Plotting and planning and Hilda

Yes, dear reader,

I’m still here. And let me explain about the title of this post.

Plotting

plottingI’ve taken up this ‘plotting’ thing many writers are dedicated to. It means you sit down and first work out how a story will go before you get it going. I’ve found there are advantages to it. It takes the surprises and blind spots out of many parts of a story. That may sound brilliant but having the surprises taken out of a story isn’t so good. I like my surprises. They’re part of the fun, the shock and the journey I take together with the victims I write about. Of course I didn’t mean that; they’re my valued characters who unfortunately end up in places and situations of ‘interest’.

Planning

BoringNow this is something I might need to look into. I’m always working on a bunch of stories. At the moment I think it’s 5 or 6. Planning might actually help to get some insight on where I am and what I should do.

Planning however is boring and takes time. Time I can use better, like for writing. Or perhaps plotting, which also eats up quite some time. I have yet to find a convincing argument for planning, so let’s leave it at that and move on to the most interesting part of this post.

Hilda

Hilda The Wicked WitchThe Hilda stories are those that will never be planned or plotted.  N-E-V-E-R, do you hear me?

Hilda’s adventures are, in a way, my own adventures. The best kind, where magic, life and fairy tales come together. Is there a better combination?

I love this witch and her circle of family, friends, acquaintances and other people who hang around for some reason or other. I’m proud of her. I have a large canvas picture of her hanging from my wall.

There has to be a benefit to plotting and planning because so many people do it. Some stories however aren’t meant to be plotted. They are travels to uncharted lands, over trails so far undiscovered.

In a few days I’ll find out if the plotting business will work for me. Then Nanowrimo starts, and I’ve done a lot of figuring out for that. Plotting. And planning, if you will, although that’s just minimal.

We’ll see how it works. Or not.

 

Book reviews.

Dear reader,

it seems I’m not doing much more lately than post book reviews. Rest assured, there is work being done in the background. For now that is Hilda 19, Hilda 20, the second Lily Marin novel, the translation into English of my Dutch time-travel fantasy, and the translation into Dutch of my children’s book ‘The young witch‘. Next to that I have a few side projects on the stove and I’m preparing for this year’s Nanowrimo.

Since I was on vacation for a while I did manage to read a few more books, and they were, in no particular order:

Caliban’s war, by James A. Corey.
Science fiction.

A fabulous sequel to ‘Leviathan Awakes’, Caliban’s War dumps us more adventures with captain Jim Holden and his crew of the Rocinante. Things in the atmosphere of Venus aren’t quieting down, strange monsters pop up in the further regions of the solar system, and the hunt for a disappeared girl makes everything come together. I can hardly wait to read part three of this stunningly well written series.

Mortal Engines: Predator’s Gold, by Philip Reeve
Steampunk.

We meet up again with Tom Natsworthy and his girlfriend Hester Shaw as they fly their airship, the *Jenny Hanniver*, into new adventures. There are more moving cities, lots ice and plenty of surprises once they join the people on the city of Anchorage. Oh, there is also Professor Pennyroyal, one of the explorers Tomadmired in his days as an apprentice historian back in London.

This book had me say ‘No! No!’ a few times out loud… things looked to go very bad… but the end of the book made it worth that! This series is a must for steampunk lovers. I’m ready for book three now!

Nexus, by Ramez Naam
Science fistion.

An intriguing and thought provoking book that plays in the near future (around 2040). Nexus is a drug that enhances human brains in amazing ways. Is something like that safe to go out into the world? Who will use it for the good, and who will abuse it for the bad?

Sometimes I don’t write.

Yes, that’s right, dear reader.

There are times I don’t write. This doesn’t mean writing isn’t on my mind though. Last Sunday afternoon I discovered a problem in a story. Something crucial was missing and I had no idea what the crucial part was. Staring at the screen did nothing crucial for me or the story so I decided to do something drastic. I went outside for a walk.

treesThis is not a hazardous thing because I live in a nice area. These trees for instance are between the front door and the spot where I usually park my car.

I picked a good moment of the summer Sunday too because it wasn’t raining at that moment, and even many clouds had better places to go so I found myself facing sunshine. Very uncommon in these areas lately although I am not complaining.

