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Typewriters - Tablets - marathon writing



One of those images that stays with you when one thinks of a person who writes stories, novels, would be some guy wearing glasses, hammering away at the type writer like it’s the last day of its rental period. Back when I was a kid, I always thought writing would be a fascinating profession to be in. I even wrote short stories and distribute it among my classmates. I also would get over excited at the prospect of participating in writing stuff, especially in story writing competitions, although most of stuff either went over their head, or more likely, I just was plain bad. 

Of course, I never did anything with it because nobody would read (except when I implore them to) my stuff, and writing only led to more mockery and related incidents. Still though, I sort of never gave up on it, and even took lessons of typing in actual physical keyboards. It was…pretty cool. The nice thing about type writers is that they were the complete package for writing. The whole thing was powered mechanically, so one did not have to depend on a power source. Mistakes would mean, having to re-type the entire page. Then, there is something very satisfying about that sound that comes, every time the keys are pressed…tat-tat-tat-tat…its just amazing. 

Obviously, for so many obvious reasons, none of us type on typewriters anymore. We have laptops and computers now. I have been blogging for a while now, and even self-published a novel. Of course, I have been writing my second novel for some time now. When I look at my diary, I notice that I have been writing my novel for almost 6 months now with only 11 chapters written. I don’t think I have writer’s block but rather, I realized that perhaps I simply don’t have the necessary infrastructure. Hence, I decided to build the necessary infrastructure at the best possible cost and for results. 

I needed something that will be go with me, wherever I go. That means, it has to be functional despite lack of ready power access. It has to be not bulky. I should work with cloud services, allow me to do research and so on. The simplest answer would be a laptop. However, the laptop keyboards are just not designed with typing in mind. The keys are small, and the budget laptops have some of the worst keyboards I have ever seen. Not their fault, because they have to cut corners and keyboards are the readily available culprit. Of course, the trackpad that comes with such laptops are horrible and will be my ticket to losing my thumb sooner rather than later. 

That rules out laptops. By extension, that also rules out PCs. 

That is when, I realized that perhaps, all I need is a simple tablet. I already owned the rather expensive Microsoft Keyboard and Mouse. These two bad boys work with any device that has an operating system and blue tooth. Tablets are essentially cheap, so I can replace them every few months. They are also easy to carry, the weight issue is solved. Further, Microsoft’s Office suite for tablets is so amazing, I cannot see the difference between the PC and the tablet versions. Of course, the Microsoft keyboard I have comes with a case, which also doubles as a stand. So, no need to invest in a separate tablet stand for easy usage.

Overall, I realized that my dedicated writing (and reading) device can be a basic tablet. I opened Amazon and typed in Tablet, simply went for the first option that was available. For a cool sum of three thousand and five hundred rupees, I got the device. I am writing this blog post on the very tablet, with almost no loss of typing or productive efficiency. I have my writing machine, and it meets all my needs.
 
Now that I have my writing machine, perhaps it is time I finished my second novel. Each week, I have been making notes on top of notes, and may be, just, may be, I am becoming too involved with the characters. Every week, the mind comes up with new stuff, that seems to make the story better. However, perpetually making something better also means, ending up in some kind of a development hell scenario. I don’t want that. So, today, as I write this, I am going to freeze all new additions to the novel, and start writing it. Hopefully, I will wrap it by the end of this month. At least the first draft if not the final publication. 

On a last note, despite being a Microsoft guy in terms of what I do for earning money, I am beginning to see the all around appeal of Google and the impact it’s operating system i.e. Android has on the mobile world. For as little as 3500/- rupees, I have a productive machine that can do most of the things I want a device to do. Sure, this device will die in a few months. However, even the cheapest windows tablet costs 9000, and that still does not run all the essential apps. When you take that into consideration, I can see why Microsoft is worried about Android, and why it lost more than just market share when it went lazy with it’s mobile windows OS. 

So yeah, I need to do some marathon writing and finish my second novel, pronto.  

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Novel update - the connundrum and complexity of naming characters

The more I dig deeper into my second novel, the more I realize that the narrative has expanded to span across cities, planets and even sun systems. Although I have only written seven chapters, the narrative is already spread across two different sun systems, and has more than 25 named characters. By my estimate, these seven chapters comprise no more than 15 % of the novel. Although math does not apply linearly to stuff like novels, I fully anticipate the narrative to criss cross through even more planets and cities. That means, the number of named of characters may reach 50, 75 or even a 100.

