Motion picture, baby

The Quarter Percent ūüĎąūüŹĹ DOWNLOAD BETA VERSION

Blurb A
During thirteen intense days of summer, 2030, profit is territory, and the quarter percent wield influence and prestige to fight for more of it. Behind the screens, a reclusive entrepreneur is rewriting the rules of the game. As the rules change, a former social media influencer struggles to adjust. On the Continent, a popular and charismatic king works covertly to undermine his rivals. His younger daughter takes on an exciting new challenge while his youngest finds herself in his cross-hairs. His oldest daughter is heir apparent. She marshals forces in a bold scheme to burnish her brand. She will do whatever it takes to win.

Thumbnail for the trailer, The Quarter Percent.
Click the image to download the BETA version


Blurb B
It is summer, 2030. Truth is the weapon, and profit is the territory. Behind the screens, Marvin Stone is a wealthy recluse who uses powerful, cutting-edge technology to rewrite the rules of the game. As the rules change, Augustine Santa Clara, a former social media star, struggles to adjust. On the Continent, the popular and charismatic King Cordial of Vale works covertly to undermine his rivals. His youngest daughter, Costmary, is in his cross-hairs. Rue, his older daughter, takes on an exciting new challenge. Gala is the King’s firstborn. When she is named Princess Regent, she forges new ties and unveils her master plan.

Trailer created by Ateeb Khan.

Cover art by Emanuel Malu. Click the image to download the BETA version.

North to South

Illustration by Poelosophy

Indonesian artist, Poelosophy, created some concept art for my novel. There is an exhibit in Dublin, ‚ÄėNorth to South‚Äô, which features aboriginal art from Northern Europe and South America. The exhibit is the setting for a scene entitled ‚ÄėBig Daddy Pharma‚Äô.

Thank you for leaving encouraging words for me when I wrote about the impossible task of getting promotional work done. I’m still processing ideas and will be working on them as I go. Feeling like giving up is part of the journey. But I was amused at suggestions that I should actually toss my project. Hold on a second. I haven’t tried everything yet.

North to South – illustration by Poelosophy

And I am quite sure that if someone were to lend me their celebrity friends and let me slobber all over them in the club, my novel would get downloaded really fast. A Russian woman who pretended to be a German heiress, and stole millions, has deals with Netflix and Shonda Rhimes. Other people, who look different, would be rotting, anonymously, in jail. So let’s be realistic about what’s going on out here.

In the past, I would have been totally destroyed by ‚Äúdelete your book‚ÄĚ remarks. But Fifty Shades fan fiction 365 Days was optioned by Netflix. The film skyrocketed to first place last weekend. It tells the story of a gangster who kidnaps a woman, ties her up, and assaults her for an entire year so she will fall in love with him. Even the people who said they hated it, watched it to the end, and uploaded reviews to their YouTube channels. In other words, the release was a success.

If that film is out there, it means two things. One, thinking in terms of ‚Äėgood writing‚Äô or ‚Äėbad writing‚Äô is unhelpful. Two, the universe now needs to be balanced, so I will be publishing my novel.

Perceived quality is not a metric that can be influenced by hand-wringing. Instead of telling people what they should/shouldn’t like, I should focus on finding (a) people who will read anything, (b) people who like everything they read, (c) people who like to read full-length novels on mobile devices and (d) people who collect ebooks.

The search continues …

Have a great week ahead.

Cara de la Reina

The mural "Cara de la Reina" is featured in my novel, The Quarter Percent. This graffiti style illustration was created for me by Emanuel Malu at Saita Studio.
The mural “Cara de la Reina” is featured in my novel, The Quarter Percent. This graffiti style illustration was created for me by Emanuel Malu at Saita Studio.

As I have discussed before, my amazing book promotion campaign fell flat because everyone I approached wanted me to be a popular author before agreeing to help me promote my book. Gah!

