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Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Currently reading

Your Beauty Mark. All You Need to Get the Hair, Makeup, Glow, and Glam.
Dita von Teese
Progress: 208/256 pages

Widen your book shopping

One thing that has united readers throughout the ages, is the fight against censorship of works. It won't surprise you to learn that this is still happening, but this time, at a level where you're very unlikely to hear about it.


To cut a long story short, the conversation between the platform (no prizes for guessing which one) and the publisher goes something like this.

PLATFORM - Some of your books have misleading meta data, so you've got 48 hours to clear this up, or we're suspending your account.

PUBLISHER - Which ones?

PLATFORM - We're not going to tell you.

For your own sake as a reader, take the time to get connected with a number of different platforms. Also, get connected with some of the indie review sites that are out there. Because I'm an author, I'm not going to tell you any specific sites, for obvious reasons... but I will tell you that if you don't widen your source of reading material, then you're walking blindly into an age of censorship by the corporates.

An interesting question...

"We need more research to better understand the differences between TV and reading. But for now, it might be worth asking ourselves: What am I watching tonight. And will I be a better person for it?"


The conclusion from an April "Big Think" article here which I thought I'd share - http://bigthink.com/ana-sandoiu/you-are-what-you-watch-how-tv-influences-moral-behavior - Personally, as we've got so little time on this planet, I think it's worthwhile considering from every angle. Not only for readers either, but also for authors. What am I writing, why am I writing it, and what will it contribute to society?


I had a shock a few years ago when a child bought a copy of, "Check Mate," at an event I attended, and after the event I was concerned about the amount of profanity in it. That led to a change within me and for those interested, I pondered on it here - http://msknight.booklikes.com/post/1280692/the-first-convention

Is it right to restrict who tells a story?

This is a delicate subject. A very awkward subject. It keeps raising its head in our modern times of international communication, and this morning I read it again. "Should a white man tell a black trans woman's story?" in the BBC News pages.


This time at issue, it is David France telling the story of Marsha P Johnson. A separate film was being undertaken by Reina Gossett, and there are accusations being made in various fields.


You can align, or even misalign me, with Johnson's story. I'm transsexual but I'm white. I'm also living in the UK as opposed to the US. In the year that the Stonewall riots happened, I was breathing my first lung full of air on this planet.


I consider a story to be an interpretation. You peer through the magic looking glass into another world and absorb the lessons it has to teach and the experience it has to offer. You allow it to nestle in your heart and become a small piece of your own life. Yes... that magic looking glass can be tainted, but there is an argument that it NEEDS to be tainted. The question is... how much, in what direction, and by whom?


Part of the problem here, is that the focus is on one individual when, in film, there are many people involved in the team that brings a story to the screen. Not so in the majority of books, so I'm going to continue this with the view that one person is the looking glass.


To deliberately go to the extremes in order to illustrate the point, part of the problem we have faced today is a failure of understanding. Two sides talking, but neither listening... and each side unable to put their position forward in a way that the other will understand. An interpreter needs to know more than language. The interpreter needs to know the cultures in order to correctly bridge the gap of understanding. Translation needs so much more than a simple understanding of diction. That is why many automatic translation systems are  so bad.


The storyteller needs to not only understand the story, but also needs to understand the audience. In some cases, that magic looking glass will need to be created multiple times, with different tints. Each one tuned for the people who are going to be looking through it.


At the end of the day, if two films are created, Gossett can watch France's film, and France can watch Gossett's, and each come away with different impressions. That is why the world of art is so crazy. Different people like different things.


To my mind, the best person to tell a story is the person who is best at crafting that tint. The person who best understands both the story and the audience.

A time and a place to write.

I have not written a word in anger in many a month. I know why. It is because I am unsettled.


There are no great fights. Some uncertainty, but I'm confident that my job is not one of those at risk. However, change is undulating beneath me and I am conscious of it lapping at my ankles.


The home office is in disarray. There are electronics projects to be completed, so that I can clear the floor and organise the work benches. It is not possible to shut myself away in another room and continue to work from there, because my heart knows that these things have to be brought to completion, before I can be at peace within my own soul... to write.


