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“.

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.


Senn. A language and a film.

Senn poster


Dear reader,

This time I’m not writing about books but about a film and language. I’m fascinated by languages. All kinds of languages including constructed ones (the so called conlangs). I also like science fiction a lot, in writing and in films. That is why I had to see Senn.The film is something you need to experience for yourself. Next to the film itself I also saw the makers’ documentary on the Language of Senn. As you see in the top image there’s not much English in the images. That for me was intriguing already, and to learn that the one of the creators of the film had gone through a lot of work to create the language (in speaking and in writing) was fascinating. Do you remember Tolkien’s Elfish? The Klingon language as made for Star Trek? The Na’vi language for the film Avatar? Britton Watkins did that for Senn. He created the characters, the speech and the grammar. All the signs in the film were adjusted in that language. It was amazing to see how much work had been put into all the details.

Senn is more than just a science fiction film. It shows the observant viewer a lot of what is going on in the world today as well.

Senn 02

If you are interested in Senn (be it for the film or the language or even both), you can either click the image to the left or follow this link to have a more indepth look at Senn. The site behind the link offers you the option to purchase a Bluray disc of the film, a digital download or select one of the other options. You can see a trailer of Senn there as well.

More about Senn (who created it and more) is available at sennition.com.

If you like science fiction that has something to show and say (in English and in Senn’s local language) then you will like Senn. Still not convinced? Then take the quiz!

Pride. Pride? Yes. Pride.

Pride. Pride? Yes. Pride.

Yes, dear reader, it doesn’t happen often but today I feel the need to convey this. I’m proud of the books I’ve written and what they mean to many people.

I get e-mails from people around the world who tell me that my books make their life better. Among them are people who suffer from illnesses, and my books help them. There are also people who appreciate the books I write because they simply (is that really simply?) put them in a new world where they can experience new things.

I am proud of that. Happy for them. I am also proud that so many people buy my books and ask for more. It tells me that I’m doing something right. And even when I’m not getting rich of it financially, that’s fine. The emotions that come from the mails, letters and comments of so many people are worth so much more than money can ever be.

Maybe the only way I can put it is this way:

I may be a 5 star writer, you are a 10 star audience!

A huge step

Last week Saturday I took a huge step. It has to do with books.

I have published a Dutch SciFi which is doing somewhat quite well online, considering that I’m an unknown writer in my own country. (Yes, take some time to laugh. The English version is still in the works, by the way.)

Today I took a few copies to the local library, showed them and asked how it could be done to get the books on their shelves. It would be fun to have my books in the library of my own town. :-)
The people there were lovely! Very kind, interested and helpful! They had great advice, handed me a number of e-mail addresses, told me to get in touch with local newspapers and simply tell them about my book. Papers seem to love hearing about new talent. “You may even get interviewed,” they said. (OH NO!) And maybe there is an opportunity for me to do a reading at the library, or something like that.
After that I packed up the two copies of the book I had brought and… went to a local book store. I showed them the books and told them about me. They immediately wanted to put them up in their store. We discussed a price and their margin, and there the books went. Whoa Nelly.

I came home, pinched myself, said ouch and ordered a bunch more copies. Just in case. As an investment in what may come. I’m still in a daze about it… And yes, I sent mails to the newspapers and the Dutch Library Service to see if they want to read and rate my book for library purposes…