to apply to their books before presenting their work to the world. Understanding and using it correctly increases their books’ audience pool.
Spelling and grammar aren’t currently a part of the deal but that may change in the future. Many messy books have made their way onto the market and it’s hard for readers to find good titles. Who knows where or what effect this might have in the future?
23rd May: Suffering from a bad case of the flu.
I’m on the mend but something I’ll suffer from long after this virus has passed is mobile browsing clutter. Browsing clutter refers to those items that appear on devices that get in the way of seeing the things you want to see; ie: A plethora of pop-ups, advertisements, permissions, cookie proclamations, and paywalls, intrude so much of the screen that the main content can’t be read until all this other nonsensical matter is cleared, agreed to, accepted or exited.
I curate several news feeds through Flipboard and it’s becoming frustrating to read anything on this app. Flipboard works best for RSS feeds and basic HTML pages but, as soon as the content gets complex, things begin to clog up. It makes me wonder what the future of Flipboard is.
StumbleUpon had the very same problem. It was an online site that was available for owners of desktop computers. It was a discovery engine and those who used it loved it. It imported another site into its own. You pressed the big button at the bottom of the page and it’d shuffle its enormous database of web pages so a new one was offered to the searcher. It was popular… until we started browsing the Internet with our phones. The screens got small. Every ad and pop-up got in the way of StumbleUpon. The frame-inside-a-frame format made it worse. StumbleUpon closed its doors just a couple of years later and was never seen again.
Busy page design isn’t just a problem for apps like StumbleUpon and Flipboard. It’s becoming problematic everywhere. The first page of every site visited is loaded with look at me code. Clickbaits shout out well before the main content is accessible. It’s a really big turn-off, and it’s getting worse.
Here’s what I don’t get: Why haven’t site designers recognised this problem and reconfigured their sites in ways to lessen the impact of their clickbaits and shout-out code? They don’t need to be written with so much extraneous stuff bolted onto each page in the first place. Take a look at mine. It’s clean and simple. You turn the page and get the text. Nothing else gets in the way of it. It’s been years since we transitioned to e-devices! Get with it guys! Clean up your act and simplify our browsing experience!
What about you? Do you get the same problem when browsing sites with your device?
25th April: A podcaster’s nightmare: Foreign sounds.
I’m recording a long podcast. Long tracks aren’t hard to make but they are hard to keep clean of foreign noises. The world around my (not soundproofed) office is noisy. Birds, motor mowers, aircraft, passing buses and the like, creep into them all the time.
Often, I don’t hear them, not because I’m deaf, but due to the recording’s realism. There are times when I’m replaying the content and I’ll hear a motorcycle or plane pass by. It’s hard to tell if it’s inside the recording or outside my door.
This time, I’m adding a few sound effects to the track. That means recording many sounds, and more opportunities to inadvertently capture a foreign sound. By the end of the day, several sounds that aren’t supposed to be on the track will find their way there.
When I finish and release it, it’ll be a challenging game for listeners to count how many foreigners escaped my ears and found theirs.
Wish me luck!
2nd April: Holidays are over!
I know, there’s a great chasm between my last update and now.
There are some changes in my work arrangements (daytime job). To put you in the loop, basically, my boss asked what I thought of his management skills. I thought it to be a fantastic opportunity to iron out some wrinkles and get things improved. Bad move.
Out with the old job, in with the new.
But I’ve still been able to send out podcasts and a post or two during the transition. You would’ve seen them arrive in your inboxes. One of them attracted over two thousand new visitors from social media! I hope you liked them!
I trust you are well and enjoying your job. Just remember: I suggest you tell your superior that they are completely competent and excel at all they do, even if they are a disorganised buffoon.
5th March: Back at home
It’s good to be back but the year has gone so fast. January feels like a zillion years ago. One day I was looking forward to going to Brisbane and, the next, I was back here. So many frequent flyer miles, airports, coach and car trips — I don’t know whether I’m here or there.
I slapped a brief post together on our trip to Kangaroo Island. If you’re interested, there are some pics and a video to see there.
Margo and I got sick on returning home. It turned out to be COVID, again! I’m mostly over it but Margo is suffering a little more, sneezing and coughing into the night. I hope it doesn’t go the way it went like it did last year. That last one ended up in the hospital!
