Free Book Giveaway

100 copies of On Swift Wings are available to win via Goodreads (Kindle Version.) If you’ve been on the fence about getting a copy, put your name in here and try to win a free one!

It is an implied condition that when you finish reading it, you provide an honest review. I’m really excited to see what people think of it. Early reviews have been very positive (4-5 stars.)

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/302467-on-swift-wings-the-travails-of-cygnus

You probably need to sign up for a Goodreads account, which if you aren’t familiar is a huge community of book readers. People share what they want to read, what they are reading, what they have read, and reviews. You’re welcome to connect with me on Goodreads here as well. It is another public forum where you can ask questions or discuss the book. A favourite activity for me is discussing the book with my friends who are actively reading On Swift Wings right now and hearing their thoughts about various subjects and ideas presented therein. All interaction there is helpful as well. Engagement helps keep things relevant. It would also be really cool to hear some cross-talk among readers as well.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19267796.Brett_M_Wiens

Other Marketing Stuff

Book Contest Award Winning Author
Readers’ Favorite
https://indiereader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/logo-new-tag-300x54.png
https://brettwienscom.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/34f84-rv-logo-w100.gif

I mentioned that On Swift Wings has been nominated for a number of awards in categories like Debut Author, Literary Fiction, Fiction, Fantasy, and Adventure on ReaderViews.com, IndieReader, and Readers’ Favorite. A few of them are progressing. Readerviews and IndieReader are closed for new entries, while Readers’ Favorite closes on June 1. Fingers crossed.

One thing that I definitely didn’t know about when I started this was marketing. I honestly thought that I could just publish a book, somebody would read it, pass it on to the right person, and it would catch on all by itself. This has unsurprisingly proven to be naive, as a million other books are hoping for exactly the same thing. This is why I need your help to pass on the word and review the book (hopefully positively.)

I’m formulating a more detailed plan now, and it is wimpy and simple, but still miles ahead of where I started, comments and advice are always welcome.

Step 1 – Get the book into people’s hands.

I got it out to a number of friends early hoping to get reviews, I’ve added the above giveaway, I tried an Amazon giveaway. I’ve donated books to libraries and schools. Right now, the goal is to get people to read the book.

Step 2 – Get reviews and get known

I underestimated how important reviews were at first, I wanted to get reviews (and still do) but it dawned on me a while ago that nobody is dropping money on a book that has no reviews or that wasn’t recommended by a trusted friend. I’m pursuing this more actively now, through the giveaways and contests. If I can get a dozen reviews, that would help immensely. When people start to see that a book is well reviewed and that most people like it, they are more likely to buy it.

Step 3 – Advertise

Once the book has sufficient reviews and maybe an award, advertising should help a lot.

Step 4 – Publish a new book

This is a long way off, no doubt, but continuing the momentum and restarting the cycle should help.

Thanks everybody once again for your support. May your world always grow!

BW

Bookspotting and Progress

Bookspotting

Bookspotting – Finding On Swift Wings and Friends

One of my favourite things about writing and publishing a book is seeing where it ends up. I’ve seen the book in bookstores and libraries, I know that there are people reading my book on three continents, and several countries from Goodreads and from people sending me pictures.

Last week I asked for people to send me pictures with the book, and here are a few that I received (and a couple of my own.) It is neat to think that people are reading my book in Comox, Digby, Texas, Austria, Massachusetts, Edmonton, and of course a lot in my hometown, Calgary. It is also really cool that to have friends supporting my efforts. I really appreciate you all!

A lot of friends have been updating me while they read the book and have talked about parts they have read. It is a little like being in a book club. It is really fun to hear what people are thinking, especially when they are digging into the satire or some of the foundational ideas. Keep the commentary coming, I love to hear it! If people wish to send more pictures, I’ll include them in future posts here.

Progress Report

Reviews and Interviews

I’m working hard to get my book in front of reviewers and my target audience. It is a crowded market, but I’m seeing some progress here. I got my first formal review from readerviews.com and an interview from them as well. The first interview that I did was a while ago at IndiePublishingGroup I’m also expecting a few more reviews out of this, but it may take a while.

