Book Reviews

I am a happy (not easter) bunny today; I went on my Amazon report site and saw that I have already sold five of my sequel books. Thank you all, buyers! I can only deduct that you liked the first book, so I must have done something right :).

I wasn’t happy when I noticed that one of the reviews disappeared. I have no idea why, but if you have put in your review, could you please check if it is still there? And if you haven’t put it in after finishing the book, can you please give a(n honest) review?

Still a happy bunny though 🙂

Lessons Learned #8

Writing takes time

I have just published my second novel and have ideas for the third in my head. For some time now I also have an idea for a completely different story and have actually started on another one. But I haven’t been able to find the time to sit down and actually write!

They say that self-publishing writers should spend ten percent of their time writing and the remaining 90 percent on advertising their work. So I have started twittering, I have started blogging, which I quite enjoy by the way, and have started bothering my friends about buying my books. I must admit I don’t like to ask my friends to buy stuff from me, but I was between a rock and a hard place. In the mean time I am also trying to finish two online courses and renovating our house. And, to make things worse, I decided to crash my friend’s party in Australia, from which I am now writing this blog!

To be able to actually write again I need to set apart time for that. I had told myself earlier that I was going to work in the house for three hours every day and work on my writing the time that was left over. Somehow neither happened.

As a writer you are your own boss and you need a strict routine. This is hard if you don’t have a lot of self-discipline. When I wrote my first novel I had no problem putting everything aside. I wrote forteen hours a day for a fortnight long! I suppose I had the story already and just needed to put it on paper.

As I am learning on my course of scriptwriting, it is good to know your storyline before putting pen to paper, but it does take away a bit of the creative process. During my first and most of my second novel I let me pen flow freely on the paper, so to speak, and didn’t plan the storyline. I will attempt to plan the third story a bit more as I want to make it a bit more intricate than I have so far. This means that I need to sit down and think about it. It is hard to sit down and not have a result, i.e. writing, when you have so many other things to do. Seeing the bigger picture will need to keep you going doing the small stuff.

But first I am going to enjoy meeting up with all my friends in Australia!

Three out of four is too bad!

This blog is not about writing, but I need to write it.

I just Skyped this morning with my mother for nearly three hours and discussed the sexual assault by my uncle, my mother’s brother, that happened to me nearly thirty years ago. We also chatted about a family funeral that happened yesterday, and the little trip we are planning with my sisters in the coming month or so. But the main feature for me was to relive that memory. I had actually forgotten that it had happened, I have not been so traumatised by it that I can’t go on living my life. Somehow it came up in our conversation and we talked about how we both had experienced it.

In my last blog I mentioned that I  never write about my family or friends’ experiences, but this is my experience. And I want everybody to hear what I’ve got to say about it.

Thirty years ago my uncle had recently gone through a divorce. His ex-wife had also taken his rights to see his daughter away, but we never really knew why. I always got along really well with my uncle. He told weird stories about aliens and magic healings. I was nineteen at the time and was aware that he was a bit of a weirdo himself. A great storyteller though and I loved to listen to him. I had just graduated from high school and was planning to move to Australia on my own. That day, my uncle hugged me on passing me in the hallway and, innocent me, just thought he wanted to share with me that he was going to miss me. So I let him. My mother left to visit her aunt and my uncle left with her to go home. However, after my mother got a few groceries she decided it was too late for a visit and returned home. Just before she got home she saw my uncle to into our house again, he had the key. She wondered why he returned, but thought nothing of it.

At some stage we’re sitting on the couch in the living room, next to each other. My mother was cooking dinner in the kitchen. My uncle and I had nothing to talk about, for a change, so we just sat there listening to the music. All of a sudden he was sticking his tongue in my mouth, trying to give me a French kiss (a very bad one at that, but what did I know?). I pushed him off me and called him an idiot. I immediately tried to make it sound not as bad as I didn’t want to offend him! I got up, changed the music tape (it was 1987) and went upstairs to my room. I didn’t know what to do. So I cried.

When my mother called me to let me know dinner was ready, she heard me cry. When she came up I told her what had happened. She stormed downstairs to my uncle and asked him what the hell he was doing. He pretended that he had no clue what she was on about. When my mother explained what I had told her, he ran upstairs, came into my room and sat down next to me. He even put his arm around me. And TOLD ME TO SHUT UP. I couldn’t believe I was hearing this! I immediately moved away from him and my mother, who had stormed up after him, sat herself between us (she had heard his words too, fortunately) and yelled at him to get out of her house. I didn’t see him for years after that.

It gets even ‘better,’ so keep on reading.

