Tag Archives: editing your book

Diary of a hopeful author: Why I write with a TV series playing in the background

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Cor blimey moses, things are busy. The good news on the past few weeks is that the outline of my novel (book 1) has now been revised (all 50 odd pages of it), plus the full synopsis’ for books 2 and 3 in the series have been fully written and approved.

So, all that’s left over now is to do a pretty much final draft of the manuscript of book 1 and hey presto! It will be ready for publishers to read. So, you know, not a lot to do. To be honest, it is great. Now that the outline has been picked part by editors then put back together, the difference it is making when it comes to writing the actual manuscript is amazing.

If you are writing a novel my advice is this: do your outline first. Preferably, write it chapter by chapter, scene by scene. What this means is that when it comes to writing, you can just write because all the planning is already done. Sure, you may have to tweak along the way, stare blankly at that winking cursor on the screen, but seriously, it makes all the difference. And it will get you to the finish line faster, and that’s something we all love.

So, while I was writing, I thought of a post I did several months ago. See, my mind is odd. I cannot work in silence. If I do, my thoughts wander and, bizarrely, I get nothing done. At the moment, my background noise of choice is TV series The West Wing on my iPad. A few months ago, it was the TV programme, 24.  Writing & TV – not a bad working environment combo. Here’s the post…

How I write to episodes of 24 (March 2013)

How do you work? Or more’s the point – how do you write? It’s a subject of reasonably fevered discussion here and I’ll tell you why. Nine times out of ten, I can’t write in silence. It’s like time has stood still and my brain has frozen over. The reason I say all this is that the past week has seen me swimming in editing and writing. Sometimes it works out well, other, mah, not so much. But imagine my surprise when I realise that my best bouts of productivity come when I have 24 playing on my iPad in the background! It’s like having your cake and eating it. My friend thinks I’m nuts (don’t say it…) ‘Christ,’ she says, ‘how can you work with all that going on? If anyone so much as sneezes when I’m working at my desk, my mind implodes.’ Best not tell her then about the gun-shooting chase scenes in 24 then…

There is research out there that says that when a brain is multi-tasking, you know, lots of noise, activity, it can lock down on the task its owner needs to do.  Owner. It makes my brain sound like it’s a little puppy. Actually, that’s not a bad analogy…Anyway, of course, even though I am a woman, multi-tasking doesn’t always work out. I do find myself catching a scene of 24, for example, gauping at it then returning to my work and wondering what the hell I was writing about. And then it…Sorry, where was I?

It doesn’t just have to be episodes of 24 for me. In the past few months of writing and editing various projects I have got through: The entire series of My So Called Life (I learnt so much!); Series 1-4 of Prison Break (tattoos as maps – who knew?); over 10 films; 5 BBC documentaries; and one episode of Dennis the Menace (my daughter was off ill…). I’m like the hungry catapillar of box sets. Sometimes, when on the rare occasions TV and film on loop doesn’t boost my brain, I switch to music. We’re talking a bit of classical, jazz mainly. Sometimes only talking will do, so I go to BBC radio 5 or 4. If I’m feeling really with it, I’ll go to radio 1, but, as I am not below 25, this has literally only happened once.

As I shuffle through the rest of this week, I shall be watching 24 on loop. In fact, as I write this at, let’s see, 5.40 a.m., Episode 16 of Season 3 is playing on my iPad. It does make me feel quite sneaky, watching programmes when a) I am working and b) everyone else is still asleep. It’s like sneaking out of class at school without permission and going down the shops. Whether I’ll get a load of work done this week is still to be seen. But hey, at least I’ll know what’s happening to Jack Bauer and his team. Him and Denice the Menace.

So, how do you work or write? Which camp are you on: Is it total silence or a little bit of noise?

