It’s all about how you are going to ‘sell’ your book

There’s the cover, and, of course, the description.

Probably one of the hardest things for a first-time author is not so much the writing but what is needed after the book is written.

You need a good description.  Short, sharp, incisive!

There’s a ream of advice out there, and I have read it all.

And, still, I got it wrong.

Then there is the cover.

I wanted simplistic, a short description to give the reader a taste of what’s in store, and let the story speak for itself.

No.

Apparently, a good cover will attract the reader to the book.

When I tendered my books on various sites to advertise them, sites such as Goodreads, and ThirdScribe, all was well with what I had done.

Then I submitted my books to a third site and they rejected the covers as too simplistic and the descriptions mundane, and wouldn’t post them.

Wow.

There’s a huge blow to the ego.  And just the sort of advice that would make a writer think twice about even bothering to continue.

But…

Perhaps the person who wrote that critique was being cruel to be kind.

At any rate, I am changing the covers, and rewording the descriptions.

Will it be a case of ‘what a difference a cover makes’?

This, in one case, is the old cover,

And this is the new.

Writing about writing a book – a novel twist

I have decided to write about the process for me to write a book, working on the book at the same time.  The character writing the book is fictional and bears no relation to me, well, mostly not.

You will join me on the rollercoaster.

It will be appearing a bit at a time over the coming months, with the first instalment below.

Day One

I woke to a day where the sun was shining through the crack in the curtains.  It was not so much the brightness, but the fact it was moving, the gentle breeze moving the curtains and creating a strobing effect.

It was the first day of the rest of my life.

I was about to start the next Pulitzer Prize for literature.  Or something like that.

For so many years now my life had been weighed down by the monotony of a job I hated, a life that was going nowhere, and the pursuit of that no existent fortune that I believed was the answer to all my problems.

Those prayers to the great God Money were never heeded.

So, contrary to the well-meaning advice everyone gave me, I ignored them all, sold off the albatross around my neck, a house with a gigantic mortgage attached, and moved into a small but comfortable garret in a picturesque part of town.

It was called a ‘renovators’ delight.  What did it matter the wallpaper was peeling the paint fading and the carpet had seen better days.

It was mine.

Whether or not in the coming days, weeks, or months, I was a ‘renovator’ would be interesting.

My wife, Anne, had often said I wouldn’t know which end of the hammer to use.

Oh, and did I tell you, I moved on from her, or probably it was the other way around.  I’d let her down one too many times, she said, and found someone else more ‘reliable’.

Good for her, my brother had always said she deserved someone better, and it surprised me the marriage lasted as long as it did.  I still loved her, I always would.

I sprung out of bed and opened the curtains.  Spread out in front of me was a blue sky, bright sunshine casting its glow over the park and gardens opposite.

On my darkest days, I used to sit on a bench and watch the ducks swimming in the pond.  I wanted a carefree life like they had, and that was my dream.

Now I was living the dream.

Or would be till the money ran out.

I had enough for a year.

The second bedroom was the writing room.  The walls were lined with shelves, books by my favourite authors, books on writing, all dog-eared and well-read.

The typewriter was sitting on the desk waiting for the first words to be written.

I had a computer, but I was not going to use it for the second draft.

I had a supply of writing pads.  Like the great authors, I was going to write the first draft by hand, revise, and then type it.

I was going to be old school.

 

I sat down, picked up a pen, and scratched my head.

I began writing, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.

That was a far as I got.

Maybe this was going to be harder than I thought.

Perhaps after coffee and toast …

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

The cinema of my dreams – I never wanted to go to Africa – Episode 20

Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.

The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.

Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in.

Lallo gave me a minute or two to read what amounted to two lines, that my co-operation was expected, and to be given.  It wasn’t exactly addressed to me personally, but a blanket authorization to interview anyone involved in that operation.

I handed the letter back, but not before I noticed it had been unfolded and refolded several times as if it had been used before.  Had Lallo already interrogated Treen, the only other survivor?

Lallo’s first question: “Do you know who was responsible for organising that operation?”

It was rather an odd question, asking a Sergeant who was assigned at the last minute.

“Look, at the time I was assigned to non-combat duties, not as an on-call commando.  I was a late replacement for the member of the team who had to withdraw due to an accident. I was simply ordered to join the team at the airfield.  Given the results, I’m hoping whoever it was that organized and authorized that operation got the bollicking they deserved.”

