Monday, May 28, 2012

Is flatulence ruining your sex life?

 Throughout history there have been some discoveries and inventions that have truly changed our lives.
 Fire, the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine, the telephone and internet spring to mind.
 But now there is something even more profound and earth shattering.
 It has come about because there is a problem in the marriage bed that no-one wants to talk about. It is a problem that is sometimes silent but almost always, deadly. But fear not, the solution has arrived.
 No longer need you tremble in your jammies, worried you may cause a stink. This is a truly mind-boggling invention that uses cutting-edge military technology to promise to restore marriages and at the same time fire up stagnant, rotten, sex-lives.
 And, judging by the fact that millions of people have viewed the advert on You Tube, there can be no doubt, there is a need for the Better Marriage Blanket.
 Yes ladies and gentlemen, for less than $60, excluding postage, you will no longer have to answer "yes" to the age-old question: "Is flatulence ruining your love-life?"
 I don't know about you, but it's a topic that comes up regularly at our dinner parties and, no doubt, you too have likely spent many hours discussing the problem with family, friends and work colleagues.
 But now, with the arrival of the Better Marriage Blanket, the acrid, foetid smell of your bed-partner's farts will no longer leave you gasping for air, like a landed mackerel, while you desperately flap the sheets and struggle to open the window.
 According to the manufacturer, "flatulence molecules pass through a cotton layer and get absorbed by the carbon layer, leaving you to experience fresh air and added under-blanket warmth!" Actually I added the bit about the warmth -- it's a selling feature they probably didn't think of.
 Available in different sizes, the Better Marriage Blanket is said to contain the same type of fabric used by the military to protect against chemical weapons.
It's also touted as a "great wedding or anniversary gift too."

Farts are funny!

 I wish it had been around when Mrs White Ou and I tied the knot 31 years ago. That way we'd probably still be sleeping in same the room -- and maybe even in the same bed.
 She's a strange girl, my dear wife. She's not amused by the same things I am. For example, I find it difficult to get her to crack even the smallest of a smiles when, lying together, I trap her head under the blankets and fart.
 What can I say, I find farts -- particularly mine -- funny. I laugh so much I can hardly breathe, yet strangely she fails to see the comedy.
 That, and my snoring, has seen me moved to a room down the passage and now I am forced to keep the clouds of gas I emit from my bottom, trapped firmly beneath the blankets until she comes into my room in the morning with a cup of coffee.
 Then, with a flourish, I'll fling back the bed-clothes and hope for the best. Once I got lucky. She dropped the cup in the middle of a choking fit but, in truth, it's just not the same. It's a poor substitute for the genuine "Dutch Oven" or "Covered Wagon."
 That, I think is one of the drawbacks of the Better Marriage Blanket. It will do away with those intimate, fun-filled moments that couples, enjoy in bed and have so much fun remembering. It's also going to make Two-and-a-half-Men a lot less funny.
 I am also afraid, if they ever start making baby diapers from the new wunder-fabric, it's going to mean the end of that endearing Mommy ritual where -- usually in a restaurant -- some mum sticks her nose against her little-one's butt, takes a lung-filled sniff and loudly announces "someone's made a stinky poopie!". But at least the old finger up the diaper's leg-hole is likely to remain.
 Before anyone gets the wrong impression, let me place on record that I am not solely responsible for producing noxious odours in my home.
 My dear wife must also bear some responsibility. Consequently, a nice pair of sweat pants in activated-carbon fabric in her size would indeed be welcome.
When it comes to rear emissions I tend to be noisy -- and, if I may be so bold as to say, quite musical.
 Mrs White Ou, on the other, hand is covert and sneaky. The first indication that something is horribly amiss comes from the dogs.
 When they are suddenly startled from their slumbers on the TV-room carpet and slink away, you know what's coming.
 You see, my dear wife, kind and sweet as she may be, is by no means above blaming the dogs for her odouriferous indiscretions. With noses (thankfully) hundreds of times more sensitive than mine, they know an undeserved scolding is only seconds away, so they get the hell outta Dodge.
 "Blah, blah, blah," Mrs White Ou has just said, while reading over my shoulder.
 "No one will believe you because everyone knows women don't fart."
 "Yes, Dear," I replied meekly.
I didn't have the guts to show her the comment from someone called PyroRob69 who recently wrote about the Better Marriage Blanket on a chat forum. I think he summed it up quite nicely when he said:
 "Women don't fart because they can't keep their mouths shut long enough to build up any back pressure."

P.S. Yes, the Better Marriage Blanket is a real product!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Two slightly different reviews!

