Quest For Second Sex

You are welcome to browse through the digital version (pdf) of my debut fiction. Your comments are always welcome.

You can leave these on the site or send at author.writes_as_paul_shona@yahoo.ca.

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The fiction is available at amazon.com; look it under my pen name Paul Shona.

Digital version: $2.99 (US)
Print version: $21.99 (US)

Effective January 19, 2017, the fiction is available for your reading pleasure at the Ottawa Public Library (OPL). You are welcome to put a hold on it at any one of its 33 branches.

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My early inhibitions

What’s inhibition?
The Webster’s Dictionary defines inhibition as a “mental or psychological process that restrains or suppresses an action, emotion, or thought.” Under this broad definition, each and every person is likely to have one or more inhibitions, which could have originated at any stage of his/her life. Usually such inhibitions are fed into the brain during the early formative years – depending on a person’s cultural upbringing, folk tales heard from the first line care-givers like parents, grandparents, and/or babysitters – also considered as the first teachers or guides. These persons can implant in a child’s brain all sorts of whims, fantasies, fears, ideals, or teachings based on their personal experiences, or what they valued the most, religious beliefs, and superstitions. Besides these early tales and teachings, the company of friends, peers, bad personal experiences, and the environment may also germinate inhibitions which, in turn, may become a part of one’s personality or behavioural psyche. This psyche may impede or enhance one’s development, career-path, or economic gains over life-time. For example, if a person has been raised in a religious and God-fearing environment, and taught God’s gospels, that person would always show a strong inhibition to hurt anyone physically, emotionally, spiritually, or abuse, bully, or back-stab – irrespective of what others do to him/her.

Role of inhibition
Now that I am retired after almost fifty years of uninterrupted paid work and establishing myself as a writer, I am turning back the pages just to understand how some of my inhibitions played a positive and negative roles in my career as an employee. As my internal psyche worked in both cases – a driving motivation, ambition, and hard work that kept me going to achieve some goals on the one hand, and the disappointments, or failures that I suffered on the other – I am wondering what was it that kept me going through the sun shine or the rain, sleet, or snow. Although I do believe that the lady luck plays some role in life, but the fact of the matter is that a person’s own planning, efforts, persistence, and actions eventually account for his/her success. We all are architect of our own life. We all spend time, effort and energy to achieve our goals, but only a few really succeed and the rest moderately, or stagnate, or fail. Why? Could we attribute such successes and failures to some of our ingrained inhibitions – developed during formative or later years?

My early inhibitions
Like all children, I received my early teachings from the first line care-givers – primarily my maternal grandmother – who looked after me during my early years. She instilled in me innumerable teachings like ‘have trust in God, be respectful to parents, persons older to you, and the elderly, be compassionate and a giver, be courteous to women, work hard to progress, face adversity bravely and patiently, keep persisting until you get what you want, don’t berate others or brag about yourself, be humble, as a man be strong and don’t shriek even when run-over by a train, and on and on.’ Needless to say, some of these teachings became guiding-lights and some turned out to be inhibitions. In this post, I will dwell on two simply to demonstrate how they affected my career.

A. Respect a woman
As I was ingrained – always respect a woman – I grew up respecting a woman with utmost regard – from my mother to senior women relatives and acquaintances outside the home. As a mark of respect, I used to talk to them in a much softer and gentler tone. I would often obey their commands and follow their instructions. As the luck would have it, when I immigrated to Ottawa (Canada) from the United Kingdom with a job in the federal public service, I ended up with a woman supervisor, and another woman as a director. In other words, I had to work and deal with not one but two women. I found myself in a very odd situation as psychologically and mentally, I was simply prepared to talk to them in a soft and respectful tone, whereas the work required to talk to them back-and-forth in a stronger and convincing tone to show my effectiveness as a professional worker. Even when they shouted at the pitch of their voices, I kept my calm and listened to them rather than shouting back at them simply as a mark of respect. This inhibition of mine conveyed them the impression that I was too ineffective and poor in fighting back or communicating. They didn’t know how mentally trapped I was inside that even if I wanted to rebut to justify my actions, my tongue was tied. By the time I overcame this inhibition and started to communicate with them, it was too late. I had been labelled as an ineffective and poor communicator, which in turn, affected my career progression. This equally hindered my search for another job as these women would not recommend me. And no one wanted a ‘poor communicator’ on the staff.

