Hurdling inertia

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI ran track when I was in high school. I did the mile, two-mile and the 440 relay. I was good for going the distance. However, I humbly refused to do hurdles. It’s one thing to put one foot in front of the other over and over again at a reasonable pace. It’s quite another to defy gravity and jump over metal bars topped by a solid piece of wood. (Yes. Almost to the analogy part). I might not have been able to get over those physical hurdles, but I’ve been jumping over metaphorical hurdles one after another.

2011 I finished my first draft ever of a full-length book.
2012 I sent that draft off to a half dozen friends to get feedback.
2013 I had my debut book edited by a professional, purchased cover art and released it into the world.
2014 I had a book signing event in the U.S., was asked to write guest posts on multiple writer’s blogs and started book two.

And then my four-year stint of metaphorical hurdle jumping came to an anti-climactic halt. I may even be stretching it by counting 2014 as a hurdle year, as I had planned to be finished with my first draft of book two by 2014, not still in the beginning phases.

What in the hurdle happened to me?

Perhaps I just need inspiration. They say that if you want to do something, anything, you could go online right now and find thousands of articles telling you exactly how to do it. Probably a number of vimeo or youtube videos would show me step for step how to get back on track with my book, leading me into the framework with the enthusiasm of a bunny following a carrot a boy playing Minecraft.

But my problem is something else entirely: I have been enjoying life. Being in the present. Taking on other writing assignments. Collaborating on exciting projects. Meeting new friends. Using inappropriate punctuation.

I really DO want to get back to novel number two, but I’m wondering if you all might entertain a little idea I came up with all on my own to jumpstart the creative writing process.

I am inviting YOU to give me three elements for a short story along with a genre of your choice. Example: An orphan, a violin and a stranger: Mystery.

Yes. I know there are websites that can automatically generate this kind of stuff for you, but I like the idea of “interacting” with my actual readers and having their input.

Ball’s in your court! (What’s with all the sports metaphors author Kristin Anderson? Geesh!)

Forging Ahead

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I’ve noticed a trend in all of my romance novel “research” I’ve been doing in the past few years. Authors tend to start out writing a classical (as in somewhat formulaic and predictable but with enough twists and originality to make the story their own) romance: girl meets boy. Sparks fly. A series of unexpected events bond the characters together before obstacles get into their path. The question remains not IF but HOW they will overcome said obstacles to reach eternal bliss, usually ending with happily ever after, which may or may not included marriage and children. Yes. I too am formulaically guilty as charged.

Bad? Not necessarily; we romance reading types like to hear the same story over and over again, provided that it has enough twists to keep it interesting and that the ending brings happiness.

By book two or three, the romance author decides to grab another set of powder-filled bottles from the spice rack to heat up the formula. I’m not talking about going from slightly sexy to erotic. Although I have experienced this development in some writers, most romance authors seem to settle on a heat level for their sensual writing and stay within a few degrees of sizzle both for their own comfort level and for that of their audience.

The new dash of spice I’m talking about is the mixing of two genres; going from romance to romantic suspense (e.g. thriller). Call it a mix of deadly night shade and Habanero pepper, but the romantic thriller adds a level of tension to a story that a typical romance seems to miss. It also calls for a stronger stomach, because suspense quite often means violence or the threat of violence, which can put an uncomfortable edge on the entire novel that keeps you moving forward. Thus the reader is now doubly motivated to turn the page: to see how the romance will progress and to see how the characters will escape the danger looming over their heads.

I recently discovered author Lisa Clark O’Neill’s “Southern Comfort” series. A gripping mix of crime and romance, I found myself outside my comfort zone as she explored the dark topics of sex trade, child abduction and more mixed with attraction between hot, heroic detective types and feisty civilian types. It is an intriguing mix, but not a mix for everyone. I enjoyed her ability to lace humor, attraction and love into these darker settings.

I must be following some sort of path, because I too am delving into romantic suspense as I embark on novel two. But my twist to the apparent path? Eco-romantic suspense!

The axe, the horn, the reviewer

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I have been writing recently not about my own novel, but about the beautiful writing of author Michael Cunningham, the insightful Crater Lake series by Francis Guenette, great mother’s day presents and environmental organizations in The Hague. Well, sometimes on an author blog you need to mix it up and toot your own horn.