The problem is, coming up names for them. I dont know why or how but so far, I have had no difficulties in coming up with unique background (as part of character development) to even tiny roles which last no more than a page. However, when it comes to naming them, I run into blank walls. No matter how much I try, I end up with the same names and it kind of bums me out. That is when I realized that, if I am going to finish this narrative, I must come up with some kind of a algorithmic name generating system (you know, me being a developer, I inevitably gravitating to come up with software solutions such as algorithms to solve literary problems) or else, I could be wasting a whole lot of time, simply coming up with acceptable names.

That is when, I ran into this trope called as 'Line of Sight Name'. The trope is mostly used for comedic effect wherein a character (who is unprepared or taken by surprise while being competent in other ways) has to quickly come up with a fake name. Then, the character will simply figure out a name based on what he is currently seeing. This is most accurately demonstrated in the old classic movie, Mrs Doubtfire. In this movie, the lead character (who ends up cross dressing as a old woman so that he can spend more time with his kids) names his alternate identity after looking at some stuff. Just like that!

I just realized, I could do that constantly. When I am writing or thinking, I find myself in all sorts of places. I travel a lot! Like, so much and that means, I find myself constantly in different environments. When I have a few characters to be named, I simply look around, club them together and make up some name. Of course, I quickly jot it down in my writing diary. The randomness of this technique also means that if I do not jot it down, that name will be lost forever. Such is the concept of randomness. It has its good and bad sides to it.

So, I am blogging this right now. I need a name. Surrounding me is a green work cubicle, a black chair, coffee cups, grey wallet and so many other items. Picking up elements from these items, I can come up with names such as 'Cupgrey' (Coffee and Grey Wallet), 'Borderdot' (The white cup has a border on which I see some coffee spilled), 'Lydev' (there is a device lying on my table)...and I can just keep going on like this.

Fortunately, the world in which my narratives are set, are all futuristic space colonies in some distant future. That means, just as with technology, people are also very different. That gives me the option to name my characters as weird as I want. I am convinced that when there is a situation where an individual is sitting in a spaceship that is getting ready to land on an orbiting asteroid to refuel, nobody is going to worry too much that his name is 'Lydev Borderdot'.

Novel update - Trying to pass the bechdel test

I continue to work on my second novel (at present time, I have completed 7 chapters and the full story has already been narrated in my notes), I keep trying to incorporate some ideas that appeal to me.

One of those things that caught my fancy is the Bechdel test. It is defined as follows - "The Bechdel test asks if a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added." and is credited to Alison Bechdel.

tests such as the above are not like Newton laws. They cannot be proved universally. For instance, two women could be talking about another man (who also happens to be the main villain, who they are trying to take down). In this context, these two women (who are actually strong, well developed confident warrior characters who happen to be female), will fail the test because they are constantly talking about a man. There is that.

Yet, when I think about it, and use this test judiciously, I find that, the test kind of make sense. In my novels, I have tried to include more female chracters (although, I am naturally inclined to include more male characters, but then, I realize my mistake and go back and change the gender and rewrite their characterization). However, I find that, without even becoming aware, these female characters are inevitably talking the men in their life and nothing else. In some way, this is wrong because, if two male characters are talking, they are not almost always talking about women. They are talking about all sorts of other stuff.

So yes, the bechdel test is not perfect. However, by being smart about its usage, I think I can make my novels better. Make them more appealing to whomsoever ends up suffering through my written words.

second novel - title and preview of chapter 1

Ah! I have finally managed to nail down the notes, plot and general narrative of my second novel. And, as is traditional (well, at least I am going to make a tradition out of it), I have given my second just as bad as a title as my first novel.

So, the title of my second novel is - 'magu kathe'. Ah! There is a translation bonus for those who can understand my native tongue of Kannada, but the rest can simply assume the worst about the title :)

And, now that the essential components are in place, I present to (whomsoever reads my blog regularly), the very first chapter of the novel, right here. Hope you like it. and yes, when it eventually gets published, do buy it!