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

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Diary of a hopeful author: How to keep on writing

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…

Photo of a Diary

This week I have trawled through the archives again to pick out another post which went down well. This one is all about how to keep writing, or, at least how I keep writing. There’s an analogy with running, but stay with it, it’s not too energetic. The thing I like about this post is that when I re-read it, it’s still relevant to my writing now, finding myself, as I do this week and next, in the throws of major editing deadlines. So, after over a year of this blog, hope you enjoy this post – and that your writing is going good. Don’t give up.

I used to run a lot when I was a kid. Give me a road, and I’d be on it. I was a right Forrest Gump. I loved the feeling of being outside. The fact that we didn’t have a car might have had something to do with it, too. No car and friends living 7-miles into the next village, plus no buses. So I ran.

The good thing about all that running was stamina. I got it in the bucket load. I was like a Duracell bunny, going on forever, not running out of energy. I love a bit of stamina. It links arm in arm with its old pal, motivation, like two BFFs but only, well, cooler.  They’re a right old double act. Motivation gets us up and going, while stamina picks up where it left off and makes sure we keep moving forward.

This week I’ve been needing the two in spades. I am shattered. Cream crackered and in need of two weeks of sleep in one hit. But that ain’t going to happen any time soon.  Christmas is juggernauting its way to us all and with it a whole heap of preparation, pressie buying and workload shifting.

For me that means writing. Five columns. I wrote, last week, five columns in one day for my Weekend paper because, when I looked at all the deadlines and factored in Christmas and the fact that I want to spend time with my family, I just had to get it done. And that’s just for one paper. I haven’t started on the Gazette column deadlines yet. And then there’s the novel. 100k words it’s up to now. 100k! Not entirely sure how that happened, but I do know it needs editing. I’m now averaging on that 2 chapters a day – that’s 8,000 words – all to get it done by, yup, Christmas.

I was flagging, and then I gave myself a dose of motivation followed by a swift kick from stamina.  Alright, maybe there was some caffeine, too, but you get the idea. I want to finish this book edit. I have to. I just want to see how far it can go, that if, in the New Year, it will hit the shelves. That’s my motivation. It’s a dream, I guess, but it works.

My stamina – I’m not sure where it comes from. I get up at 5 every day while the family sleeps. I then write during the day, too, the columns, blogs, the novel, any other writing job that springs up. I think the stamina is connected to the motivation. When I was a kid, my motivation to run was so I could see my friends, and because I loved to run. The stamina came along with me because it had to – without it, no matter what motivation I had, I wouldn’t get there.

And so that’s been my week. Bleary eyes, LOTS of coffee, and a whole heap of writing and still more to go. But it’ll be okay, because I’m looking forward to Christmas when I can forget all about it and listen to our youngest belt out carols on her guitar. Yes, motivation comes in the form of Jingle Bells.

What’s your motivation?  Stamina? What keeps you writing when you feel like throwing in the towel?

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Why silence is golden – even in the words of a book

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

In my cap dothing to the fact that I’ve been writing this blog now for a year (a year!) – in fact, a touch longer – I’m going through my favourite blog posts and sharing them with you. Last week was deadlines; this week it’s a post from February 2013 on silence and how, in the pages of a book, it really is golden.  

This week I am channelling silence. Well, I say silence, what I mean is editing.

You may recall I have been editing my novel for some time now, and I am here to tell you that edit is still continuing. I know, I know, it seems to be going on longer than a speech at the Oscars, but hear me out. See, this edit is going well. It’s edit round two of a novel that’s: a) turned out to be a psychological thriller; b) is bloody good fun to write; and c) has taught me more than anything else I’ve written. It’s point C here that’s the clincher. And the reason is this: it’s taught me less is more.

Less is more. A little phrase we all know, but turns out is quite handy in the book editing department. Who knew? See, I have ended up cutting loads these past few weeks, loads. I have gone down from 90,000 words – let me say that again 90 thousand words – to 75,000. 75. Maths ain’t my strong point, but I calculate that’s 15,000 words of my sweat (and, admittedly, at times, tears) on the cutting room floor – or this case, the study-floor-that-used-to-be-the-spare-bedroom.

