Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Will giving away free ebooks generate sales?

The short answer is no. The long answer is also no. And why is it so? That answer is a bit more complex.

Giving away your books for free will not result in a surge in sales nor will it get you fans. Of course, there are exceptions to everything but these are just that - exceptions. Based on my own experience, I can tell you that people will download anything that's given for free and value it accordingly. On occasion, you will have paid for downloads of your work when your freebie promotion ends but it's not a sure thing and most of the time hardly worth the trouble. For that reason you should only give away short stories, sample chapters or if you're launching a new title, Book 1 of a series for free, for a limited time. You might be lucky and get a fan base, but I sincerely doubt it will happen to a great number of writers, published or self-published. Having been on both sides of the coin, I can tell you that getting a fan base is a long and arduous journey, a thankless task which needs to be supported by a vigorous marketing campaign and corresponding budget. If you do not have these resources, you will, most probably, not succeed in selling a lot of copies of your books. 

The truth is, giving your books away will do nothing to advance your writing career. You'll find yourself wondering why is it that people are downloading your stuff by the bucketful but nobody goes onto to buy any of it. The answer is quite simple: readers won't pay for your books once you've made it clear that you are prepared to give your work away for nothing. Readers have, by now, realized how free promotions work - by repetition, so those people who might have had your book recommended to them by someone who's downloaded it for free will wait until the next time when your book is up for a free download. After all, the recommendation was for a good freebie, not a good book. If a freebie is good it's an added bonus because no-one expects a freebie to be a great read to begin with. The end result is no sale for you.

So what can you do to make your book become successful? 

Truthfully, from my perspective, not a lot. But I am not the most invested author you will come across; I find the whole business of book marketing draining and boring; that, coupled with my aversion to talking about myself (not that spesh - see About Ivana Hruba if you must) and about what I've written (I'd rather you read it - here) makes me a very very unknown author, indeed. But I do have some firm ideas on what makes a book get attention. Well, one idea, anyway. 

I'm not splitting the atom here when I'll tell you that there is only one reason why a book becomes successful - it has "buzz". Word-of-mouth is what you need to shift copies. Sales aren't going to materialize if nobody knows about your book, and more importantly, if nobody talks about your book. Without word-of-mouth recommendations, there simply won't be demand for your work out there. Nobody cares if you publish or not, how much you charge for it or if you give it for free. All you're doing with your freebies is offering people a taste of something they have no need for. Faced with that kind of attitude, it should be obvious that you're fighting an uphill battle with or without free giveaways. In general, people are resistant to fork out money on a traditionally published book by an unknown author so they certainly will not be easily persuaded to pay for a  self-published book no matter how many freebies you give away; after all, if no publisher bought the manuscript, why should the reader be expected to?

A logical conclusion, no doubt. And there's some compelling evidence for this argument as unfortunately there are self-published books out there that are truly dreadful, unreadable stuff. Just go to Amazon and look inside some randomly selected self-published books; it won't take you long to figure out what I'm talking about. However, not all traditionally published books are of great quality either. I'll bet you could think of at least one traditionally published novel that you simply couldn't get through, for exactly the same reasons that might make you avoid picking up a self-published book - poor quality writing, boring and predictable characters and poorly executed plot development, resulting in zero engagement on your part. The truth is that appalling stuff has been and will continue to be published, on both sides of the business, by very many people. And this is precisely why readers should not be scared and/or dismissive of self-published books. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain by taking a look inside of a book by an unknown author. On that note, I will engage in a little self-promo; you might as well, since you're already here, check out the self-published books Yours Truly has on offer. (For sale, right here and elsewhere on the net where they have the Look Inside feature.) - Didn't work? Ah, well, at least we gave it a try...

But I digress. Let's get back to why you're not selling your books.The main reason why your books are NOT SELLING is - drum roll please - because they ARE FOR SALE. It's a tricky-sticky situation you're in, you're facing a conundrum here, a neat little paradox which you will find hard to solve. As an unknown and/or self-published author you are largely regarded by the reading public as totally dispensable. In fact, why you should even be asking people to pay to read your books when you, quite obviously, couldn't get published in the first place, is beyond the general public's tolerance threshold 'cause everyone knows that the self-published author should be GRATEFUL when people consent to read their stuff for free.

It is what it is. I hope my little musings on the disadvantages of self-publishing have not discouraged you from it. That was not my intention, but you should know, if indeed you're thinking of getting into the business, what you are getting into. Take from this what you will, but please, folks, don't be too grateful. Giving your hard work away for free is just plain silly. Make it a marketing strategy to drive traffic to your books and that's it. You've worked too hard to give your stuff away. Charge a price and stand by it. I do. And why do I do this? Because it's the only thing that gets me sales. In my case, not too many, but since I've stopped giving my books away, I've got my trickle of paid for downloads back. It's only a trickle, but it's sales. SALES, folks, SALES.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What was I thinking?

You gotta love my old cartoons, don't you? 
As a marketing strategy it wasn't a roaring success but it was fun making them.

Friday, December 6, 2013

How do you handle bad reviews?

With a smile and a grain of salt. It's not the end of the world. In fact, getting a bad review may lead to good things, like more sales. I'm serious. Reviews are not the be all and end all of your writing career. Everyone who's been in the business long enough will have gotten bad reviews. It's inevitable that unflattering things will be said about your work so you might as well get used to it. 

Is there anything you can do to make yourself feel better after getting a bad review? 

Of course there is. You forget all about it and keep on doing what you're doing. How you forget about it is up to you. Alcohol might help. Going for a run might help. Writing a story about it might work too. It's up to you what action you take except for one.

Do NOT under any circumstances respond to a bad review with a diatribe of venom, how dare yous or explanations about what you meant to convey in your work and how misunderstood you are. I completely get how, in this here world of instant cyber connections, this strategy might be tempting, but don't do it. You can't win. You will only inflame the situation. 