You can get more updates about novels at this link

Of course, you can read more about the first novel 'platform kathe' and even buy it here, at this link.

-------------------------------------------Preview Chapter Starts Here -------------------------------------------------------


Chapter 1 – the Chalakas

The year, Galaxy Year 1024. Planet Kalladur (EK-06).

The tiny alarm on his wrist watch chirped quietly, waking Sakkath up. He flexed his wrist in a particular fashion. The watch, understanding that movement, went quiet. He allowed his mind to wake up gradually, looking around for a few seconds, at the empty seats next to him, the long aisle in front of him and at the serving bot at the far end of the bus. He repeated this ‘looking around’ for another twenty seconds until he was alert enough to interpret his surroundings.

He slid over to the window seat. The view was as gloomy as it was when he stepped into this airbus an hour ago from the space station. On the side panel between the windows, were a collection of service buttons. He tapped the one which showed a symbol of ‘water’. A wash basin slid out, and he washed his face after using the toothpaste to brush himself with his finger. Then, as the basin slid back in, he tapped at the symbol of a beverage cup. A menu projected itself out of the wall and stayed at his eye level. He picked the one that said ‘tea’, and the projection died out.

A minute later a serving bot – the same one that led him to his seat when he got into the bus – still creaking, still missing its left eye, came up with a tray which had tea in a cup and saucer. Sakkath tipped the bot – which smiled – and took the cup plus saucer. The aroma rising from the hot tea was already making him happy. As he took a sip, the tea – which had equal measure of water, dried leaves and milk with a hint of sugar – flushed his mouth and then his lungs, waking him up completely. Tea always had that effect on him. He looked over his shoulder. He found that the woman with the orange hat, who has taken an unusual interest in him since he got on the bus, was still there. He turned back, and resumed looking down the window.

Sakkath was built slim, and he was not exactly tall. By most measures he would be considered an ordinary man. He could walk into a store, buy a cologne and walk out, and the store keeper would have forgotten him already. His hair was slightly bald and it was greying, though not completely grey. He wore a washed out shirt, which was still neatly pressed. His pants were jeans, dark grey. His shoes were soft shoes, designed more for running than elegance. He wore a shiny dark blue tie, which looked like it cost ten times more than his watch. It clashed oddly with the rest of his attire. He also wore a dark green ring with engravings on the middle finger of his right hand, which clashed horribly with the rest of his clothing.

The airbus was perhaps 500 feet from the ground, with no clouds to block his view. Occasionally, smoke from a factory below would obscure his view. The view had bored him earlier. It still did. He quickly lost interest, and decided to check his checklist. He tapped on his left forehead, and the encrypted projection fell in front of his eyes. He navigated to the folder on his desktop marked ‘X’ and in that contained many files. One of them was named ‘client details’ which he tapped. The projection expanded to fill the list.

Client – [Client details were displayed]

Address – [Address details were displayed]

Demonstration – [demonstration details were displayed]

Important Note – Threat Level – Very High.  

Payment – Standard delivery rate.

Threat Level Multiplier – 10.

Final Payment – Standard delivery rate multiplied by 10.

Sakkath noticed that the line, important note, was in large block letters and blinked red. He tapped on his temple, closing the projection. He bent down, put his hands under the seat. The briefcase which he had taped under when he got on the bus was still there. He pulled it out, and shook it, sensing its weight and movement. The contents were still there. Satisfied, he looked over the shoulder one last time – the woman in orange was still there – and returned to look outside the window.

The airbus glided slowly at its destination, 20 minutes later. As he stepped outside, into the open air, he found himself having difficulty adjusting to the environment. Back at the space station, his communication device had already told him (after the wallet chip and interfaced with the environment check system) that the air on Kalladur is heavier with oxygen. That meant, he will feel like he is always a little ‘high’, thanks to the extra oxygen. It took him a few minutes to get used to this ‘high’ air.

There were a variety of transportation means at his disposals. The usual array of air and ground taxis (the latter cheaper than the former) were lined up. However, he remembered that his economy class – which would explain the poorly maintained serving bot - airbus ticket included a free trip on the public metro train network. He asked a hawker who was selling used personal communication device batteries, the way to the metro station. The hawker pointed him towards it. Taking that route, and a few minutes later, Sakkath found himself seated in an almost empty berth, as the train reeked slowly towards its destination. Unknown to him, the woman in the orange hat had taken a seat, in the berth behind him in the same train.