It is not for a lack of work, or writers block. I know what is to be done, and I know what form the words will take. But words need both mind and heart to be in unison, to craft something that has a meaningful connection with my soul.


I know that sounds poetically insane, but it is true for me. Every writer probably has their own needs, rituals, muses, influences and more. These, simply, are mine.


I hardly use a pen any more, but recently I bought writing pencils and replaced the cartridge in my fountain pen. More ink will evaporate into the air than will ever soak into a piece of paper, but that is the poetry. As I complete the work around me... as I put every little piece back in its proper place... or carve out a new hole while disposing of the past... I step closer to the union of heart and mind that will let me write.


There is no use in forcing it. Nothing good will come of rushing. Everything will have its time.


To any outside observer, I will simply be tidying my little home office, throwing away the junk and sorting out the new equipment. Repairing things and clearing the decks, so that I have a clean slate, from which to move forward. But underneath there is a deeper feeling. A purpose. A time. A place.


So in the mean time... I continue to repair, renew and regenerate.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruxwb5rF-mI

Copy for honest review

Well, for whomever might be listening, I can give a couple of people a copy of the audio book to, "Check Mate," in exchange for an honest review that I can use for the publisher's web site... and here... or wherever, really. I've got no clue as to whether it will make its way to Audible or somewhere.


If you've been following me for a while on here, I'd like to think that I've demonstrated that I appreciate constructive criticism (this IS my first audio book after all, there are going to be loads of problems that weren't caught) I'm not one of those authors who goes all daggers over bad reviews! - and I'm not sure how I put an audio book on here anyway... at least, not one that hasn't got an ISBN. Hmm... that's another issue to look into.


There's a reason for not getting het up over poor reviews... there's no point. If I've done a bad job, then I should hang my head; while deliberately bad reviews show themselves up, so there's no need for me to go all Thor's hammer :-D


There is one solid advantage to audio books, however... no one can pull me up on my spelling !!!

Yay! Happy second publication-ish-sort-of day to me.

Audio version of Check Mate is complete, including listening to a sample. Got to try that when I get home - http://www.fiction4all.com/books/b12555-check-mate.htm


Sometimes, it's the little things that lift the day...

Kozlowski's post

When I read Rod Raglin's post  about Michael Kozlowski's post about living in a world of Terrrible Self Published Authors, I had to read for myself.


The whole author renumeration thing, I blogged about myself some time ago - "The Amazon Effect" where Nick Higham interviewed Mal Peet - http://msknight.com/loas/?p=1282


If you want to read all those articles and blog posts, feel free, but I'm going to restrict myself to Kozlowski's post, which generated 133 comments in itself. Not that I'm going to read all of those, but one comment from Bob Mayer did catch my eye...

"Since you're using a quote from me, I guess I need to weigh in. I haven't read the other comments because I'm sure they are full of outrage from indie authors. I agree with most of what you say except for a couple of assumptions you make without clear linkage. I think you have it backward in saying that indie authors are causing the decline of the eBook market. Successful indie authors are causing the decline of reported eBook sales. No one records my sales, other than Amazon, and I don't think they're releasing their data. The same is true for many indie and hybrid authors. I've been hearing "plateauing" and "declining" for years. Perhaps. But causality is questionable. I would say the chief executive of the Publishers Association has a dog in this hunt, so that can be taken the same as any comments from indie authors can be taken.

There is no doubt there is a flood of dreck and you can't tell anyone what they're written is dreck. I've seen it in three decades of working with writers. I also don't think the plethora of self-pub works is clogging up the system or hurting search engines-- those are driven by sales and coop money.

Ultimately none of this matters. To each their own and you seem to enjoy poking your nose into this hornet's nest. It really doesn't change anything."

In among all that Kozlowski put forward in his post, the one thing he (and others) failed to do, is offer any solutions to the situation.

