Saturday, August 31, 2013

SCIENCE FICTION OR FANTASY


                                                                   


I've always had the impression that since Science Fiction had to involve aliens, I am not a Science Fiction writer.   Not yet, at least.    Usually space travel is involved and amazing life forms.   But, interestingly, Amazon's search engine lumps Science Fiction and Fantasy together in the same category, at least  initially in the search process.      Currently, the first two dozen best sellers in this category include a vampire novel, a dystopian novel, a novel about dragons,  a dystopian novel set in Chicago, a book about an Earth training program against alien attack, and a post-apocalyptic novel.  I think it is fair to say that the vast majority are not science fiction in the Piers Anthony, Star Trek, War of the Worlds or Time Machine model.

Drilling further into the genre and specifying Science Fiction results in a virtually identical list of Best Sellers.  These are the sub-headings:




Switching to Fantasy does provide some variety by way of dragons, vampires and several of the Game of Thrones novels.  These are the sub-headings:



  My two, soon to be three,  dystopic novels fall in the Contemporary Fantasy genre, specifically, Contemporary Dystopian Fiction, which you will note, is not one of the sub-headings.  With millions of books out there, discoverability can be a challenge!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

FACEBOOK AND TWITTER





                                                 




Contrary to the standard advice given to authors, I do not use Facebook or Twitter.   I apologize if any of my readers have looked there for me in vain.   There are a few reasons for this but I would like to focus on one particular reason in this post.   I don't impute my reasons to anyone else but personally, I would feel concern I was being a pretend friend.  I know that some, even many, writers extoll the sense of connection with 
readers that these two forms of social media
 can provide.   Buy when I read posts and 
recommendations like the following ones, it 
turns me off, frankly.  At the root of much
 social media by authors seems to be the
 desire to sell more books.


"Both businesses and publications have already seen how marketing blog posts, articles, and white papers in social media can bring them new customers, subscribers, and sales."

"Twitter is a great social networking tool which emerging authors can use to post realtime messages to their fan base. It is important that these messages be relevant to the affair of promoting and publicizing the book."

"Repeat your posts. I repeat my tweets four times every eight hours — you don’t get 1,240,000 Twitter followers by not taking risks. This is pushing the edge, but the assumption that everyone who is interested in your posts will see it the first time is naïve."

 "the success of her e-books came about as a result of spending about 80% of her time marketing . . ." 



Advice to authors in relation to media often emphasizes the need to limit marketing so that fans or followers aren't turned off.    You have to establish a relationship and then they will buy your book(s).   A marketing campaign disguised as friendship.  

Maybe I'm completely wrong about all of this but as Shakespeare pointed out:   "To thine own self be true."     

Here's another perspective from a non-author point of view.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

FREEBIES







There's discussion in the indie book world these days about the efficacy of freebies.   Writers who use this method of promotion hope that readers will download a free e-book, maybe the first in a series, and then go on to purchase the rest of the series.   Even better, enjoy the book and write a favourable review.

Alas, the best-laid plans of mice and men!   It seems some people, generally disgruntled people dissatisfied with their life but seemingly unable to make changes, find some relief in downloading free e-books, reading or not reading them, and then leaving one star reviews, heavy on generalized insults and denigration.   How strange!  These poor reviews can have an impact on future sales of that particular book when it is no longer free.   To add insult to injury, the follow-up actual sales--the ones involving money changing hands--have been greatly diminished even without negative reviews.   

Here's a literary agent's take on the freebie issue.

I came across freebies on vacation but they always required you to purchase something, usually for at least $30. before being given the freebie which turned out to be a keychain with a small surfboard hanging off it.   Even if you fell for this ploy, there would be no place to review it.   I deprived myself of this opportunity but someone else was pleased to share or should I say, spare me.   I thought one of the best freebies on Maui was the free parking, right beside the tropical beaches with the golden sugar sand and the overhead palm trees.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The River and the World

I had to resist the urge to cheer today as I achieved a goal I had set myself of completing the first draft in the sequel to When Bees Die  before the end of the summer.   As I write this it is the last week in August and the book, which I have tentatively entitled The River and the World, has reached 'The End.'   Next will be the editing process which has its own challenges.   

I distract myself by considering covers.   The cover should be bleak, to represent the environment:



                                                                           




But there's no river.


Then again, the cover could reflect the devastating effect on vegetation and crops which the decline and death of bees brought about:





Since the first cover showed an empty honeycomb perhaps this cover should show the effects of deforestation occurring when the trees were killed by the terrorist dispatched fungus:




But I've noticed that some covers are more abstract and seem to not relate to the content or theme of the book.   Or perhaps it just requires deeper thinking to tease out what the author meant.


