Back on the Ferris wheel

My novel has been released into the wild, and I should be celebrating, but I am back on the Ferris wheel. I finally understand why some writers don’t even try. The book promotion game is not necessarily about self-confidence, diligence, originality, or skill. What happened?

THE QUARTER PERCENT is on Amazon.
FREE downloads through Friday, August 7.
Click that link and find out what the fuss is all about.

Playing with stickers on paper. Cucumber.

Friday, July 31, 06:20. I am on an influencer’s website binge-reading suggested articles. In twelve hours, it will dawn on me that this is an elaborate scheme to drive up page views and create demand for her services.

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Onion.

Only an hour after expressing my confusion with her process, I see two blog posts demonstrating the effectiveness of promoting free books for a limited time. They presented statistics, and graphs, as well as screen captures. My plan should work fine, but the influencer insists that people will never download a free copy of a book unless it has at least ONE five-star review on Amazon.

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Pink.

Keep calm, I get it: readers want to know what to expect, and they want to hear it from another reader. I completely agree. This is why I’m doing the promotion in the first place.

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Orange slice lip.

The influencer now advises me to get on social media and spend literally hundreds of hours tweeting and emailing strangers to ask them to read and review a free copy of my book. This contradicts her assertion that people won’t download my book unless it has reviews already.

Screen capture from my publisher’s desktop monitor. Click the image to grab a free copy from Amazon.

I go back to the first message I sent her. Sure enough, in my pitch, there is a longer description and a link to the trailer. There is also an invitation to download a free copy when the promotion starts. It takes me a full day to realise that “books with five-star reviews on Amazon” was code for “don’t wanna read it.”

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Cucumber eyes.

Her next suggestion is that I pay almost US$900 to an elite online book club in exchange for a single honest review by a team, on their website, a process that could take seven weeks.

I need to get off this Ferris wheel. I am told that I can’t promote my book without reviews, and that I won’t get reviews if I don’t promote my book. I stop reading, and in a panic, compose an email to my publisher.

🌺🧡💚❤️🌺

Paperback format available soon. Big ups to my publisher, StelaEVF, for making this possible. Thank you, everyone, for your support.

Oh my gosh…

Google is doing a terrible job stalking me on my new iPhone SE. Look at the ad they showed me (renting out your property circa death) while I was watching that Nicki Minaj video. Like, what exactly are they trying to imply? The Anaconda music video is at 943 million views, so I know you all saw it.

I don’t want none of this ad, hon

I am preparing to publish my first novel, The Quarter Percent, while working on new projects. Hurricane Nisto is still angry but her story will unfold in a different part of this solar system.

The Quarter Percent pays homage to Greek tragedies and is written in an episodic format with a ‘time-as-protagonist’ feel. I wonder if I should worry that some readers may not understand this even after I have suggested “focus on the timeline” in the two blurbs and the trailer? The story itself is based on William Shakespeare’s play Lear of Britain. We meet King Cordial on a Sunday morning and almost two weeks later, on a Friday morning, … read the novel.

Don’t judge me…

I grew up around famous people and I know that for them, every problem is an image problem. The narrative style of The Quarter Percent is meant to illustrate the superficiality of this world. Quarter percenters are obsessed with what others think, and are doomed to live from one crisis to the next.

My question for you is do I need to create a long blurb for the back cover or should I trust readers to work things out for themselves?

Rinse, repeat …

Collage with postage stamps

So far, the new WordPress editor is driving me bonkers and is about to get slapped upside the head with my pimp hand after trying to stitch me up via Siri. 

Warning! Rant …

I spent the last four days trying to delete my Instagram account, which I started four days ago. Before that, I was forced to shred my Twitter posts, all 202 of them and delete my account. Long story short, Twitter is Babylon.

I have sworn that I would never use Facebook products ever. I had to go back on my word because I’m not able to travel overseas this year. 

Instagram’s software decided that my photos were professional-looking. I was prompted to upgrade to a professional account and pay for advertising. They then said that I needed a Facebook page (so they can mine my data and sell me ads). I declined because I wasn’t going to sell my artwork anyway, and their analytics are irrelevant. I was planning to post photos from my archives to establish some credentials. I wanted other artists to pay attention to me when I engaged with them. Instead, from the fourth post in, my photos started vanishing. Soon after, I was not allowed to react to stories, or comment on more than four consecutive posts. So I said, I’m done. Four days later, after several thwarted attempts, I finally did it.

I was miserable the whole time.

