Tuesday, August 27, 2013

When in Bangkok...

Just prior to a visit to the Royal Palace in Bangkok a local warned us about littering. I suppose he'd seen foreigners littering and knew of the repercussions. However, having grown up in Canada and lived through many anti-littering campaigns it was the last thing on my mind.  You just don't litter.  But cigarette butts, well... not that I'm a smoker but at the time one person in our group was and what better place to dispose of a butt but down a sidewalk grate?


Ten minutes later what looked like a bus shelter that contained a desk on the edge of a busy sidewalk took on a whole new meaning as we stood dutifully before the police officer unsure of what the punishment was. When asked our country of origin I noted that his smile slipped when we said Canada and his finger trailed down the list of countries.  Trying to read upside down in Thai is a sure guarantee of failure.  I suspect, and this is only a guess, that the fines were country of origin specific. We walked away many dollars lighter and with a new addition to the list of rules on what littering really means.

Oh, did I mention that on that day too, the King's limo had to stop suddenly as it barely missed running over someone in our small group.  I remember the face in the windscreen looking royally PO'd.  I anticipated, then that there might be repercussions.  But the car continued on as if a commoner had not dared to touch the car of royalty's gleaming hood.  Of course, it was minutes before the issue of the cigarette and the fine.  And no, I don't think one was tied to the other.  It was just one of those days, one made for entries in the book "What Not to do When Overseas."

And the ticket?
...that has become a travel souvenir or should I say badge of honor?

And the experience?
...destined to make the tales of remember when, or even 
some day, into a story. 

Any, oops in your travels?

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Note:  The Long and the Short Reviews are celebrating their anniversary this week and there's mega prizes. Check it all out here:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ireland: Mythical, Magical, Mystical

Welcome Christy Nicholas, the author of Ireland:  Mythical, Magical, Mystical; a Guide to Hidden Ireland!

My name is Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon.  I do many things, including digital art,
beaded jewelry, writing and photography.  In real life I'm a CPA , but having grown up with art and around me (my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected me, as it were.  I love to draw and to create things.  It's more of an obsession than a hobby.  I like looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or a fragrant blossom, a dramatic seaside.  I then wish to take a picture or create a piece of jewelry to share this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others.  Sometimes this sharing requires explanation - and thus I write.  Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business.  I do local art and craft shows, as well as sending my art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.

Here is Christy's spin on the topic I presented her:   Write a short post about a trip that changed you.  Whether it's a trip across the world or a twist on a trip to the local grocery store.

Go back, into the mists of time, years ago - when I was just 26.  I was young, working a good job (I'm an accountant) and I came across an ad at my local New Age Store on a trip to England, to get in touch with 'Mystical Britain'.  I'd always wanted to go to England, so I thought, why not?  The group trip was for one week, so I arranged to be there for two weeks, and join the group in the second half of my trip.

I had a boyfriend at the time, but he couldn't get off work, so I planned to go solo.  Now, I'd never traveled anywhere on my own, and I'd never gone on any real vacations before.  This was the first
time I'd had a job good enough to offer paid vacation time!  But I did some research and I was able to afford it, so off I went.  I had lived in Miami since I was 8, and Detroit before that- I didn't fear
traveling alone, I knew I could take care of myself.

The first week would consist of 3 days in Ireland, 4 days in London, and then I'd meet the group for their week out in Somerset.  I flew British Airways- and on the flight, tasted my first scone, with clotted cream and strawberry jam.  Heaven!  We landed in London, but I went right back on a plane and over to Dublin.  I had vouchers for 3 nights B&B, a rental car, and a reckless attitude!

The first day I explored Dublin.  I was giddy with excitement.  I'd always been a fan of European history, especially Britain and Ireland.  Seeing the Book of Kells opened my mind to the beauty that could be created by man, and the magic of that beauty.  Seeing the sweeping cathedrals and imposing castles reinforced that impression.  The second day I picked a road and drove north.

I found the Hill of Tara.  I had researched the place, and wanted to connect with the millennia of Irish Kings who had been crowned on this spot.  It was still quite early in the morning, 9 a.m., as I
climbed the smooth, grassy hills and earthworks, and I had the place entirely to myself.  As I stood at the top of the hill, it looked as if I could see all of Ireland mapped out in front of me, a patchwork quilt of farms and homes.  It was as if I could feel the power of the land, of the history, of all the people before me, rising up inside like a fountain, and bursting out through my skull.  It was an incredibly moving experience, and I shall never forget it.

Oddly enough, the rest of my trip wasn't anti-climatic to that incredible experience.  I felt awe and wonder at Glendalough, Powerscourt Falls, and then the sites I saw in London and Somerset.  Each site was fantastic and moving - but none like that first time on the Hill of Tara.

I've been back to Tara twice since then, and it's not the same  - perhaps because I am not alone, or because it is no longer a new experience.  I will be going again in November, and will likely be alone again.  We shall see if I can recapture that magic!

