Y. Yes. #AtoZChallenge

azbloggingY. Yes

Dear reader,

Yes! That is all I can say to this strange road that lies behind me. Behind me? Yes! Behind me. Almost four years of actual book-publishing lie behind me, and yes, it was an incredible journey. Even more yes, because I’m ready for more of this.

There will be more adventures of Hilda the Wicked Witch and if possible there will also be a sequel to the first Lily Marin novel. More science fiction and fantasy. I can only say yes to all that, and all this came to pass because of a writing contest I did with a few friends, someone who kept nagging me to publish that first little Hilda book, and because of all of you, dear readers. My heartfelt thanks for each and every one of you who have bought and downloaded my books, and who have sent me such encouraging words, such lovely and touching e-mails and so on. Also a big thank you to everyone at the Alexandria Publishing Group for their support, camaraderie and advice.

It’s taken many years before I reached the point where I could truly understand and embrace my love for writing. I’ve always loved books and reading, but writing added an amazing dimension to the world of words and I’ll be eternally grateful for getting there. Maybe there’s something of a lesson for each of us in this, dear reader. No matter how long something takes, if it’s meant to be, if there is love for something in your heart, it will find a way.

So what is more appropriate than to end this post with Yes, and their hit single Love will find a way:

What’s brewing

Dear reader,

I think it’s time for a small update of what is going on in my writer’s software at the moment. As usual it’s far too much, but there is progress on the horizon.

In order of randomness:

  • Book 12 of Hilda the Wicked Witch, “Hilda Extreme” is halfway through editing and the cover is done. I still hope that this book can come out in January 2014 but due to circumstances beyond my control this is not yet certain.
  • After Hilda 12, all attention for editing goes to a Science Fiction story about an astrophysicist at the University of Bristol who makes a shocking discovery that will change his life.  The title for this book will probably be “A girl named Sandy (and then everything changed)”. And no, the astrophysicist is not called Sandy.
  • The mad dash called Nanowrimo has resulted in what I think is a rather special story. It became an urban fantasy called “Clara’s Eyes”. It needs to be reworked of course, but I’m giving that some time.
  • I have finished the first draft of a Science Fiction story that for now has the title “Sebastian”. Or “Help”. Or “Book friend”. As you see, that’s not entirely clear yet. This is a story I wrote simultaneously in English and Dutch. This is my first attempt to write a book in Dutch and it may even be published through an official Dutch publisher. So far the lady who checks and proofs the separate Dutch chapters is quite enthusiastic about the story (as a comment “Exciting!” shows), but these stories need a lot of aftercare as well.
  • Even though Hilda’s 12th adventure isn’t published yet, there is a new Hilda in the works. Hilda 13. No title yet, but fans and supporters of Hilda’s talking house will enjoy this one very much. More from Baba Yaga’s past will be revealed in this book, and there’s a visit from someone special which of course will mean a handful of work for our magical couple.
  • The novel around Lily Marin, my steampunk heroine, is progressing well. Everyone who has read and enjoyed her short stories will look forward to this book and I am pleased with how it is developing. Dr. Calgori, Master Wilfred and Billy will all be present again, and adventures and surprises are guaranteed.
  • And then there is secret project X, a fantasy story about people on a planet where you travel by giant spiders, fly on wasps, and where butterflies are very vicious creatures indeed!

Oh. Did I say ‘small update‘? I hope you enjoy this update and live in anticipation of publications!

Preferred ways of reading.

Dear reader,

What is your favourite medium to read from? Do you prefer books? Tablets? E-readers? Your telephone?

The Daily Telegraph posted an interesting article on this topic a little while ago:

Design of de Servière
Design of de Servière

Electronic readers ‘better than books’ for older people

Elderly people should use e-readers or tablet computers rather than books because they place less strain on the eyes while reading, a study has found.

Digital reading devices allow older people to read the same text more quickly and with less effort than printed pages, without affecting their understanding of the text, researchers said.

But when asked which device they preferred reading on, traditional books were twice as popular as electronic devices among older readers, backing up previous surveys.

The results suggest that despite digital book sales overtaking print in the UK and the US, readers are still more attached to the culture associated with books than the convenience of electronic devices.

Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, tracked the eye movements and brain activity of 36 younger participants aged 21-34, and 21 older adults aged 60 and above as they read text from e-readers, tablet computers and printed pages.

(You can read the full version here.)

Libraries

Dear reader,

This is about libraries.

