Tag Archives: Blogging

Imagination vs Knowledge

Some say that imagination is more important than knowledge; to a certain extent, that may be true because imagination leads to new discoveries, inventions, and revelations.  But knowledge is often the basis for such discoveries; that which has been passed down by others who’ve researched, discovered, identified and recorded are the foundational stones upon which things are often built, whether in science, technology, or life in general.

beware-of-the-half-truth-wrong-halfIn this day and age, however, sometimes imagination overtakes knowledge (or simply ignores it).  An informed mind is a powerful tool; an uninformed mind can be a dangerous weapon.  This is true whether writing non-fiction, fiction, or passing on something on social media.  We should beware of the half truths – we may have gotten hold of the wrong half.

It’s now more important than ever to test the veracity of reports and even images; anyone can make an ass out of an angel, so to speak, with photoshop, et al.  How much misinformation is spread by simple carelessness or wilful misdirection (that includes, unfortunately, mainstream news media)?  Or by assuming that since something is from a trusted friend it must be true?  How often have you gotten upset by an article you’ve seen and commented on it, or passed it on, allowing it to form an opinion in your subconscious at the very least, and in your active thoughts at worst, only to find out later that it was a false report, a hoax, or sloppy journalism?

abraham-lincoln-internet-quote

As you probably know, I love to learn; I have a steel trap of a mind for little bits of trivia, like the fact that certain microbes concentrate and disperse (read “poop”) gold, or that all living creatures, including you and I, emit visible light (probably a byproduct of biochemical reactions).  As a writer of fiction that comes in handy; I can extrapolate knowledge and use it as a plot detail or a character quirk; but when I’m writing a blog, e.g. about a historical detail, I want to make sure I get it right.  A case in point was an article I wrote in 2014 about post-mortem photography in the Victorian period; it was by far the most popular post to date on that blog and continues to generate interest.  In particular, two points from the article were addressed, researched, and edited/corrected either in the article itself or in the comments and discussion that ensued.  Mistakes happen, but when I catch them, I will do my best to correct them!

For writers, it is important to cross-reference anything you find online, especially if you’re basing something significant on it such as character development, location, or plot.  Assumptions can also get you into trouble; I know that Geneva is part of Switzerland, but in writing 18th-century fiction, I need to be aware of the fact that it was merely an ally of the Swiss Confederacy from the 16th century, but only became part of Switzerland in 1814.  Any reference I have to it in my trilogy needs to reflect that fact.

I recently read a collection of short stories on Kindle, and on nearly every single Kindle page there were mistakes (that adds up to a lot of mistakes per manuscript page!):  Missing words that the authors assumed were there, typos, commas 2 or 3 words off-position, stray quotation marks, and countless words they assumed were the correct ones but obviously were not (e.g. catwalk instead of rampart for a castle).  This is where imagination overtook the writer, and knowledge gave way to ignorance…  I have understanding for one or two such errors in a manuscript of that length, but none whatsoever for several per page; that simply smacks of laziness and poor-to-no editing, and it boils down to an unintentional slap in the face to any reader who’s taken the time to read their story.

Knowledge without imagination is like a rusted hinge; imagination is the oil that makes the knowledge come to life, and the writer is the door handle that opens the door to new worlds, new ideas, new discoveries, and inventions. It sounds noble, doesn’t it?  But did you realize that many of the electronic gadgets we take for granted today were at one time birthed in the imaginations of men like Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek?  It inspired countless children who went on to become astronauts, scientists, and engineers, who made those science-fiction inventions become reality and discovered distant worlds (now known as exoplanets).  I’m waiting with bated breath for the transporter to replace airline security queues…

Those hinges are necessary, as is the oil, so that the door handle can do its job and get out of the way, allowing the world beyond to unfold.

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Filed under Articles, History, History Undusted, Musings, Nuts & Bolts, Plot Thots & Profiles, Research, Science & Technology

Two Essentials on Every Blog in WordPress Land

I love looking at other blogs – it gives me a window into another culture, another mind, another lifestyle and another perspective.  I also like to click on the Gravatars of others who’ve “liked” the same article, to see what like-minds have to offer.  In doing so, I’ve repeatedly come across Gravatars & blogs that have two essentials missing:  Blog links, and “Like” buttons.

Everyone who’s got a WordPress site has a Gravatar; on the Gravatar you’ve got the opportunity to put a link to your blog(s), your Twitter account, Facebook, Pinterest, or any other link you’d like to connect to one face, one place.  Think of it as a virtual pin board, or bulletin board.  If you’ve got a blog, that’s the place to have a link!

To the right of this blog page, you see the example of my own Gravatar:  A photo of moi, my Gravatar’s name and a brief description, followed by a list of my personal links – some are to my other three blogs, and my Amazon Author’s Page, as well as my Pinterest board.  I’ve never twittered, and maintaining a public Facebook page on top of four blogs plus a writer’s forum on another website was too much of a time-eating monster… I’d rather be working on my next novel’s manuscript!