18th February: Touring time
I’ve recently spent some time in Brisbane and now I’m back in Perth (Mandurah actually). Soon, I’ll be in Adelaide for a day, so Margo and I have decided to take some time off and go across to Kangaroo Island.
Kangaroo Island was on our list of must-do destinations just before the pandemic hit. There were some serious fires in 2019/2020 that wiped out large portions of its vegetation, many animals and some of its businesses. Tourists were put off going there due to its charred landscape and scorched facilities. A plea was made by the people of K/Island for visitors to return to the area so they could spend their money there. (Unfortunately, the island relies on tourism) We thought to support it by visiting it as soon as we could. At the time, no one was talking about closing down the globe for a worldwide pandemic, so we assumed we’d be there within a month or two. There was no way we could’ve known that it’d take another three years to find the time to visit this picturesque little island that lies in our southern ocean.
26th January: Happy Australia Day
Every country has a day to celebrate what makes it and its people special. The names they give for it are different but the meaning is the same. Today is the day Australians give thanks for having a lucky country. It’s a holiday where we generally relax, eat and drink, and wave an Australian flag — and I’ll be doing some of this later today. First, I have to send out a couple of posts and podcasts. (I’ve just finished writing and recording them!)
In fact, several posts and podcasts were sent out earlier this week so, if you’ve been paying close attention, it’s been an unusually busy week for me. There’s a reason for this. I’m going on an extended vacation. I’ve got several weeks of bliss and frivolity ahead of me and I’m readying myself for an online break too. It doesn’t mean I can’t see or access messages, it only means major things like writing projects and recording audio will halt for a short while. Don’t worry, pictures of my adventures will appear at the top of the page (like they always do). Just keep returning to see what’s happening.
3rd January: Happy New Year 2023!
To those who’ve been leaving messages via Anchor.Fm, thank you. Your kind words mean a lot to me. I really appreciate everything you’re sending. I’m blown away, I really am — and I hope to respond to each of your messages soon. I’d also like to thank those who have written online reviews for SEETHINGS. I did a search today and came up with this gem:
Independent authors rely on readers sooooooo much. There are no multimillion-dollar publishers pumping up a marketing/advertising regime around here. It’s up to the writer and my readers to make it happen. You’re making things happen! Thank you! Thank you!
May this year be our best year ever!
25th December: Merry Christmas!
It’s a lovely time in Mandurah at the moment. The weather is bright, warm and sunny. At night, coloured lights are festooned everywhere. With pandemic restrictions behind us and the words ‘isolation’ and ‘lockdowns’ disappearing from our daily vernacular, things are looking optimistic. It should, it’s been a while since we’ve had a Christmas that was normal and free from both of them.
From Margo and myself, have a Merry Christmas, a safe New Year’s Day period and a wonderful holiday break throughout.
8th December: Short message this time.
All fixed. Enjoying life. Appreciating oxygen.
Not much to report this except readership numbers continue to grow. Podcast episodes grow too and, this week, Spotify was kind enough to drop me a note. Here is this past year’s wrap. -M
20th November: Feeling great!
After a serious round of Asthma and being prescribed a breathable steroid to settle my lungs, I’m now breathing and walking around like normal again (and not coughing throughout the night too.) Thank goodness. It’s allowed us to get some sleep and get out this weekend to enjoy the new Mandurah Giants Exhibition that’s been installed around our fair city. (You may still see a few photos I took of the sculptures on the I/Gram feed at the top of this page)
Elissa, from the U.S, sent me an audio file last week. After listening to my Dirty Rabbit Hole Podcast (over on Spotify), she wanted to share her intimate story with me so I could put it on my podcast. It was so raw, heartbreaking and beautiful, that I knew I couldn’t do it justice by reading it out in my voice so, with her permission, I used that audio and embedded it into my last episode so listeners can experience what I experienced when I heard it the first time.
Not all listeners write to me after a new episode goes out. Those who do, don’t contact me to get their story rebroadcasted. They just want to thank me for having such a podcast so they don’t feel so alone anymore. Elissa was different. She wanted everyone to know so it could help others better understand their situation. So I changed her name, bleeped out some key identifiers and then altered her voice. Her story is now yours to enjoy by clicking on this link.
10th November: Sickness remains.
Not much left to say. The doctor has provided some stronger medication to settle the cough. I’m not sleeping and it’s getting hard to concentrate. -M
1st November: Still sick
I’m up and walking around. It’s come down to a lingering cough and some shortness of breath. Whatever it was, it packed a punch… and has become annoying!