Over the weekend, I decided to beta test the promotion of a promotional copy of my novel, The Quarter Percent. After receiving a copy formatted for Kindle from the book designer, I wanted to see how a free PDF copy would be received by an influencer who has a large audience of avid e-book readers. This person’s audience only wants fiction books that are FREE or which cost $0.99. Perfect for a beta test? Or so I thought.

After three days of discussions, I was floored when this influencer insisted, today, that the book be published to Amazon first. He also asked me, “But how will you benefit from people reading it?” I am confused. Isn’t the point of publishing a novel to have people read it?

In other words, his audience is not interested in books that are cheap or free. They want popular releases for free or at a super discount. Yet, the advice I have received is to give away promotional copies of my novel to generate buzz. That makes no sense, you say? Large film studios deal with this nonsense, too. That is why they leak promotional copies of new releases to torrent sites.

My confusion arises from the fact that official publication on Amazon defeats the purpose of beta testing the novel with readers in different locations, and watching how they respond to it. I need this information so I can know how and where to promote the story. What I don’t want is readers who are not the intended audience to write reviews on the Amazon page complaining that the novel has words and that the themes are ‘difficult’.

I used to joke that I am an alien from outer space. But I am beginning to believe that either I stepped into a wormhole and this is the underverse, or the inhabitants of this planet are insane.

Illustrations

Gala and Cordial of Vale – Illustrations by Victoria Seow

So after literally a week of gymnastics and writing while standing on my head, I’ve managed to format my fiction novel. And rework the timeline after finding out I have physically shredded five key scenes, which I wrote longhand. The novel is completely re-drafted. Edited, done. Not only that, I’ve managed to weave a coherent timeline for all of the scenes. On top of that, the conclusion is tight, the prologue is tight, and the epilogue is tight. I even have a brilliant idea for cover art.

Augustine Santa Clara- Illustration by Victoria Seow

But guess what? The geopolitics is mucked. The Monarchy of Vale (the fictional name of my country) has to be landlocked for the story to work. My protagonist is an absolute monarch of a fictional country that’s needing to negotiate with trade partners, also fictionalised.

My basis for designing the Continent was Europe, with different borders, same cities but different country names. But the m-effing European Union, in real life, it‚Äôs just sat there. It already has a trade bloc and negotiates on behalf of member states. While editing, I realise cannot use the word ‚ÄúEurope‚ÄĚ or euro as currency. I could use a pound but then readers will be confused, thinking I‚Äôm talking about the UK. I am not.

I know I’m overthinking this. I know it’s fiction. But you know how certain types of people are. They immediately start fact checking your fiction. Do you guys remember Pandora? Pandora, my retelling of a doesn’t exist mythological creature entity person. Got Wikipediaded!!!

I know myself. I will trash that thing if someone bothers me.

I might have to situate this entire story on a completely different planet where the sentient beings are octopuses.

Special thanks to Victoria Seow / sunflowerfox for drawing these characters from my novel.

Notes 7/3

Coffee with milk in a dark mug
Image by Nicholas Ng via Unsplash

A few days ago, a post from one of our blogging colleagues, supporting peaceful protest, vapourised just as I posted a response to it. The suppression of speech and shredding of proprietary content is only the beginning of the issues plaguing social media platforms. As Upper Echelon Gamers puts it, ‚ÄúCompanies do not care about you.‚ÄĚ

Many social media users complain about content banned for “reasons” including nebulous and somewhat petty rules violations. Meanwhile, the most vile content continues to be added to those same platforms seemingly without resistance. I once saw a post with an offensive word spelled out on Scrabble tiles. The justification for posting it was wordy. He knew exactly what he was doing and who would be reading. Another subscriber from a different country threatened, from the comfort of his bedsit, to get me ‚Äėdeported‚Äô even though I am a long term resident of a country he has never even visited.