And I feel better. I do. It’s not just the book that’s lighter, it is me. I feel better, more hopeful. Because the writing, writing my novel, the thing I have been working on for getting up to a year now, is tighter, sharper, more focussed. I have learnt a lot in the process, I have. And the biggest thing I have learned is the fact that, when writing, you have to think of the reader. The reader. The person who will kindly purchase your book and sit there and read it.

I may be teaching you to suck eggs here, but, see, the reader is not daft. They have thoughts of their own, feelings, emotions. They think for themselves. And that’s it, that’s the golden nugget that thinking for themselves bit. Because, when I wrote the first draft of my novel, fresh on to the page, I wrote it all down, and I mean all. Every description, every emotion. I thought I had to explain everything to the reader, spoon feed them, if you will, as to what was going on. And then I edited. I edited and edited and I realised: spoon feeding grown-ups, like onesies on adults or a sultana in a salad, is just wrong.

So I stopped. I let the words sit on their own on the page, ready to be eaten, or not.  And this is how I did it: I quit explaining everything. I ceased telling the reader all the stuff that was in the protagonist’s head or every tiny detail that was in a scene. Because, when you are a reader, just like you don’t need your mum to feed you, you don’t need to know all the details.

In fact, as a reader, a book is better if you don’t know all the details. See, the fun, the reading a book, the thing that makes you want to turn the page over and over, is that you are using your own head, transferring your own emotions, ideas, imagination on to the characters, on to the plot. My novel’s a psychological thriller so leaving details to the reader’s imagination works particularly well, but think of the good novels you’ve read. Think of what made them work for you, what made you want to read on, and you’ll be looking at a book where the author has edited to death and left the between-the-lines thinking to you, you clever thing.

So that’s it, really. My slogan to you this week is this: when in doubt, cut it out. Cut it. Like teaming no jewellery with a black dress, less is definitely more. I shall be continuing doing this cutting malarkey, this silent writing, if you will, this week and the next and the next. It’s a slog. I ain’t finished yet. I will have to write completely new chapters and take old ones out, but boy it’s better. Enormously. And that’s why silence, people, is golden – even in the words of a book.

How do you edit? Do you hang on to the words? Are you in the middle of cutting out what you don’t need or do you think you need to keep hold of it?

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog….**

Diary of a hopeful author: How a deadline can make stuff happen

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

This week is mad busy editing and writing articles. ‘Tis bonkers. But my Diary blog bit is my favourite, so what I’ve done this week is go through my previous posts and pick my fave – and re-blog it to you. This one is about deadlines, and why, if we go for it, they can make stuff happen. Okay, so, I’m off to edit now. See you next to a coffee machine somewhere.

When I was young I loved studying. Loved it. I was one of those spectacled, nerdy kids who lapped up the books and got down to some serious studying every evening and thought it fun. FUN.

That’s right. You heard correctly. Then exams came round. Exams. I’m afraid to say they never really fazed me. Christ, I sound like a right arrogant muppet, so let me explain. Exams got me nervous, of course. Exams made me question whether I knew anything. (30 years on, nothing’s changed there…) But, BUT, exams came with a deadline. A deadline! They gave you a date! You had to be there. On time! Oh it sang to my young time-concious heart like Romeo to Juliette, or Homer to Marg.

Because, you see, I love a deadline. What can you do with a deadline? You either meet it or you don’t. You sink or you swim. And that’s why I like ‘em. Deadlines are the take no prisoner guardians of time. They stand by the gates of hours and minutes, tapping their watch, shotgun in hand. You’ve got a deadline? You meet it, punk! (that sounded better in my head)

And so, to my week. I have set myself a deadline. I refer here to the editing of my book, novel number two which, it seems I have been working on forever.

Now look, I don’t know about you but I can be a cracking procrastinator. Olympic medal winning. Skirting boards need cleaning? Pass me the cloth. Cupboards need re-organising? When do I start? Kids’ rooms need cleaning? Get me…Actually, no. It’s not come to that.  You get my meaning. Add this top draw procrastination into a book edit and well, you’ve got nothing, really. No progress or, at the very least, slow progress. And so I have now turned to my old friend the deadline. If I am going to complete the 1st (only the first!) edit of this novel, then I need to get down and dirty with time.

