#MondayBlogs: authors and political agendas. We are citizens, too! #amwriting #asmsg

#MondayBlogs: authors and political agendas. We are citizens, too! #amwriting #asmsg

Authors participate in political debates on the same basis as everyone else, but our tools may be different

I’ve been reading articles in papers recommending books to read for the summer, and I find them to be all over the place. There’s the light read, a crime novel or a thriller, suitable to drag along when you’re going to the beach, there’s the biography of this or that accomplished man (usually), then there are the heavy reads about precarious life journeys usually based on reality: difficult childhoods, substance abuse, sexual abuse and what not, and an interesting category: political essays about this or that.

This book isn't about politics per se, but it's political nonetheless, as issues like child abuse, trafficking and slavery are debated. I'm shining a light on issues the LGBT community usually doesn't.

This book isn’t about politics per se, but it’s political nonetheless, as issues like child abuse, trafficking and slavery are debated. I’m shining a light on issues the LGBT community usually doesn’t.

Authors have always written about society in one way or another. We comment, we reflect, but most importantly, we put up this mirror, for people to see themselves in. This weekend, I’ll be in Berlin, attending an author-reader conference, and the one panel I’m doing is about how politics influences writing. Mind you, most of the authors who attend the con are romance writers, and that is maybe the one genre where politics is absent from, probably by design. Romances are about escapism, to make you feel good, and politics, well, is almost an antidote to feeling good these days.

Which is odd. Half a century into my life, I have seen six decades and seen a great deal of stability. When I was born, the war between the west and the east was cold, but things were stable. We did well, economically, as I grew up. Politicians were boring men who mostly seemed to actually care about the well-being of their countries. They seemed to work, honestly for the betterment of society and humanity. Or maybe I was just naïve? When I turned eighteen, the cold war suddenly ended and Reagan and Gorbachev almost did away with nuclear arms after that summit in Reykjavík. When I was twenty-two, the Berlin Wall came down and suddenly, it seemed as if wars were going out of fashion. The Kuwait war seemed to prove that theory. The world, united, fought against a tyrant and defeated him. Then came the wars in Yugoslavia and we began to wonder, is this just the way things are slowly settling down into this new world order? But alas, we quickly began to realize that we’d indeed been short-sighted, naïve. All over the world, war was still raging, people still fighting, and ever new fronts were opening up, from Sudan to Eritrea, the Philippines, all across the Middle East and finally, in 2001, hitting at the heart of the western world, with the attacks on 9/11.

Through all this, the “West”, reunited with Eastern Europe and a more benign Russia, seemed to be stable. The “enemy” was suddenly Islamic terror, and warlords in faraway lands, no longer the evil empire to the east. How wrong we were, and how little we understood just how fragile this bright, new world order was. Suddenly people are questioning the “raison d’être” of the EU, who’s kept the peace in Europe for six decades and running, Poland and Hungary are run by fascistoid governments, France’s historical political parties are all but extinguished after the recent parliamentary election, the U.K. is in turmoil about which way it wants to go, and the heart of the western world has ceased to beat, with a regime combining one man’s sociopathic need for self-praise with a fascist slogan from WWII (America First), while society is so deeply divided that most people cease to even watch/read the news. I look at the past few years in politics and wonder: WTF?

 

Family Ties depicts a family in crisis, one gay, one straight. Highly political as it showcases just how normal, the unusual can be.

Family Ties depicts a family in crisis, one gay, one straight. Highly political as it showcases just how normal, the unusual can be.

As a minority author, I could, of course, depict this grand picture. I could write political thrillers about the state of the world. But I leave that to others. I find reality exciting enough. My mission is still a political one though. Who I am is still not fully embraced by our societies, not even one as liberal as my own. I might not get a job because of who I am. Never mind that it’s illegal to discriminate, but how do you know? And even if you were to know, how do you prove it? My husband and I may be the legal parents and guardians of our son, but every day we see how society (papers, TV, radio, etc.) refers to parenting as a function of primarily motherhood, trying to engage fathers more. Whenever, wherever my husband, my son and I go, we see the glances, the stares. Yes, we’re not a common occurrence. Neither are red heads, but people rarely stare at them.

 

And for as long as we are somehow “special”, “unusual”, and “uncommon”, that’s how long I’ll be writing about us, and my point isn’t to make us something else. Quite the contrary, our struggles, our fears, our fights, our vacations, our everyday lives are just as exciting, just as mundane as everyone else’s. That’s what I aim to show society. To my own LGBT siblings, my gay brethren, particularly the young ones, I aim to show that we are everybody, that we can be anything we want, do anything we want. We can be successful, we can fail. Most importantly, our intrinsic human value will always be the same as everyone else’s. This may not be politically opportune, but it’s my ongoing contribution to make my society, my world, a better place. In this, I am like most other authors, don’t you think?

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. The next issue is due this Thursday. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a wonderful week. This Friday will mark the final post before my summer break. I don’t know when or how I’ll be able to blog. Maybe I’ll write something about our vacation. We’ll see. On Friday, I’ll talk more about the upcoming convention in Berlin.