I believe that a platform like WordPress has the resources to hire staff to manually review posts flagged by an algorithm, and warn users about community policy violations. It is lazy to smoke every post that uses the flagged keyword or hashtag of the day. If you have a blog, keyword lists are not enough. People who use speech to denigrate others know how to evade the censors.

Brown paper in envelopes with fountain pen
Image by Ankhesenamunn via Unsplash

I once had a subscriber suggest here, on this blog, that “the races” should shove off to a remote part of the world so she wouldn’t have to live in harmony with us. A mutual write-off won’t make the world a better place. I‚Äôve tried to initiate discussions on the problematic phrasing, virtue signalling and outright opportunism that occurs in times like these. Invariably, my remarks bring out a defensive response. I think the best approach is to keep using our blogs to challenge retrogressive ideas in a non-confrontational way: Art, fiction, reflections, photography, poetry, music and film. The resistance is here on WordPress.

That’s why I’m always beating the drum of engagement. As wonky as it is, this platform enables us to see more of the world. Of course it is risky to reach out and start conversations with people we have never met face-to-face. Sure, it can be a painful undertaking. And yes, it might be a terrible idea but in the exchange, I feel that getting noticed disrupts the status quo of toxic ideologies.

This leaves me with a most important question. How do we get closer to those individuals, to influence them away from divisive and destructive ideas, when the voices of the well-intentioned continue to be suppressed?

ÔľąÔľĺőĹÔľĺÔľČ


Post script: As a side note, it has been five days since my attempts to upgrade this account have been thwarted. Yet, on Dashboard, I see a notice encouraging me to buy a unique domain. That is a machine talking. Not a single peep has been heard from the mysterious Help Desk humans. As far as I am concerned, they have left town.

Sunday at the coffee shop

Some tumblers and reusable cups at a local Starbucks.
The top shelf of my “office”


This afternoon, I had the brilliant idea of attempting to upgrade my account. However, WordPress wouldn’t let me enter my postcode on their PayPal payment page. I switched keyboards twice and used the number pad. They were kind enough to ask why I was cancelling my order.

Why do I keep doing this to myself?

Dessert - strawberry mousse in a glass display case
Designer mousse – I ordered extra whipped cream instead

I see what the matter is with the new block editor. It literally depends on the time of day. At 11.00, 13.00 and 16.00, I couldn’t use the backspace key or CTRL + X to delete images or blocks of text. It’s 19.01 or two hours before this post goes live. Now, I can do all of those things. But the earlier function of accessing arrows on the left side of the block to move text around, has gone.

Social distancing notice in a Starbucks coffee shop.
Table top – a fifteen-minute visit turned into a two-hour battle

At first, I thought the editor was not iPhone friendly, but typing on a desktop is equally frustrating. It’s not that the block editor lacks functionality, it is that the removal of user control means that poorly rendered backend code can really ruin your day. I wanted to switch out the following two photos. It was impossible on my phone. When I got home, I found a tutorial online and was able to do that.

Screen capture of the block settings feature for images.
A “killer” app

Again, the block editor is rubbish on my phone. I uploaded medium-sized images but they were huge when I viewed them on my laptop screen. Searching through the side bar and finding the image resize tool was exhausting. I like to edit HTML because if there are any issues, I can always look at the code and fix it there. I’m not being stubborn. Look at this:

Some html code from the new block editor. Screen capture.
Okay …

Pretty straightforward. But the block editor returned an error message when I tweaked the code. I needed to do this to embed images from the Google Photos app. The app doesn’t give me a .jpg link so I used a different app to create an embed string. I could not embed that into this block editor. My workaround was to upload photos into the media library in WordPress. It will get full fast, so this workaround is not sustainable. Not that I could pay for extra space even if I wanted to.

Have a great Sunday.

My amazing promotional campaign idea crashes and burns

… before it‚Äôs got off the ground. Anyone have a celebrity friend I can borrow?

Still using the new editor. You need lots of Real Estate in order to create a post. I’m on my phone. And no Siri that’s not a capital R and a capital E.