Your replies to disgruntled readers (a well-constructed, meaningful argument that in your mind is meant to counteract somebody's poor opinion of your work) will not do you any good. If you defend yourself by replying to comments or in forums at the point of sale channel (Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc) in a misguided attempt to 'set the record straight' on your book, you will attract more haters and they will post more bad reviews in places you've never even thought of, as these folks will stand by their opinion and will get more invested in getting it heard. So if you cannot handle more criticism (deserved or otherwise) of your work, do not go there. Remember, you don't have to defend your creativity, you only need to grow thicker skin. 

But it's not all bad news. Let's put bad reviews in perspective. Funnily enough, bad reviews will often bring more traffic to your book and maybe even generate some sales. People (meaning me) love reading one star reviews, especially if they're witty. I haven't been that lucky; my one star reviews are all gripes about the books not having an ending in a freebie... Well, dah. Forgive me for not giving my work away. How silly of me. I do ask for a few bucks per download for my work. It's a well-trodden path I'm taking here; it's been done before (by many a greedy and ungrateful writer) and it's not as if I'm keeping it a secret. I want to be paid for my work. I would have thought by now folks have cottoned onto this strategy so many writers employ nowadays - you give book number one away for free, with the story continuing in subsequent books which are for sale - it's the only way a self-published writer (this one anyway) can sell books these days, if they're lucky which, just for the record, I haven't been. Must be the lack of reviews, good or bad. Or maybe I'm writing dead boring stuff. You be the judge. (Yes, this is a link to Amazon right here).

So, back to bad reviews. Embrace them, folks. They're just somebody's opinion. It's not the end of the world. Have a laugh. Love you, xxoo, Ivana

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Amazon Australia open for business

Amazon Australia is now open for business. All these here wonderful stories written by Yours Truly are now available to download for very, very reasonable price directly from Oz. That's so neat, isn't it? ;)

Click here to go to Amazon Australia.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Free download A Decent Ransom: the Kidnapping

is now available to download for free from Smashwords and other online stores for free for a limited time. Click here to download A Decent Ransom: the Kidnapping from Smashwords.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Selling Books on Amazon – Is KDP Select for you?

What is KDP Select?

In a nutshell, KDP Select is a self-publishing program available to authors to promote, lend and sell their ebooks at no cost on For a period of 90 days, authors give Amazon exclusive rights to their books; during this period, you cannot sell your book enrolled in the program elsewhere on the net in the digital format and you will have to put up your book for a free download for 5 days during the 90 day period. You can choose single days or use this promotional opportunity in blocks, or the entire 5 day period as one long promotion.

You might be thinking that the point of this promotion is for authors to gain visibility on the site and to drive up sales of their books, making money for themselves and Amazon. Not so. Amazon is a retailer, not a publisher. The point of this free download promotion is to supply Amazon customers who have bought Amazon’s Kindle e-reader with unlimited free ebooks, thus making the Kindle device a very attractive choice for the consumer. You can buy the Kindle e-reader and never have to buy a single ebook as you have unlimited access to a vast number of ebooks, on tap. Would you pay for a book if you could have it for free? — Exactly.

What are you gaining by enrolling your ebooks in KDP Select?

That’s the million dollar question. You might gain some exposure and gain readers, but what does this mean in practical terms? Your initial free downloads will be high; plenty of people will be downloading your free books but unfortunately the most likely post-promotion outcome is that this reader interest will not translate to paid sales in any significant volume, if at all. People will download anything for free, and your book will be valued accordingly, as a big fat NOTHING.

You might get some word-of-mouth and gain some residual sales, but the odds are stacked against you.
First of all, you are not harnessing an audience who is prepared to pay to be entertained; you are catering to people who are prepared to be entertained for free. These people are there for the free downloads only.
Second of all, Amazon is not actively promoting you as an author; the moment your free ebook promotion is over, so is your visibility on the site.
Thirdly, as a self-published author you probably don’t have a following or else you wouldn’t have to do free promotions; therefore, after your free promotion is over, you’re basically back to square one – no visibility and no incentive for Amazon customers to buy your product. Your book is buried under a mountain of other books on offer; unless someone specifically searches for your title by name and your author name, your book has no chance of being sold.

Will free downloads give you reader reviews?

If you are lucky, you might get a few. But the current market is saturated with free books so readers are getting lazy. Why give a review when you don’t have to? Like anything else, people are mostly moved to action when something goes wrong; for example, readers will post bad reviews on your book’s page if their free download had issues or they weren’t happy with some technical aspect of the transaction, which, of course, has nothing to do with your work, but it will get you a bad review, which BTW, you will find Amazon will be slow to remove. If they remove it at all.

This looks bleak, I get it and I’m sure by now you get it too. Given this state of affairs, is there anything you can do to help sell your ebooks through KDP Select?

Yes, there is. Promoting your kindle ebooks on Amazon need not be the soul-destroying, frustrating experience that it is for many authors who, given enough passage of time, begin to resent giving their creativity, knowledge, skill and hard work away for free, for no good returns.

You have to start valuing your work yourself. If you don’t, your readers certainly won’t. Put a price on your book, and charge it, at all times. To gain visibility and hopefully interested readers, publish short stories or only a few chapters from your books or the first book in a series in the KDP Select program and allow these to circulate for free, with a link to your book where readers can purchase it. You simply use the KDP Select to advertise your work, not to give the whole book away. Alternately, split your book into parts and give only the first one for free. End on a cliff-hanger so readers are motivated to purchase the rest of the story. After all, at some point, Amazon will want to convert this free download only audience to a paying one. So why not help them along? And if your 'giving it away' strategy isn't working, why not try not giving it away? This strategy isn’t a guarantee, of course, of a surge in sales, but if you’re not having many or any at all, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Remember, building an audience takes time, and very little sustainable success will happen overnight.