He correctly identified that local book stores don't contain Indie authors. It would be stunning if they did, particularly authors from their own local areas. I was actually chatting with Waterstones, who did at one point, have a program that saw authors books be stocked in their local branches. However, in my case that came to nothing. Exactly why, however, I never got to the bottom of, but it looked like the whole program fell off the edge of a cliff.

The gatekeepers of the blogsphere are, themselves, not immune to the ego trips that Kozlowski aimed at indie authors and competitors of American Idol. Some of them are tied in to deals with Amazon and advertisers who run banner adverts on their blogspot blogs. I won't detail my own experiences, but suffice to say that I don't trust my reading recommendations to bloggers that gain an income from advertising, as they have a vested interest in picking works that are likely to drive the maximum traffic to their site. (that's why I spend my little precious time on BookLikes instead of Goodreads.) The big name works gain ever more coverage, while the needles in the Indie haystack stay there, because nobody's searching for them.

We need a reviewing site that is completely independent. Revenue generation to keep the lights on, should stay at a site/service level and authors should have to pay a small charge to submit their works for review. I do have a business model in my head for such a service, which has a small number of bars that have to be reached for a work to gain a trustworthy review. But an independent reviewing/blogging site is not enough. The classification system itself needs an overhaul so that it makes it easier for someone to search for works which suit their mood. The simple classification system we currently have, is not fit for purpose any more. When a reader comes to a site thinking, "I'm in the mood for a Victorian period comedy," current systems don't really support this way of browsing. One of my favorite cheesy films is, "Four Eyes and Six Guns," which is a comedy about an optometrist, set in the Wild West. Who'd have thought that such a combination even existed ?!

Me? I know that I'm not an experienced author. The small number of reviews that I do have, are scattered across the range. It is up to me to create a book that captures the imagination and makes people WANT to talk about it. That is the only way to go. Forced promotion is a short term solution that I hate whenever I see it, but it does overcome the problem that authors face... managing to get someone... anyone... to read the books and take the time to tell the world what they think.

I have estimated that I'll have a book worth reading in about another five years, if I keep up this level of practice. No short achievement for a dyslexic that works a nine to five and vlogs as well. But even if (and it's a big if) I do manage to reach that goal, then I do so in the hope that by the time I get there, that there will be a way to get an honest review of my efforts, and for people to see those reviews easily.

And those efforts are considerable for someone of my low resource. Friends and colleagues have edited my works, on top of the large amount of editing and reviewing that I put in myself. Even with all that effort, mistakes still make it through. 

I have commented in my vlogs numerous times, that the currency of the internet is trust. At the moment, with everyone out to grab whatever scraps they can in a world where the advertising model is starting to crumble, (as advertisers start to wake up to exactly how much of their money is being wasted)... if trust existed as a tradeable commodity on the stock exchange, it would be more valuable than gold, platinum, titanium... you get the drift.


Mayer past the perfect judgement on Kozlowski's post... "It really doesn't change anything."

Nearly there

The audio book version of Check Mate is very nearly there. Only a few description details that the publisher has to finish, and then I'll be able to put the direct link out.


This post, however, is to draw attention to the fact that once you purchase an e-book with them, that you get access to all the formats, so once you purchase a book... if you change e-readers later on down the road, you can download in whatever format suits you best. Or just download the lot and have them on-file ready to hand!!! - to my mind, this is much better than buying via a store that has a commercial interest into tying you down to their own format reader with DRM, so that you can't move your rightfully purchased books later on down the line.


In life news... I've been handling a bit of a mare lately, so my reading of books has taken a hit. Hopefully, I'll be able to use this weekend to tidy up and then get back into the groove. I really want to get the Dita Von Teese book finished.


Audio book publishers

If you haven't noticed, I've been a bit quiet lately.


I may be looking for a platform on which to publish the audio version of Check Mate. Not sure yet. My publisher is an indie, and I prefer to support Indie wherever possible.


As you can probably tell, that leaves Amazon, Apple, etc. off the radar for me.


So, if you've got any suggestions of Indie publishers of audio books, I'd be grateful for a heads up.