New posts went out, as too a new podcast episode (See? I’m alive and well! Almost. I even went out to put a bet down on the Melbourne Cup. Alas, I didn’t win. Next year perhaps!)
23rd Oct: Sick now.
Margo came down with a cold and I followed soon after. It’s been a week of sneezing, coughing and little sleep. I was down for the count for three days and did absolutely nothing during that time. It’s been a week since that all-too-familiar throat tingle came on. I’m a bit better now but it’s taking longer to get over it than I expected. At least I’m up and walking around!
- Joined a choir.
- Posted new content to this site.
- Purchased a new fishing rod.
The choir is about to put on a show and we’re busy rehearsing songs for it. It’s been a long time since I sang in a choir but it’s great to get my harmony ear activated again. Solo work tends to spoil a singer. Due to illness, I missed this week’s rehearsal but next week I’ll be back to it. Wish me luck.
A new post went onto this site (the results of laying down a draft over a week ago) and it’s a tad revealing. I hope you found it interesting. Write to me if you feel the same way!
My old fishing rod died. Fishing season is coming and I want to be ready to float my boat and get it back onto The Estuary. I tried to repair the rod only to find more problems with it. Rust, cracked eyelets and a fractured tip made my decision for me. I got myself a super light Ugly-Stik and now I’m ready for the season. Bring me those King George Whiting!
13th Oct: Sorry for the long delay in updates.
Interstate visitors dropped in this month and we’ve been on entertainment duty (It’s really tiring inventing activities and new places to go/see) for part of the time. I’m pooped!
In between short drives/walks and eating out, I managed to get some writing done for this site — and a new podcast recorded/posted too. I can’t say much work went towards the new novel. In fact, none did. Things have pretty much stalled there. Before you ask, no, it’s not writer’s block. If you’ve been following these updates, you’ll know that’s never been a problem — it’s the editing that troubles me. I absolutely hate it. For me to tackle a manuscript, I have to clear a large space in my calendar. I never take bite-size pieces of one, it’s all or nothing (well, bigger than bite-size). My preference is to work it over in thirds (or greater). Consequently, I haven’t had the opportunity to find that time, so the manuscript stays at the end of the desk unloved and unattended. That doesn’t mean it won’t get the attention it needs. It will. Holidays are coming. That’s the clearing I’m looking for.
And then there are the posts written for this site and those podcasts I keep mentioning here. They take time (smaller pieces of it) to write and record. They challenge the time I require to do that bigger task. Who knows? Maybe it’s my way of procrastinating and avoiding the inevitable!
4th Sept: Is it Spring already?
That’s right. I’m way over on the other side of the world. The cold is going away and the sun is returning. Yay. Okay, I’m in a different Season (most likely) and in a different timezone (probably) than yours. This kind of brings me to a small rant I have about social media (Twitterers more specifically) and how ignorance (or arrogance) makes authors overlook the obvious by starting their posts with a “Good Morning” or “Hey! It’s Saturday”. You’d think creative people could look outside the box and recognise that their clock isn’t the only clock in the world. It’s not morning everywhere and, for some, Saturday is long over.
It’s not a big issue but it’s a little annoying.
I remember the first emails I received in ’97 often started with a “Good Morning Sir,” and that was annoying too because it was presumptuous. I opened my email in the evening. But the Internet was young and inexperienced so I let it slide. Remnants of old-world letter-writing practices lingered. Yesterday’s advertisers knew business owners would go through their mail before lunchtime, so they personalised their correspondence by starting it with an appropriate greeting. That’s not the case now. With the Internet, people work at any time, every time, in different time zones and on different days. One moment in Chicago, Guam and London may be the same but not their time zones.
There is a weird irony to social media. People use it to take advantage of a worldwide audience, but only include their time zone in their Tweets. In a world where the first few words matter, these ones are totally irrelevant. For a few, it can even be a turn-off. In twenty-five years of the Internet, no one seems to have found a way to provide S/Media broadcasts with a time-relevant greeting that looks pleasing to everyone at any time, day or place. For the record, I haven’t found one either so I’ll go with a simple “Hi,” and leave it at that.
If I’m corresponding one-on-one with someone out of my zone, I’ll use phrases like “I’ll reply in two hours” or “We’ll talk tomorrow at the same time”. I’ll even use a time conversion app if I have to be specific about it — but I’ll never send out a worldwide post with “Good Morning…” in its text. It’s my way of not disrespecting (or disregarding) their place and time in the world.