Thanks,

Hans

Why I struggle with genres and being put in boxes I don’t belong #amwriting #ASMSG

Why I struggle with genres and being put in boxes I don’t belong #amwriting #ASMSG

Genres are a necessary “evil” to help readers find stories, and to help publishers market their books to specific groups, but…

I believe I’ve written about genres and genre placement before. It is something that was extremely important to me at the beginning of my writing career. After a while, my own take on it was a bit more relaxed, but recently I feel a choke hold around my throat from the restrictions it places on my storytelling, and I feel this really strong need to lash out, to free myself. I just don’t know how.

I recorded a video just yesterday about why I am no romance writer. I can’t see J.K. Rowling, Stephen King or Dan Brown ever having this kind of struggle or dilemma. But for a very specific reason, in LGBT fiction we do. It’s due to “gay romance”. If you’re not in this particular part of the writing world, imagine the world of the aforementioned authors completely dominated by “Da Vinci romances” or “Shining / Cujo romances” or even “Harry Potter romances” to the degree that you can’t find the books that are not. In LGBT fiction, that’s our reality…

I’ve always defended romance, and gay romance in particular, simply because it offers so many positive stories, stories I didn’t have when I grew up. That is a huge step in the right direction, and I’ve seen dozens of young men (since 95% of the books are about gay men) with glazed over eyes talk about the importance of gay romance in their own identity building, in gathering the strength to come out, pursue relationships. However, much of romance is more about fantasy, escapism, not reality. Therefore, romance will only take you so far. As soon as you look for something more “serious”, more realistic, you’re our of luck.

An example. Five years ago, when we got pregnant with our son, I was looking for books that dealt with the topic of gay parenting. Not having any real life gay parents in my circles back then, I was really curious about what we were in for. I found a few books about that topic. But not one of the books I read were about gay parenting. No. They were all romances, and therefore only about the parents’ relationship, how they met, the struggles they had to become a couple (where the child sometimes was a hurdle to overcome), their sex life etc. I even read a book about a gay grandfather who fucked his love interest after returning home from a school meeting about his grandson being bullied. I was appalled! I decided there and then, that I would have to find my own path. Fucking as a way of “coping” or dealing with parenting issues just didn’t appeal to me. I doubt it works in the long term. I’d rather be there for my son…

In this book, I not only tell the story from Willem's point of view, but also from Hery's and others. But it's Willem on the cover, and the other main character, the Tafel mountain. Not very romantic...

In this book, I not only tell the story from Willem’s point of view, but also from Hery’s and others. But it’s Willem on the cover, and the other main character, the Tafel mountain. Not very romantic…

With almost two-hundred thousand romance books in LGBT literature, among a total of 230K, finding issue-based fiction is like finding a needle in a haystack. As the author of non-romance novels, I want to make it easier to make my books available to those who look for them, but it’s not easy. But even more than that, it’s really challenging for me as a writer. Because I don’t always decide what genres my books are placed in on Amazon. Their algorithm does that automatically. My books are about gay families, which automatically involves a couple, and thus a relationship. Amazon interprets that as a romance, even though it’s not. I’ve played with more than one genre, I’ve even written Erotica once, a book born from a project of trying to make more money. Alas, if failed, but I managed to save some of the text and turn it into a stand-alone novel.

I’m extremely grateful for my readers, and I know that most of the people who read my books normally read romance novels. Without the romance readers, I’d sell a book a month, instead of a book a day. This is of course also something my publisher must keep in mind in their efforts to push my books. Why publish a book if it won’t sell? On the flip side, of the (few, I’m lucky) bad reviews I receive, they are usually from people with very narrow definitions of what a good romance book is all about. And my books where the relationship is placed in the farthest background (The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, Willem of the Tafel) have been read a lot less than those where the couple’s relationship is more prominent, albeit for specific storytelling reasons, not because it was the relationship per se that is the main protagonist (Jonathan’s Hope, The Opera House).

For a while, I was perfectly comfortable with writing and I didn’t care if people mistook my books as romances. In a futile attempt at selling more, I even began to place people on my covers. Willem of the Tafel was my first book with a model on the cover. I felt anxiety and looked for the right model for the longest time before I finally settled on my Willem. It’s still, to this day, my favorite cover. The book didn’t sell. A single man on a cover just doesn’t “signal” relationship. Had I also placed Hery on the cover, who knows, maybe it would’ve. But to me, that wasn’t even on my retina. Willem of the Tafel isn’t about the two men’s relationship. It’s about politics, it’s about society building, racism, global warming and the sacrifices we have to make for society, for the betterment of our species.

In this novel, our two main characters look after Frank, a young child with cerebral palsy and form a family against all odds. The book aims at being a positive role model for young people with disabilities, but I realize that the cover screams something else. A shame for a great story...

In this novel, our two main characters look after Frank, a young child with cerebral palsy and form a family against all odds. The book aims at being a positive role model for young people with disabilities, but I realize that the cover screams something else. A shame for a great story…

For my next novel, Spanish Bay, I figured I’d take that extra step, and actually place the couple on the cover. I’ve lived to regret that decision. I like the cover, but yes, it’s a sell-out of my values. It’s very “romance-ey”, the kissing couple (none of which look like the main characters, and having found the same couple on another cover, although only if you’ve seen the entire series, you’d know), the font of the title… If I ever were to change a cover, this is the one: remove the couple and focus only on the beach, change the font. But at the time, I really tried to please readers who came from that corner of the world. And yes, I do feel like a sell-out.

