'Calandra's Spring' released for Kindle on amazon.com.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

What's in a name? The story behind the book title.

I've been asked lately to explain what the name of my book means.  'Calandra's Spring' has a few layers to it:  firstly, the book is about a spring, a geographical feature.  Secondly, it deals with Calandra's own spring awakening, coming into adulthood (although in years she is already an adult).  Lastly, Calandra is another word, Greek, tied to the meaning of the bird 'lark', the harbinger of spring in many cultures.  It may seem a little obtuse, but by the end of the book, you will 'get' it I hope!!

Oh, and please note that in writing this, I have tried to avoid the Oxford commas but with some resistance!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Inviting reviewers to read my book

Just a reminder - if you are a reviewer with a large audience, please contact me and I can send you a free copy of my book to read and give me some feedback.

Sadly, the hundreds of readers who downloaded it for free in the promo period have not bothered to give the book any attention!  Interesting!  I am now assessing the usefulness of the promo period which promises that for every free book you give away, you will sell many more as this is your opportunity to build a loyal 'tribe'.  Waiting, waiting! 

OK, so, FYI, my strategy is as follows:  in July I will re-release the book in a POD format with an ISBN (the latter has been impossible from where I am located at present).

Then I will release the other books sitting on my desktop. So far the covers are not complete.

And then I will report back to anyone who is interested just how this strategy has worked.  To date  I have had neither meaningful bulk feedback, nor enough profit for a good feed! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bureacracy is killing the world - who is to blame?

I've noticed that since 9-11, bureacracy has gone up by the power of 10.  ID, important I know, is now an Olympic sport with hurdles and high jumps a-plenty.  Here we are living in a paperless society, but somebody must be filing all that crap I just photocopied.  Where is that paper mountain?  Does anybody really read it?  I watch Henry Louis Gates' amazingly entertaining show on PBS ('Finding Your Roots') and the availability of documents is impressive all over the world.  Despite wars, someone always has some baptismal or birth/death/marriage records and that is great for our understanding of family tree.  But the mounds of passport photocopies, visas, licences, utility bills and so on must be huge!  What if there were a tsunami near that mound? Would it survive?  Would history?  How is Japan coping with the lack of history (not even the folk-spoken word version) following the earthquake and tsunami in the north.

But when you are trying to complete a simple process and are sent back time after time to dig for more
'evidence' of who you are, photocopied in triplicate, and you realise that you have now spent 3 days on something that should have taken an hour, it seems a ridiculous way to live. I can't wait till we all have some biometric id that replaces all this crap;  I can put my family tree on there too and a digital copy would be fine.  Just remember to keep upgrading to the new formats and save as a backup!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The more you clean ... (house cleaning for dummies, an exercise workout).

Over the course of my long and productive life, I have observed that the more one cleans a house, the more one needs to!  All those little nooks and crannies present themselves for weekly, even daily attention.  Not surprising, here is Mexico, the cleaning required is arduous.  It is probably the dustiest place I have ever lived though before we plugged all its old-age-induced holes and air vents, Snake Valley in Australia was a nightmare.  Once we had sealed that place, it was a delight.  But every day in Mexico in the dry season, housewives long for the dust-free wet season and then deal with mould prevention and cure.  So there is always something.  I think that I am an expert now!  Add to this the fact that cleaning is my favourite way to procrastinate from writing when I have a blockage or plot point that needs mental exercise and chewing over, I excel at cleaning.  When I am on a writing roll, though, I don't get as much done as  could.  It all balances out.  Packing up the house for the move, I found it impossible to move the boxes around and so the floors were not totally cleaned for weeks. After the removalists left, I attacked the house with a broom and there was a BUCKET of fine, black dust, a shovel full coming just from the stairs.  It is exactly 100 steps up and down my stairs (a return trip, that is) and I relish the chance to sprint up and down, doing this 'stair-master' route at LEAST 10 times a day but usually around 20.  That goes a long way towards fulfilling the 10,000 steps we are supposed to walk for our personal fitness.  When I am sweeping the stairs with body bent and a dustpan and brush to avoid clouds of dust going elsewhere, it is an added isometric workout and it gives my shoulders a real challenge.  House-cleaning is amazing exercise if done well.  Stretch to dust the plantations shutters.  Wash the windows with a stretch.  Sweeping exercises the biceps. Squats are always necessary to pick up rubbish.  Washing basket workouts are good too.  Forget the drier.  Put up a clothesline and pick up that basket of wet washing.  Bend the knees.  You are also saving energy and money.  Riot against the HOA anti-washing line rules!  My mother always developed a craving for chocolate on washing and ironing days.  She used plenty of calories in her house that had two flights of stairs.  Cleaning the refrigerator is a good workout too as it needs to be done fast in order to preserve the cold goods. Get down on the floor (stretching cat position) and check for dust  beneath it.  Move it out and brush down the coils at the back (essential for efficiency). Check behind the stove and stretch so that you can clean behind it.  Carry your shopping in recycled bags. They can hold more so are a good weights workout.  Bend the knees though, when you pick them up.

