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.)


Earning Credits for More Books – Worldreader

Screen shot 2012 03 12 at 1 37 15 PM3 212x300

From the Worldreader blog:

Meet Daniel Owusu, a 14-year-old junior high school student in Worldreader’s iREAD program. Daniel lives with his family on a farm in the tropical forest near the village, which makes for a long walk to school. He is the only one of the six children in his family to have a Kindle, and he loves it with passion. According to his grandmother, Daniel often gets so immersed in his reading that he does not hear when they call him for food. Daniel wants to become a doctor.

Daniel was one of the 25 students who earned $8 of Kindle bookstore credit through their excellent attendance in iREAD Vacation School. Daniel used the credit to buy Dusk World, an interactive book, which incidentally is a popular category among iREAD students. Daniel had also downloaded the trial audio version of Steve Job’s biography. He told us that The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne is his favorite, and when our star volunteer Carl visited Daniel showed him his collection of all 44 titles. He is currently on book five, and plans to finish all of them.

Now, you might be wondering: What did other students buy?  Their interests are diverse.  Some primary students downloaded titles like Snug as a Bug (I Can Read!) and Big Egg (Step into Reading), while junior high students downloaded stories like Toward the Goal: The Kaka Story and The Hunger Game. There was also practical active content like Easy Calculator and The Periodic Table of the Elements, and fun ones like Word Search.

These findings help us provide books that suit the preferences of Daniel and all his friends and also come up with recommendations for them to download. But we know they’re already doing a good job on their own. When Joseph (country manager in Ghana) first announced the winners of Vacation School, some of the students quickly pulled up their wish lists and went hunting for good reads with help from their parents, teachers, and friends. Jacqueline, a primary school teacher in iREAD, said: “I haven’t seen students so absorbed in their books like this before. I’ve hardly seen students discussing or recommending a book.”

No wonder teachers and students were excited to find out about the incentive card program. We’ll tell you more about that in Part 2.

(Via Worldreader Blog.)

Eschew Surplusage

A few of Mark Twain’s rules for writing:

  1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.
  2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it.
  3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.
  4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.
  5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.
  6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.
  7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a Negro minstrel at the end of it.
  8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.
  9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.
  10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.
  11. The characters in tale be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.
  12. The author should:
    Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
    Use the right word, not its second cousin.
    Eschew surplusage.
    Not omit necessary details.
    Avoid slovenliness of form.
    Use good grammar.
    Employ a simple, straightforward style.


How SOPA and PIPA affect Authors and their Readers

Shared from Indie Books List

I suppose you’ve seen all the posts on SOPA/PIPA today. You’ve noticed that Google has a blacked out logo, and that Wikipedia went dark in protest.  We considered going dark today, but we had authors that we had already informed of posting.

Instead, we are choosing to educate authors and readers on what this means for you. After all, most of this hullabaloo was started by the film industry and RIAA (the music industry’s lobbying arm)…two industries that have a defunct business model to begin with.

The question has yet to be answered: What does this mean for authors and their readers, specifically those that are published digitally?

After all, these bills are framed under the guise of  ”combatting content piracy and saving American jobs”. And who is for piracy? I would argue that not one of you would agree with piracy, simply because it deprives content creators  of their rightful income. Some of you even have experience with filing DMCA takedown requests to get your content removed from torrent sites.

What does this actually mean when it comes to selling books, or readers having access to those books?

Well, let’s start with what this law means for Indie Books List, and sites similar to ours. Right now, this doesn’t affect us that much. We currently have consent from the author to post a portion of their work. It’s a process that is overseen by a human being. We don’t link out to torrented copies of the author’s work. All of our links go directly to a site where you can purchase the author’s work.

Where does it really hit readers ? Well, suppose tomorrow I wanted to start a site where readers could post links to the authors they loved, and discuss those links in the comments. Let’s say I decide to start a site like GoodReads. Automatically, I become liable for the places the people on that site link to, even if I didn’t place the link there. Why? Because you can search through past posts to find certain keywords. That makes me a “Search Engine” under the language of SOPA/PIPA.

Guess what? I have to have thousands of moderators that now make sure that every link doesn’t go to stolen work. This slows down the flow of information. Free-flowing conversation can’t take place, because every place there is a link, someone has to ensure that it doesn’t link to stolen content. This is a massive administrative burden that would be placed on site owners. Rather than comply with the extra regulations, most sites would rather shut down.

When the free flow of information is cut off, readers can no longer share their favorite books easily and quickly. The pirates have no shortage of workarounds that they are willing to deploy. Your average reader doesn’t care to learn how to use these tools, as they are going to pay for the books they read.

This is bad for forums as well. Sites like Kindleboards have limited moderation. There are, I believe, five main moderators on that site. They do a fantastic job given the limited personnel they operate with. SOPA/PIPA would make them

…criminally liable for “committing or facilitating the commission [my emphasis] of criminal violations punishable under section 2318, 2319, 2319A, 2319B, or 2320, or chapter 90, of title 18, United States Code.” h/t to the Reddit Blog for this info.

Why? Because they become liable for every link posted on their site.

