Tuesday, April 25, 2017

To Kindle Direct Or Not To Kindle Direct

There's a fantastic kindle authors contest going on - kindle storyteller 2017 - and you can enter it any time up to May 19th. All you have to do is

  • release a book on kindle - at least 5,000 words and no less than 24 pages in print; all your own work; not violating any laws etc - 
  • create a print version - easy using the new kindle beta print, which looks almost the same as Createspace but without distribution to other vendors, 
  • make sure you use the right keywords (simple to cut and paste) and
  • enroll your book in kindle direct.

All of which should be really trivial if you happen to have a novella lying around almost completed on your computer. I had three, and I had wonderful friends encouraging me to try. So I published them all.

  • Obey the first rule - easy; 
  • obey the second - fine and a perfect chance to try out that kindle print - I LOVE the covers! (Not sure I like the fact that you have to pay full price to buy YOUR OWN BOOK, but they say they'll fix that when it's out of beta - DO NOT MOVE YOUR CREATESPACE BOOKS TO KINDLE BETA YET!!!)
  • obey the third - no problem
  • and then I forgot the fourth.

Somehow I'd neglected to check that creating a book on kdp is not the same as enrolling in kindle direct. So I followed the links, read the fine print, and panicked.

The question isn't so much should I enroll those three small books I'm so proud of in kindle direct. It's do I dare take the risk.
  • Do I know for absolute sure that no one will find more than 10% of one of the stories cached on, say, the now-defunct gather.com website, or on our (password protected) writers' group site, or in separate chapters posted as separate stories on one of my blogs, or ...? If I don't, I risk breaking the rules by enrolling in Kindle Direct. And if I break the rules, I risk Amazon closing my kindle account, which would remove a whole slew of non-kindle direct books. 
  • But that's not the only risk. What if someone accuses me of plagiarism? I won't know who accused me. I won't be guilty (I know that for sure). But how will I defend myself? - I have a friend whose kindle book was removed because of a false accusation; all his emailed proofs of innocence seem to be read and ignored by robots, not by real people who might understand. Do I want to take that risk? 
  • Then there's the fake downloads risk. Various authors have suffered this one, with strangers blighting their books by masses of downloads in a single day, resulting in Amazon deducing they've gamed the borrowers system and removing the book.

The more I look at it, the more I'm almost afraid to even publish. But for sure I'm scared of Kindle Direct, so I'll skip the contest (I wasn't going to win it anyway), ease my stress, and just enjoy the fact that it did inspire me to release:

Enjoy!

What's In A Mystery?

I read a book called "The Mystery Tomb" recently. Can you guess, it was a mystery? Characters had mysterious backstories. Locations revealed unexpected treasures. Desire and intention collided while truth slipped and slid, awaiting the final reveal. Mystery for sure. "Deadly Spirits" is a mystery driven by a wonderfully human narrator whose favorite spirits come in bottles, but whose life revolves around mysterious deaths. "Raining Men and Corpses"? has to be mystery and humor for sure. Meanwhile "Dead Shot" is a more juvenile mystery-adventure with deeply serious themes.

Then there's "Girl With All The Gifts." But it's that horror isn't it? Except it's also a mystery, filled with the question of how, why or what she is, and how, why or what she might hold as the clue to the future. A mystery that doesn't  resolve all it's clues, Gifts proves all the better perhaps for not doing so, and lingers in the mind. Does that make sense?

"Enemies of the Batsu" doesn't answer all its questions either, in this case because it's part of a series. Never quite revealing what created this futuristic Japanese culture, it drives another forward arc in the direction of finding out.

"Fever Tree" is literary mystery, starting with the curious question of who its protagonist might be, then wending its way to why he is there and where his path will lead. "The Coyote Hunter of Aquidneck Island" offers one mystery to its characters and a completely different one to intrigue the protagonist and reader--definitely literary mystery too.

But what's in a mystery.

The ones I loved most of the books above had great protagonists--flawed, but serious and caring; not too sure of themselves, so I might like them more than they like themselves. Their mysteries range from twistedly complex to simple human nature, but they're neither trivially resolved nor teasingly hidden away. I guess I might look for an honesty in the story that lets me believe it's worth my while trying to work things out as I read. And I like great locations too--as in locations sufficiently described as to seem real and great, not necessarily ones I'd want to visit.

