Posted by: ranjitratnaike | January 26, 2017

Good Writing Assassins: Cliches


Irritating a reader unintentionally is not difficult.

The annoyances include the poor content and style of the writing; careless editing; bad page layout with not enough ‘white space’ between paragraphs, some spanning more than one page; narrow margins and too small a font size. I grind my teeth if the tight binding prevents me from opening the book with ease.  Did no one look at this book?

Another major annoyance is the use and excessive use of clichés

The dictionary defines a cliché as ‘a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, which has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse, and gives as examples, sadder but wiser; strong as an ox.’

Idioms often breed clichés.  The words in an idiom have an implied meaning and not that of the individual words. Examples are, caught red handed; dead as a doornail; a storm in a teacup. Many clichés are the offspring of once thoughtful idioms due to overuse and sometimes from changing the original words.

The cliché sadder but wiser is from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in which the original phrase was sadder and wiser.

The stigma attached to a cliché is its jarring, boring overuse, diluting good prose.

Wikipedia makes an added, powerful observation about clichés, ‘. . . even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.’

It is unlikely the same clichés will irritate each of us equally.

Is there a hard and fast rule about what is tiresome? Indeed, there is a yawning gulf between our likes and dislikes. Some say I have a jaundiced eye and I would retort, ‘I am not a glutton for punishment; I hate clichés, and I am green with envy that you are as cool as a cucumber, have no crisis of confidence in the writer and devour every word.  You may say, All things considered, are a few clichés a storm in a teacup or the end of the world?  If at the end of the day, you are blissfully ignorant of what is and what is not a cliché, I say unkindly, ‘where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise’ (Thomas Grey, 1716-17710).

Many clichés are of biblical origin (

By the skin of my teeth; to have a narrow escape; gird up the loins; a drop in the bucket, and a scapegoat.

Numerous clichés are of Shakespearean origin, for example, break the ice; cold comfort; dead as a doornail; devil incarnate; good riddance; laughing stock; wild-goose chase; spotless reputation. The ghastly cliché, sea change, with its meaning is unchanged, is from The Tempest.

Literary critics brand writers who use clichés as lazy and, or ignorant, with no great love for words, and a disdain for the beauty of the English language.

In a novel, using clichés only in the dialogue (perhaps of one character) is acceptable, and would distinguish that character’s speech pattern.  Sadly and often, clichés destroy good prose and diminishes the author, those employed to delete them or advise the author against their use. Eventually, shoddy editing points to the negligence and irresponsibility of the publisher. Indeed, many are.  Newspaper journalists’ relish using clichés excessively and indiscriminately. Possibly, tutoring on good reporting trumps good writing. Sub-editors and editors of newspapers and magazine and copy editors in publishing houses may ignore clichés because they cannot spot them.

How can an intelligent writer avoid the menace of the cliché?

Be on guard.  Writing is very hard work. If words flow very easily with no effort, be doubly alert! If a sentence seems limp, search and search again for a lurking cliché.  Delete it and see the sentence glow.  Using the most suitable words is an investment no writer would regret.

I imagine words as gems of great value; the necklace is the sentence I will create. A cliché is a rusty nail dangling from the necklace.


Posted by: ranjitratnaike | December 16, 2016

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: Lessons for Writers

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

What can a writer learn?


I was a sad parting when I finished reading all 640 pages of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate, 2009). The book shines with Mantel’s superbly elegant prose and I understand why she won the Man Booker Prize in 2009.

Thomas Cromwell, a blacksmith’s son achieves greatness through qualities, which will enrich us all.   He recognizes and measures accurately his own value, power, and that of both his friends and enemies.  He is cleverly and always polite to those he dislikes.  He has a formidable intellect and capacity for work and is unfailingly honest in his opinions.  Cromwell does not regard loyalty as a fragile virtue which he abandons for personal gain. Those who know him, admire him above all for his enduring love and respect for Cardinal Wolsey, now out of favour with Henry VIII, who is infatuated with Anne Boleyn.

Mantel’s clever ability to display in Cromwell his astuteness to judge the strength of a relationship is a fascinating aspect of this great work.
A well-published, famous  author can enjoy many privileges even with their writing style.
In Wolf Hall,  Mantel uses ‘Says’ almost always instead of ‘said’ or ‘replied.’ This  repetitiveness is irritating, tiring and would compel the reader as it did me to why she disdains, ‘said’ or ‘replied?’


She is unrivalled in describing eye movements and writers can learn much from her exquisite descriptions.

I accommodated other irritating features as I enjoyed the wonderful prose. For example, she begins a paragraph about Henry VIII who she rightly refers to as ‘he. ’ In the same paragraph, a sentence or two later ‘he’ refers Cromwell! Confusing.  Once I recognized and accepted this unusual peculiarity, I became tolerant to this ‘burr. ‘An example is on page 591, ‘He stands….’.  A recurrent distraction associated with this relentless oddity was why the editor let this pass! Perhaps mantel was stubborn or the editor asleep.  The book is 590 pages long.

The story has a vast number of characters strolling, many aimlessly, through it.  There are 95 listed under ‘CAST OF CHARACTERS.’ Apart from editors in publishing houses and professional book reviewers, most of us lack the luxury of reading a book in one sitting. Though I read the book everyday, (and not yet a victim of dementia with recent memory loss), apart from the few main characters it was tedious referring to the front of the book for information on a minor characters. Many are irrelevant.

