Category Archives: literature and fiction

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A magic cure for head colds & writer’s block!

If writer’s block is a form of real estate, move over Donald Trump . . . and hello Nirvana!

I’ve read about this block before but have never really experienced it, until recently. Being such a fan of Einstein, I’ll take his advice and think for myself . . . so far I’ve only come up with a 7 step program, take it for what it’s worth!

1. Take drugs, lots of drugs. It seemed to work for Hunter S. Thompson and others more discreet in the golden age of opium . . . hello Confucius, you silly man!

2. I’ve been taking drugs for weeks now, the stuff for stuffy noses . . . no, not cocaine but Neo Citran, the kind that makes you sleepy. I used to write in my dreams but with this stuff my dreams seem to be leading to a blank sheet, except for a little white-off in spots. In other words, take a nap.

3. When you wake up read something erotic, then take some more drugs, then dream, etc.

4. The next time you wake up take a shower. Have something to eat. Then read something erotic, take some more drugs, then dream, etc.

5. If you have properly followed the first 4 steps, eventually you should be able to write anything. In that case just sit down and write anything, review it, print it and chuck it. Then read something erotic, take some drugs, dream, etc.

6. Throw the drugs in the garbage.

7. Write about your childhood, when you were six years old, but make it more erotic than anything you’ve recently read. Go online and find a new editor who takes samples, in order to show you her skills and style. Send her your childhood masterpiece. While waiting for her response, retrieve the garbage from step #6 and repeat steps #1 through 5.

There you have it. This may not work for everyone. It really hasn’t worked for me, but they say practice makes perfect. Then again, I was called perfect years ago. That really threw me off. I quickly realized there was nowhere to go but down, and that makes me drift back to step #4 . . . oye, the life of a struggling writer!

So for now I’ll rest on my laurels. They are currently resting on StoryCartel. It’s a great site for readers, ones looking for fresh material and free books to read. StoryCartel asks you to help the authors by writing book reviews, featuring what you like on blogs, etc.

FYI – that’s a different “etc.” than mentioned in the 7-step program – hopefully!

 

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Dawn at Last – Book Description

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Some call it sinful, others say divine . . . they all call it refreshing.

A smart and sexy romance, perhaps the kind your mother doesn’t want you to know? Chances are she will love it too, even though this is definitely not old school shenanigans!

Secrets deeper than the Seven Seas . . .

Modern day Victoria, BC sets the stage for Donna Belauche, a professional intimacy counselor who keeps her client list short and her list of friends shorter.  Life is far from fun and games for Donna. In her quiet time, it is not her work that brings her to the brink of madness. It’s the weight of her past – so many deep secrets – almost crushing her. Holding love at arm’s length, she pushes men away, even one who especially adores her.

That’s when she wrote in her journal, “genuinely kind and charming,” but next to that she added “perhaps a little dangerous…be very careful.”

Making Dali Blush

As she pushes love away, Donna devotes her free time to the pursuit of a different kind of passion – a hobby involving tulips, a creative exploration of women – an exploration of what some call sinful, and yet others divine. She is not alone in this project. She and her partners do it all in the name of art . . . but have they taken it all too far?

As wonderful as it seemed, still is it even okay, or was it all just decadence? Yet such a sweet decadence, as fresh as the first drop of honey.

It’s funny how it works when love’s at play.

Some say this book is controversial because of its characters – interracial relationships, unconventional pasts, and affairs between lady friends who are oblivious to the label, “lesbian romance”. They see nothing unusual in any of it. For them it is just how they live. There is Ben, the house painter who will paint most anything, and a server named Sunni, with a thing for buns. Along with three others, they manage to help Donna find her way, almost in spite of themselves.  They don’t realize how important each is to the other, especially to Donna, as she scratches away at the ties that bind her.

Untwisting the Night Away

The lives of these misfits twist together like vines – never knowing exactly where they will wind up. Through all the intertwining, love offers up one amusing surprise after another.  Then, on one final night – three men and three ladies – everything finally comes together. Lives are changed forever . . . but for the better? How does one ever really know? At last, is it ever just about love?

Read these comments from fans of Dawn at Last . . .

Exciting and Adventurous – The intersecting plot lines led me on an adventure, an intriguing blend of humour and mystery.

Fresh and Amusing – The humor and wit throughout is really enjoyable. The interracial relationships feel very contemporary, and say a lot about love in today’s world.

Breath-taking and Sexy – The intimate scenes are seductive, making me want to be involved – a wonderful adult romance.

