Proof reading – stage One accomplished

Beat out that rhythm on the drums – Todays featured photo is chosen to celebrate my having reached the end of my initial read through of my wife’s first book – a novel entitled ‘Bees in their Bonnets’. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the plot, but it was tiring on my eyes, peering to try to find punctuation issues such as speech marks omitted or wrongly placed; comma plus stop combinations, or double full stops; omitted question marks, extra spaces and so forth. Then there were matters such as, ‘in this particular case is a comma essential before ‘but’?’ Or, is it really essential to have a comma after ‘so’ in this case. Again, there were questions about the choice between commas, semi-colons and colons. Most of the above were easily answered, but in other cases the meaning of a sentence hung on the decision.

Tomorrow, the baton passes to Margaret’s daughter, who has much more recent experience of proof reading. She used to peer review and proof read academic papers alongside her own research. I have no doubt that she will find lots of things that I have missed – in addition to mistakes that I have introduced.

Tomorrow is when I must begin to find my way back into my own book – A New Tangled Tango. After three or four days away I’ll probably find many things that I would now wish to change before I continue with my plot.

The photo today was taken seventeen years ago during a Summer Music Festival in St Helens, Merseyside. The camera was an early type of digital compact camera – an HP Photosmart 735 with 3.2 megapixel resolution, 16 Mb internal memory, 3x optical zoom and a slot for an SD card. The settings according to the Exif data were: ISO 100, 1/400 seconds, f/2.7 and 8.95 mm focal length.

Proof reading: getting there

My featured photo today is of a harvest in the process of being gathered in – but not quite there. That’s a bit like my proof reading task – just twenty-six pages to go, but the job won’t be complete until they’re checked and I’ve agreed the changes with my wife, the author.

The photo was taken three years ago on my first dslr – a Pentax K-50 camera with a 16 megapixel, apsc sensor. That camera’s shutter mechanism failed a couple of years ago. I used the 18-55 mm kit lens that came with the camera to take this shot at 42.5 mm. The camera settings were: ISO 100, aperture f/14, and shutter speed 1/100 seconds.

I’m enjoying proof-reading the book. Although I have to be pernickety when checking, I still have time to enjoy the plot and get inside the heads of the characters. I like the way that the elements of the story are coming together and I’m looking forward to discovering the ending – to see how well I’ve guessed the punchline/s.

Although this is my wife’s first book, there are many ways in which I feel she has told her story better than I did in mine. I’ve also learned a lot from hearing what some friends have had to say. I’ll try to put those lessons into practice in my current opus.

It’s only been a few days since I put my own book aside for what I’ve been doing, but I’ve almost forgotten what I’d been thinking. I need to re-read my draft from the beginning; to think my way back into the characters’ lives and natures; and, to try to recall what I’d planned to do next to develop my story. I hope to be able to re-start on Tuesday at the latest.

I’ll know better tomorrow. Enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend – whatever the weather.

Going in the right direction – but still a way to go

The featured photo today is of the Humber Bridge – chosen simply because I remembered that it’s a year ago this week that I captured the image. I used my Pentax K-1 camera with a 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens at 24 mm and ISO 100 at 1/100 seconds and an aperture of f/11. No filter was used. As the image shows I was almost directly beneath the bridge when I took it to show its leading lines.

The link between the photo and my writing blog is that proof reading is a journey and, at the start, you know the direction to take but the end looks a long way away across troubled waters.

I’m now halfway there in terms of total pages and I’m learning myself from the process, but it’s hard work to do it with the thoroughness it requires. I’d expected it to be mainly a matter of punctuation and grammar. I’m finding that clarity and conciseness are are also central together with more subjective areas that deserve to be discussed – rather than merely commented on using the Review Pane of Word.

I’m taking a break now to do some research for my own book. Writing about events in the year 2005, even in a work of fiction, requires some familiarity with matters that would have shaped the mindset of characters. A general election was announced in the month my story starts – I’d forgotten that. I’ve been trying to discover what was shaping the UK economy, what was popular on television, in fashion, in music and books – even in computing, mobile phones and cars. The knowledge won’t appear as lists but some conversations and descriptions will be shaped by it. I hope to resume my work on the book early next week.