My question, of course--as I contemplate writing mystery and decide I'm probably not good enough--is what's in a mystery for other readers? Why makes you choose one mystery over another, one mystery author, or one type of mystery?

I hope you'll find yourself a coffee as you follow the links above to my reviews on Goodreads:

  1. Mystery Tomb will be best with some complex four-star coffee.
  2. Deadly Spirits deserves a well-balanced, smooth, full-flavored three-star blend
  3. Raining Men and Corpses will go well with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.
  4. Dead Shot needs a mild crisp one-star cup
  5. Girl with All the Gifts needs some rich dark five-star coffee
  6. Enemies of the Batsu probably merits a strong dark five-star drink too
  7. Fever Tree should be read with some elegant, complex four-star coffee
  8. As should the Coyote Hunter of Aquidneck Island.
Enjoy.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Are the Genders Equal in Childrens Books?

Today I'm delighted to welcome  Sonia Panigrahythe author of Nina the Neighborhood Ninja to my site. (Click on the link for my review, or find it on Amazon here). Lots of picture book and storybook heroes are boys, so it's nice to read this one with valiant Nina as the protagonist. And it's great to read how Sonia feels about those children's characters.

Gender Equality in Children’s Books, by Sonia Panigrahy


Over the past decade, I grew into the role of an aunt to my network of friends and family with children. Having been a book worm as a child, I was excited to share the love of reading with them, opening a new world of imagination and knowledge. We often say that a child’s brain is like a sponge and books are a wonderful way to help them absorb life’s lessons.

The books society produces reflects the lessons of what our society chooses to teach its members, including its youngest members. Progressive societies see education as a social equalizer, as noted by educational reformer, Horace Mann. However, browsing through the colorful spines of children’s bookstores, I found that the books on the shelves were perpetuating social inequality. I continually noticed that it was much easier to find empowering books for boys than for girls. There were plenty of adventurous male characters to choose from, but when I searched for similar stories for young girls, I found the selection dismal. It was heart-breaking knowing how empowering books can be for children, but realizing for girls, many books were doing just the opposite.

Plenty of children’s books, read by our society’s members with the most expansive, impressionable, and open minds, are in fact subtly telling little girls how to and not to behave. The girls I know are adventurous in the same way boys are. Yet, the children’s books available to them, while many portraying girls as smart, they will not put a girl as the lead strong character. What is it that our society is teaching our children by allowing children’s book to foster inequitable gender roles that don’t allow our girls to be both smart and strong?

We continue to lack enough books that allow all children to find universal and valued themes of confidence, curiosity, braveness, creativity, strength, intelligence, kindness, compassion, generosity, and resilience. Storylines are not representative of girls as they are, but rather, what they are told to be. Our literary orbit continues to revolve heavily around boy’s needs, but this needs to change. If the books that are published are about appealing to a mass market, then appeal more to the 51% of the U.S. population-- females. Girls need to have a place in the literary orbit, and that includes also being at the center of the superhero narrative. Children need to see themselves in books—it validates their value in society.

This inequitable portrayal of females in narratives detrimental to girls, but it is harmful for young boys to be taught and then reinforce narrow, limiting stereotypes. It was with this sense of inequity for young girls and boys that I decided to write my book, “Nina the Neighborhood Ninja.” It features a young girl of color named Nina, about 5 years old, who is the brave superhero courageously leading the way using her brains and strength to creatively and kindly rescue those in need. Just like most of the girls I know.

Thank you so much, Sonia, for writing the book, and for bringing the problem to our minds. You've got me thinking I really should try again to get my Hemlock stories published  -  their strongest protagonist is a girl, and she rescues the boys ... well, except for the ones who are teasing her. She makes them think they're frogs.

About The Author:

Author Sonia Panigrahy is a public health professional, world traveler, adventure seeker, and fitness enthusiast. She believes that life is too short to be bored! 
Nina the Neighborhood Ninja was created out of Sonia's lifelong love of reading. As her family and friends begin to have children, she looked forward to sharing this love with them. She believes that books are a powerful way to empower impressionable young minds. 
Sonia was surprised that she could not find books for girls ages 3-6 years that realistically identified females as intelligent, physically tough, brave, and adventurous. She was disappointed that girls continue to be excluded from the heart of the superhero story. 
After unsuccessful attempts to find a young girl superhero protagonist on the pages of a book, especially one of color, she gave up. Then she created her own. 

