Donna – My first book: Second Death

Dear Reader,

Here is the second part in the short series in which my fellow members of the APG tell what made them write their first book. This time: Donna K. Fitch.


Second Death CoverOut loud: “Yes, may I help you?” In my head: “Where is the librarian who’s supposed to be watching the reference desk?”

“I just have a quick question,” the man said, sticking his head in my office doorway.

It was summer, and the university library where I worked was nearly deserted. I was deep in—something or other—when he interrupted me. I don’t even remember what his question was, because of what happened next.

I stood up quickly to show him where whatever he needed was—stepped on the hem of my wide-legged trousers, and fell, slamming into the air handling unit under the window on the way down. My left shoulder was a flame of agony, and I realized my arm had popped out of the socket. I groaned something in response to the patron’s anxious question. When I moved my arm, the joint slipped back into place. My ankle grabbed my attention next. It was throbbing in time to my heartbeat.

Things happened quickly after that. The patron returned with the library director, who had already called an ambulance. As the paramedics strapped me to a board and cushioned my neck with a brace, despite my insistence that I hadn’t hit my head, the librarian who was supposed to be on duty walked up and said the universal line, “But I was only gone a few minutes.”

Two months of physical therapy on my shoulder followed, and not nearly as much on my sprained ankle. The therapy consisted of manipulation of the joint by the therapist, and exercises at home. But at the end of each session, came the part I actually enjoyed. I would lie on the table and have either an ice pack or electric therapy applied to my shoulder. (I’m not sure what the therapy is really called; it was tiny, tingly electric shocks.) In that awkward position, I couldn’t read comfortably. Kindles hadn’t been invented yet. All I could do was lie there and let my mind roam.

And roam it did. I’ve always loved to write, since I was about twelve, and I took creative writing in high school, but I’d never written anything substantial. For some reason, though, bits of a novel started creeping into my head.

What if an ordinary person suddenly felt like he was a soldier in the American Civil War, being pursued by someone who wanted to kill him?

That seed started what is now Second Death. (At various times it was called Already Dead and A Debt Past Due.) As the head of reference in an academic library, I had plenty of opportunity for research. Although I read lots of books on how to write, I didn’t really know how. Second Death went through about twelve drafts before I figured out the story’s direction, and another seven or so drafts to come to the conclusion.

I spent what seemed to me to be a great deal of money to have it professionally edited, but I was proud of it and wanted it to be the best it could be. People who read it, whose opinion I trusted, as well as my editor, thought it was excellent. I shopped it around with high hopes.

Nope. Nobody wanted it. Not what they wanted.

I wrote another novel, The Source of Lightning, in the meantime, and some short stories and novellas.

I joined the Indie Publishing Revolution and published both novels myself in a circumstance that’s a whole ‘nother story in itself. The traditional route may be fine for some people, but it’s not for me. I’ve learned so much on the journey, about writing and editing and marketing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Except maybe the shoulder dislocation part.

A good day so far

Dear reader,

So far today has turned into a good day, despite some not so wonderful news yesterday.

I have started writing a story that plays in my hometown of Cuijk. It goes well, and this afternoon I got on my bicycle and pedalled over to the library where I sat myself down and wrote more on that story. Here’s the view from where I sat:

cuijk library

Perhaps you can’t believe the joy I had sitting there. The street you see crosses a street called Aleida street and that appears in my story.

That is not all I did. I finished all the final edits on Hilda’s 16th story and I have started to compile the actual books for the story. The cover is already made, the e-book is as good as done and I am working on the paperback for whom likes the real books instead of a file on their e-reader. For the paperback I may change the backside from now on but I’m not yet certain. Time will tell.

Next to this the rework of Hilda’s 17th story is going on, as well as writing book 18 of the Wicked Witch. If you think that I am bored I implore you to think again. Have a wonderful weekend from me, a Holy Bejeebus from William and a Crappedy crap from Hilda!

July is Fantasy-month!

Dear reader,

Heart of the GodsYou may not know it but on Facebook, at this very moment, there’s an event taking place called Fantasy in July. You are cordially invited to join the event where many fantasy writers are talking about their work, offering their work even at discounts and the occasional announcement for new works coming out soon pass by as well.

