Saturday, 19 May 2018

Why I Don't Talk About Mental Illness

This may seem a unusual subject on a blog about books but it's something I feel needs to be mentioned even though I've no desire to get into the specifics of my illness. I've been suffering with mental illness since I was a child and it's not something that can be 'cured' no matter how many years of therapy I've had or will have in the future. When it comes to writing I find it allows me to focus my mind and keep me occupied, it's also allows me to express myself in a way I would normally find so difficult.

Obviously, being a writer I've written a book about my mental illness and my experiences seeking treatment. I mention it on my website as well as briefly mentioning that I have such an affliction. Other than that I try to avoid the subject altogether.

I want my stories to be judged on their merits not on the mental state of the author. If I write a terrible book I'd like someone to tell me my story sucked, I don't want them to think it was a good attempt for someone suffering mental illness. If I write an epic novel that becomes a best seller I want to be celebrated for my achievement as an author, not an author who wrote something wonderful despite suffering with mental illness.

Then there's the stigma of mental illness or as it seems nowadays the opposite. I've noticed in recent years, especially on social networking sites, that people will describe themselves as having mental illness within their profiles. I'm all for people talking about mental health, I think it's important that people share their experiences, but in some cases people are branding the name of specific mental afflictions like a badge of honour. The problem with this is that I'm sure a lot of people are simply making it up or self diagnosing for the sake of appearing cool. People with genuine mental illness are suffering day in, day out, they'd give anything to live a normal life. Brandishing their mental condition at every opportunity is the last thing on their minds.

On Twitter if there's a mental health awareness week, or something similar, I happily talk about such things not hiding my illness from my followers, but the rest of the time I shut up about it and talk about books or whatever subject I find interesting at the time.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Bad Programming

Many years ago, back in my younger days as a computer programmer, there was an expression GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) which basically meant if you type garbage into the computer you'll also get garbage out. There was also a two word expression 'Bad Programming' which was in reference to a programmer who failed to make the software in question fool-proof. Many a time a program may ask for a simple input and the user may type in words instead of a numerical input and the program would crash with a 'type mismatch' error message. Then there was software that worked perfectly within one operating system but failing to work within another. As to who was at fault was a matter of debate but it still counts as bad programming.

The point I'm making with this blog entry is about compatibility issues within internet browsers. I'll be the first to agree that Microsoft lost its way some time ago, like a sailing ship with no captain, and I could list a huge amount of issues within Internet Explorer and Edge but there are plenty of bloggers out there that already do that.

Generally speaking I use Google Chrome and my websites are specifically designed for display within that browser. On rare occasions I'll use Edge because it can view PDF files without requiring Adobe Acrobat which is a brilliant feature. The PlayStation 4 has a browser built in too which is a variation of Apple's Safari. I still use Internet Explorer sometimes but generally it's just to test that my websites still work on it.

One thing I will never do is have a message on any of my sites that says "Best viewed in Google Chrome" or words to that effect. When making a website it has to work in every browser. It doesn't matter if Internet Explorer is a pile of poo, if a website doesn't work on it then it's bad programming! There's no point in moaning that Microsoft are years behind innovation and the like, if you have a website that isn't going to work for most users then you'll in effect lose customers.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Writing Is An Art

"were" is the past tense of "are".
"was" is the past tense of "is".
"were" and "was" can both be used as past tense of "am" unless it follows "if" in which case only "were" should be used, unless the "if" in question asks for a person's age in which case it should be "was" as past tense of "am" and never "were."

This is the kind of nonsense that puts people off writing. Now I'm going to tell you a secret that all writers know that most people don't. There is no right and wrong when it comes to spelling and grammar, there are preferred spellings and preferred rules of grammar but it's never a case of being right or wrong.

Writing is an art. A writer's intention is to create a picture in the reader's mind about what is happening within the story taking place. The writer will often skip details that are deemed unimportant while going into precise detail about events relevant to the plot. The written word becomes a tool that coneys the story, not just telling the events but taking the reader upon a journey letting them see the events taking place.

There's no right or wrong way to paint a picture, and there's no right or wrong way to write a story. Of course once a writer has finished the story they will go through it with a fine tooth comb checking the grammar and spelling but it's just for the sake of making it an easier read.