I haven’t had a person on a cover since, and I won’t again. And it pains me that people read my books through a certain lens that keeps them from seeing the “bonus” I hope to provide. Needless to say, this is something authors have to accept. Once a book is out there, it’s really not up to us to have any views on how readers interpret a novel. I would never tell people how to read a novel. Believe me, people have asked. Yet at the same time, when people stand on the magnificent rim of the Grand Canyon, with one eye covered, they’ll never really get the full impression of just how magnificent the place is, the full depth of field. And if you read Harry Potter as a romance series, don’t you think you’re missing something? I mean there are two couples forming, and Hermione and Ronald have been in it from the get-go… Jinny comes into the picture a bit later, but still.

I said in my video yesterday, that I feel that the whole genres thing also has begun to affect my writing. I consciously dismiss writing ideas that are “positive”, “hopeful” and focus on things that are of a darker quality. When people keep telling you that you’re a cow, you have two choices: either you begin to grow those additional regurgitation stomachs and begin to eat fresh grass or you try to chance people’s perception of you. I try to change people’s perception, and I do so for very personal reasons: I grew up with people assuming I was straight. They assumed I’d get married to a nice girl, produce nice grandkids, become a provider to my family.

When I came out, risking to shatter those illusions, I was told that “it’s just a phase”, that “you haven’t met the right (magic?) girl yet” and “how can you know this?” For me, when people force me into a genre that isn’t mine, I instinctively feel that way I felt when I was seventeen and my parents shoved me back into the closet and threw away the key. They felt they knew better than I, they felt that their word weighed more than mine, and since I was a minor, I had no choice but to acquiesce. As a middle-aged man, I no longer feel the need to let others tell me who to be, how to be, what to be. I finally have the chance to be me, and that includes being the author of gay (and sometimes LGBT) fiction. Simply because I say so.

Readers, do you care about how your authors place themselves in genres? How do you find the books you read? Authors, what is your take on genres? Do you feel restricted by genres or do you find them helpful in your writing? I’d love to hear how others view this…

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a wonderful weekend. Next week will be the last week that I write before I break for my summer vacation.

Thanks,

Hans

#MondayBlogs: When authors don’t do their research

#MondayBlogs: When authors don’t do their research

Plot holes, oddities and other (near) misses which could easily have been remedied

I read a lot, at least when I’m not writing, and most of the books I read are amazingly written. But every now and then I come across a book that is, for all intents and purposes, not finished yet. The research is sloppy (if researched at all), there are plot holes etc. Why? I do a lot of research into my novels, recently even traveling to the area that is included. But even when I can’t go to the area, the research conducted is extensive.

It’s easier to see Sacré-Coeur from The Arc the Triomphe than vice versa. But you have beautiful views from the elevated vantage point of the famous basilica. Photo: Aarya through Wikimedia Commons

Let me exemplify. You write a scene taking place in Paris. Your protagonist resides in a hotel up on Montmartre, near the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur, with a beautiful view over Paris, looking southwest. Describe what you see? Landmarks, rivers etc. Well, given that we are in Paris, what would you see from the elevated vantage point that the place provides? Yes? No? Well, allow me to help, since I’ve actually been both in a hotel in that scene and seen the view on many occasions: You see you see the Louvre, Bois de Boulogne, you see the islands in the Seine with the Cathedral Notre Dame (almost due south), the impressive tower of Montparnasse, you can spot Le Trocadéro etc., but most importantly, you see the Eiffel Tower, probably the most important sight in Paris. However, you may not see the Seine, or only a tiny sliver, because of the buildings that are in the line of sight. The same is true for e.g. the Arc de Triomphe, impressive if you stand on the Champs Elysées or any of the other streets approaching it, but from afar? You might not be able to spot it.

Whether your readers have been to Paris themselves, or not, is not essential. If they have, they’ll relive wonderful memories of vacations past, if they haven’t, they most likely will have seen a picture of Paris, either in a newspaper, on TV or in a movie. Now, follow me a bit further: imagine a story where the protagonist is looking over Paris at night, relishing the sights. The author beautifully describes the views but forgets to mention the Eiffel Tower… Would you notice?

Where’s the Eiffel Tower? Didn’t you just say you could see it? I did, but it all depends on the angle and where on Montmartre you stand… It’s around the corner to the right, the people in front can probably see it. Whether you see it, or not, you’ll need to let people know why! The devil is in the details… Image: Neo007 via Wikimedia Commons

Well, would you notice if an author described London without Buckingham Palace? New York without Manhattan? How could something like this happen? I can only assume two things: the author hasn’t been on site, and they haven’t done their research. Because you can’t go to certain places and not notice these things. I once wrote a scene on a Caribbean island involving a jetty and a path leading to that jetty from the airport terminal. However, I hadn’t been on the island myself, and my research online was inconclusive. I couldn’t be 100% sure if the pathway was leading all the way or if there was a fence in the way somewhere. I was lucky. Three months after I published the book, I was on site to walk the walk myself. This was a tiny detail, and nobody would’ve noticed if you hadn’t been on site. Pathways from small airports are not common knowledge, other things are.