14 Aug: Back to reality after a short break.
If you were watching the Instagram feed above, you might’ve seen bits and pieces of our trip as we headed to the southern area of our state. I surprised Margo with a holiday to Karri Valley Resort and we spent a few days among the forests of Karri trees. It was cold and rainy but that was part of the plan. We wanted a fireplace to snuggle up to and to be able to watch the mist rolling through the trees — and we got that too.
Lumps of firewood were provided with our chalet but I’d have to go outside to cut them into smaller pieces to get them into the fireplace. I could feel the icy air on my nose and fingertips as I chopped away at the chunks, encouraging me to work just a little faster. A little plume of blue smoke swirled out of our chimney and mixed with the mountain mist. It was the perfect blend of crispness and old-world country living in one. The whole thing was a yummy change to the sunny beach life we have at home.
More posts went out this past week and so did a new podcast. I hope you like them. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, subscribe to this site for updates and get them as soon as they happen.
24th July: Not much to report.
I’ll be taking a short break soon. The online sale will end this upcoming week and I’ll take the opportunity to escape and enjoy the winter weather. I’m planning to have a mulled wine or two by a fireplace and that’s it. No writing will happen. If it’s raining, more mulled wine will be consumed. If it’s not, mulled wine will be consumed anyway.
13th July: Winter has had Margo and myself hiding indoors of late. That’s okay because the rainy season was expected. In this part of the world, it comes now and with wind, lots of it. It doesn’t get cold enough for snow but it’s pretty chilly outside when the wind hits. Indoors is a safe place to hide until Spring arrives.
There is a day or two here and there when the hostile weather abates, enticing us to take a peek outside. I did that recently to add another impromptu track to the podcast (see podcast on the menu). I took my recorder to the beach and came up with a word or two to say to it on-the-fly. It’s unscripted so the content is pretty thin. I just wish I had prepared something before I went to the beach to record it.
I joined a choir. It’s been nine years since doing choir work. Dayboro Uniting Church Christmas choir was the last time I did that. I have fond memories of singing then and now I get to do it all again. This group is talking about going to Italy and participating in a competition next year. Nice. I hope my voice is worthy.
That’s all. See you next time.
20th June: It’s been a while since my last update…
I’ve been working on recording new podcast tracks and writing behind-the-scenes posts. A bit of social media is thrown into the busy mix too… as well as my regular daytime job. The rainy season has moved in, so expect more frequent updates for the next few months.
I received a book in the post this week and it took me right back to my childhood. It’s the first book I ever read (that wasn’t part of regular schooling). It’s an old book (YA) that has been reprinted many times over since it was first published in 1960. It’s had a couple of different covers over its time and, by the time I got mine (my original 1974 copy), the colour of my book’s cover was yellow. I’ve been searching for a ’74 copy of The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald for quite a long time and finally found one (that was in good condition) a couple of weeks ago.
My school used to send around a book club catalogue about twice a year. I showed my parents the catalogue and they said I could pick out a book for myself. I chose one, put my order, the catalogue, and money into an envelope and gave it back to my teacher. Six weeks later, Clifford B Hicks’ book about a young inventor landed on my school desk. It was my very own book! I couldn’t believe it!
Most copies of this book that exist today are either the newer versions or damaged older ones. A bookshop in the States had one for sale. I saw it online and it looked pretty good from my end but the price was high. I offered them a lower price (the dollar conversion and postage made their price unreasonable) but they turned it down. I bookmarked the page and kept watching the book not sell for five years (yes, I’m obsessive like that) and every year I’d make them an offer to which they’d inevitably reject. Well, one popped up on E-bay just about a month ago and it was located here in Australia! The price was right and the book’s condition was good. I just had to snap it up right there and then. The book arrived yesterday and, after opening up the post-pack it came in, I was taken back to my eight-year-old self.
Two things of note: The book is smaller (and much thinner) than I remember. It smells deliciously old.
To be expected, the cover is faded, especially around the spine, and the pages are a well-aged yellow. A child’s name appears inside… And all the text beyond it is totally readable. The book is everything I’d hoped it’d be and I’m going to enjoy re-reading this little childhood story again and having a heartwarming flashback.
