Books vs Kindles

Had an interesting chat, yesterday, about kindles vs books. My friend, who has spent years teaching reading, said she wondered whether our brains were wired to cope with only reading something off a screen. She did concede she might be influenced by her bias towards the traditional book, and her struggle to fully take in all the information presented on a computer or phone screen. Perhaps the younger generation, with their i-phones, i-pads and i-pods permanently attached to their eyes, ears and hands, may not have the same struggle. I think there’s something about the delicious tactile sensation of opening a book that just can’t be duplicated by a machine, no matter how technologically advanced it is. I love the way a brand new book creaks as you open it up for the first time. I love the feel of the pages between my fingers, the smell of the paper, the crispness of the print, the weight of the thing sitting in both my hands like a literary Big Mac. I don’t enjoy the flick, flick – “work you dagnabbing thing” – of the teeny phone screen. My finger and or thumb is too fat and I keep hitting the wrong thing. I guess the larger i-pad is more user friendly but it’s still a thing of perspex and plastic and therefore no soul. (Yes I’m a grumpy old lady who is seriously biased! Deal with it.) I can see how it’s a useful thing to have almost your entire library in something you can fit in your handbag. It’s definitely more portable. But it’s not often that I need to take my entire library with me. I like my big book-cases filled with books of different sizes and colours. They start off lined up like little paper soldiers but as more and more join them (and before the ten-year great cull), they end up lined up, stacked up, shoved in and higgledy-piggledy. “Dive in,” they say, “you might discover something so absorbing, so exciting, so intriguing, so mind-blowing, it’ll change your life forever.” On the other hand the i-machines say (in a voice reminiscent of a dalek), “I am efficient. I am clever. You will be like everyone else. You will never look up in a train, bus, airport, restaurant or shopping mall ever again. You will never converse with a stranger about your reading material. You will never talk with your friends or family; you will text them instead.” I shiver. From the little I’ve read about the phenomenon, it seems that the biggest book sales on kindle are books that have already been published in print. That strikes me as a little ironic. I remember when movie videos first became popular. (Yes, I really am that old!) The catch-cry was that it’d be the end of movie theatres. Yet, just this week I and many others were happily sitting in a movie house, eating our choc-top icecreams and laughing as we watched a movie – together. Perhaps books and kindles/e-books will also learn to co-exist. What do you think? It’ll be interesting to see what...

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How to spot spam.

How do you spot a spammer on your blog? 1. They use terminology which implies you’re a man, when your name and photo clearly show you’re a woman. Unless, the unplucked hairs on the upper lip are causing some confusion! 2. They thank you for the information, which is just what they’ve been looking for, when you’ve written about the dog disgracing himself on the living room carpet. Unless, there really are hundreds of people with computer software/diet programs/methods for penis-enlargement that are desperate to know how I react to my dog’s lack of control. 3. They use the same message for every single post. ‘Hey bro/man, my sister/husband/brother/cousin showed me this post. It’s just the information I’ve been looking for.’ Is that all you can say, every time? Really? You obviously haven’t taken in the stuff I’ve been saying about being a good writer. Pay attention, dude/man/bro! Unless, I really am so good that there’s nothing else to say. 4. They write in a form of English that is not just awkward, or even broken, but totally smashed. Scattered throughout are key words: software, programme and ‘satisfy’. I don’t have a problem when English is the second language for the writer. I would have the same difficulty writing fluently in French or Latin (the only two foreign languages I vaguely know). But gobbledy-gook is a completely different ballgame. Unless, the writer really does come from Gobbledy-gook Land, in which case I humbly apologise. 5. When the name of the sender is a combination of letters and numbers; EG: Ubs33wshsjaksz. Now, I realise that there are places in this world where one can find almost indecipherable names, but I have yet to find any that include numbers. Of course, I haven’t allowed for Gobbledy-gook Land, so… For all wanna-be spammers out there: * I don’t want to know about the you-beaut plug-in, up-load, down-load, app thingee that will drive, direct, increase the whatever-the-heck for my blog. I’m happy muddling along as I am. * I don’t appreciate you using my blog as a sneaky way to promote whatever-the-heck you’re selling. Get onto Google Ads and maybe they’ll include you in the selection of bona fide ads that accompany this site. * I don’t want my penis enlarged. * You’re welcome to visit any time. I appreciate a friendly discussion and my little ego loves the compliments. But please don’t waste my time with your spam, I’ll just keep deleting it. Obviously, you have no life to speak of, if this is the best thing you can find to fill in your time. Maybe you’re shut away in a spam-sweatshop, churning out useless bumf for a tyrannical overseer, trying to earn a few pesos/pula/dollars to feed your starving family. It’s the only explanation that makes any sense to me. In which case, I will pray for you...

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Tips for newbies.