Excerpt from Mythical Ireland Tour:

Finding the Music
It would be difficult, indeed, to travel through Ireland for any length of time without coming across some of its unique music.  However, it is becoming easier to come across 'prepared' performances, specifically made to entertain the tourists, glossy and polished without the authenticity of the real folk of the land.  My advice is to go off the beaten path.  Get out of Temple Bar and Killarney, and go to a local pub which might have a traditional seisiun.   A seisiun (session) is a group of local musicians who have gotten together in a pub and just started playing some of the songs they all know.  They may have never played together before, or may do so every night.  They may not even know each other - but they all know the tunes.  And they are playing for the joy of playing and entertaining.  They aren't being paid by the Irish Tourist Board to provide atmosphere to the Euro-laden tourist...they are having fun.  No, the music may not be as high in production value, but it's more honest, and in my opinion, much more enjoyable than the staged stuff.

If you are in a city, like Dublin, where tourism is common, it may be more difficult to find the local traditional pub.  Your host at the hotel or B&B may give you the standard tourist answer and direct you to a staged performance.  However, if you tell them you really are interested in a traditional session, they will likely give you a better recommendation.  In some places, you can just walk down the street and follow your ears.  Dingle, Doolin, Ardara, Donegal, Kilkenny - I've done this in all these places.  There is a decent resource at Ireland Abroad online for those who wish see an online pub directory.

Christy's book can be found by clicking here to go to

Christy will be giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Certificate to one randomly chosen commenter.  Leave a comment, question, thought or even just a hello and follow the tour by clicking here for more chances to win.

Want more?  You can find Christy online at any of these places:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Tad Bit Pulsed or a Whole Lot Purried?

Sunday the road led outside the city and to the Qu'Appelle Valley and the nearby market gardens.  But that straight line highway soon veered into a jaunt through the countryside - not far, just a few miles off the highway to discover this church.  Old, or so its lead glass windows may attest but how
old?  There's a relatively new sign indicating that the church is still in session but the spire seems to be a haven for birds and other creatures.  And yet, peeking in the basement window revealed a broom leaning against one wall and a spotless wooden floor.

So is it a neglected but still loved and attended church in the middle of what looks like a forgotten patch of prairie or is it a heritage property with a rollicking history destined for the history books?  

I suspect that it's both.  But while a slight twist in the journey married market gardens to an old church and a little piece of prairie that really seemed to take you away from it all - it provided a few more questions than answers.

A slight curve, a little twist, either can change everything - like today's dog food recipe.  The recipe book I'm following - yes, except for dog biscuits, my original recipes have been replaced
by those from a dog nutritionist.  Yes, such a beast exists - the dog nutritionist and not the dog, although he exists too.  Anyway, the point of it is that when the recipe says to pulse, pulsing can quickly turn from the recipes recommended small kernels to mush.

Rather like the line of a story.  Sometimes the original premise  can veer from its beginnings as a result of those pesky little details - all that glorious, fantastic research can drag down a story or worse, derail it.  Like the story I just finished reading.  I loved the detail - the research that went into it until, well until the pages began to turn slower and some chapters just stopped when that hard-won research appeared just a little too much.  It reminded me, who loves the research phase of a story, that just because you did the research doesn't mean it gets in the book.   

But speaking of twists, the point of this post was swerves and veers in the path and how research and those really interesting facts can take a book away from its original trajectory.  Like going to the market garden and ending up on a side road by a church that takes you to another era or holding a dish of pureed dog food instead of...   Research is kind of like that.  It takes you on exciting and fascinating journeys to places that you only want to share.  I've learned that sometimes that extra tidbit of research is better shared with a  friend over a cup of coffee.

And I can hear groans now from all those friends brave enough to venture here from time to time. Maybe it's better to save all those extra intriguing facts for another book or two or even three. 

Now that church in the middle of no where, maybe there's a story there.  But the dog food?  I think in that instance, more practice just might make perfect.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

How to Get Good Reviews On Amazon

Today I'm one of many blogs hosting a tour for a book whose title intrigued me right away:
How to Get Good Reviews On Amazon

Now what author can't buy into that?  So, intrigued?  Well, I turn the rest of this post over to the man who wrote the book Theo Rogers. 

Who is Theo Rogers and why did he write How To Get Good Reviews On Amazon?

Theo Rogers combines years of coalface experience on Amazon's website with formal training and qualifications in a range of business and social science disciplines.  He's spent literally thousands of hours talking with Amazon reviewers, getting inside their heads, and learning what makes them tick.  He's spent almost as many hours observing the carnage that so often takes place on Amazon's forums.  In the process, he's developed a deep insider's knowledge of the reviewing subculture that's grown up on Amazon's website.

He's also seen a lot of authors and other would-be sellers make the same mistakes in their dealings with that subculture - over and over again.