One day I’ll tell you about my obsession with a particular type of transistor radio and what I went through to get it!
By now you would’ve seen a change in the tagline above this post. It’s one I’ve avoided using for ages — but I believe enough time has finally passed to make it happen and stick it to the top of every page.
A Sexless Marriage. There, I’ve said it. Boy, that was hard to say but so very liberating. I could end up saying it again before this update is over. I had a ten-year sexless marriage (there you go) that came off the back of a seven-year celibate courtship. That marriage was hard, disturbing and downright depressing. I am also glad to say that it’s over — a long time over.
For those who’ve been followers of this site from the start, you’ll have noticed a common thread on its front page and some of the post headers: Thunderstorms. It’s a clue to the story I’ve written about bearing the burden of living in a long term sexless marriage. It’s far less like ‘Twas a Dark and Stormy Night, and more Once Upon A Dark Relationship. The heavy cloud represents the dark emotion that constantly entered my mind and the lightning speaks of the brilliant light that fell in-between times — of an affair that, in some small way, warmed a missing piece of my cold, dying heart. You’ll be pleased to know that the marriage sacrificed itself and I got to keep what was left of my broken heart. Eventually, I got to glue the pieces back together again.
Life isn’t always kind to us. Cruelty can exist for no reason — and it can come from the least assuming places, justified, accepted and, therefore, encouraged by fools who continue to let it be. Something was bound to break and I did just that.
There are no heroes or martyrs in love. There are no prizes for those who say they loved more, worked harder, or hurt more. Tombstones never mention anything about the one who saved the day and who didn’t. You live and die and that’s that. If you succeed in love, in death you’ll become a memorial that’ll be eventually forgotten. If you fail, you’ll fade into time the same way. There are no heroes or martyrs — no winners or losers — just life and death. What you do between those points matters, but only in life. So it’s best to make what you can of today. If you’re unhappy with the way your life is right now, then change it. I did.
I got divorced, sold my house, bought a small yacht, wrote a book, lived on the water, sailed for a while, finished writing the book and then put it on my site for you to read. It’s based on my peculiar little love story. I say based because it’s not entirely autobiographical. Adding other elements and characters for extra spice turned what could’ve been a depressing read into an entertaining one. Now you’ve visited my site and read a bit about the background to the story, go and download yourself a free copy of it. It’s free on Smashwords for a short while. When you’ve finished, tell me what you think.
Winter has arrived. For the area in which I live, that means rain. Our Summers are dry but the water keeps falling just as the temperature turns and drops.
More posts and Tweets have gone out this past week and there have been some good responses coming back. Thanks to those enjoying the content. I’m looking forward to sending out more soon.
I’ve made an amendment to the Prologue in SEETHINGS. If you get a chance, check it out.
Regained my health. I’m back to normal… well, as normal as I can be.
The new theme is working well. It’s fast and stable. I like it. The last theme was old (2011) and had a few fractures in it. I couldn’t do anything from my end to fix it. It was falling apart at the themes! Ha ha! (Did I just make a funny?) The fact is, old themes have old coding in them that hasn’t kept up with modern browsers. A 2011 theme was made at a time when mobile and tablet browsing was still new. Even desktop browsing has moved on since then. It’s all so very complicated — too much for me. I’m just glad another theme was available that looked similar.
A new post went out this week, as too a new podcast episode. Members (subscribers) would’ve been notified as they hit their inboxes. If you want to subscribe to this site and get the same in yours when they happen, just sign up. (There are no pop-ups screaming at you to make a move. You have to be brave and do it yourself.) It’s easy and fast. Just leave your name and email address in the boxes and that’s it. You’ll get new information as it goes out. -M
My COVID infection has passed. I’m still short of breath but doing okay. In the meantime, I’ve been tinkering with this site to pass the boredom of self-isolation. You may see some changes here and there and then… presto, they’re gone. I’m experimenting with a new, faster theme. It’s a good one but it places elements in different areas on the page. The colours it chose were all over the shop too — and the fonts weren’t quite right. Each post and page has to have some attention to them to bring them back into line. The good news is that it isn’t hard to do, just niggly and time-consuming. I do it while watching episodes of Picard on Paramount+.
COVID-19 made it my way this week. I’ve been in isolation for a few days and have a few days left to go. That’s good. I’m fast running out of milk.