Of course there is more!   See what you can do to save energy, reduce obesity, get fitter and save money at the same time.  And the bonus - it gives you a productive way of procrastinating from your writing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Best time of the year in Puerto Vallarta

This is a pretty exciting time for nature-lovers in Puerto Vallarta.  The birds (many of them exotic, brightly coloured or eccentrically-behaving species) are nesting and there is a constant parade of them flying by with twigs and pieces of grass or straw in their beaks.  I love to leave out some coloured or sparkly threads and watch what the white-collared seed-eaters do with that.  They weave it into their new homes and create pretty tree-ornaments.  Singing and chirping throughout the day, and sometimes at night, the birds in this region are so endearing.  How anyone could shoot a bird mystifies me, but for a while, the house next door featured tenants whose son had a gun.  He would take pot shots at our trees, the birds and lizards who made up the passing population of critters.  Fortunately, they left.  But what amazed me was his overweight, lazy mother's attitude when I complained to her. 'It's not his gun!' was her only comment.  'OK, if you want to play into the stereotype, ' I thought to myself, 'continue being indolent, in denial, fat and blind to the world. And see where that gets you.'  Ultimately, when they moved, the mother developed diabetes, the father had a stroke and the kids all had to leave school and become the wage-earners.  Sad, but I could see it coming in their behaviour from the first time I met them.  They would sit for hours playing dominoes till 3 am night after night, becoming progressively drunker and then lie in the sun all day.  And despite that sun they would wash their clothes in strongly perfumed detergents and fabric softeners and use the clothes drier which would hum away for hours on end. Needless to say, they never paid their electricity bill and the result was a drama that cost their landlord her house.  But that's another story!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oh to have time to write!

I'll be very occupied for the next few weeks and writing will be pushed to the backburner.  That makes me surprisingly edgy and irritable something rather like the caffeine jitters! There is no cure!

Donna Summer dies from lung & breast cancer related illness

Sad to see that Donna Summer has lost her battle with multiple cancers. More than many, she was evocative of a whole era, that of disco and I still remember her lovely red beret and stylish presentation.  She was a woman who sang with enormous strength and marked a definite change from the submissive to the dominatrix in her vocals.  Markers of their time such as Donna Summer are rare.  She and Travolta and the Beegees almost were a human glitter-ball for the disco era reflecting the joy of the dancers and singers who would flock to the venues to ape the best moves, including the skyward point, an ungodly Tebow gesture!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Farewells and hellos in the midst of packing.

Here in Puerto Vallarta there is an annual migration of Gringos to the north so that they can avoid the summer.  We have never consciously done that but this year we will be.  Thus, the house must be packed into boxes. It is a process I have been beavering away at over the last few months, de-moulding, dusting as I go. Otherwise, the last minute rush is a killer for sure.  I will be ensconced in Los Angeles and my intention is to re-launch the book with an ISBN, to publish 2 more 'waiting in the wings' books and to see whether they, collectively, will ramp up sales and reviews. 

Anyway, presently it is a round of farewells as the yachties leave and we prepare to do the same, albeit via a circuitous route with some weeks in Mexico City, Guadalajara and surrounds.  Needless to say, we will be careful as the narco-nasties are certainly getting some publicity in the last couple of weeks.  Ulp!  It is so silly and short-sighted of these idiots to kill off the great tourist destinations here. Acapulco, for instance, is truly awful.  So far, Puerto Vallarta is a safe haven and is carefully protected by its diligent armed forces and 3 layers of policing.  Jolly chaps indeed, but I wouldn't want to get them pissed off as I am sure they are itching to use their weapons on a real felon!

Due to the amount of packing required, my writing has been a trifle diminished.  This is what I will rectify when in the USA!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A reality show featuring writers, really????

