Category Archives: books


When Joh went to Uni

This gallery contains 1 photos.

In 1980 or 1981, Bjelke-Petersen went to University of Queensland guarded by Qld Special Branch. Joh’s visit was controversial as the questions from the news media suggest. We have secured historic footage of the event. Standing behind Joh during the … Continue reading


Book Launch: Michael, we really have to talk …

This gallery contains 11 photos.

The book will be launched at the West End Library on Saturday morning, 31st October 2015

Time: 10:30 am for 11 am start

Place: Upstairs at West End Library 178-180 Boundary St West End

Price: The book will be sold at the launch for $20 (RRP $25).

The book will be introduced by Julie Cork and Abraham and Dan O’Neill.

Music by Jumping Fences

Refreshments are available. Continue reading


A Natural Wonder in Peril

The Reef: A Passionate History: The Great Barrier Reef from Captain Cook to Climate Change by Iain McCalman Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 336 pp., $27.00 Australia’s Great Barrier Reef stretches for around 1,430 miles along the continent’s northeast coast, … Continue reading

Celebrate the launch of Vision 111

Bent Banana Books is offering the third installment of Jane Sharp’s Vision III psychic mysteries free for five days. Flight of the Reluctant Psychic is free from the Kindle store from December 10 to December 15.
Mark your diary or return to the  website below  regularly, click on the Amazon link of any book in our gallery to see if one of summer holiday promotions is available on it.

If you have an Amazon account in the UK or US, you will soon find the promotion of Vision II Return of the Reluctant Psychic.
From December 10-16, US Amazon customers will be able to buy Vision II Return of the Reluctant Psychic for $.99c.
The free copy of Vision III should be available in most Amazon markets, so check the price at the side of the book.

For UK Amazon customers, Vision II Return of the Reluctant Psychic will be on sale for £.99  from December17-23.

UK and US should check the £.99 $.99c promotion of Iraqi Icicle.

Please write a review if you are able after buying a BBB.

The UK and US £.99 $.99c promotions of Vision I The Reluctant Psychic are in January for readers who can wait that long to have the three volumes.

And now for our song

Good Vision means I can see clearly…

10000 ways to make up stuff

Simeon Stylites sat on a pole for more than 30 years. 
Everybody said he was a saint, but he shrugged. 
“After 10, 000 hours, you get very good at it,” he said.
NUMBERS terrify some people. Others worship them as icons. Many of us just get tricked by them.
A number con-game which has been around for a while is that it takes an author 10,000 hours to become highly proficient at the occupation.

SOME novice writers have slit their wrists on discovering this statistic and have proven it to be true when printer’s ink fails to spurt from their veins.

This 10,000 hour hypothesis get even sillier when you consider its advocates suggest it applies to all professions.
If I ever have the need for surgery, I am going demand my cutter has 10,000 hours logged. I feel sorry for the millions of needlessly dead people who did not ask to see the surgeon’s log before an operation.
Let’s have a closer look at the 10,000-hr rule. It has to be an average to have any credibility. Otherwise it takes every single professional in every single profession, exactly 10, 000 hours to achieve excellence.
The rule’s originator obviously found a reliable measure of excellence in every one of the world’s professions. Your mind, of course, turns to the world’s oldest profession as you ponder what the benchmarks were for that one. You did not start thinking about prostitution? Okay forget I mentioned that; move on, shall we?
This researcher, who should receive a dozen Nobel Prizes, then sampled each of the world’s professions to find the number of excellent practitioners. Somehow, our researcher, who makes Einstein look like Justin Bieber, also worked out a way of finding out how long it took each one to reach excellence. Some more averaging and hey presto, we have 10, 00 hours.
You may say I am being pedantic but I dispute that. I maintain a statement that it takes a bloody long time to become a doyen of your craft is more scientific than 10, 000 hours. The 10,000-hr rule is hereby supplanted by the blood-long-time law. Quote me as its discoverer if you need to avoid admonition for plagiarism.
Rules or laws are meant to guide us in science and in life. I am not sure what message we were meant to take from the obsolete 10,000-hr rule. Were we meant to give up because it is all too hard for too long or keep plugging away.
Under Dowling’s Law, a writer’s mind in motion must continue in motion, though it will be slowed by the gravity of the realization no one is buying your books.
From a less scientific and more intuitive perspective, do people without enough taste to buy your books really deserve your  precious words, anyway.
It might take a bloody long time but tasteful people, in numbers, will discover your genius and recognize you as an excellent writer. Then you can stop counting up to 10,000.