You have to understand, I study programming and machine learning so I know how algorithms work. I don’t believe that their algorithms are even-handed. Machine learning code requires human input and all of that “the algorithm changes constantly” nonsense you see in tech magazines, is shorthand for “our programmers are constantly re-drafting the code so that people who are not buying advertisements will feel compelled to do that”.  

I had zero followers and was getting suppressed. It is a clear sign that Facebook exists to sell advertisements. They don’t cater to anyone who refuses to add to their bottom line. I don’t have access to their servers, so there is nothing I can do to change their policy to help myself.

Please do not ask me about all of the accounts I visited in stealth mode. Oh, I spied on everybody: neighbours all the way to my former teachers, classmates, childhood friends, crushes, crushes’ crushes, uni friends, colleagues. People are so nice when they don’t know it’s me commenting.

One of my cousins, who is a fashion designer, sent me a lovely welcome audio message to thank me for joining her army of fans. In real life, her husband banned her from talking to me because I told my cousin she should not allow her husband to name himself CEO of her multinational fashion brand, which she started on her own. He has no business training, mind you. He claims on his social media accounts that he is naturally better at business because he’s a dude and men are traditionally the provider. It’s a very long story – and you can read about it at that link. 

I woke up on Sunday morning to a face full of the power couple in an Instagram live stream. Their marriage is amazing and perfect and stuff so they were cohosting a marriage counselling session with a very good-looking celebrity singer couple. I had to intervene after a guest complained that her man wasn’t ready to have children. She joked that her friend told her to take a sample of his you-know-what while he was sleeping. I quickly jumped in the chat to say that it was assault and battery. (If I had a partner kinda sorta joke that they would impregnate me in my sleep, there’d be no discussion about it: that would be the very end. Don’t say hi to me, get lost forever).

Of course the power couples ignored me. Because, they don’t have any knowledge about fundamental human rights. And why would they? They’re not really helping anyone, they’re building a brand.

 

Don’t ever change yourself

I finally did it. I finally gave into my deep-seated aversion to non-specific socialising. Blogging on WordPress, I had something to talk about: A photo, a piece of art, poetry, a short story or a reflection. I feel better relating to people in context and not simply blurting thoughts out into the ether.

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

I deleted the Twitter app from my phone. That means I can only access my account from my tablet, my laptop, and every single computer at work. (There are about one hundred of them and I have administrator privileges.)

The thing is, and I know what you’re thinking – that one deletion is not a huge deal – but it’s significant.

What put me over the top was looking at a retrospective from a fashion blog sitting above a post about the World Food Program and other United Nations programs. The juxtaposition feels weird because I’m interested in clothes and I also want to help people.

Another issue that bothers me is that many communities are not being helped by these programs. They are facing food shortages; they don’t have access to clean water or soap. And these wonderful organisations are practically unreachable.  

I know this because I spent every day this month so far trying to reach them. An NPO asked me to help them out of a jam so I did the best I could. I composed emails and PSA copy, brainstormed ideas, edited an entire website’s content, looked up contacts, confirmed contacts, sent direct messages, and tweeted at organisations and individuals. 

One organisation made it very clear that they could help in limited ways, so that’s encouraging. Still waiting for a response. 

I read a PR blurb about another organisation sending food aid to a developing country. They assured me that as long as I contacted their office in country they would be fine. So I asked the NPO to do that. I’m hearing that the NPO can’t raise this organisation on the phone, nor receive any response via email or LinkedIn. 

This evening, I saw a PR blurb from the WFP saying they raised $3 billion to alleviate food shortages in the world. They were so concerned about the plight of displaced families. Does this make any sense? I feel like an alien sometimes – I have no idea what’s happening on this planet. Maybe I’m too naive and it’s time I grew up.

I’ll be spending much of Saturday brainstorming with the NPO about how to get a community with homeless children fed. There is food aid available but the official channels seem completely cut off from the communities that need help the most. And yet, they are somehow able to collect data from those same communities in order to raise funds. When I see all of this ‘Let’s help hungry children’ and ‘Donate now’ on their websites, my heart breaks a little.

Shame-free Romance (PG 16+)

 German Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi doing the tango
Photo courtesy Chigirev

If romance were like sports, winning would be easy. A game has rules and a clear winner. But as Grace Dent elegantly states it, “real love with actual humans can be an arduous task.” That is why, if you’re bashful, like me, you will be appalled by the idea of approaching a person and saying, “Please, like me, please.” It seems pushy and even rude but lots of men and women do this with no fear whatsoever. I wondered if I was missing out.

Over dinner, a friend helpfully suggested that I try to be bouncy. I thought she meant I was to change into a thigh-split dress and hurl myself from a moving car.