Today, I had a brilliant idea while I was having lunch. I dropped my food and wrote everything down. Then I joined Fiverr. As I’ve referenced in my previous post, I am miserable because I was trying to get going on Twitter when they imposed a new feature that allows a small group of people to select limited accounts from which to receive tweet replies. This limits who can directly engage with a post. It is another way of creating an elitist clique among already popular feeds. That is not fair.

Going off on a tangent here, let me say that I‚Äôm sick and tired of people telling me how amazing social media is for promoting myself. The number of unanswered tweets I have read daily makes me sad. On top of that, Twitter wouldn’t allow me to promote my tweets because my account was too new. I feel that it is impossible to grow through organic engagement.¬†

facebook application icon
Photo from Pexels

I read that on social media, between 4.7% to 5% engagement is good. And anything above 9% is rare. It is a lot of singing and dancing for paltry rewards. Therefore, I thought it would be efficient to use many existing networks to get my project idea out there. I want to meet and correspond with people who like to read books. I don’t know how many people are reading my chapters on this blog and I don’t want to trash my project because I don’t get a lot of feedback in this forum. The plan was to create redundancies by launching as many campaigns as possible and renew them periodically.

Do I continue writing or do I shred my novel? I think it would be a good idea to encourage people to sign up to read it chapter by chapter in chronological sequence. Based on demand or continued mailing list subscriptions, I can decide what to do next.

My plan so far: Readers who are interested in reading an entire book for free will subscribe to a mailing list and receive a new chapter each week. Subsequently, I will ask readers to share testimonials and links to my blog, or write reviews. I estimate it will take several months to a year.

Fiverr has everything I need for my campaign. All of the individuals I contacted are popular and sought after. They advertise shout outs, interviews and advertisements. I was thrilled. I typed out my stump speech, added some bona fides and messaged every one I could find.

Six hours later, almost everyone responded. I got three positive replies. However, most were not willing to do any promotion for a new author. Others needed to read the whole book first.  

This means I may not get my project promoted as widely as I’d like even though it’s a FREE fiction novel. But isn’t that the point of promoting a product via a total influencer roll out?

I agree that name recognition helps. Chanel, Dior, Estée Lauder, Fancl and Shiseido give away skincare and makeup products all the time. They’re still able to sell full-size products for ridiculous prices. I should know because I’m on all of the above birthday mailing lists, and receive free, limited edition products in the post or over the counter. 

Even so, I felt like a start-up skincare company being told by a beauty vlogger that they won‚Äôt even patch test my products because they‚Äôve never heard of my ‚Äúbrand‚ÄĚ. I appreciate everyone‚Äôs honesty and will now proceed to feel sorry for myself.

 

Other images in this post are free from Unsplash.

Letting it go…

an assortment of stationery cans, a few Disney Frozen and Heartful Fairy, colour Greetings from my desk friends.

Some stationery (note paper) with a can do attitude and best wishes for the month ahead. A little bit of support from friends can go a long way.

an assortment of stationery cans, a few Disney Frozen and Heartful Fairy, black and white

Go, Diva!

heart shaped Godiva tins in silver and pink, with grunge filter

You know those days when you go all Cypress Hill and say, “Who you trying to get crazy with ese, don’t you know I’m loco (loco, loco)?”

heart shaped Godiva tins in silver and pink

Four and a half¬†private rants in, I remembered my own advice as well as the wise words of¬†the uber talented writer/director/producer Dagmar Baumunk of Tomorrow Definitely. She said…

noir chocolate; noir shot of inside heart shaped Godiva tin

I put my hands on my ears and go:
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah ūüôā

She’s adorable. Of course, I did exactly that.

silver polished can with Godiva marked on it

While my voice reverberated in my skull, I had a brilliant idea.

chocolate bitten through

I decided to OD on TLC with the choco. My feeling was, “I could talk about you, or I could choose to¬†act like a queen.”

assorted chocolates from Godiva, in vintage noir

Bandaids don’t fix bullet holes (thanks Christopher) but I heard that plugging them with cocoa butter and sugar works like magic.

champagne flavoured chocolate

Ooops. ¬†My eyes are rolling over in my head and I forgot to offer y’all some.

dark vintage chocolate ribbon, Go, Diva!