Follow Sonia on her Facebook Author PageTwitter @SoniaPanigrahy, and on Instagram



Sunday, April 9, 2017

Who do kids learn their lessons from?

Who do kids learn their lessons from? The obvious answer is from teachers at school. Perhaps from parents at home. But what about from teddy bears, dogs, birds or snakes? If they're reading books, they might learn lessons from all of these. And if they read the first book in my list below, the parents just might learn the odd lesson too. So from where or what did you learn your most important lessons?

Creature Comforts, the extraordinary life of Cassandra Jones, by Tamara Hart Heiner is the first in a series of novels for pre-teen girls, centering on the adventures of a very ordinary ten-year-old. She's a fairly observant 10-year-old, and parents would be wise to learn that their disagreements and distractions are easily visible to their kids. I'd like to have seen more resolution to the tale, but it looks like a good series with a very convincing character and voice. Enjoy with some two-star easy-drinking coffee.

Talon 2 On The Wing by Gigi Sedlmayer offers life lessons from a condor, and gentle wisdom from parents and friends. The tiny protagonist has a growth problem, but she learns to fly on her favorite bird - a really enjoyable way to make her handicap an advantage. The story touches on discrimination and loss, and doesn't sugar-coat its pill. But it soars with the birds and offers plenty of wisdom. Enjoy this modern story with an old-fashioned feel while drinking a balanced full-flavored three-star coffee.

Then there's the dog, Shadow. Lessons from Shadow by Shadow/Wally Bregman is a short large book, easy for children to hold while parents or grandparents read. The stories are told from the dog's point of view and include lessons on how to cope with bullying, how not to run away from home, and how to deal with loss. It's nicely presented, simply and briefly illustrated, and the sort of book parents and children will enjoy together - perhaps with a two-star easy-drinking coffee for the adult.

A teddy bear offers counting lessons in 12 Days at the Beach with Theodore – learn to count – by Ashlee and Trent Harding. It's short (12 days long) and fun. Each day has a two-line rhyming story, a counting puzzle, and a fullpage illustration telling the tale. Children will love to "read" the pictures, moving on to counting in answer to the questions, and then maybe counting even more (how many legs on a starfish perhaps). The colors are bright. The illustrations are simple and clear. The lessons are well-drawn. And it's a really neat book, to enjoy with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.

As to where the snake is, you might have to read the books to find out, or guess from what these reviews don't say. That's your puzzle perhaps.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Different Genres, Different Names?

Some authors change their names when they write in different genres. Some change their publishers. Some publishers have subgroups for different genres. And some just ... publish ... write ... go for it.

I think I was trying to be "organized" when I "went for it" and tried to get different publishers for each of my genres. I didn't want to change my name - it's mine! But I didn't want to confuse readers, so I sent my children's Bible stories to a Christian Publisher, Cape Arago Press (actually, they asked me for them, which still fills me with hope). My contemporary novels went to a literary publisher, Stonegarden.net, who closed down. Then they went to a contemporary publisher, Second Wind Publishing, who slowed down. Now they're with another contemporary publisher, Indigo Sea, and I'm wondering if book 3 will ever be released. Meanwhile my speculative fiction went to Gypsy Shadow, who "released" me for lack of sales. Then they ... well, then they went to Indigo Sea which would kind of negate the one genre, one publisher idea, except IS doesn't seem to be in a hurry to release them. Meanwhile my children's stories are with Linkville Press which .., well ... doesn't just publish children's fiction. In fact, they might be better know for more adultly scary stuff such as ...

Purify My Heart by Ruthie Madison pits Christian, Wiccan and evil against each other, offering seductive temptation to a newly Christian woman whose husband is away at war. Lots of wise lessons, lots of backstory; coincidences that aren't all engineered by God, and wise advise lurks in the shadows. It's a slow read but interesting. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee.

Maya Initiate 39 by Mr Ben involves another young woman seduced by evil forces. Never quite resolving the issues it raised, the novel takes a teenager through to adulthood, and offers readers the hope of redemption despite bad choices. Read this dark tale with some more dark five-star coffee.

Then there's Psychotic State the Novel by William Pattison, currently out of print. This ones definitely a dark dark five-star coffee book, with gratuitous violence, complex backstory, and a mix or horror, don't bully, and don't go off your meds themes that never quite gels.