For anyone who may follow this blog – the new cable connector worked.

Road cleared for the time being

The featured image today clearly has a religious theme. I photographed this for a competition in May this year – a lockdown project. I wanted to shoot something in poor light and to post-process it with a sepia look. I staged the photo at night, with curtains drawn, on a dark wooden table. The sole illumination was two candles which, when photographed, radiated light pleasingly. The candles illuminated the pages of a Bible open at Isaiah 56: ‘The salvation of the Gentiles’. Keeping the pages open were a rosary and a bookmark. As a backdrop, I used a cross, two missals and a New Testament.

The photo was, once more, taken using my Pentax K-1 with a 24-70 mm lens at ISO 100, aperture f/8 at a focal length of 31mm and a shutter speed of 30 seconds.

I used this photo today because I wrote three chapters yesterday with a distinctly theological flavour. The atheist, Jennifer, while at the dance, apologises to Gareth, the faith character, for her dinner table jibe at Christians. Gareth, unbeknown to her, is having a crisis of faith and, over the next two chapters (scenes?), reveals his spiritual struggle firstly to his Vicar and then to his friend, a churchwarden.

I probably won’t be doing any more work on my own book for a few days because my wife has now finished her first book which I have promised to proof read.

Without revealing anything of her plot, I will, nevertheless, say something tomorrow about the proof reading process because it is so necessary for someone else to read one’s efforts – to see them with fresh eyes.

Finally, yesterday, I ordered a new kettle plug lead from Amazon and it should arrive today.

Enjoy your day.

Quite a lot done – then a road block

The featured photo today is of the bandstand at Sefton Park, Liverpool. I chose this because it cheered me up to look at it. It brought back happy memories of the morning last year that I spent at that lovely park.

I took the photo with my Pentax K-1 camera using a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. The settings were ISO 100, f/8 aperture, 1/60 seconds at 30mm focal length.

After I wrote yesterday’s post, my son emailed, warning me to take care with what may be a dodgy IEC kettle lead because it has no transformer. He knows about these things, so I’ll get a new lead tomorrow and hope that it’s the lead rather than the monitor’s socket connection that’s at fault. Thank you, Duncan for your advice.

As far as The New Tangled Tango is concerned, I’m up to almost 6,000 words now after a blaze of writing. So, another chapter written. About my use of the word chapter – many, if not most, authors seem to write chapters each of 4000 words or more. My chapters are more like scenes of a play: if the action moves somewhere else I start a new scene/chapter. Some barely need one side of A4. Today’s was two and a half sides. Maybe I’m not milking the detail enough. Anyway, my faith character has bitten the bullet. He’s had a hard day back at school following the Easter break – Year 9 pupils choosing options; Mock GCSE examinations – poor man! Having returned home, and facing an evening of paperwork, after a quick meal he phones the Vicar and then his friend, the churchwarden, to arrange meetings later in the week at which he will disclose his faith crisis.

Having got so far today, I realise that tomorrow (Tuesday in the story), the group will be meeting for their next evening of sequence dancing. I have no idea yet what will happen there. Perhaps a good night’s sleep will bring inspiration. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Some Progress

Todays Featured Photo is of Ynys Fach, the smaller of the two stacks at Trefor – off the coast of the Llyn Peninsula, North Wales. Yesterday, because of technical problems, I was unable to provide the complete settings for the photo of Ynys Fawr. They were f/11 at 20mm and shutter speed 20 seconds. Today’s shot was also at ISO 100 and f/11, but with a focal length of 30mm and shutter speed 1/80 seconds. It was taken earlier in the day before the Sun had properly risen.

I still haven’t tried a different kettle plug because I managed, by jiggling the connector, to get the monitor working again. I don’t know how long it will be before it dies on me next time, but I have managed to upload almost 500 chosen photos onto the WordPress media area. This means that, if push comes to shove, I’ll be able to use my iPad to choose photos to feature. Hurray!