In case you are wondering why didn’t I try for a different job right away to get away from these women. Well, put yourself in my position. As an immigrant, I was all alone in a new country, didn’t know anyone, had no financial source other than the salary from this job, which too was probationary for a year. I couldn’t risk my survival at least for a year. I didn’t want to quit my well-paying professional job, risk living on government’s social assistance for weeks or months, and further with no guarantee that I would get a similar or better job elsewhere. At that moment, I firmly believed that a bird in hand was better than two in the bush. As an immigrant, the financial security was way more important than the hurt caused by these women.

B. Be persistent and follow your goal
What was it that kept me going on the job? Despite my poor inter-personal relationship with these women, I was able to continue to pursue my analytic and writing interests. My grandmother’s teaching ‘be persistent and keep on track until you get what you want’ was always on my mind. I wanted to earn name and fame as a professional and the only way to get it was by having my work published in newspapers and well-received by other media. Over time, both of these women and other seniors realized that I was a skilled, creative, and prolific worker, who was also enhancing their profiles. I have seen my name published in almost every newspaper in Canada. One of the papers I wrote turned out to be one of the best among government publications in 1984-85 and was sent to Canadian High Commissions and Embassies around the globe. Even the last paper published a week before my retirement was quoted in the Wall Street’s ‘Dow Jones’ paper.

By the time I retired, I had published more than one hundred papers and reports; seventy plus tiles, available in the public domain, are listed on the site.

Concluding remarks
I wouldn’t infer that I had a happy and financially rewarding career. The least I can conclude is that I was able to do what I wanted to do. How I did it and overcame all the hurdles, bumps, and obstacles to simply pursue my writing interest is the subject of my next book “Pursuing writing in the public sector” to be released by summer of next year. In the meantime, I am really grateful to my grandmother for teaching me to face each and every adversity with courage, patience, and perseverance.

Tags

Inhibition, Type and source of inhibition, Writing, Writing career, Public sector, Woman supervisor, Persistence, Ambition, Hard work.

Retrospective thoughts on the post-release of my debut fiction

Introduction
It took me a little over two years to complete my debut erotic romance fiction Quest For Second Sex. While I was finishing it, I was getting quite anxious about making a mark as a fiction writer in the publishing world, expecting it to be well received by readers. I was not thinking of making any windfall gains but simply of the name and fame I would be getting as a writer. To me, earning the credential as a ‘well-known and established author’ is way more important than making money. Writing is my passion – everything else is immaterial.

On July 28, 2016, Amazon/Kindle released the digital version of this 650-page fiction, priced at $5.99. A week later, Amazon/CreateSpace released the print version, priced at $21.99. I now could call myself as a published author. The next exciting moment was to see how well would this fiction sell. Would its sale fly as a rocket or simply fizzle out before even its lift-off? It was a wait-and-see game.

Now almost after two months, with both digital and print sales moderate, falling short of perhaps my unrealistic high expectations, I am beginning to mull over the outcome – even though it’s only over a very short-term.

In this post, I want to share my thoughts and post-release lessons learnt with my friends including new and experienced writers as well as non-writers.

Retrospective thoughts on the post-release
This moderate sale can be attributed to several factors. The first and foremost is the sheer size of competition any new fiction faces as hundreds of thousands of new titles of fictions and non-fictions (in both digital and print versions) are released the world over each year. Statistically speaking, on Amazon alone, there is a new title released every five minutes (derived simply by dividing the number of minutes in a year by the number of new titles released in a year). Since there’s a limited number of readers with limited discretionary funds available for non-essentials, and if you further divide these readers by the type of genre they like, there’s even more limited number of potential readers of any specific genre including an erotic romance (need I explain that the sale of fiction of a particular genre depends on the number of its potential readers/buyers). Again, given a choice, these readers would likely prefer to purchase a book authored by their favourite and/or established author. In this kind of scenario, the odds of success for a new and self-publishing author are very limited.