Tooting your own horn can have two meanings in this context. Those who have known me in years past may now have a vision of an alto saxophone in my hands, my lungs expanding as I break into a solo while playing with an indy band. Yes, that used to be my creativity. Sax was my axe.

But in recent years, my passion for music and connecting to others through song has given way to a new form of connection; writing, whether through my author blog, my expat blog or my debut novel Green. The difference between playing a live gig and interacting with the audience and writing a blog post or a book are too numerous to count. But there is one big difference: time.

If you nail a solo, or sing that third part harmony in tune, people respond instantly with clapping, a nod, or a follow-up comment on how much they enjoyed the performance this evening. Sometimes words are not even necessary to convey appreciation or dismay. Body language speaks volumes. With blog posts, people read, but don’t always comment. Those who do comment display a certain daring to enter into the written word–a comment on a post that is now present on the internet, linked to your profile in some manner, a digital footprint of your existence.

Dropping a quick comment of “sweet solo” or “enjoyed the performance tonight,” is a zen moment in time without a history or a future. That is the beauty of music. Recordings, whether CDs or YouTube videos, can be listened to again and again. Books are locked to the page and are usually only read once, twice if you’re extremely lucky. But for all the people who have read my book, many have given me verbal feedback or quick little Facebook comments of “loved it”, “it was awesome,” reminiscent of the friendly compliments a musician might receive; compliments that are in the moment. Oh what an author would give to turn those quick compliments into written reviews. Why? Not for the ego (okay, a little for the ego), but for the fact that reviews beget new readers. And that is what all writers want: people to read their work; the more the better.

And so, when I discovered this review on Amazon.co.uk from a complete stranger, I had to share it with you, and toot my own horn. Luckily, this review doesn’t give my debut novel GREEN the axe. On the contrary; it shows that somewhere in England there is a reader who understands me as a writer of fiction, saw the characters within the novel growing before her eyes, and appreciated the presentation of the eco message in my novel Green. If any of you out there who have read my novel need a little inspiration to write a review, here it is!

Posted June 17, 2014 on Amazon.co.uk. (five stars)

The fact Anderson’s novel is described upfront as a ‘romance’ book is almost a disservice to what is in fact, a novel that transcends the rigid romance genre. ‘Green’ has been written with real literary insight and intelligence.

Our two protagonists are city dweller Ellie Ashburn, who indulges in a consumerist lifestyle, surrounded by friends, while her time is occupied with an ascendant career. Despite this, Ellie still holds traditional values close to her heart which is apparent after a series of unsuccessful relationships with LA men leave her despondent. Ellie is about ready to give up on love altogether until she meets environmental activist Jake Tillerman. And thus the setting for our romantic backdrop is revealed.

Despite the odds, the two fall for one another in the kind of way that would have E.L. James’ temperature rise – however, the relationship between Ellie and Jake provides more than a romantic romp, it is the perfect narrative arc to engage the audience in political diatribes and discussions which bring to the fore eco-concerns about how the way we live impacts on the environment.

It is important to note that the novel never becomes a sermon on Anderson’s part to force environmental issues down the throats of readers, and this is shown through a series of comedic, passionate and frustrating events which take place as the couple grow closer. This is how Anderson really showcases her talent as a writer, she makes both of our heroes likeable, honest, human and never one dimensional. As readers we learn from selective narrative how each character has come to see the world and define it, while examining what it means to compromise and relate to one another within this.

‘Green’ is a multi-faceted novel that is both informative and entertaining!

Perfect Mother’s Day Gifts 2014

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As a mom, I feel I can write with authority on the topic of what makes a perfect Mother’s Day gift. Of course, moms have as many things in common as they have differences, so there is not one perfect gift that will fit us all. But here are a few things that speak to my heart.

1) A handmade gift that was thought out by our child / children. This could be a drawing, a painting, a box turned into a birdhouse or a giraffe-shaped cookie for all we care. Although we generally have an eye for aesthetics, we aren’t particularly concerned about how beautiful it is, but rather that our child took the time and energy to make it with mom in mind. If your children are older, this can come in the form of an Mp3 mix just for mom, a story or poem written with her in mind, or a digitally made and printed photo album you took the time to lay out and order.