I often wondered if the editor was over awed my Hilary Mantel and not said: 1. There are too many insignificant minor characters buzzing around and distracting the reader. 2. Do we really need to know the names of the two inconsequential ladies-in-waiting and the four gentlemen attending the king who were not distinguishable by their speech or actions?

Was it a good book? It was a great book. Would I recommend it to my friends? Only to a few! Why is it titled Wolf Hall, which is home of Jane Seymour? Perhaps a teaser to read the next book?


What can a writer learn from Wolf Hall?

  1. Editors may defer to great authors by not urging them improve what they have written. This diminishes good writing if the editor’s comments are sensible.
  2. Great authors enjoying fame and wealth and acclaim, may insist they know than an editor with a good reputation.  This may lean towards narcissism. The narcissist among other character flaws believes he or she knows more than others know and therefore scorns advice.
  3. How ever famous you are, remember that your writing style may irritate readers and there is no virtue in making your book a ‘difficult’ read.
  4.  Every character may be familiar, loved dearly by the author.  But ask yourself these questions:
  1. Why is this character included?
  2. Does he or she add to the story line?
  3. Does he or she help us understand or add ‘color’ to the main characters?
  4.  Is remembering these minor characters annoying and detracting from the joy of reading the book?
  5. Is the annoyance they generate compounded (as in Wolf Hall) because their actions and speech patterns are indistinguishable?
  6. Are these characters nonentities (defined as, persons of no importance of significance)?
  7. Must you imitate Hilary Mantel and make readers grind their molars by using ‘Says’ almost always, and perversely ignore those two most useful words, ‘said,’ and ‘replied?’
  8. Do you want to learn to describe eye movements? Hilary Mantel’s descriptions are masterly.

If you wonder why professional reviewers may not have made the criticisms or mentioned the annoyances I have, please read Hans Christian Anderson’ The Emperor’s New Clothes (1831) or view it (13 minutes), on YouTube at

Posted by: ranjitratnaike | November 29, 2016

Author Interview

An Author Interview with Ranjit Ratnaike

Hi Ranjit! I know you are the author of two very successful science fiction books, Saradasi-The Prophecy and Saradasi-The Search. What other books have you published and in what genres? My first three were academic books that I contributed to, and edited.

What were they about and who published them? The Cambridge University Press published Diarrhea and Constipation in Geriatric Practice in 1999, Edward Arnold, London, published Small Bowel Disorders in 2000.  McGraw-Hill published A Practical Guide to Geriatric Medicine in 2002.

Prolific! No! Hard working!

Would I profit by reading them? Not unless you have a particular interest in the magnificent human machine and its misbehaviourHowever, gaining knowledge is always profitable.

‘Human machine’ sounds familiar. It is the title of a book by Arnold Bennett, a prominent British writer, who wrote fiction and self-help books such as The Human Machine. His most famous fiction book is The Old Wives Tales.  I have not read either book.  

What then is your interest in Arnold Bennett? One of my English teachers in Sri Lanka chastising me about a book I was reading.  He said, ‘Ratnaike, please try to remember what Arnold Bennett said, “Good taste is better than bad taste, but bad taste is better than no taste.’” I admire people who spurn titles and honors.  No Sir Arnold Bennett for him! He declined a knighthood.

I am surprised you have not read his books. I should.  But, it’s like reading the menu in a Michelin three star restaurant where you are dining. You can’t eat everything on the menu.  There are so many great writers, so many marvelous books, but I cannot read them all. I’d like to.

Tell us about your most recent book. Saradasi-The Search is a ‘stand alone’ sequel to Saradasi-The Prophecy.

The Prophecy predicts terrifying evil beings will destroy the Nereima Galaxy.

Shanaz, a member of the feared Saradasi race who ruthlessly rule the Saradasi Empire in the Nereima Galaxy, is traveling in an unpredictable parallel universe.  Guided by perhaps a deceitful robot, she is searching for an elusive member of a team selected by an Astral Lord to save her home. The team of five Saradasi must defeat the evil forces using only goodness as their weapon. On her journey, Shanaz gains compassion and wisdom which challenge her beliefs, question the strength of her relationships, and help free her from the prison of her past, transforming her life, and through her, the Empire.

Please share with us your background and whatever else you want to tell usI was born in Sri Lanka, a beautiful, small tear-shaped island country in the Indian Ocean, famous for tea and sapphires. Home was Colombo, the capital, where my father was a Baptist Minister. At our home, we had a wonderful library of books.  From fiction to books on religion, ethics and logic, card conjuring and stage magic.  I can tell you how to make an elephant disappear on stage.

I left home to study medicine in South India at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, founded in 1900 by a young American medical missionary, Dr. Ida Scudder.

I now live in Adelaide, a coastal city surrounded by wineries, in South Australia, Australia. I am a physician and was Associate Professor of Medicine, and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Adelaide.

I have spent time in the Himalayan foothills based at a Christian Mission Hospital, training village women as Health Workers, and have worked as a Consultant to, and as a Regional Adviser for the World Health Organization in Manila, Philippines.

My first work of fiction Saradasi-The Prophecy was released in 2009 and reprinted in 2012. The second, Saradasi-The Search was published in 2014.