See? You can see it, it’s just a matter of vantage point.

Colloquialisms are another pitfall. While English is a global language, there are countless local varieties in its use, and even native speakers don’t always catch the finer details. I’ve made mistakes myself in this area. Color me very embarrassed. But I’ve also seen authors use fairly well-known terms the wrong way, by the wrong people, in a failed effort to sound a certain way. Thing is, the devil is in the detail.

One more example: plot holes. What if your story has a plot hole you are aware of? How likely do you think your readers are going to see it, too? Particularly if you mention it in the book as an inconsistency? Make it a “thing”? Leaving it unresolved is just going to get people confused. Keeping a story “plausible”, “credible”, “believable” is important, even if you write fantasy or science-fiction.

So, how do you avoid such mistakes? The easy way out is to write about that which you know, which is probably the easiest way. I’ve read books from authors that all play out in the same city. Or, you could make up a town, thus making the story more generic. I did that in Jonathan’s Hope. Or, you have to do your research. I got myself into a lot of trouble when I decided to use a street called “fifth avenue” in my most recent book. No, not New York, but the character makes that reference, too. And then you begin to research where, if at all, such a place exists… It affected the rest of the book immensely because that bloody place is in a state that affected my protagonists in many ways.

Do mistakes like that affect your enjoyment of a book? Sadly they do. Particularly when there are many such mistakes in one single story. Does all the blame fall on the author? No. Unless they self-publish. I’ve seen how some publishers are more thorough in their editing, and there are some publishers I avoid these days, simply because they don’t care enough about the quality of the works they publish.

Readers, what is your experience? Is this something that bothers you when you read? Authors, how do you research your stories? Have you made mistakes you’re ashamed of? Let’s hear from you…

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

 

My new novel, Disease, is almost ready: here’s what I learned #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

My new novel, Disease, is almost ready: here’s what I learned #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

Every book, every story, is different in its inception, its creation. Disease is no different

As I write these lines, my printer is working overtime in my office, printing the 58K words, spread across 127 pages A4 that contain the manuscript of Disease, my latest novel, Opus 15, if you prefer. Before I send it off to my publisher, I want to read through it one last time, make sure that all pieces fit as they should, make sure I haven’t forgotten anything, missed any typos etc.

Now I know that my editor will sigh at the many grammatical errors I make, and I’m not sure using Grammarly (the free version) helped me much. While it did find a couple hundred things to fix and many for which I’m grateful, there were also some suggestions that were far too outlandish to be taken seriously. In fact, “seriously?” was a phrase often used today as I had to split my novel into six smaller documents to check with the tool provided for my Apple.

The cover for the audio book of Family Ties, my first novel and my first audio book.

Here’s the thing though. This is my eleventh novel, and I haven’t printed a single one of them before. Never. Not once. Why now? I wanted to make sure it is in as perfect a shape as possible before I send it off. Not grammatically, I know I can never match the linguistic skills of my editors and native speakers, no, but as a story.

When I started working as a writer and novelist, back in 2013, I was naïve, and my mind as blank as the page I used to write those first sentences of Family Ties on. Family Ties, my very first novel, was written in two weeks. Jonathan’s Hope followed within another two weeks. I was carefree, I had nothing to compare my writing to, I had no reviews to worry about, no reviewers. I knew no publishers beyond those I had worked with in my non-fictional writing, I knew nothing about the LGBT writing arena and how warped it is with its enormous skew toward romance.

I simply sat down and wrote my stories. Alas, I quickly began to learn. I met other authors, talked to them, befriended some. I learned about marketing, about being in it for the long-term, and gradually I adapted my writing. My third novel was simply that, Opus 3, for the longest time, until my cover artist, who had read the manuscript, cried out in desperation and helped me find a title, The Opera House. My fourth novel was inspired by a book that included travel. I love to travel and set out to write such a story, yet life in its mysterious ways intervened, and Opus 4 became my darkest and most important work to date, The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, dealing with some of humanity’s deepest and darkest horrors, that of child abuse, trafficking, and pedophilia. It was a difficult book to write and in that year, it was the only fiction I published.

I sometimes write about politics in my books, and in Willem of the Tafel, it’s both about climate change, and racism. Who could have guessed, when I wrote this in 2015, that it would be such a burning topic today?

Exhausted from the emotional turmoil that Haakon put me through, I didn’t write for several months until a dance performance inspired me to write about our planet and the environmental issues we face. It was a very different book to write, as I was unable to draw from experience. I have, for obvious reasons, not lived five centuries from now. The research was excruciating, and as is customary with Sci-Fi, the mix of science and fiction is challenging, making that which is extrapolated, guessed or imagined, believable. I think I did alright.

I could go through all my eleven novels, the short stories and my other books, but alas, I won’t bore you with that. I do feel though, that I have come to a point in my life, in my author life anyway, where I feel this is the right thing to do. May the trees forgive me for printing on them. Will I be more thorough reading on paper than on a screen? I do not know. In the past, I’ve always proofread my manuscripts on both my laptop and my phone, to get a different experience. I know that my editor even lets the PC read the texts to her, to get a better feel of how it sounds. She finds that she is better capable of picking up errors after several read-throughs.