2) A meal made by our family. Most of the principles in gift idea one (made with us in mind) apply here with one exception; it must actually taste good.  If dad and accompanying offspring are terrible cooks, then taking mom out for brunch is much more appreciated.

3) A romance or other novel you know is to our liking, accompanied by a block of time to read. In the area of romance, I would of course love you to consider GREEN, my debut novel. But I also recommend any of Tracy Brogan’s books such as Crazy Little Thing . I’m personally looking forward to her latest novel The Best Medicine, that will be available on May 13th, 2014 and can be pre-ordered now. While I personally love reading romance, not all moms do. Thus consider a book in a genre you have seen her read, whether it’s contemporary fiction and literature, biography, or DIY manuals.

4) Fair Trade Chocolate. I know. Cliche. But seriously. Who doesn’t love chocolate?  We all talk about how we are slaves to chocolate, we love it so much. But true slavery is no laughing matter, and unfortunately, the cocoa industry is known to use child labor and slavery. What mom wants to support child labor on mother’s day? Thus choose Fair Trade chocolate, such as Tony’s Chocolonely, which is not only delicious, but doing it’s best to make “slavery free chocolate.” This is a very difficult feat in the way cocoa farms are currently set up. Another well-known conscientious chocolate company is Endangered Species chocolate. You can also see the Food Empowerment Project’s list of recommended vegan chocolates for an extended list of child-labor free chocolates.

5) And now, put it all together: Make us a delicious meal, topped off by fair trade chocolate and a hand made gift and then send us to our reading chair with a great book. Oh, Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy EARTH DAY 2014!

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What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day today? I am planning to celebrate with friends, environmentalists and all who happen along The Hague Earth Day event this evening (hopefully you included!), from 17:00-20:00 at the ABC Bookstore (Lange Poten 23).

Jelena RatkovicI am happy to announce that Jelena Ratkovic, a student at the Koninklijk Conservatorium, will be playing classical guitar this evening at the event, with pieces from composers  J.S. Bach, G. Regondi, F. Tarrega, A. Barrios, and M. Castelnuovo-Tedesco. You may be thinking you’d like to come, but right after work, you will be hungry, seeing as 17:00-20:00 falls right within dinner hours. Fear not! Fine Fresh Foods, a locally owned, organic restaurant will have “forgotten vegetable sandwiches for sale as well as freshly squeezed organic juices, cookies and bars.  Here is a list of participants:

AVN (Algemene Vereniging voor Natuurbescherming)

AVN is an 88 year old lobby organization for green interests in The Hague and environs. We inform the public and the municipal and provincial governments and politicians on the values of nature and the environment.  www.avn.nl

Author Kristin Anderson

Co-organiser of Earth Day The Hague along with the American Book Center, Anderson will be signing her debut novel Green. This opposites-attract love story between an environmental activist and an upwardly mobile career woman explores the challenges of living green in an urban society.  www.authorkristinanderson.com

DHiT (Den Haag in Transitie / The Hague in Transition)

DHiT facilitates the coming together of the local community in The Hague to take steps towards a vision of a green, creative and self-sustaining city. In order to achieve this we challenge and transform the current societal paradigms of how we live and work together. www.denhaagintransitie.org

Fine Fresh Food

Locally owned, organic restaurant located at Korte Houtstraat 14C, 2511 CD Den Haag, offers organic faire, fresh squeezed juices, Fair Trade coffee and tea. www.finefreshfood.nl

Haags Milieucentrum / The Hague Environmental Center

For 22 years, the Haags Milieucentrum has been supporting local organisations dealing with nature and the environment. We provide information about sustainability to citizens, companies and the municipality, and try to make it easier for citizens to lead their lives in a sustainable manner. www.haagsmilieucentrum.nl

Jelena Ratkovic, Classical Guitar

Jelena Ratkovic, a student at the Koninklijk Conservatorium will play pieces by J.S. Bach, G. Regondi, F. Tarrega, A. Barrios, and M. Castelnuovo-Tedesco

Project Bloeiende Boomspiegel

This Hague-based organisation transforms empty dirt patches beneath city trees into blooming colourful oasis’ for bees, butterflies and insects, bringing pockets of nature into the city that can be appreciated by all. www.stokrozen.nl