Hey!

Note: Heavy on the musical references to “Insane in the Brain” by Cypress Hill and “Bad Blood” with Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar.

Caramel popcorn + Almond milk

Monday feels extra ordinarily mundane because I spent most of last week out of town, at an art conference. Today, my hemline has dropped to the usual mid calf length. My knees are warm again, and I need some cheering up.

caramel and almond popcorn, caramel corn and chocolate coated potato chips in almond milk(i) Caramel-almond popcorn

Popcorn is my snack of choice. Since May, I’ve fantasised about photographing¬†a handful of popcorn¬†in a lake of almond milk.

chocolate coated potato chips in almond milk(ii) Chocolate coated potato chips

Which means, these photos were going to happen and how soon was now. The chocolate coated potato chips are to torture for HB.

caramel and almond popcorn, caramel corn and chocolate coated potato chips in almond milk(iii) Caramel corn

Caramel corn is multifunctional. I can chew them or¬†toss them¬†at my iPad if¬†commercials¬†interrupt¬†videos I’m watching on YouTube. YouTube is all about me and not advertisers. Otherwise, they would have called it, “That’s_Super_Annoying_Tube”.

Until next time, enjoy playing with your food.

Tasting the boundaries

 (i) Decorated ceiling.

My palate does not have many boundaries. Like most of you, I love tasting food from around the world. While waiting for my meal, I made a list of obvious boundaries. My first thought was that they protect us. When I noticed the ceiling, I realised I was sitting in the story.

 (ii) Beer translates well across borders.

My friend popped over to say hello. I know that some readers like beer, so I asked for a photo, keeping her face out of frame. Privacy rights are conceptual boundaries that are sometimes crossed when photos are shared. My friend liked this photo and gave me permission to share it.

 (iii) Cheese bibinba in a hot stone bowl.

My meal arrived and I steadied the edge of the heated stone bowl. I mixed the toppings with the brown rice underneath to cook up a taste sensation. You can just see the cheese melting.

 (iv) Stone bowl.

Later, I had some Korean pancake made with mochi rice. The edges were nice and crisp.

 (v) Korean pancake.

I hope you can enjoy some crispy, edgy food this week. Until next time, be well.

Spare some change, Ma’am?

coins from Taiwan and Hong Kong, photographed in a black tote [i] Taiwan and Hong Kong, in homage to the 007 films

Change is tough to do. Photographing mine was certainly more challenging than I expected.

Australian five dollar note with an assortment of coins; featured is the back of a large coin and it is marked Silver Jubilee [ii] Australia and Silver Jubilee

I don’t¬†carry¬†a lot of loose change in the tan wallet.¬†It does not stretch. I know what you’re thinking but my coin purses keep¬†small objects I tend to misplace, like my USB sticks. Rabbit coin purse up ahead.

Three wallets, one tan, one navy blue and one white, lie on a silk cloth, next to an assortment of coins [iii] Notes from Singapore, India and Australia

coin purse, featuring lip balms and two USB sticks and a coin from the Ukraine [iv] Ukraine with rabbit coin purse (from November, 2014)

When traveling overseas, I must make at least one transfer before I reach my destination.

United States coins, assorted [v] United States

Taxi, train and small purchases in each country require cash, so I¬†need different types of currency. They come in handy on subsequent trips.¬†At¬†my favourite transfer, some ‚ā© (won)¬†help me out.