Further progress: I’m now able to backup remotely thanks to the UpdraftPlus support team who replied to my plea for help and were very patient with me.

Now, back to A New Tangled Tango. Moving on, I’ve added character addresses onto my map of Codmanton, completed my spreadsheet for 1938 to 2005, and I’ve started work on the year 2005 detailed spreadsheet and chapter plan. I still have no idea how the story will end, or how we’ll get to that point – but I know what I want to happen. Creative writing is weird. The characters become real and take on a life of their own as you write about them.

I’ve written almost 5,000 words now, but when I read a print version of these first few pages yesterday, I was horrified by the number of changes I needed to make. Because I’ve now got my spreadsheets – compiled after I started writing – I was able to see some improbabilities. I had a character getting married almost as soon as she would have been leaving school; the wrong people were being given lifts because I hadn’t linked addresses to a map; similarly, a character was walking in the wrong direction to the shops. These were things that were easy to change, but there were also huge gaps that needed to be filled. I had to do a lot of re-writing that included two extra short chapters.

Seeing what you’ve written by reading a print out shows these things up much more clearly than by reading from a screen. I wonder if this is because the screen is where I first did the writing and I am still too close to that version, whereas seeing a different version provides a necessary distance. I’ll have to buy more paper and toner.

To anybody who is reading this – have a nice day. It is pouring down with rain here from Storm Francis.

More tomorrow, fingers crossed.

Problems, problems

I’m going to have to try to write this post on my iPad as my monitor has developed an intermittent power fault. I say that the monitor has a fault but it may be a dodgy lead. The Kettle-plug connector keeps losing contact so that if I even brush against my desk the monitor turns off. I’ll be seeing if I can borrow a lead off the dealer tomorrow to test where the fault lies.

One of the problems with no monitor access to my desktop is that I also have no access to my photos. By chance I had already uploaded today’s featured image to the WP Media library – the only image that I have not yet used on a post or a page.

The picture is of Trefor Stacks on the Llyn Peninsula of North Wales, UK. It was taken a couple of weeks ago on a sunny day and using a 150 mm ten stop Nisi filter on my Pentax K-1 full frame camera using a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens. Because I have no access to the original I cannot remember the shutter speed but the ISO was 100.

There are two sets of these granite features within a few hundred metres of each other. This shot is of Ynys Fawr, the larger stacks. Note that the bright golden yellow of the lichen is not a product of post processing. It really was that colour and luminance.
As far as ‘New Tangled Tango’ is concerned, I still have a little work to do on a chapter about a dinner party. More tomorrow, by which time I should know whether I need to replace the lead or make a warranty claim against the retailer (if Covid hasn’t closed it down) or the manufacturer.

An experimental day

Today I wanted to learn how to insert images into blocks, insert mixed text and media blocks and to use internal links. If I succeed you’ll see the results in this daily update post.

Well, the idea of a mixed media block seems to have worked OK. It’s only a thumbnail but it shows the map of the church hall where the dances take place and the tables at which the key characters sit.

The photo, above, of Ted – my daughter’s Japanese Spitz, shows that the experiment in adding an image block has also worked.

As the post heading shows, this is an experimental day. One of my initial aims for this website was to talk about writing AND photography. So far I’ve been neglecting photography because I can’t yet find a way of running a parallel blog for it. Today, I’m showing both a Featured photo – as usual – but providing some information about the photo. This is to complement any of my usual posting regarding writing. Let’s see how this works out.

The featured photo today is of Blackpool in the North of England. It shows the sculpted sea defences, part of the amusement park and the South Pier. The photo was taken on a day with weather not unlike today’s, cloudy with the possibility of showers. In the photo, I wanted to show off the clouds, curves and shadows. I used a Pentax K3-ii crop sensor camera with a 16-85 mm lens at 60 mm. My settings were ISO 100, f/8 aperture and a shutter speed of 1/3200 seconds. I used no filters.

As for my writing progress, I’ve put aside the Excel timeline for today. I’m working on the chapter developing my understanding of the ‘faith’ character and his internal struggles. More on that tomorrow.