Disease is different, not just in how I edit, but also in how I wrote the story. A first person account is always challenging to write, this is a sick man’s diary of sorts, a journal of things he experiences as his disease progresses, as well as memories from the past, a first person account of Alzheimer’s really. It is complemented with commentary from his partner, who finds this journal after it’s all over. We sort of get two views of everything that happens. Not always, but where I felt it was necessary, where it added to give the reader a better picture.

The real challenge of writing about Alzheimer’s is, of course, the “insanity” of it. As writers, we fear plot holes, we fear inconsistencies (getting names wrong, timeline jumps etc.) When you write about Alzheimer’s, you suddenly try to incorporate such elements, on purpose. It’s a risky business, as you never know if the reader will understand, appreciate it or simply DNF… The same is true for the language per se, the difficulty of simplifying a language as the disease progresses. Will it be natural enough to readers or will they attribute it to poor writing, or worse, to poor editing and proofing? A nightmare, just to think about it.

So yes, this is a book that has me worried, and maybe that is why I want to do it justice. I also want to do my protagonists justice, Hunter, Ethan & Amy. I’ve grown quite attached to this family since I first began writing about them on February 21, 2017, at 12:22 pm. For once, I feel I also have plenty of time. The manuscript isn’t due at my publisher’s until the end of July. Disease is set for an October 26, 2017, release from Beaten Track Publishing. I hope to have a cover for you soon, and then I’ll create the book’s own page here on my site.

Now, before I let you all off on a well-deserved weekend, tell me, what are your experiences with writing? Once a pantser always a pantser or does your writing evolve, change, from book to book? I’m curious!

Have a great weekend. We’re celebrating Pride this week, and if the sun is shining, we’ll be watching the big Pride parade downtown tomorrow. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

#MondayBlogs: Why restricting the Internet won’t solve anything, Ms May! #FreedomOfSpeech #democracy

#MondayBlogs: Why restricting the Internet won’t solve anything, Ms May! #FreedomOfSpeech #democracy

Politicians have always been tempted to restrict free speech, now more than ever, they’re after the Internet

Another terror attack. It won’t be the last, and the person ultimately responsible, British PM Theresa May, who was Secretary of the Interior for six years, above other things sacking 20,000 police officers, now wants to restrict the use of the Internet. As usual with such requests and demands, the way this is said is sweeping and not very concrete. We don’t really know what they want to achieve, and how. The Tories claim this is to make Britain and the world a safer place, to hunt and prosecute terrorists, but knowing politicians, I have my doubts.

In 2005, Tony Blair (from the “other” British party) restricted the use of e.g. hoodies in public places and they introduced a sweeping crime they called “anti-social behavior”, leading to the police being able to arrest people for all kinds of things deemed going against the social order of the U.K. Did the country become better? Safer? No, quite the contrary. I use this particular example because this isn’t something restricted to conservative parties.

All politicians dislike opposition. Power corrupts, I’m sure you’ve heard that before. And Ms. May, like her colleagues around the world, dislikes being criticized. I don’t know how she ticks, why she acts the way she does, but she certainly appears less like the leader of a democratic country and more like a despot “my way or the highway” in her approach to her own people and Europe (who ought to be Britain’s closest friends). Her latest proposals to limit what we can do and say on the Internet is worrying. The proposal in the Tory manifesto are sweeping, and in her speech after the most recent attacks, scary. Why?

Why?

I sometimes write about politics in my books (and this blog), and in Willem of the Tafel, it’s both about climate change, and racism. My struggle to keep our speech “free” is personal. As a gay writer, my words are despised by large groups, and books have been burned throughout history.

Yes, terrorists use the web. They use it to spread propaganda, recruit new morons to follow in their path etc. BUT, the Internet is only a conduit. Just like the phone or a car. Despite trucks having been used for several terror attacks, I’ve yet to see a cry to limit the use of trucks in society. So why limit the use of the Internet? This isn’t about terror. This is about the media. This is about the opposition. Sadly, had the other party been in power, we may have seen similar spearhead ideas. Politicians dislike to be criticized, they dislike having the media scrutinize their doing. Have you watched House of Cards? I’m currently watching season 5, and despite the fact that the Underwoods are crooks, criminals and even killers (at least he is), I find myself rooting for him. The anti-hero is the journalist who tries to find the truth about the murder in season 1. I find myself wishing that he’ll fail, even though I should want to be grateful for his work, tirelessly trying to find clues to what really happened to the poor woman before she died in a subway.

No, I’m not saying politicians are murderers. Not at all, but they all dislike criticism, and they all dislike media who digs and finds our dirty little secrets about them. That is true for your local mayor or councilor as much as it is for 45 and his constant ramblings about “fake news”. The media has one single job: to inform the public and make sure to keep the government on their toes, on a straight and narrow path. We live in a day and age where this has become difficult. Papers have hardly any journalists left working and actually doing the digging, they have people on staff who cut and paste from press releases. Instead, many journalists now work for e.g. companies, cities, and governments, feeding ready-made articles, perfectly written, but hardly unbiased, to the media. This makes it very challenging reading the news. But it’s all we have. We, as individuals, have no chance to keep a watch on our own government.