Who has not spent hours and hours in libraries? Perusing the thousands of books on the shelves, exploring the many different categories and styles?

I know I have done that a lot in the past, when there was no Internet, when there were no e-books (yes, I am one of those e-book fanatics).

Very early already I had gone through all the books suitable for my age, and I could not find anything worthwhile to read any more that I had not already read, so my parents arranged that I could go into the adult books section.

A world of worlds, knowledge, impressions and marvel opened for me when I discovered the joy of reading. The person who initiated that with me was my mother. She was the book worm in the house, and soon I was the other one. More than once I had to be called a few times, and shaken physically, for the call to come to dinner. Once engrossed in a book the real world simply disappeared.

The library of alexandria

Libraries have always been impressive and very necessary institutions where the knowledge of a nation or a culture were collected and cared for. The first known library in the world was that of the great city of Alexandria, in ancient Egypt. It functioned as a very important place of scholarship from its construction in the 3rd century BC until the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. As this is the first known and also very significant library in history, it has a special meaning. One that started all the other libraries, all those other places that gather wisdom for posterity. It was such an impressive place, with so many written scrolls, that it also became the name for the Alexandria Publishing Group that I am a member of.

Since libraries contain so much knowledge and give so much food for thought, often they were (and sometimes still are) destroyed. Food for thought is a dangerous thing for usurpers and dictators. The dumber a people, the easier they can be controlled. But not only humans have destroyed libraries. Also the simple fact that books are made of paper is a danger – fire is a great enemy of libraries. Luckily these days there are many good fire-detection and sprinkler systems. They help in preserving the important old and new documents that so many brilliant minds have put together. (Of course water can be a threat to books as well.)

Libraries. They are important places. Places that feed the mind. Home of readers and writers. And a public library makes no difference between rich and poor, old and young, the colour of skin, or what other differences you can think of. Anyone who needs to research something, who has a burning question, or who wants to borrow a book for the pure joy of reading, it does not matter. The library can accommodate it.

The library. I don’t know how it was for you, dear reader, but for me the library, even at a young age, was more important than the playground. I would even say that it was my playground. It offers thousands of ways to be entertained, amazed, scared and surprised. And most of all: become knowledgeable.

 

Two years

Dear reader,

It’s amazing but true. Two years ago I published my first little book, about a wicked witch called Grimhilda. Hilda for friends. When I pressed that “publish” button for the first time, little did I know…

What followed was a small avalanche of books (at least that is how it seems to me). More Hilda books, and people kept downloading them. I brought out a few books in a different genre too, but Hilda apparently is everyone’s darling. Not bad for a wicked witch. I started an author facebook page to have a way to interact with fans of my written heroes and heroines, which was a good idea. I met very nice people!

A very nice and also surprising milestone was the invitation to join the Alexandria Publishing Group, a collective of independent writers who stand for books that are good in every way. Not just the story, but also the grammar, spelling, etcetera. Quality all through the work.

I am grateful to Sharon and Jean, who made Hilda happen, and Arlene for nearly getting on my nerves to publish that first booklet of Hilda. Without them, this all would not have happened. Thank you, Carol, who patiently looks for all the mistakes I hide in the texts, and of course, I am grateful to the fans of Hilda, William, Babs and Lily (and all the others), for downloading and buying my books. Without them, this would never have taken off the way it has!

Two years. Amazing. How will things look two years from now…

Paper books. E-books. The core is…

Dear reader,

I think that for myself I have decided that the brawl over paper books and e-books and what is better is a non-issue. It is the same kind of argument as why people like a specific colour better, or a brand of car, or a particular kind of cereal.

The core part in the debate is book. It is the text that is in it, the story, the information. Does it matter how it is presented? In a hard-cover book, a paperback, a spiral-backed set of prints, or in any of the formats that e-books come in? I suddenly realised that all that doesn’t really matter. E-books only add to the versatility and ease of getting to the information and stories.

=

Raw numbers

Dear reader,

If you do not like numbers, please stop reading now. Otherwise, carry on. I shall give some insight in numbers concerning my books.

I started publishing in July 2010, so that is not even 2 years ago.

The first 7 Hilda books were and will be free. The total in downloads of these 7 books as I write this is 163,773 copies. The other free books (Aeroparts, Lily Marin) total 10,528 copies.