I had been annoyed at the time, but I’d got over it.  In keeping with a lot of the operations I’d been involved with; very few had a successful outcome, but usually with fewer casualties.

He gave me a sidelong glance, close to an admonishment.  “Just stick to the facts when answering questions.  The other survivor was Lieutenant Treen, correct?”

Not a happy man was the Lieutenant.  Not happy that the operation was changed at the last minute or the fact the odds had been stacked against us, and not happy I’d been flown in as a replacement what he regarded as his personal group.

“Yes.”

“Are you aware he requested an investigation into that operation?”

It came as no surprise.  On the flight over, he had expressed more than one concern about the lack of intelligence and what the real situation was like on the ground.

“No.”

“Were you aware that a week ago Lieutenant Treen was found dead in his quarters, from an apparent suicide?”

Treen if anything was a soldier’s soldier, and the last man to contemplate suicide for any reason.  Surviving, just, that botched operation would not be a catalyst for such an event for such a man.

“No.”

“Odd then, don’t you think, you are nearly sent to your death the day after?”

If that was the case, and on the face of it, it seemed so, that wasn’t the only oddity about this whole affair.  I remembered the date of the General’s letter, the one telling me to be co-operative. It was the day before Treen’s suicide.

I didn’t think it was a coincidence?

It was quite clear someone didn’t want the General or whoever Lallo was working for, to question the last two survivors.

The question now was: what did we know, or what they thought we knew that was so important, that silencing us was necessary.

And would ‘they’ try again?

© Charles Heath 2019-2022

In a word: Deal

Deal or no deal.  That was a game show on TV once, involving briefcases.

Then, if you win…

It’s a big deal!

Or, of course, it is if you get in on the ground floor, which is to say, you’re one of the original investors, it becomes a great deal; it’s meaning, taking part in a financial transaction.

The word ‘deal’ along with big, great, tremendous, and once in a lifetime, feature prominently, but if you are like me by the time you invest the pyramid is about to collapse!

Then you’re in a great deal of trouble, meaning a lot of trouble — at the time, it feels catastrophic.

Or you’re working impossibly long hours to enrich the others above you, it a good deal of effort on your part for no reward.

Or deal with a problem, which is to say cope with or control, though if it’s a problem child, good luck with that.

But enough of the depressing descriptions,

When you play a card game, the first thing to happen is to deal the cards.

The second is to ask yourself if the dealer is dealing from the bottom of the deck, even if it looks like the top.

My father called these dealers ‘card sharps’.

Then there is a piece of wood commonly called deal, usually thin and square though not always so; it can also be a plank of pine or fir.

Searching for locations: Old Shanghai, China

The old Shanghai refers to a small area of Shanghai that used to be walled in and remained that way until about 1912 when all but a small section of the wall was demolished.  With the advent of the concessions, Old Shanghai became the administrative center until later when it became a shopping complex.

Now it has many restored historical buildings as well as new buildings in a somewhat traditional style that has become one of Shanghai’s main tourist attractions, housing many shops and restaurants.

The “Old Town” is not exclusively old, as you still have a chance to take in the atmosphere if you wander into the quaint side streets.

But, on first viewing walking down the street towards the complex, I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say this is in reality old Shanghai, except for what appears to be a true representation of it architecturally. 

The buildings, which are shops and restaurants, are set out symmetrically, with streets, alleyways, and squares which may prove that it was specially built for the tourists, and no mechanized traffic.

Anyway…

The buildings are magnificent, and a photographer’s delight, and you’d finish up having hundreds of photos by the time you leave.  All the buildings are exquisite representations of traditional Chinese architecture. 

As for buying stuff, remember if you’re not Chinese you have the sucker tourist stamp on your forehead, so be prepared to walk away if the vendors will not bargain.  

Nothing here is worth the price tag and in our group discounts like from 130 RMB to 50 RMB and from 1 for 1,200 to 2 for 950 RMB are common.

Here common t-shirts that we can get for 3 dollars back home start at 150 RMB which is roughly 35 dollars.  It’s that kind of market.