Awards

Additionally, On Swift Wings has been nominated for several awards: readerviews and indiereader in best debut, Western Canadian, literary fiction, and fantasy categories. At the very least, this will likely result in a few more reviews and maybe some killer publicity, who knows?

Book 2

As for the second book, working title: Immortals, I scratched out all of the work I had done before because I didn’t like the voice and style and rewrote the first chapter and started the second. It brings a whole different challenge for me, but I’m enjoying the process with a little more experience under my belt this time.

Thanks to everybody for reading, may your world always grow!

BW

First Full Review

On Swift Wings is being featured this week by Book by Book Publicity at readerviews.com. This is the first formal review by somebody who doesn’t know me and it is awesome. Scarcely can I contain my excitement. If you’ve been considering reading the book, hopefully this will put you over the edge.

I’m thrilled with the review. Check it out here: reviewwiensonswiftwings.

A few highlights:

The author does an exceptional job of rewriting the political satire through the eyes of Cygnus, a man who finds himself following in similar steps of Gulliver.

Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/19)

His journey makes for a compelling read.

Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/19)

I think that “On Swift Wings: The Travails of Cygnus,” by Brett M. Wiens would be a great selection for readers’ groups and even required reading for a class. Interesting discussions are guaranteed to follow. I look forward to reading future works by this talented author.

Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/19)

Reader Views has also asked for an interview that will be posted sometime this week, and will be featured in their newsletter on Monday, January 6, 2020.

Thank you Paige Lovitt and Reader Views!

(Next Week I’m going to post a 2019 year in review along with some pictures of people holding the book. If you’d like to be included, let me know here or send me a picture with On Swift Wings by email or Facebook at BW.Literature

Thanks for reading! May your world always grow.

2019 Season of Giving

Price Drop, Donations and Royalty Summary

December is a fun time of year, and I’m trying to make it a little bit better in my own way. When I released my book in July, I really knew very little about the art of publishing and marketing a book. I would still describe myself as a rank novice in these spaces, but I have learned a lot.

Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation Logo

One commitment that I made and continue to uphold is to donate 20% of the author royalties and other special events to children’s hospitals. This morning I wrote a check to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation to support their wonderful efforts. I would strongly encourage anybody who is able to donate to their local children’s hospital as well.

CBE Logo

My second drive has been to try to get my book to as many people as I can. I’ve offered the book to several local schools. So far, only a couple have accepted, but I am handing off a copy this morning to a local school. I’m really excited at the possibility of my book helping to elevate literacy and support our schools as well. For any of you that aren’t from Alberta, there has been a great deal of cuts made to our education budget. If I can help out a little, then I’m thrilled to do this.

FormatPrice
eBook$2.99
Paperback$12.95
Hardcover$34.95

At the same time, I’ve donated several copies of books to the local library, and to little free libraries near my house. This adventure wasn’t about the money when I started, and I still would rather a thousand people read the book and from it earn nothing, than have a single reader give me a thousand dollars.

To this end, I’ve changed the price structure of the book drastically in time for Christmas. (They are as low as I can now make them without taking a loss on each copy sold.) – Prices vary at different retailers.

If you are still looking for your own copy of the book, it can is available everywhere online, and in several local bookstores.

Begging for Reviews

Please
Please Review
Please Post a Review!

One last thing, please post a review of On Swift Wings. Amazon, GoodReads, Indigo, or anywhere else. Better yet, post it to all three! The biggest hurdle I face right now is getting outside of the friend zone. The only way I’ll achieve that is by word of mouth. Recommend the book to a friend, or post a review online. I love feedback. A few readers have been keeping me up-to-date on their progress, and I love hearing their thoughts, feedback, and criticisms. It’ll only take you a minute to type in your thoughts, please help!

Book Survey

I’ve been trying a few things to get On Swift Wings in front of more eyes recently. I’ve offered and donated copies to my junior and senior high schools. (Sir William Aberhart High School accepted) I also offered a copy to the University of Calgary, but they report that they don’t accept self-published books. I’ve also been strategically placing copies of the book in free little libraries around nearby neighbourhoods.

