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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.

North to South

Illustration by Poelosophy

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

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 “delete your book” 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 ‘good writing’ or ‘bad writing’ 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.

A tale in the crypt

Gala meets Velour’s First Minister

Jennifer Horn has done a fantastic job again creating this storyboard for a key scene for my novel, The Quarter Percent.

In the first scene of the final chapter, Gala and the First Minister of Velour are in the crypt of Ruby Palace. On screen is a replay of the ‘fall of the house of Moss’. At a prestigious awards ceremony, in front of the crowned heads of the Continent, Mrs. Moss spills the dirt on the Continent’s aristocrats. Gala explains that it is her system of interpersonal sabotage.

Morse coded message I created online

In the epilogue, one of the characters receives an invitation card on his breakfast tray. The card is written in Morse. He presses it to the screen of his tablet to translate the message.

(^ω^)


Have a happy week ahead, everyone.

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, “Companies do not care about you.”

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 ‘deported’ 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’ve 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?

(^ν^)


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.

Minimal Lines

Minimal Lines - abstract charcoal lines in loops and stripes on smooth illustration board
Minimal Lines

Charcoal on illustration board (smooth – B4); processed

Keeping it simple. Not that my closets (nicknamed “Game of Throwns”) would agree, but I really am a minimalist at heart. The residue is from charcoal.

Have a great week ahead.

Madame Editrix,

Madame Editrix
Metallic paint and ornate rubber stamp on cardboard. Processed with handwritten font overlay.

Story
William Shakespeare’s manuscript for Romeo and Juliet has been scorned by an editor. To redeem himself, he stages the play for the Queen.

Script
Alas, and did my nostrils flare, to see a note; thine own words here:

“What strop is this? I ask, forsooth. This Romeo ballad’s not hooked. Thy fellow bards might pardon this. But “hit” for me, dear Bill, not ’tis.”

Her Majesty will be today, with noble court, to watch my play. What, and she’ll ask, lit fire in me? Please rest assured, I shall blame thee.

+_~

 

Poppet

Russian rod puppet
Poppet

Russian rod puppet propped in a corner, by a window. She was eight feet tall and I couldn’t resist her juicy lips. Wishing you an autumn filled with spectacular views.

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. 

Antique Moss Green

paper plate with green wall paint
Antique Moss Green

Ordinary, exterior wall paint (yellow in green) drying out in a paper dish, on a sheet of newspaper. The result of a demonstration that wall paint doesn’t blend like artists’ colours.

Think

Think – Grey

Poster colours and masking tape on 120 mm x 100 mm notebook cover.

Poster colours over assorted masking tape with green filter
Think – Green

 

masking tape
Masking tape

Today, I wanted to play with watercolours and masking tape. I tried something complicated with art and poetry (the inked portions) on Sunday afternoon but messed it up. After hearing encouraging remarks from a friend, I taped another layer and splashed out on a new idea.

Setup – before painting

 

Think – Raw (unprocessed)

Keep it simple if/where you can.

No Forks Given

aluminum cans
Varnished aluminum cans …

A head dressed up
… dressed up a head

Can I have a witness? Two hours after swearing on a stack of fifty imaginary Bibles that I would never, ever, ever publish anything from my archives, I found myself wedged in a situation.

Hiatus
Hiatus

Wired
Lomo wired

newspaper roses
Newspaper roses

Summer, 2009 – A friend and I thought, “Let’s, like, totally deface a mannequin as an homage to Alexander McQueen (memba that headdress?) and Junya Watanabe (Comme des Garçons).” Yeah, sure, she had some at home, so we borrowed one. Ow!

Netted
Netted

Defaced
Defaced

red tab
Red tab

Instead of using plastic to wrap the soda cans, as in the McQueen Horn of Plenty Autumn 2009 show, we used 110 denier tights, glue and wire. Nail polish went on the lips, can motifs and Hangul lettering. The barcode was inked with permanent marker.

Forked over
Silver painted forks

My friend was really into Korean pop music and the Hangul script was hers. I have removed the forks because I don’t remember why we added them.

The heart can
Heart can wire

They are tucked away in a basket on a nearby shelf. But please don’t get any ideas. I’m not giving away any of my forks.

No Forks Given
Modern art, these days

Thank you for viewing. xo

Buccaneer

Dutch replica of warship
Buccaneer

closeup of port side bow
Ghost Ship

Replica of Dutch built warship
Docked

These photographs were taken on Thursday and Friday (May 19/20), in a small port town, where I attended an art conference. May is the month in which I return home to do laundry and repack my luggage. I hope it’s been a good month for you.

cave, nuanced
Treasure Cave

wooden peg, close up
Pegged

wooden peg, monochrome treatment
Posted

Dutch replica, portside, medium closeup
Ship, Port Side

Wood Love

An open sack of charcoal; the opening is in the shape of a heart
Charcoal Heart

strips of wood, interlaced
Stripes

Captured in a forest reserve. The torches below were for our evening bonfire. The chopped wood for the bonfire is shown in the second to last photo.

In other news, I managed to make curry, over a coal fire, for ten hungry colleagues. No idea what I was doing and there was lots of improvising. So, it felt like an episode of MacGyver. The ingredients (curry powder, streaky bacon, potatoes, carrots and onions) were already prepped by the research facility that hosted us. Everyone was nervous about the potatoes but I Gordon Ramsayed them and they came out just right.

Torches for a campfire on the ground
Torches

Logs on a log shelf processed in black and white
Shelved

wood for a fire, in an iron grill
Wood Burn

Thank you for viewing.

Tea + Poetry

Earl Grey

Notes had been sent asking after my whereabouts. I hadn’t indulged in my favoured Earl Grey, tiramisu and panna cotta combo for months. This is my day off, so I presented myself at my friends’ patisserie just after 11.00 (dessert before breakfast, people) and got to work. Eating, that is.

Orange panna cotta

As for play time, this is what I got up to. Special thanks go to Egbert Starr for permission to work on this composition using excerpts from his brilliant prose poem, The Gallows’ Horse. Please visit his blog to read the full version.

open magazine pages with tiramisu and orange panna cotta

Featured magazine – Numéro, Tokyo, April, 2016. Vol 95: Perfume ads; “Dark Romanticism” and “Pretty Killer” editorials by Ellen Von Unwerth with art direction by Yuni Yoshida.

Dark Romanticism with glass try and tea

Prose poetry excerpted from “The Gallows’ Horse” by Egbert Starr.

Facing pages; poetry on magazine page; empty dessert jars

Upper:
I said to the wise man I met, “Love.” And I said to the crone the same. To children, I said to them, “Love one another.” To kings, philosophers, chemists, scientists of every kind, my message was exactly so.

Lower:
I remembered from the land above the flower of my treachery. I remembered my rage and anger and my fulsome seductions of a thousand Persephones. How pleased I was! How capable! How incisive and cross-quotable my demonic possibilities. I was in the world of common men without compare!

second page with poetry written on

Epic prose poetry, and it tasted fantastic. My friends and I chatted while I worked, so they were my guest editors. Thank you for reading, too. Enjoy a sip of all right until we meet again. SB

“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.