It goes without saying that you should have a Facebook page and Twitter account (for what it's worth, which may not be much but at least you'll feel like you're doing something) where you can promote your work, as well as a Goodreads account where you can blog about your books, and join reader-based groups. There’s not much point in joining groups of fellow writers; they’re all trying to do the same as you – promote their books. On the other hand, you might find that joining a writer forum to discuss promotional tips and strategies is just what you need to keep going.

The main thing is not to have high expectations or take the lack of sales or reader engagement personally. Just do your thing, do it well, and enjoy the journey.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Download The Chat and have a laugh

An eye-opening humorous tale of two merry widows going online to find love. Politically incorrect and not for the faint-hearted but definitely helpful to those thinking about joining an internet dating site. Based on a true story.

Now available to download from Amazon for a measly buck.

Reviews posted online will be much appreciated. Please, don't gripe about having to buy the novel The Dead Husbands Club to find out what happens next, or that you paid a dollar to download 17 pages. That's your choice. Keep in mind that this  is a promotion, after all. Other than that, say what you will.

Cheers, xxoo Ivana

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Where do you buy fake book reviews?

I wouldn't have a clue. My sales reflect this; feel free to check my sales rank numbers on Amazon. It's pretty dismal but funnily enough, I don't mind... well, not much. I'm just not that ambitious, or desperate, whichever you prefer. I'd rather not sell than have people tell lies about my work. So why do people do it? (If indeed they are doing it as at the time of writing of this blog post, I have no definitive proof that this practice is going on. But, in light of recent events, (click here to read this article: Fake online reviews get reality check) one can only assume the book business, like many others, has fallen victim to the practice of paid fake reviews.

So why do people allegedly do it? To sell books on Amazon, I understand. Books with lots of  reader reviews will show up on the site more often, leading to exposure and hopefully sales. I understand the motivation, I really do, but there's just no justification for doing this. It is dishonest and fraudulent to the consumer, no matter how you look at it. A paid review will in no way reflect the true opinion of the 'reviewer' even if they did take the time to read the book, which they won't as they're too busy 'reviewing' too many books. Besides, reading the book is not what these 'reviewers' are being paid for. They're paid to come up with a couple of gushing comments which they will attach to the book in question. In the end, it is the consumer who is being fooled as paid reviews simply do not reflect the true quality of the book.

This begs the question: Should you trust any book reviews?
Probably not. The first few reviews of a book are almost always planted as authors will ask family members (at the very least) to help sell the book. There's nothing wrong with that; you should have family/friends supporting your efforts. Sure, these reviews will not reflect the shortcomings of the book either but at least the reader can rest easy knowing that these folks would have read the story from cover to cover, even if they do not give an unbiased opinion. 

I personally do not pay much attention to book reviews. This is not to say I do not enjoy reading or writing them. I do. But reviews are certainly not the tipping point for me when I'm deciding to read a story. And it shouldn't be for you either as a good percentage of book reviews (for all published and self-published books) are solicited in some way, be it from an author friend, or a family member or anyone you feel comfortable enough to ask for a review. Chances are, if you've asked someone you know for a review of your book, they will be kind, and so they should be. After all, nobody in their right mind will tell you your baby's ugly, will they? 

Asking people for reviews is nothing to be ashamed of. It's part of book marketing as we know it, though clearly not very effective otherwise there would be a lot more success stories starring independently published authors. It's not easy to gain a following when you're publishing yourself; it takes time to build an audience and get honest, unsolicited reviews and that's probably why less patient authors might resort to paying for fake reviews. It's the volume of book reviews that will gain the author visibility and generate sales, especially in today's saturated e-book market. The more reviews you have attached to a book, the more traffic you will drive to that book. It's a simple and effective idea but it doesn't mean that paying for fake reviews is okay. In the long run, I suspect, it will come back to bite you. 
However, in fairness to authors who are really only just trying to sell books any which way possible, readers should take more care when selecting books to avoid disappointment. Too many glowing/five star reviews should trigger alarm bells; no book is that perfect to have mainly five star ratings. If you think a book may have paid fake reviews, why not open the book (on kindle) and read the free sample? This should be enough to see whether the story is something you'd like to read. If more people paid less attention to the volume or star ratings of book reviews, we'd all be better off. Read the free sample and make up your mind on the quality of the writing and how engaged you become. If you like what you're reading, buy the book. That simple.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Authors paying for fake reviews on Amazon

Click on the title of this blog post and you will find out who allegedly pays for fake positive reviews of their books on Amazon.  
In all fairness, the information you will find in that article may or may not be true. Either way, it's food for thought. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Something funny this way comes

The English Patient, Dr Zhivago and the Purposeful Stride, and Other Stories

A collection of amusing short stories about the human condition revealing the absurdity of our existence.   

 available to download from Amazon and other online stores

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What is a fable?

The word 'fable' comes from the Latin fabula, meaning 'discourse' or 'story'. Fable is a short narrative in prose or verse which points a moral. Non-human creatures or inanimate things are normally the characters. The presentation of human beings as animals is the characteristic of the literary fable and is unlike the fable that still flourishes among primitive peoples.

 The genre probably arose in Greece, and the first collection of fables is ascribed Aesop (6th c. BC). His principal successors were Phaedrus and Babrius, who flourished in the 1st century AD. Phaedrus preserved Aesop's fables and in the 10th c. a prose adaptation of Phaedrus's translation appeared under the title Romulus, a work whole popularity lasted until the 17th c. A famous collection of Indian fables was the Bidpai, which were probably composed originally in Sanskrit, AD 300. Many versions of these were made in prose and verse in different languages between the 3rd c and 16th c. The best of the medieval fabulists was Marie de France who, c. 1200, composed 102 fables in verse. After her came La Fontaine who raised the whole level of the fable and is generally acknowledged as the world's master. He took most of the stories from Aesop and Phaedrus but translated them in his verse. His Fables choisies were published in 12 books (1668, 1678-9, 1694).

