Friday, 15 January 2010

Old Fart Wannabe Blog 6 - Enter the OU


Enter the O.U. ( Bless em)

So, the software problem resolved itself in two ways. In the first place the provided version of FirstClass (8.2) worked fine but    without ‘Bells and Whistles’. In the second place I downloaded a free upgrade of FirstClass 10.1 from the Internet, which came with  lots of coloured graphics.

This may seem simplicity itself for the completely computer savvy but what’s a small step for you is a giant step for the average old fart who needs to get a twelve year old child to set up his TV dibber. Anyway us old guys aren’t as quick as we once were, and some of us weren’t that quick to start with.

On the desk-top of this software is a ‘Practice Forum’ which gives new students a place to play and acquire and practice skills in on-line communication. I can see your eyes glazing again. Relax, I’m not going to go into the details of how I learned to do things you will probably consider achingly boring. You wanna find out? Pay your own fee and try not to look an absolute dope in front of a bunch of complete strangers, then you’ll feel your adrenalin run.

A couple of mistakes I did make that could be avoided. Checking out how to send attachments I didn’t pay attention to file size and to my surprise saw my memory allocation disappear; now I know what the baby feels like when the candy takes off. I got it back but it took me quite a while to figure it out. Now of course I will be careful to always use minimum quality and maybe the built in Mac compression.
The other mistake, which is ongoing, was not to appreciate that time on FirstClass is rationed. The site is so complex, there is so much to explore that time just slips away. I was surprised when I logged out to find that after a couple of voyages I had used over a third of my total allocation. I hope this is for the ‘Practice Forum’ and not for the course, or things are going to get pretty monosyllabic from now on.

So there we are: I’ve listened to the audio disc of successful authors talking about aspects of their work and works; I’ve read the printed folio of extracts from successful, even famous, novels; I’ve got a passing familiarity with the on-line system, a familiarity which will almost certainly desert me when I have to use it in real time with real people.

Now I suppose I had better go back and do it all again. The next Blog will be when I am well into the course and I will tell you whether my pulse has dropped back to its normal 150 a minute (just kidding its really 180, sorry I meant 80).
Take care of yourselves,

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Old Fart Wannabe Blog 5 - To Blog or Not To Blog

     Well, I haven’t started the course yet but I thought I would really like to mention my entry into blogging for those who are following my dumb plan of action and who, like me, think it’s all going to be easy.
     So far the easiness escapes me. It may be that it is easy and that I am further gone into senility than I thought. But then I would hardly spot that would I?

     In my simplicity, knowing nothing about blogging, I thought that I would open up a blog, have a domain and my blog name would pop up somewhere near the top of the list in all of the worlds major search engines.

Imagine the excitement with which I, naively flew to Google after publishing my first Blog in Wordpress. Imagine my puzzlement when I failed to find it there; or in Yahoo or for that matter in Wordpress ( except through my Homepage).

     Quick as a flash, well actually, slowly, with some hair tearing and a great many rough words I managed to erect duplicate blogs in: Bloggers( Google); Yahoo Blogs as well as the newly published one in Wordpress.
Surprise, surprise, there was still no response or success in searching with either of the search engines. After all, how many Old Fart Wannabe Blogs are there? Surely a name of such singular distinction should pop up right away.

     Well let me tell you, in a world populated by billions there is nothing singular or distinctive, there are many Old Farts blogging away out there, and also many Wannabe’s some of whom are old farts.

     Checking out the forums in Wordpress I came across a really cool, and useful site, by name: Check it out before you start. I didn’t know search engines prioritise by traffic density although it should have been obvious.

     So write lots of blogs. Contact lots of people and leave links so that they can visit you back, even if only out of curiosity or to show support, the blogging community, it seems, is mutually supportive. Get all your friends and on-line relatives to check out your blog and leave comments. Maybe then, in six weeks time a search machine will deign to notice you and your site will start to grow organically.

PS. With some small excitement I can report that my Blog has popped up on Google. But you knew that didn’t you? That’s how you got here.

Bessaruck as they say, somewhere or other.


Friday, 8 January 2010

Old Fart Wannabe Blog 4 - The Plan part 1

Old Fart Wannabe Blog 4 – The Plan part 1

January 8, 2010 by captnjames

The Plan – part 1: Learning the Trade

For new readers who don’t want to go back and check out Blogs 1,2 and 3 here is a review of what has gone before.

    O.F.W. stands for Old Fart Wannabe and I’ve written a book, which I would like to publish. Having written it without one jot of knowledge about the craft of writing or the art, for that matter, of finding an  agent and publishing, I made a plan to rectify these oversights. (To see the full plan in all its logical simplicity see OFW Blog 3.)