I’ll explain how to get what you need, as sometimes it’s helpful – I’m sure a lot of you know more about finding your way around cyberspace than I do, but sharing knowledge is what makes connecting with others enjoyable!

gravatar-logo-512To add a link to your Gravatar:

On your blog, click on your Gravatar’s name (just under the Gravatar photo on your blog, if you’ve got that set up; if not, click on your chosen image at the top right of your screen’s bar – that will take you to the reader, where you should see the name in blue).  Once you’re signed in through WordPress, below the Gravatar’s name you should see the options “Edit My Profile” and “Hide My Profile”.  Click on Edit; on the new screen to the right you will see a list; chose “Websites”.  On the new screen, you can add a new website by copying and pasting the URL after clicking either of the “Add Website” options.  Be sure to title it too.

One more thought:  Don’t leave a generic image as your Gravatar’s face; put something that represents you, whether a photo of you or your cat or a flower – it’s a lot more attractive, individualized, and says something about the person behind the words.

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To add a Like button:

Go to your blog’s main page, and hover over “My Sites” in the top left corner; one from the bottom you should see “Settings”; click on that.  From this new screen, in the last section on the left you should see “sharing”.  Here you should be able to add a like option.

I’m not certain this is correct, as I’ve already got the option on all four of my blogs; but it may also depend on which theme you choose for your blog.  If anyone knows how to get the like button up front, please let me know!  If you can’t add like in the way described, you may want to consider changing your blog’s visual theme (different themes offer different options).  Your content matters, and people want to let you know!

Also, when adding a new post, make certain that you’ve ticked on the “Likes and Shares” (in the left-hand side bar).

Just one more thought:  Be aware of how colour schemes affect the reader:  If you’ve got a bright background and clashing font colours, it’s just plain irritating, and will likely drive more people from than to your blog.  Choose colour combinations that are easy on the eye, which makes them much more attractive to read.

Please tell me in the comments below how you’ve experienced these points, and if you have any tips on improving the layouts and function of blogs!

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Filed under Articles, Nuts & Bolts

Back in the Land of the Living

Last week I took a much-needed break from the computer after launching my latest novel, The Cardinal (Parts One & Two)!  It is such a complex story with rich landscapes that it deserved the room to breathe and unfold, and so it became two novels, though that decision didn’t come until well into the second draft.  When it was all said and done, I had formatted two books, twice each (one format for Kindle, one for paperback), designed four covers, written countless versions of blurbs, etc., and gone through the publication process four times.  Trust me, I’d seen enough of my computer at that point to have a love-hate relationship with it for a while.  During that break I managed to read five books in a week, not a single one of them research-related for the next project!  I’ve since made peace with my computer, and I’m beginning work on the next novel – this time, back to the 18th century to complete the Northing Trilogy.  I’m looking forward to exploring this new aspect of characters I already know well from the previous two novels; it will take me through the grime of workhouse orphanages and the salty brine of the British navy in the mid-18th century, and already the research questions accumulating portend at least one trip to London, which is one of my favourite cities anyway, and I’m sure you’ll hear more about that in the months to come.

The Culprits

The Three Culprits: Gandria, Caprino and Allegra (top to bottom)

With all of the push and shove of getting the books ready to publish, Christmas has snuck up on me!  It hit home this weekend, literally, when we put up the Christmas decorations:  Here in Switzerland it’s usual to put the Christmas tree and decorations up on Christmas Eve, so we’ve struck a compromise between our varying cultures and aim for the first Advent; it’s also a pragmatic compromise as, if we’re going to go to all that effort, we might as well enjoy it a bit.  We went to the first Christmas market of the season, complete with hot wine punch, roasted chestnuts, and Christmas shopping.  If any of you have cats, you’ll empathize with me on one point:  As we walked through the market, again and again we saw things that we liked, “But…”  A nice wind chime made of drift wood, stones and feathers in perfect balance?  Cat toy.  Ditto for the man-sized candle holder made of stones & driftwood.  Scratching post.  Now mind you, our cats are well-behaved, and they only scratch on their scratching post; but there’s probably too little of a difference to their perspective between the allowed version and the decorative, expensive version…  Any cloth craft item is like catnip to our calico, Gandria – she carries off anything cloth she can get into her mouth (she’s even learned how to unzip my husband’s backpack; her favourite thing to steal is his tissue packs).

All of that just to say this:  I have now re-entered the land of the living after having been sequestered with my book manuscripts in the final polish and publish phases.  I’m more than ready for holidays, and blogging, writing, researching, plotting… in short, starting the next manuscript.

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Filed under Articles, Humor, Publications