Don't be too concerned about the structure of writing. Just get that story down. If someone tells you you're wrong for using the word "laid" instead of "lay", or tells you the word "agasp" doesn't exist just ignore them. You are the writer not them, write it your way.

Incidentally I'm a big fan of the Oxford comma.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Writing Tools

Recently I came to the conclusion that I found it far easier to write within Microsoft FrontPage than within Microsoft Word even though FrontPage is a web editor. I think it's because I can see what I'm writing far more clearly than with Word which distorts the font size and paper making it larger than how it would be seen in printed form. Obviously I could simply adjust Word's settings and zoom out but I find the text gets scrunched up that way. Once the written work is complete it's a simple copy/paste and format check into Word to made sure everything's hunky-dory.

I remember reading about Patrick Moore who used to type on an old typewriter made in the 1800s, far earlier than before he was born, simply because he had used it all his life and felt no need to get to a newer one.

There's also the story of a professional writer who had a 266Mhz PC with Window 98 and an early version of Microsoft Word. He would start the computer, wait for it to fully boot up, then click on Word and it would open in two seconds. He later purchased a 3Ghz PC with Windows 8 and the latest Microsoft Office including Word. The computer's fan was noisy sounding like a vacuum cleaner. He clicked on Word and it took twelve seconds to start. No doubt he went back to his old computer. This may be an urban myth as an anti Microsoft story but it's certainly believable. Incidentally Windows 10 is a constant annoyance for me, luckily I have Windows 7 on my little notebook computer.

I think the point I'm making is that there is no best tool when it comes to writing, it's all about what's best for you. If you prefer to hand write you may have the hassle of having to type it out later but your creative juices flow far better when you're feeling relaxed. Get the story written down in the most comfortable manner as possible, you can deal with formatting, spelling and grammar later. You don't need the latest fancy word processing software to do it. You can even use Notepad that comes with Windows to write you manuscript, if you publish on Amazon Kindle it even allows for that.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

66 & 99 Punctuation

I was thinking about this recently whilst copying files from Microsoft Word to HTML web format then having to test the website in different browsers to see if the 66 & 99 copied properly. This also applies to curved apostrophes and elongated dashes but I wondered how many other punctuation marks are effected.

If you don't know what I'm referring to the 66 and 99 represent the types of double quotation marks. In the days of typewriters and early computers there was just one key to represent the double quote and it would always display as straight quotes. (Shift 2 on a standard UK keyboard). Modern computers still work the same way, but Microsoft Word cleverly detects whether the double quote should be a 66 or 99 then displays the correct character within the font selected. So instead of straight double quotes" you get 66“ and 99” accordingly.

As I already mentioned this also applies to the single quote or apostrophe and also the length of a dash. So it's something to look out for when copying one format to another. So far I haven't noticed any other changes but I'm sure there could be a lot that I simply haven't noticed yet. It doesn't bother me too much but I like consistency when it comes to that kind of thing.

Incidentally I once saw a poster advertising a pantomime that contained both a straight and curved apostrophe within the same banner. I wondered if I would have noticed before I started writing books.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Vampire Woman (Book Review)

This is one of the first books I bought on Amazon Kindle. I think it was the cover that first attracted me to read the book description, then I became intrigued wanting to read the story.

I won't go into too much detail as to not ruin the plot but it's basically a short story about a vampire who's respectful to her victims and always makes sure to leave them alive after feeding. Even though she does have fangs, and the urge to bite, she instead uses a blade attached to her ring to leave the wound clean. She uses cunning and skill to lure her victims, and despite being hundreds of years old takes advantage of modern technology not relying on the old ways of a vampire. Despite living in a large creepy castle this story is set in modern times.

The story focuses upon the horror of what's taking place rather than gore which unfortunately is a trap a lot of modern horror stories fall into. It's not overly frightening per se but that may be down to the fact that it's written from the vampire's point of view, she's not afraid of herself after all.

My only criticism is the title 108 Mystery Stories at the top of the cover which is somewhat confusing.

The author, Jangle Charm, has a wide range of stories including children's books, mystery stories, romance and many, many more.

A caring vampire.