If you sing this song for 10,000 hours,
you still will not be as good as MCC.

How you write a book review

WHAT the world needs now are reviews, book reviews; they’re the only things (apart from fresh water, social justice and quite a bit of other stuff) that there’s just too little of: reviews, book reviews.
Please do not ask! I am not volunteering to review your book. After penning, publishing and promoting the damn things, I have no time to review any books other than ones that come my way serendipitously.
But ask any book lover out there and they will tell you trying to decide whether a book is a wise buy is more important than its price. A lousy book is a bad investment even if it is free.
I am unable to come to the party with extra book reviews but if you want to have a go, you will become a servant of humanity when you learn to do a competent job.
Before we start, check out Ionia Martin’s review of my novel Iraqi Icicle. (Whaddya mean that is self-promotion? You expect me to send you to a review of someone else’s novel. Sheesh, you can find your own example, if you must.)
Ionia is a Top 500 Reviewer so she knows what the task is all about. Check out her review HERE  
Ionia is also a pianist so she can play along to out featured video. (Don’t scroll down to see what it is; I am creating a structured piece on book reviews and we cannot anarchic readings of it.)
The rest of this informative rant is a list of my ideas on your writing a half-decent review.
Make it entertaining.  ­ No cheap shots at the author’s expense are needed, but if you are a lover of books, you should be able to string together a few pleasant sentences yourself.

22. Try to give the reader a flavor of the book you are reviewing from your get-go.
33. Don’t tie yourself in a knot avoiding spoilers. Of course, you will not be invited around to brunch if you announce you knew the butler did it after chapter 3. But neither will you be doing brunch with a grateful reader of your review, if it is so general, that, at the end of your critique, the reader is none the wiser what the book is about.
44. Talk about whether characters are well crafted and whether the plot works for you.
55. Somewhere around the middle of the review, comment on what you liked about the book and what you did not like. You need not mention what you regard as minor faults in some sort of unnecessary notion of balance.
66. Towards the end of the review, you can say who might not like this book. If, for example, you are reviewing a Gore Vidal novel, you might say members of the Tea Party may not love it.
77.  Next, you say who might enjoy the book.
88. You should finish in your own style but there should be some sort of summary, not of the book so much as of your review. As the reviewer, you are entitled to the last words Make them good so the reader will come back for more when they see your name attached to your next piece of excellent criticism.
99.  If there are too many rules above, just have a go. Always aim to select a quality book of whatever genre you are reviewing.
110.  It is your call whether you submit a negative review. Whatever your reasons, you can with-hold a review, but every review you submit should be honest.
Three reviews
Walter Kerr on the play I am a Camera: Me no Leica.
Dorothy Parker on Katherine Hepburn in the play The Lake. Miss Hepburn delivered a striking performance that ran the gamut of emotions, from A to B.
Leo Robson on Rachel Bradford’s book Martin Amis: The Biography. “spectacularly bad writing — about spectacularly good writing.”
Here is our celebratory song: Cheers, Bernie


And the Archangel Michael Ascended to Hachette Heaven

THE trouble with conventional wisdom is by the time it becomes widespread it is passé.
Take the old saw that a mainstream publisher will never pick up a self-published author. Not true now.

Now it was certainly true when self-publishers were largely restricted to print and the heritage publishers hated the upstart, though largely ineffectual, competition.
Their sales agents would warn bookshops that any book printed on 80gsm bond was written by an indie The irony was that 80gsm bond  was much superior to the cheaper paper the mainstream publishers used. In other words, if a novel is on quality paper it has to be shite.
Five or 10 years ago, every aspiring writer knew self-publishing was the death knell for securing an agent or mainstream publisher. By now it is conventional wisdom and deadest wrong.
Most are sick of hearing about Amanda Hocking so let’s try the name Michael J. Sullivan.
Last year, Michael got picked up by the Hachette; ooh, that’s gotta hurt. But no, Michael was signed for a six-figure sum. Every indie seems to be picked up for  six-figures. This is not illuminating for us wannabees as it could be anywhere from $100,000 to $999,999. I hope for Michael’’s sake, it was the latter but I suspect not.