Keep in mind though that all presently established writers were also first-timers at some point in time and faced the same crunching issue of breaking into the market. They turned out to be very successful by dint of their hard work – producing two to even three fictions a year – and effectively enhanced their credentials, and eventually dominate the fiction market. And, as success breeds success, their rapid turn overs of fictions make them economically gainful targets of large commercial publishers. Authors – established or first-timers – whose work is published by commercial publishers don’t have to sweat about editing, printing, distribution, and marketing of their books. Publishers’ staff take care of these tasks, freeing writers to write and write for them. These writers take the lion’s share of the revenue generated by the fiction market. Indeed, the number of such authors is very small – as evident by the low success rate in publishing. The rate varies between ten and twenty percent (depending on the genre).

Self-published authors, on the other hand, have to take care of everything from the inception of the idea for a book to its eventual writing, printing and marketing. Since writing and marketing are two different concepts and require different sets of skills, most self-published writers aren’t good in marketing their crafty outputs. They ultimately depend on professional marketeers at a cost which, in turn, varies with the reputation of the ad agency they chose to go with. These marketeers are largely tech-savvy people who would market products on all kinds of social media including the Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram – you name it. Writers could do the same job and save a bundle of money if they were equally able to use these marketing tools.

In the absence of these tools, self-published authors have very limited ways to attract readers’ attention to their books: like an attention grabbing title, customized visually attractive cover, professionally edited and printed, with persuasive synopsis – to name some. Based on a combination of these markers and a quick browsing (on the internet or elsewhere), readers make a decision to purchase a self-published author’s book (unless they are friends, acquaintances, or family members of that author). On the other hand, for an established author, his/her name alone is enough to motivate readers to buy his/her book – as they likely build collection and/or follow his/her work closely. In marketing terms, that author’s name and brand play important roles.

Besides heavy competition and lack of right skills to use social media for marketing, the moderate sale of my fiction thus far can be attributed to its larger than average size (650 pages), and its associated high price ($5.99 for digital/$21.99 for print version). While I was writing, I didn’t even think about the size, or the number of pages I would have at the end. The first time I was made aware of this issue and its consequences was when my editor submitted the book at Amazon and was told that the fiction exceeded the company’s set limit of 828 pages (for 6″ x 9″ format). That meant I had to chop down the fiction by more than 100 pages. At that time, I thought of splitting the fiction into three parts and eventually sell it as a boxed-set of three. But I couldn’t do it. I wanted to preserve the continuity of development of characters as well as the cohesiveness of the story. As a novice author, these issues were very important to me.

Lessons learnt
The moderate sale of my debut fiction has taught me some important lessons for my second fiction (to be out by this time next year). The first and foremost is to keep its size short, and as a result, its price low. I shouldn’t out-price myself as the high-price in itself limits or even negates the sale (imagine, digital at $5.99 competing against $1.99 or $0.99, or print at $21.99 against an average between $10.00 and $15.00 for POD). I will, of course, have an attractive customized cover done by an artist, as well as have it professionally edited and formatted for print – like I did for this fiction. I wouldn’t rush to self-publish it like I did for the first one. I would rather follow the conventional route and see it published by a commercial publisher and save myself the time and agony of looking after other tasks. However, if I end up self-publishing it, then I myself will market it rather than depend on paid help. To that effect, I have started learning the marketing tools used in today’s social media, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and personal blogging. Put simply, I am using my current fiction as a guinea-pig in all trials and errors – unavoidable in any learning process. Just yesterday, I loaded a copy of my fiction at Instagram, a specially designed flyer on the Facebook, have opened up a Twitter account – as most of these tools are interactive. At times, the learning process is very frustrating, but I am keeping my cool because I know the use of these tools would eventually help me diversify my writing business.