I’m trying everything I can think of to drum up more reviews of the book. I believe that based on the informal reviews and the one formal review I have so far that the book has potential if it can just get out of the “friend zone.” I’m also totally open to new ideas here if anybody cares to comment with suggestions. All ideas are helpful.

I’m posting a few survey questions to see if I can identify how to do better.

I’m really curious what kind of answers I’ll get from this poll. And as a data scientist, I’ll keep whatever is possible open so anybody can review this.

By the way, if anybody would like to know more about something. Questions about the book, the process, things I’ve learned, whatever you want to know, let me know. I’d love for this blog to be a little less me writing the occasional thought, and a little more interactive. (One more poll… a little more direct.)

Thank you all for reading and contributing! I really appreciate all feedback.

BW

Why I Write

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved to write. This included research projects in elementary school on Cheetahs and Jellyfish, through junior high school when I wrote a (just awful) short story about a civilization of fingers called “Fingeroids.” My strictly academic papers were strong, fact-based, and well-received. My artistic work was rather less so.

English was frequently my poorest subject in school. I just couldn’t seem to find the depth that others found in stories, which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy them, I merely contend that others read far more deeply than I felt a work merited. Sometimes a word has not been hand-picked by an author to mean precisely the opposite of its natural meaning. This came to a head in high school when the teacher assigned to us to read a short story for homework. The short story was to be the subject matter for a subsequent test on our ability to read creatively and to find deeper meaning in a text. 

One of my peers who always did exceptionally well in Language Arts bragged to her friends that she could pass the test without reading the story. She may have read the first and last paragraph if I recall correctly, but certainly didn’t know any of the pages in between. On the other side of the equation, I read the story multiple times, searched for repeated themes, keywords, symbolism, literary devices, and basically spent hours dissecting the story methodically in the manner I had been taught. I looked over at my classmate during the test to see if she was sweating and nervous, but she didn’t appear to be.

To put the end on the story, I received a serviceable grade on the test, below my standards, but acceptable for my least proficient subject. On the other, my ill-prepared classmate received a better than perfect score. The teacher announced that she had written in beautiful flowing prose the kind of clever, deeper analysis that hit upon themes that even the teacher herself had not at first grasped in the work. This was the kind of student we should all strive to emulate. I had spent hours preparing and she didn’t even do the minimum and I was told to be more like her. Let me tell you that this experience further pushed me away from subjective subjects for quite some time.

Despite the frustration above, I continued to write. One motivator was a poem that I wrote while coming home from school in grade eight during the spring. I always enjoyed kicking rocks and making dams and on this day a rock that I kicked happened to stop right in the path of a stream of water in an alleyway causing the stream to back up and find an entirely different channel. Sometimes a little thing like that can be an inspiration because I started thinking about how just this tiny little pebble, smaller than a marble, had stopped and forced a lot of water to change its course. I saw this as a metaphor for how something small and insignificant can make a big change, either positive or negative. The poem that I wrote, Just One Little Rock won awards as a poem about racism, it was also published at my nana’s funeral as a symbol for the cancer that took her life.

Just one little rock
So easy to throw
Can stop such a force
It’s called H2O.

The Power of life
Its power so free
Is stopped with a rock
So very easy.

The water no shape
Goes down as it may.
The rock in its place
Makes the water stay

The water of life
Surely in race
Is stopped rudely by
The rock in its place.

The water i moves
So easy, so free
Is put to a halt
Like its mother the sea.

Just one little rock
Amid some debris
Turns into boulders
And nobody sees.

Just one little rock
If it was put free
Would let buildup go
And make water free

Just one little rock
So easy to throw
Can stop such a force
It’s called H2O.

Apart from academic papers in school, I didn’t write much for fun. I think the last big piece of my puzzle was my master’s thesis. I wrote the entire thesis in October 2004, including all the figures and editing. This was a big mental foundation block, that I could write something that long in a fairly short time. I knew, with children, a job, and other endeavours simultaneously, that I wouldn’t have an enormous amount of time to devote to this, so if I didn’t know I was capable of writing that much, I probably never would have started. I also would get criticized at work for writing long, difficult, verbose emails. I was told to stop doing that, so instead I started writing a story.