I sold 70,000 books (across five titles) of my Riyria Revelations – you owe me for that plug, Mick – from April 2009 – August 2011 before signing with Orbit (fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group) re-released my six books as a trilogy consisting of Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire, and Heir of Novron – more debt, Mick.

I am not sure what Michael sold his books for but that is 30,000 copies a year he flogged, a bloody good effort.
The interesting thing is Michael insists on making a good case for not accepting the offer.

Self-published authors are just as professional as those published traditionally, and did not choose this route because they couldn’t get signed by a “real” publisher (most did actually, Mick or the got the arse from the Big Six) Self-publishing in 2012 offers authors a compelling option, and many have either not submitted their work or have turned down lucrative contracts with six-figure advances because they want to self-publish.

I do not know how many of the many have turned down six figures; I would suggest it is few. Michael’s next take on publishing today is spot on.

There are many professional self-published authors, employing the same quality and techniques as a traditional publisher. On average, they actually outperform their traditionally published counterparts.

This is undoubtedly true. In Australia, the print-run of a new author is 3000 copies and few sell 1000. Of course this is in a collapsed period of time. Two months, if you are lucky, and it is off to the remainder bin for you.
Michael says indie sales of 5000 a year make the Big Six – soon to be Five – stand up and take notice.
No longer any need to play eeny, meeny, miny, moe with the slush pile for the big publishers. No need to pick a winner; the stats are there. The problem for the big publishers is what do they have to allow their Michael J. Sullivan to outperform the next Michael J. Sullivan.
Their marketing models of  on-site marketing at bookshops with limited advertising and review support are dead in the internet waters. Where do they go from here?

Here is our song.

My book is 5 cents but I’m worried I have priced it too high

All you voracious readers out there, will you pay a fair price for a book? All you professional writers out there, will you accept a fair return on your labour, say $50, 000 and upwards a year?
 Yes from both.  Alright, we have solved the publishing crisis.

Amazon says between $3 and $10 is a fair price for an ebook. It pays authors a generous 70% royalty if their book falls within that price range. Now, what Amazon is not saying, but most of us have guessed, is its fancy algorithms have declared those spots are sweet because they maximise the Big A’s profits. What’s good for Amazon is good for America – er, sorry, that should be good for readers and writers.
Professional writers do not produce ebooks only, but I predict that will soon come to pass for many, with a boutique print run for nostalgia.  To make $50,000 a year, a professional would need to produce one ebook a year and sell about 20,000 copies at a price of $7. That is an estimate, taking into account taxation and costs such as production, design, editing, marketing. 
A student of self-publishing such as Joe Konrath could present less rubbery figures than I have, but I am presenting them to make a point. It ain’t easy to sell 20,000 copies of a book, year in year out. It ain’t easy to produce a pristine book each year, either.
It is up to the reader to pay upwards of $7 for an ebook or condemn their favourite mid-list author to giving up in favour of stacking shelves at Walmart. I am not kidding here. A lot of writers have narrow skill sets, not to mention ingrained unsociable habits, though the latter is often exaggerated. One newspaper editor who tired of the pressure and long hours now drives a cab. Another mows lawns. A third went back to uni to become a teacher.
I priced my humour book 7 Shouts  at 8.06. The explanation which follows is why I put the book graphic at the top of this piece (that and the forlorn hope you might buy a copy and post a generous review).
Smashwords’ Mark Coker has sold a lot more books than I have and he says the sweet spot is between $3-5. But I am pricing for the future when we have solved the publishing crisis and avid readers pay a price which can sustain the livelihood of a mid-lister.