The deadline I have set is Christmas. Christmas. I say it again so you can remember it. You can remember it so you can hold me to it. Oh crap. Saying it on this blog, you see, means I have to do it. Think of yourself as my boss, if you will, telling me to get the bloody work done by Christmas or goddammit I’m outta here! (Again, better in my head).  Meeting the deadline means averaging two edit chapters a week at minimum, sometimes more. It sounds lame, two, but trust me, it’s a lot. I have 100k words to edit. 100k words with a lot of Lovefilm app distraction on my iPad.

If you’ve got a deadline, then buddy, I salute you. If not, then go get one. Let’s do this deadline thing together, people, because, when our backs are up against the wall, it’s the only way to get things done. Nerdy glasses optional.

Turns out, I beat the Christmas deadline. I’m on edit round three now and it’s going good. I do, though, need to set a new deadline to get this book finished and sent off – fast. But, in the meantime, how do you hit a deadline? Ooo, and , while I think of it, do you have a favourite post from my Diary of  a Hopeful Author (if I dare ask)? 

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I comment on the UK government’s introduction of ‘the bedroom tax’…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How acting can improve your character writing

After a break and then being a tad unwell (we’re talking buckets by bedsides…) my Wednesday Wafflings post is now here again. Nice to be back. Minus the nausea. Here’s my latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 I used to love acting. 14-years old and staying back after school, a bunch of us from the drama group would sneak round the warrens of corridors, delighting as we would in the fact that we had the whole school to ourselves. It felt exciting, scary and odd all at the same time. But more than that, we would act. On the stage. In rehearsals. Even, in class, but don’t, you know, tell my old teachers.

(Many) years later, that’s the thing that now, I am pondering. Acting. Not acting on stage, you understand, although to be fair, I don’t think I could clamber up to a podium quite as fast as I used to. No, I mean acting in writing.

See I am in the 3rd edit stage of my novel. The plot is smooth, the chapters are running nicely into each other. But I was reading it the other day and something wasn’t right. And then it clicked: the protagonist. Yup, the main character, as it turns out, needs work. This comes as no surprise. Half way through edit round one, I changed the gender of the protagonist from male to female. The book worked better for it. Then I developed, as you do, the fabric of the character. Basically, the female lead, I decided, was to have mild Asperger’s. It worked. It made her jump out of my mind, out of the page. It fitted with where I wanted to take the novel, the story, the plot.

And so to acting. Asperger’s is not something I am overly familiar with and so a lot of research in the past few weeks has had to be done. Now, I have a good picture of what I need to do, of the filter I need to put on edit three to round out the character to be true to her Asperger’s.

Thing is, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. See, to write it well, to feel the character, I need to get inside their head – I need to get inside the head of a person with Asperger’s. And then I remembered acting. I don’t know why but back when I acted, I would try to get to think like a character by watching films of similar characters. I would watch how they would talk, walk, move, think. Then, what would happen, was, after watching the film, I would start to think like them too. It was remarkable really. Even now, I can watch a film and even though I’m not trying for any acting roles (trust me, you wouldn’t want to see that), I can still retain a film characters nuances in my head.

So, I thought, hey, why not try this method with my writing? And know what? It works. Yup, who knew watching films would help you write characters for your book. There is one particular TV character with Asperger’s I had seen and it is that character I looked up. I have watched her, recorded her actions, just sat, stuffing popcorn into my face letting her character seep into my head like osmosis. Then, I flip open the laptop and begin writing, editing, shaping my own protagonist on the page.

Fingers crossed it will work. Like anything, it’s worth a shot – ain’t nothing to lose. Actually, thinking about it, perhaps the only thing to lose is myself. Yes, turns out, thinking like other characters means you think less like yourself. But, wait. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all…

How do you edit your characters? Do you act them out or have your own methods? How vital is it to get it into the heads of our characters when we are writing?