My interests include music, cooking, collecting unusual recipes on my travels, and the delivery of health care in remote areas of the world. I am a member of the Australian Society of Authors.

 What motivated you to write the first book, Saradasi -The ProphecyMy son Dileep was about twelve years old when he suggested, believing his father could do anything, that I should write a science fiction book. The choice of genre was his. Many years later, as an adult, he reminded me of my ‘promise.’ I began writing Saradasi-The Prophecy when I worked for the World Health Organization. I wrote my first draft on my travels during freezing evenings in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; in my cell-like room in the Ginza Mitsui Urban Hotel, Tokyo; in Laos after my favorite dinner of Tom Yum soup and green papaya salad; in the beautiful Fiji Islands in the South Pacific Ocean, and in an apartment in my base, chaotic Manila, Philippines, where my spirited neighbors worked only at night.

How did you choose the title? The first title of the first book was Saradasai-The Prophecy. The editor and publisher suggested Saradasi-The Prophecy. The second book is Saradasi-The Search. Saradasi has no conscious link to anything I know. 

Was it difficult in getting this book published? I was lucky! The day before I planned posting my enquiry letter to publishers in Australia and overseas, a friend invited me to a book launch. He introduced me to the publisher who he had never met. After an icy greeting, the publisher, after a brief conversation, perhaps curious by my reserve and lack of ‘gushiness,’ asked for the manuscript. Alto Books published Saradasi-The Prophecy in 2009. 
Were you interested in writing when you were in school? Everyone in our home praised good writing. I hoped one day to write a novel and write it well. I admired the beauty of the English language, a legacy from the British who ruled Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, for over 150 years.  The nuances between words, for example, tall and high, wide and broad, joyful and joyous fascinated me. I began writing at school and was editor of the Royal College Magazine.    

Have you a daily writing ritual? No. Nor do I have rules. I try to write every day but have no rigid commitment to write a set number of words. I am not a cloistered slave to a joyful, spontaneous and creative activity.  I have not burdened a pleasure with rules, not even my own! 

How did you choose the names for your characters? Some names have swirled in my consciousness, with no anchor of place or time or person. I have used words from my native language, Sinhalese, which originated from the ancient languages of Pali and Sanskrit. Many are ‘made up.’The protagonist’s name Shanaz and her cousin’s name Fariyal are the names of two lady doctors from the restive North West Frontier of Pakistan, whom I met in Beijing, China. 

What have you learned writing and publishing your books? Looking back, the easiest task was writing the book, revising, self-editing, and working with the publisher’s editor. Finding an agent is more difficult than finding a publisher and many charlatans masquerade as literary agents. I have met three. It has no sanctity conferred on it. The publishing industry is like any other business. The goal is profit. No publisher will publish the best book by the best author that may not make a profit. Publishers are often wrong. In my experience, paradoxically, publishers are not excessively zealous about sales and therefore their income.  Many are lazy or not smart.  The published author must therefore promote the book.  This is a harder task than writing the book. I do not know the answers to two questions: ‘What is the best marketing plan to sell my book?’ and ‘How cost-effective are the many offers I receive to promote my books?’

If you began again, what would you do differently? I will not change my writing style or work practices. I would consider self-publishing as a first choice, with an experienced editor, an excellent cover and interior design, a catchy blurb on the back cover and invest more time learning about book distribution and marketing and promotion. I must find the answer to the difficult question: ‘How should I promote and sell my book?’ 

What books have you read recently? What books do you like to read? I read almost every night. My tastes include most types of fiction, biography and history. I have recently read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel; Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund; Summer Cooking by Elizabeth David; At the End of the Day-1961-1963, by Harold Macmillan, the former British Prime Minister whose grandfather, Daniel Macmillan and his brother Alexander founded Macmillan Publishers. During this time, I also read a few books, not self-published, that were cliché-ridden, poorly plotted, spiritless and on life-support. I masochistically read these books to avoid mistakes others make, and remind myself how editors seem asleep at their job or if awake, inept.

Have you any favorite authors? Among many, I admire William Faulkner, V.S. Naipaul, born in Trinidad, and Philip Roth. Each captured the spirit and the mood of a specific time in history and through their characters subtly shared their insights and beliefs. Their sentences were word-perfect, beautifully framed and wonderfully rhythmic.

What is your next book? I am working on two books. Saradasi-The Betrayal, which continues the life voyage of Shanaz, and a book of fiction on life in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in the 1950’s, titled Mrs. Curnow’s Boarding House.  

You have successfully published six books with various publishers.  What advice do you offer writers on writing and publishing? Writing for fame and, or for profit may prove elusive. Write for the joy of writing.Writing is hard work and good writing needs more hard work, searching tirelessly for the best word and the perfect sentence. Savor perfection. Return after a long pause review your work critically.

I found great value in what William Faulkner said, “In [good] writing, you must kill all your darlings.”Deal positively with manuscript rejection and sink into numbing despair and defeat. Be sensible about how many rejections you can cope with before you feel depressed and abandon writing. Accept the useful comments a publisher makes.You may need confirmation that you write well, and that your novel has a strong, interesting plot, good character development and elegant dialogue.

Have your manuscript reviewed by an experienced editor. If your writing holds promise, accept the editor’s advice how to strengthen the manuscript. Set a limit and try a few more publishers. Alternatively, as a first choice, consider self-publishing your professionally edited manuscript with a professional looking cover, an appealing interior design and a captivating back blurb. You must publish your print book electronically.