It’s important

But we have to be vigilant. Power DOES corrupt, and any politician, any human really, who goes unchecked in a position of power, will be tempted to abuse that power. A Theresa May who isn’t questioned, who gets to spread her view of the world unchecked would find it a lot easier to win elections, again, and again. She would find it a lot easier to find support for her ideas. And by being able to monitor and restrict (how we don’t know) the use of the Internet would make it easier to shut down the opposition.

But it would stop terrorists, too!

Sadly it wouldn’t. Criminals don’t care about laws. It’s illegal to possess arms in most Western civilized societies. Criminals still have access to them. And the Internet isn’t just the Facebook, Google and other places we visit, corporate websites and video streaming that you and I use. There’s also a darknet, a place I wouldn’t even know how to access. It’s the illegal part of the Internet, and because it already is illegal, no regulation on the planet will stop it. And the more restricted access and use of “our” web is, the more it’ll drive people underground, to places where we don’t go. Instead, we need to become better at monitoring. We need to have our secret services and intelligence community do a much better job at monitoring terrorists and for that they need resources. Limiting the use of the web makes it more difficult to use the web AS a resource. And we have to make sure that the intelligence services are under democratic control, or they’ll be used against us in time, too. No, I’m not prone to conspiracy theories, but secrecy is rarely conducive to democracy…

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to fix terrorism. The roots to the injustices these young people feel so strongly about that they take up arms and blow themselves and others to the high heavens are old, some go back two millennia, some are much more recent, like the Gulf or Afghani wars. Not to mention how we have treated our social welfare in the west, leaving generations of young people behind. Injustice breeds injustice. But to fix that will take time.

What is your take? Do you feel comfortable with proposals to restrict the use of the Internet? Do you have ideas on how to fix things? Your views are welcome.

Have a good week. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

I can’t even write a wedding without politics getting involved #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

I can’t even write a wedding without politics getting involved #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

I wrote a wedding scene. A beautiful one. Then I had to re-write it

I’m in the editing mode of my latest WIP “disease”. I finished the first rough draft yesterday and went back to the beginning, reading through it again, adding bits here and there, checking the time line etc. There is a wedding scene in the book (two actually), and I really like it. Only it doesn’t work. Insert colorful expletive here. Because here’s the problem, allow me to demonstrate:

A straight writer writes straight wedding scene:

  1. write couple
  2. write officiant
  3. write scene
  4. move on to next scene

A gay writer writes gay wedding scene:

  1. write couple
  2. write officiant
  3. write scene
  4. wait, hang on, could we get married in that geography? At that point in time? What sort of “marriage” could we get?
  5. [colorful expletives] as extensive research begins
  6. research concluded, delete the scene, start over

I wrote this beautiful wedding scene, right here, in the town of Amalfi in southern Italy, when… Photo: Max Pixel, Creative Commons Zero

I’m not joking, and this is just a tiny morsel of the complications of writing LGBT fiction. We are in a constant battle to keep up with legislation, this ever-changing monstrosity where one day we’re granted civil rights only to be hauled off to execution camps the next, re Chechnya. The couple in my new book get married, only they don’t, as I had to painfully realize today, because of where I later placed them in world geography, I blame it on 5th Avenue, a geography that did not allow them to get married until Obergefell two years ago. So, back to the drawing board, research your state legislation, and find a way to rewrite the scene so that it matched not only the legal requirements I needed in terms of what I was aiming at later in the story, preserving the emotion of that scene while still being historically accurate. I’m telling you, being a gay writer sucks at times! And this is just one aspect.

I just had another long discussion about why relationship (or romantic) stories are so popular with the gay community (at least those of us who read), and why our “need” as gay men is different from the expectation of a straight female reader. Women reading gay romance do it primarily as an escape, a nice fantasy to escape to without the stereotype role models still largely at play in het romance (damsel in distress, alpha male to the rescue type). For us, romance isn’t an escape, it’s a possibility. Does that make sense? For eons, and way into the 1980s, the expectation we had on gay characters in novels was to die, often horrific deaths. We were the villain or the misunderstood freakshow of movies and books. We died. Best that could happen to us, along the lines of the old adage “only a dead Indian is a good Indian”.

Alex and I tied the knot in 2004 and saw our "partnership" upgraded to a marriage in 2009. The first five years remain unrecognized by t.he state. 

Alex and I tied the knot in 2004 and saw our “partnership” upgraded to a marriage in 2009. The first five years remain unrecognized by t.he state. 

As recognition of the fact that we had a heart and a soul began to root itself in society, and our struggle for equality began, so began our thirst for new stories, more hopeful stories. We wanted to read about us getting married, having families, children (or not), and to be happy. It was no longer a fantasy (which we wouldn’t have read because that would’ve been too cruel), but a possibility, a hope, something that might actually come to fruition. Do you see the difference? To us, reading about love and relationships is not about escaping reality for a few hours in the comfort of a good book, it’s about our future, a distinct possibility, a reality even for many of us. I hope that makes sense.