Could this be a hint that there is still time to prevent catastrophe:


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Don't be too quick to judge.



                                                                              




Does success lead to more success or gradual failure?    Is failure inevitably progressive?  Is failure just a step along the way to success?


I was recently reading a non-fiction book wherein, as a side example, I learned that Michael Jordan did not make his Grade 10 basketball team.  I'm sure he and his fans are grateful that he did not give up at that point.


Someone close to me once tried to cheer me up--and succeeded--when I was encountering some difficulty in my life years ago.   He pointed out all the people, like Michael Jordan, who had failed, sometimes spectacularly.    Their superiors or mentors did not hesitate make them aware of their shortcomings and held out no possibility of improvement.    Take heart from these examples; I did!



-   Beethoven's music teacher said of him:   "As a composer, he is hopeless."

-   Winston Churchill failed sixth grade


-   Steven Spielberg was refused admission to film school 3 times because of his C   average grades.


-   Charles Darwin's father told him he was a disgrace and would never amount to anything


-   Albert Einstein's teachers described him as slow and mentally handicapped


-    In Fred Astaire's first screen test, the judges wrote: "Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can   dance a little."



Now the question is, did the denigration and discouragement serve to inspire them to try harder or was the advice brushed off.   Perhaps someone was in the background, whispering encouragement all the while.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why Dystopia?



                                                                        


First of all, what is dystopia exactly?  Take your pick from different dictionary definitions:



-  a society characterized by human misery, squalor, oppression, disease and overcrowding

-  an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives


-  An imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror.

-   an imaginary place where everything is as bad as it can be

-  a vision of a future that is a corrupted (usually beyond recognition) utopian society
-  A miserable, dysfunctional state or society that has a very poor standard of living

-  a fictional world where people live under a highly controlled, totalitarian system.

 -  Often a dystopia in a book is a society of the future, serving as a warning about what might happen if we let technology, industry, and government creep further and further into our lives.



You might think that this would be a depressing topic to write about but I find it fascinating.   Of the definitions above, garnered from different on-line dictionaries, I prefer the last definition.   A dystopia isn't necessarily squalid and disease-ridden.   Somebody is always living a life of luxury in all societies.   Sometimes the frightening thing about fictional dystopias is how normal some aspects are or how accustomed most people have become to the status quo.   It might be  one unexpected event--natural or man-made--that ends up having more impact than anyone might have predicted, than anyone had had considered possible.   That, of course, is part of the problem:   No one every considered the possibility of the event occurring and certainly, no one prepared for it.

Perhaps I write my dystopian novels as cautionary tales--attempting to accomplish on a minuscule scale what scientific and economic warnings have not.   If the faucet runs dry and our water system is depleted or the power grid fails permanently and the lights go out.  What then? .


                                                                              

Friday, August 9, 2013

HOW TO SAVE FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP


                                                                         


I no longer buy souvenirs when I travel.   And sorry, I rarely bring back gifts for friends and family.  I paused today to consider why.   Many things that you might buy in a foreign country, beautiful things, interestingly unique things, fall into the category of decorative items or jewellery.  The problem?   These things rarely wear out.   I have still have vases and ashtrays?! that I received as wedding gifts.   Items designed for display are popular hostess gifts, housewarming gifts and even birthday gifts.  They accumulate.  I've come to prefer a more minimalist appearance, uncluttered and with clean lines.  As I have read recommended for wardrobes, one accent piece is enough.  

We got talking on one occasion to a jewellery store owner in Skagway, Alaska who wasn't shy about admitting that once the summer Alaska cruise ship season was over he moved himself and his merchandise to a small shop on a Caribbean island so as to take advantage of the winter cruise season there.   Did his offerings from 'the land of the midnight sun' become  'treasures of the Caribbean'?

Over the years, I've tried themes in my purchases of remembrances from trips.   For over a decade I stuck to thimbles.  They were small--ideally suited to my carry-on method of travel-- and not not very expensive.   Not to sew with but to display on a rack purchased just for the purpose.    It hung on a wall for a number of years but dusting around thirty thimbles grew tedious so it was packed away. Where is it now?  For a few years I bought posters or prints.   Museums, especially, have lovely reproductions.  I would have to have these framed when I returned home.  I was very fond of a heritage print of the Jungfraubahn bought at a train station in Switzerland.   Kind of an Art Nouveau style.   I think it's hanging in the garage now.   No one else liked it as well as I did.

One thing I've become cognizant of is how many tourist locations become shopping  locations.   Group tours assume that shopping is a major goal or retail therapy as they call it down under.   There's no doubt some tour providers and guides receive kickbacks or a percentage of sales.  But that's not what I travel for.    It's for the experiences, so special that they don't need a physical reminder.