Some wag suggested an Idol-style show featuring writers.  Well, there have been 'Project Runway' and 'Work of Art' and ... 'Extreme Couponing' so why not some other show that observes grass growing but making entertainment from the (usually) staged conflicts within.  The problem is, writing is such a solitary occupation unless you work in the Writers' Room at Letterman or SNL.  Those rooms bristle with tension, forced laughter, self-congratulatory appreciation of wit, panic at being 'dry', panic at being late with a deadline and other emotions.  I know.  Because I have been there.  What usually happens with those writer teams is that the producer will just throw more and more writers at the problem. Outsiders are not welcome.  But sometimes new blood will tilt the humour to a different plateau and magic happens.  Observing every comedy show on TV, I have noticed the similarity and the plumbing the depths when pure wit or Pythonesque silliness fail.  The writers dig into the dope references, blue llanguage, double entendres.  Old-fashioned.  Tried and true jokes.  Jay Leno does this every night. And for Jay, his fall-back is the applause button.  Umm, laughter would be far more pleasant for the viewer to witness (Jon Stewart & Colbert just have laughter and the occasional whoop!).  But the whole monologue on Jay's tired ol' show is over-seasoned with disciplined applause, reactions to any mention of marijuana (so darn inappropriate to Jay's own lifestyle) and boom-tish on cue from the band.  Oh, heck.  Will a reality show DARE visit the room where this plastic wit is fed his lines?  No, I don't think so.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Working on the new book

It's hard to tweet, blog and follow Facebook when you are really focused on writing a book.  The challenge is to keep all the characters in your head and on your outline plot/cards however you may do it as you get to those moments when they take on a life of their own.  Tracking consistency but avoiding predictability is the challenge.  I have two completed books but they now need covers and I want to step these up a notch.  Clearly, the Kindle listings do weird things to formatting and cover graphics.  My pictures for 'Calandra's Spring' looked awesome.  My designer is very good. But when reduced by Kindle's system, the font was not good.  And I left in a phantom 'by' in there.  Check it out, see what you think and all you pros out there, your comments and feedback are very welcome!

Back to the desk!

Maurice Sendak dies

Maurice Sendak, the creator of 'Where the Wild Things Are', to many a heart-wrenching tale of the difficulty of growing up encased in a metaphoric kingdom of scary animals, has died aged 83.  The world has lost a creative mind, but his ideas and images will live on generations past the day he sat down to craft this tale and his other works.  Isn't this something that writers want to achieve?  If so, how come the 'business' of writing is now more of a marketing sausage machine than it has ever been?  And the character of the 'writer' is now necessarily a marketing guru of sorts, far removed from that quiet, solitary garret so vital to the creation and crafting of something of worth.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Reviews and are they needed?

I have had a small number of reviews but each was well-considered, constructive and positive so I am not begging the readers who downloaded the book for free in the Kindle promo to post an opinion on amazon.com.  However, it would have been nice to have a little feedback.  It all helps, not just for the marketing of the book but also to make me a better writer.  Any feedback is welcome.

Eternal youth - worth it or not?

If you could live for ever at any age without becoming a vampire, would you do it?   This is a theme in 'Calandra's Spring' and we follow the heroes to a spring from which an elixir can be drawn.  The pros and cons of staying young are examined.  If you had the chance, would you stay young?  If so, how young?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Report on Kindle Free Promo period

Did it work?  Did it not work?  Hmmm, yet to be seen as at this moment, the sales have flatlined and I am seriously considering a re-design and re-release some time later. If you were one of the almost 800 people who downloaded 'Calandra's Spring' for free, it would be fabulous if you could write a review as I would love your feedback (constructive, please).  Sadly, it may have been an exercise in cannabalism and nobody, to date, from that period has written a word.  A few 'likes' but then they could be friends, I have no way of telling.  The method of marketing on KDP is definitely affected by the 'type & click' books that have flooded the market, unproofed, 'wham bam thankyou ma'am' in their stories and concepts or 'how-to' books that really, are a 'moron's guide to what you already knew but needed reassurance about'.  Do I sound like a cynic?  Is the KDP free promo time more about amazon.com getting hits on its side that is smothered with advertising, sky-rocketing distribution figures (which, like fireworks, smoulder and die and perhaps fall to earth) and achieving little else?  Are sales the only measure of a 'good read'?

Can you tell that I am disappointed?  Mmmmmmm, you betcha.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Warm and fuzzy books versus angst inducing ones.

Actually, I like a bit of both.  Books that terrify, (War & Peace, Little Bee) disturb (eg. anything by Kafka) or mildly frighten (pulp fiction including good old Agatha Christie books) can be good reads.   Warm and fuzzy would include 'Le Grand Meaulnes' and 'Cutting for Stone'  and so many other feel-good stories (Eat, Pray, Love).  The trick is to combine the fright with affectionate moments and then you have a classic.  I think that much of the work of Zola, Hugo and most of the French classic writers do that, squeezing terror out historical moments and happiness out of small moments of resolution along the way.  I will think about this and see if I can build a list.  Feel free to send your favourites.