 Rebecca Ferguson in Rogue Nation
Photo courtesy Business Insider

I liked the idea, as it is a subtle way of asking to be introduced. Until another friend explained that she meant I should mislead witnesses with a padded bra.

While my friends discussed these details, I recalled three attention-grabbing techniques favoured by women Glampions. I’ve seen these tactics in sports: The Wedge, the Lob and the Shirt Pull. They are 100% shame free.

Wedge | When a woman is talking to a man you want like, wedge yourself into the conversation with a tango style pasada, and body block. Slowly caress his thigh with your thigh, à la Gisela.

 Lonestar Rollergirls, Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Lobbing | Pretend to misunderstand information.  Lob a series of pointed and penetrating statements at your rival’s pride. For example, Fantastic Bachelor says, “Ai, you look lovely this evening.” Ai says, “Sorry I’m late. I stopped for gas.” You respond, “Oh, no! Go home and get over your case of bad gas, that’s happening right now, at this moment. Remember? You mentioned it in la toilette yesterday!” Keep at it until she evaporates.

Caroline Wozniacki at the US Open
Photo courtesy Fansided

Shirt pulling | Pull up your shirt and expose your tummy, on which you’ve scribbled your phone number. This may cause Fantastic Bachelor’s brain to short circuit. If it does, he will text you over and over until he passes out.

 Photo: London 2012 Olympics

All right. I’m not sure I’ll ever be 100% shame free. But the tango looks enticing. It is a contact sport and it has a very dressy uniform.

Wallis

Wallis Simpson photographed with former king Edward on their wedding day. She was a real feminist, unlike some contemporary feminists who pay lip service to the idea, mistakenly thinking that a strong woman is angry. Faux feminists wouldn't recognise an actual feminist if one stomped on them

The Merry Widow looked weary this afternoon. Her minders took note as they unearthed her body from a trough of pink salt. People said she was well-preserved, meaning it as a compliment. They had no idea how literal that was.

Despite the attention on spa Wednesday, she felt hollow. A long walk outside would have helped but her sponsors forbade prolonged exposure to the sun. They shuttered her windows. They gave her books, soft lights and sweet music to keep her subdued.

From the walls of her bedroom, the covers of Life and Time mocked her. “Parasite of international society has zero net worth. Ha ha ha ha ha!” Sponsors fetched her every three weeks or so. They shoved her in front of cameras to promote various agendas. They fed her milk and farm fresh produce. Only enough, and the nurse made sure, to maintain her trim figure. When she was younger, she had been ruthless about looking petite. These days, she always felt a little hungry.

It is possible to succeed and fail miserably at the same time. She was a strong woman with more ambition than decorum. There were two lessons she hadn’t learned. One, do not offend the wrong people, starting with her sister-in-law, Queen Elizabeth. And two, when you reach your endgame, stop. The high profile fling was a ploy for social deference. Instead, she found herself serving the establishment for the rest of her life.

~_~

Photo credit: Duke and Duchess of Windsor on their wedding day, June 3, 1937. “Los Duques de Windsor, un amor que cambió el rumbo de la historia,” via Hola magazine

Corona

Pink edit - Popsicle
Berry Soda

Acrylic and moulding paste on
A4 illustration board (processed)

Orange edit - Orange silk
Orange Silk

This is a practice painting I’ve been playing with since early March. It started as an orange stigma and petals in shades of green, on green illustration board. Later, I painted over it in light rose and oxide black. And finally, in deeper shades of rose.

Two versions of the painting were photographed on magazine pages. Below is the light rose edit I’m using as wallpaper for my phone.

iPhone screensaver edit - on magazine pages, a model is wearing a spiky Game of Thrones style tiara and necklace.
Corona – The Same Face

Outtakes: The collage below shows the edits that nearly made it to the main presentation. This time, I really couldn’t make up my mind. The final deep pink version appears in this one.

Collage of alternate edits
Collage with texture details

Corona - Banner with inverted text, by SB

As always, I wish you a lovely day. Thank you so much for viewing.

Magazine photos – Maggie Jablonski by Elena Rendina for Numero, Tokyo, “Be Gorgeous”, vol 91, November, 2015. 

Coffee + Heart

Melbourne – Monday, June 13 – 08.08

GUEST POST

Reflection and photos by Machine.Gun.Meow (mGm)
Facebook: Machine Gun Meow Twitter: @MachineGunMeow
Instagram: @machingunmeow

Growing up in Nairobi, as a girl of Indian heritage, diversity has shaped my worldview. I have been in a nostalgic mood of late and, given recent tragic events, SB asked me to share my morning reflection with you.

