Archive for June, 2011

Improved Search Result Quality on our Online Bookstore

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Author: Sherry Helms

Since we launched our revamped website for our online bookstore this year on 17th March, we have been observing search behavior on the site. We found that many of the search term used by site visitors were yielding results which can be better if we tweak our search engine algos.

After a careful planning, Printsasia team unanimously decided to change the search engine algos to give better results to our users.

After testing this over a period of one week, we officially integrated this improved search engine on our online bookstore. We expect better conversion post this integration as we would be showing more relevant results to our users in comparison to previous search.

We would really appreciate and be delighted to hear feedbacks from you on the quality of search results shown by our improved search engine.

Why Fantasy and Science Fiction Matter

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Author: Brenda Cooper

I stood in a small crowd at a local book store’s 25th anniversary party a few weeks ago, wandering around with my author badge on, nibbling on small snacks, and talking to people who showed up for the party.  Many of them would come up and ask – in a kindly and rather interested way – what I wrote and were my books there?  I’d smile and say, “I write Science Fiction.”

And they’d say something like, “That’s nice dear,” look away, and wander off to find an author more likely to be writing something they wanted to read.

Part of that was surely the crowd, which was more middle-aged and less “geeky” than the folks I usually talk to about my writing.  Nevertheless, I found it a little sad. Many books that helped define modern society came from the speculative fiction genre.  Classics like 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Stranger in a Strange Land, and Flowers for Algernon are all solid science fiction.  There’s fabulous current work in the genre.  Anything by Paolo Bacigalupli (including many short stories), Ted Chiang, Nancy Kress, Ursula LeGuin, or Connie Willis is likely to explore issues at least as socially relevant as the classics I just mentioned.

Even more important, especially to readers like the local crowd at the bookstore party with me, there is nuance and a strong literary spicing in today’s F & SF.  A lot of our work is very character driven, accessible, and definitely not just for men who like rockets.   In other words, it’s readable.  Maybe even fun.  The writers – and readers – are women as well as men.

The most compelling reason to choose some science fiction is the time that we live in.  We are almost choking on change.  Whether it’s the rise of robotics, the fact that we all have near-analog to Star-Trek communicators, the glory and dangers of the internet, or the threat of climate change, the world that we live in is changing today, and tomorrow, and the next day.  We may not recognize the world our children will be our age in, and we almost certainly won’t recognize the one our grandchildren will see at our age.  But it’s up to us to explore and understand the many technologies changing around us, and up to us make choices today to create a livable future.  For almost every new technology or big social shift, there is a science fiction story or book or series.  An accessible, character-driven and entertaining way to explore change.  Maybe even to embrace it.

Teenagers are reading science fiction and fantasy in droves.  So hopefully if I’m there for the 35th anniversary of the local bookstore, people won’t look away when I say “science fiction.”   But in the meantime, I can’t imagine that all of middle-aged folk want to be left behind. Be brave.  Be curious. Pick up a good science fiction book today.

About the Author:  Brenda Cooper writes science fiction and fantasy.  To start her current science fiction series, pick up the award-winning book, “The Silver Ship and the Sea.”  Her next novel coming out is “Mayan December,” a smart, suspenseful read about the end of the Mayan Calendar, but not the end of the world.

You can find more of these science fiction and fantasy books over here.

Popular books on Environmentalism.

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Author: Sherry Helms

Here is a list of five books that will teach you why and how can you save your planet and yourself by growing green. These books have inspired and influenced me a lot and so I found it extremely necessary to share it with my readers. If anybody has any suggestion or wish to share any other name of the book that they think will fit in this category are invited to share it with us.

1. Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco friendly Choices for you & your Home by Renee Loux:  This book encompasses pretty much everything a person needs to know to “go green”. Renee Loux is clear, thorough, detailed and inspiring as she explains how to live our lives well and green. Each category based chapter explains-what is best for that category and why, digs deep identifying choices and explains why each choice is either healthy or hazardous.

2.Like a Tree: How Trees, Women and Tree People can Save the Planet  by Jean Shinoda Bolen: The book is poetic, educational, inspirational, spiritual and down to earth, covering the subject of trees from anatomy to physiology to trees as archetypal and sacred symbols. The author does an excellent job in connecting the dots between respect for trees and the survival of the planet.