 The one thing every author wants is for his work to move readers. In truth we don't care if it makes them angry, happy, sad or disgusted. As long as our words evoke some sort of reaction we are doing our jobs properly.
 Below are excerpts from two reviews of my book, "I can hear them singing now", set in Apartheid South Africa during the height of that country's political unrest. It is a story of how ordinary people were caught up and swept along by events completely beyond their control.
 It is about a civil war that took place on people's doorsteps that they were completely unaware of, or chose to ignore. It is a book about ordinary folk trapped in two worlds and about polarization.
 These two reviews illustrate that. They show some of our wounds have not yet healed.
 One appears on Amazon and the other was sent to me as a personal comment. I am happy I have done my job as a writer.

 "You referring to the book about that fucker that's going to plant the Church street bomb, standing on the pavement while super cop is so heartbroken about the useless one they were hanging, he didn't even see the clear and present danger around him? Typical. I bet you he slept with the ousie* when his wife was out shopping too?"

 "This book is fantastic! It creatively entwines heart wrenching emotion, solid political history, and an unbiased, multi-sided portrayal of racial conflict during a turbulent time. One will intensely feel frustration, rage, and despair while reading this story. The characters are well-developed in such a way that the reader cannot help but feel a personal connection to them, during the transformation of their beliefs and convictions while enduring the horrific event enveloping their lives. This story inspires much emotion and, for me, critical thought about human behavior and relationships. It would not be the book I'd choose for lighthearted, cheerful reading, but definitely thought provoking. It may even have you re-evaluating your own beliefs and/or opinions."

*Ousie - Afrikaans term, often used to mean a black woman.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What I have learned about Indie Publishing in six weeks.

How changing prices affected sales of my ebook.

 It's been about six weeks since I took the decision to walk the Indie publishing route and publish my novel, "I Can Hear Them Singing Now" at $4.99, as well as three Erotic shorts at $0.99, written by my alter ego, Amy Hilton. And, while I realise it is far too early to draw any firm conclusions, I do have a few thoughts about the journey so far.
 I signed up with Amazon's KDP programme but only listed two of the four works with their free promotion campaign:
 "I can hear them singing now" and "The Tupperware Party."
 Both were offered as free downloads on one weekend, starting on Saturday and ending on Sunday. The belief behind this is, heaps of people will download the book, read it, enthusiastically tell their friends and write glowing reviews that bring in huge sales. At least that is what I was told and expected.

My experience

 My experience was different.
 On the first day around 200 copies of each book were downloaded -- nowhere near the 15 000 some authors have reported -- but, in truth, I did no marketing at all, other than to a small Twitter following, some of whom retweeted. On the following day, approximately 50 copies of each book were downloaded.
 Monday came and the expected spike in sales was not there, nor on Tuesday or, in truth, on any other day after that. Sales remained exactly as they were before the promotion, averaging a few a copies per day.
 Reviews? Nothing, nada, zip.
 There could be two reasons for that. Some people who downloaded may not yet have read the novel and I have the feeling, the majority of erotica readers prefer to keep that fact secret. I am hoping reviews will yet arrive.
 Next I decided to experiment with the pricing of "I can hear them singing now" and see what effect that had on sales. I figured, if, like John Locke and Amanda Hockings, I priced the book at $0.99, thousands of people would rush to buy it. I have to admit, pricing it at such a low price-point stuck in my craw but I figured the money that was going to pour in would provide adequate comfort. I aggressively marketed the price-change to my growing Twitter and Facebook followers and announced it on every reading forum I could find. And...

$0.99 novels are crap?

 Nothing. The sales trickle dried up. Could it be that serious readers (and "I can hear them singing now" is a serious book) believe $0.99 novels are generally crap? So I upped the price to $2.99 and sales of one to two per day began to dribble in. Then I got a review from award-winning author, Jeannie Walker and interest seemed to pick up a little. So, I tinkered with the price again and pushed it to $4.49 which I figured was a fair price for the blood, sweat and tears I invested in the book.
 Sales continued but slightly less than at the $2.99 price-point but the added royalty at the high price, compensated for the small loss in sales.
 So what have I learned so far? For me (and I stress, this is for me. Your mileage may vary):
  • Amazon's free promotion generates "sales" from people who want free books. I think it harms more than serves the cause of Indie Publishers. In addition, it cuts off sales from other sources. I do not think I will participate in it again.
  • Twitter is a lot more useful than Facebook when it comes to getting the message out.
  • Building readers is a one-reader-at a time process that requires relationship-building and personal interaction.
  • There is no quick, over-night path to success -- the Indie Publishing game is a lot like farming. It takes time to nurture and grow the saplings and there is no way you can make them bear fruit before they are ready and you have run the course.
  • It's a fun ride and a serious kick to wake up and see you are a couple of dollars better off than when you went to sleep!