Aches, pains, shortness of breath. That’s what it amounts to. It started with a monster sinus pressure and then a headache. I took a RAT test and bingo. It was there. The dreaded double line appeared. An official PCR test confirmed it. I’m now three days into it and can honestly say that it’s like a flu virus. The symptoms are very much the same. Now, before you assume anything, I’m triple vaccinated and it’s the Omicron version I’ve got — the weakest known to exist at this stage of the pandemic.
My take on it: I’d hate to think how bad it could’ve been if all this preparation wasn’t done before I got this. I also wonder how many people died needlessly because of apathy or indecision or downright boneheadedness. The signs were there. The right people who knew the right stuff told the world at the right time. Plans were made and actions were put in place. All it needed was for everyone to play the game and do what was required. The rest would be sorted out for us.
Western Australia has done exceedingly well during this worldwide illness. In fact, my state (and country) has had the best outcomes of all. When you leave conspiracy theories, sheep following or, “It’s just a flu” out of it, we have had the least amount of sick/dead/dying people. I’m so proud to have played my part in it.
(Side note: We officially stop having to wear a mask in two days. Yes, we’re still wearing them in bars, clubs, public transport, and group events. That’s how much diligence went into the statistics.)
We took a brief holiday in the south of our state (if you’ve been following the above Insta-feed, you would’ve seen it in the photos as they came by) to give Margo’s parents a proper send-off by casting their ashes into the waters off Walpole.
For two years, Covid messed up travel. It was impossible to make plans for an extended break. Each time we tried to get away and do something, border restrictions were put in place and stopped us from leaving home. One major event we kept trying to plan for was cancelled five times because of lockdowns and travel restrictions. That plan was to bring Margo’s sisters together (and their children, and their children’s children), rent two houseboats for a weekend and sail to a place on the other side of the Noranalup Inlet to scatter their parent’s (and grandparent’s) ashes. One passed twenty years ago, her dad died later. Walpole was a special place for them. They loved it very much. It seemed right to lay them to rest there, together forever.
The borders came down a month ago and it was time to gather and get those ashes to Walpole before the next pandemic came along and stopped us. It was a lovely weekend away. We fished, crabbed, laughed and cried. As I said, the photos of the trip (and a short vid or two) are posted on my Instagram account.
Interview time. I’ve been approached to do an online one with another author. She wants to know what I do and how I write what I write. Once I’ve completed the interview and have more details about where it’ll be published, I’ll post them here.
More content has been added to the blog part of this site. If you’re a member, you would’ve seen it arrive in your inbox and its associated links. Rest assured, there’s more quality dark writing on its way!
I’ve seen a lot of traffic arriving from Twitter this past week. The short links I mentioned in the previous update seem to be responsible for it. Thanks to bit.ly for helping me out there.
A new podcast was published two days ago. An interesting fact: Most listeners are aged between 40 and 60. That’s a good result because the novels I write are pitched at that age group too. (There’s a small enclave between 18 and 22 but I put that down to university and college students doing research on relationships and/or podcasts) -M
Short linking. That’s what I’m doing today. Deleting old short links, setting up new ones and analysing historical data.
For those of you who don’t know what short linking is: It takes a long website link like https://michaelformanwriting.com/learn-how-to-photograph-lightningphotographing-lightning (a how-to page on my website about photographing lightning) and turns it into something like bit.ly/LightningPix.
You may ask, why do that?
- Traffic via bit.ly is recorded.
Tracking traffic is important. If the link is going to have a different name and it’s stored on a separate site, why not study the traffic that comes along it? (Yes, the long one stays in its place. The conversion is only an alternate, not a replacement.)
The shortening process suits Twitter as Twitter limits the number of words users can write in their Tweets. Most Tweeters like me (book authors) provide a link in every tweet they send but that takes up valuable space. By shortening a link, it leaves extra room for other words.
Long links are still helpful. Search engines rely on them. They search for words that are common in it and the page it supports. If there’s a correlation, the engine ranks the page accordingly. That’s why I keep the long link long active and let SEO do its thing. The short link can be used for other things like social media posts.
SEO and social media are different. SEO is a long process. Social media is short.
I chose bit.ly many years ago because there weren’t many short linking sites around at the time. I stay because all my links are there. (I did use another for a while but it has folded since then.)
When it comes to promoting RSS, I treat it in a totally different way. That’s a difficult group of people to access but a great one to have if an author can get it!
But that’s a discussion for another day…