Reading progress update: I've read 208 out of 375 pages.

Your Beauty Mark. All You Need to Get the Hair, Makeup, Glow, and Glam. - Dita von Teese

This is a heavy book .... in both senses.


In the first sense, any arachnophobe should have this on their shelf. Hit a spider with this thing, and it's off to that big web in the sky after the first hit.


In the second sense, I've been off with housewife's knee for five days, and I've only got a little over half way through.


Part of that is the type of information. A mix of advice, history and life story, mixed in with pictures both by means of examples of said advice, and examples of her achievements in life. Also, it reads to me as if it is talking to those who have already spent a portion of their lives sat at a vanity table... and that's not me!!!


The big size is all the better for the pictures, so I'm not moaning about it; it's the size that it needs to be, in order to do the job properly. However, if I hadn't got my knee injury from shampooing the carpet the night before I started reading this... then I might have looked at the tome accusingly after seeing my knee become a tennis ball.

Reading progress update: I've read 111 out of 375 pages.

Your Beauty Mark. All You Need to Get the Hair, Makeup, Glow, and Glam. - Dita von Teese

For some reason, my copy runs to 375-ish pages, rather than the 256 listed here against the book. Pass. Who knows. No clue why. Such is life.


What I do know is that Dita had a grounding in reality before she chose the path of burlesque. And this is a life of art. Human art. In fact, a collection of different types of art, itself wrapped and mixed in a package that becomes Dita vonTeese.


She is perfectly aware that she occupies a space where few of us actually practically desire to go; such entrapments that are hers come at a price which I, for one, would not like to pay. However, she laces this with practical advice that all of us can follow. In other words, if you simply went out and bought the products that she listed... then you'd be missing the whole point. As she says; what works for her, might not work for others... but then hands over the keys to unlock your own journey, without breaking the kind of piggy bank that many of us endure these days.


So far, I have been through skin and am mostly my way through perfume. Perhaps the most poignant was the money she wasted with celebrity dermatologists, and found her saviour instead in someone who knew their science and was more interested in people, than fame.


 The dedication to the beauty of her chosen era can best be summed up in the kind of experience that might be found in the opening of an iPhone. The box that glides open gently under the pull of gravity. The new phone smell that teases the nose. The placement within the packaging and the very arrangement of the minimalist pieces themselves. Get to grips with that, and the effort and dedication that went behind the making of that experience, and you'll have a starting point to what drives Dita to the path she has chosen to follow.


Mixed in are segments of history that I never knew; and practical, sensible advice on things like diet and skin care.


This is a heavy, but worthwhile read so far.

The writer in me....

...wants this soooo badly. My bank manager says, "You're kidding. Get back to work."




A bit of vintage reading...

I'm an amateur photographer, have been for most of my life. Magazines tend to repeat themselves on about a yearly cycle. You eventually get that de-ja vu feeling about the advice that's on offer.


I spotted these on flea bay and decided to give them a read. They're from 1938...



.and if you've read this far and want to see what kind of pictures I take... my general Flickr portfolio is here - https://www.flickr.com/photos/msknight/

Audio book with the publisher

This morning I uploaded the audio files for the book Check Mate, and gave the download link to the publisher.


Mono, Mp3 at 48 bit rate. The whole thing weighs in at 110.5 meg, including the tagging and compressed cover image with each mp3 file.


Download size is still relevant for various storage devices and people who are still on slow internet connections. The total run time is 5 hours, 5 minutes and 56 seconds. (It couldn't be 55 seconds... could it !!! - and no, I'm not editing it specifically to do that.)


Still... all I have to do now, is sit and wait for the feedback from the publisher. (crosses fingers and hopes)

Today... it happens....

I pick up the finished audio for Check Mate in a few hours.


I have my microphone packed, because I've got to re-record two phrases, but I'm loving it so far. He's even put in radio effects for some of the two-way communications. Some alteration to the narration speed, among other things, and I hope to be able to bring you a snippet in a week or two :-)


My first, full length audio book. Squeeeeeeeee !!!!