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I’m not an addict…

There are several things that I enjoy more than other things in life, the best ones are food, sleeping and writing. Okay, sex too, I’m only human. I get tremendous enjoyment from eating dark chocolate, crisps, and medium-rare steaks. I love eating in restaurants, where they not only serve delicious food, but also display it in an appetising manner. Since I was so unfortunate to get a severe case of glandular fever when I was nineteen years old, sleeping has been one of my most time-consuming past-times. It has become less since I passed the forty-five year mark, but I still enjoy a nice nap during daytime now and again. When I wrote my first book I got my first real high. I liken it to snorting cocaine (although I have never done this, so my comparison is purely based on hear-say). My life was great, I felt great and, as this goes hand in hand, sex was great! I got down when I started editing, but got high again when I wrote my second book. I haven’t been high since I finished that one.

I want to get high again. And I do a little bit, every time I eat a dark magic chocolate, every time I have one of those magical naps, and I am looking forward to reaching one of those magical highs again when writing. Does this mean I am an addict?

Since last year I have been trying to lose weight. I have been going to a gym (but gave up on that since the new year) and have been on the Cambridge diet for three months. All in all I have lost four kg. Nothing to rave about, but it is progress (still seven to go). What I didn’t expect was that every day I was on that diet I craved food. When I was writing I was okay, I didn’t need to snack. However, as soon as my children came home from school I changed into this other person. I would sneak in snacks, tell myself excuses to eat more, even eat behind my kids back. I think that qualifies as an addiction.

The strange thing is that I don’t mind not-eating when it isn’t there. I occupy myself with things that need doing (or not) and don’t eat at all. I can easily skip breakfast and have lunch at 2pm. No problemo. This week I have forgotten to organise grocery shopping. I was just too busy. We still had a lot in the cupboard and freezer to get by (although we went out for dinner yesterday :)) and hence didn’t have any cookies or crisps available (they never last long). And I didn’t miss them! When my kids told me they were peckish I told them to make a sandwich. They did. So, I didn’t go out to get crisps or cookies, I didn’t bake any, I didn’t steal lollies that my kids were hording in their room. Likewise with the sleeping. I have been too busy to sleep. Likewise with the sex. My DH and I have been sleeping on the landing since we started renovating our bedroom a few months ago. Having sex next to your children’s bedroom doors is as frequent as a visit to the moon. When we went to London for a day and stayed in a hotel for a night we caught up though :).

And then it finally hit me. I’m not an addict…

I am a sucker for temptation!

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Lessons Learned #14

This week I learned another valuable lesson that I want to share with you. I learned that your writing has to have a reason to be there. It sounds logical, but if you think about it it is harder than you think.

Why should my novel be there? There are so many love stories written, so why should people read mine? I could throw in a lot of sex and I’m sure it will be read. Just go to Amazon and put in the two words ‘vampire’ and ‘romance’ and you’ll be amazed what trash comes up, almost pornography if you ask me. But apparently it sells. I like my books to be a bit better than that. Sure, there are love scenes in it, but they have a purpose in the relationship arc I’m building, they’re not there to turn people on.

So what is it that makes a book a good book? Why should it be there? Because good books tell you more than what is written. Example: Finding Nemo is a story about fishes, no doubt about that, but it is also a story about a father-son relationship. Why did Nemo leave his father? What does his father learn whilst searching for his son? How has their relationship changed from the beginning to the end of the story?  There is a moral to the story. It is not something that is forced upon us. It is not a lesson that the writer wanted to teach us. It sort of happens, in the background. That’s why it’s a good story.

How do you write stories like these? I suppose you have to think about the background picture before you start writing. When I wrote my novels I didn’t think about  these underlying structures at all. Somehow they were there though. In my first novel Kate learns that true love is often found closer than you think and not necessarily in the prettiest person. In my second novel there are two story lines. First the change of mother-daughter relationship and second the husband-wife relationship. The book tells the story of the sacrifices/decisions made and the consequences that they bring and what impact they have on the relationships. Because I didn’t have these underlying stories in mind when I started writing I probably could have written them better, but I am happy that they’re sort of there.