My sisters were shocked, of course, when we told them what happened. He was our uncle and why would he do such a thing. My mother asked all of us if he had ever done anything like this earlier, to any of us. Which fortunately was all answered with ‘no.’ After I had gone to bed, my mother first went to my grandmother’s place and told her what had happened. Gran was also very shocked. Back at home my mother called her aunt, whom she had a very good relationship with, and informed her of the situation. She was very upset with it as well, as can be imagined. It is good for a woman to have a network to fall back upon, if only for moral support. The next day, Sunday morning, everybody gathered at my grandmother’s house as per usual. We don’t know what had happened in between that time, but my grandmother had turned like a leaf on a tree. She attacked my mother for making such an atrocious accusation, ‘AFTER ALL, WE WERE TALKING ABOUT HER CHILD.’ My mother of course flipped. ‘What about my child, your granddaughter, THE VICTIM?’ But gran didn’t want to hear any of it. Oh, and my mother shouldn’t have told her aunt either, that was a big faux pas according to my gran. My mother’s relationship with her mother never was the same after this incident.

Now here comes the worst part…

Big deal, you may think. ‘I wasn’t raped, it was just a kiss, so why the fuss,’ as per the words of my own grandmother. But out of the four women of my family – my mother, my two sisters and myself – three of us have been sexually assaulted at least once during our lives. And I’m not sure nothing happened to the fourth one. Is this due to a flawed gene that runs in the family? Were we all harassed by the same sick family member? Did we act or dress inappropriately. No, no, no and no! All three occasions happened to us at various times in our lives; from nine-years-old to mid-twenties. It was done by various people; strangers, colleagues, uncles. It happened in various locations; in the neighbourhood, at work, at home. And it didn’t happen to the same person that acted flirtatious, dressed sexy and kept walking in the wrong place at the wrong time. All I can deduct is that there just is no place that a woman is ever safe.

The three of us have survived these traumas. Not only because it wasn’t as severe as being raped, but also because we are strong women. We don’t let these pathetic men ruin our lives with the memory of them violating our bodies. But now, almost thirty years later, I still struggle with the fact that I didn’t act when it happened to me. Why didn’t I want to call him an idiot. Because that’s what he was. Why didn’t I want to hurt his feelings? He hurt mine. Why didn’t I tell my mother right there and then what happened? That would have been the sensible thing to do. Instead, I tried to deal with it on my own, which I couldn’t. I was lucky that my mother stood up for me. Like her aunt had done for her when it happened to her. As a result the man who attacked her, a stranger, was arrested. We didn’t contact the police when my uncle assaulted me though. The thought didn’t even enter my mind at the time. He was family and, as I probably would have expected them to say, it was ‘just a kiss.’ I have no doubt, though, that if she hadn’t decided to return home early like she did I would have been raped by my uncle. My mother stopped him from touching me, but heaven knows how many women he has assaulted after me.

How many women are out there, who have been violated so much worse. Women who don’t dare to speak up because the acts forced upon them have been so grose and disgusting that they themselves don’t dare to speak about it. How many women are out there, who don’t have anybody to talk to about it. I am lucky that I have a loving family and can talk about these things, to help me get over it. But how many women have tried to speak out, only to be met with resistance or, worse, apathy? I can’t get over the fact that there are women, like my grandmother, that are actively trying to put it away, sweep it under the carpet. Women should not tolerate sexual assault of any kind. Not from anybody, be it husbands, sons or brothers. Not against their own bodies, nor against that of others.’ Not in any shape or form. Our bodies are ours and we decide if, when and how you can touch it.  I’m not a feminist. I accept that men and women are different, but I believe that we are equal in that we have the same rights, especially the right to happiness.

So I urge every woman to speak up, to say no to sexual harassment, immediately when it happens. Don’t accept any physical contact as ‘a little joke,’ ‘playing around’ or ‘just being nice.’ Colleagues don’t invade each other’s personal space. Family members don’t touch each other in a sexual way unless they are married and the feeling is mutual. Men should not touch private parts of children unless you are a doctor and have a medical reason for doing so. And don’t just tell them off but also report it! Nothing will be done, nothing will change, if nobody knows! You may be called a bitch, an ice queen, or even a cunt after making these perpetrators stand in the spotlight for their distasteful actions, but at least you’ll keep your dignity, have no regrets and earn respect. You may not get any respect from them, but you certainly will earn respect from all the women around you, especially those ‘would-have-been-victims-after-you’!