3. Raising baby Green: The Earth-friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth and Baby Care by Alan Greene: It is a very thoughtful and immensely practical book by Dr. Greene that offers sound advice on how to raise healthy children while treading lightly upon earth.

4.A language older than Words by Derrick Jensen: The book seems to ask different questions about why the majority of humankind is destroying themselves and the world in which we live. Jensen asks these questions through recounting his own life experiences and explaining how he has come to feel the way he does about the world.

5.World changing: A user’s Guide for the 21st century by Alex Steffen: The book is the second edition of the bestselling book that is extensively revised to include the latest trends, technologies and solutions in sustainable living. This book will help you find the resources to get started and the inspiration to make your earth day resolutions bigger, better and greener.l

Book Review: I Know why the Caged Bird Sings By Maya Angleou

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Author: Sherry Helms

The first in the six volume series, this book tells a coming of age story that illustrates how strength of character and love of literature can help overcome racism and trauma. The book begins when 3 year old Maya and her brother are sent to Stamps, Arkansas by their divorced parents to live with their grandmother and uncle.

The book is the 1969 autobiography about the early years of African-American writer and poet Maya Angleou. During the course of the book, we see Maya getting transformed from a victim of racism with an inferiority complex into a self possessed, dignified young woman capable of responding to prejudice. In a poetic yet detached way, Maya Angleou captures the heart of the readers with her account of struggles she went through growing up as a black female during the Depression. She uses her autobiography to explore subjects like identity, rape, racism and literacy. The character of Maya which is the younger version of the writer has been called a “symbolic character for every black girl growing up in America”. Young Maya turns to education to cope with her bewildering world. Books become her refugee as she works through her trauma.

The book is an American Classic that shows that beyond the darkness of some of those experiences such as discrimination, humiliation, rape and fear lies a sense of hope, dignity, determination and resilience. One of the most important aspects of the book is its emphasis on the power of education, language and literacy.

Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Author: Sherry Helms

A Bestselling novel by Barbara Kingsolver is about a missionary family, the Prices who in 1959 moved from Georgia to the village of Kilanga in the Belgian Congo.  The Price’s story is narrated by the five women of the family: Orleanna, long suffering wife of the Baptist missionary Nathan Price and their four daughters- Rachel, Leah, Adah, Ruth May.

The overzealous Baptist minister named Nathan Price in drags his wife and four daughters deep into the heart of the Congo in 1959 on a mission to save the unenlightened souls of Africa. From the outset, the attitudes of these five women cover a wide spectrum of the novel. The mother Orleanna passively accepts the turn of events as he accepts everything her husband tells her. Rachael, a 15 year old beauty queen resents her separation from normal teen life. Adventurer Ruth May who is just five years old is both excited and frightened. It is only 14 years old Leah who shares her father’s ardent religious faith is enthusiastic.  Leah’s twin Adah, a cripple and mute by birth but also a brilliant observer, merely views the move as she does all of her life with a wry and cynical detachment.

One thing that the women share is the unwavering faith that they are carrying with them a culture far superior to the one that already exists in the village of Kilanga and that they will therefore will be masters of their new domain. Kingsolver does a good job in differentiating the voices of all the five female characters. Her fully realized three-dimensional characters make the book a compelling read, especially the first part when the Nathan Price is still at the centre of the action.  The Poison wood Bible is  arguably the most ambitious novel by Barbara Kingsolver.

Finding Your Author Voice

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Author: Jennifer K. Oliver

In the beginning, there were words. Lots and lots of words. The key to those words was figuring out how best to construct them into mind-blowing stories. Stories that would grab people by the collar and shake them until their heads spun and teeth rattled. Stories that would cling to them long after they’d finished reading. In the beginning, it was also about finding my author voice: some unnameable quality in my writing that would make my work recognisably mine.