For my third, and last book of the trilogy, I will certainly think more about these underlying story lines. Not only makes it for better reading, it also makes for better writing. If you know the characters and their traits by heart and which direction you want to go with them, it is so much easier to write about them; why they do the things they do and how they do the things they do (the little character traits that make them ‘alive’). I am hoping that with this extra effort put in my story line the book will be better than the first two.

Have a Happy Writing Weekend!

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Why?

I did it again. I can’t stop myself, I keep doing it. Doing what this time, you ask. Being a girlie. How? Well, I was having a discussion with my DH yesterday. It’s not important about what, it’s the way I handled it. I didn’t.

What happened was the following:

DH: “It’s blue.”

Me: “No, it’s red. But… it could be purple-ish… couldn’t it?”

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big issue, but it is.

Why? Because I was being submissive. I stated my opinion, which was on a 90 degrees angle from that of my DH’s, and then backed out, even tried to get his approval by adding the question mark. I tried to soften the blow, conform to his viewpoint. Why?

Why did I act submissive? I knew that I was right. I wasn’t brought up in a country where women need to be submissive, where women are treated as less than men. Was I? In that moment, right after I said ‘No, it’s red’ I felt aggressive, unsupportive, superior even. I instantly regretted I said it, the way I said it. Why?

Why can’t I say what I want to say? Like men do. They do, so why can’t I? Why?

Why, after all these years, do things still need to change…

Why?

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10 Reviews for Succedaneum – Living Like A Vampire on Amazon.com!

Hooray! I have ten reviews for my first book, Succedaneum – Living Like A Vampire, on Amazon.com! Slowly but surely we’re getting there. I also have three on Amazon.au, three on Amazon.co.uk and two on Amazon.nl., so I have eighteen in total. A bit to go yet before I can get on a promotional website, but it’s only been five months since it was released.

Most reviews are for four or five stars, which is a great boost as I was wondering whether I should write at all. But people seem to like what I have written. I only have one three-star review, which was a very honest review telling me I still have a long way to go to become a good writer (hey, I’m still wearing writer diapers here!). I also received a one star review, which appears to be a mistake as the person in question mentioned that they downloaded the sequel and wanted to read more in the series. It gave me a bit of a freight when I saw it first as it did take my overall rating in the UK down to three stars, but if people read the review they will realise what happened.

Mind you, I have only sold thirteen books. The most recent reviews were given by other authors after I gave them an ARC. It is great to get reviews from other authors as it gives you an idea of where you’re at. They could have said it was rubbish. But they didn’t. Phew!

If you haven’t read my book yet, you can get it by clicking on the top image of it in the left sidebar. It’s very entertaining, a good six hours read, and well worth the (little amount of) money! And tomorrow the price will go up, so get your copy now!

As I have promised so many other authors to read their books and give my honest opinion (I’ll be reading well into the new year by now) I can’t accept all requests. So I promised one author to put the blurb of his book on my blog, so here it is:

The Man Upstairs

– by Mark Fowler –

Frank Miller, hero of the best-selling mystery novels written by The Man Upstairs, works the weird streets of Chapeltown as a private detective. During the legendary case of the Black Widow everything changed when Frank became aware of his fictional existence. Proclaimed at the time as a work of genius, Frank wonders if it was the first sign that The Man Upstairs was sick.

This latest case, involving the death of a care worker, and coinciding with the appointment of Chapeltown’s first elected mayor, has Frank baffled. The Man Upstairs appears to be losing the plot, giving the womanising Frank a steady girlfriend, Marge, who warns him that to survive he must change from the tired cliché that he has become.