Selling of books is not new to me. After all, I ran a mail-order business for ten years – selling skill-development products including books authored by other writers. I sold products from coast-to-coast. Now I have to sell my own books and products in the face of rapidly changing and challenging technology.

Your comments on this or any other post on this site are always welcome.

Tags Self-publishing Book marketing Pricing Marketing tools Social media Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Instagram Commercial publisher Digital book

Indebtedness and depression

Introduction
A couple of days ago when I released a post on a brief perspective on depression, I intentionally left out the details on a link between indebtedness and depression. I just wanted to highlight the possible sources of depression, its symptoms, and ways to overcome it. Considering the strong link between indebtedness and depression, this post is strictly focused on this topic. Do we have any evidence to support our exposition?

Currently available evidence
The evidence currently available is from studies conducted in the United States and Europe, including the United Kingdom, and Spain. The quantitative evidence is from the national or regional household surveys. For example, the survey of 8,500 people, conducted in the mid-nineties by the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, showed that people with credit card debt and overdue bills were much more likely to experience symptoms of depression than those without such debts. Again, those with student loans and mortgages didn’t experience bouts of depression that frequently compared to those who had too much credit card debt and outstanding unpaid bills. Keep in mind that the sort of depression experienced by these persons is different from the usual concept of ‘clinical depression’ or ‘chronic depression’.

Similar findings were found from data compiled from the three waves (2002-2005-2008) of the Spanish Survey of Household Finances, and presented in the IZA Discussion Paper # 8912, released in March 2015. Among other results based on multivariate models, it found that non-mortgage debt payments and debt arrears affected significantly people’s health. Mortgage debt didn’t affect health that badly as non-secured consumer debt (like amounts outstanding on credit cards, lines of credit, and other debt arrears) did.

Depression/health ailment varies by type of debt
How come mortgage debt and student loan cause lesser health problems or depression compared to other unsecured loans? It’s mostly the attitudinal and mental thinking about debt that makes the difference. For instance, people look at mortgage debt as a vehicle to acquire the biggest asset of their life – owning a home – and its repayment brings them more pride and security as they gradually increase equity in their home. The same with student loans. Persons take such loans to acquire higher education and skills to improve their employment prospects, job mobility, and eventually higher earnings. Its repayment equally doesn’t cause them any mental anguish as they realize that it was something required to improve themselves and their living standards. On the other hand, any debt used to satisfy current consumption, pleasure, travel, or as a bridge to get over spells of inadequate income during unemployment or emergencies could prove to be not only daunting but haunting as well. The payment of this accumulated non-mortgage debt including credit cards, car loans, lines of credit, etc. (excluding student loans) – depending on their respective rates of interest – could cause a serious anxiety and depression for debtors – especially when they have a poor cash flow or have scant or no personal savings. This anxiety and depression eventually affect debtor’s health.

What are some of the ramifications of indebtedness?
Statistics Canada continues to remind us that we carry more debt than we earn – the latest statistics show that we owe $1.68 for each dollar of disposable income (i.e., income after taxes and other deductions including premiums for Canada/Quebec Pension Plan, and Employment Insurance). This is a macro-picture at the national level, based on total household debt outstanding divided by total household disposable income. This ratio doesn’t imply that each and every household in Canada is in debt or owe some money – though a good majority does (according to TransUnion Canada, 26 million Canadians owed at least one type of debt) and most of the debt owed is mortgage debt taken by households to purchase their first home, or to refinance their home to raise funds for any personal reason (like pay-off consumer loans, investing in business, or financing a child’s higher education). With mortgage debt rising (partly as a result of steeply rising prices of homes) way faster than disposable income, some debtors’ are paying huge installments on mortgage debt on the one hand, and using consumer credit to finance their day-to-day needs on the other. These are asset rich but cash poor Canadians, vulnerable to all sorts of anxiety and depression.