    It pleases me to announce that the first step on this ‘Journey of One Thousand Miles’ has been taken. In exchange for a sum of money the OU has enrolled me on a level 1 course, A174 Start Writing Fiction. This commences shortly, the materials arriving very promptly after I paid my fees and filled in the (online) forms.

    I had a small fright when all the stuff arrived and I unpacked it. There was an included software disc, an audio disc and hard copy. All seemed fine until I read the booklet that came with the software disc. Eyes bugging, Aaaargh, Tom and Jerry fashion, the booklet said the OU software worked on PCs but not on Macs!
Well, I’m a Mac user from way back. I have a junkyard of Macs. In one corner of my desk is an old blue G3; under the desk lurks a graphite G4; both still plugged in and waiting on the day when my MacBook ( the best Laptop ever produced, in my view), worn out by a life of constant toil, rolls over belly up, so that they can perform their long awaited duties as back up machines. “NOT ON MACS!!??.” Splutter splutter, “I’ve never heard such a thing; you are kidding me; get outta town!!”

    Anyway, after calming down and wasting a lot of time looking up the cost of Windows 7 and VM Fusion or Parallels to work alongside my OSX Leopard I found all is not as it seems. In the first place, having uploaded the software disc anyway, just to suck it and see, I found that it all seemed to work. I then discovered an admirable OU student-generated web sight that listed the courses that used software that would work on the Mac. It turns out that the three courses I need, to get a grounding in my newly chosen craft, perhaps because they are text based, all use software that will also work on Mac providing assignments can be sent in, in Doc. Format. I can do that because I have Word for Mac on board and in fact the “Axe and the Shield” is written in Doc. Format and copied into PDF.

    Incidentally, the three courses mentioned above, if satisfactorily completed will yield enough Units to achieve a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. Not only, hopefully, will I learn enough to bring the “Axe and the Shield” up to a publishable standard but I will get ‘letters’, ‘DipLCW (Open)’ to tell me that I am qualified to tell myself, “I can do this”. Cool!!

Take care of yourselves,

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Old Fart Wannabe Blog 3 - The Plan

January 6, 2010

O.F.Wannabe Blog  3        –      January 6th 2010

The Publishing Plan
So I sat and thought about how I could find out whether my chunk of words made a story worth being read by anyone but myself; and, if not, how it could be made good enough, and if it ever reached that stage how it could be published.
Of course I had passed it by my family. ‘Herself’ read it by the chapter as it came off the printer. “ I can’t tell in bits,” she said, “ I’m sure it will be better when it’s finished and I can read it through at a sitting.”

    When it was finished she thought it was “OK but don’t keep pushing it on me, I’ve got things to do.” But by then she had read it, all 572 pages, twice, bless her, and so I wasn’t surprised to hear: “No I wont read the proof-read copy, I’ve already read the bloody thing twice.”

    My daughter on the other hand was not jaded by over exposure and was keen to help but, whilst a brilliant graphic designer is not the worlds fastest reader. She loved “Lord of the Rings” but took two years to read it. Not that she’s a slow reader per se, its just that she works very long hours, unwinds with a glass or two, or three of red wine over dinner and then reads for four or five minutes (or seconds) before falling fast asleep; so, not a lot of help there.

Here is the plan:-

1. Stop faffing about and go and learn the trade. I google searched and came up with Creative Writing courses with the OU, one of the world beating gems in this wonderful country of ours. Hard work and rigorous study make up the down side, whilst the fact that it can all be done on-line fits perfectly with my traveling life=style, and is the unarguable upside.

2. With the aid of intense study, hard work and hopefully some professional and peer group criticism, prepare the book for publication. This will certainly mean, revision, rewriting and extensive editing.

3. Decide on the title. At the moment it is rather obviously entitled “ The Axe and the Shield. “ It may end up with this title, unless something really clever occurs to me.

4. Self publish as an e-book through Amazon, probably Kindle. There are hurdles to be cleared there but I have hopes.

5. Carry out self-advertising on-line through. Blogs, U-Tube and Facebook, starting a few months prior to publication.

    So there we are, a plan with an anticipated completion date of Summer 2011. ( that’s what my first run through on Microsoft Project tells me anyway). I will add to this blog as the plan develops, going through difficulties encountered and, hopefully overcome, as time goes by and each stage is tackled.
Take care of yourselves,


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

O.F.Wannabe Blog 2

                                    The Agent


 So here we are. I did a little superficial investigation on Google and came up with some Agents who accept on-line submissions.

I hesitated a long time, about a day or two (at my age that’s a long time) until I sent a sample off as an attachment. Believe me, if you’ve never done it, it’s a bit like making the decision to walk naked through the park except for an unbuttoned raincoat. Not something to be done unless you are driven by a compulsion to get your name in the papers. Anyway, for my particular walk in the park nobody came. Well its not quite like that, it’s much worse actually. It’s as if lots of folk were hiding in the bushes, saw me, had a little snigger and then ignored me and carried on with whatever they were doing.

