Saturday, September 7, 2013

The new definition of 'Gay'?

Gay people define themselves and are defined, judge themselves, and are judged, on the basis of their sexuality.

But you don't have to be 'gay' to consider your sexuality to be your defining quality do you?

Some people think it's important to be seen as sporty, or arty, or intelligent. To them, these particular traits are what help create the impression they wish to give others.

So when the 'Gay Community' (which makes it sound like they all live happily together) petition for their rights, or for acceptance, there is a paradox. You cannot crave 'normality' (whatever that is) while defining yourself in such a narrow way.

I think it's time we forgot about being 'gay', and that goes for the people who are.

Sexuality and the sexualisation of our society makes gay people feel important; special. They are not. They are normal people and always have been.

It's time to move on.

Sure, you can still be gay, but only if you're honest enough to admit that what it really means is you're narrow-minded enough to consider your sexuality your most important trait; and don't forget, you don't actually have to be gay to do that.

I'm really not interested in your sexuality unless I'm considering having sex with you.

So 21st century, let's move on shall we? 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Black Rooms and the ancient art of mail interception

I realised it's been over four months since my last blog post. In that time the world has come to know the names of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. 

The true extent and intent of western governments to intercept, snoop and generally read your supposedly 'private' emails and internet postings has become evident.

Here in New Zealand, the so-called GCSB Spy Bill is poised to become law, thanks, in part to the support of MP Peter Dunne who himself was recently the victim of leaked emails which resulted in his resignation as a minister.

But why are we so surprised our leaders are so keen to take advantage of so much information being available at the click of a  mouse?

Whilst researching 'Milkshake' I wanted to (fictionally) install a phone interception device in the telephone exchange situated in the Nelson Post Office Building. I came across the concept of the 'Cabinet Noir'  or 'Black Room'.

The following quote, written over six years ago, is based on fact and shows the idea is not new...

The concept of a ‘Cabinet Noir’ or Black Room dated back to the reign of Louis XIII. It was the office where letters sent by suspicious individuals were opened and read by public officials before being forwarded to their destination.

The practice was adopted during the First World War when the New Zealand Government employed the tactic as a means of censoring mail  in order to protect and maintain the morale at home, shielding it from graphic and depressing correspondence sent from the front line thousands of miles away in Europe. 

No doubt different versions of 'Black Rooms' continued to exist throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. But has the room now evolved to incorporate the entire internet?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blog 20 Sound on? vision on?

So it's been a while since my last blog post. In the meantime 'Milkshake' has sold steadily and a few Kindle Select free download promos have helped spread the word.

The trial with the cow's backside cover is coming to an end. I've agreed with the publisher we should go for an 'edgier' look to reflect the 'thriller' elements of the story a bit more. 

So in the near future, expect to see this on Amazon:

Meanwhile, in other news, a local radio personality who I made contact with via Facebook asked to read a copy of 'Milkshake'. After reading it, he invited me in for an interview, broadcast on local Nelson radio station The Breeze. He enjoyed the story and it's local Nelson flavour and was keen to help promote it in any way he could. He's promised a further interview when the sequel 'The Destiny Stone' is published, in the near future.

Here's the interview:

Click here

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blog 19 A tsunami of benevolence?

As I write this, a 2 metre wall of water is about to hit the Hawaiian islands, so this title could be either wildly inappropriate or an unintended Google search hit.

Anyway, the tsunami of which I write concerns the 48 hours last Monday and Tuesday during which my debut thriller 'Milkshake' (available at all good bookstores called Amazon) was available for free download.

This is a nail-biting time for an author who is not self-published. With no access to the hourly figures and no idea how things are going, all I can do is blindly promote and wait, like mission control waiting for Apollo 12 to emerge from the radio-blackout silence of the dark side of the moon.

At least I got a sense that things were going well, since the figures on the 'Free' kindle chart appear alongside the book listing for the duration of the free promo. Milkshake appeared to reach number 5 in the US Amazon 'Action & Adventure' chart, which was promising.

After two days the promo came to an end, with the book, as hoped, a lot further up the real Amazon chart, where hopefully it will draw greater interest and therefore actual sales.

So what about numbers? well my publisher tells me 1200 free copies were downloaded on Amazon UK and US. Surprisingly the vast majority on the US site, since usually sales are far greater in the UK.

So with 1200 copies now scattered across the world, the next stage is to wait and see if any get read. The first indications came earlier today, when, within  the space of a few hours I received (on the US Amazon website) firstly a 4* review from Minnesota, followed a short while after by a 3* review from New Delhi.

I have no problem with the free promotional periods. Along with the previous ones, there must be several thousand copies of 'Milkshake' on Kindles around the world. The thought of my debut book being read by so many complete strangers is both thrilling and also vaguely disturbing.

The sequel 'The Destiny Stone' should be out early in 2013 and I console myself with the expectation several thousand copies will be instantly purchased by those eager to find out what happens next.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Blog 18 Publisher or not? The 'sea' word..

Just before a tsunami, the sea rushes out further than the low tide mark. That's a warning of the impending tumultuous torrent of devastation about to ensue.

