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.

 

Rumor Has It

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I was at a networking event in Amsterdam the other evening and I ran into an old friend of mine who works as a translator. Anyway, she was translating from Swedish to English at this trial at the Criminal Court and on her break she was in line at the cafe to order a latte when she overheard a conversation. Guess who’s single? Fokke van der Veld.*

I’m not usually one to gossip, but he’s only one of the most famous travel writers in Europe. I have at least three of his guide books on my bookshelf and he’s been translated into 36 languages, so he’s also known around the world.

One book of his I have is van der Veld’s travel guide to Peru. To be honest, I bought it because of that shot of him on the cover. He’s so handsome! That, and of course I hope to go to Peru someday.

According to my source, he now lives in The Hague. Not that I’m interested, being happily married and all. But it’s interesting to know.

*Thanks for reading the fine print! Want the full scoop on Fokke van der Veld? Get it here.
 

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.

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!