The first book I started to actually sell was Bactine. This has been sold 73 times since June 2011. After that, Hilda 8 hit the virtual shelves in January 2012, and that’s been sold 564 times so far (can we say that the witch is popular?). Next up came the Devil’s Diary, which shows 10 sales since March 2012. And last but not least, there is Hilda 9, which shows 9 sales after barely 2 days.

The story that’s been most downloaded is Hilda 1, showing a proud 65,608 downloads. (And there I was, in the beginning, wondering who on earth would want to read what I write.)

If you are still here, perhaps with calculator in hand, you probably have reached a total of 174,957 downloads for both free and paid books. Yes, I am 43 copies away from 175,000 downloads. In less than 2 years.

Preserve your rare books

Setting up and Maintaining Your Home Library.

Dear reader,

Like everyone, you will probably have paper books in your home, some of them old and precious.

As a collector of rare books, your goal is to keep your collection in optimum shape. You’re careful with dust jackets and protect fragile books with clamshell cases. Even the way you shelve your rare books can impact their condition. It’s important that your home library provides the support and protection that rare books need.

Umberto Eco's Personal Library

Umberto Eco could use a few of these tips in his personal library!

Building Your Library from the Ground Up
Serious collectors know not to let their rare books come into contact with just any old paper, as  paper can contain harmful chemicals and acids. But what about the shelves themselves? We often assume that any bookshelf is fine for our books, but choosing the right shelving materials will help you preserve your books even more effectively:

  • Institutional libraries don’t use metal shelves because they’re less expensive. The ideal material for shelves themselves is actually metal, coated with a baked enamel finish.
  • If metal shelves aren’t an option, coat your wooden shelves with a proper sealant to prevent acids from seeping into your books from the wood. The best options are a water-based aliphatic urethane or a clear two-coat epoxy finish.
  • Wood dries out as it ages, and the chemicals often used to treat wood also dissipate over time. If your books are housed in an extremely old wooden bookcase, they’re likely safe from damage.
  • In locations with high humidity, consider ventilated shelving. The additional air circulation can help prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

Storing Rare Books Properly
It’s important to store rare books with care; rubbing, pulling, and pushing can all cause unnecessary damage and decrease the value of rare books and manuscripts. It’s easy to simply place books on the shelves straight up and down, but that isn’t always the best position for your books.

  • Avoid letting books slouch on the shelf. Any book with a spine wider than three inches, or taller than 18 inches, should be laid flat. The bindings of these books sometimes cannot support the spine, weakening the spine, warping the covers, and damaging the pages.
  • Do not stack these books more than three volumes high. Too much weight can warp the covers of the lower books.
  • Give your books a little space to breathe on the shelf. They should be close enough to support each other, but not packed so tightly that the bindings are abraded when you remove a book.
  • If you use bookends, make sure they are tall enough that your books don’t lean over the top of the bookends. The weight of the book against the bookend can cause damage to the cover.
  • Tall books that are shelved next to short books tend to get warped and deformed over time.  Shelve books by size whenever possible.

Using the right materials and shelving techniques can make all the difference in maintaining the value of your rare book collection.

Paperback writer

Dear reader,

You may all be familiar with the song of the Beatles, which bears the same name as this post does. Why did I pick this one? Exactly. You are too smart to fool; it is about paper(back) books.

Paper.
Upto now only a few of my books are available on paper, and I am seriously wondering if there are people who prefer these paper versions to the e-books that are so popular. (This is something I can safely say without exaggerating, seeing that Hilda the Wicked Witch so far has been downloaded over 54.000 times, and Snow-White revisited over 35.000 times. Yes, I am watching you! 😉 )

The books that are available on paper at this moment are:

  • Hilda the Wicked Witch – book 1 ( link )
  • Hilda – Snow-White revisited – book 2 ( link )
  • Hilda – Dragon Master – book 8 ( link )

I know, this selection looks rather random, and… it is. These books ‘happened’ on paper out of curiosity. The first one because I had no idea what it would look like. The eighth one because it was a lot thicker than the first one. And number two… simply because I wanted to!

What do you think?
More Hilda on paper? Would anyone be interested in a real paper copy of Lily Marin’s stories, or Daniel’s adventures in Bactine? I’m genuinely curious about your opinion in this, dear reader. Should I invest time in formatting books for paper publication, or best to keep focussing on the writing of new chapters and stories and books?

The original.
Let me leave you now, with the opportunity to enjoy the song of the Beatles, after all this. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Paperback Writer.