My submission disappeared like a pebble dropped down a well. There was a slight splashing sound, for it’s receipt was acknowledged by e-mail ( a great courtesy for which I am grateful) and then silence as my pebble sank to the bottom of the well. Never to be seen or heard of again.

After some reading and research, which I should have done before rather than after the event, I found my experience was the norm for perfectly good reasons. Some sources recommend: careful researching of agents for compatibility with the work to be placed.  Didn’t do that, guilty as charged; preparing a list of at least fifteen such Agents all to beapproached simultaneously. Didn’t do that, guilty as charged.

Anyway, I don’t think my tender ego could stand permanent silence from 15 naked walks in the park. What would I do in my morning haven then? I really don’t want to start another book until I have some quantifiable closure on this one and 15 sets of silence are the same as fifteen zeros; a total of nothing; or worse, fifteen sets of sniggers.

So --- do I need an Agent?  My research reveals some say yes, some say no. I don’t know. The truth is I don’t know much at all: about the trade of writing; about agents and publishing; and mostly whether the quarter million words I have strung together are a load of rubbish or worth reading, entertaining, and hence publishable.

I need to go into my haven and think this over and make a plan.

Take care of yourselves,


Sunday, 3 January 2010

Old Fart Wannabe Blog

Who is OFW?
Well, here goes. My blog sign off is O.F.W, what does it mean?
The O.F. stands for Old Fart, and that’s honest at least, even if everything else shades or exaggerates the truth. As a new blogger in his ( yes I am male so there we have another truth ) 70th year what else could I be?
The W stands for Wannabe. Wannabe what? Perhaps here we need a little background. Not too much, I imagine your eyes glazing already.
Background stuff
I retired from working for my daily bread some time ago and took to the idle-life with ease. Against what many people told me would happen I found no difficulty in avoiding the usual retirement trap of switching from full time paid to full time unpaid work. Being unsociable by nature was a great advantage in this.
This of course did not cut any ice with the ‘Trouble and Strife’ and I soon found myself making the transition from Chief Executive to Chief Scullion.
In my days of pot washing and towing the shopping trolley there was, I found, a permanent window; a perpetual holiday from the daily drudge. You see I tend to wake up and peep through bleary eyes at the world at about 5 AM whereas herself sleeps on not only until morning has broken but until it has been swept up and tidied away.
During this blessed time of release from the daily round, this blissful glade in the forest of domestic chores I found time to sit and let my mind wander.
A few years ago I visited the village in the West Country of England where I lived as a young child. In the church I found a pamphlet, a flyer, with some historical facts about the village, and the hill which overshadows it. One of these, concerned a relic, unearthed there which had loomed so large in Anglo-Saxon minds it had become the war cry of the English (and Danish) army at Hastings ( the battle, not the seaside resort), “Halig Rood!!” ( Holy Cross).
One morning, sat in my glade I thought about this; puzzling where this relic, this cross, might have come from and how it ended up buried under a slab in the middle of nowhere. In my mind I wove the beginnings of a story around it. I researched and expanded on it and then I resolved to write it down. I started to write it until it started to write me and I ended up 570 pages later with a novel about the ‘butterfly effect’ of fate.
I understand how pretentious that sounds and would quite understand if you clocked out right now.. What I mean is that somebody can do something daft and unthinking, like me writing this for instance. Someone, somewhere, might read it, and be thinking about how to get a window of peace and quiet in their own life and, not paying attention, get knocked over by the chauffeur driven car of some high mucky-muck. The passenger misses an appointment, something doesn’t happen that should and the whole world changes, probably slightly, perhaps radically; it all depends on the reach of the chain of domino’s toppled, and that depends on the Fates. Or so my story proposes.
So here I sit with this massive thing, 240,000 electronic words on my laptop and that’s where the Wannabe comes from. I’ve written this and now I want to publish it. I wannabe a published writer___ me, and all the others like me out there.
So now I will keep this diary of how I get on with this. If I fail then perhaps someone else can avoid the holes I fall down. If I succeed perhaps it will help someone else to hop up on the hay cart.
I will update this blog as things happen or are expected to and don’t.
Got to go. I’m off to the Quacks this morning. I want him to look into my left eye. I think I might have a cataract coming. My left eye is foggier than my right one. Old age, as they say, is not for sissies.
Take care of yourselves, if there is anyone out there reading this; here be cannibals (or dragons or great fishes, the poison fog, the edge of the world). Remember, even bed with the duvet pulled over is a dangerous place, if the Fates have it in for you.