Complex and Mysterious -The emotional journey is challenging. It took me through many stages before emerging at the other end with my own thoughts and revelations.

Dangerous and Raw – There are times in the book where I sensed an element of risk and it heightened the experience.

Entertaining and Evocative – Overall the book is fun. It’s a wonderful adult romance. The story, themes and characters stayed in my mind long after I finished the book – waiting for the sequel now!

“Dawn at Last” is Now on Amazon

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There’s a lot of playful mystery in “Dawn at Last” – six main interweaving characters.

It’s taken a lot of time and effort, but it was worth it.

Over the past month or so I’ve made some changes to my novel, previously published as Sunni Knows, but renamed Dawn at Last. By the way, did you know that apparently The Great Gatsby was once titled Trimalchio in West Egg . . . yes, books do go through title changes.

The content is mostly the same, with a little refining of the first chapter and a little addition to the ending. It seems that while my fans loved the book, for many the original ending felt unresolved. It took a lot resolve to fix that, but I’m glad I did – the ending is now more exquisite . . . at last.

You can see the new cover over to the right side – if you click on it, you will be taken to the Amazon page of Dawn at Last. I don’t mind saying that it’s fantastic and really goes with the tone of the book. A huge thank you goes out to Sandra Parlow, a wonderful lady and an excellent photographer. She allowed me to use some of her photography – the basis for the imagery on the cover – you can easily find her amazing work on Google+.

I’d also like to thank an anonymous friend for her musings and guidance throughout this process, the extent of which could fill an entirely different book!

Finally, it will about a week before Amazon has the “Look Inside” feature working – after that you can read the first 10% of the book for free. That should take you about half way through Chapter 3 – The Grape Squishing, although that’s a bit of a tease because by the end of that chapter things start getting a little juicy.

In the meantime, if want to get a feel for the book, I’ve posted first chapter on my Facebook Notes, and here’s the link to that: Chapter 1 – The Ending Begins .

Going Where No Reader Cares to Go . . . in Cyberspace

This is a follow-up to my previous post, Reading, The Environment, though you don’t necessarily have to read it to understand this one.

A lot of what I wrote in that post is verified in a way by the following four articles I’ve found on this whole issue of ebooks, book publishing, reading and independent authorship.

Forbes Magazine – Excellent Article on Indie Books

The Verge – Ebook Self-Publishing

Publishers Weekly – Best Selling Ebooks of 2012

Huff Post (Canada Books) – Smashwords Owner’s Predictions for 2013

The pros and cons of self-publishing are really well described in these articles above. That need for filtering comes up time and again – essentially my list of Top 10 is my own attempt to do just that – here’s what I did.

Methodology

First, I picked a popular category, such as “Literature & Fiction> Romance”. From there, I went where no man dares to go – below the Top 100 – into the depths – as deep as 1,500 titles under the See! I’d have searched further down, would have liked to see what #28,043 looked like, but I couldn’t. The system wouldn’t let me get past 1,500 which means that if there is a book I want to look at down there, I need to use the search function, so I’d need to know the name of it, or author or ISBN.

Selection Process

To begin, the main sort I use in any given category is “New & Popular”. Basically, when I go deeper I’m looking for less popular, yet good reads – kind of like panning for gold.

My selections are close to random. I ignore popular authors that are down the list, dead or alive, and there are a ton down there – people like Charles Dickens, Herman Hesse, Hemingway and many, many more. There also plenty of living writers down there, but with their older titles. This is kind of odd though, given that the sort is “New & Popular” – huh?

I also found one sub-genre kind of amusing. Did you know that on one site, if you look under “Literature & Fiction” you can find a sub-category called “Literary Fiction” – too funny!

For any given category I pick out around fifty books to look at. I don’t look at price, try to ignore covers and titles, but what I do look at is page counts. On the lower end, I don’t include any under 200 pages – to me that’s close to a novella. Almost all the titles are around 250 – 300 pages, and a few are closer to 400. I’ve also kept away from books that are part of a series, unless it’s the first book.

Looking Inside and Then Some

Once I’ve gotten this list together, I start previewing more than reviewing. This is really a two-step process, and one that typically results in about 80% being discarded. With the remaining 20% I go back and take a closer look, and from there the list gets whittled down to titles that I’d definitely consider buying based on what I’d read.

This is not the same as doing a book review, nor was it ever intended to be. There are a few real benefits as an indie author in doing this kind of exercise, at least for me. I’m fairly well read, really eclectic interests, and I don’t need to read a ton of classics to know whether my book is worth reading, or is “marketable”. After all, if the classics are the benchmark, there are tons of successful, well-written books that fail that test.

