Paul’s Blog

How Hilda the Wicked Witch was “born”

Back in 2009 I often wrote stories together with a number of writer-friends. We competed in Nanowrimo and had a lot of fun.

One day, someone had the idea not to wait for November, but to start our own little competition, writing 20,000 words in 2 weeks. Of course, we all were game and so decided to do it. Which brought the big question: “What am I going to write about?”

The race would be off only a day or so later, so I had to do some very quick thinking on a subject. I needed something that would give me a lot of flexibility in the story. No matter how much I try to render my internal editor unconscious, I do need my stories to make sense and be coherent. I really don’t know anymore how exactly it happened, but I thought of a witch. And I wanted her to be wicked without being mean. Definitely not a Glinda the good witch from the North, from the Wizard of Oz. Plenty of good witches around. But the witch should not be mean and horrible. I don’t like mean or horrible.

I think I succeeded with my witch.

Yes, she can use strong language. Yes, she mercilessly does things that are not mainstream. But those are the traits for a wicked witch.

I’m proud of Hilda.

Nanowrimo 2009

Now why would I bring up something ancient like a story from 2009? And you may ask, dear reader, what is a Nanowrimo?

Last things first: Nanowrimo is a challenge to write a novel in a month. A novel of at least 50,000 words. This amounts to around 1680 words per day, and more if you slip a day. Think of a book of about 100 pages, for easier reference.

In 2009 I did Nanowrimo for the third time. The story developed from a very short story I had written on the prompt of a friend. The prompt was: “Did they use Bactine?” At that time I was not even aware that Bactine is a first aid liquid, as it is an American product and unknown in the Netherlands.

The story is about a soldier on a star base who gets hurt badly, fixed up, set up, thrown out of the military in a halfway decent manner and ends up with a ‘special assignment’. He is sent to a planet far away, where a number of interesting things are waiting for him in an equally interesting environment.

It came out a cross between science-fiction and steampunk, at least that is how it feels to me. I am currently editing the book (trust me, writing 136,000 words in one month desperately calls for editing), so it is acceptable for publishing on Smashwords and affiliates.

If you, dear reader, have an appreciation for scifi and steampunk, it might be an idea to keep your eyes open for “Bactine”. Of course, I will keep everyone informed about the progress on this book, on this very weblog.

Below is a small snippet from “Bactine”, at the point where Daniel has returned from a mission that almost went wrong. It is the point where his future will change dramatically.

Continue reading “Nanowrimo 2009”

Ebooks Ltd.

How sad it is that many publishers still think that the world is as limited as they want it to be.

Often I find  it it hard to buy a certain e-book.

Thou shalt not shop

Whenever I see such a message, I shake my head. Does the publishing world not see that they are limiting their own income? They hold the rights to distribute books everywhere. Instead of allowing someone to hand them money for a digital copy of the book, they prefer to wait until someone buys the rights to distribute the book in a certain region of the world. I am sure that, once such a sale is made, this is much more profitable for the publisher than selling the few copies that they could manage themselves. But… if they only sell a few copies, would that not be the same for the person buying the rights?

Would you buy an expensive right for selling only a handful of books? Hardly, unless you are a philanthropist. Lots of e-books will never be sold in my part of the world, simply because there is not enough audience for them, making the sale of the rights to them very unlikely.

I have engaged in a few e-mail discussions with publishers about this strange behaviour. And the strange reply I have received more than once is: “No, you can’t have the e-book. But you can buy the paper version from us!” Uhm… I did not buy an e-reader so I can buy more dead-tree books. Another interesting reply I once received was: “The author did not tell us to distribute the book world-wide.” Uhm, hello, aren’t you as the publisher in some way responsible for perhaps reminding an author that there is more than the United States in this world? That there are more people who want to buy the works? An author is someone who writes books. A publisher, to me, is someone who should have a good view on publishing and distributing these books.

For now the publishing industry makes the same mistakes that the music industry made many years ago. L’histoire se répète, history repeats itself. Why would they learn from each other, right? Everyone is entitled to their own mistakes.

This is one of the reasons I am grateful for places like Smashwords, where I never had the misfortune of seeing a message as shown above. Another reason to be happy is that more and more authors are looking at self-publishing, to avoid these weird publishing restrictions.

I do not want to pirate the books I want to read. I am more than willing to pay for good books. So, publishing industry, let me give you my money.

Writing prompt: Spare Parts

Sometimes I write a short piece starting from a writing prompt. One of those prompts was “spare parts”. The next short piece is what resulted from that prompt.

The ring.

Priscilla visited her friend, the gadget-maker. His name was Magdanovitch. Mags, for friends.

“Mags, you should clean up here. It still looks like a junk yard here.” Priscilla ran her finger over a table; her action left a clear line on the table and a dark grey stain on her finger.

“Cleaning up here is lethal. This entire place is my spare parts box,” Magdanovitch stated.

“You always say that.” Priscilla moved through the “spare parts box” and picked up a ring from a table laden with objects large and small. The ring was a simple golden affair with a nearly illegible inscription. “What’s this?”

“That? Oh, an invisibility ring I made. But it malfunctions.” Mags rummaged in a box and barely glanced at his friend. Priscilla was not bothered by that, it was typically Mags.

She wondered how a ring could malfunction though, so she slipped it on her finger. Immediately the entire room and everything in it became a grey, shapeless blur. No more table next to her, no more Magdanovitch and no box. She saw herself, her extended hand and the finger, but everything else had become a dull nothing.

“Mags?” Priscilla barely heard her own voice. It was as if she was talking inside a ball of cotton. “Magdanovitch?” There was no response. She called her friend’s name, as loud as she could, but it made no difference. She shrugged and took the ring from her finger. Immediately everything was normal again, down to the smudge on her finger.

“I see what you mean,” the girl said. She stared at the inscription one more time, before she tossed the ring back on the table. Then she looked for something to clean her finger with. “It’s probably a slip in the writing.”

“Yeah, that was my idea too,” Mags nodded. “That, or I used some crap gold. Come, I’ll fix us some tea. I have scones too.”

“Not the ones from last time, I hope?” Priscilla asked as she followed Mags to the door. Her last visit had been several weeks ago.

“No. At least I think not.”

I wonder… would you like to see more of these snippets?

Free vs. paid

Why am I giving my books away? Because yes, everything I have published so far is available for free.

Many people have asked me why I don’t charge money for my writing. “After all, it is your hard work that went into it, that should be rewarded.”

Well, dear readers and people who seem to be worried about my well-being, it is rewarded.

Not by financials, I agree, but by the sheer number of downloads that I see happening. Yes, I get a kick out of that. Now, that is all very nice, I hear you say, but kicks won’t keep you alive for long! Very true. For that I have my job. At this moment I have a nice job in IT and that pays my bills, my mortgage and everything else I like (and trust me, I like a lot!).

Will having more money make me… eat more, better or healthier? I doubt that, especially the more. Live faster or better? More doubts. Living fast is something I try to avoid, anyway. Write better? Hardly. I am happy the way things are now. Oh, certainly, I would love to be a professional writer and live off the fruits of my creativity in that arena, but I am realistic enough to know there are only few who manage that. Many professional authors get by just barely and have to take other jobs or assignments that pay better, to keep their life going.

No. I’ll take many downloads and constructive reviews instead, next to my daytime job. That way I am able and free to write what I want, when I want and how I want it. And judging from the feedback I have received on my writing, I am not doing that badly.

One more revelation: I collect quotes and proverbs, as they are often miracles of language-use and I adore those things. I chose this one as a good ending for this post:

“If you want to know how god thinks about money, look at the people that have it.”