Work hard and innovatively to sell your published book. Beware! Con artists are lurking to lure you into dubious promotional schemes. All over the world, bookshops are closing. Those surviving exist narrowly with fierce competition for dwindling shelf-space. In the few years between publishing my fiction books, many local bookshops closed, including four in my neighborhood that actively supported me.

The ‘print novel’ faces many challenges. I think challenges is a better word than threats. Electronic devices subtly lure us into the false reality of a digital ‘world.’ Almost stealthily, we are lulled to accept lessening face-to-face social communication and avoid real life interactions with people.

Possibly, a new wave of digital readers may be reluctant, unwilling, unaccustomed or even unable to read a ‘print novel’ because of the time commitment involved, the longer attention span needed and the discipline one must invest.   

Can you think of a perfect reader for your fiction books? My perfect reader is unhurried, reflecting thoughtfully on the nuances of the plot, savoring and identifying with the strengths and missteps of the characters, and not alarmed by surprises. Believe me, some readers hate surprises!  I would like her or him to remember my novels for the ideas in them on life and living, on the joys of giving, and sharing and receiving. I would be delighted if my readers would write to me at

If a reader wants more information about you and your books, where can they go?My web address is:  

*Recipes for the food items I mentioned.

Tom Yam (Yum) Soup

This is a popular soup in Thailand and in neighboring South Asian countries, especially in Laos and Cambodia. The delicately flavored, uniquely tangy soup is made with a stock (usually shrimp but any type of sea food or chicken is fine), flavored with lime juice, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves (use lime leaves as a substitute), galangal (a member of the ginger family and ginger is a substitute), fresh cilantro leaves (coriander leaves), fish sauce, and fresh sliced red chilies (treat with great caution!).

Link for the recipe:

Green Papaya Salad

The country of origin is Laos.  The salad is delicious, refreshing and easy to make.  The shredded bland green papaya, which adds texture rather than taste, is flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, sesame oil and palm sugar.

I first tasted this wonderfully textured, delicately flavored salad at the Strand Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Burma), in early November, 2010, a few days before the disgraceful and corrupt military junta released the present president, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Laureate, after over 15 years of home detention.

I have restrained myself from digressing by telling you about the cost of the then military dictator’s daughter’s wedding.


Link for the recipe:

The author of the recipe, the delightful David Thompson, is an authority on Thai food, especially Thai street food and the author of many Thai cookbooks.  His TV series on Thai street food is outstanding.

Posted by: ranjitratnaike | October 4, 2016

Saradasi – The Search

My second book in the Saradasi series is now available.   This has been an even more fulfilling experience than writing Saradasi The Prophecy.  Writing never becomes easier, but more enjoyable.

Join the journey across the Nereima Galaxy. Purchase a copy and enjoy!

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all good book shops.
Posted by: ranjitratnaike | March 17, 2014

The Manuscript: Rejection and Triumph!

The Manuscript: Rejection and Triumph!

Authors are familiar with the despair and battered self-esteem when a publisher rejects a manuscript. However, the results of rejection should not be abandoning a manuscript, or wallowing in ‘rejection melancholia.’

Many well-known publishers have rejected manuscripts that others have published and made a fortune. Twelve publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  Nigel Newton, the chairman of Bloomsbury Publishing, accepted the manuscript on the advice of his daughter Alice who was eight years old.

Theodor Geisel wrote for The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Vanity Fair and was a cartoonist at The Viking Press. Despite these literary ‘connections’ twenty-seven publishers rejected his first book, To Think That I saw it On Mulberry Street. Never heard of Theodor Geisel? His pen name was Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel).

Twenty-five publishers rejected John Grisham’s A Time to Kill.

These and many other instances of rejection and later triumph suggest that some publishers were foolish, inept and misguided, while others were discerning and visionary.

However, an unanswered question lurks.  Was the same manuscript rejected each time, or did the manuscript evolve with each rejection (with publisher’s comments and criticisms), from poor to mediocre to good to outstanding?  Possibly, as many writers do, the authors returned their manuscript. Perhaps they deleted their ‘darlings’ which may have been an annoying over used word, a graceless sentence, a cluttered paragraph, or an unnecessary scene, chapter or  character, resulting in a well-paced, brisker, crisper manuscript. (I call ‘darlings’ manuscript wreckers. See my May 2012 post,

Knowing the realities of publishing help soothe the sting of rejection.

Publishing is not a genteel, philanthropic industry intent on nurturing new writers. Print publishing (with decreasing margins of profit) is like any other business. A publisher has no more selfless concern for an unpublished writer, than a used car salesperson to a cash strapped first car buyer. The focus is profit, avoiding a loss, not benevolence.

Many publishers search beyond a good or even excellent manuscript for the outstanding manuscript that would sell thousands (if not millions) of books. An example would be a manuscript poorly written and with a fragile plot, but littered with sex and erotic scenes.

Could your manuscript have competed with the sales potential of, for example, Fifty Shades of Grey? Reading this book provides an educational insight into the business of publishing.