After I finished writing 'Milkshake' I wasted several months trying to track down likely agents and publishers who would preferably accept emailed manuscripts instead of insisting on half a ream of paper being sent halfway around the world. I reluctantly sent one to Australia. It cost $25. They declined.

So there I stood, in a desert of frustration, with no prospect of anyone ever getting to read 'Milkshake' in the form of a book. Except it wasn't a desert, it was a beach, and the sea had retreated far over the horizon.

A tsunami was imminent...

A number of aspiring writers were slowly realising the potential of self-publishing. Lead by the likes of Smashwords and Amazon, the internet was finally developing a viable model to exploit the full potential of the novel, in the same way musicians were already embracing the web as a way of cutting out the middle-men record companies who'd traditionally taken the lion's share of royalties and passed on a few cents to the artist.

Writers now had the ability to not only self-publish their work. Not only that, there were mechanisms in place to market and sell, potentially on a global scale, 24/7. Meanwhile, back on the beach, a distant roar could be heard. Traditional publishers stood looking out to sea, and wondered what that strange sound was.

So now the wave has hit us, swamping the unsuspecting publishers who stood, Canute-like, expecting the water to just rise uncomfortably above their waists. Instead, it simply washed over their heads.

But some were prepared. A few writers had already prepared their raft. They'd anticipated the power of social networking and realised without the luxury of a corporate marketing budget, their success depended on branding. Never mind the story, the sale was as much about the attraction of the author as it was about the written word.

Not everyone has the skill to build their own raft. Luckily a few entrepreneurial types had the foresight to build lifeboats, and so we saw the rise of a huge number of publishers. In many cases this is a misnomer, since they offer little more than the time and technical expertise needed to convert Word documents into files capable of being sold on Amazon. Others will offer editing and critiquing services. Again many of these are not founded in any kind of formal training or acquired skill or learning.

Nevertheless, many inexperienced writers prefer to jump on board the relative comfort and safety of one of these newly-constructed 'lifeboat-publishers'. The kudos of a 'published by' together with an eye-catching logo gives many writers the desired 'warm-fuzzy' feeling of having genuinely been published.

Of course, one of the other benefits is, hopefully, there are also other people on the 'lifeboat'; fellow writers able to support and publicise each other's work.

Meanwhile the traditional publishers frantically try and construct their own lifeboats using the flotsam and jetsam bobbing around in the wake of the biggest tsunami to hit publishing since the printing press.

...and I've not even mentioned pirates yet...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Blog 17 is book purchasing seasonal - like fruit?

Milkshake  has ticked along quietly since mid-October 2011.

In recent months it has sold, on average, one copy each day. This makes it feel like prospective buyers are patiently queuing to log on to Amazon, one-by -one to make their purchase.

Now, as the northern hemisphere summer finally kicks in, it's interesting to see how sales, even of my obscure, low-charting debut novel , have started to pick up.

Helped, no doubt by my publisher; Taylor Street Publishing who have signed 'Milkshake' up for Amazon's Kindle Select program. In return for giving Amazon exclusive ebook rights, they allow a number of promos which see 'Milkshake' offered for free, for a limited time only. This not only allows the opportunity for a free copy (and hundreds have taken up the offer), but also pushes the book up the Amazon chart and closer to the more popular titles. This in turn appears to attract actual sales, once the promo period ends.

So, coming out of a 2-day promo at towards the end of June, the notoriously unreliable, but nevertheless compelling sales estimate website Novelrank, began suggesting sales of more than 1 per day!

In fact, in the last 7 days, Novelrank has estimated sales of 20 copies on Kindle.

So I'm hoping I've caught a wave of people stocking up their e-readers ready for their summer holiday. I've also tweeted and face-booked the fact 'Milkshake' is primarily set in July 2002 -  exactly 10 years ago this month. Readers may enjoy the heightened sense of timeliness by reading it in the next few weeks.

Although I don't yet have the figures for this most recent promo offer, combined with the last, and judging by how 'Milkshake' leaped fairly rapidly up both and Amazon UK, I'm estimating there to be around 2,500 copies out there. This bodes well for people wanting to find out what happens next in the story.

The sequel The Destiny Stone is currently with the publisher, awaiting editing. I'll keep you posted on its progress towards publication.

Finally, two more generous readers have taken the trouble to leave reviews on Amazon. This is, as always, great feedback as well as valuable unsolicited publicity for potential buyers looking for a great summer read!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Blog 16 - Slides Down Easily

After the success of the free Kindle downloads for Milkshake,sales picked up to around 3 per day on both Amazon UK and US. The publisher tried another 48 hour freebie on the last couple of days in May, but, as he predicted ,the uptake was not as high. The downside was, when the book appeared back on Amazon 'for sale' it had lost its ranking and was in the teens on the UK and the hundreds of thousands in America.

The previous experience showed people appeared to be more attracted to titles higher up the chart and there has only been a couple of sales in the last 4 days. The new cover may be a factor, but there are too many other variables to consider as well.

The final draft of the sequel is nearly ready to be sent away and I may get my first royalty cheque in the next week or so from the publisher, for Milkshake. I actually got my first royalty about a month ago thanks to a solitary sale of a hard copy via my local bookshop in Nelson, Page & Blackmore who are great at supporting local authors.