La Fontaine had many imitators: principally, Eustache de Noble, Pignotti, John Gay, J.P.C de Florian and Tomas Iriarte. Later, Lessing followed the style of Aesop. John Gay's Fifty-One Fables in Verse were published in 1727. In Russia, the greatest of the fabulists was Ivan Krylov, who translated a number of La Fontaine's fables and between 1810 and 1820 published nine books of fables. More recently, Kipling made anotable contribution to the genre with Just So Stories (1902). Mention should also be made of James Thurber's droll Fables of Our Time (1940) and George Orwell's remarkable political satire Animal Farm (1945), which is in fable form.

Monday, May 13, 2013

What You Should Know Before Publishing an Ebook

The  following summary highlights the key points from a major survey by Mark Coker of SW published on his Smashwords blog:

  1. Ebook Sales Conform to a Power Curve
  2. Most books don't sell well, but those that do sell well sell really well. This finding wasn't a surprise. Just as in traditional publishing, very few books become bestsellers.
  3. Viva Long Form Reading: Longer Books Sell Better
  4. For the second year running, we found definitive evidence that ebook readers - voting with their Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Krone, Krona and Koruna - overwhelmingly prefer longer books over shorter books.
  5. Shorter Book Titles Appear to Have Slight Sales Advantage
  6. How Indie Authors are Pricing Their Books: $2.99 is the Most Common Price Point
  7. How Price Impacts Unit Sales Volume: Lower Priced Books (usually) Sell More Copies
  8. The Yield Graph: Is $3.99 the New $2.99?
  9. One surprising finding is that, on average, $3.99 books sold more units than $2.99 books, and more units than any other price except FREE.
Survey taken from 120,000 indie ebooks. 

P.S. Here's my two cents: You've got to SELL your books, NOT give them away. 

The lows and lows of promoting your novel on the internet

So, you've got a book out there. OUT in the vast THERE, floating in cyber, just waiting to be noticed. Only you're getting no results. So you up the ante and get involved - you send out copies for reviews, join writer forums, internet book clubs and blogs and other such useless etceteras, and still detect NO DISCERNIBLE RESULT, right? You feel like you've hit a brick wall. There's just nothing happening and your frustration hits a new low - you start sending mass emails to everybody on the planet you have access to offering your book for a very reasonable price, invent what you feel are very interesting questions for a Q & A session with you and invite the entire universe to that earth-shattering event via your social networks, create a cyber group dedicated just to your books (that nobody has read as yet), and participate in web radio interviews hosted by a person who didn't bother to read the copy you've sent them but has a lot of enthusiasm if not training and uses a faulty microphone which will render the whole session inaudible.
Your frustration by this point should have turned into a raging depression; the mass emails bounce off as spam, the Q & A session is attended by you and your cat, the cyber group bearing your book's title has two entries - you and your cat's and the internet radio interview - you get the picture: the entire book promoting venture is a COLOSSAL failure. Sure, you might get a well-meaning stranger you've asked to friend you thank you for the add on your book's page but they will not buy the book or indeed read your carefully constructed blurb you've put up on your profile. No, the well-meaning stranger is just you wearing a different size of the same shoe - most likely they have something to flog to you. Maybe they're a budding musician promoting their 'single', or an artist trying to unload their home-made jewelry which they're keen to display on your book's page - at any rate, it hardly matters. You're two peas in a pod and there will be no sale for either of you. NO SALE.

Looks pretty grim, doesn't it? Yes, it does. However. There is a bright side. One day you'll wake up and the cobwebs will be gone. You start to feel better, feel like you've shaken off the blues, feel like you, once again, could take on the world - with just a little more work the whole thing is bound to pay off, you tell yourself and decide to give it another try. The reason behind this change? You've discovered a new book blog out in the vast THERE; your hunch is telling you you're onto a good thing - they might just be willing to review.


The Short Story: History and Development


What is a short story?

A short story, as described by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49), is a prose narrative of indeterminate length requiring anything from half an hour to one or two hours to peruse, and is a story that concentrates on a unique or single effect and one in which the totality of effect is the main objective.

Over time the form has shown itself to be so flexible and susceptible of so much variety that its possibilities seem almost endless. For example, it may be concerned with a scene, an episode, an experience, an action, the exhibition of a character or characters, the day's events, a meeting, a conversation, a fantasy or anything else that is an event in the mind of the writer.

When it comes to classification this is one of the most elusive forms. How long (or short) is a short story? If we take the novella as a 'middle-distance' book/story, then the short story comes into the 100/200 metre class. A short story could have anything from about 1,600 words to 20, 000 words, but the vast majority fall somewhere between the two.


Where did the short story begin?

Historically, we find many inset stories or digressions in Classical literature which amount to short stories. In the Bible the accounts of Cain and Abel, the Prodigal Son, Ruth, Judith and Suzannah are all short stories. The forefathers of the short story are myth, legend, parable, fairy tale, fable, anecdote, exemplum, essay, character study and even the ballad. The yarn, the sketch, the tale and the Russian 'skaz' are all short stories.

How did the short story develop?

In the second half of the 18th century the short story was being developed and established in Britain, partly as a result of the popularity of the oriental tale and also the Gothic novel. This new kind of the horror story was becoming increasing popular and by the end of the 18th c. the German 'novella' was firmly established as a term and genre of fiction, a trend which also saw the 'short story' evolve into a highly organized literary form. The popularity of the genre at this stage was mainly due to ghost stories dealing with the supernatural. In the English-speaking world two of the most important pioneers were Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832) and the Americans Washington Irving (1783 - 1859) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 64).