After about 15 minutes I was wandering through my favourite forest (because it’s so close to home that I can walk there easily) and at a certain point I had the choice to go left (where I had never gone) or right (where I usually go). I went left.

To my surprise I came upon a small lake. I had never seen that before! Amazing how lakes suddenly appear when you turn left. The soil around the lake had suffered from the rainfall. The sound of my shoes was interesting, to say the least. The water that seeped into my shoes was less interesting but colder, probably to make up for the difference.

BerenklauwOn the way back home I came across this fellow.

It’s a Heracleum sphondylium, commonly known as hogweed or cow parsnip, and a big one. It was as tall as I am!

I left it there as it looked happy where it was.

Incidentally in Dutch this plant is called a Bear claw.

The last special thing I encountered was this colourful bench in a park. Whoever the artist (or artists) was or were did a great job on creating something joyful! 

bench

What’s going on?

Vacation

Dear reader,

It’s been silent again for some time. First of all I was on a two week vacation to Great Britain, something I thoroughly enjoyed.

england

I’ve spent a nice time in Dorset, which is located in the south of England. From there I drove up to Bristol where I met a good friend. She is actually the lady who gave our beloved wicked witch her face! We went to Cardiff to visit the Dr Who experience, which was an amazing experience indeed. I’m quite the Dr Who fan so that was a treat.

dr who experience

After Bristol I went up even more north to North Wales where I enjoyed a stay with the editor of my English books. I don’t meet my British friends nearly enough so this was absolutely delightful.

Book things

Furthermore I have been busy promoting my latest Dutch book which is received very well. So well in fact that many English speaking people have asked me when the ‘international’ version is ready. I have to admit that I had no plans to rewrite that book in English, but with so many enquiries I have decided to review those intentions. The work on rewriting the book in English has started, the first 2 chapters are already done. Only 31 more to go!

Book 18 of Hilda the Wicked Witch is approaching its final stages, text-wise. Carol is almost done with the edits. The big hurdle I am still facing is the cover image, but that will be done. I hope you can still hang on to whatever you’re hanging on to: book 18 is coming.

A little update on… Hilda, book 18.

Dear reader.

Hilda the wicked witchIt may not come as a shock that there will actually be an 18th story about Hilda and William. A story full of surprises, I might add, but which ones will still be covered under a purple wizard’s cloak.

Private matters in the life of my editor have delayed progress on the appearance of this book.

We are however working on making this book a reality so don’t despair just yet. I’ll give you proper warning ample time in advance if your worrying is required.

If there was one question you could ask about this new book, which question would it be? Please don’t ask ‘when will it be available’; I’ll give you the answer on that right now: as soon as it’s done. I know that’s a bit of a dead give-away but some things in the life of a person can’t be rushed.

To ease your curiosity a little however I’ll drop a tiny hint on what you will encounter in the new book. What… I should rather say ‘who’.

Pirates
Note: this is a hint. Arrr.

Incidentally the hat you see in this picture also is referred to in the story. This however is quite coincidental as I had no idea I would locate this image while I was writing about the hat and the person beneath it.

If this hint was not clear enough then I will also drop the words “September 19th” here. (That date falls on a Monday this year.) Employ your search engine skills and you might discover more than you bargained for!

 

Alot. Yes, that.

Dear reader,

Have you heard of alot? If not then I hope you have amoment to read this post. Alot is creeping into the words of the world more and more. More than ayear ago this already happened. When I first encountered it I thought; “Alot is not aword.” But the world proved me wrong. Alot is here and it looks as if it’s here to stay.

And as we’re on the subject of alot, maybe we can have aword about more improvements and speed-ups to the English language. Why don’t we remove the space between ‘the’ and nouns as well? Then we can talk about thebook and thewriting process (or even thewritingprocess) which should make the many supporters of alot alot happier.

Long words

Don’t worry about getting long words like theinstrumentarium or therailwaystationmanagersoffice. You’ll get used to that soon enough, and your language could do with a few longer words. Dutch and German have a great history on that, although I have to admit that thehabit of that is falling apart as well. Some people can actually confuse me by breaking up theword on thesigns they put up. Then I don’t know what they mean and that is very annoying.