We end up is a tea room, on the third floor of the meeting point below, and discover all the tour guides sitting around a table counting money, and I have to say it’s the most $50 notes I’ve ever seen in one place.  
It is, we were told, where they discussed ‘strategy’.

The cinema of my dreams – I never wanted to go to Africa – Episode 19

Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.

The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.

Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in.

It didn’t take much effort to come to the only viable explanation of why a buried operation had been brought back to life.

Colonel Bamfield.

And it didn’t take much more effort to realise that operation had been one of his, not that any of us knew that at the time, but for whatever reason, it had gone badly and now he was looking for answers.

Answers to what though?

It was a simple extraction; two operatives had their cover blown and were in hiding.  A seven-man team in two choppers, get in, collect them, and get out.  Seven men were overkill, but they were important operatives with vital intelligence.

I was a last minute addition to the team, replacing one of the sergeants who had been injured in an accident.  It was a tight-knit team and I was not made to feel welcome.  It was the usual fate of outsiders and it didn’t bother me.

It was their leader that did.  Lieutenant Treen.  But that came later, all it was, at first, was a sense of unease with his informal manner of command, and somewhat edgy disposition.

When I landed at the airfield, I was met by the other Sergeant, Mason, and taken to the briefing, which had been delayed until my arrival.  Treen was there, pacing up and down like a caged tiger.  It was apparent there were still some details still being worked on.  Being so close to wheels up, I was not surprised at the tension among the group.

A Captain, a man named Worsefell, conducted the briefing, and it was patchy.  Not the worst I’d been to, but it appeared the situation on the ground had changed considerably in the last 12 hours, necessitating a change in plans.

 The operative had managed to get cover in an old abandoned building.  That was fine until a group of enemy soldiers arrived and set up camp in the field not 100 yards from their position.  Now, it was not possible to leave without being seen, day or night.

We now had to either distract or remove the enemy soldiers, an enemy we had no numbers or how heavily armed they were because our source on the ground had gone quiet.  To me, it was possible the source had been captured, and if that was the case, it was also possible the enemy knew we were coming.  But according to the Captain, this particular source had gone quiet before, in similar circumstances, so my suggestion was ignored.

Instead, the consensus was to go in and make an assessment on the ground.  It meant we had to land further away, and have a long journey by foot with all the problems that might involve, and then return.  That was the plan.  The Captain had left it in Treen’s hands.

And Treen was not one to back away from a fight, not even when it was clear to everyone in that room, with or without the necessary intelligence, that the odds were stacked against success.

I looked at Lallo who was waiting for an answer.  “I guess the brass didn’t know what to do with me, sir.”

My use of the word sir was noted.

“Be that as it may, I have a few questions about that operation.”

“I’m afraid it’s classified, and I’m under oath not to speak about it.”

Lallo took out a piece of folded paper from the inside pocket of his uniform jacket unfolded it and passed it to me.

From the very General who had ordered my silence.

© Charles Heath 2019-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 36

A Russian ship?

The navigator had left the object on screen allowing it to materialize as we got closer. 

I had to marvel at the magnification the scientists had managed to produce for the scanners on this vessel, the first of a new class, and based on our experiences, no doubt later ships would have less of the quirks we had found so far.

Not that any were serious, or if they were, that common sense and prior experience couldn’t resolve.  It was the reason why we had this chief engineer.

He had retired and was happily spending the rest of his life with the woman who had put up with all those absent years, until she died suddenly, and left him without purpose.

This ship had changed that.

I could see the outline of the distant ship and although it might not follow a standard design, it showed all the signs of coming from our planet.

Was that because we had no idea what a ship might look like from another planet or alien race?  I still wanted to believe there were other life forms out there, but how much of that was hoping they looked like us?

“The system still cannot identify what type of ship it is, sir, but it doesn’t look alien.”

It didn’t, now that it was much clearer.

“Would you know if it was?”

“No, sir.  Not really.  Time to intercept, just under fifteen minutes.  If they are intending to intercept.”

Number one just came out of the elevator and onto the bridge.  He wasn’t rostered for this time, but I suspect he had been watching the drama unfold in his cabin.

“Suggest we go to code Red, just in case their intentions are not friendly.”

We had a weekly meeting of department heads to discuss what we would do in an alien encounter, other than shoot first, and talk later, usually the military first response to any problem.