Like most other aspects of the art, author voice comes with practise, patience, and a lot of reading, and it’s something that’s always shifting and expanding. We all draw inspiration from the things we see, read, and hear, though to begin with we often find ourselves imitating rather than intentionally evolving and refining our own styles. One of the beautiful things about it is we’re constantly learning about writing, even when we don’t consciously realize it. With any luck, imitation will transform into emulation, and emulation will eventually break down, leaving you with the best techniques that suit you as a writer. With even more luck, these techniques will then coalesce into your style—your very own author voice.It doesn’t matter how far along the writerly road you are; whether you’re a beginner or a pro, as long as you’re writing regularly, your voice will be developing along with all the other skills and experiences you’ll want and need. I’ve noticed the change in my writing over the years, and still notice it today, with each new story I start. It’s fascinating to look back at past work and compare it to the current, a real journey through evolution.

Because, at the end of the day, what you have are words. Lots and lots of words. And the best way of dealing with them is to hone your style so you can use those words to the greatest possible effect.

The Secret of Sequels by Rai Aren

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Author: Rai Aren

First, I would like to thank Sherry and everyone at Printsasia for the opportunity to be a guest on this very fine blog. I’m delighted to be here! My name is Rai Aren, and I co-authored the archaeology adventure/historical fantasy novel, Secret of the Sands. My co-author and I are in the process of doing the final edit for the sequel to this story, entitled Destiny of the Sands, which is slated to be released in 2011. I’m very excited about this, and I’m deeply immersed in the project, so I thought this would be a timely topic. We receive a lot of interested and enthusiastic fan mail asking for the sequel (yaay!), so believe me, I am taking my own advice to heart! I hope my insight into the writing of a sequel is helpful to you.

Rai’s 1st Secret of Sequels – Make them each a standalone book

You never know in what order readers are going to pick up your books, so it’s important to make each one able stand on its own. They may be sequels, but they still need their own legs and a fully formed book presence. They are linked, and each adds something to the other, but one shouldn’t be dependent on the other for the bulk of character development, story ideas, or its own well-formed story arc. Unless you’re J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien, I think it’s a good idea to keep each book in the series a fully fleshed out, beginning, middle and end, kind of story. I don’t want to hijack readers into getting each book (though I certainly hope that they do!). I want them to choose to do that willingly, not begrudgingly because an incomplete story left them no choice. I don’t think that’s fair at all. Having a bit of a cliff-hanger can be quite tantalizing but it’s not fair to leave them completely hanging. That can be very frustrating for your readers. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Be honest and respect your readers. Give them their money’s worth with every instalment!

Rai’s 2nd Secret of Sequels – Help your readers by bridging the gap between books

Of course we all hope that our readers will read both/all of the books in order, but that doesn’t always happen for any number of reasons. Maybe they came across them out of order, maybe one story appealed to them more than the other, maybe they found the book at a used book sale, where the first one wasn’t available. I’ve even been gifted books that were not the first in a series. There can be lots of reasons why people might read the books out of order. I believe that it is up to the author to bridge the gap between books in a series sufficiently for readers to get up to speed well enough that the story flows for them, without them constantly thinking “what’s going on?” or “who is this person” or “what the heck happened to get these characters to this crazy point?!”.

There are probably a lot of different ways that an author can tackle this issue. My method is to write what I hope are interesting intros to the story that give the reader enough pertinent information to get them going, without laying all the secrets of the first story bare. I still maintain an air of mystery with it in how that information is given. What I hope is that they will be intrigued enough to pick up the first book, but I certainly don’t want to force them to do that. So, I’ve written bridging sections that speak to the overall journey, fill in vital blanks to make it easy to get up to speed, but hopefully also whet their appetite to want to read more. I also refer to past events within the current story where appropriate, and where it will enhance things for our readers, but always staying mindful of pacing. You don’t want do it to such an extent that it stops your story in its tracks. Stick to the story and keep the momentum going.