You might find a mention of “The Source of Lightning“, an epic steampunk adventure by Donna K. Fitch, for instance. Or there’s Katherine Lee Pierret Perkins’ “Dawn of Steam” (indeed, more steampunk). But there is also proper fantasy, like “Servant of the Gods” by Valerie Douglas (a gorgeous book if I say so myself).

If you like fantasy and Egypt, then “Heart of the Gods” would be a good choice. So if you feel like indulging in something special then don’t hesitate and come have a look!

Til Death Us Do Join – The Cover.

Dear reader,

With a certain amount of pleasure I present to you the cover of the new book that’s to appear in two weeks. Here is the cover of “Til Death Us Do Join“.
TilDeathUsDoJoin_Web

Mortimer Fitzroy is a soul guide. Soul guides go to earth to pick up the souls of deceased people. When he’s sent down to collect the souls of a few people who are about to die there is a lot more waiting for him than just a routine pick-up. His customers are not the easiest ones to deal with and finding a good place for them in the afterlife also proves a challenge. When Mortimer is facing matters of the not so dead heart, things become even more complicated.

Big words, small words. For writers.

Dear reader – and especially writer. Because this post is intended for writers for a change.

What’s this odd title, you may wonder. Because you know the difference between BigwordsSmallwords

If you wonder about this then read on. Or better, read on anyway. This post originates in a little exchange I had with Ksenia Anske that I had not so long ago. We both are writing in English and for both of us English is not our native language. She’s Russian, I’m Dutch. We talked about learning new words and how to memorise and use them. There’s hardly anything wrong with that, right?

Then I started thinking broader. We’re writing in what is not our native tongue, but that also means that we (and you!) are writing for people for whom English is not their native tongue. And that thought brought the big words back to my attention. Big words are the ones that sophisticated, mostly well-read people like yourself know. You have seen those words before:

  • Intransigent (uncompromising, stubborn)
  • Debilitating (weakening, crippling)
  • Vociferous (loud, noisy)

Stuff like that. And there is a lot more of them. Of course, for most native English speakers these words would not present any problem. At least I assume so much although I have seen some shreds of evidence that this isn’t always the case.

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Let me now turn the tables. You have mastered a fair amount of Russian and you pick up a book by your favourite Russian author, e.g. Dostoyevsky. And you try to enjoy the book. But then you run into these big Russian words that require a dictionary before you can enjoy the book. Words like калі ласка or здратвуите. (Bear with me, I have no idea what they mean as I only know a few Russian words. These are specifically for demonstrative purposes.) Would you still try to enjoy the book by your favourite Russian author? Or would you try to find a good translation in English so the reading isn’t so difficult?

Either way, what I want to say here is that using big, clever words isn’t always the smartest thing. Of course, it will show that you know them, but I suddenly realised (and this happened while I was waiting in line at the supermarket actually) that you should also take the grasp of words of your readers into account. If you plan to write for Harvard graduates only you can throw in the occasional profligate sycophant, but if you want to create something that all the world should be able to enjoy then keep in mind that all the world should be able to read your work without eating dictionaries for breakfast every day.

This doesn’t mean you should abstain from big words. Make things a bit interesting and challenging. Just don’t go overboard on them.

(By the way, a profligate sycophant is an extremely wasteful and highly immoral person who sucks up to others. I looked that up for you.)

 

Culture and language

Dear reader,

Have you ever noticed how tightly culture in many aspects and language are connected? A normal expression in one language doesn’t need to mean the same in another language – or even in a community that speaks the same language.

Language and Culture

How often, for instance, do you say (or hear someone say) that something is annoying as hell? That is something from your culture. Religion is part of someone’s culture and in the Christian religion there is a concept of hell as something unpleasant. Would you be surprised if saying that something is annoying as hell might offend people? There’s a small town in the north of Norway called Hell (see Wikipedia). Suppose you live in Palm Springs and you love it there. And then some plonker says that something is annoying as Palm Springs. Well, there you have it.