I'm not sure how my innocent puppies and kittens fit with these, but Linkville Press deserves to be known for a broad spectrum of different books, from the curious fantasy of Torii, to the deeply relevant real-world issues of Etched in History, and from crime-drama Jack Stenhouse mystery to sweet animal mysteries (mine) in Tails of Mystery.

Perhaps a publisher that publishes many genres has a better chance of making sales and staying afloat than one that covers few. But what about the writer? Should I have stuck to one name, stuck to genre, or just stuck to being me?


Friday, April 7, 2017

What's In A Title?

I got a book in the mail the other day. It's title was "This Book Needs A Title." I read a poem in the poem with the same title. And I pondered, what's a title there for anyway.

The author has now produced TBNAT 2. Meanwhile I struggle to write, struggle to get my publishers to release anything, and struggle to catch up with book reviews. The writing's fun - it's just a pain being squished into an ever-shrinking corner of an ever-more-cluttered bedroom when I HATE CLUTTER! (Pause while I dream of dry redecorated basement, maybe by Christmas if I'm lucky, but hey, I'm pretty lucky to even have a basement. Why am I complaining?) Pushing publishers to publish is less fun - my publishers tend to have babies, get sick, get overwhelmed, and even close their doors - please don't close your doors, PRETTY PLEASE! But the book reviewing is always fun and doesn't tie me to that cluttered bedroom. If it's a real book (the sort that can come in the mail) I can even read and review it when the power's out. (Yeah, the power's enjoying one of its it-a-bit, out-a-bit days and the wind's driving me crazy.)

But what's in a title? I posted a picture of spooky trees and someone said I should use it as a book cover - for the Hemlock novels perhaps? But they don't have a title or a publisher, never have had, probably never will. And besides, I need to work on rewriting them. Hemlock's not a bad title on its own though, is it? At least, not when paired with spooky trees (some of which happen to be hemlocks, but hemlock trees aren't the same as hemlock's poisonous plants ...  it's still a cool picture).


Does a title have to be paired with a matching cover? This Book Needs A Title has a cool, plain, white cover with clear black text. It fits the title perfectly. Is The Bible Good For Women (the next book in the list of reviews below) has a serious brown-shaded cover with thick book-ends, and the Bible's a thick book.It conveys serious and organised (did I mention, I HATE CLUTTER), and the words are clear and bright, so maybe it works. Certainly the title is one that would catch a Christian woman's eye, and that's the idea.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple is another book for women (and I hope today will be different!). The title's certainly catchy. The gray cover with everywoman hiding her face. That's catchy. That's me. I had to read this book! Then there's Movie Trivia Madness, a title that catches my husband's eye since he loves movie trivia. He's not read the book yet, and he'll probably just get his trivia from the internet. The cover's black and bright, has a movie reel (from a distance it reminded me of a skull, perhaps not the intent), and it includes popcorn, soda and movie tickets. I think the title would attract me first, before I look at the cover.

Anyway, you can follow the links below for the covers and reviews, and find yourself a coffee to enjoy while reading:

This Book Needs A Title by Theodore Ficklestein is a freeverse, enticing and easily read poetry book. Frequently stream-of-consciousness, by turns humorous, thought-provoking, memorable or silly, it's a surprisingly enjoyable read and I'd happily pick up book 2. Find some bright, lively 2-star coffee to enjoy with it.

Is the Bible Good for Women by Wendy Alsup is a kind of whole-Bible study, looking at the fate and redemption of women from Old Testament times to New. Insights from contemporary culture turn OT tragedies into surprisingly empowering stories, and I just wished the NT applications had been viewed the same way. That said, it's a really good read, and has great reader-questions at the end for small groups to share. Enjoy this one with an elegant, complex, thought-provoking 4-star coffee.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple is another book for women, fitting a lifetime of memories into a very ordinary day that turns out very different. The protagonist (most frequent narrator) is a fairly everyday mom, struggling with life, kid and spouse. There are interlocking mysteries - strange kid, absent spouse, imaginary sisters perhaps - and interlocking "stories" told in pictures, poetry, even a book within the book. It's intriguingly different and it works. Enjoy with some seriously complex 4-star coffee!

Then, for the man in my life, there's Movie Trivia Madness by Bill O’Neill and Steve Murray. It's got lots of movie trivia.  And it's surprisingly entertaining simply as a mad, fun read. Enjoy with some bright easy-drinking 2-star coffee.

So what do you think. Do titles matter as much as covers, more than covers, or not much anyway?