Archive for January, 2012

Games, Films and Novels

I use to be afraid that no one would read novels anymore. The more technology increased with providing images for the eye to see, the more I began to believe that the imagination would disappear.

And then technology brought a few saviors.

My fear? The films that I actual love: Science Fiction and Fantasy. As every year passed, technology put to screen the imagination that once sat in the mind. We use to just have comics on paper; game boards and small self-painted figurines for Dungeons and Dragons; the Renaissance Festivals and Muppets. Yeah, Muppets made up for imaginations, and so did cartoons. Jim Henson was The Man with his puppets like in The Dark Crystal (1982). And then time flashed forward and films like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) came out. That film opened many eyes and even brought fear to actors and actresses who started copyrighting their faces and features so that it couldn’t be duplicated in CGI without permission. “OMG! They won’t need us anymore!” the actor’s mind screamed. “It will all be Computer Animated! And computers don’t argue back on how to say a line, or want to argue about adding additional lines. It would be so much easier for the director and we’ll be paid less and less!”

Then Television had to keep up with Film and Cable, and CGI entered that world, and story lines got better and my favorite shows became a must to watch: Stargate, Fringe, Dexter, True Blood, Game of Thrones, and on and on and on….

Then there were these incredible games like Final Fantasy XIII and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with graphics that blow your mind! Grass move, stars gazing with realistic movement of clouds, individual voices and characters with stories and attitudes and religion, night turns to day and day into night, and even the food looks like something you want to pick off the screen and have on your own table in these games. I’m not a gamer, but my significant other is. And I sit and type and do my social network, and I watch this engrossing world that is simply… Beautiful!

There’s nothing needed for your own imagination when it’s visually there for the picking.

So… I thought novels and books were going to be obsolete.

And then eReaders started to explode, and I saw how SO MANY PEOPLE who weren’t readers of novels and books before, became readers. The Kindle became an desired object, and one can even read from your own cellular phone. There’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, Forums and all sorts of things online that one must read; and even the entertainment on game consoles had entire novels to read like in Skyrim where books sit on shelves of castles and huts and cabins that have completed stories for the gamers to read.

To Read. Sigh.

The imagination inside the mind hasn’t disappeared yet. In fact, it’s growing!

Until Next Time!

Power and Rainbows – Octavia Butler

Sometimes the lack of something in a young person’s life, or concentrated and continuous reception of pain, would form a hyper-creative mind.

I was reading over a transcript I had printed out on a forum with author Octavia Butler as the guest. It was in 2001 where the moderator/host was Ben Trumble for SCIFI. It was a promotional tour mainly for the novel Kindred which had been adapted into a four-part audiodrama miniseries for SCIFI.COM.

During the discussion, Octavia was asked the question about power…

QUESTION: “Ms. Butler, many of your novels deal with power relations: the gifted vs the normal, the time-traveler who knows vs. the manipulator. What about power interest you so much as a writer and human being?”

BUTLER’S ANSWER: “I don’t feel that Dana has power in Kindred, and only a little knowledge. Power is what she needs. Power does interest me. I grew up feeling so powerless, not only because I was Black and female, but because I was so shy. I wrote about power so I could understand it. It still interests me in the way that people use it. It’s such a part of being human.”

At those times where someone lacks power, the natural deepening of creativity explodes.

During the SCIFI discussion, Octavia states: “I used to live next to my landlady and I told everybody she inspired me. And you don’t need imagination because everybody has it. We carry it from childhood. And forget about talent. If you have it, wonderful. If you don’t…read a few best sellers and see who else doesn’t have it, then get to work.”

She stated that she began writing Science Fiction before she began reading it, or at least recognizing it.

And even after finally getting published, she still had to deal with a complete disregard when it came to her creative art.

First Cover Newest Cover Trilogy Cover

QUESTION: “I recently had a chance to see an earlier print of Dawn and on the cover was a Caucasian woman pretending to be Lilith. What were your reactions when you first saw that cover?”

