Reading

I read quite a lot. All sorts of books and stories and many of them inspire me to write. I’ve always been a reader although my parents never read to me as a child. It was just my way of escape. Escape from bullies; from having to get up; from having to go to bed; from life in general.

I had a ‘normal’ working-class upbringing by ‘normal’ working-class parents who worked hard to provide me and my siblings with food, heat and a decent roof over our heads. Nothing unusual happened and every day was much like the last one. I think that’s why I read, why I wanted to escape. To slip off into much more exciting worlds than my own. They are all out there, just step into a library and see all those worlds.

I was always being remonstrated for reading under the bed covers via torchlight. My mother insisted that I would go blind as she was an advocate of having as much bright light as possible. I’m no longer a young man and my mother has long since passed away but if she were still here I would have to remind her that I didn’t go blind. Well not so far anyway, but I did so enjoy those adventures with pirates, smugglers and spies. Writers such as John Buchan, Daniel Defoe and Alexander Dumas we’re the stuff of my late night reading. Just another page I would tell myself but that quickly became another chapter until finally I succumbed to sleep until woken at some early hour to get up, wash, dress and grab a piece of toast before off to school to endure education.

I have always been convinced that I learned far more from those wonderful books than I ever did sitting in a classroom, bored by a teacher telling me that my life would be irreparably damaged if I didn’t learn the Periodic Table or sines, cosines and tangents. I have never had to use a slide rule in over fifty one years of full time work or much of what was forced to learn.

So I’ll continue to read fifty plus books a years and write whenever I can. I still love to slip off into those worlds which are far more interesting than mine. I will continue to learn and educate myself by reading. It should be compulsory for everyone.

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

What a gem of a book this is. It’s funny, scary, sad and happy and really well written. I was surprised to find that the author is a woman as the chief protagonist is male. We follow his hap hazard childhood with his gang of friends through to adulthood. With all the stresses and tensions of life thrown into a small Southern English town. Well paced and written and a pretty original storyline which keeps the reader, well this reader, interested and wanting more right up until the last page. It was one of those books I couldn’t put down but feel a bit lost because it’s ended.

To say this is a first book from this author I would suspect there are many more to come. I, for one, will eagerly await the next one.

Ulysses Writing App

I have written before about the use of writing app’s as an aid to productivity so I won’t repeat myself here. I will however tell you about my experience with Ulysses, as writing tool from The Soul Men. It’s not exactly new but it’s new to me and, so far, I love its simplicity.

Since acquiring an iPad Air I have been looking for a writing app which is easy to use and fully functional on this device. I have waited for Scrivener to deliver their much promised iOS version which is now on the market and working fine. Anyone who uses Scrivener will know what a great tool this is particularly as it is now a true cross platform piece on Mac, iOS and Windows via the Dropbox cloud storage facility. But whilst I was waiting for the iOS Scrivener App to be developed I discovered this wonderful writing app called Ulysses and fell for it immediately.

It’s quite unlike anything I’ve used before. It is so simple and clean that it inspires the writing process. I am currently writing this post on my iPad and it is set in ‘Typewriter’ mode which means the line I type is always in the same place and so I look at a single line of text as I’m typing it on the page. This stops the distraction of looking back at what I’ve typed previously and so I’m not flitting back and forth, editing as I work. (This has always hampered my progress, as I constantly ‘fiddle’ with work I’ve written but I don’t wait until the draft is done)

There is full Mac version too and also an iPhone app and they all work in iCloud so there is an almost instant update on all these devices without the need to do anything but type. It removes the need for the writer to constantly save work as it is saved automatically in iCloud, if you have an Internet connection or updates immediately you go back online. I can’t remember how many pieces of work I’ve lost because I failed to save them properly. There is so much more to this great bit of software which I don’t,t intend to describe here but I would encourage you to have a look at it.