Several Korean won coins, on the back of a receipt, with the message, someone likes you [vi] South Korean won, for a beverage at the Incheon Airport Starbucks

Thai bhat coin, resting on raw gemstones in amethyst and onyx [vii] Thailand, with raw amethyst and onyx purchased there

The woven silk fabric is from Myanmar and below, the tote that started this post.

A note on the back of the black tote reads, thanks for always [viii] Thanks for always being nice to me when I visit your country

Thank you for viewing. Have a fabulous week.

Make a tissue box cover with a handkerchief

This time round, I combine the concept of grids with something¬†practical anyone can try. I have grown to like plaids and check fabrics. Today is Monday and I’ve included a selection of my mundane stuff.

Set of handkerchiefs in check patterns from Burberry, Kitson and Vivienne Westwood, along with other items, photographed outdoors

Below, you will see two tissue covers, three of my favourite handkerchiefs and a mini hand towel. Later, you’ll see a green and white mini tote for a¬†lunch container.

One tissue cover, open

I have a terrible cold and, over the weekend, consumed a whole box of lotion tissues. I cover tissues in two ways. The easier way is to remove the tissues from the boxes and place them inside one of two flat covers.

A large multipurpose wrapping cloth in red and white check, open, with the tissue box on top

The other way is to use a handkerchief or square of cloth to cover the box. It takes less than a minute. This box is oversized, so I used a multipurpose wrapping cloth. I have two in this red and white check. The other one wraps a different lunch container.

Cloth ends are tied up at one end of the box Drop the box in the middle, fold up and adjust as you work.

Knot tied at one end of the boxAlmost done, but I crush down the top ends of the box to give the cloth more room to move. Tie and tuck the ends.

The box is completely wrapped, with the box ends crushed down to make room for the cloth to fit overFinished. That didn’t take long. Remember to crush the box ends if you need more room to work.¬†(Miss Vivienne looks pleased.)

Thank you for viewing. I hope you’ll like¬†covering your tissues.

Bird’s nest

View of street through window from second floor of coffee shop
[i] Nostalgic

People watching from my favourite perch. I wish you a great week ahead, wherever you are.

@__*

View of street through window from second floor of coffee shop toy camera filter
[ii] Toy camera (obscura)

After a  long day of connecting with people, I often decompress before heading home, by connecting with more people. How about that?

I was at work this weekend, so Monday will be my holiday, the same as my American friends. My plan is to sleep off a mild cold with Inside Story (Australia) episodes on autoplay in the background. May you have a restful Labour Day.

Best wishes x SB

Sorry, we’re getting close…Way out?

“If you ever get close to a human,” sang Bj√∂rk, “be ready, be ready to get confused.¬†” (Human Behaviour,¬†Debut,¬†1993).¬†You may have experienced or instigated a “sorry we’re getting close, please show me the way out” situation before.


[i] Sorry, we’re close. Way out?

It¬†happened to me after¬†a game of “SB, please don’t reject me.” I hid¬†clues in plain sight. Soon enough,¬†I noticed¬†the¬†scramble for a way out. But I kept calm¬†and pointed to the door.

You see, my plan all along was to convert the vanishing points into refined sugar.  In the spirit of the game, I first looked longingly at the kiwi fruit panna cotta.

 [ii] Kiwi fruit panna cotta

While trying to make up my mind,¬†I¬†ordered¬†an affogato. If you’ve never tried it, I should warn you, the middle section¬†is a¬†double espresso and will¬†keep you awake¬†for exactly 72 hours. (I have already stopped drinking coffee.)


[iii] Affogato, tiramisu and raspberry/cranberry panna cotta

A cranberry with raspberry panna cotta and tiramisu completed the set. My dessert is gluten free but I did not forget you, my biscuit eating friends.


[iv] Biscuit

That biscuit did not waffle. Please devour slowly with your eyes. The sugar crystals in the dessert salute your excess.


[v] Bon appétit!

Have a yummy xoxoxoxo bonbon time!
x SB