BUTLER’S ANSWER: “Well, my reaction was the same as when I first saw any of my early covers. Writers have no control over that. Well, maybe Stephen King. It’s the luck of the draw and sometimes there is no luck. I think it was the marketing ideas of the time. Black people don’t read SF. Blacks on the cover don’t sell books. As my books sold more, that changed. I literally outlived the adversity. I have editors now who actually care what I think. My early editors frankly didn’t. They’d send a cover and say, “Isn’t it beautiful!” If I thought it wasn’t, that didn’t matter. They would explain to me why I was wrong.”

Octavia stated she received the audio script of Kindred as a finished product. She didn’t get a chance to view it before it went into production. She stated in the discussion that the audio told a different story than the one she was telling, but (she added as a positive note) it did what it did in a very interesting way. She also added another positive statement that she liked the way the slave narratives were handled.

When I read those two positive statements from Octavia about the audiodrama, I still could hear the disappointment, and perhaps even the anger, of these people who took it upon themselves to take her creative art and do what they wanted, only to tell her: “It’s All done! Look! You should be thankful!”

Today, though, one’s inspired creativity from the darkness of childhood experiences, can be shared to everyone exactly how the author intended it to be. Self-publishing allows just that. It takes time to see those beautiful lights of the rainbow especially right before the dark scenes of life. And I’m so glad that today has the true freedom of expression–the way that it was intended.

Authors, like Octavia, helped to pave that way, with their silent acceptance of what they couldn’t change, but bursting their light through in places where they could.


Octavia Estelle Butler (June 22, 1947 – February 24, 2006)



As most know, every story that has ever been written has already been written. While I wrote in my young age, I never came across any stories similar to mine, until I picked up Octavia Butler’s book. I had no idea she was a Black author because of the cover, and a few years later, I picked up another book in the library, and started reading, and yes, I had already read it. It was Dawn, and I had now the Trilogy, and the excitement, to read the next few books of this story. That was in the early 1990s, during my college years. I had hoped one day that I would have the honor to someday sit down and speak to the wonderful author who wrote so similar to my own thoughts and imagination, but unfortunately, it would now never be.

Today, I can only continue my version of story telling in the similar steps as her own. And I’m happy to be able to do just that.



Pictures and Blogs

picspeakIf you started reading this blog site from the beginning, you’ll notice there weren’t any pictures for each subject I spoke about. Being that sometimes I’m late to the game, I didn’t realize, on the internet, how just “words” could be so boring. What made it dawn on me to starting posting up pictures? I looked at other author blogs and realized, as a reader, what I found appealing.

PICTURES!!

I mostly use the ClipArt in MicrosoftWord and modify them with Gimp or Paint. Then, when I did a little research and learned on some forums where I could get some pictures from, I included that as well. I mainly search on Flikr for “Creative Commons” images that have rights to modify and create derivative works. There’s also Stock.XCHNG that has photos. It was mentioned that you can find some fonts too, free fonts at FontMaster.com and 1001 Free Fonts. If you make your Book Covers yourself, these are good places to find stuff.

I wrote a blog on how to size your pictures for websites. That’s important to have the right size picture and wrap words around it.

The other thing I’m still debating on is how often to post on my blog. I really, really, really, don’t have much to say on self-publishing unless I run into something that triggers a topic. Posting three (3) times a week, the internet world states, is the key to getting an audience. Once a week, keeping a schedule on a specific day of the week, works too. I like the once a week thing, but that takes material, and, again, I don’t know what to provide that’s not already in one of the lists above already.

I really would have to dig around for some content…or get guest blogs; but I’m picky about novels because I don’t want to have an author on my pages who I’m not interested in their writing, or doesn’t have much of a fan base–such as myself.

So…. I’ll think about it….the once a week thing. We’ll see.

The Value of Peers…KDP Select and EFT/Check Mystery

Running your own business, your self-publishing busines, can be lonely, frustrating, expensive (sometimes) and a bit fearful. That’s why I really value my peers who are doing the same thing that I’m doing.

Everyone takes different paths and find different leads, and you really won’t know or understand those options if you’re all alone and not speaking to anyone.