The development of the short story during the 19th century

The realistic short story became highly developed in Russia. Alexander Pushkin was among the first to exploit it in the 1830s with The Tales of Belkin (1830), the Queen of Spade (1834) and The Captain's Daughter (1836). Gogol's stories were published during the same period. He wrote about everyday things and events and ordinary peoples. Among his most famous works are Nevsky Prospekt (1835), Notes of a Madman (19=835), The Portrait (1835), and Nose (1836) and The Overcoat (1842). Chekhov, who was to have a profound an universal influence on the short story, published several collections, including Motley Stories (1886) and In the Twilight (1888).
In France the short story was established in 1829-31 with the publication of a dozen 'contes' by Prosper Merimee, Balzac and Gautier. The outstanding French writer of short stories in the 19th c. was unquestionably Guy de Maupassant, among whose main collections were La Maison Tellier (1881), Mademoiselle Fifi (1882) and Yvette (1885).

Chekhov and Maupassant are generally accounted the masters of the genre in this period. Their combined influence has been immeasurable.
By the middle of the 19th c. the ghost story and the horror story were very well established. Many hundreds of short stories during the second half of the century were one or the other, or both combined. There were also hundreds of short stories with supernatural or supranormal themes; often tales of suspense and mystery. This popularity was to continue in the 20th century and beyond.

The short story in America

In America, during the second half of the 19th c., eight writers made a considerable name for themselves in the short story form: Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Ambrose Bierce, O. Henry, Stephen Crane, Jack London and Sherwood Anderson.Herman Melville's three most famous are Brtleby the Scrivener, Benito Cereno and The Encantadas. These were published in his collection The Piazza Tales (1856).

Twain's main collection is The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calveras County and Other Sketches (1867). This is an example of the tall tale or tall story, a kind of fiction which was popular in America in the 19th century.

Francis Bret Harte was a prolific writer of short stories and helped to popularize the Western. One of his best collections is The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches (1870).

Ambrose Bierce is still well remembered for his collection Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1891).

Stephen Crane published two distinguished collections - The open Boat and Other Tales of Adventure (1898) and The Monster and Other Stories (1899).

O. Henry, especially, was very prolific and, like many of his here mentioned contemporaries, wrote tight, well-crafted stories, almost slick in their adroit contrivance, and was a master of the surprise ending or 'twist in the tail'. Among his main collections are Cabbage and Kings (1904), The Four Million (1906), The Trimmed Lamp (1907), and The Road of Destiny (1909).

Jack London was equally prolific. Two of his main collections are The Son of the Wolf (1900) and Tales of the Far North (1900). His Two Thousand Dozen is one of the best of all tall stories.

Sherwood Anderson's collections include The Triumph of the Egg (1921) and Horses and Men (1923).

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Dilemma of the Unhappy Adventurer

Dear reader,

I find myself in a peculiar personal situation which is so far out of my realm of experience that I'm using this channel to ask for advice as I feel there must be other people around in my position. I truly don't know what to do and would appreciate any advice anybody out there has to offer. Here's the problem.

I am a person of independent means, which means that I can do as I like with my time and this, until a year ago, suited me to perfection. I traveled, I indulged; indeed I did not shy away from any experience life had to offer and I wanted for nothing. Then, on a whim, I suddenly married twelve months ago and that’s when the trouble started.

At first I enjoyed being a husband, the simplicity of domestic bliss had briefly enslaved me but eventually, three months later, the novelty wore off and I found myself craving freedom. Once again I yearned to expect the unexpected, to embrace life’s pleasures unfettered and so, in keeping with my newly found zest, I began an affair with a woman. The excitement I felt every time I presented my wife and my mistress with yet another lie to account for my whereabouts is hard to put to words. To put it simply I felt alive and if it wasn’t for my falling in love, I would be feeling it still.

It's only recently that I've come to understand that love hurts. It's certainly turned my world upside down, I can tell you. I used to be so carefree, so beautifully callous in my romantic pursuits, which were numerous. Those were wonderful times, when visions of exhilarating adventures, piles of them, delightfully uncomplicated and brief, galloped through my head, just after lunch when I’d sit back nursing a cognac; for hours I was lost in reflection and the planning of my next affair. I had the best time of my life, I admit, when I was about to make a new conquest, all without feeling the least bit of guilt.

Alas, those days have now sadly come to an end. Since I fell in love I only mope and furrow my brow as I sit contemplating life without my angel because divorce, due to an iron-clad prenup is out of the question. Not only would my wife fleece me of every last cent but, to add insult to injury, she's concerned over my well-being. Of course, I take into account that the stupid woman is blissfully unaware about my situation but when she plies me with her never-ending inquiries as to why I seem so forlorn, I feel like putting my head in a bucket. I can't bear to look at her, and not just because she's frightfully ugly. It's all that and more. I am in a pretty pickle, I realize as I gaze at her long ovine face which her worried expression makes only longer and more ovine, and I wish I had not gotten that rotten drunk that night at the casino when I woke up in that cheap motel with her by my side waving the marriage certificate at me in that triumphant manner. We're married, darling! She bleated and she had my signature to prove it.

Well, what could I do? Tell her my heart wasn't in it? I should have but I didn't. I've been a gentleman all my life and it's been my undoing. As a result, my life today is full of regrets. Well, I try to make the best of the situation; as I juggle my two lives, heaping lies upon lies in both directions, I seem to be sinking deeper into deception and there’s no end to it.

So this is my story, dear reader, and I am hoping that you will be able to offer some insight into this peculiar situation and tell me what to do.

Yours truly
Unhappy Adventurer

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What is satire?

Satire has been variously defined, throughout centuries, as 'a poem in which wickedness or folly is censured', 'the amendment of vices', 'reformation' or as 'a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own, which is the chief reason for that kind of reception it meets in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.' In other words - satire enables people to laugh at their fellow man's foolishness while blissfully unaware that they're being fools themselves.