Rai’s 3rd Secret of Sequels – Add new layers

For a story that carries on into a sequel, you want it to grow and evolve into something ever more meaningful, more fascinating, and more rewarding for your readers. To me, it is very important to show how the journeys of the various characters mirror real life reactions and changes, that they are authentic and real. Sure, the circumstances my characters find themselves in are extraordinary in various ways, but at the heart of any story should be truth. Truth in how events affect the characters, how they react, how it changes them – maybe it damages them, maybe they recover, maybe they don’t, maybe they get stronger, maybe they crumble, maybe they lose their joy, or find it, maybe they cling to hope, maybe hope finally deserts them, maybe they begin to change, for better or worse, subtly at first, then the changes become more pronounced. The point is that the human race experiences a kaleidoscope of reactions to an infinite number of personal, and global events (and beyond…), but they are all ultimately reflected in human reactions and feelings. A sequel should also reflect that growth and change as it relates to the story’s path.

Personally, I find it endlessly fascinating to observe how the events of people’s lives change them. In fact, I would say that is, and will continue to be, a driving force in every story I tell. My mission is to communicate that as honestly, truthfully, and authentically as I can to my readers. Every story, no matter how far the setting is from our own lives, should show, or at least hint at, something about ourselves and our own lives. I am drawn to explore the deep places within, to see what journey awaits, and see what the world looks like on the other side. A sequel is a fantastic way to express this and should contain new depths for your readers to explore and enjoy. You want them to recognize the characters they’ve grown fond of, to find them familiar, but now let your readers get to know them even more, warts and all. Let them appreciate your characters in new ways, peel back the onion, as it were, then launch them forward into new twists and turns.

Not only should your characters have new layers added to them from the first book to the second and beyond, but so should the events they find themselves in. What was begun in the first story, should have new paths that are just as interesting, winding and compelling, as the first, maybe even more so.

Your readers will have (hopefully) come to love the place you have taken them to in the first book, and love the characters they came to know along the way – let’s take that further, and deeper, so that they come away feeling very satisfied that the sequel(s) made for an even richer experience of your core story.

Rai’s 4th Secret of Sequels – Have a story arc in mind

Now every author will have his or her own process in approaching a sequel, but I think having at least a general story arc is helpful. Developing a rough idea of the overall story arc before you get started is helpful in staying on track. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you flounder, or where one book is fully formed, but the next is somewhat wanting. You want each book to be fulfilling on it own, but clearly part of a unified whole. That is the whole purpose of writing a sequel or a series. The continuation of the journey should be well-thought out and carefully planned for. Now, that doesn’t mean there’s no room for it to evolve or change, but zooming ahead without a map in your mind of where you’re going can leave a story wandering. Having a story arc doesn’t mean backing yourself into a corner, though. Think of it as a rough guide that is completely up to your discretion (or your characters’ discretion, as many authors can attest to!) to bend and change it at will.

Having a story arc outlined to some extent – whatever extent works for you – helps to tie things together, and allow for the adding of new layers of insight and story elements, without losing your way. This paves the way for the creation of a coherent, meaningful story that doesn’t let things drop. It’s been amazing to me how sometimes the littlest things are picked up on by readers, these little things can mean a lot to them, and they will be eagerly looking forward to reading more about it. It’s up to us authors to ensure our tapestry is well-designed, especially for those folks with a keen eye for detail. Novels are big undertakings, it’s a challenge to keep all the pieces together, especially when a sequel is involved. Create a roadmap for yourself to ensure your course is well-plotted and to keep you from forgetting anything!

In summary

These tips are what I’m following in the finalization of our own sequel. As authors, it’s our responsibility to make the journey a rewarding one for our readers, they’ve chosen to take extra steps with you with a sequel. As any author should, I am pouring my heart & soul into our sequel, Destiny of the Sands, to make sure that those awesome readers who vote with their hard-earned dollars are treated to the best experience I can possibly make it. It’s an honor and a privilege to do so.

I would of course, welcome the comments of others on this topic – both from readers and fellow authors. This is my first sequel, so I am learning as I go and grow :) It’s really a rewarding experience to continue this journey, with the writing of a sequel. Not starting from scratch, but rather deepening everything and evolving the story, is so different from the writing of the first book. I want to share these new depths with my readers. Now I am blessed to have readers and fans who have expressed a great deal of interest in the sequel, who know the story and are eager to carry on with the adventure. I’m very, very grateful for that and intend to do right by them.

Thank-you very much for your time! You can also visit me online and contact me through my website at:

I always welcome letters and feedback from readers and from my fellow authors. Happy reading always!

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