My publishing hut Bent Banana Books priced Jane Sharp’s book of five short stories at $3.22. (The .22 is because I read somewhere double digits are attractive to consumers) Friends of mine, unfamiliar with the ebook price wars, said it was cheap. But plenty of novels are selling cheaper than that.
Tom Keneally, the author of Schindler’s  List, once said he did not regard himself as a great writer. He described himself as a journeyman, cutting a path for the greats to walk on.  Keneally was unduly modest but he was making an analogy pertinent  to the mid-lister, creating the climate for the greats.  In the past, some publishing houses recognised this and gave mid-listers advances which would never be recovered in sales. Those days are gone, all gone: the advances and the mid-listers themselves banished to self-publication or career change.
That is the challenge: whether you will pay $8.06 for my book. (I am thinking of dropping the price – to $8.05 – to see if that increases sales.
Buy My Shout at Amazon or Google.
I’ll introduce today’s video with a quote from Gore Vidal
American writers want to be not good but great; and so are neither.

Dead books thrive

Rigid Male Ship Publishing

MUCH wailing at the wall and gnashing at the teeth follow from the recent ill fortunes of the publishing industry.
Newspapers are in the midst of a shake-up which is just beginning in book publishing
As a journalist and author, I appear to have accepted not one but two third-class seats on the Titanic.
Thankfully for books, it is not all doom and gloom.

With what some observers considered undue haste, Penguin and Random House have announced a merger.
Here is how the China Daily called it.
Penguin/Random Houseis estimated toseize 25 percentto 30 percentof the global consumer publishing market. Pearsonand Bertelsmann (respective owners) hope tocope with theebook era throughcombination of thetwo leading publishers.
The two sidesbelieve that thecombined organization willhave a stronger platform andgreater resources toinvest in newdigital publishing models andhigh-growth emerging markets.  
In other words, we will throw heaps of money at the problem and it will run away. That is not going to happen.
We in the publishing business cannot even agree what is the problem. Bitter heritage publishers will tell you the explosion of cheap poor-quality indie books has eroded industry standards and destroyed consumer confidence in the product. Amazon says pricing models of the heritage publishers are antiquated and unsustainable.
Let’s establish a few ground rules and throw in some statistics before we all decide to go to the pub to down our sorrows.
Ground rule #1
Ebooks are real. If print books disappear, except as expensive novelties over the next 10 years, it will not be the death of publishing. Uncertainly abounds in discussions on our topic. If you are reading an analysis which distinguishes between real books and ebooks, stop reading immediately; your brain will thank you for it.
Do you believe in ghosts or ebooks?
Ground rule #2
Our story has no villains. The Big Six, or Five, publishers, Amazon, indies who price at 99 cents, heritage media and universities who have downgraded literary criticism, internet spammers are all players. Demonising them is a convenient way of dismissing the best ways forward as all too hard.
Ground rule #3
The best books have never made anywhere near as much money as inferior books. Genre books, once disparaged as “pot-boilers” will always make the most money because they are literally addictive. Once hooked, the reader needs the fix of the formula. Also anyone can read “down”. It takes a level of sophistication to enjoy reading a “literary’’ novel  The contemporary literary novel is also competing against the great works of the past while newness is prized in genre fiction. The importance of this ground rule is it casts doubt on the heritage publishers’ central contention about the erosion of quality. Those publishers themselves have based their fortunes on the inferior writers in their stable. This was a benign system as the most popular authors effectively subsidised their more talented peers. The emphasis is on wise as the system has been shattered.
Pick the Nobel Prize winner
Now for the stats, only a few as they hurt some people’s heads.
Stat 1
In 2001 162m books were sold in Britain.. In 2011 229m books were sold. If there is a crisis in publishing, it has nothing to with the popularity of the product. SOURCE
Stat 2
Ebooks account for less than 25 percent, probably closer to 20  percent, of books sold. I believe this will rise above 80 percent in the next decade, but the point is, if there is a crisis now, there is a lot more at play than ebooks.
As quoted here
Stat 3
In one year in Australia, more than half the novels sold were written by either Dan Brown or J. K. Rowling. (Sorry I am unable to locate the reference, a story on how all but one university chair of Australian literature had been axed. From memory, the percentage to total sales of Brown/ Rowling was more than 75 percent so you can accept more than half). The point here is that sales of books is increasing  but the mix of books sold has become more constricted.
Finally an excellent article on modern publishing which exposes the real scenario on decreasing standards. Surprise, surprise; it has little to do with ebooks.
This is the first installment in a series on the “crisis”.  I will leave the reader to ponder what they think is the relevance of the above.
Come, walk with me down the boulevard. I’m sick of walking alone.