Is satire art? 

The satirist is a kind of self-appointed guardian of standards, ideals and truth; of morals as well as aesthetic values. Satirists are people who take it upon themselves to correct, censure and ridicule the follies and vices of society and thus to bring contempt and derision upon aberrations from a desirable and civilized norm. Thus satire is a kind of protest, a sublimation and refinement of anger and indignation.

As Ian Jack once so adroitly put it: 'Satire is born of the instinct to protest; it is protest become art.'


What is the role of a satirist? 


In Essays in Satire (1928) Ronald Knox likened the satirist to a small boy who goes about with a water pistol charged with vitriol. He also suggests that the satirist is a kind of spiritual therapist whose function is to destroy the root causes of the major diseases of the spirit, like hypocrisy, pride and greed.


Satire during the last century 

During the 20th century satire was rare. Two of the main reasons for this lack are that the 20th century was a period of much instability and violent change, and the humour industry grew to such an extent that the satirist could hardly make himself felt except in the caricature and the cartoon. Sustained verbal satire of merit was very unusual, and verse satire almost nonexistent.

21st century satire 

Cabbage, Strudel and Trams 

An almost biographical and definitely riotous tale of adolescence begun behind the Iron Curtain, continued in a West German refugee camp and coming to a glorious end in the land Down Under.

Cabbage, Strudel & Trams tells the story of a young girl's turbulent journey from childhood to adulthood, of adolescence begun behind the Iron Curtain, continued in a West German refugee camp and coming to a glorious end in the land Down Under. Narrated by Franta, an imaginary friend inhabiting the inner world of our young heroine Vendula, this satirical coming-of-age tale depicts the trials and tribulations of an ordinary Czech family living in a small mining town in communist Czechoslovakia in the early 1980s, their escape to West Germany and their resettlement in Australia.

The story begins when the combined household of Zhvuk & Dribbler is thrown into chaos by the untimely defection of Uncle Stan to West Germany. With nothing but their damaged political profile to lose, the family decides to eventually follow in Uncle Stan's footsteps but not before puberty, free enterprise, unrequited love and things that only happen to other people shred our young heroine's heart. With charm, poise and a little grace, Franta navigates Vendula through the pitfalls of her teenage years, guiding her to discover her own identity. As shenanigans gather momentum, Franta's humorous insights into Vendula's loopy family: the assertive mother, the henpecked father, the enterprising granddad, the blissful grandma, the dissenting uncle and his circle of "freedom fighting" friends build a picture of the life of ordinary folk surviving the oppressive communist regime.

Well, even straw will eventually break the camel's back. Following a trip to the almighty Soviet "Onion" where rows of empty shop windows reveal the future all too clearly, the family escapes to West Germany. Unexpectedly, the refugee camp, a colourless shapeless blur on the edge of a dark, dark forest where only goblins live, is a "happy" kind of place in which tobacco chewing, nose picking, throat clearing, the occasional riot, and plentiful and uninhibited sexual exploits are the order of the day. Of course, life is not all beer and crackers for our heroes; having carved out some sort of an existence in the camp, new challenges arise when the family arrives in Australia.

Why You Should Read To Your Child

The Benefits of Reading to Your Child

Reading to and with your child is one of the most important and enjoyable experiences you can share with your child to promote learning and instill the love of learning in your child. There are simple steps you can take to ensure your child is getting the most out of reading.

What is reading? 

Reading is the recognition and interpretation of the meanings of a printed word or symbol and of groups of words or symbols. Reading is about making meanings from print, recognizing groups of printed words and images in the book and then interpreting their meanings. Reading to your child involves you speaking the written word, your child hearing the sounds you make and then interpreting them. This involves your child in a process of constructing meaning from printed words or symbols.

How language develops between three and six years of age

Between the ages of three and six years, pronunciation improves markedly. Word coinage forms expand. Metaphors appear based on concrete, sensory comparisons. Sentences reflect an appreciation of adult grammatical categories. Grammatical skills expand and develop, and grammatical structures are added. Conversational strategies appear that help sustain interaction, such as taking turns. At school entry, children usually possess a vocabulary of about 10 000 words. Meanings are grasped on the basis of how words are used. There is also the beginning of an appreciation of multiple meaning attached to words. This leads to an expanded understanding of metaphors and humor.

From six to ten years of age there is a mastering of pronunciations signaling subtle differences in meaning. A few complex grammatical structures such as the passive voice continue to be refined. Advanced conversational strategies appear like shades of meaning. There is an expansion of the understanding of illocutionary intent, and an improvement in referential communication. Metalinguistic awareness develops rapidly and is enhanced by and contributes to mastery of literacy.

Terms explained:

illocutionary intent - what the speaker intends to say, regardless of whether what he or she actually says is consistent with the intention

referential communication - the ability to produce clear verbal messages and to recognize when the meaning of others' messages is unclear

metalinguistic awareness - the ability to think about language as a system

Why is reading to children important?

As a teaching technique, reading to or with children is used to help them construct meanings about the world around them. Reading for enjoyment - reading books and stories is one of the most common ways in which you read to or with your child to facilitate learning at any age. Babies and toddlers will enjoy the experience, too.

The story method of reading is really a form of word and picture play and is an immediately pleasurable activity to engage your child in and to share a meaningful exchange of ideas.


How do you read to your  child?

The following tips will help you facilitate a high quality reading experience with your child:

The books you read to or with your child should:
  • match your child's interest - short adventures with lots of images are particularly well suited to the young child as they often feature characters and storylines young children relate to
  • not frighten your child
  • feature familiar situations to help young children interpret the world around them
  • explore feelings children can understand
  • have pictures and appropriate language to match your child's age.



How to help your child develop a love of books and reading?