As a result of his experiences, Theo has come to believe that yes, there is a simple formula that works, a way of dealing with reviewers that's honest, powerful, and extremely effective at winning reviewers over, getting them on your side, and making them actually want to help you.

Contact Theo Rogers on Facebook:

Blurb from How To Get Good Reviews On Amazon:
How To Get Good Reviews On Amazon is a simple, no-nonsense guide that teaches exactly what it says it does.  Based on both psychological science and thousands of hours of conversation with some of Amazon's top reviewers, it takes you behind the scenes into the reviewing subculture that has grown up on Amazon's website.  It gives you a deep, insider's knowledge of how the top reviewers think and operate.  It not only shows you what to do: it takes you inside the reviewers' heads so that you can see for yourself both how these techniques work and why they're so effective.

Lessons include:
  • A simple, four-part formula for writing emails that gets your work reviewed.
  • Three things never to say when communicating with reviewers!
  • How to pick reviewers who are more likely to give you a good review.
  • How to reduce the chance that a reviewer you contact will post a bad review--even if it turns out they don't like your work!
  • How people get caught out when receiving reviews from friends and family.
This book teaches an honest, straightforward approach that works.  It works because it's not based on gimmicks or tricks but on a real understanding of how Amazon reviewers operate: most of all on what they expect from authors and other sellers.  If you want to know how to talk to Amazon reviewers in a way that will make them respect you as a professional and see you as the kind of seller the actually want to help, this is the book for you.

Excerpt from Getting Amazing Reviews on Amazon:

Sellers do quite often turn up on forums on Amazon, specifically asking for reviews.  Unfortunately, a while ago Amazon changed its policies to expressly forbid this sort of behavior in all forums but one:  The Meet Our Authors forum.  The trouble with this is that the Meet Our Authors forum is very largely just a bunch of authors spamming each other.  Very few seem to have any real interest in what
others are saying.

Despite Amazon's rule against using its forums for self promotion, people still do it.  And in practice the reception that authors and other sellers get when they post on any of the multitude of forums does vary.  To some degree it depends on how the author or seller handles themselves.

The other thing you should always be extremely careful about is paying close attention to the codes of behavior considered appropriate among the forum regulars.  Different forums have different levels of tolerance for authors or other sellers seeking reviews, or otherwise promoting themselves.  For example, the Romance forum has a reputation as a place you should absolutely never leave this kind of post - unless you actually want to be ripped to shreds.  Indeed, the Romance forum has developed a reputation as an extremely hostile place for authors in general.  So it is important to do your homework on the specific forum you're considering using. 

The author will be giving away a $100 Amazon gift certificate as part of this tour.  Not only that but you have more than one chance to enter.  Tour through as many blogs as you can today and enter at as many as you can.  Every blog entry ups your chance of winning. 

The list of participating blogs can be found here:

And when you've entered everywhere you can - go check out the book!

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In the Beginning...There Was Darkness

Writers should really be provided with an accurate road map when beginning this crazy journey to publication.  Seriously, that would make it all so much easier.  A map that says begin here at point A writing said story which when completed you will submit to Publisher A.  If Publisher A accepts remain on course for Plan A.  

If Publisher A rejects they would direct the author to the next best route for their project.  Said author, revises or not according to instruction, and then goes back to their map and follows the new route to the next publisher and so it goes.  Each step a clear route on the map.

No wait that would be utopia and this is the real world. In the real world one struggles through learning craft and writing story after story that is published or not.  And eventually you may find a substitute for said map, an agent, but not before you've spent many, many hours and learned much of the process for yourself.

But first, to succeed you must enter no man's land.  It's a dark brooding place filled with highs and lows, hopes and dreams, excitement and bouts of disappointment that dive you into moments of darkness where you threaten to never write again. Don't go there - writing takes the darkness away every time. 

And there is no map.  I'm sorry to say, it's a jungle out there.  You can plot a course but it is only guesswork whether or not you'll arrive at your destination in one piece or whether your story is sturdy enough to make it to the end.

And that's why in a utopian world a map would be ideal especially as you first venture into the world offering your writing and fearing that it's about to become the sacrificial lamb at the alter of something bigger than you can quite comprehend.  Wait, that's no fear, that's reality.  If you're lucky you'll get no rejection, no scathing comments.

Scathing comments?

Maybe, maybe not.  But every rejection draws its ounce of blood.  After awhile you'll get callouses.  If you've got a strong stomach and a huge dose of fortitude, you'll make it through the dark hours where eventually there's light. 

But if you're a writer - do you really have a choice?  So strap on that backpack, pick up the map you've outlined for yourself and write on.  And whether you're a writer or not, appreciate the book you're reading just a little more as you consider its author's journey.  I know I will.

Stop by on Friday, August 9 when I'll be hosting, as part of the tour for Theo Roger's latest book - How to Get Good Reviews On Amazon.  So stop by, and check out a valuable reference for any writer's shelf.