Final Selection Criteria

First is the “flow” test. Call it style if you will. If something is written this century or the last, I really don’t want to have to work at reading every second or third sentence. I’m pretty sure everyone reading this understands what I mean. By the way, if you are thinking grammar should be first, that stuff’s gone with the 80% – I’m past that stage.

The next thing is the boredom factor – Have I read this before in one form or another? I realize there may be all kinds of plot turns and twists down the road, but one does get a feel for this. Often it’s uninteresting characters or overly long, drawn out setting descriptions, or perhaps a tinge of melodrama, that makes something boring. It’s almost like many writers are simply trying too hard to grab your attention, and it has the opposite effect.

Third, there is the novelty aspect – it’s pretty easy to tell when a story is just going to get better – kind of like it’s worth buying just to see what actually does happen. I really avoid copycats. As an aside, I’m guessing that in some genres, a solid 10% or more are basically fifty shade knock-offs, and I haven’t even looked in any “erotica” categories . . . yet!

Results

After all of that I had a list of 10 books that I’d say are worth reading as they are published. While I didn’t keep track of the ones that were “close”, I’d say there was about another ten – these are the ones who simply need a little editorial polishing – as stated in those articles at the top, there is a big demand and need for those editorial services.

As it turns out, I have a bit of egg on my face with my Top 10 list, but at the same time I also had one of those “ah ha” moments. The embarrassment came when I did one more final check for independence. I discovered that 7 of the 10 books I chose were actually published by a major publisher, in print first, so the authors are not indies. That means that in the end, after going through over 150 titles, I found 3 that I’d say are really good indie books, on par with the standard set by traditional publishers.

The “ah ha” aspect is that this kind of validated my process, and my skills, at picking out talent. By accidentally mixing indie authors with traditionally published ones, I inadvertently validated the results!

Conclusions

Realizing this is still a very crude process, based on the 3 of 150 titles I found, that means that perhaps 2% of indie titles really have market potential. What does 2% mean though? Well, first, how many indie titles are actually out there? Smashwords is definitely a major player in launching new indie works. They’re putting out almost 100,000 a year now, and cumulatively they are at about 250,000. Then there are other similar services, as well as number of indies who simply publish directly, with no intermediary.

It’s not easy to get a handle on that number. I’m sure there is a strange exaggeration out there about the total books available – the highest number I’ve come across is something 4,000,000 – I don’t think so!

My best estimate, and I think this may be on the high side, is perhaps there are 500,000 ebooks available, fiction only and by indies, and novels (say 70,000 + words). On the low side, using that criteria, it may be as low as 300,000. If my 2% estimate is in the ball park, that means that there are about 6,000 to 10,000 indie works out there with serious market potential – that’s where issues like discovery come into play.

To put that into perspective, as I found in one of those 4 articles mentioned at the top, the traditional publishers claimed that they had 1,000 titles that sold 25,000 or more copies in ebook format in 2012.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that . . . this post is getting very long as it is. However, aside from the numbers, I’d also say that it seems like the overall quality of writing that many readers’ find acceptable has certainly gone down. I’m saying that because I looked at a couple of current bestsellers by indie authors and I know that neither of them would have made the first cut in my selection process – that makes the market somewhat unpredictable, certainly from the traditional point of view.

Finally, through all of this, one huge intangible benefit is the confidence I’ve gained about SUNNI KNOWS. I’ll put my book up against any indie standard, or one for published works, so for me it really is an issue of discovery.

If you’re a non-Kindle user, you can order my book on Kobo . . . then you can read it on your favorite e-reading device . . . have a great weekend!

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Just me and my Leaves

This has been the slowest week since the last one, and boy has it gone fast!

If you came here thinking today’s blog would be about you, think again – this one’s on me – or was that the last one? What can I say? I’m a writer. Hemingway said we’re all liars, but then can you really believe him?

The week in Review (or is it Next Week’s Preview?)

Actually I’ve got a lot done this week, but almost entirely in my head, and a little on index cards . . . why do they call them that anyway? I mean, does anyone in their right mind actually index them? Why not call them what they are . . . illusions of being organized . . . I’m smart though, I put little page numbers on them in the top right corner, and even circle them. I’ve got about 50 of these cards all over the place. I think about 12 of them have a single vertical line inside a moon, in the top corner . . . wonder what that’s all about!

Actually, I’m in the process of writing about five separate blogs, all very related to each other, and way too much for one blog. My intent was to have the first one written last night and posted today . . . this is not that one.