Tips for beginners/self-publishers. 1. Don’t leave a double space between each paragraph. It screams “AMATEUR!”. It might look good when you’re writing an email, or posting in a blog, or some other venue on-line but it doesn’t work in print. A double space between paragraphs is a literary device to denote a shift in time (a reasonable period, not two minutes later), or a change in point of view; that’s all. 2. Please don’t leap from head to head within the same few paragraphs. Pick one person to tell the story and then remember that they have no idea what the other person is thinking or feeling. You, the author, can show the reader the other character’s response by what they say or what they do. If it’s necessary to sometimes tell the story from another character’s point of view, give them their own chapter, or at least create some space (with a double space between the paragraphs) so that the reader understands the narrator has changed. 3. Please don’t begin your story with a prologue in which a non-essential character dies. Especially don’t write it in first person. (How can they be telling the story if they’re dead?) If the death of this person affects your main character in some way, simply bring that out in the body of the text. She/he can have flashbacks to that awful/tragic/satisfying day, or other characters can refer to it… There are a number of ways you can do it without resorting to a prologue. These ‘before-the-first-chapter’ chapters work well for setting the scene for a crime story, or mystery, or historical something-or-other, but the content is usually essential to the main plot. Eg; The prologue is a murder scene, that then leads us into the life and work of a detective/reporter/potential future victim. It has more purpose than just telling us the main character’s first boyfriend died a few years ago. 3. Have someone with reasonable credentials edit your work. I don’t mean your best friend/aunty/Sunday School teacher. I mean either someone who is an actual editor, or someone with proven competence in the English language. You need someone who will give an un-biased response to your work; who isn’t afraid to point out where the story fails, as well as where it works well; who can spot typos, spelling and grammar mistakes and make the appropriate corrections; someone who can help shape your work into something worthwhile. Be prepared to pay them because, believe me, it’s a lot of work! 4. Don’t say, “Oh I don’t need to go to that trouble. I’m just writing a little story for my grandchildren.” First of all, don’t your grandchildren deserve the best? Secondly, don’t you want them to actually read it? You’re competing for their attention with a world full of wonderful, fascinating, well-written, beautifully presented books. They might smile and thank you, because they love you, but there’s no guarantee they’ll actually read it if it looks amateurish and old-fashioned. 5. If you are writing in first or second person, please don’t have your main character die at the end. Again, if they’re dead, how can they tell the story? The only way you can do it is if you write it in third person and it is obvious to the reader that the narrator is someone other than the hero/heroine of the story. EG, Mr Lockwood in the novel, Wuthering Heights, tells the tragic story of Heathcliffe and Cathy by writing it in his diary. 6. If your story is important enough to put into print, then it’s important enough to be written and presented...

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The Wonder Dog is in Disgrace.

As I’m typing there is a small, high-pitched whine coming from the direction of the kitchen door. I’m choosing to ignore it. Rex the Wonder Dog is in disgrace. It doesn’t help his cause that I am already seriously sleep-deprived due to his nocturnal habits. He’s been whining for the past hour, non-stop. I am a block of granite. I am carved from stone. I am…oh good, he’s stopped. I can’t bear to hear him cry. (But don’t tell him!) R the W D lived with an old lady for the first two years of his life. I can only assume that the woman paid numerous visits to the toilet during the night. As a result R the W D can hold on for 6 hours or so during the day and then take himself out to the loo, when he needs to, through the provided exit. During the night he seems to only manage a couple of hours at a stretch. What is worse he can’t bring himself to venture out alone into the dark. (And, only a crowbar will do it if it’s raining.) I stagger out to the kitchen and let him out. He then races back in through the provided exit, as if the hounds of hell were nipping at his heels. I hear you ask: Why do you do it? If I don’t, he doesn’t leave the house at all; instead he trots down to the end room where my desk lives, and leaves his deposits there. (Curse open-plan houses without enough doors!) We’ve tried shutting him out at night. After the third night of continual – and I mean continual as in didn’t stop! – crying and scratching at the door, we gave in. If we hadn’t, the Old Boy would have done the W D serious damage and the neighbours would have been preparing the tar and feathers. Believe me, this is one seriously needy dog. (Curse that old lady, whoever she is!) I take him out around 1 – 2am, then he wakes me up around 3.30 – 4.30 am. Sometimes, if the sun’s up, he takes himself out around 6.30am, but often my own bladder is calling for attention by then so I do the honours. Sometimes, if I’m blessed, the Old Boy will do the 3.30 – 4.30 shift, but most of the time he sleeps through everything. It was the same when the kids were babies. Although, come to think of it, he heard the whining… and he often mumbles things about the “useless mutt” in the dark, so perhaps… Hmmm. So what did R the W D do that has him shut outside in the hellish sunshiny garden? Well, I took him out at 1, 3.30 and 6.30, yet he still found time inbetween to leave a deposit on the carpet. Alright, it was raining, but hey there’s enough area under cover for him to have a dry, private spot to do his ablutions! He’s back at the door, staring at me with his big-eyed, Wonder Dog face. The whining has started up again. You’d think, going by his expression and the pathetic whimpering, that I’d starved him for a week and have been beating him with barbed wire. In actuality, he’s been shut out in the garden for an hour. Normally, being the marshmallow that I am, I’d have given in by now but not today. No sir; when I’m sleep deprived I turn into a surly, slavering, sadistic beast. So, Rex the Wonder Dog, suffer in your...

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