While watching The Revenant last night, I noticed the treatment of the Native Americans in the film. I said to Mr. Meow that it is unfathomable that we, as a human race, seek to hate others based on differences.

Filtered

We could go to land’s end and the hate would find us because there is always something that distinguishes one person from the other. What is more unbelievable is that the situation has changed little in the two hundred years since the film’s setting. Simply put, the hate stems from a sense of righteousness or superiority, whether you blame it on religion, ‘science’, politics or custom. I feel we must find a higher order of being instead of looking for problems where none exist.

Mixed bowl

At the moment, I am writing a fantasy fiction novel. In it, I explore the idea of diversity. The questions I contemplate are, “What is the alternative to diversity? Is it uniformity or conformity?” I wonder, is that the kind of world we want? Are we better off being cookie-cutter images of each other? Is that what would encourage acceptance?

Reflection

If the defilers of diversity were confronted with the alternatives, would they reconsider their position? This is wishful. I concede I have no solutions.

 

“Be nice, for everyone that you meet is fighting a harder battle” – Anita Roddick

yellow, cotton Body Shop pouch for hand cream, iPhone and other accessories

This is my iPhone pouch. I washed it recently but I lost it again and don’t know where it is. It has space for lip balm, hand cream and a silk rabbit that a very nice person made for me. Being nice is easy when everyone plays by the rules. The quote helps me pull it together on days when I need constant reminding:

“Be nice, for everyone that you meet is fighting a harder battle.”

(Anita Roddick, Founder of The Body Shop)

Did you know that you are easily influenced by the people you dislike? When you despise someone, you become emotionally attached to them. Without realising it, you start competing with that person. You try to be better. To prove that … (something or other). But your detractors created the rules and before you know it, you’re playing their game. So, no matter what you do, you are being influenced by that person.

Olivier Rousteing, head designer at Balmain, once said, “I love my haters!” When you admire something about someone, you remain inspired and grounded in your own space. That is why I remind myself to be nice, every day.

Darling Poacherette…

image
Text printed magazine pages cut out to create a collage like the one linked.

Darling Poacherette

Alas, and did my neighbours bleed
to witness thy wonky third act
rewarded with divine blessings
from that Philistine Hack.

What generous praise hast
thy bland theft wrought,
dear poaching one!

I was rudely interrupted by a messaging app
while dancing in a Polish nightclub.
“Indeed, there is something rotten,”
agreed my dates from Denmark.

They queried: “Will these purloined rhymes
bring the boys to her yard?”

My thoughts fluctuated. Yes? No! Maybe so…

I hope you’ll recover from
that leg thing, soon, my young friend.

William Shakespeare

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 🙂

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.

Foggy ones, near Lonavala

train track, curved, photographed from moving train

Hello everyone, I invited Trablogger of Pho|Trablogger, in couch surfing tradition, to guest post excerpts of a photo essay of his journey, by train, from Bangalore to Mumbai.  You can find the full story, with lots of people watching photos, on his blog, Pho|Trablogger.

 

track2, the side of the train, traveling around a curveThe foggy ones were captured near Lonavala.

 

track3, dense white fog is seen to the left side of the photo, green shrubbery is on the groundIt was such a beautiful morning for anyone to start a journey.

 

track4, the side of the train, traveling around a curve, a green sign is seen in the bushes opposite the trainThings were happening quite normally all around and I started my S10 journey that morning. But I got bored of doing nothing.

 

track5, dense white fog is seen to the left side of the photo, green shrubbery is on the ground and a triangular sign with 30 is on the ground
While others had gadgets, I had my camera and I started observing people.

 

track6, a man in a pink shirt is leaning out of the train and taking a photo; the train has stopped and is taking on new passengersI found interesting things to capture. I found legs all around in that crowd. But no one cared about them.

 

track7, the train is travelling around a bend and you can see a brick pavement
Then someone said ‘check out hands too’ and I saw one untangling something.

 

track8, lush greenery is seen opposite the train, from the side, the sign, S10 is seen

Out of these contrasts, within a small space, someone said, “everything is going to be alright.”

 

track9, some bush is seen opposite the train, from the sideWith that assurance, my S10 journey continued through the beautiful and surreal landscapes of India…

 

track10, lush greenery is seen opposite the train, from the side, the sign, S10 is seen…with lush greenery all around.

 

+(*._.~) [>>> …

Foggy ones, near Lonavala x Trablogger
“Let’s go for a photo walk”
Trablogger is on Twitter @jiths and Instagram @trablog
Photographs copyright Trablogger. All Rights Reserved.