Knowing how to read to, or with, your child is a vital skill so that learning can actually take place.

Before you share a story with your child, make sure that:
  • your child is sitting or lying comfortably - children concentrate best when they're comfortable and settled
  • you read to your child in a clear voice and in ways that enable them to readily see any pictures related to the words being read
  • you show enthusiasm for reading and enjoyment in the story to immerse your child in the experience.

Motivate your children to learn 

The years from five to eight are significant in the development of the motivation to learn. Emerging cognitive abilities help young children to evaluate whether they are successful or unsuccessful in school. Children become very aware of their progress and their ability to control success. This can be very confusing. When a five to six year old child has his or her picture praised, others will copy it in the hope and expectation of receiving equal praise. They are very puzzled and hurt when copying is not valued as highly as originality and the praise wanes with the level of mass production.

One of the significant cognitive achievements in the over-five age group is the acquisition of the ability to think about and solve problems in their heads. As this mental ability (known as metacognition) grows, children develop their own systems for organizing and remembering things. Once they master metacognition, they plan strategies for games, understand jokes and riddles, and address how others might think and feel. The opportunity to engage in hands-on materials helps them to have concrete reference points in their encounter with new information. When children can write, they should be encouraged to record findings to supplement concrete materials.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Do you want to have a clever child? Teach your baby to solve problems.

Babies and problem-solving

Problem-solving is the foundation of a young child's learning. As soon as young children begin to ask 'Why?' and 'How?' they show an interest in learning through problem-solving. But problem-solving strategies can be taught to children long before they start speaking. Very young babies can be encouraged to develop problem solving thinking, and here's how to do it.

How problem-solving can help stimulate intelligence

Healthy babies will be puzzled by many things in the world about them. The problems babies will be trying to solve for themselves are going to be simple puzzles about how the world works and how to make their body works in the world. By about 4 months of age, babies reach a stage in their cognitive development where they can intentionally begin to make things happen. For example, they will use their hands to hit a mobile or cry for their mother. Once babies reach this stage of cognitive development, you can present your baby with simple puzzles they can solve. For example, moving a mobile that a baby can reach to a slightly different location so that baby has to work out again how to use their hands to reach it. Or, you can offer your baby a new toy so that your baby has to work out what to do with it and how to work it. Babies concentration span is very short and their frustration and distress can build up quickly so do not be too ambitious when trying to stimulate your baby to try new things. You need to choose puzzles that are within the baby's grasp and do not cause distress or frustration. Learning to enjoy problem-solving at this age relies on having problems that are fun and of interest to the baby.

Children's confidence in problem-solving begins to be shaped in infancy. When boys are distressed parents will often direct them into doing activities while distressed baby girls will get cuddles and soothing talk to settle them down. This provides boys with strong messages that they are doers and solvers of problems and girls that they should be passive rather than active.

What you need to do to help your baby develop their problem-solving strategies early 

You need to match the use of problem-solving to enhance children's learning with their developmental abilities. The older the children the more they are likely to have sustained, focused attention on the problems they encounter. You also need to match the types of problems you want to encourage your children to solve with your children's developmental interests.

Very young children respond to simple narrative structure, colorful visual appeal and storylines that are suited to their limited understanding of the world around them. Let’s Read A Story will help your children understand simple concepts from everyday life while engaging them in a question & answer responses and acting out simple instructions.

Available to download from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords and everywhere else where good books are sold.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Decision, a short story by Ivana Hruba