Now think about how this affects Google, Bing, and Yahoo…whose main concern is linking content on the internet and determining relevance. Instead of coding brand new features, these guys have to spend massive amounts of money on compliance, instead of R&D.

Think about how much this will hinder the discovery of new authors and books. Most book-based sites these days are formed with the sole intent of allowing readers to connect with an authors work. Usually it is accomplished by posting excerpts, ratings, reviews, or simply providing author info. For the sake of sanity, at least some part of this process is automated. Heck, WordPress is designed so that I don’t have to open a notepad and write a brand new HTML document every time I want to post an article. The reason is so that we can spend more time creating and innovating.

Now, for those of you who think SOPA or PIPA are smart ideas, I ask you to do one thing:

Go learn to program. Figure out how to semantically search and determine human intent, without actually having a human present to review everything. Make sure it vets all content, and ensures that it was legally obtained with 100% certainty. Then, make sure it’s small enough that most servers currently in production can run it, and still serve content. Finally, make it free for all sites everywhere.

After that, collect your Nobel…because the greatest minds in computer science and artificial intelligence have been working on this problem for years now, and have made very little progress when it comes to these goals. Unfortunately,  CSI and shows of their ilk have done a great disservice to the public’s understanding of technological advancement. It’s not a crime procedural, it’s SciFi. Guess what? So is the idea that even Google could overcome this problem in an automated fashion.

 In summary, SOPA/PIPA:

  • Handicaps the discovery of new authors and books
  • Brings information and the common sharing of knowledge to a screeching halt
  • Stifles innovation
  • Imposes an undue burden on people with existing and new technology services
  • Asks technology to provide a solution that isn’t technically feasible at this moment in time.
While piracy is a problem, that’s no reason to enact a badly worded law as the solution, especially when the pirates say it won’t affect them in the least.
I urge you to become more informed: Write or call your representative, share this page with a friend….do something. Unless you’d rather read, sell, or discover fewer good books in the future.

Kizuna: Fiction for Japan – help Japanese orphans

Found this on the Moorcock website.  Dated August 11, 2011, but the links still work and the cause is still important.


Edited by Brent Millis

Kindle ebook: $9.99

Print version: TBA




The earth shook. The waters rose. Japan cried out…

And we listened. After the devastating earthquake, people from all over the world have found ways to help, and Kizuna: Fiction For Japan is one that is new and unique.

Kizuna: Fiction for Japan is a mixed-genre anthology of short fiction, most of it 1000 words or under. It boasts internationally-known authors like Michael Moorcock, Ken Asamatsu, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, John Shirley, Shinya Gaku, Vittorio Catani, Robert M. Price, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., and Alvin Pang; genre-authors like Bradley Sands, Jason Wuchenich, Andersen Prunty, and Garrett Cook; and independent authors like Trent Zelazny and Glynn Barrass. An astonishing 76 authors answered the call to help and approximately ninety percent of it is
original work written specifically for this anthology. 100 percent of the proceeds will go to helping orphans in the disaster-devastated areas of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima via the NPO, Smile Kids Japan.

Smile Kids Japan

Smile Kids Japan and Living Dreams (NPOs / social benefit organizations) are working together on Smiles and Dreams, a program to help the orphanages in the worst affected prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate. From helping with immediate needs, to setting up long term programs to empower the children to dream again and help them realize their goals, Smiles and Dreams is a grassroots project that gets the money directly to those in need.

From the editor’s introduction:
“I turned to my friends in the writing community. Would they contribute? Sure they would! Soon I had ten authors. Then twenty. Thirty… Author friends of author friends were submitting. Authors from Spain, Singapore, Japan, Italy, New Zealand, Germany, France, America, the UK, Australia and Canada all stepped forward. I was stunned. Even now, as corny as it sounds, the gratitude I feel at their selfless desire to help makes me very misty-eyed.”

Please help spread the word of Kizuna, a word that means “bond” in Japanese, and create your own bond with the people of Japan.

For more information on the anthology, a list of stories, and ways to help with the disaster in
Japan, visit:


Kizuna: Fiction for Japan (a charity anthology) US EDITION

Kizuna: Fiction for Japan (a charity anthology) UK EDITION


US Ebook

UK Ebook


Createspace and Amazon

Special Plea

Please help us sell more books! Please tweet, Facebook, email and spread this news across the entire Internet.
It couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is share this link – – that will send your friends to the website where they can get all the information they need to purchase the book for the Kindle, and learn when this fine anthology goes to print.


A blogpost on TheDigitalReader about “World Reader” drew my attention.

What is WorldReader?

E-readers and e-books. They are normal things for us, for many among us they are daily goods. WorldReader wants to use them to change the world. Using e-readers and e-books, they want to educate the people who usually are not able to get to this kind of information, and ignite the love of reading in as many people as possible. WorldReader wants to help others, so shouldn’t we try to help WorldReader get into the eyes of the e-book world?


E-readers and e-books are much easier to transport and distribute because of their size and weight. They can be charged with simple solar panels etc. And they save trees.

If you want and can, post a link to their site or this post, mention them on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Diaspora, wherever you think it might help.