Graphic Public Service Announcement

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If I were in charge of the posters in airports, train stations and tram stops, they might look something like this.


Or like this:


I might even get a bit preachy.


Or blunt and demanding.


Okay. I’ll admit that this blogpost is inspired by my recent caving in to yet another social media platform: Instagram. I ignored it for years based on its’ name alone. As a writer, I savor a well-written article, short-story or book. I enjoy taking the time for a story to unfold on the page. Instagram was for me the antithesis of this idea.

As you can see by my little image gallery here, I’ve been using the app Phoster to combine words and images for my Instagram posts. I have to admit, it’s been fun.

Speaking of fun, the proof for my second novel The Things We Said in Venice just shipped. Any bloggers or columnists who are into reviewing books, please let me know if you’d like a review copy.

Any readers up for a light, travel romance, my second novel should be available to order by mid-May! The cover of my second novel is still a secret, but if I were to announce it’s pending arrival in Instagram terms . . .

Second Novel Headed Your Way

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2017 will bring many new things, including my second novel, The Things We Said in Venice. In just six words, you have already learned quite a bit about this story.  There were some important things said that warrant enough discussion for a novel. They were said in Venice, and there’s a ‘we’ involved. We and Venice suggest either a mercantile venture or romance. I’m guessing you’ve deduced which of these two options apply.

Over the last year of writing The Things We Said in Venice, I’ve gotten to know the characters quite well. So well, in fact, that they come into my thoughts when I’m out for a run or headed to the green grocer. Although they have been trying to talk me into a sequel, The Things We Said in Venice is currently a stand alone novel.

Some of my readers have asked me if my second novel is an eco-romance like my debut novel Green. I was all geared up to say, “No. Not at all.” But as I re-read the final draft, I realized that both characters are quite aware of the environmental issues facing us today. They’re not eco-preachy like Jake Tillerman (lead male character of Green) and the book isn’t shaped around an environmental disaster. The lead characters of The Things We Said in Venice are like many of us. They are living in the age of climate change, melting ice caps and disappearing species and these facts inform the way they think and interact with the world.

If you enjoy travel, have a sense of humor and like being swept up into a romantic journey of love conquers all, then this book is for you! (More details to come in the following weeks!)

Want to be notified as soon as The Things We Said in Venice is available? Then drop me a message and I will add you to the early notification list.

 

Failure and Success as Synonyms

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If you occasionally check out my author website, you might get the impression, based on the lack of updated blog posts, that I’ve thrown in the writing towel and dropped off the face of the earth.

Au contraire! I have been writing on a semi-regular basis, just offline. And what are the results of my efforts?  The completion of my second novel!

I wish I was writing to inform my multitudes of followers (humor me for a minute) that my second novel will soon be released.  The instant gratification part of me is twitching it’s fingers and wants to hire someone to design an eye catching cover and then upload my manuscript and self-publish. After all, I’ve spent over a year writing and rewriting, having it edited and rewriting again. As soon as it comes back from the proofreader, wouldn’t it be logical to publish it online?

I listened to that voice when I published my debut novel Green in October of 2013. In fact, I didn’t even consider the traditional route of attempting to get an agent or starting the arduous process of submitting to publishers. I read enough books about publishing and novel writing to know the chances of getting an agent and getting published are both slim. Take this quote for example:

“A literary agent may get 5,000 query letters a year. Only a fraction of these will lead to the agent requesting the manuscript. If you think about it, an agent reading one out of a hundred submissions must read 50 books every year!” Source: Mark O’Bannon’s article on Betterstorytelling.net.

I could find a hundred more quotes that would justify a second round of self-publishing as the most logical route. But there is another voice within me that has been gaining ground over the last six months, and she has been saying something rather wise: Why not try? Do the research; do it right; put in the time. If it doesn’t work out, who cares? You can self-publish.

But my ego cares. I’m sure on some level my id and superego also care. Because really; who wants to set themselves up in an almost statistically guaranteed position of rejection? And who wants to admit failure? Despite all of this logic, that steady voice within keeps telling me to defer the excitement of sharing my latest novel with the world and invest the time and energy into getting it published–despite the odds. After all, if I fail in being selected out of those thousands of manuscripts, I will have at least tried. This is almost as big an accomplishment as writing the darned book in the first place! wouldn’t you agree?