Rejection is never one sided. Authors court rejection by:

  • Selecting the wrong publisher. The manuscript must conform in genre to recently published books.
  • Not reading, misreading or carelessly reading the publisher’s submission guidelines.
  • Sending a poorly written query letter that diminishes the potential author.
  • Presenting a manuscript with shoddy formatting, unchecked spelling and wrong page numbering.
  • Bad writing due to problems of style, grammar, and the order and choice of words in sentences, resulting in jarring and distracting prose.
  • Submitting a manuscript with a story that has no beginning, middle or end, a weak plot, poor character development and the pace of the story induces somnolence.
  • Submitting an excellent manuscript with huge sales potential to a not very smart publisher.

Remember what Nathaniel Hawthorne said: ‘Easy reading is damn hard writing.’  To this I add a warning to writers I often reflect on.  Félix Lope de Vega Carpio, the great Spanish playwright, born in 1562 in Madrid, two years before Shakespeare, said:

“I admit that printing has saved many talented writers from oblivion. Printing circulates their books and makes them known. Gutenburg, a famous German from Mainz, is responsible. But many men who used to have a high reputation are no longer taken seriously, now that their work has been printed.” (Quoted from James Michener’s Iberia, Vol. II, pp. 414).

I would like to hear about your experiences.

Music selection:

Posted by: ranjitratnaike | February 20, 2013

Saradasi – The Prophecy

Saradasi – The Prophecy…Self-Promotion

In my last post I wrote about the importance of promoting an author’s work. I must follow my advice! This post is devoted to promoting my book.

My novel is for sale on Amazon (US$14.95) and in bookshops (Silk Road Publishing, 2012).



Saradasi Cover Austin 2012 smallest



‘Being in a paradise or an inferno depends on what you make of life,’ General Varsana said. ‘Both exist here in our world and not, after we die, in another world as our Evangelists preach and indoctrinate us. You rule your mind, unless you cannot because of a mental illness. Paradise or an inferno, sadness and joy, are all the creations of our mind. Remember, a cluttered confused mind is easier for others to control. Lord Rasalis does not rule your mind. He never can, though it may be his wish. You, and you alone, rule your mind.’

‘Sir, what clutters and confuses our minds the most?’ Shanaz asked.

‘Desire and greed.’


§   §   §   §                         

When they neared the palace, Vitharna said ‘Beware of greed. Even the gods are tempted.’

He walked away into the howling wind. He returned and said, ‘Beware especially when greed exceeds fear, for it is then that lives are destroyed and souls damned for many lifetimes.’

§   §   §   §                          


She remembered her last day at Mitbara. Captain Lique was at the space station, as protocol demanded, to wish her good-bye. She stood silently in front of him.

She knew she would never see him again. She gazed at him wanting a perfect image of him. She remembered angrily fighting back the tears. She searched his face for the smallest sign he loved her. He too was staring at her. Were his eyes moist? She knew she must say something to him. She pleaded for courage to be her companion for that moment, to utter three words that would change her life forever. If he replied he loved her, nothing else would matter.

The departure signal rose in pitch and the red and green lights flashed.

She heard the soft voice. ‘I ask my God to be with you. I will never forget you. Fariyal, I will never love anyone as much as I love you.’

Staring at him, she knew her life had changed for ever. She took a step towards him. Frightened, Fariyal ran towards her military transport vehicle to Saradasi.

All that seemed so long ago.

The boy sat across the fire and looked at her when she wiped her eyes, pushing aside the memory of Captain Lique.

‘Sometimes,’ he said, ‘great sadness comes before great joy.’

The sky was cloudy, the temperature dropping.

The boy quenched the fire and they watched it struggling to die.


§   §   §   §                         

Thus, Saradasi sanctified colonialism to satisfy their unquenchable greed to amass good deeds. This evangelical fervour led to forming The Inter Planetary Evangelistic Society, governed by a First Warden and seven Wardens elected by the members, the evangelists. The Society entwined itself around the minds and lives of the Saradasi like a rapacious parasite, spreading its political and religious influence. Bitter quarrels rose among rival groups of evangelists vying for power.

Based on minutiae of dogma they banded themselves as factions of the left, the right, the centre right, and inexplicably the left right centre. Flocks of Saradasi evangelists, ravenous for good deeds, descended on billions of people in the Nereima Galaxy, dismembering their societal structure, scorning their culture, belittling their religious beliefs, and deriding their values. Most importantly the evangelists, by devaluing the lives, and worth of the non-Saradasi, justified stealing their freedom

from them.




The leader of the Forces of Light, the divine Astral Lord Gaima and his opponent Vira, the Prince of Evil, rest their weary armies, and decide to field, on their behalf, a small team of champions to decide the fate of the Nereima Galaxy. Prince Vira’s team of two is Brother Red and Brother Green living in The Place,” a locus of evil. He offers Lord Gaima a team of five provided he, Prince Vira, selects them.

Lord Gaima agrees.

Lord Gaima and Prince Vira select a date in the future for the battle to begin.

Looking years into the future, Prince Vira chooses five Saradasi to represent Lord Gaima. He says the only weapon they need to destroy his team would be their goodness. They must destroy his team before one of the brothers wins the game they are playing. The winner’s prize is the Nereima Galaxy, his to destroy.

In the many years before the battle begins Prince Vira challenges Lord Gaima to mind flux goodness to the five Saradasi during their many cycles of rebirth

Lord Gaima agrees.

Time passes.