The weather outside was weary on its citizens. Although it was evening, the heat wave continued to severely punish anybody who dared to be outside. The sky was getting darker, and the still bright sun was fighting all he can to say above the mountains. Soon, he had lost and the mountains had devoured him. By this time, the train halted at the station which read ‘City 16, Block 5’. Sakkath got down, and popped open the projection system. He tapped on the client address, linked into the navigation system which showed that he was a 2-minute walk from his client location. He found that the station was poorly lit and the crowd around him looked less than friendly. He tightened his grip on the briefcase, and started walking fast towards the address, led by the map. The oxygen rich air kept him relaxed, despite the heat.

The map led him to an office, three floors tall. The entrance was flanked by two statues of soldiers, who had spears in their hands. One of the spears had broken in half, and rust had grown. The short set of stairs led to an entrance that had two doors, one of which was open. As he took the steps, he looked up at the building name which read, ‘MANATHA BUILDING’. The name itself was spelled out with bulbs. The bulbs were turned off and the ‘L’ in BUILDING was missing. He stopped for a second before opening the doors, pressed the ring – which glowed for a second – and stepped in to the surprisingly well-lit lobby.

“Hello, my name is Sakkath. Sakkath C. I am expected by a Mr. Hagga Manatha”, said Sakkath to the young, blue lipstick wearing receptionist behind the welcome table.

“Hello Mr. C….?” replied the receptionist, uncertain about his last name.

“You can just call me Sak” said Sakkath, smiling.

“Thank you Sak. Mr. Manatha is waiting for you. I will take you to his office room, right away. Follow me please” said the receptionist, getting up from her desk.

Sakkath followed, not failing to notice her backless top or her long legs that were on display thanks to her short skirt. Reminding himself that he will soon be forty, he turned his attention to the corridor through which he was walking. He noticed that most of the office rooms had no lights. Nor did he encounter a single person on the way. She turned at the end of the corridor, and there was the only office with lights in it. She knocked twice, and then opened the door for Sakkath. Sakkath, pressed his ring again.

“Mr. Manatha, Sak…I mean, Sakkath is here for you sir.”, she said to the burly man sitting on the other side of the room, behind a large table.

“Of course, yes. Thank you Maina” said the man, forwarding his large palm across the table. Sakkath entered the room, shook hands with Hagga, and then took the chair.

“Is there anything I can do, Mr. Manatha?” asked the receptionist.

“Yes, there is Maina. You can go home. Our discussions here are a little private. Yes, it is best if you leave for the day”

Maina looked a little taken aback, but quickly recovered, smiled, bowed to both of them – whilst successfully distracting both of them with her impressive cleavage and blue lipstick – and then left the room. Sakkath, who also thought this was unusual, put his briefcase on the table. He proceeded to open it – after punching the secret code and pressing his thumb impression on the lock – and showed it to his client. Hagga looked at the device in the briefcase with a sense of satisfaction, and he kept looking at it for a while. Sakkath, kept his face unchanged and did nothing except to press his ring every now and then. If he was nervous, his face did not give it away. The ring itself was not doing anything now, glowing or otherwise.

Then, satisfied, Hagga tapped twice on the table. There were two glasses of drink on the table, but he did not offer it to Sakkath nor did he drink it himself. Then, a door seemed to appear out of nowhere from the right wall of Hagga. A woman, stepped out. The woman with the orange hat from the airbus and from the train. Sakkath recognized her immediately, but did not show any recognition. His face continued the same lack of expression. If he showed any reaction, it was to press the ring on his right hand. He noticed that the orange woman was dressed casually, in a pitch dark business suit with pants. With the hat on the table, her hair fell smoothly over her face, beyond her shoulder. Strongly built shoulders, Sakkath noticed but he remained expressionless.

“So, this is a fully functional prototype?” asked Hagga, who had now stood up. With his huge size, and now this orange woman standing next to him, they looked like wrestler couple.

To his credit, Sakkath continued his faceless expression and occasional ring pressing. He replied.