For example afew days ago I saw asign that announced “free range eggs”. In Dutch this would be one word. Or two. Depending on the meaning. The way it was splattered on thesign however gave me the options of ‘range eggs’ that were free or eggs coming from ‘afree range’.

vrije uitloop eierenAnd here is theproof (in Dutch) that even shops are scared of creating proper words these days. This is exactly how I saw it on thesign. Theway to write this correctly would be ‘vrije-uitloopeieren’. I am sure there will even be Dutch people who will stare at this in surprise and disbelief, but TheDutchWikipedia agrees with me.

So don’t worry, dear Englishspeakingpeople, there is no problem with thelongwords (I’m really getting thehang of this!)

So now go out and assemble alot of thewords that can go alongway. I hope I handed you athing or two to ponder, and whenever you see alot written down that you will remember thispost (why not?) where I explained thebenefits of alot alittle!

Scifi, fantasy and portals

Food for happy thoughts.

Recently I read a post online that made me happy. The post dealt with things that are often seen as bad things in scifi and fantasy writing. One of the ‘bad’ things discussed was portals.

Why are portals considered bad?

Probably because they are easy. Portals can just be there without any further explanation. No one knows how it got there, nor who built it. The fun is to figure out if it still works, how it works, and how to get yourself out of the mess once you went through it.

Why do certain critics insist that writers should come up with other, more credible bits of equipment to get their characters into trouble? It will only add to the size of the book because the whole thing needs to be explained, invented, put into place, made credible. All that will draw the attention away from the actual story.

Of course, at times coming up with a new way to go from one place to another can be bunches of fun, but then that whole experience should be part of the story.  No such thing needed with a portal. Bam. It’s there. We’re in trouble Now what?

 

My own portals.

Seriously, I love portals. I’ve used one in Francis and Frankie for instance. And the times that Hilda and William travelled from Fairyland to ours and back, for instance in The Wytches Roone, that didn’t happen because of well-defined physics and other particle storm entities. Portal. Get them there and make the story happen. The titles I mentioned up here were fantasy stories. My Scifi story “Wanted: hero” also uses a portal to get to another planet. No space ships, no FTL-drives (Faster Than Light, another thing mentioned on the article I referred to). Without portals many stories would not have happened, and I’m not just referring to my own stories here.

A famous portal.

Sg1 stargate frontDo you remember the first Stargate film? What else is that star gate but a big, old portal? An entire network of them even!

As the series went on, the origin of the star gate was divulged, little by little. A great way to do this because it gave the people writing the series time to come up with credible parts to make this sound plausible. For me they did a great job with that.

(And since I’m a book lover: did you know that there are books published about the Stargate universe? Really! Follow the link and be surprised if you’re a fan and didn’t know about this yet!)

Gimme my portal and no one gets hurt.

Portals. I love them. Because they’re so convenient and versatile. How do you feel about portals in fiction (and film) to move to other places, other times, other worlds? Heck, maybe I’ll write a book called Portal World some day. I can see interesting things happening in such a place…

Hilda and her younger years

Dear reader,

Hilda16_the youngeryears_320I am certain that many of you, who are Hilda fans or even Hildaholics, have by now read that infamous book about Hilda when she wasn’t yet the wicked witch she is now.

You may have seen that there are a number of references to older books and stories in book number 16. This was only partly my intention, but as the story grew I saw more and more opportunity to clarify how certain things had come to pass in Hilda’s life and history.

I have now taken it upon myself to outline the references to the older books as I did take notes on them. Are you ready for them? I am curious if you have found the same ones, and if you perhaps discovered something that I missed!

Reference number 1. Chapter 1. Rompford.

medieval villageThis one primarily goes to book 8, Dragon Master, where Hilda mentions her town of birth for the first time.

Another reference here would be book 11, Rock ‘n’ Troll which acts out almost entirely in Rompford. I still hope to see a Rompfordian football match…

I admit, this was quite an obvious reference, perhaps even so obvious you missed it. No worries though, there are many more to come.

Reference number 2. Chapter 2. Special wood.