Now that I’ve made that decision, it’s almost like the universe is providing me with the framework to take the first step.

This past Monday I attended the first Connecting Women gathering of the year in The Hague. The topic? Failing: A gift in Disguise, presented by psychologist Vassia Sarantopoulou. (And yes, with a name like that she is Greek).

In less than an hour, she took the word failure and transformed it into a positive concept. Everybody in this world must experience failure to get to know themselves, gain clarity in their lives and to learn how to succeed; even if that success comes in another form than you originally intended, she explained.

During the presentation, she asked the audience to come up with an imaginary person who was struggling with a failure in their lives. The group came up with a woman named Lilly who was both a writer and hair stylist. I was not the one to suggest she was a writer! This imaginary Lilly became a case study for our group. The advice that poured forth, the strategies for addressing her passion to write and her frustrations around her failure to publish seemed to be speaking to the future me. If Lilly takes up the gauntlet and gives it a try, why can’t I? Because if you view failure and success as strange synonyms, you have changed the way you view the world.

 

 

 

Understanding the other

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December is a busy month for most. Although I’ve been working on the second draft of my latest novel, my creative energy has been transferred to working on local projects in The Hague, The Netherlands to bring a bit of tranquility and celebration to the lives of the Syrian and Eritrean refugees temporarily housed in our neighborhood.

This post on my other blog shares one such event.

https://kristininholland.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/breaking-bread-with-refugees/

The Power of Seeing Famous Authors Speak

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Tonight I did something splendid. Instead of staying home and writing, I went out and attended a talk by a famous author. Since this all went down in The Hague, I posted it on my Kristin in Holland site. However, considering it has everything to do with the writing of fiction and the amazing contemporary author TC Boyle, I thought I’d also share the link here.

https://kristininholland.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/tc-boyle-and-the-shadow-of-fame/

Jurassic Sexism World

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When the poster for Jurassic World went up at our neighborhood tram stop, I didn’t ignore it, like I do so many other advertisements for films, but pondered it with a mix of nostalgia and curiosity. I have fond scared-out-of-my-wits memories of the first Jurassic Park in 1993 (I scare easily). The first Jurassic Park was so much better on the big screen, surrounded by others screaming along with me as dinosaurs came after humans.

Still on the fence about seeing Jurassic World in the theater, I watched the trailer, which promised not only special effects and scream-inducing scenes with scary dinosaurs, but the added bonus of eye-candy for mom in the form of Owen (Chris Pratt) and, I would soon discover, Omar Sy (already forgot his character name).

My son was eager to see it too and invited a friend to come along. My husband joined us reluctantly, turning it into a family affair.

The pace of the movie was familiar as a trusted recipe: a) a slow beginning to introduce the main characters and give the jurassic world Owenviewers a chance to develop a degree of emotional attachment; b) romantic tension in the form of super-alpha, overtly masculine Owen, (Chris Pratt) and super-controlled, icy-yet-beautiful Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard); c) dinosaur-related problem paired with the plot-building conflict of opinions on how to resolve the problem, followed by; d) GMO dinosaurs who have escaped their cages with an insatiable appetite for hunting and killing everything that comes in their path, including, of course, humans.

Jurassic World did not let me down when it came to the scare factor and breathtaking special effects. But after the movie, I had an experience akin to waking up with a strong case of garlic breath– a distinctly bad taste in my mouth that you are fully aware comes from the amount of garlic you willingly consumed the day before. In this case, the garlic was that of cliches, sexism and stereotyping that was so overt in its placement that you can not help but be pissed off that you took it in, and willingly washed it down with a super-sized slug of special effects.

For example, Claire, our female lead, is portrayed as a woman who is emotionally repressed and not in touch with human jworld.claireinstincts.  This is stereotyped in her lack of feeling or interest in her nephews who come to stay with her (no maternal instincts) as well as her insensitivity for the dinosaurs as living, breathing creatures (lack of empathy).  She is also portrayed as “manly” in her conduct, but only in a way that female professionals are portrayed as manly: she puts work first above all else, she is sexually frigid, translated by her icy and judgmental reactions to super sexy Owen, as well as her prim and boring clothing, her straight cropped hair and high heels.

What is Hollywood’s message to viewers of this entertainment film? In order for a woman to succeed in a man’s world, she has to cut herself off from her femininity (read as emotions, maternal instincts and sexuality). But then it gets worse.