As the case darkens Frank recognises the depth of his creator’s sickness. His days are numbered as clearly as the pages in the books in which he features. The looming battle with the Mayor of Chapeltown is nothing less than the battle to save himself, Marge, the series – and the mind of The Man Upstairs.

The Man Upstairs is plotting to kill Frank Miller and take Chapeltown to hell.

If this has sparked your interest, it’s available here.

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Lessons Learned #13

Why do we do it?

I am, of course, not talking about ‘it,’ the f-word. I normally am not afraid to call a spade a spade, not sure if this is because of my Dutch background, but since this is the internet I will refrain from this. No, what I mean is, why do we do the things we do?

This last week I have been very busy, trying to get my website to look the way I want it to look, and doing things to get our film production moving (pun not intended, but oh so funny 🙂 )(sorry, my kind of humour).  And I loved it. I get a kick out of getting it right, out of finishing something, out of somebody noticing that I did something. Possibly because it doesn’t happen that often, but that is not the issue here. I don’t start doing things with that kick in mind, I do it because it has to be done. To have that kick at the end is the icing on the cake.

Sometimes people complain that what they do for the common good is not always good for them. So why do it? I could have not done what I did for the film group, I could have asked somebody else to do it. But I am the one with the most drive to do it (since I was the one that started this group), possibly the one with the most time on my hands. Nobody didn’t mind me doing it. But somebody might have not liked what I did. Would I still want to do it if this was so?

I compare it with raising children (since the film group is sort of my baby). Sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to do, but you do it for the common good (your children’s good). It doesn’t mean it is good for you. You might be too tired, prefer to do other things, or you have to give up something in order to do this thing for your child. But you do it, and with love. I don’t want praise for it. I don’t want a pat on the back. Sure, like I said, I get a kick if somebody does pat me on the back, but that’s not the reason why I do it. Your child might not like it, their friends may not like it. You do it because you know the end result will be better. Your kids will be better in the long run. That’s the thing you have to keep in mind: the future. Because if we didn’t do the things we do now, things will turn to shit in the end and everybody will be worse off.

The question is, of course, did you need to do it? Was it your job to do it? That depends on the situation, especially if more than one ‘parent’ is involved. Communication is the key! This is my motto as I think most problems in this world arise with inadequate communication. Call a spade a spade!

Have a Wonderful Weekend Doing It!

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New Theme

Yes, you’ve come to the right site! I just changed the theme of my page. Do you like it? I’m not too happy about the colours, and the fact that the page is stuck to the left hand side instead of centre itself in the middle. But after hours of looking for (a free) one that has two side bars, I’m happy :).

Why do I want two sidebars? Because I want one for navigation, so it is easier for you to find the blog you are looking for. I wanted the second one to make it easy for you to buy my books! If you haven’t already, and want to spend a few hours enjoying a light read with romance, drama, action, suspense, and humour (yes, all of that!), feel free to click on one of my books on the left. It will take you to the Amazon site where you can buy them. If you don’t live in the US it will ask you to go to your country’s Amazon site. Simple as that :).

Sunrise.JPG

 

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Juggling…

I am trying to juggle at the moment. I never was any good at it. I could do it with two balls, sort of, but I never managed three. I knew girls who made it seem so easy, they could even do it with four! I have asked them how they did it, but all I got was ‘just do it.’ Much help that was.

Now I’m trying to juggle with more than I could ever handle. I’m trying to follow these writing courses, to advertise my books, to keep up with FARG entries, to read and write reviews for fellow authors, to write for the local writers’ club, to blog, to keep my Twitter entries interesting, to write my new book, to run the film group I started, and on top of that I need to keep my family taken care of (no, not in the final way).

I think I must be slightly manic-depressive, because I know I’m going to crash soon, experience tells me. I have these moments that I take on so much. I could take on the whole world if they wanted me to! And then there come the moments I come to nothing, when I prefer to stay in bed all day (and sometimes do). Fortunately I have this miracle husband, who never asks, never blames, never points the finger. He just takes me as I am. Frustrating sometimes, I admit, but good in the long run.