Hilda 13 the house 320In this chapter Hilda’s dad goes out to acquire some ‘special wood’. This of course is wood from the Squeamish which is brought to our attention in book 13, The House. This is actually something I thought of later, after having written that particular chapter already.

The house that Zoraia and Ludwig live in was a talking house – remember that it talked with Hilda on occasion? That suddenly reminded me there had to be a connection to Squeamish wood, so I had to send Ludwig out shopping for that particular kind of wood. Which he did.

Reference number 3. Chapter 3. The school of magic.

schoolHere we have references to several books again. First of course there is book 7, Back to School.

But also book 10, Magic on the Rocks, is definitely meant to be referenced here. As you may remember, the school was quite an interesting place for Hilda and also Baba Yaga. I really enjoyed working out the classes, the other class mates and their quirks and habits, and the problems someone can have with flying a broom.

I’m still grateful for the writers of Arabian stories who came up with flying carpets…

Reference number 4. Chapter 4. Two vanishing cats.

Two-black-catsThis was a tricky one to spot, I am sure. In chapter 4 Zoraia casts a spell onto two cats that were tormented by a few village boys and those cats disappeared – but where to? Well, they went to book 4 for starters, Hilda and Zelda. This is the first place where I originally made the two black cats appear, seemingly out of nowhere. Now, magical cats do wild things but they need to come from somewhere. Now you know where that somewhere was: the marketplace of Rompford, when Hilda was small. Another reference to the two cats was of course Hilda book 5: Cats. Now that was an easier one, wasn’t it?

Reference number 5. Chapter 4. Big sister.

But that’s not all for this chapter. In chapter 4 Hilda also learns that she’s ‘the older sister’ now and that she has to take care of her baby sister. Hidden in here is a reference to The House, again, where Hilda realises she has to do what her parents told her to do: take care of Charisma!

Reference number 6. Chapter 5. A hut on legs.

In chapter 6 of Hilda’s Younger Years Hilda sees the hut of Babs’s parents for the first time. A hut on legs. Where does this point at? Believe it or not, this goes to book 3, The Challenge, where William appears and faces Baba Yaga’s living environment for the first time. Another reference here is Phargene, book 14, where Hilda meets Baba Yaga’s parents, Papa Yaga and Mama Yaga.

Reference number 7. Chapter 7. Where we meet tailors.

tailorThis chapter references the Zola family, the famous tailors who fell victim to burglary in Hilda’s adventure Rock ‘n’ Troll. Do you remember how Hilda and William went into the store of Gorgon Zola and his wife, for Hilda to order a new dress?

I had far too much fun with that tailor. I thought Zola was quite an interesting name as it’s not very common, and then I thought of the famous cheese, Gorgonzola, and now you know how the good clothes maker got his first name…

Reference number 8. Chapter 10. A heady teacher.

You have probably recognised Hepatia Strunk, the not so beloved head teacher at the Magic School. Here of course we have a reference to Back to School as well as Magic on the Rocks again.

Reference number 9. Chapter 10. Meeting an old friend.

JennealYes, two references in this same chapter, and all to different books. In chapter 10 of the Younger Years Hilda meets Jenneal, the red-dressed, red-haired witch with a fox fixation.

This points us back to Rock ‘n’ Troll again where William and Hilda visit Jenneal and actually recruit her to battle the huge walking rock men that are threatening the village of Rompford.

There actually is a link from Rock ‘n’ Troll to the latest book, The Wytches Roone as well. I didn’t know that when I was taking these notes, but the twins with their harps on the carts in Rock ‘n’ Troll are based on the same Harp Twins that play a major part in the The Wytches Roone!

Don’t worry, we’re getting to the end of the references. Somewhere…

Reference number 10. Chapter 13. Witch meets Goddess.

CirceThis is probably one of the very easy ones to spot. Hilda meets Circe for the first time in chapter 13.

Circe, the Greek Goddess who calls for Hilda’s help in Hilda – Aiaia.

It was very entertaining to bring Circe back into the story since Hilda told William about how she’d met Circe in school, how she’d been late for the start of the lessons, and the strange manner in which she’d seen Circe’s parents back then.

Reference number 11. Chapter 18. Wet clothes.