Claire is teased by Owen, the epitome-of-masculinity, about her lack of emotion, her clothes and her high heels, and is told to “wait here” on many occasions. She is treated, in all respects, as a child. However, she rebels against his dominance. How? By unbuttoning her crisp white workshirt and tying it in a knot, revealing her tank top and cleavage underneath. Go Claire! And moreover, she can run through lush green fields in her high heels just as fast as Owen in his suitable shoes. She can jump onto metal platforms and keep up with the rest, all while maintaining her balance on those three-to four inch heels. Is this the Hollywood superwoman? On top of that, her authority within the park is being questioned as well as undermined by, no other than testosterone-overdosed men.

jurassic-world-bryce-dallas-howardIt is only through spending time with Owen, a real man who’s really in charge, that her femininity returns. This comes in the form of her image becoming sexier as the film progresses, her physical pull to Owen increasing, and a confusing mix of helplessness (save me Owen) and smarts: She’s the one who uses the gun to save Owen from a winged dinosaur; she’s the one who bravely brings another behemoth dinosaur into the fight.

Laura Dern_THEN.jpg

Laura Dern_THEN.jpg

Compare 2015 Claire to the smart and confident, properly-shoed Ellie Sattler character played by Laura Dern in the 1993 Jurassic Park.

When a man suggests he go in her place out to hunt dinosaurs, Ellie scoffs, saying she’ll talk to him about his sexism when she comes back. In other words, she’ll put that sexist man in his place after she kicks some dinosaur ass. Ellie is compassionate toward animals, not afraid to get into shit, and is smart, sexy and knows how to wear proper footwear.Jurassic+Park+Ellie+Sattler+Dinosaur+Poo

What has happened in the last 22 years to our image of women in the Jurassic context? Are we, in an era of so many civil rights breakthroughs–embracing same sex marriage, cheering on our famous transgenders–tipping the scales backward when it comes to gender equality for women?

I realize, that I too am displaying sexist tendencies toward men. Even though the Owen character was annoyingly sexist, I also found him hot and forgave him his teasing of Claire for his bad-assness and pleasing biceps. He could, after all, train raptors, and, unlike other bad-ass, hot male Hollywood characters, he had a sensitive side he wasn’t afraid to share.

And what was with–spoiler, so stop now if you don’t want to know this detail–Claire lying on the ground in a helpless, sexy pose, as three dinosaurs have a full-on battle right in front of her? Were the screenwriters asking for audience participation to the tune of yelling “get out of there, you stupid b!*ch?” Even my son, in slightly more polite language was saying “What is she doing? Why doesn’t she get out of the way? Is she stupid?”Bryce-dallas-howard-jurassic-world_sexy

What do you have against strong women, Hollywood? Why are you using this family-entertainment summer film as a platform for sexism?

Do you think special effects and somewhat “ha-ha” dialogue is enough to justify this overt sexism? Or is this some sort of playfulness that is allowed in ridiculous genres, and therefore acceptable?

Have you seen Jurassic World? What are your thoughts?

The Problem with Short Stories

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Last month, I cried out to  my readers for short story inspiration, as a means of hurdling my apparent writer’s inertia on my latest eco-novel thriller concept. My intention was to write a short story on all the ideas that came forth–all three of them. But what I wasn’t willing to admit, though my subconscious already knew, is that I’m not much of a short story writer.

So now, I’m 11,000 words into a far from short story that’s turning into a novella, which very likely will turn into a novel, all sparked by three words plus a genre from a fellow novelist: A suitcase, a stranger and a train. Love story. Thanks Francis!

The thing is, I like short stories. I like reading them and I like writing them. But  I’ve noticed a pattern in an unprecedented number of short stories including my own; they tend to explore the darker side of human nature. Consider Young skins by Colin Barrett or Dark is the Island by Kevin Barry. These short-story compilations by two prominent Irish authors explore the darker side, laced with humor and cultural insight.

Life is full of darkness, but also graced with light. I prefer to stay in the light most of the time, dipping into the darkness for the sake of contrast, or as a means to appreciate the light.

But if you want to see the dark side, let me know, and I’ll post one of my darker short stories here. But in the mean time, I’ve got a stranger on a train that is demanding my author attention.