Look in the App Store for it, you won’t be disappointed. Sadly, there is no Windows version. Or check out the website http://ulyssesapp.com

How do you follow that?

mm

 

I have just finished reading this book, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. It’s a book which took him nearly thirty years to write and finish it and then have it published. There are many books written about war and many of them about the Vietnam war but there are few that can depict such a real insight into the conditions which were endured by a young generation of boys. Sent to a strange country to fight an enemy, young boys, much like themselves. Who they were taught to hate but never met. Spending days and nights in wet, humid jungle. Often without water and proper food and every minute scared of every shadow. It is funny but often gruesome and it is a true story based on Marlantes own experience of the war. Where seventeen-year-olds commanded ten to fifteen men and a twenty-three-year-old officer was responsible for every waking and sleeping hour of the lives of over two hundred. It’s a tale of bravery, sacrifice and of how quickly they grew up when facing death, leeches, near starvation and even tigers every day.

It’s actually the second time I’ve read this book in two years. The first time I devoured every page and felt loss when I finished it. Having finished reading it again, albeit a little slower this time, I once again feel that loss. I’ve tried starting two books since but can’t really get going on either. I seem to find that when I have read a book I particularly like, so what’s the answer?

How do you get started on another book after a really good read? I know I’ll just persevere until a book clicks but I just wondered what the secret is.

 

Words

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
Rudyard Kipling

I don’t know about you but, all my life, I’ve been plagued by certain words which I have trouble spelling. I have never been able to spell ‘restaurant’ at first go. I don’t know why but it always bugs me and I either have to look it up or use the spell checker. I get the ‘a’ and ‘u’ in the wrong place or miss them all together. Another word is ‘definitely’ which I seem to want to put an ‘a’ in. Or it comes out as defiantly. I have seen others who make this particular mistake.

I know that most of us mistake the ‘there, their and they’re’ sometimes but I usually correct that in the editing stage. (I hope).  Most of us realise the difference in UK and US dictionary words. (realize)

I find it quite annoying, though, when I find errors in a books or magazine stories. Something that has managed to get past the editors and proofreaders which seems to jump off the page at me. Having read some of the self-published e-books I find that mistakes are commonplace and really good stories can, for me, be spoiled by a lack of concentration. I don’t blame the writer as we are all guilty of reading what we think is there, especially when we’ve written it and our brain knows what should be written. Perhaps employing a proof reader would help in these circumstances but it’s easy to judge.

Do you have any words that trip you up constantly?

Blogging 101

“Nothing in the world is ever completely wrong. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”
Paulo Coelho

I think I must have got it wrong. I was looking for inspiration and motivation from Blogging 101 but sadly, so far, that’s not been the case. Perhaps I was looking for something which isn’t included in the course, although I will keep going with it and see the month out. Just in case by bailing early  I miss the good stuff at the end. Maybe I didn’t read the blurb, initially, but I’m not one for small print. I’m the guy who buys a new TV and takes it out of the box and gets it working before he looks at the instructions. Or the man who builds flat pack furniture before realising you need to fit a crucial part BEFORE fitting the top. But that’s me.

Even when I have read the posts in blogging 101 they don’t seem to be following the promps either, as though other bloggers are thinking the same as me and doing their own thing. Occasionally a blog post appears that resembles that day, or the previous days prompt, but mostly it seems that any post tagged ‘blogging’ is in that reader and so it’s not exclusively for those on the course.

All in all, so far, it’s not doing it for me but I’ll hang in there and see what develops. Anyone else got similar or different thoughts?

Blogging 101 – Day 2 – Title and Tag Line

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Bert Lance

Day 2 of Blogging suggests that we look at our blog title and tag line and change it to something more appropriate. Strange thing is – I like my blog title and my tag line so I’m not going to change it. I feel that change can be good and useful but often we change just to change. I am very much in favour of change but only change for the good and for improvement.

‘My Write’ is my personal play on words and means it’s my right to write whatever I want, within the laws of free speech and common decency. I don’t think I am alone in saying that blogging is about talking to an audience. Whether that’s to one or one hundred thousand followers, it’s immaterial. The numbers don’t matter, to me, it what’s being said that counts.

The tag line ‘Ramblings and reflections on life’, I don’t think requires any explanation.

What do you think? Are you happy with your blog title or have you ever changed it?