Some ground rules were implemented, one of which was to keep fingers off the triggers of our weapons, until we had justification.  It was noted we had no idea what kind of weapons they would have, or how good our shield systems would be, that would come after the first encounter.

But we did know the ship could withstand any attack from an earth-origin attack, from the nuclear bomb to cutting edge lasers.  It was a little more problematic for the humans though.

“Agreed.”

Code Red, our highest alert, meant that Number one and I could not be in the same place, for obvious reasons.  He would go down the attack room, where the bridge systems were replicated, along with an array of other units.  It would be from there where a relation, or attack, would be managed.

And no, the lights in the bridge did not turn red, just dimmed.  The only indication was a red bar running across the top of the viewing screen, on which the oncoming vessel was now clearly visible.

“It’s from earth, the scanners have identified the propulsion system, and from the scan analysis, it appears to be more advanced than just about everything back home.”

“The infamous Russian ship, do you think?”

“Doesn’t have to be.  Anyone with enough money could have financed the project, though it would be hard to hide something like that.  The question has to be, what’s it doing this far out, and, for all intents and purposes, returning.”

“We’re assuming again.  Perhaps they were just going to the outer edge of our known galaxy so that they could say they were the first.”

There had always been that great space rivalry between the Russians and the Americans.  Later, the Europeans and the Chinese had also thrown their hats in the ring, and it was possible this ship could be Chinese.  They too had a burning desire to be the first, and there’d be no surprise if we found a Chinese or Russian flag on the first liveable planet outside our solar system.

But, right now, that was all ahead of us. At this moment, it was a little disconcerting to discover we would not be the first outside our known galaxy.

© Charles Heath 2021-2022

Searching for locations: West Lake, Hangzhou, China

West Lake is a freshwater lake in Hangzhou, China. It is divided into five sections by three causeways. There are numerous temples, pagodas, gardens, and artificial islands within the lake.

Measuring 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) in length, 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles) in width, and 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) in average depth, the lake spreads itself in an area totaling 6.5 square kilometers (2.5 square miles).

The earliest recorded name for West Lake was the “Wu Forest River”, but over time it changed to two distinct names.  One is “Qiantang Lake”, due to the fact that Hangzhou was called “Qiantang” in ancient times.  The other, “West Lake”, due to the lake being west of the city

It’s about to get busy, with a number of activities planned, and the warmth of the day is starting to make an impact.

The tour starts in the car park about a kilometer away, but the moment we left the car park we were getting a taste of the park walking along a tree-lined avenue.

When we cross the road, once again dicing with death with the silent assassins on motor scooters.

We are in the park proper, and it is magnificent, with flowers, mostly at the start hydrangeas and then any number of other trees and shrubs, some carved into other flower shapes like a lotus.

Then there was the lake and the backdrop of bridges and walkways.

.

And if you can tune out the background white noise the place would be great for serenity and relaxation.

That, in fact, was how the boat ride panned out, about half an hour or more gliding across the lake in an almost silent boat, by an open window, with the air and the majestic scenery.

No, not that boat, which would be great to have lunch on while cruising, but the boat below:

Not quite in the same class, but all the same, very easy to tune out and soak it in.

It was peaceful, amazingly quiet, on a summery day

A pagoda in the hazy distance, an island we were about to circumnavigate.

Of all the legends, the most touching one is the love story between Bai Suzhen and Xu Xi’an. Bai Suzhen was a white snake spirit and Xu Xi’an was a mortal man.

They fell in love when they first met on a boat on the West Lake, and got married very soon after.

However, the evil monk Fa Hai attempted to separate the couple by imprisoning Xu Xi’an. Bai Suzhen fought against Fa Hai and tried her best to rescue her husband, but she failed and was imprisoned under the Leifeng Pagoda by the lake.

Years later the couple was rescued by Xiao Qing, the sister of Baisuzhen, and from then on, Bai Suzhen and Xu Xi’an lived together happily.

The retelling of the story varied between tour guides, and on the cruise boat, we had two.  Our guide kept to the legend, the other tour guide had a different ending.

Suffice to say it had relevance to the two pagodas on the far side of the lake.

There was a cafe or restaurant on the island, but that was not our lunch destination.

Nor were the buildings further along from where we disembarked.