 **Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about  former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s deep cutting influence on society and local public transport…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Why you have to tell yourself ‘At least I tried’

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

I don’t  care for preaching, with its do-a-I-say approach and the way that really, when you think about it, you don’t listen anyway. But realisations? Realisations I can do. Realisations are good.

Realisations, see, are like sun bolts. You aren’t really anticipating them, but when they do arrive, they shine a light so bright, they feel so warm and wonderful and well, right, that everything is better.

Don’t worry, I’ve not gone all evangelical on you, hang on in there. See, this week, a phrase, a thought popped into my head at a time when I was tired, tired with writing, tired with working, finding myself, as I did in my shattered state, wondering whether I should have put myself out there in the ways I have done recently, work wise. And the phrase? Well, this is it: at least you tried.

That phrase, what it means, its effect – that is my realisation, my sun bolt. At least you tried. I’m saying it again because it instantly makes me feel better.

Not believe me? Think I’m nuts? (actually, don’t answer that…) Okay, think of something, some kind of work project or piece of writing you’re doing, something where you’ve maybe approached someone about it or sent something off on spec, or maybe even applied for a job, anything. Got something in mind? Okay, now I bet, I can guarantee, that at times, with that action you’re thinking about, you’ve had doubts, right? I bet you’ve thought, damn it, they probably won’t get back in touch/read it/want to give me the job etc.  And that feeling you get from that thought, that sinking that you get, that sucks, doesn’t it, makes you feel rubbish? Okay, so imagine that feeling, and now, now say yourself, ‘at least I tried.’ Done it? Poof, like a waft of Harry Potter’s wand, the sinking feeling is gone. See? Sun bolt. Who said magic was just for spectacled wizards?

I’m not preaching here. Nah. That’s bobbins. But what I am doing, with my small realisation, is I’m saying that we always have to try. And it’s that trying, you see, that giving it a go, that’s what counts. ‘Cos when the day is done, when life hits the stop button, you can look up and say, hey, at least I tried, folks. Because, there are times when things won’t work out the way you really wanted them too. But if you tell yourself at least you tried, you are then, see, not a failure. Quite the opposite – trying makes you a success. The fact that you at least gave it a shot – that’s the achievement.

The work I pitched for, I got, in the end. I was mighty chuffed, a gamble that pulled off.  Edit number three of my novel is going fast and good. Soon, for us, it’s holiday time, a week and half of fun, and I can have a rest. I’ll be able to kick back, have a laugh and eat cake. And when I scoff it all, as I inevitably will, that yummy cake at 4pm after skiing all day, I can tell myself, at least I tried it. The cake, at least I tried it. Yes, realisations, turns out, come in the form of baked goods.

How do you get through things? Do you have your own realisations, phrases? Let me know.

 **Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Keep your mind on the finish line & you’ll make it to the end

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 You know when you feel punch drunk? That feeling when you haven’t touched a drop but you’re so tired you feel like you’ve tanked a bottle of wine and 2 tequila chasers. That’s how I feel today. Exhausted. Yawning. Cream crackered.

But it is with good cause. It is with such good cause that I don’t care for the tiredness, I don’t care for the heaviness that I have in my arms, a heaviness that is making it, right now, tricky to type like I am using my laptop in mud, a tiredness that will make sure I keep this blog post short because I just can’t, well, see.

The cause is this: I have finished my second round book edit. Finished. I like that word. F.i.n.i.s.h.e.d.  Thank the lordy lord. Last week I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I looked at the amount of pages I had to get through, the fact that I had a busy work week, the fact that, deep down, I knew I wasn’t 100% well. But I had given myself a deadline. Easter. The Easter holidays are coming up and I wanted this book done. Complete. Finito.

But I was at that point, last week, were I couldn’t see the end. So I did something. Now, I suspect this sounds loopy, but it worked. For me, it worked. What I did was this: I wrote out the words ‘The Finish Line’ in a big marker on a piece of paper and stuck it to the wall in front of me where I sit with my laptop.