Comments, Pingbacks and Trackbacks

Oh dear, I just figured out that I had to manually tick boxes for other people to be able to comment on my pages and for pingbacks and trackbacks. I had no idea what these latter ones meant so I had to Google them. Now I know what they are I’m not sure if I’m going to use them, I don’t have much of a network yet. But I don’t mind others using it. If they know how to work them 🙂

For the people that have tried to comment on my pages, I’m sorry that you couldn’t. But it’s now fixed, so comment away!!!

Lessons Learned #7

What I learned this week is that as a writer, which can be a very lonely vocation, you still need a lot of friends.

As my first novel has disappeared into the Amazon abyss I was looking for ways to promote my book. I have several options.

KDP Select

The first, and most logical one, is to join KDP Select. This is a special group of Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, where your book is managed by Amazon. Your book will enter the free online library and will get more exposure that way. You will also earn a greater percentage for every book bought in certain countries (Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico; countries I have not had a single sale in yet). You can have discount deals or free offers. The downfall of this is that you have no say in when or how long these free sales or deals are. Just the fact that you have no say at all over the price of your book doesn’t attract me. I know my book is pretty cheap, but I still like to be in control.

Promotion Websites

The other way to promote your book is to add your book to promotion websites. These websites will advertise your book and direct customers to wherever your book is for sale. Sounds great! Until you read the requirements. Manybooks asks for $25. This may seem like a small amount for a promotion. But if you take in that I already spent £150 to have the book proofread (which is rather a good deal I got, most of them ask for more than £700) and only earn £0.35 per individual sale, I really don’t want to spend a lot more money if I can get out of it. The Fussy Librarian asks for the following ratings before being eligible: 10 reviews and a 5.0 rating , 11 to 19 reviews and a 4.0 rating, or 20 reviews and a 3.5 rating. These can be across the various Amazon countries. So far (globally) I have three 5-star ratings and two 4-star ratings. So The Fussy Librarian is still a bit too fussy for me. Booksends asks for at least 5 reviews, with a high overall average, an attractive cover, and a planned sale price of less than $3 and at least 50% off full price. My dilemma with this one is that my book is already at the minimum price of £0.99. Amazon doesn’t let me make it any cheaper than that.

So, at the moment, I’m between a rock and a hard place. I want to promote my books to get more sales, but I need more sales (and hence reviews) to promote my books.

Friends

That’s when a writer needs friends! Usually the writer vocation is a very lonely one. You sit behind your computer, on your own, most of the time. It has its advantages, like sitting in your pj’s all day and picking your nose whenever you feel like it. But I wouldn’t be able to write all these weird and wonderful stories if I didn’t have any friends. I try not to put any live-experiences of my close friends and relatives in my stories, but over the years they have given me enough ‘subject matter’ to get my creative spirit going. And I am very grateful for that. Otherwise I have never asked them for much, I don’t like to ask for help. I just enjoy their companionship, which is, I hope, mutual. This last week I was brave, got all my courage together, and called for help though. I asked them all to buy my book and give a review. The sales didn’t sky-rocket, but I got a little boost. I now have reviews in the US, the UK, The Netherlands and AUS!

My dear friends, I am hoping that you are enjoying my book (and that you don’t forget to write the review afterwards)!

Busted!

During the screenwriting course I am doing we had to do a little exercise today, to develop ‘character voice.’ We had to take a character, one we didn’t have much info on, possibly a new character, and write a piece on their eating habits and then stress them. You know, rob them, arrest them, have their credit card declined. Something to make the character struggle to get out of the situation. The character’s dialogue and action would then create the basic elements of voice.

I took a vampire from my ‘Vampires Anonymous’ short story (top right-hand side of my page) and came up with the following:

VAMPIRE: Prepare to die!
Vampire takes hold of victim’s coat and moves to bite the victim’s neck.
VICTIM: Oh dear! Did you, eh, did you fill your quota yet?
Vampire keeps a hold of the victim, but retreats his head.
VAMPIRE: What?
VICTIM: Did you already kill two people this week?
VAMPIRE: Yes, and you are next!
Vampire moves to bite again.
VICTIM: Ha, you can’t kill me then!
Vampire retreats again.
VAMPIRE: Why not?
VICTIM: Because you’ve reached your quota.
VAMPIRE: But I am thirsty.
VICTIM: You still can’t kill me. It’s against the law.
VAMPIRE: It’s a stupid law.
VICTIM: But it’s still the law. If we all did what we wanted we wouldn’t be here right now, would we?
VAMPIRE: I would.
VICTIM: Yes, I suppose so. But I wouldn’t, that’s for sure, haha.
VAMPIRE: I’m so glad you are a law-abiding citizen!
Vampire moves to bite for the third time. Before he reaches the victim’s neck a shot is heard and the vampire slumps. The victim is standing with a smoking pistol in his hand.
VAMPIRE: What did you do that for? It hurts!
VICTIM: I’m sorry, Mister, but’ you’re busted.
Victim reaches inside breast pocket and shows police badge.
VICTIM: You’re under arrest.