“The Prophecy” is fulfilled. For the first time in four centuries, all ten thousand eight hundred and seventy six clocks strike harmoniously together, on Neutral Space Station ZenFah, in the Nereima Galaxy, the home of the Saradasi Empire.

The battle for the Nereima Galaxy begins and Lord Gaima’s team, the ruthless rulers of the Saradasi Empire set out on a journey of enlightenment, during which they are challenged by redemptive experiences that could transform their lives and save their galaxy.



Posted by: ranjitratnaike | January 24, 2013

Saradasi – The Prophecy…Publishing with Amazon

Saradasi – The Prophecy…Publishing with Amazon



The Problem of Limited Distribution

The extent to which a book is distributed determines exposure, sales and the author’s success.

The first edition of Saradasi-The Prophecy (Alto books, Melbourne, 2009) was disadvantaged because the distributor dealt only with bookstores in Australia (population 22.6 million) and New Zealand (population 4.4 million). Unfortunately therefore, the book was not available to readers in the major English-speaking countries: US (311.6 million), UK (62.6 million), Canada (34.5 million).

I wonder why book distributors do not form global distribution alliances or small publishers do not band together and seek distributors with world wide outlets. Many practices of the publishing industry continue to bemuse me, but I see opportunities for an enterprising, energetic person(s) to grasp, carry out and flourish, and also help authors.

Some authors are content a trade publisher published their manuscript and, in their contentment, with their ambition fulfilled, are unconcerned with distribution and sales.

Comments I have heard from authors are:

‘I am sick of it. It’s published at last! I can’t be bothered anymore!’

‘I am exhausted! If it sells it sells!’

‘I am a writer not a sales person! I am not a tout.’

These authors are wrong. Their book, a labour of love, must have the widest possible exposure. The issue is not greed for money but successfully completing a journey. Numerous marketing opportunities are available for authors but are expensive and a judicious balance of costs versus (unpredictable) potential sales is important.

Publishing Saradasi-The Prophecy Overseas

The overseas rights of Saradasi-The Prophecy belong to me and I decided to publish an overseas edition for readers in the USA, Canada and Europe. My choice lay between Lightning Source (LS) and Amazon’s CreateSpace (CS). Both provide a print on delivery service (POD). CS in addition, on a fee for service, offers editing, cover design and promotion.

The advantages and disadvantages between LS or CS are well documented, especially  in Robin Sullivan’s excellent post on February 13, 2011:

CreateSpace and Lightning Source

I read widely about LS and CS and opted for CS.  CS always reply to  questions. I am not an US citizen and I had many questions on US income tax forms, overseas payment and deposition of royalties and other matters. Only one response was unsatisfactory, carelessly and wrongly answered. I was told my W-8BEN form sent from Australia by registered post to CS was not received. On an impulse I wrote again and I learned CS had received the form and received a most gracious email from Doug McElreath in finance.

It has been a pleasure dealing with CS. John Rieck, now in sales, was most helpful when I first inquired about CS and I was concerned about the quality of a CS book cover which curled. In subsequent dealings, Sarah, Toni and Ito were especially helpful.

Before LS opened an office in Australia I wrote asking for information but received no reply. As an author, I value communication and did not pursue LS.

Sending The Manuscript to CS.

To publish the overseas edition of Saradasi-The Prophecy, I set up Silk Road Publishing Company, (Australian Business Number 69 103 853 836). I had a logo designed and put together all the elements of the webpage (www.Silk Road Publishing), which was set up for me in Dreamweaver. I bought a new ISBN and updated the imprint page. I paid A$100 for the cover from the artist (the publisher paid for the original art work). I re-wrote the back cover blurb and the changes to the cover cost A$100.00. I also added a few introductory pages to the Silk Road edition of Saradasi-The Prophecy.

I used the original typeset manuscript which my publisher generously gave me but adjusting the margins of the cover and text files to meet CS specifications proved insoluble until Doug Heatherly at Lighthouse24 ( solved the problem. What Doug did for me, and the time he spent communicating with me reflected his great generosity of spirit.

Pricing a book is never easy. I priced Saradasi-The Prophecy at $14.90 on Amazon and opted for expanded distribution.


§ § § §  


Silk Road (2013) – On Amazon US$14.90

§ § § §  

  • Authors Note: If you are formatting your text in word for submission to CS, Mathew Adams provides detailed and comprehensive instructions. Please visit

§ § § §  

All the best for 2003 to you and your family.  I wish you joy, peace and good health.

Ranjit Ratnaike

Posted by: ranjitratnaike | December 30, 2012

Saradasi-The Prophecy…Book Promotion, Marketing and Sales

Saradasi-The Prophecy…Book Promotion, Marketing and Sales.

When I received the author copies of Saradasi-The Prophecy from the publisher I was elated, excited and relieved.

Of the five stages in the life of a book, writing, publishing were completed and distribution was occurring. A sombre bell tolled reminding me that two critical stages, promoting and selling the book lay ahead.

Authors should be mindful of the information I have listed below from various sources.

  • The publisher does not have the same enthusiasm in promoting and marketing your book as you.
  • Post publication, when the book reaches the distributor the publisher focuses on the next book.
    • You are one of many authors and you are not the publisher’s favourite author worthy of special attention.
  • Concentrate on being known as an author and not on sales.
  • Ninety percent of marketing is wasted but nobody knows which 10% is effective.
    • “Readers will gush at you after you’ve published six novels, not before.”
    • Six novels is also the magic figure which interests agents.
    • These two books may help authors:
  1. 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer.
  2. Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manuel by Dan Poynter.