In this chapter Hilda gets fished out of the water. That was a very terrifying experience for her as you can imagine. The reference here, believe it or not, is Phargene. Can you spot why? Think back to the story and the flooding tunnels where witch and wizard are trying to shut the valves…

Reference number 12. Chapter 19. The Ring.

ringThis is a feeble reference, I’ll admit that. The ring that Hilda gets from Circe, the dachtilìdi. It’s a bit of a pointer to Charisma, the young witch, who steals that very same ring from her older sister and has adventures with her friends.

Reference number 13. Chapter 21. Scary Mountain.

Who doesn’t remember the scene in Hilda 2, Snow White revisited, where Hilda and Babs are performing their magical arts at the witches meeting on Scary Mountain?

Reference number 14. Chapter 25. Back to School.

Really, they don’t come easier than this one. The title of the chapter is the same as that of book 7. Back to School, so let’s immediately roll on to

reference number 14. Chapter 25 again. A hut in the water.

Here is a nice reference to Rock ‘n’ Troll again, to the time when Hilda and Jenneal remember the time that the hut of Baba Yaga’s parents had walked into the river. 🙂

Reference number 15. Chapter 28. Finally…

foxThe last one. You must be relieved. In this chapter Jenneal has her affair with the fox and the hunters. Yes, we’re once again back at Rock ‘n’ Troll.

You made it!

Well, that was it for Hilda’s Younger Years. Did you recall or remember the events I described? If so, I hope you had fun travelling through Hilda’s history with me. If not I suggest you go back to book 1 and start reading again.

(Joking of course!)

Have a wonderful day, from Paul, Hilda, William, and the cats. And the rest of the crew!

 

Did I stop writing books?

Absolutely not, dear reader.

My bookmaking adventures are not on hold, not have they stopped in any other way. The reason for my silence on this site is that I’m working on a Dutch book, and for Dutch news I have my Dutch site. Which, when you think of it, makes sense.

Over on Facebook I am slowly revealing the cover of this Dutch book. Each day I post a new picture of it, in which more and more of the cover is shown. Yesterday’s version looks like this:

puzzel11

If you want to keep up with the revelation, you can follow me on Facebook if you want. I usually post the image to Google+ as well if you feel better there.

The image over the book cover is my cat Grimalkin. Her name might sound familiar, because she and her brother are named after the cats who live with Hilda the Wicked Witch and her partner William. (I’ve added this tidbit for your convenience.)

The book is about my home town Cuijk which everyone has heard of, of course. Everyone living near here, that is.

lilyMarin
This however does not mean that I am not doing anything in the English book arena. I’m working on Hilda 18 and 19, and also I am adding words to the new Lily Marin novel which is going as slowly as the first one.

Lily keeps surprising me with her complexity. It’s great to write about her and to go on adventures with the Masked Woman, but for some reason she doesn’t make all this very easy. Things with her and Billy go well though, and this book also will come to a good end.

The last project I would like to mention here is the sequel to Wanted Hero. I’m currently reworking that and at the same time writing it in Dutch. This has proven to be a good way to do this kind of work as I think about the text. Many original English parts are replaced by much better English parts.

That is the news from me for now, and I will definitely report back in soon. The gaps between me checking in have gotten too large, for which I apologize.

Wishing you a wonderful day,

Paul

 

Everyday things of importance

Yes, dear reader.

postmanEveryday things can be of importance. Especially for writers who pay attention to detail. One of those occasions happened to me a few days ago as I walked home from the library. The rain had just stopped for a few minutes at that point. I saw a mail woman putting mail in the designated locations. Mail slots. Indeed. But that wasn’t so important. The important part started when suddenly she looked into the street and started waving. She was not waving at me. Then she called out, “Isn’t this great?”

This, dear reader, had me sort of puzzled. What is so great about handling mail? Granted, envelopes come in all colours these days, but still… the answer to this came a few moments later, when a fellow mail man came by on his bike. He replied something to his female counterpart which I could not understand, but then I understood.

These people are outside all the time. Also in the rain. And that very rain had just stopped falling down. That is something which makes mail people happy. It’s an everyday thing that not many may catch, but I think it’s precious. It’s something that might be useful in a story, as a little detail. But it could be an important one.