I don’t know how other people do it, ‘to stand in the middle of life.’ I don’t know if that’s a typical Dutch expression or not, but what I mean with it is that some people just do, and keep doing. I can’t. Everything is an effort. Usually I only do because there is a deadline. I run out of dishes, I have visitors coming, kids are waiting at school… I bought car wash soap the other day. My car needs washing. But I can’t make myself do it. Just the thought of getting wet horrifies me. I’ve driven past the car wash a couple of times, but it keeps being shut. And there is no deadline, so it will never happen…

When I write I don’t have this problem. Writing is not a chore for me. I don’t need to leave the house, I don’t need to get dressed, and, the best part, I can do what, when, where and how I want in my stories! Nothing is holding me back! It is such a wonderful feeling, it is almost intoxicating! I wished I could be like that in real life, but, alas, I am only me…

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Poem…

from https://www.facebook.com/Carpe-the-fuck-out-of-that-diem-327509437348358/?fref=photo
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Lessons Learned #12

Passive vs. Active voice

Some say that using the passive voice is the first deadly sin in writing (see first reference below). I’m not sure if this is true, but it is certainly frowned upon in the writing community in general. To understand what passive voice is you need to know what active voice is first.

In active voice, the subject performs the action of the verb upon the object: Eve ate the apple. Eve is the subject and she ate (the verb) the apple (the object).

The passive form of this sentence would be: The apple was eaten by Eve. Here the apple, formerly the object, has now become the subject of the sentence. But the eating is not done by the apple, it’s still done by Eve. So this is passive voice; the action (verb) is not done by the subject of the sentence.

Why not use passive voice?

Readers don’t like passive voice because it is elaborate writing; the sentences are longer than they should be. Passive voice also makes it unclear regarding who did what. It is particularly unwanted in academic writing where everything must be explained and vagueness is not accepted. Although to stay objective on certain subjects it is sometimes accepted to keep the scientist out of the sentence and rewrite the whole sentence in a way that it’s not the person but the data that suggest a certain outcome. And then there are some people who just don’t understand passive writing, so in general it is better to write in the active voice.

How to find out if you’ve used passive voice?

If you find it unclear if you used active or passive voice, Rebecca Johnson suggested to put ‘by zombies’ behind the verb. If the sentence makes sense, it’s passive voice. If it’s not, it’s active voice. Personally I would prefer to use ‘by vampires’ :). Eve ate by vampires; doesn’t make sense hence it’s an active voice. The apple was eaten by vampires: makes sense hence it’s a passive voice. Although vampires would never eat apples of course…

When can or should we use passive voice?

There are also good reasons to use passive voice. Here are a few:

  • When you don’t know ‘who did it.’‘This person was murdered (by vampires).‘ The killer is unknown, hence it is okay to write it this way.
  • When you don’t want people to know who did it. ‘His blood supply was cut off (by vampires) accidentally.‘ In this sentence they don’t want to emphasize who were the perpetrators.
  • When it doesn’t matter who did it. ‘Glasses were filled (by vampires).‘ Who cares who did it, we’ve got some drinking to do!
  • When everybody already knows who did it. ‘The blood was then consumed (by vampires).’ The emhasis is on the consumption, not on who did it.
  • When you want to sound authoritative. ‘Killing tourists (by vampires) is forbidden!

 

Have a Happy Writing Weekend!

 

https://www.hamilton.edu/writing/seven-sins-of-writing/the-first-deadly-sin-passive-voice
http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/active-voice-versus-passive-voice
https://www.grammarly.com/blog/a-scary-easy-way-to-help-you-find-passive-voice/
http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/style-and-editing/passive-voice
https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/CCS_activevoice.html

 

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Family

I just survived the weekend with my family. I can’t remember if I ever spent time with just my mother and my two sisters alone. There were always boyfriends/husbands and/or children there with us. Apart from the fact that there is this ‘thing’ between my older sister and myself, we got along marvellously well. Not that we discussed life issues, that is something that isn’t done. My mother and I do, together on Skype. But my sisters don’t. I don’t know why. Why is it not done to talk about your inner feelings, your happiness, with family? Isn’t that the stuff that you explicitly share with family only?