I have a few suggestions to authors. I unfortunately did not act on all of these because nobody gave me this advice.

     Advanced reading copies.

Avoid my mistake. Insist the publisher sends advanced reading copies (review copies) to those who could influence sales (print media, TV and radio). If he or she does not, you should. Small publishers may resist this because these books are ‘free’ and may they balk at the postage costs. They forget a favourable book review is an effective promotion tool at little cost. Curiously, bad reviews also sell books perhaps due to a morbidly curious readership.

     The Book Launch.

I sold and signed 110 books at my book launch. I publicized the launch widely through personal invitations. We provided wine and finger food to a huge crowd of friends. A critical success factor was the master of ceremonies who revved the crowd.

     The Information Sheet.

Send an information sheet to the media, to booksellers, book clubs and anyone you can think of who would order and or, promote your book. You may repeat the distributor’s work but does it matter? The information sheet should contain:

  •  The title of the book
  • Book Cover Image (Front and back with blurb).
  • Biography (short and modest) of the author and a photograph.
  • Book details: format, binding, number of pages, synopsis, ISBN.
  • Publication date.
  • Intended readership.
  • The price.
  • The distributor’s name and contact details.

     The Media kit.

The information sheet can also be modified as a media kit. Check the internet on writing an effective press release. I did not issue a press release as I felt it was unnecessary for a science fiction book.

     The Helpful Friend.

I could not afford a publicist. Though comfortable promoting and selling a friend’s product, I shy away from self-promotion. But we have loyal friends, who are well-spoken and willing to phone bookshops for signings and media outlets for interviews on your behalf. Ask your friends to help you.

     Book Signings.

Not all authors are comfortable with book signings. A US author recounts sitting in a Midwest bookstore without a sale all-day watching tumbleweeds hurtling down the street. I mentioned this before a signing at a bookstore and a staff member sat with me and we sold twenty two books. He was the catalyst.

Advertising before the signing is essential and I help organize this. I ask for window space and my wife Stephanie sets up a display which reels buyers in. I take photographs with the staff and send them copies and a thank you note.

     The Website.

A website is essential. It must reflect you (not the cleverness of the web designer), conveying in words and imagery who you are, your personality and what you write about. Look at the websites of famous writers and reflect on the good, the bad and the hideous. You must not be the captive of the web designer. Please read or recall the enlightening story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes.


Prepare the basic structure of a talk you can modify depending on your audience. The talk like a book must have a beginning, middle and end and entertain the audience. Your dull, disconnected talk my reflect poorly on your book. Always take your book with you, hold it in your hand and read a passage or two. Ask your host if you may bring a few books to sell.

     The Blog.

Long after my book was published I was persuaded to start a blog about my journey with Saradasi-The Prophecy. I have two interested groups of readers. One enjoys what I write; another specifically seeks information on (their) writing and publishing.

  Business Cards (calling cards; visiting cards).

I have two sets, one with my personal details and another with a cover image, ISBN and book price. If a person gives me a card or inquires what I do or asks specifically about the book I give both my cards.

 Personal contacts.

  I made an appointment to see Trevor Kline the South Australian representative of the distributor, Dennis Jones and Associates. His help and friendship has been invaluable. Meeting bookshop owners, store managers and sales staff has helped with book sales.


     Use Amazon to sell your book. Amazon is a repository not a magic wand which attracts buyers to your book. Ask yourself ‘How will the world know my wonderful book is on Amazon?’


All the best for 2013!

Posted by: ranjitratnaike | November 28, 2012

Saradasi-The Prophecy…In Press

Saradasi-The Prophecy…In Press

The production of Saradasi-The Prophecy began with working with the editors. The first was the structural editor.

 The Structural Editor

The structural or developmental editor concentrates on the ‘big picture.’

Has the story a beginning, middle and end? Is the plot secure or like a loosely tied jumble of thoughts, scenes and characters? Are the characters believable? Are unnecessary characters suffocating the story and diluting the ‘presence’ of the protagonists?

Structural editing also involves focusing on ‘content, structure, flow, style, clarity, consistency, plot elements etc.’ (

My structural editor James Beckingham wrote saying he enjoyed reading the well written prologue (I had weighed and polished every word, and re-written it countless times).

However, it must, he said be deleted!

Enraged, I reflected on his outrageous suggestion for two days.

On the third day, I decided that James Beckingham was much smarter than I; the prologue gave the story away. The days passed. His emails were a pleasure to read, suggesting clever changes which I should have thought of. Fortunately my tasks were those of elimination rather than bothersome re-writes.

He identified my two major problems:

1. I provided unnecessary and excessive detail.

2. I strayed away from the story by giving interesting but needless information and digression. James repeated what my daughter Alinta (then a law student and not an editor) said reading the early versions of the manuscript: ‘Too much information, Dad!

I accepted and addressed these and other criticisms, and included almost all his suggestions. Saradasi-The Prophecy emerged  with a crispness, an increased pace and a tighter story. I am grateful to James Beckingham.

The publisher then handed the manuscript to the copy editor.