They are all related to three main subjects:

1. Building an author’s platform – It sure would have been easier if this were the 70’s . . . then I could just go out and buy the shoes, click my heels, and all would be well. Time after time I’m reading about the importance of just being oneself, and doing that basically all over the place. That’s fine, but it sure would help if that Wizard could whip me up a storm of “online oneness” – I’m sure he’s got the brains, not sure about the heart, and as for bravery, hmmm?

It takes a certain amount (a lot) of constraint to avoid flogging one’s own creative output, especially when it’s your main source of income and not something done on the side, but that’s an issue all on its own. As well, what I do keeps me occupied for probably 60 hours a week, maybe more, so it could never be a sideline.

2. The Book Environment – I’m using the term environment rather than industry. Actually, more and more, it feels like one of my projects is doing a case study on the whole mess – oops, environment – it is the best of times and worstest of days – catch my drift?

As you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking, especially for one person, and it is only one of many projects. It’s an important one though. It’s tempting to say that every indie author should try the same, but I’m not sure about that. To begin with, this is where I actually use my MBA skills, not just in marketing, but mostly in strategic planning, part of which includes doing an industry analysis.

I have already identified the big problems, and opportunities, and collapse them in a sentence or two. That only took three months, not full-time of course. However, that isn’t enough – I need to flesh in more details – then focus more on “what’s next” in this crazy world of platform building, selling books and art and so on.

When I’m done, I’ll be posting my insights on here . . . you can be rest assured that it won’t be the same stuff you find elsewhere . . . and you will learn something valuable, whether you’re a writer or a reader, or both.

4. Technical issues – Should I switch from a hosted blog to self-hosted one? Should I shut down my art site for now, or roll it into a redesigned blog? Technically, I can’t fully integrate this blog into my website . . . that would be ideal. Then there are all the design enhancements that I need to make . . . this is the more mundane topic, so I’ll leave it for now.

Now For the Rest of The Story

I found this link in a discussion group on goodreads. Whether you’re a writer or someone who sometimes wonders about writers, you need wonder no more . . . instead, feel free to laugh your ass off . . . some of you may want to pee before following this link:

The Secret Life of Writers

PS – I found these secrets from another writer – you can find her here: Dianne Harman

1,000 Shades of Beige

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Bound and impatient. With these three words I could launch 1,000 stories. I’m sure to do many, and with just nap three or four or five plots begin their journey. In fact, as far as fiction goes, I’m already thinking that I’ll give it a whirl, start everything I write with these three words and see where my story takes me. This way it will be just like doing art!

So once more I have to thank someone I know in a way but have never met, a kindred spirit I suppose. She has this knack for showing me and picture and zoom, with the exchange of a few words I’m off and writing.

She let me see one of her works of art, though not the picture above, which is one my unpublished works. The picture she let me see depicts what most would consider mild bondage , which can be so hot when the element of patience comes into play, even hotter when the element includes impatience. There was no surprise as the conversation inevitably lead to the mention of Fifty Shades of Grey, a book that I’ve never read nor do I intend to read it, and yet I’ve conversed with 4 or 5 people about my writing and each time this book comes up.

Pardon the pun, but I’ve only heard about that book in snippets. I won’t read it only because I don’t want it to influence my own writing.

While I have no intention of engrossing myself in erotica, I certainly don’t mind my hot chocolate getting a little steamy, in a playful way. And there is the rub of it, the invisible window between play and something else…danger? With luck and the wind, perhaps I’ll mix a little of the gypsy magic with the adventure of an adult Harry Potter character, of sorts? One way or another, let there be some humor, dammit!

In the spirit of the gypsy Harry Potter then, “bound and impatient” becomes a story of an old leather book and the impatience of curiosity…the search for the knowledge of, “Well, you know…”

So these stories will twist and turn and I will tease and taunt you as best I can. Certainly some laughter, perhaps a few tears, and some secret “oh my”s along the way. Eventually they will take the form of an ebook or a dozen. All this on top of my art, which if you’ve seen my site, you should be warned…I’ve only just begun. And I have no intention of ever being done; who would ever want that?

After all, being done is certain to lead to impatience. Then there is this issue of writer’s block, the kind where one has too much going on in one’s mind and is bound by the constraint of a single keyboard, when about five going at once would be preferred! So the block isn’t a block at all but more of a timeless ocean, which is a nice way of putting it given my new acronym of the day…SWIM…see what I mean? 🙂

Hanging In There Until The End