THANK GOODNESS FOR FORUMS!!

I’ve gone to several forums over the past couple of years, but I mostly spend time on the Kindleboards. A lot of times, I just see the same ole statements, questions, excitement etc. etc. And it gets boring after seeing these same things over and over…especially after being a member for a few months.

But then there’s those times where a jewel sparkles!!

There have been several things I’ve learned from my peers this year, but the most recent information was regarding Amazon’s KDP Select and the Mysterious Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) change to “check” option.

Amazon’s KDP Select

Looking at the discussion board regarding Amazon’s KDP Select, I was able to see different sides of the story of this brand new project Amazon has decided to take on. Honestly, I didn’t know anything about it until I read it on the forum. It sounded GREAT! at first glance for those who saw the advertisement. But there were those peers who read between the lines to make a decision if this was a valuable option for them. Thanks to my peers, I made a decision that, at this time, the KDP Select would not be valuable to me for several reasons.

For one, it’s limited to Amazon Prime members who own a kindle, AND they can only borrow a book once a month. To be an Amazon Prime member, that’s $79/year, which is basically $6.58 a book each month. I know that’s not counting the the benefits of have the two-day free shipping, but it applies to many who have to do A LOT of shipping on Amazon to get any benefit from it.

The question is, how many Prime members are there? Also, they can only borrow one book once a month? That’s not that many books for availability for ONE person. It’s all numbers from here. You have to have A LOT of individuals who want to borrow YOUR book for THAT particular month to earn anything.

There’s also the exclusivity of the novel for 90 days (Only eBooks–does not include paperbacks) in the Kindle Direct Publishing Terms and Conditions.

Exclusivity. When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.

Authors don’t have to take down their books at other distributors. They can opt to put only their next new novel and wait the 90 days, pull the book from KDP Select and send it out to everyone else. But for me, 90 days is an awfully LONG time. What happens during that time when people have interest? You can’t do anything but have them wait until the 90 days is over. Then there’s the ambiguous statement about not having another book that has “more value” than the one with Amazon? Huh? So, I guess, if a novel is more successful elsewhere online, then you violate this terms of agreement??

Amazon is basically asking for First Published Rights, but I think for very popular authors, this might bring customers to Amazon. It becomes a “status” club where only certain fans would have access to read that book FIRST while everyone else has to wait.

For those Authors who have a lot of books underneath their belt and can afford to have customers “wait” and they don’t mind the “wait” and not getting much money in return…it might benefit them. However, for authors like myself…I would really need to have a lot of sells already to benefit from this type of program.

EFT to Check Mystery

I almost skipped over a discussion regarding some strange thing that happened with accounts at Amazon. Instead of receiving an automatic deposit of money into the bank account, the authors were notified that they would be receiving a CHECK. A What?! That wasn’t what they had selected for the delivery of their money. They had opt for the automatic deposit option–EFT. Sure enough, when they went to look at their option, it had somehow changed!

As I continued to read, several other authors chimed in that theirs had changed too. I just thought it was a fluke. I figured it just affected just some people who just didn’t know what they were doing. I decided to take a look at my account anyway. First, I had to remember how to check it (It was at the Top Right where I had to click the “Deana Zhollis’s Account” hyperlink). Then, low and behold, I saw my options were set to received CHECK as well.

What?!

I changed my options back to EFT for the US, UK, and DE (FR, ES, and IT were ok).

Wow. How odd!

I would have never known what had happened until my next payment came in the mail instead of my bank account. Then I would have been frustrated and confused on WHY this had happened. That discussion thread save me a lot of headaches and emails and phone calls to resolve something that kind of…just happened for no reason.

Thank Goodness for Peers!

*~*~*~*

I know these two examples were both related to Amazon, but it’s not to put Amazon in a negative light at all. It’s the bread-and-butter for many authors today–especially self-published authors. I’m simply showing the huge value of what information one could receive when one is a part of a community with a common business service/product. A Community of Writers is definitely a tool you will need while self-publishing.

There’s always something new to learn, and to grow, in anything, … you must keep learning.

Until Next Time!

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