 The Copy Editor

The copy editor  improves text quality not substance. Traditionally, the copy editor’s task revolves around five ‘C’s. Is the manuscript ‘Clear, Correct, Concise, Complete and Consistent’ and focuses on  word use, sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and highlights jargon and clichés. The copy editor is not a surrogate writer.

The extent of the copy editor’s involvement depends on the author’s writing skills and the tasks assigned by the publisher, who may want a ‘light edit’ (which costs less), focusing on glaring mistakes and, for example ignoring clichés.

George Orwell (born Eric Arthur Blair, in 1903 in Motihari, Bihar, India), the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, has helpful advice for writers, equally useful for copy editors. In his essay Politics and the English language,’ he wrote, “But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

  1. 1.                 Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. 2.                 Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. 3.                 If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. 4.                 Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. 5.                 Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. 6.                 Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

Orwell should have applied rule 3 to the sentence, “But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases…….”:

After working with the copy editor- a most interesting encounter- the manuscript passed on to the interior designer (Massimo Matteotti) before typesetting. For more information on book interior design and typesetting please read the excellent article, Book Interior Design and Typesetting  by Sandra K. Williams in ‘Williams writing, editing & design,’ (

My son Dileep who over twenty years ago, as a child, challenged me to write a science fiction book suggested the cover concept. The cover design and illustrations were by Myke Mollard who is an illustrator and an author.

Saradasi-The Prophecy  is in press at McPhersons.

Posted by: ranjitratnaike | October 31, 2012

Saradasi-The Prophecy…Finding a Publisher

 Saradasi-The Prophecy…Finding a Publisher.

I have reached the end of my journey: The manuscript of Saradasi-The Prophecy is ready for submitting to a publisher.

I am anxious because I regard publishers as omnipotent figures, waited on by acquisition editors, copy editors, publicists, marketing specialists and agents and I, the author, a supplicant, alone and vulnerable, awed by the daunting power differential between us.

For years I have watched a long, crowded gravy train, its passengers beckoning me. They were ‘how to write’ experts: advisors on devising a plot, crafting a scene, developing a character, ‘sharpening’ a dialogue; manuscript assessors, freelance editors and proof readers.

The allure is a brilliant, irresistible manuscript, that agents and a trade publisher (a trade publisher as opposed to a vanity publisher), would snap up. A ‘publishing phenomenon.’

However I preferred testing the value of this, my first novel unaided.

I was confident I would find a publisher through contacts in the publishing business. I had published three medical books as the editor and a chapter contributor with The Cambridge University Press, Edward Arnold (now Hodder), and McGraw-Hill Australia. I wrote first to a delightful Scotsman who had visited my home in Adelaide, South Australia. He plucked me from fantasy to reality.

‘We are,’ he wrote, ‘in the medical publishing business. Asking me about publishing fiction is like asking a dermatologist to perform neurosurgery.’

His intent was honesty which I appreciated, not cruelty.

During this gloomy time, I reflected on the small list of publishers who would accept unsolicited manuscripts. Almost all wanted manuscripts submitted by literary agents and warn they will not return unsolicited submissions; ‘not’ is sometimes in red.

‘Find an agent,’ was frequent advice.

Agents, I had read, are more difficult to find than a publisher. They seemed like demigods, striding across the gilded regal court of the publisher. My agent stories may be fictitious, or fanciful, but I have heard teeth grinding, seen eyes bulging and neck arteries pulsating as author friends related their experiences. Many said, agents shun first time authors.


‘They say they have enough work with their list of established authors.’

‘But,’ I said, ‘these established authors must have been first time authors before they achieved fame.’

‘It’s a puzzle. Finding an agent is like searching in a dark room for a black cat which is not there. Good luck!’

A flourishing, seductive Literary Agent procurement industry exists signalling the author. ‘Let us find you an agent. We will perfectly match the best agent for you.’ The fees are upfront. But, how can this agent, carefully selected for the author (think dating agencies) sell a badly written, poorly constructed story?  Though the manuscript is brilliant, which agent will guarantee finding a publisher?

While searching for a publisher who accepted unsolicited manuscripts, I read the name Joel Ariaratnam, an editor at Thomas Dunne Books, who I thought may be from my home, Sri Lanka. I wrote saying I realised Thomas Dunne Books does not publish fiction, but would he have advice for a new writer with a manuscript?

Joel Ariaratnam emailed me immediately. He was wise, kind and gracious and was from Sri Lanka. He suggested that I accept an offer from any reputable trade publisher and not have as my goal a ‘big’ publisher. I have, sadly, lost contact with him since he left Thomas Dunne Books.

Moments after I wrote thanking him the telephone rang. My friend Prem Singh asked me to join him at a book launch the next day. Here, he introduced me to the publisher as a writer with a manuscript. The publisher was pleasant, but seemed wary and bored. I could read his mind, ‘Another first time author!’

An eager crowd, champagne glasses in hand surrounded us.

I said the book was about good and evil, but that it was not a new idea. My book was different. It explored, if evil people, faced with redemptive experiences, would alter their karmic destiny.

He stood closer to me. ‘Tell me more,’ he said.

I was, people said to me later, exasperatingly, infuriatingly brief.

A few minutes later, he asked me to send him the manuscript of Saradasi-The Prophecy.

In a few weeks David Conners, the publisher at Alto Books sent me a contract.

I was on a new an exciting journey.

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