Granted, debt finances consumer spending, which in turn, keeps the economy healthy and growing. On the other hand, imagine those financially distressed, anxious, and depressed, running to doctors or hospitals for treatment for all of their ailments arising from monetary distress and its related problems. Highly indebted are more vulnerable to committing suicide, heart attacks, strokes, consume illicit drugs to harm themselves out of sheer guilt, anger, frustration, shame, bad behaviour, keeping themselves away from work – all costing the economy in terms of both low productivity, and rising health care costs. No one knows the cost of treating debtors for ailments and suffering caused by their own actions including spending patterns.

Isn’t this an anomaly? On the one hand, we are offering credit to people, and on the other, we are paying to treat their ailments associated with financial distress brought on by their own actions. The situation is far worse for nearly two million Canadians who use pay-day lending services to finance their needs. This small proportion of Canadians is in too deep a hole to come out of it. But the society remains responsible for their health and well-being.

Need data to analyse the issue
There is an association between indebtedness and anxiety or depression. One wouldn’t know if indebtedness leads to depression or it’s the other way around as some of the depressed people may cure their depression by going on shopping, even on credit. We need some comprehensive data. Statistics Canada periodically conducts Survey of Financial Security in which it collects data on household’s components of assets and debts – besides data on its demographics, income, labour force participation, and coverage under employer pension plan. This will be the ideal vehicle to collect a bit of information on some general health issues experienced by a household (like the principal members feeling anxiety, depression, mental disorder, etc.) The regular National Health Survey conducted by Statistics Canada collects strictly health related data on Canadians. I believe it collects data on a respondent’s total income and labour force participation – but nothing on components of debts. In one survey or the other, we need to collect information on income, expenditure, health, assets, and indebtedness for a more meaningful analysis.

Tags

Anxiety   Depression   Indebtedness   Mortgage debt   Non-mortgage debt   Pay-day loan Health   Statistics Canada   Financial Security Survey   National Health Survey

A brief perspective on depression

Background
On Thursday September 1, 2016, the Conference Board of Canada, one of the country’s think-tanks, released a report pointing out that the low productivity of workers with depression and anxiety costs the Canadian economy almost $50 billion a year – $32.5 billion due to depression and $17.3 billion to anxiety. Considering the size of the economy worth around $1.8 trillion, $50 billion may look trivial to some. Nonetheless, depression and anxiety affect workers. According to the report, worker productivity is lost through both absence – when employees don’t show up at work – and presence at work, when employees are not performing to their full potential.

The report shows that the proportion of workers with depression varied by industry group – with the accommodation, food services, and retail trade on top of the list. As I showed in my earlier post on “Our changing economy“, these two industry groups employed 18.2% of the total of 17.9 million employed, and contributed 7.5% to the total of $1.6 trillion of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015. In other words, workers employed in these industries have lower productivity, and as a result, earn less than those employed in other industry groups. The report acknowledges that jobs in accommodation, food services, and retail trade are precarious – most are non-permanent, offer shift work, and have high turnover. One may easily conclude from this evidence that low earnings are likely the cause of depression and anxiety – besides several others. The report recommends employers to pay more attention to the issue of mental health of workers.

In this note, I don’t intend to question any recommendation of the report but offer a brief perspective on depression alone. Employers may go to any length to care for mental health of their workers, the bottom line, as I see it, is that each worker, being engulfed by his/her own problem triggering depression, is eventually responsible to find a unique cure.

What’s depression?
It’s an illness that impacts the brain of a person. The brain’s chemicals that carry signals among nerves or neurotransmitters are imbalanced and therefore don’t behave as desired, resulting in a brain ailment. The World Health Organization characterizes depression as the most disabling disorders in the world. A depressed person feels totally at loss, loses interest in activities that keep life moving, fails to stay focused, withdraws from people, family, and friends, feels sad and isolated, fails to resolve any personal, family, or work-related problem. A depressed person is on a life’s journey without any navigational compass – floats like a rudderless ship.