All in all the whole cruise took about 45 minutes and was an interesting break from the hectic nature of the tour.

Oh yes, and the boat captain had postcards for sale.  We didn’t buy any.

Lunch

At the disembarkation point there was a mall that sold souvenirs and had a few ‘fast food’ shops, and a KFC, not exactly what we came to China for, but it seemed like the only place in town a food cautious Australian could eat at.

And when tried to get in the door, that’s where at least 3 busloads were, if they were not in the local Starbucks.  Apparently, these were the places of first choice wherever we went.

The chicken supply by the time we got to the head of the line amounted to pieces at 22.5 RMB a piece and nuggets.  Everything else had run out, and for me, there were only 5 pieces left.  Good thing there were chips.

And Starbucks with coffee and cheesecake.

At least the setting for what could have been a picnic lunch was idyllic.

Searching for locations: The Silk Factory, Suzhou, China

China is renowned for its exquisite silk, so naturally, a visit to the Silk Spinning Factory is part of today’s tour.

After that, we will be heading downtown to an unspecified location where we’re getting a boat ride, walk through a typical Chinese shopping experience, and coffee at a coffee shop that is doubling as the meeting place, after we soak up the local atmosphere.

The problem with that is that if the entire collective trip a deal tourists take this route then the savvy shopkeepers will jack up their prices tenfold because we’re tourists with money.  It’ll be interesting to see how expensive everything is.

So…

Before we reach the silk factory, we are told that Suzhou is the main silk area of China, and we will be visiting a nearly 100 years old, Suzhou No 1 Silk Mill, established in 1926.  Suzhou has a 4,700-year history of making silk products.  It is located at No. 94, Nanmen Road, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China.

Then we arrive at the Silk Factory, another government-owned establishment with a castiron guarantee of quality and satisfaction.

The look and feel of the doona cover certainly backs up that claim

And the colors and variety is amazing (as is the cost of those exquisite sets)

We get to see the silk cocoon stretched beyond imagination, and see how the silk thread is extracted, then off to the showroom for the sales pitch.

It isn’t a hard sell, and the sheets, doonas, pillows, and pillowcases, are reasonably priced, and come with their own suitcase (for free) so you can take them with you, or free shipping, by slow boat, if you prefer not to take the goods with you.

We opt for the second choice, as there’s no room left in our baggage after packing the Chinese Medicine.

The cinema of my dreams – I never wanted to go to Africa – Episode 11

It’s still a battle of wits, but our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.

The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because the enemy if it is the enemy, doesn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.
Old friends, new tricks.

Genial tone, trying to win my confidence.  I wasn’t going to ask, but wait for an explanation.  Asking would be like leaving the door ajar.

He sat after pulling the chair closer to the table and put his clasped hands on the table.

“This is a secret military operation known only to very few, apart from the team that is in situ.  Commander Breeman has been, against very specific direct orders, trying to find out what we are doing here.”  He stopped.

I think this was the moment I was supposed to ask, what was going on here.

If it was secret, then I didn’t want to know, and he was not going to tell me anyway.

I just looked attentive.

“You have been caught up in a jurisdictional issue.  It’s not hard to assume that you were sent here, with the pilot of that helicopter, to do an off the book search for this camp.  That, in itself, would be impossible, but the flyover coincided with a provedore run.  Just plain bad luck.”

For Joe, the pilot, it was.  Or not, if he had been given specific verbal orders, making it out to be a training run.  And the odds of me being on board at the same time, given my association with Breeman?

One coincidence too many.

And if it was as the man before had said, they knew everything, then Bamfield would know of my connection to her.

“You said you had no idea where you were when you were shot down?”

Time, I guess, to speak.  “No, I didn’t.  The desert looks all the same to me.”

“You will forgive me if I say I find that hard to believe.  I know you are better than that, Alan.  Who sent you out here?”

“I was along for the ride.  Standard operating procedure.  A helo goes up, someone like me has to be on board in case of trouble.  More conventional trouble than rockets.”

“But you specifically?”

“I don’t make the rosters, I just go where they tell me.”

Bamfield frowned.  I think he’d finally noticed I was not addressing him as ‘sir’.  Until I knew what side he was on, I considered myself a prisoner of war.

 

© Charles Heath 2019