Now I’m back home again I’m joining the discussions on FARG again. The group for authors, by authors. And I feel more at home than I did last weekend. We discuss all sorts (writing related mostly), and some pour out their inner fears (me included) and we share each other’s happiness when book sales go well. I am more myself with these people whom I have never met than with my sisters.

My sisters don’t read, they haven’t read my books and they never, ever will. When we were visiting Edinburgh Castle they followed the stream of people, but they weren’t interested in the history of the place. I still don’t know much more about it than before my visit as we spent most of our time chatting over a cup of coffee in the cafeteria. I liked that, I had missed that, but I still don’t get why they didn’t want to know more about such a historic place, realising they would probably never go there again. Instead of visiting Camera Obscura afterwards they opted for shopping. Visiting shops they also have in Holland. It just blows my mind.

I love my sisters dearly, but sometimes I think I’m adopted…

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Lessons Learned #11

‘Read the books you want to write.’ It sounds so simple. I like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I like Douglas Adams’s trilogy in four parts. My latest favourite being Mark Forsyth’s book (The Elements of Eloquence), which, apart from being incredibly informative, is very funny. They all contain stories told with tongue in cheek. But I don’t think I could ever write like that. Let’s face it; I’m not a funny person. People don’t hang around me because whenever I open my mouth they are rolling on the floor, peeing their pants laughing. I like to laugh, I do, that’s why I read those funny books.

I notice that  that’s what draws me into a story; humour. I don’t like to read somebody droning up a narrative that is dull and unexciting. I have enough of that in my own life. I like to read a piece that uses exaggerations, funny comparisons, unimaginable situations. It’s almost like having an adventure; you know you want to go there but you also know it will never happen to you, you’re on safe ground. That’s why it’s so attractive.

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So that is what reading is for me; going on an adventure. I suppose that’s why people watch soap operas. The people in these dramas have far from normal lives. They cheat, they steal, they get involved into all sorts of trouble. Normal people, who lead normal lives and going to work nine to five, don’t have to deal with this kind of stuff. They don’t have to confront drug lords, steal cars or find their long lost sibling who they happened to have fallen in love with. I find this kind of entertainment, movies in general, the tofu version of a good book, at least as far as imagination goes. When you’re into a book you get swept away into that world. Your imagination goes into overdrive, imagining the characters, the surroundings, the emotions flying around the room. When you watch a screen production that is all chewed out for you, your imagination is put in the back seat. Just absorb and let your imagination wither. It’s a fast-food way of entertainment. I like it, I won’t deny it. I saw four movies last weekend. What can I say, I’m only human and part of this take-away consumption world.

Nothing, however, can compete with a good book with some humour in it. What do we remember after reading a book, watching a movie, seeing a stand-up comedian? The one-liners, the funny bits, the remarks that make you poke your companion in the ribs. It’s not so much the exact words that stick, it’s the feeling that remains. It made you happy. Nobody wants to feel sad. After you’ve been through childbirth you don’t remember all the pain and suffering that came with it (and that sometimes still continues 🙂 ). The thing you remember is that wonderful feeling of happiness of holding your child in your arms for the first time. Our bodies crave that feeling. Even if we don’t realise it, we are all in search of happiness.

That’s why I read funny books. And that’s why I try and put some humour into my books; so I can give my readers a bit of happiness too 🙂 .

j4pae7e2_ws-jared-erondu e

(photo by Jared Erondu, from Unsplash)

Have a Happy Writing Weekend!

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Pleasure or Pain?