A very funny example of this is when you feel in seventh heaven. Did you know that this is not a Christian thing? Only in Judaism, Islam and Hinduism there are seven heavens. Christianity has only one and Paganism has the Summerland. It’s clear that the seventh heaven (which refers to the best of all heavens) is something that English and many other languages (this also exists in Dutch and German) borrowed from a different culture.

I hope you enjoyed this little banter into the world of language and culture. You may never know what you’re saying!

A mad Hilda 16 idea!

Dear reader,

Yes, this means you. You should read this if you are into Hilda’s adventures. You may have heard already that last year November, during Nanowrimo, I wrote an entire new Hilda the Wicked Witch book. Volume 16. It’s about Hilda’s younger years. This book contains lots of pointers and references to the previous books about our favourite witch and it will be an eyeopener for everyone. I promise you that. At least I hope I’m doing that well. And suddenly I had an insanely funny idea.

free bookWhile I rework the book (it’s still in an ugly state at the moment) I plan to make a list of hints and pointers to the other books. When the book comes out I want to hand three readers an opportunity to win a paper copy of the same book. How? It’s simple: read Hilda 16 (not yet of course, as it isn’t available) and count the number of hints you find that point to other books.

When we get near that time I’ll post more information about this idea on the blog, also on how to get your tally to me and the process I want to use on deciding on 3 winners. (See, I’m postponing that because that detail still needs to be figured out. :-) )

Now to keep things honest and fair, I offer you the opportunity to send me e-mails in which you tell me that handing out free books is a very bad idea and that I should stop thinking about it. Or you can leave me a note here in the comments or on facebook, Twitter or Google+, telling me how much you like the idea.

It’s up to you…

About book covers

About book covers

Mimosa320Small cover Clara's Eyes A Girl Named Sandy

Dear reader,

Have you ever considered the work that goes into a book cover? We take them for granted, these works of art that tug at your attention and beg you to have another look.

I make some covers myself but the very good ones so far all come from the hand – or computer – of a very talented lady called Renée Barratt. A cover tells a lot about the story that’s behind it but there’s only so much space to tell it, and you also don’t want to give away the entire plot of the book through the cover. That makes designing a good cover a serious art form.

If I need a cover made by someone else I usually start asking at least 2 months before I need it. That is how much time can go into getting the cover right. You have to explain the story to the graphics designer, he or she has to get the idea for it, create a first impression and usually there are things not right. Which is understandable. As a writer you have the story in your head and somehow you have to convey the key elements of it to the designer. It’s a tough job sometimes, but when the cover is done it’s something to be proud of for both the author and the designer. And as you may be able to tell from the three images up here: I am very proud of my covers!

Now here’s a challenge

Dear reader,

Do you know Ksenia Anske? Say yes. Well done, dear reader. Of course you know the person who wrote such amazing stories like Rosehead and Irkadura. She is, like I am, a fantasy writer.

Why do I mention her? Of course firstly because she’s a great writer and a very interesting person (follow her on Twitter or Google+ if you want) and secondly because yesterday she posted this on Twitter:

TwitterYou know what I’m dying to do? I’m dying to write a book about a talking cat, once I’m done writing all these other damn books I planned.

This of course could not go unrewarded, so I replied:

Twitter@kseniaanske I’m going to write a book about a writer who plans to write about a talking cat after she wrote all the other books she planned

upon which I received this in return:

Twitter@paul__kater Deal. Can’t wait.

 

This has to end in a story of course, and here is how it starts:

“You know it’s not going to happen, don’t you?” asked Frankie the cat as he stretched out a paw. The claws came out as they were up for an inspection.

“Of course it will,” Francis replied. “I just have to get all this other stuff written, edited, proofed and published, and then I’m going to do it.”

“Nu-huh,” Frankie continued after licking his paw a few times. “By the time you’ll have time for that I’ll be through most of my nine lives.”

“Don’t count on that. I can write fast and furious.”

“And torment people on Twitter,” Frankie taunted her. “And you need to write another blog post. Will it be about me?”

“Shut up. You’re a cat. You know nothing. You shouldn’t even be talking to me,” Francis said as she pretended to slap Frankie, something she wouldn’t do as she knew his claws from various close encounters.