The odd ways of ideas

Dear reader,

ideaIt keeps surprising me in what strange ways ideas for stories can come to me. It doesn’t take much, that is obvious to me already. It can be a sound, something I see of smell, or a few words I happen to read somewhere. In the latter case I often don’t even remember where I saw the words but they stick in my mind and refuse to let go until I’ve applied their use to a story, or perhaps a chapter.

It happened again a little while ago. I have just finished the rework for Hilda 17 and sent that off to my editor, Carol. I’ve started writing Hilda 18, and I’m working on a few other bits and pieces. And still this idea-mechanism is running full steam ahead. On Google+ I saw an image. A funny one. And then…

bam…there I had the idea for Hilda 19. While book 18 isn’t even remotely done. Can you believe that this habit, or trait, or whatever you call it, can actually be draining? Sometimes I don’t want to leave my house as I’m almost scared that more ideas will hit me, more reasons to write stories and books, on top of the incredible pile that’s already there.

Do note that I’m not complaining about all those ideas. On the contrary. I know how many writers are struggling to get something going in their writing. I’m ‘suffering’ from the opposite, which probably is much better. It just requires a lot of discipline from my end to sit down and finish one idea before I throw myself at the next one. That is the curse writers can face: they start a lot and finish hardly anything. I don’t want to fall into that trap.

And in case you hadn’t noticed: the Hilda series isn’t about to stop yet. 🙂

Have a wonderful day, read a book!

Output

Dear reader,

People sometimes ask me why I am having such a high output of books compared to many other writers. Publishing a book per year is a nice amount, 2 per year is really good, but I have an average of 3 to 4 books per year so far.

printing-pressI think it is because I started writing actual books quite late in life. There are so many stories inside me and I want to put them ‘out there’ before I can’t do that any more. That is not something I’m focussing on, but it is something that can happen to the best of us at an age too early. Look for instance at Sir Terry Pratchett who passed away far too soon while battling a disease that in the end did all it could to keep him from creating.

There is of course the possibility that I will live to be very old and write as long, like Harry Bernstein whose most productive years were his nineties. If I knew that to be the case I might not write so fast and furious, but who knows when his/her end approaches? I’m not taking any chances, so I keep writing at the pace that feels good for me.

My first book. Christine Ardigo.

Dear reader,

Christine is one of the precious romance writers who live at the Alexandria Publishing Group. I asked how what drove her to writing her first book, and the answer was quite a surprise! Her first romance novel is called “Cheating to Survive“. It’s not your typical contemporary romance novel. There are no billionaires, no heaving bosoms and also no women wanting to end it all because their husbands dumped them for their twenty-year-old secretary.

cheatingtosurviveCheating to Survive puts the women in power:

What happens when three co-workers decide to cheat on their husbands? Will they find happiness, or will they be destroyed by the consequences?

Christine said:

I came up with the idea one summer, after driving my two daughters to camp every morning. The 30-minute commute at 7:30am, with two exhausted, cranky girls in tow left us with a lot of radio listening. Unfortunately, my then fourteen and nine year old took an interest in shows like “To Catch a Cheater” or “War of the Roses,” where listeners called in to catch their significant other in the act of cheating.

As much as I hated listening to it, I took it as an opportunity to teach them both a lesson in love and relationships. What I noticed about the majority of these calls, was that most of the callers were women. Pathetic women who’s boyfriends/husbands were not only cheating on them, but the men were arrogant about it. Some laughing when they got caught.

What was worse, once they caught the men red-handed, some of them went as low as to insult the women, tell them it was their fault, said “too bad deal with it” and a host of other derogatory statements. The worst part, after the women were humiliated on public radio, some of them begged their men to take them back or cried because they still loved them! And the men laughed harder.

I discussed each show with my daughters daily, but the images stuck with me. Hence, the creation of Cheating to Survive. Let’s turn the tables. Let’s have the women cheat on the men this time. Let them enjoy it. Fully. Let them skip down the halls, dance in the middle of the cafeteria, laugh behind their husbands’ backs.

But of course, in life, nothing is that seamless.

Meet Victoria…Heather…and Catherine, three dietitians working in the same hospital for a horrendous boss, and married to husbands anyone would want to strangle, dump in the trash, and watch the garbage truck pulverize along with the maggots.

Will the three of them be triumphant with their scheming, or are they headed down a wrong way path?

The outcomes could be worse than they imagined.

Well, there you have it. Are you curious about the book already? If so, you can head over to Amazon.com and have a closer look at the book. Who knows, you might love it.

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.)

 

Book review – Avalon Revisited

Title: Avalon Revisited
Author: O.M. Grey
Genre: Steampunk/Vampire/Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Avalon Revisited cover

This book was a surprise for me. The first chapter wasn’t what I had expected but there was something about the main character that made me read on. And I don’t regret that for a second. Such a smart book! Good dialogue, an interesting plot and dirigibles. That is a lot of good for a book. The way the vampire part is worked out is also well done and I appreciate that the author was not afraid to retain the authentic, old values of that ‘race’.

Definitely worth the time to read!

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.

 

Hilda 17. Yes. Really.

Dear reader,

17A while ago I was in my car, driving home. I was thinking about life, the universe and everything (I know, I shouldn’t read The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in my mind while driving) when I suddenly had the best idea for the next Wicked Witch book. And that’s not book 15 because that’s already written. It’s also not book 16, because that’s already written. It’s for book 17. Because that’s not written yet.

(I may not always make sense but I have my numbers in order. So far.) What happened, you may wonder. Or not.

As I was going along I was thinking about the e-mails I have received from some of you. (Yes, at times I get e-mails from Hilda-fans.) Without going into too much detail (as book 17 still has to be written) I thought that I should dedicate this book to the people in dire circumstances who find some joy and support in the adventures of the witch and the wizard. The hospitalised people, the people who are ill without having to spend time in hospital beds too often.

Hilda the wicked witch Their stories, some of them heart-wrenching, are so touching and incredible that this is something I feel I have to do. So Hilda book 17 will honour those people. To give them even more support from the witch and the wizard.

I sincerely hope that they are able to read this, that they hear about this in some way or another. You all are wonderful people and if there is anything I can do for you in my writing to make your life a little nicer then I will do that.

Love,

Paul, Hilda, William, Babs, Charisma, Obsi and Grim.

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!