Who’s affected by depression and what triggers it?
Depression is a multi-faceted universal concept that can hit men and women of all ages – working, not working, or retired, living in urban or rural areas. Same way, it can hit the poor, the middle class, and the wealthy. The working-poor may be depressed because of inadequate income, the middle class on account of say, too much of mortgage and non-mortgage indebtedness, and the wealthy, on account of, say, investment losses. Depression can be triggered by a number of factors ranging from brain ailment to inadequate income, family conflict, or terminal illness, excessive debt, job loss, lack of career advancement, grief, death of a loved one – to name a few. According to Statistics Canada and Health Canada, depression is likely to affect less than ten percent of Canadians at some point in their lives.

Keep in mind that sadness and depression are two different concepts. Sadness is of short-term nature, and recovery from it may not require any treatment. Depression, on the other hand, is of long-term nature and may require a proper treatment including drugs and antidepressants provided by a doctor or a psychiatrist, or counselling by a social worker. Treatment including use of antidepressants may temporarily improve the chemical composition of one’s brain, and as a result, change one’s mood, but can’t totally eradicate depression unless the remedy to its root cause is found. For example, if one is depressed on account of a family conflict, no medicine is going to cure depression until the conflict is resolved and total harmony prevails among family members. Many depressed persons looking and acting normal on the surface may in fact be resisting voluntarily to share their condition with professional healthcare agents.

Again, depressed men and women act differently. For instance, depressed men may be more irritable, indulge into reckless drinking, angry outbursts, lose interest in work, etc., whereas women may feel sad, guilty, worthless, etc. Both sexes of all ages may socially isolate themselves from family and friends, indulge into binge eating, or sleeping.

How to cure depression?
Depends on how serious the depression is. If it’s chronic, its treatment may require proper medical care, including the use of drugs and antidepressants. On the other hand, if it’s mild or of short-term nature, a person can cure it by changing his/her life style, entertaining more positive thoughts, indulging into activities that he/she likes, keeping his/her heart and mind open to new and challenging thoughts, focusing more on his/her personal goals worth pursuing and achieving, getting away from self-loathing, or self-pity. One of the best cures for both the chronic and non-chronic depression is to develop a routine to indulge into some physical and strenuous exercise. Since all such exercises not only improve the flow of blood in a body, but also cause healthy hormonal changes which, in turn, can help balance the desired chemical composition of the brain – the epicentre of depression. One should stay active as much as one can. Indulge into creative and productive work, activities, or hobbies.

Personally, I get quite depressed if I don’t spend time reading and thinking of some creative ideas for my daily writing, or I miss my trip to a gym for exercise. Reading and writing have been, and still are, are my constant companions and keep nurturing my body and soul. Even when I am depressed for any reason, these activities have always lifted up my spirits. Granted, not everyone is, or can be a keen reader or a writer. The point here is to get involved in activities that give you the utmost pleasure in order to overcome your depression.

Tags Persons with Depression Triggers of depression Symptoms of depression Overcoming depression Best way to beat depression

Announcement

I am pleased to announce the release of my debut erotic romance fiction Quest For Second Sex. Both its digital and print versions are available from amazon.com. I penned it as Paul Shona. To order a copy, click at the following link. The digital version is available at $5.99 and print at $21.99.

Cover of fiction

Cover of fiction

The digital edition is also available from Draft2Digital.com, nook, kobo, apple, and iBooks.

Fiction’s Blurb

This erotic romance tells the story of a professional young man searching for a beautiful and attractive woman of his dream to satiate his ever-growing and burning lust. His search continues in four cities spread over three continents – South East Asia, Europe, and North America. He sexually engages with women who believed strictly in oral rather than conventional sex before marriage, and with those, virgin and nymphomaniac, who wanted sex without any barriers. Read how he was able to satisfy not only his sexual appetite, but also of all the women of different cultures he bedded for both oral and conventional sex. Read about his secret to bring women to bursting orgasm, so much so, that they would demand more and more … of it. During all such sexual hook-ups, did he ever find his real true love, his dream woman?

Read on …

You are welcome to contact the author at author.writes_as_paul_shona@yahoo.ca, or you can leave comments direct on the author’s page at amazon.com.

Tags Romance, Erotic, Sex, Hookups, Intimate relationship, inter-cultural, Sexual interludes