Of course the exercise was supposed to be a more dramatic piece, but I liked it :).

My NYC Midnight Short Story Review

I finally got the review of my short story ‘Choices’ back! Overall I’m quite happy with it. I don’t know the writer they are talking about (my daughter does), but the comments are agreeable. No mentioning of the carpenter though, which surprised me.

Dear Jacky Dahlhaus,

The feedback from the judges on your Short Story Challenge 2016 submission from 1st Round is below.  We hope you find the feedback helpful and you enjoyed the competition!

 ”Choices” by Jacky Dahlhaus – WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY –

…………Odd little story — I like that it’s told from such a strange POV. Very hard to pull off, but you do this well. Consistency throughout, and real tension/ drama. …………………………A compelling and unique way to incorporate all three contest elements.  Nice dramatic tension……………………………….…………………………The story commits fully to the wolf perspective, with clear evidence of an attempt to get into a very different, even alien, point of view…….……………………………………………………………  WHAT THE JUDGE(S) FEEL NEEDS WORK – …………I think you handle this well from start to finish. There are places where the transitions to back-story need a little work — not always convincing, and sometimes a little predictable. Even so, this is a fun idea. I wonder if you know Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother series? …………………………I felt able to predict the ending well before it occurred.  I wonder about rejigging it a bit, to catch the reader by surprise.  The final line, also, felt overly sentimental……………………………….…………………………While the language being simpler than a human’s makes sense, it feels child-like and innocent in a way that doesn’t fit the wild, rough life of the wolves. …………………………………………………………………

 

 

Rick

Just letting you know about my new short story called ‘Rick’. It is a story I wrote for Create50 and then forgot about it. I don’t think it’s good enough for a competition entry, but maybe a nice one to use for my film group.

You can find it in my list of short stories at the right-hand top of my page.

There is also one with an alternative ending; more horror (don’t worry, just a little bit).

Let me know what you think about it 🙂

No winner…

I am sorry to inform you that my story ‘Choices’ has not been successful in the #NYC Midnight competition. To be honest I didn’t think it would and actually am glad I don’t have the pressure of writing these next few days. I have plenty on my plate and will not twiddle my thumbs! It was a good exercise though and can’t wait to have the review back. I guess the main critique will be that the ‘carpenter’ part of the story wasn’t strong enough. Time will tell…

What a shame…

I bit the bullet today and Tweeted to Peter Dinklage to find out if he has read the first draft I sent him of my novel ‘Succedaneum – Living Like A Vampire,’ when he was still filming season 6 of GoT in Ireland. That was the 29th of September last year. I am so curious if he read it at all. When I sent it I got a message back that somebody received it, signing with ‘Ice ‘n Fire’, but I have no idea if this was Peter. Of course I hope that it was and if not that they sent it through to him.

The reason I sent it to him is, of course, that the character ‘Charlie’ from my novel is based on him. I didn’t start out writing about Charlie with Peter Dinklage in mind, but I specifically did pick a dwarf. I knew I needed a comic relief, a sidekick, next to Kate. I thought of a dog first, but my DH told me that would be too much like the Twilight series. So a dwarf it was. And as soon as I started writing about Charlie, I liked him. His interaction with Kate was so funny and exciting; it really spiced up the story. I actually liked him more than Caleb and the story line completely changed. As I don’t know any dwarfs myself (do you?), the character automatically morphed into Peter Dinklage. I hope he doesn’t mind. I just hope he likes the story. I really would like to know what he thinks about it, any comment would do, really, anything…

So here I was, sitting in my bedroom, which I am renovating, hands full with Plaster of Paris, trying to tweet without getting my phone too dirty. First the question of course, ‘Did you read my novel, the one I sent you when you were in Ireland?’ Then the message that the novel has now been proofread and edited and is available on Amazon, adding that there is also a sequel. I so hope that my first draft didn’t deter him too much as it was full of spelling mistakes and dreadful writing. I was just too eager to send it to him… And the third tweet was the link to the Amazon.com website. Just in case he couldn’t find it, you know, to make sure.

All chuffed I continued my plastering for about ten minutes, when I realised that I could also send him the next novel. So, back on my phone, I typed ‘Peter Dinklage contact details’ into Google and one of the first entries was a Reddit interview. I browsed through it, trying to find these contact details and read these words by Peter Dinklage in the second paragraph:

“I am not on Twitter (ahem)…”

What a shame…