To exemplify the rapid changes, what about this. In this country, the royal court would send out greetings cards to centennials and couples married for sixty years or more, a diamond jubilee. By the time Alex and I get our card from His Majesty (or Her Majesty presumably), we would have been married for sixty-five years. Why? Because the first five years were a “civil union” and thus not recognized as marriage to this day. Not that I care much for a postcard from Stockholm, but still… The discrimination lives on.

Anyway, I will have to spend the next days and weeks editing my story, and hopefully, make it work. But today was a sad day, realizing that my beautiful wedding scene was just “pretend”. [Final colorful expletive] I feel very sorry for my two characters, and I may yet have to find a way to make it up to them…

Have a good weekend. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

 

 

#MondayBlogs: our mental “muscle memory” is the biggest threat to human progress #racism #LGBT #misogyny

#MondayBlogs: our mental “muscle memory” is the biggest threat to human progress #racism #LGBT #misogyny

“Muscle memory” isn’t the right word, it’s a bias really, but the consequences are as dire

Three things that happened this weekend had me think about why it is so difficult for us humans to change, why our “muscle memory” or bias gets in the way. As we grow up, we learn, we absorb lessons, and we learn most from what people do, how they act, not what they say. As a parent, I see this every day. I also see the hierarchy of credibility. I see my son come home (he’s 4!!!) and how he trusts the stories his friends in school tell him: about things “boys” do, and what “girls” do, from dresses to colors to jobs. As parents, we still have the upper hand, we still have more “cred” than our son’s pals, but not for much longer. We argue constantly for the equality of boys and girls in all aspects of life. The more we see, hear, observe, the better the lesson sits, and if you look around our society, it’s pretty simple to see why progress is slow: our society is still in a pretty bad state, even in progressive countries like my own.

Racism is the theme of this book of mine.

The forces we fight against are powerful, and they’re mostly working in secret. No, I’m not prone to conspiracy theories. The forces I’m talking about are the biases we humans have, mechanism built into our brain that help us navigate life, but that also make it difficult to change. Let me take a couple of examples:

Racism

Most people are not racists. When confronted with their racist behavior (and I include myself in this), we tend to get upset. But let’s be honest for a minute, shall we? When we (and this is geared to any dominating ethnicity) see someone from a disenfranchised group, e.g. blacks or gypsies, we react instinctively: we pull up information about that group from our memory. And what is it we’ve learned? Blacks are… [fill in blanks], gypsies are […] I remember a cruise with one of my best friends who’s black, and how officer after officer walked up to Alex, Sascha (two! at the time) and me and greeted us, but completely and utterly ignored my friend Claudine. She was invisible. Why? Did they merely see our servant? A nanny? Rather than the highly intelligent and senior physician with decades of professional experience? I don’t know, but the scene was harrowing. When confronted, each of the officers denied being a racist, yet they’d acted despicably.

Misogyny

We are still far, far away from equality of the sexes. Sadly, women are as bad as men, which makes progress even more slow. We are so stuck in our ways, in how we view the roles of men and women that we don’t even see just how sexist they are. Here’s an unusual example of sexism.

Misogyny and gender roles, are themes in this novel.

My husband and I are most likely the family in Sweden who’s been approved to foster a child the longest. Five years and running. Still, no placement. Most of the other families in our mandatory course already had their placements ready when we went through the training, we didn’t. Yes, part of it is homophobia, but I seriously doubt that social workers, who are so well educated and trained, are all homophobes. No, but their muscle memory, their bias is sexist. We had asked for the placement of a young child, a placement for a child to grow up with us. Now that we are parents to our own, biological child, that is unchanged. For Sascha to have a sibling, the child to be placed in our care would have to be +/- 3 years. Last time we were in touch with social services they “offered” us an 18 year old! Who needs to foster an adult? As bad as I felt for the young man, a gay man from Iran who apparently needed role models, a placement in an LGBT family wasn’t the solution. Quite the contrary: what message do you send when you do this?

But no young kids. Why? I think that social workers suffer from “mommy” syndrome: when they see a baby or a toddler who needs placed, they automatically think “we need a mother!” Why? Because! Look at society… They are incapable of stopping in their tracks for a split second and considering “why” they think that child needs a mother (or not). It’s quite obvious that we still see women primarily as care takers, and most women will agree, that’s what they’ve been prepared for, trained for, by their own mothers and grandmothers. Generation after generation. I’m no different, neither are you. Just picture the last time you saw a small child all alone on the street or in a park. I bet you looked around to see where its mother was. I’ll be honest to admit that I do. But I’ll be equally relieved to see a dad.

And as long as we equate “care” with “female” and “provide” with “male” society will not change, and Alex and I will never see a foster child, never see a sibling to our son.

Homophobia is a topic in many of my books, but it’s central to my second one, Jonathan’s Hope, and how one man’s internalized homophobia (which is still a very common thing) threatens his son’s life.

Homophobia

I saw this article the other day and was shocked. Then again, things like that are to be expected. I remember the day we came back from India, five weeks after Sascha had been born. Upon entering European soil from another continent with dodgy security procedures, we had to go through a new security control at Frankfurt airport. With a little baby, we were slow. One of the security guards (a female) approached us and wondered where the child’s mother was. Because two men and a baby is so unusual. This belongs more to the misogyny aspect, but trust me, we often get glances from other people about being a gay couple with kids, and when you look at EVERY country discussing marriage equality, kids are always the opposition’s prime argument, because gays = pedophiles. It was something we simply had to get used to. But it’s no less painful. Particularly when you’re at the receiving end of it

How do we move on?