Tomorrow my mother and two sisters will arrive to visit me. We will spend one night in my house and then go to Edinburgh for three days. And I am dreading it…

You must understand that I get along very well with my twin sister. We have been two peas in a pod since birth (almost literally). Even though we are twins we couldn’t be more different. She is tall, has sleek hair, a beautiful body and is very outgoing. I am short and squatty, have ‘bushy’ hair and are more of an introvert. Some people even don’t want to accept we are remotely related! However, whatever we say or do, we never fight, we never quibble, we never argue. We accept each other for who we are and that’s all there is to it.

I love my Mum. She is my best friend. We talk for hours on Skype (with coffee on both sides) at least once a week. We tell each other our inner feelings, our fears and joys. And lots of stuff that doesn’t matter. We haven’t always seen eye to eye. I must admit that I haven’t always been a nice daughter to her, but she has never complained. She took it in her stride to support me financially when I wanted to study, even when her husband left her and never paid any alimony. I am what I am today because of her sacrifices. And I am eternally grateful.

Now my older sister is an entirely different story. From the moment I was born she didn’t like me. Before, she was the single child, the one that everybody doted on. My twin sister and I were competition and as I was the curly-blond-haired, blue-eyed chubby-cheeks, I became the focal point of her hatred. My mother of course never let her hurt me (she did try though), so her attitude towards me developed into one that thrived on words and hidden actions. She would say I was fat and ugly when nobody was around; she would use my hairspray without asking; she would wear my clothes and throw them in a corner never to be found; she would invite me to parties, only to ridicule me in front of her friends. She became the queen of hidden jabs. She would say things that, to bystanders, would mean absolutely nothing, but you knew that at the same time she was stabbing you with a thousand daggers. So you can imagine that as soon as she left home we didn’t really stay in contact.

When my Mum brought her to visit me in Australia a few years ago (she would never do that out of her own free will), it came to a clash. I casually mentioned that she used to be a bi-etch when we lived at home. Just stating a fact, you know, talking about ‘the good old days.’ From that moment on the switch was flipped. It went from bad to worse, up to a point that we sat in the car, driving from Melbourne to Adelaide, without saying a word to each other. With my mother in the back seat. I felt so sorry for her! We ended up talking to each other again later that holiday, but deep down the relationship hadn’t mended.

And now she’s coming again. For the second time in my live she is visiting me. Again, dragged over by my mother, but still. My house is an absolute mess, more like a building zone due to the renovations. She is the type that will have her husband paint the walls a different colour three times until she likes it, whilst I will ‘happily’ live in this disaster area for years. Fortunately we’ll only stay here one night, as I don’t think she would be able to cope for longer, and I booked us into a nice B&B in Edinburgh for two nights. I searched the web for evening entertainment, but for the capital of culture it is for Scotland there is little, if not nothing, on that weekend. So we’ll go out for dinner… and talk…

Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister. She is, after all, blood. I have two ‘ex-brothers,’ sons of my step-father, who divorced my mother when we were teenagers (and his sons left home). I grew up with them, not knowing any different than them being my brothers, but since they left they are nothing to me. I have no urge to keep in contact with them, and neither do they with me. Yet with my sister I keep trying to mend the bond. I don’t know what it is that drives me to this, so I call it ‘blood.’ I have no other explanation. Whether it is some sort of obscure gene survival thing, I don’t know, but it’s there, I need to support her for some unknown reason. I used to pity her, being the odd one out and all, but I don’t anymore. I think life is what you make it and she chose to make it hell. She said to my Mum once that she had an unhappy childhood. She had the same upbringing as my twin sister and I had and we think we had a very happy childhood (even with an evil sister 🙂 ). But she is my sister and we are my Mum’s three daughters.

As a way of closing the gap I suggested we each have a tattoo that depicts our bond. We decided upon the number three, each in our own fashion. We haven’t decided upon a location though. Both of my sisters have tattoos already, I have none. I have never been able to think of one that I could live with for the rest of my life. But I could live with the number three, for we are three, once and for all.