Paul? Paul? Are you listening?
Yes, of course, I’m listening.
Yes, of course, you are. What was the last thing I said?
Umm… You said you wanted to…
I did. But now I don’t!
She walks out, leaving the room like a ghost, without touching a thing. She won’t even bang the door shut. It wouldn’t make any difference if she did. A year and a half into the marriage and this is their regular weekend. She talks while he reads the paper. Occasionally, he nods. She nods too, though for a different reason; to punctuate the way she feels. She wants him to know how she feels ‘cause that’s important to her, but no so much to him she’s noticed, lately. Lately, things have been changing between them. A gulf is developing, perceptibly, steadily, and it’s bothering her. She’s puzzled over it, for a while now, trying to find the cause.
It could be that they are just too different, she’s been thinking lately. Too opposite, it seems, in everything they do. And they say that opposites attract. She used to believe it, when they first met, when she used to enjoy watching him play footy, soccer, golf, even squash. In return, she got Paul’s attention, undivided, when it was her turn. But those days are gone; they’ve been replaced by these days and these days things are way different. These days she doesn’t enjoy watching Paul, do anything, anymore and Paul doesn’t mind, is definitely less attentive, to her, to anything other than his needs. She’s had to face it: their attraction is wearing off and everyone is going back to who they are, despite their best intentions, despite their I dos and despite all the promises they’ve made.
He and she are in trouble, she knows this, thinking she might have figured out what’s causing it. They’re asserting their own selves; that’s what’s causing the friction. They need different things, it’s that simple, but it doesn’t make things any easier. In fact, things are going downhill pretty fast, this weekend, anyway. She needs a listener but he doesn’t want to be one. She needs attention but he wants to watch tv, alone, lounging on the couch in his underpants. She looks forward to going out, to a café, a movie, the beach; he looks forward to making a mess on the couch with his cheese and crackers, and his lager. Every weekend, he looks forward to this, and every weekend the gulf grows. And lately he’s been getting vocal about it. He wants to watch the footy, the cricket, the soccer, even baseball, now that they’ve got pay tv. He just wants to relax ‘cause it’s the weekend, for God’s sakes. Why don’t you just stop whining for a while? He says. That would be nice.
She stops whining, exists the room. She takes her coat, her handbag and her car keys. She’s going out, alone, today, again. She heads for the beach, for that nice little café just off the main drag where it’s nice and cozy and warm but you can see the ocean clearly; on a day like this, you can see the waves crashing down on the boardwalk, and it makes one feel good. Witnessing all that destruction makes her feel good; as good as a chat with an understanding friend would do but she’s done that to death lately so today she’ll be doing something different, something new and unexpected even if it is totally planned, calculated and premeditated, to the umpteenth degree.
Today, she’s going to get laid. She’s thought about it, long and hard, and she’s doing it. She has someone in mind, and he’s a honey, a dude with a ‘tude, drop dead gorgeous and up for it, she knows. They’ve been exchanging glances. It’s gonna be hot and heavy, she so knows, and hopes that he does too. And today is the day.
She enters the café. It’s busy, noisy as she knew it would be on a day like this, with the howling wind and the rain driving the ocean over the wall to smash the boardwalk, to pieces, and it’s exactly how she’s been feeling, how she wants to feel and hopefully soon, ‘cause she’s getting impatient and she wants to see Him now. Ah, there He is, setting up his guitar stand. He’s looking good, all dark and brooding and so like in her dreams, she has to look away. Too late, He’s seen her. He nods, smiles, she melts, on the inside. On the outside, she smiles, nods, like a proper acquaintance. Cause they’re not friends. Not yet and who knows if they ever will be? She hasn’t planned that far. She’s only planned today. So far everything’s going swimmingly, which is rare so she’s enjoying the sensation. She’s going to talk to Him and soon.
She orders a coffee, pours herself a glass of water. The urn is just next to the stage where He’s sitting on a stool, tuning up his guitar. He’s looking scrumptious, looking right at her, says hi, says it’s good to see you again. She feels herself blushing, and loving every minute of it. Conversation begins, then flows and she finds herself standing there for a good while, while her coffee grows cold on the counter. She didn’t hear them call her number, but they did, several times, then moved on ‘cause it’s busy and time is money.
The afternoon flies, though there are several moments in it that seem like they would never end; He comes over between sets, to sit at her table, and he’s making her feel like she’s the most interesting, beautiful woman in the world. He’s a good listener, a good responder and there’s a great deal of mystery about Him ‘cause he hasn’t said that much about himself. But He’s interested in everything she’s had to say. She tells him a lot about herself, her dreams, her aspirations, favourite movies and all about the novel she’s reading right now. It’s a love story, a thing of rare beauty and it’s been making her cry. He seems to want to know a lot more about it, but not right now ‘cause right now it’s time to pack. So maybe, He suggests, they could discuss it over at his ‘cause he only lives around the corner and he’s got a great red wine collection so… What do you think?
The invitation is there, she knows, she’s been working towards it since she’s laid eyes on Him three weeks ago, and now the moment is here. She had always imagined the moment would feel different, that she would back out at the last minute, feel guilt or a surge of love for Paul, or some new emotion, one she’s never felt before, that would compel her to stop, rewind, go back to her marriage determined to try harder, but none of this happens. She nods, says great, we’ll go to yours. His smile gives her butterflies. This hasn’t happened in a… while, anyway. She’s onto a good thing here. And she’s gonna make sure He’s too.
Several hours later she’s in his bed, in his arms, feeling alive. It’s going down well, just like she’s imagined it would. His touch is electric. He’s attentive, passionate, knows all the right moves. It’s heaven and it only gets better. Afterwards, they talk and drink red wine. In bed. She’s keen for another round but He’s in the mood to talk, so they talk.
He’s recently divorced. Just moved in to this beachside cottage a few weeks ago. He’s still getting over his marriage, which he had thought (foolishly) would last forever or else he’d never have made the commitment. But she cheated (multiple times) and it finally got too much. But he had tried, tried so hard, to fix it, to keep it going but it didn’t work out. She left one day and never came back. Texted him that it was over, that she moved in with a new guy and filed for divorce. And why? Why did this happen? He never did figure it out but she eventually told him they were simply too different. They were opposites in every way, two different people with different dreams and aspirations and it was best to end it while they were still civil. It’s been four months since the decree was signed and this — wait for it — is the first time he’s taken a girl home. You’re very special, He whispers to her, snuggling up close. He smells like the beach, looks divine but she’s not having as much fun anymore. She’s thinking it’s late and she should be going home.
But He’s not finished yet. He’s telling her he would really like to see her again, has liked her the moment he laid eyes on her, and would like to get to know her better. She nods; of course, she’d like to see more of him. She’ll come by next week. Same time, same place. Then they’ll come here, to do what needs to be done. Deep down, she knows it won’t be possible, but now is not the time to say it. It would spoil this otherwise perfect experience, this much looked for release she’s needed for so long. She can’t bear to tell him but He’s not the one for her. And He’s not; not with his baggage, the emotional scars and the inflexible, old-fashioned attitude; it just wouldn’t work. It’s a pity but she’s determined to leave on a high so they go another round.
She gets home just after midnight. Paul’s on the couch, snoring. It looks like he hasn’t missed her. The television is on and there are signs, all over this room, of the bacchanalia that took place here while she made love to another man. Empty bottles of lager (6) attest to the good times that were had here, in her absence. There’s plenty of litter; bits of cheese and bits of crackers, some on the carpet, some on and under the coffee table. A half-eaten chocolate bar and an ice cream wrapper and the stick, sticky side down, sticking to the glass top, right next to a crumbly smudge of something spilled which had dribbled off the edge onto the new carpet where it pooled, then dried into a solid blob. It’ll be a bitch to clean; that much is obvious ‘cause the carpet’s light and the stain is dark. But the cleaning can wait. Right now, she just wants to go to sleep.
She turns in for the night, going upstairs, alone but happy. She’s thinking of the lovely day she’s had. Of all the lovely days she will have. She’s thinking that maybe this marriage will last.

Brides Unveiled by Ivana Hruba is coming to an online store near you soon.

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