And that was it. I was off. I went in every day last week and I saw those words. They stayed with me. Even when I wasn’t at the laptop, those words, like a good friend in hard times, they stayed with me.

It worked. Each day last week that phrase did the job as I ploughed on through the edit, throwing words to one side, cutting, re-writing, shifting scenes. It got to Monday and I had a few miles left, but for the first time I felt the finish line was around the corner – and there was no stopping me. It was a bit like the way I run a half marathon – as soon as I get to the last three miles, I know I’ll  make it and, even though I’m shattered, I move, I go faster.

And I went faster with my writing. Yesterday, Tuesday, I started at 5am. I worked on through. I got a call from my daughter’s school at 11am – she had a headache, could I come pick her up. I got her, had a cuddle, put her lying down watching DVDs, eating cake, then I began writing again. I stopped for the school run for daughter number two at 3pm. I fed, watered kids, sat with their homework, ran their bath. Then 7.30pm, I fired up the laptop, poured a glass of wine and went for it. And at midnight I had finished. Like I said, fast. I’ll admit now, I had a little cry.

So that’s it. Book edit 2 is done. Next is edit number 3, but this should be a quick one. Stylistically, I have ironed out the novel, so edit 3 is checking continuity, clarity, that kind of thing. Then there will be one final edit, edit 4, for a proof check and, rather like a car, a final wax and polish, if you will, of the writing.

Today is newspaper column writing. My hands hurt. My knuckles, finger bones, they physically throb from typing, but what the hell. Tis no problem at all. Because I have finished. I got to the finish line. And now, I can hear the kids are up, and the day has started. Where’s my coffee? The sun is shining. Here we go…

How do you keep yourself motivated to finish? Let me know.

 **Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How inspiration can strike – even when watching Argo

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 Inspiration comes in different disguises. I went to see Argo last night. What a film. I can completely see why it got Best Picture at the Oscars, it is a masterpiece. But why, you may think, why me lady, are you talking about a film when you write books?

Aha, well, that’s the inspiration bit, see. Inspiration is like an unexpected sunny day – when it comes you’ve got to make the most of it. For me, inspiration has always come unexpectedly. Walking to school to drop off my kids, driving the car, eating my dinner, dribbling on my pillow, going to see a film. At any point, at any time it can strike, and when it does, you’ve got to make the most of it.

The film Argo is one of those times. Argo is a masterpiece because it achieves the amazing thing of respecting the intelligence of the film goer. It doesn’t, like your standard Hollywood movie, spoon feed and sugar coat, but intrigues, quizzes and prods. Argo shows you things and, without any further explanation, let’s you, the viewer, come to your own assumptions, your own understandings.

And this is the inspiration, this understanding. See, the back story for the film is Iran in the 70s, volatile, politically charged Iran. What Ben Affleck and his team so cleverly do is to explain this back story by dropping in information as the film passes, feeding you morsels of the background as opposed to chucking it all in your face or unwrapping it for you.

And it was this, watching this clever piece of film, that made me think of my own book, my own writing. Because, whether it be film, TV, plays or novels, writing is about letting the recipient unwrap it all themselves. Themselves. It’s like respecting, if you will, the fact that whoever is watching/reading/viewing your work, has a brain of their own.

I was inspired, then, by Argo. Who knew? Who knew when I set out to the cinema last night that I would sit, watch and learn, learn how to be a better writer. And that is what’s great about this inspiration lark – it can strike at any time, you just have to be on the lookout for it. And when you spot it, rinse it for all it’s worth.

Because writing is a job that never ends. Asleep, awake, on the school run, gawping out the window – at the cinema – your writing is only ever two steps away. Granted, you may not want it all the time, but when the sun shines, when inspiration strikes, you can guarantee writing will make you smile. And if not, at least you’ve seen a good film.

How does inspiration strike you? Do you need a certain atmosphere or can it happen anywhere?

 **Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**