“That’s what my clients on the other end said. If you want, I can demonstrate it on a live network. If you are satisfied with the demonstration, I am authorized to begin the paper work on the financials for the delivery of the final product” said Sakkath.

“That won’t be necessary” said Hagga, his tone suddenly losing its warmth. Then he said, “come in”

A door slid open behind, Sakkath, and he heard a whimpering cry. A man, with blood flowing from his left nostril. He was brought forward by two men who held him up by his arms. They dropped him on the floor, and he continued to look tired and worn out. The orange woman grabbed the bloody nose man, pushed his head towards the briefcase by his scalp. Then, she pulled his head up, pointing it towards Hagga, who was giving him a furious, angry but question mark filled look.

“it has a standard lock on it…I can open the lock…and….re-engineer it…for sure…Please, I just want see my f…”, he spoke haltingly until a swift arm punched his face. The arm belonged to his captor. She threw him towards the two men, who had dragged the bloody nose guy. Those two held him and continued to stand behind Sakkath.

All through this, Sakkath continued to retain his expressionless face, with his ring pressing and nothing else. As if the last few seconds did not happen, and as if he had failed notice the lack of warmth in Hagga’s tone or face, he asked again.

“So, can we proceed to the demonstration?”

“I don’t know if you are an idiot or just a dare devil. Can’t you read the situation?” said Hagga.

No sooner did he sit, the orange woman came near Sakkath. Before he could react, grabbed him by his neck, lifted him high and smashed him against the wall to his left. The wall cracked a bit, and Sakkath’s head buzzed with spots around his eyes. Then, she dropped him on the ground soundly, and proceeded to grab him by his neck tie with her left hand. Her right hand, was pulled back, and it slammed against his face, and then once more and then one last time before she dropped him back to his chair.

Sakkath head was still abuzz. His nose was bleeding now from the right nostril, symmetrically identical to the other guy with the bleeding nose. His tie was loose, and two of his teeth were knocked out, and the right side of his chin was swollen. His vision was still clear. The two men behind him had dropped that other guy, and now grabbed Sakkath’s arms and held it at the back of the chair.

“Sak, is it? Nice name. Do you still want to give us a demonstration? Or, you could walk out with your head still on your neck” said Hagga who picked up one of the glasses from the table, and took a sip.

“If you want to” said Sakkath, replying as if the last few seconds and the punches did not happen. His response irritated an already excited orange woman, who smashed his face with her fist again. This time, she aimed for his left chin. A tooth fell out, and now his left chin was also swollen. He coughed once or twice, some blood came out.

“I just have one question (cough…cough) Mr. Manatha (cough cough)” said Sakkath. Behind him, the other bleeding guy whimpered softly.

“Each question will cost you a beating, Sak” said Hagga, continuing to enjoy his drink.

“That seems too high a price…can we make it two questions a punch?” said Sakkath. The orange woman punched him on his left chin again.

“Sorry Sak. You have just purchased one question, and one question only. Just get on with it before you lose consciousness” said Hagga, who had now moved on to the second glass of drink.

“Whoa! Seller’s market, eh? Okay (cough…cough) … is the building really empty? The receptionist is usually the last person to leave. So, I am guessing, the building is empty except for these fine gentlemen and (he glanced at the orange woman) woman and (he glanced at Hagga) you?” said Sakkath.

The question made the four of them react with shock, but Hagga reacted quickly.

“It is empty…why would you…”

Sakkath, cut him off before the sentence could be finished. He let out a small laugh, although it came with a bit of blood from his mouth.

“You know… (he laughs a bit) … I don’t like … (laughs a little more) …collateral damage”

As the four exchanged confused looks, Sakkath’s expressionless face turned into a grin, which looked all the more crooked because of all the broken teeth.

-------------------------------------------Preview Chapter Ends Here -------------------------------------------------------

deciding on the villainy - second novel update

Villainy in fiction comes in many ways. You have outright villainy like Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones who will keep his dogs starved so they can feed on some girl who disagreed to die quickly. You have quirky, odd not-so-villainous villainy like Dumbledore in Harry Potter who will keep a person alive for 17 years, just so that the said person can die at the right time.