I give all this background information for the same reason that I led off On Swift Wings with background information about the fictional author, and because George Orwell, in his essay, “Why I Write” suggested the same reason. The subject matter about which I write is shaped by current events and my own experience. I also recommend reading his essay, for he brings up some excellent points about the traps of writing while under the influence of temperament and current events. I hope that I have somewhat tempered my own view of the modern world. Orwell says, putting aside the need to earn a living, which my writing most certainly does not provide at this time, I share a similar set of motives for my writing.

  1. Sheer egoism. I’m not going to lie and pretend that one of the major motives for my work isn’t out of an abundance of egoism. It is certainly part of a desire to sound clever, to achieve something significant, to be talked about and remembered that drove my desire to write my first book. I think this is more common, if not universal that everybody wants to be well thought of. The timing of the book ties in with this as well. I read Gulliver’s Travels to my son as an infant and I want him, when he is old and I’m not around to be able to say, my dad was smart, and check out this legacy he left behind. I’ve always desired to be known as intelligent. I’ve often tried to think of myself as smart, but a point from The Cleric Quintet by R.A. Salvatore, a favourite author of mine throws the idea out there that smart people never actually know they are smart, and they question themselves. I want to prove to myself and everybody else that I can contribute something meaningful.
  2. Historical Impulse and Political Purpose. Orwell separated these two, but I’m going to combine them. I’m a fan of history, and an observer of politics, if I keep myself outside of the fray directly out of a sense of displeasure at the current slate of options. I’m interested in looking at the world today and analyzing things, but also providing a few of my thoughts without (hopefully) being too preachy. I use the word “political” in a similarly broad context to Orwell. I wish that my ideas help provide some direction for society towards what I believe to be a better alternative than the hyper-polarized place we live in today. I also feel that just about any work has a political purpose like this, whether intentional or not, even if loyal fans disagree.
  3. Obligation. I used to read or hear people say they did something because they had to do it and felt that it was a little bit disingenuous or a cop-out. Having written my first book, I find that a part of my head always lives inside the book. I never really turn On Swift Wings off, as the messages and purpose that I wrote remain very important to me. To this point, I find that the characters are all alive in my head, and I think about their untold stories. Sometimes I find that I lay awake at night telling a story in my head, refining it, writing it, rewriting it, all without putting a word down on paper. This has become an untenable situation and the only thing that I can do about it is to write it. I feel a sense of duty to share my thoughts and ideas and to write a second (and likely more books.) Either I write, or I don’t get to sleep anymore and my head will explode with these unstructured fantasies that I can’t even talk about because nobody knows them but me. So will keep writing.

I hope that this rambling essay is illuminating and meaningful. It sometimes feels like this blog is being read by nobody but me, and I’m ok with that. I use it to provide direction for my own writing, and a lens upon myself to keep me aware. Lacking introspection, I could become blind to the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing, and this is a dangerous path. I would love to hear that people are reading this, and especially to see their thoughts on my writing (both my book and this blog.)  Just for my own interest, please leave a message below indicating that you read it, even if you just write “Read it.”

Book Analytics

A good novel can be read on many levels. There is always a superficial layer, the story itself. A compelling story can be followed and enjoyed by the widest targeted audience. Beneath the surface, there are often layers of complexity and literary devices at play. Metaphor, themes and satire can be cloaked or revealed transparently. We all learn about this in grade school, and some go further in university really dissecting books for everything the author intended (or maybe didn’t) to present the reader. Here is a slightly, more data-driven way to dig into a book. I loaded the entire content of both On Swift Wings and Gulliver’s Travels into a data analytics workflow to compare and contrast the styles and contents. A few tools used here include sentiment flow, word correlation, word complexity and vocabulary. There are some fascinating details that can be revealed. I hope you’ll enjoy this data analysis of these two novels.