Seafirst Foundation

The Sea First Foundation does just that – puts the sea first. We raise awareness about the wonders of marine life, the environmental services that the ocean provides us and the multiple threats that it faces. We give lessons at schools and talks at various venues.  We also do beach cleans and celebrate World Ocean Day on June 8th every year. www.seafirstfoundation.nl

 

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

Earth Day in The Hague, April 22nd 2014 17:00-20:00

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Every April 22nd, over a billion people in 190 countries take action for Earth Day, according to earthday.org. The Hague will also house a special Earth Day celebration this Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014, from 17:00-20:00 in a Treehut–in this case, The American Book Store’s ABC Treehut, located at Lange Poten 23 just off Het Plein.

Everyone is welcome!

Everyone is welcome!

 

The Hague Earth Day Celebration is a fun, interactive event where you can find out about green initiatives and projects in The Hague, be exposed to a plethora of books on the environment, attend a book signing, eat fresh, organic food and meet eco-minded people.

In attendance will be representatives from the Algemene Vereniging voor Natuurbescherming (AVN), The Seafirst Foundation, Den Haag in Transitie, Project Bloeiende Boomspiegel, Haags Milieucentrum, among other local environmental groups and authors. I know there were a lot of Dutch words in that last sentence, but the event will be bilingual, thus you can count on plenty of  English conversations as well.

Earth Day is a call to action, gathering people together to embrace a sustainable way of life. In The Hague, that call to action can be planting a seed in the soil with The Hague’s own Project Bloeiende Boomspiegel, or a seed in your mind by reading a book with an environmental focus; volunteering for a local beach clean up with the Seafirst Foundation, brainstorming with local politicians and community leaders, or committing to a Seven Change Challenge that will be presented at the event.

Politicians and government representatives will be invited in the spirit of an eco-minded dialogue with community leaders.

Organic food and drink will be for sale by local restaurant Fine Fresh Food, and a number of books that focus on the environment will be showcased by the American Bookstore this day, ranging from non-fiction titles like The Big Thirst, by Charles Fishman, Good Green Guides The Hague, by Harold Verhagen and eco-romance novel Green by Hague-based author Kristin Anderson, who will be signing her novel at the event.

Rather than doing a traditional reading from her book Green, author Kristin Anderson, who co-organized the event with the American Book Center, has taken a rather creative, Tom Sawyeresque approach.

Remember that fence that Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer needed to paint white? Why paint the fence yourself? Better to creatively get all of your friends to do it for you! And this time, the fence is GREEN. In other words, each environmental organization in attendance has been asked to read a small passage from Anderson’s eco-novel Green that relates to their organization before launching into their own five-minute presentation on what their organization does in our community.

If you would like to celebrate Earth Day with other earth-loving people, please join in! If you represent an environmental organization in The Hague, please stop by and meet and greet! For more information, and event updates please contact author Kristin Anderson on Facebook.

If you are new to the concept of Earth Day, this summary on National Geographic explains how it came into existence 44 years ago and why it is so important.

Hope to see you there!

 

Haags Milieucentrum

The Seven Change Challenge

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Releasing a book into the world in the days of online customer reviews and blogs is akin to walking out of the house naked; you are suddenly exposed to the elements in a deeply personal way and no matter how thick your skin, it offers little protection from harsh weather or a cold-hearted review. Take Anne Rice, for example, and her famous retaliation against a negative review of her book Pandora. Despite resounding success (she has sold over 100 million copies of her books) she was so upset by this ruthless review that she gave this reviewer a virtual skinning alive in the public arena. (Get a fuller account of this story on the blog themarysue.com.)

By and large, however, the live skinning is usually a one-way street; by the mere act of reading a book, readers are given the authority to share their opinion on every aspect of a book–no further experience needed. Customer reviews are extremely important and shouldn’t be written carelessly, as other readers often rely on these straight forward reviews written by peer readers to guide them in purchasing decisions.

I am in the dawn of my novel-writing, and as the author of only one self-published title, I have thus far only been subjected to favorable reviews. I know my time will come for that other type of review, and I hope I will heed the overwhelming advice of the collective wisdom and hold my tongue when it happens. But where I can’t hold my tongue is when people write wonderful reviews. Call me an optimist, but positive energy begets positive energy and quite often sparks ideas.