Trolling for good grammar part 1

 A leisurely stroll with trolls

Trolling for blue fish, a1866 lithograph by Currier and Ives

THE heritage media in Australia is hunting for trolls after a celebrity was hospitalised with a breakdown following Twitter exchanges.
As it turns out, the celeb was not entirely blameless in the internet banter , but, as she admitted, she met more than her match.

Never argue with an idiot. They will bring you down to their own level and, once there, beat you with experience.

I am not much interested in the latest attempt by the heritage media to use print to troll internet discourse.  But I was taken with the notion of finding a little more about the on-line community’s assessment of trolling.
I found this excellent presentation by Californian web developer Nicole Sullivan who is also a gardener and poor car parker. I too am a gardener and poor parker. While I am not entirely sure what  web development is, I am pretty certain it is a cool thing for people, other than myself, to do.
Finding the Sullivan presentation required incredible discipline on my part as it was on the second page of a “trolls” Google. It was not even the top item on page 2, but I found it. (Alright it was #2. but that is not #1)
In response to my superhuman feat, I am asking you to play the presentation all the way through
Have you played it all the way through? You sure? You know I can wait you out until you do. You already know about my boundless discipline.
I have to play it again, anyway , as I need to quote  the bit I am interested in discussing.
Let’s watch it again together, shall we?
The advice in the vid is solid and concisely presented.  Alright, but the piece I want to talk about is where Ms Sullivan trolls “the grammar nazi” and I am sure she is talking about me.
“People think grammar is very, very, very important. I don’t understand them,” she said, looking right at me, through my computer screen.
Let me say, first up, one “very” in a sentence is usually one too many – ha! ha! gratuitous trolling.
No, what I really wish to say, is Ms Sullivan would not think half-assed web development was good enough. So it is with writing. “Mean what you say and say what you mean” applies to personal morality, refusing to troll and writing.
Sloppy writing creates confusion, reduces elegance and anchors the imagination, hampering glorious flight.
These are not just academic or aesthetic considerations. They go to the heart of whether the self-publishing revolution will liberate or debase literature. Heritage book publishers will tell you it is the latter. Conscientious self-publishers with respect for good grammar are assisting in making it the former.
Writers and readers need only to remember their childhood to know lots of good treats are in Grammar’s house.
                           Finally let’s enjoy an anti-trolling classic

Bernie Dowling. September 3, 2012

Available at AMAZON

Them ol’ Publisher blues

I came across another mainstream publisher at a conference the other day – very depressing. I don’t mind so much they are in denial that ebooks will send them spiralling into obsolescence just like epublishing sent the big  record companies down the drain. If I was in their shoes, I would be dreading the future of the ebook.
What gets up my nose is the high and mighty attitude of the BPs -Big Publishers. Ebooks will savagely  lower the standard.  New authors will not be nurtured.
Hello: the standard has been dropping over the past 40 years. A mainstream publisher could not sell a novel of ideas to Socrates. That is if they were interested in trying.
New authors have to pay for their own editing and acquire an agent themselves – things publishers used to do for someone they “nurture”.
Bent Banana Books is my publishing hut, set up to promote local self-publishing throughout the world, aligned with global e-publishing.
It will develop a resource base of honest and reliable self-publishing facilitators, provide handy hints for emerging writers and promote ebooks of self-published authors.
Bent Banana Books will engage in the discussion on the future of the book, through its website and this blog.
I will post faithfully, every Wednesday  and Friday.
If you have a passion for books and their future, have your say on this space. If you need a topic: will a flood of ebooks lower the standard and prevent quality breaking through?