By the way, the script I wrote takes about 5 seconds to run once I have the manuscript, whether from Project Gutenberg or a text/word file. If you’d like to see the same analysis about your book, or a favourite public domain book, just let me know.

Comparing Sentiment Flow

Sentiment Flow Analysis in On Swift Wings
Sentiment Flow Analysis in Gulliver’s Travels

I think these two graphs are particularly interesting. The top two bar charts are an analysis of sentiment value in On Swift Wings (my book) and the bottom two are for Gulliver’s Travels. You’ll note that I’ve blocked out the end of On Swift Wings. I don’t wish to spoil any surprises about whether the ending is happy or sad.

For background, the BING model determines a raw count of whether a word should be deemed “Positive” or “Negative.” Simply put, if the bar is above the line, then the corresponding 1% of the book has more positive words than negative ones. The AFINN model scores different words according to whether they are very positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative, or very negative and assigns a value that way. In this way, the AFINN model measures the use of emotions with strength. Words like “Torture” and “Ecstasy” bear a greater weight than “Good” or “Bad.”

The first interesting finding is that in general I use quite a few more negative words than Jonathan Swift. The overall balance in terms of raw scores flows from positive at the beginning of the novel to more negative in the later stages. Swift tends to be more positive throughout, in fact, using more positive words particularly near the end of Gulliver’s Travels. (Note, I’m still not talking about the actual end of On Swift Wings.)

While I tend to use more negative words than positive, by weight (AFINN) On Swift Wings has a similar weighted score to Gulliver’s Travels. Most parts of the book are positive, and to a similar degree to Gulliver’s Travels. I think this is particularly interesting. Evidently, I use stronger, more impactful words to counterbalance a general negativity.

Sentiment Word Maps

On Swift Wings Sentiment Cloud
Gulliver’s Travels Sentiment Cloud

To the point about the strength of words used, these word clouds illustrate for each book how commonly different words are used that carry sentiment (size of font) and how impactful that sentiment is (lighter colour = less impact). Both books show many similar words (Great, Like, Good, No, Dead), but there are differences. There are a greater quantity and distribution sentimental words used more frequently in On Swift Wings. Both images were generated using the same code, the difference in shape is due to a difference in style. I invite you to look at the words and compare them yourself. I could look at these two figures for hours.

Again, if you’d like to see your favourite public domain novel, let me know, I’ll run the script and send the results. (I’ll probably put the code on GitHub soon too)

Word Correlation Map

On Swift Wings Correlations
Gulliver’s Correlations

These two figures demonstrate word combinations. Words that are used frequently together are connected. The more often, the thicker and brighter the line. Again, many differences can be seen between the two works. I tend to use a few words together frequently while Mr. Swift has a few clusters of interconnected words, and few other patterns he repeats.

Word Summary Statistics

Measure On Swift Wings Gulliver’s Travels Comparison
Word Count121,426104,280116%
Unique Words11,8488,359142%
Unique Word Ratio9.758.02122%
Average Word Length6.396.21103%

Here’s a really quick little analysis counting the number of words, how many of them are unique, what the ratio of unique to total words is and average word length. It isn’t a valid measure of quality, but On Swift Wings is 16% longer than Gulliver’s Travels, there are 42% more unique words in On Swift Wings, and each word is on average 4% longer. Reading On Swift Wings, you’ll encounter a new word approximately 22% more frequently than reading Gulliver’s Travels.

Before the hate rains down, please remember that this is all good fun. Gulliver’s Travels is a great book, and I strongly recommend it. I only hope that On Swift Wings will be intriguing and entertaining as well.

Weekly Review Section

Thank You Stewart Adams

I received my first review on Amazon this week! As hoped, the book is a challenging but rewarding read. Please keep the reviews coming! Amazon.ca or Amazon.com, Goodreads, Indigo. Reviews are desperately needed to spread the word and get the book in front of more readers. Please.

An interesting modernization of Gulliver’s Travels. There are some great concepts in the book including “perfect” societies and how one person can make a difference.
It is not an easy read due to the meaty sentences, but I am glad I read it.

Worth your time. Stewart Adams – Amazon Review