PS as for internal links, I’ll be trying that with some of my other pages to make external links to this blog.

A more fruitful day

Today the Happiness Engineer from WordPress made me happier. He recommended a more suitable theme; helped me to get rid of a duplicated page; helped me to install a sidebar and some widgets; and made recommendations about making my site more visible. He also helped me to upload today’s featured image of my map of Codmanton, the town in my new book.

I also had an insight today as to how to develop my two principal characters. I’m still a bit cautious about how I can make it work. Without giving too much away, one of these two characters often teases the other about their faith. That character has, for some time, been having a crisis of faith in his heart and mind.

During a group meal, the atheist seizes an opportunity to throw a more barbed strike, but retracts it when she sees that it could cause more general offence. Nevertheless, I’m considering this as a portent of a more full blown row between the two, causing a rift that will need to be healed in a way that draws them closer.

My problem is that I still want this to be a fairly simple love story; I don’t want it to become a text on metaphysics or cosmology.

For the time being I think that I shall defer the dinner party chapter until I’ve had a go at developing the character of the faith character. I’ll see what I can do later today.

In the meantime, I’ve have made a lot of progress on my Excel timeline. It records character events – births, times of leaving school or university, starting work, marriages, retirements, divorces and deaths – from 1938 up to 2005 – the year in which the story of my characters begins. I need now to develop a separate week by week, day by day timeline for 2005 to establish the fixed and other events that will happen. So, for example, there are Sunday church services, weekly dances, regular events in the Library such as Reading Groups or Art classes. All of these will be opportunities for my characters to meet and take the plot on. Add, to these fixed events, the ad hoc happenings such as dinner parties or Dance Group outings and there should be a rich enough stage for relationship developments – and crises.

A frustrating day

Nothing yesterday worked out quite the way I had expected. Certainly my idea of an Excel worksheet timeline hardly got off the ground. I had forgotten, when planning, that I was due to attend a hospital appointment – nothing serious and it went as expected – but it did contribute to the derailment of my intended scheme.

Then there was the matter of an Upstart plugin. I only started this website a few days ago and yesterday I realised that I must ensure that I had a backup option. I chose Upstart. That was the moment that the train really went off the tracks. Having followed the directions I reached the point at which I had to choose a remote site to which the backed up data could be uploaded. Well, I use Microsoft Onedrive for my Microsoft Office 365 work, and that works fine, so I selected Onedrive. Then, I had to pay for Onedrive access – I wouldn’t be able to use my 365 linked access. Next I had to select a name for the place Onedrive would use to store my information. At that point I should have paused and sought advice, but I didn’t and just entered Personal (I think). Now, in retrospect, I know that I should have entered something like ‘Updraft backup files’. Anyway, I now had an Updraft plugin and so I tried to do a backup. It failed and I was told that I hadn’t created my settings. I found the place where this needed to be done, but there was no advice on what to enter – so I guessed, but the system still didn’t think that I had done enough.

I contacted Updraft support who, quite quickly, emailed me back, saying that the problem was that I was using the free version of the plugin. I needed to use a premium version – they provided clear instructions and I provided quite a lot of money. This time, however, Onedrive didn’t offer me an option to enter an entry name. So, I paid more money for another Onedrive subscription, but they still didn’t offer me the renaming option. I knew by now that the reason for the failing backups was that I still had no named offsite place to send my files.

Nonetheless, I had another try at doing a backup using my premium version. It appeared to work, but the logfile indicated that the upload had been onto WP’s server. I sent another email to Updraft support, but by now it was evening, so I probably won’t get a reply until this morning.

For anybody who may be reading this – is anybody reading this? – the above should be some kind of object lesson and an antidote to optimistic planning.

I suppose that the day wasn’t all a loss. I had sometime – between error messages, emails and spending unplanned money – to think about my next chapter. More about that tomorrow. I have an appointment with a WP Happiness Engineer shortly who promises to answer my questions. He/she can do this in 30 minutes??????