In my debut novel Green, Jake Tillerman, the hot, yet sometimes overbearing environmentalist, introduces  The Seven Change Challenge, an online campaign against The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, encourages people to make seven changes in their daily lives to limit their impact on the environment: buy local, organic produce, seven-minute showers or less . . .(What are the rest of the seven changes? You can discover them in my book GREEN, available on Amazon. Just click on the pretty picture to the right of this blog post to go to the page where you can look inside, read other customer reviews and purchase an e-book or paperback).

A handful of readers have written me to ask if the Seven Change Challenge exists online. Although there are many programs online about analyzing your carbon footprint, and numerous guidelines elucidating methods to reduce your impact on the environment, I have yet to find a challenge presented in this manner. Although the seven changes are real and can make a real difference, the concept of a virtual challenge was an act of fiction. But perhaps it’s time to bring it into reality! And speaking of inspirational, the following is my latest reader review on Amazon.

I am not prone to reading romance nor have I ever been accused of having a social conscience, but at the behest of a friend I downloaded and read Green. So many times we are reminded of how opposites attract. I fervently believe that our significant others make us more of a complete and balanced character and as time goes on our extremes are tempered.

I found both the plot and the relationship that unfolds between the characters very enjoyable. I found myself not only rooting for the success of the budding romance but for the resounding success of the Seven Change Challenge!

The story contemplates the Green adjective on so many levels and indeed makes one question their personal responsibility and impact in this world. I would welcome a “real” Seven Change Challenge web experience and encourage the author as well as the publishers to pursue such a tie-in.
~Customer review by Tom De Mercurio, Sacramento, California

The following review has inspired me to find a way to make the Seven Change Challenge a real deal. It might take some time, considering all of the back of house database management that would need to be developed to make it possible, but the seed has been planted by a reader! Thank you Tom de Mercurio!

How many of you, as readers, would be interested in taking the Seven Change Challenge; to be able to log in your  accomplishments and see how your daily actions cumulatively make a difference? Please let me know in the comments section. If I receive 50 unique comments, I will randomly select one responder to receive a free kindle version of Green.

What exactly is “Eco-romance?”

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I have categorized my debut novel Green as eco-romance and some people scratch their heads at this description. I’d like to say I coined this genre, because no one else thus far has described their romance in this manner. But I cannot claim to be the first to write eco-romance.

I’d say the first couple to have an eco-romance had to be Adam and Eve. Picture it; Adam and Eve have just discovered each other; they run around naked in a beautiful pesticide-free garden; organic fruit and vegetables an arm’s length away, ripe for the taking. They are friends with all the animals–until that trickster snake came along. If the author(s) of the bible had been romantic in nature, we would have gotten a little more breathtaking, evocative detail about this first eco-romance story. I’m sure there are other traditions with love stories set in a nature.

One of my favorite authors in life thus far is Barbara Kingsolver. Her novel Prodigal Summer could easily be categorized as eco-romance, but due to her amazing writing style and in-depth research and character development, it most definitely falls into the category of literature.

And Green by Kristin Anderson? Why is it eco-romance and not just romance? The difference is simple; the environment is the golden thread that weaves the story together.

It is set in Los Angeles during the 2010 Deep Water Horizon Gulf Oil spill, and this catastrophic disaster looms in the background of an opposites-attract love story. Picture yourself as Ellie Ashburn, a proper young woman who has worked her way up the career ladder and is on the verge of a major promotion. Although successful in her career, she can not find a suitable man. And then there’s  Jake Tillerman, a do-gooder environmentalist with a free roaming lifestyle and contemporary views about relationships and our individual accountability for our impact on the environment.

As their worlds collide, love, or lust, is in the air. But for all their attraction and rapport, their lifestyles are a comedic clashing of realities and viewpoints. And unless you live in a very rural area in a hallowed out tree and only eat nuts, berries and honey–there’s a good chance your daily actions have an impact on the environment as well. Green is an eco-romance, as it explores real life issues of the heart, of the environment and of modern day love.

Do you know of any other eco-romances? I’d love to hear about them.