2016 Reading List

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Ray Bradbury

I’ve just signed up to the Goodreads book challenge 2016. It’s where you decide how many books you wish to read during the year. It’s not really a challenge, as such, but I’ve never actually counted how many I read on average. I had already decided that this year I would keep a tally but the challenge means I don’t have to bother. When I start a new book or end one I merely go onto the website and enter the details and they keep track  for me. It is also a good place to discover what other readers think about the next book you are considering. Others can rate and comment on any book they have read and likewise you can do the same once you either complete the book or give it up.

I just wondered how you choose what books you buy and read? Is it by author, genre, number of pages or perhaps even a bright book cover? Sometimes a thousand pages can be a little daunting and maybe even half that number can seem like an uphill struggle. Or perhaps there is the perfect novel hidden behind a plain and boring cover. I  tend to follow an author I’ve already read, although that can sometimes be disappointing, but more recently I’ve gone by recommendations. Sometimes those come from friends or from blog posts or suggestions via email. I have, for many years, subscribed to the Everyday Ebooks website. From here they send out a daily recommendation with a comment from a reader. I have discovered some great books on here, notably ‘Matterhorn’ by Karl Marlantes. Someone I’d never heard of before but it turned out to be one of the best and memorable stories of the Vietnam war I’ve ever read. Based on true events and real people it is not for the faint hearted but exciting and impossible to put down.

So how do you decide what book to read next?

2015 Departs with a Vengance

Kirkstall Road

Pictures from BBC website

We’re almost at the years end and what an end it has been. Vast areas of land and roads and houses are flooded. Places which have never had any kind of water problems have become engulfed, as rivers burst their banks and flow into towns and cities. The picture above shows one of the main roads in and out of the city of Leeds, up here in West Yorkshire. It looks like a serene lake this morning but earlier it was a fast flowing torrent. The sun is shining now and it’s a lovely winter day.

Llamas

This is about half a mile from my house – Picture by colours may vary – BBC Website

It’s unbelievable, for me, to see this as I was born and brought up in the city, I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this before. It’s one of those things which happens to other people and in other areas. We have suffered from days and days of heavy rain, stopping for a couple of hours and then returning and continuing day and night. It’s certainly been the wettest in my memory, and I’ve been around for a while. Luckily, for me, I live quite high up and no water has reached us, but lower down the hill the park is like a boating lake. Much of the rain which fell on the hills last night is still to be seen in the rivers.

The financial impact on local businesses will be tremendous, and I’m sure some won’t survive, but the effect on families, especially at this time of year, is incalculable . I can’t imagine what they must be going through with their possessions destroyed. Although I know that human lives are far more important than goods, but to watch, helpless, as your lifetime is washed away must be heartbreaking.

My thought are with those people, and I hope they get the support and help they need. Most of all I hope that 2016 is a better year for them and for everyone.

Happy New Year to all.

Well That’s Another Year Gone – Almost

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been. - Rainer Maria Rilke

I realise that there are still some days left in 2015, and Santa has still to pop down chimneys all over the world, but I have already begun thinking about life in 2016. I never make New Year resolutions as they are just there to be broken, but I do try to plan ahead and think about what I may achieve in the months to come. Here is my list so far:

  • Write something every day, even if it’s just a shopping list.
  • Finish the first draft on this years NaNoWriMo novel and then put it away for a couple of months.
  • Enter more writing contests; something I’ve failed to do in 2015, except for a couple in December.
  • Read more books, whenever I possibly can.
  • Read more of other blogs and comment.
  • Blog more regularly, and about different things.
  • Continue eating a low fat diet as it’s really working for me.
  • Step up my exercise regime; I know I’ll need to after Christmas.

Those are things that I think of for the time being, but there will be lots more to add in the coming months. Around this time of year, it seems that the world is looking backwards. We are bombarded with reviews of 2015, of what we did in the past year and what our achievements have been. I try not to do it and many years ago developed this mantra, which is probably a mixture of other peoples quotes, but it works for me.

The past is past, it cannot be re-written or undone. Learn from it and move on.

Steve Cripwell

I hope you all enjoy the festive season and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.