Hunter/Tyrant: A bedtime story

Rapturous applause struck my ears like thunder. The hunter/tyrant drank it up like a greedy crone feasting on the soup of her lover’s bones. She was all, “come hither”. She had not done any work, but there she was, rebranding herself as an artista. As I went to challenge her, she tousled her hair. She let the strap of her camisole drip lazily off her right shoulder. In that wilfully helpless way, she contrived to divest every man of self-doubt.

Black and white GIF of a woman, removing her top

I wanted to denounce the pantomime but you should have seen the men. One handsome youth in his fifties raced away from a tequila sunrise. His younger buddy abandoned an espresso on a wet, wooden deck. A third party smacked his face on a utility room shelf while sneakily texting her in the dark.

Tom Hiddleston hugging Viggo Mortensen, in Return of the King

Eyeing a Sharpie in my purse, I thought about defacing the screen of her android device. Something like, “Sit down, xoxo. You are a fraud.”

 

<+__~?
Hunter/Tyrant: A bedtime story
x SB

GIF image credits:
“Faust Murnau damsel in distress”
courtesy Ensalada de lengua de pajaritos via Tumblr;
“Tom Hiddleston in Return of the King”
courtesy Sherlockspeare via Tumblr.

Faux pas

If Kublai Khan were to see my hair today (92% humidity), he would mistake me for a cave dweller. Do not be misled, Kublai. I am a vain, stuck up precisionist who was raised by a Debrett’s handbook.

I once torpedoed plans to fund a small wedding party for a recently married colleague. I objected because he invited part-time staff to his wedding. However, he snubbed full-time, worked-to-the-bone six-days-a-week staff. He did not follow protocol and inform his boss. He kept it a secret from the persons who covered for him when he skipped work.

The Monday following nuptials by the lake, the Photo Album was flopped on my desk. As I thumbed through it, there was a faux smile on my face. But he still hadn’t told me he was now married, so I did not congratulate him.

Victoria Beckham. I have two versions of that dress in grey.
Photo credit: Pop Sugar.

Snobs resemble prudes to a degree. But prudes are predictable and rigid across the board. You already know what they’ll disapprove of. To succeed as a snob, however, you need to have double standards and these must fluctuate unpredictably.

For example…

Thanks to Marc Jacobs’ final rule-bending antics at Louis Vuitton, I now have a collection of dresses that could pass for nightgowns or underwear. I have also been outdoors looking like this:

 Alexander McQueen Photo credit: Vanity Fair, Italy.

Ask my wine club. And yes, it is appropriate for male guests to remove their clothing after a few glasses of Riesling. I won a pair of neon pink lace briefs in the raffle at the last gathering. The morning after, my inbox was flooded with requests to see me wearing them. That was everyone’s way of thanking me for a fun evening out.

Now, does this view pop your tart?


A facsimile of mornings in my office. Nail polish is banned, but this goes unnoticed. 

Photo credit: Star FM, Australia.

Because I’m a snob and have double standards, that does not pass. Not at 08:13 in the morning, when my eyes have just started to focus.

Hitmen

Abyss Brain
This meeting will now convene. First on the hit list is Mrs McLeod. Rob?

Rob
Thank you. The request to cancel Mrs McLeod came to my attention from a neighbour who is allergic to E. She complained about Mrs McLeod’s cello playing after 21 o’clock on week nights.

Abyss Brain
Questions?

HB
May I? What are the decibel measurements of each practice session?

Rob
Thank you for these questions, H. Well, the neighbour said the sound of E flat on the cello was annoying.

Jarrod C
Pardon me. For section D-17 of the Cancel Request Form, the distance travelled must not exceed 40 km from base. Google Maps says your home base is exactly 41.2 km away from the target. Also, you did not clearly describe your disposal method at C-5 or equipment at C-8 on the form.

Rob
Yahoo Maps disagrees by 3 km. And “throw her under the bus” seems clear to me.

Abyss Brain
Keep calm and let’s vote, please. All in favour of cancelling Mrs McLeod … 1, 2, 3… All against … 4, 5, 6… Abstaining… 7, 8, 9… We’re in a standoff.

Matt
May I? We should have a playoff. Mrs McLeod versus one of us?

Abyss Brain
Ruth Ann, you abstained. You’re up. Rob? You and V Publica will pick up the target 13 hours prior to the recital.

Rob
Not a problem. I have a pair of sequin shorts that will stun her.

Abyss Brain
All in favour…  Unanimous. Good. We reconvene in 14 hours. Now, let us move on to the next target.

++

Practice session, a few hours later

Bach Prelude from Suite I
Performed by Ruth Ann Scanzillo