A narrative always has conflicting folks, driven by conflicting ideals. Each believes that they are both doing the right thing, and depending on their individual view of the world, will take actions to install their ideals. In my second novel too, there are players, each with their own agendas. Since the protagonist is by default the good girl, the opposite person is by default the bad person. Now I am tasked with establishing the villainy.

Considering the mcguffin involved in the narrative, it makes sense to have a villain who is more Dumbledore than Ramsay. Further, as a author (ah, I am a author now :P ) it makes sense to understand that morality is never black or white. It's almost always grey. That allows me to build a case that may be the villain is not entirely wrong but the protagonist is not entirely right. Further, this puts the onus on the reader to decide for themselves if the hero is actually the hero and the villain is actually the villain. I will probably end up playing the game on both sides. Do the devil's advocate thing and leave things intentionally confusing.  

world building for my second novel

When I wrote my first novel (which you can - and should - buy on amazon) I did not quite realize the universe I was building. I mostly wrote it as a form of therapy (I had tons of time to kill and my mind was this close to becoming the head quarters of the devil). Still, I am very pleased with myself. Of course, I will be the first to admit that the entire novel is boring and nobody might pay to read it. Yet, I wrote something :P

So now, I am set upon writing the second novel. Actually, it started off as a short story, 20 pages at best. Then, the narrative started growing and now I am staring at a narrative that is probably just as long (or longer) than my first novel. This time though, I want to fix some mistakes that I did with the first novel. For instance, with my first novel, I had the narrative in my head, which is sort of like the skeleton. Then, in my hurry, I published the skeleton. The names, planets, the cities and factions were all named on the fly with minimal consistency.

With my second novel, I once again have a fully mapped out thread aka the skeleton. However, this time I don't wish to publish the skeleton. I wish to add the neccessary muscle tissue, top it with a proper skin and then publish it. I believe, this is called world building. My story is ready but I want to push it to the unwitting world at large, after it is fully fleshed out, so to speak. This time I am putting proper back stories. I am putting proper planet names. I am putting proper office names, job descriptions and better motivation.

As a consequence of this, I must admit, the amount of notes is growing longer than the actual words that might eventually end up in the novel. The odd part is, most of this back story will probably never make it to the end novel. Yet, I know that they are essential because I imagine that most of my stories will be connected to each other. Characters criss crossing like crazy and yet, be meaningful. So, its a lot of home work.

At the same time, I wonder if all this extra stuff that I am doing is even worth it. My first novel is say, 2 out of 10, exciting. What if, despite all this world building and character building and all the other building, my second novel is say, 1 out of 10!

Well, we will see in a while. watch out this space for updates about my novel. The devil, she/he is not done with trying to establish her/his headquarters in my head yet. It knows!

platform kathe – updated

Although, I consider myself a patient individual (LOL), there are times when I am particularly impatient. One of those times was June 3rd when I published my first novel. By god, the novel had mistakes. Of course, nothing can change the fact that the novel is boring and mind numbing. However, the novel had other problems like spelling mistakes which simply were intolerable. 

My friends and friends who have been emotionally blackmailed to read my novel, are true god souls. I can only imagine how they read through the spelling mistakes. So, I decided to fix it. Thanks to the nature of Amazon Kindle Publishing, I am allowed to 'push' updates to my own novel.  

Here are the fixes. 

Anyway, here are the fixes for this edition.  

  • added more content to 'hello' page.  

  • added the 'new in this edition' page (this very page you are reading).   

  • added more stuff to the 'thank you' page.  

  • added age rating to the disclaimer page.  

  • added an 'other stuff' page.   

  • more than 500 spelling, grammar and typos fixed. It's clear that I did zero editing and let the first edition go with zero fixes. Allow me to apologize for that. It was my first book and I clearly wasn’t thinking straight.  

IMPORTANT NOTE: No story related changes have been made in this edition. That means, whatever you remember from you first run (in case you read the earlier editions) is still completely valid. 

Now, there is a good news bad news situation here. As per Kindle rules and regulations, only ‘new’ buyers will get the updated book. The existing buyers won’t get the new users. However, I have asked the kindle support to allow past buyers to get the latest version. I hope they will allow that.  

Almost, forgot, you can buy the book here.




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