That’s the real question, isn’t it? The challenge is to stop for a moment, before you act, before you speak up. Because we have two enemies: a) our own honesty, and b) the speed at which our brain works. I have had more conversations with people who will swear to everything holy to them that they aren’t “racists” etc, and they would never, ever admit to acting, thinking that way. I know. It’s difficult. Even for me, even though I’m fully aware that I am. I grew up in a society where racism against several minorities was common. I know that my brain has racist tendencies. Imagine the irony when I learned that I was a quarter gypsy, after having been imprinted just how untrustworthy, thieving and stealing a people they were, all my childhood. Ouch!

I was also raised a misogynist, of course, we all are, and I was also raised a homophobe. My brain, even for a split second, reacts MORE when I see a gay couple kiss or hold hands than when I see a het couple lick each other in public. It’s how I was raised. For many people, admitting this is difficult. But necessary!

So what can we do? We have to teach our brains to stop for a split-second after that initial reaction. We may never be able to completely obliterate those neural pathways, but we can learn to take a deep breath and think: why do you react this way? Before we act, before we speak. If we all did that, society would quickly improve, because we all know beyond the shadow of a doubt that behavior is not a factor of our skin color (you’re still very much the same person, even after the sun burn from hell!), our capacity to love and care is not a factor of our genitals and love knows no gender and sexuality/gender isn’t hereditary (or there would be no LGBT people)

Think about that for a few days, try to think of instances in your own life when you’ve acted, spoke “too quickly”, instances where you brain’s “muscle memory”, your biases, got in the way. I still do, even after working on myself for decades. Luckily, I catch my thought lapses before I can act upon them, but I’m still as ashamed for every time my brain jumps to conclusions as I was when I first realized just how badly “trained” my brain was.

Have a good week. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

Go, claim your copy now and discover new characters to love and cherish!

PS: Today’s the final day of the spring edition of the Big Gay Fiction Giveaway. Have a look, there are dozens of free stories, books or excerpts out there, new authors, new voices to discover. And since it’s a giveaway, it’s all for FREE! I’m participating with my fourth novel, The Fallen Angels of Karnataka.

Writing about a disease and the challenges it poses to the author #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

Writing about a disease and the challenges it poses to the author #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

Dementia isn’t just any disease, and writing about it is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done

I’m about two thirds through my new novel, disease, and I think some of you already know by now that it is a story about living with Alzheimer’s. I’ve had personal experiences with this disease, as both my mother and several other relatives have died from it. But particularly following my mother has given me profound insights into the inner workings of this wretched disease that eats people’s brains from the inside out.

I’m not going to give away the plot of the book here, besides, knowing my own brain’s inner workings that would be utterly futile. I am, after all, only about two thirds through, and lots can happen between now and the end. I decided early on that I would write from my protagonist’s point of view, and I think if you know anything about dementia, that makes it pretty clear why it is so challenging.

My mother giving me a bath. This was decades before the disease took her. Photo: private

As the disease progresses, memories are lost, people no longer have the capacity to do certain things. My mom for instance wasn’t able to iron clothing any more, she’d just forgotten the different steps needed to e.g. iron a shirt. The same with cooking, something my mom had done with great pride (and excelled at) for decades. It goes without saying that my mom suffered from that, immensely, although, and that makes my mom’s case unusual, we never talked to her about it. This has to do with very specific circumstances in our family, but by the time my mother was finally and officially diagnosed, it was too late. She would not have accepted the diagnosis.

People often say that Alzheimer’s is not the patient’s disease, but the disease of the loved ones. And those surrounding Alzheimer patients often tend to undo much of the tell-tales. My father would for instance take mom out to eat to smooth over the fact that she was no longer able to cook. That way, it never became a “thing”, never got awkward. Mom could simply claim she didn’t have to cook any more. And similar tactics were used in a number of areas. And even we children were accomplices. How do you tell your mother she’s basically “a nut job”? Well, you don’t. You don’t tell anybody they’re “crazy” or “nuts”, no matter how incoherent they are, how little sense their statements make. You just don’t, and it is probably easier to tell a stranger they’re behaving strangely than your own mother…

I have lots of material. At the same time, I’m an author of fiction, not the author of an Alzheimer biography. And the challenge lies primarily in the decision I made early on, to write this story from the patient’s perspective. “Aaah!” I hear you think. And you’re right. This does complicate matters, particularly if I were to take it to stage III and the end thereof, where the patient ultimately succumbs to the disease, loses the ability to speak, the ability of their bodily functions until ultimately, the body shuts down. Needless to say, this is not the fate of all Alzheimer’s patients. Many pass away from various other illnesses and afflictions before that happens.

But, and this is really the challenging part. How do you write the challenges of things like aphasia, or losing your vocabulary, how do you write that which the character no longer remembers?

Well, here’s how I do it, and since I’m not entirely finished with the novel, there may still be changes that need to be made, both to the overall approach and to details. In the first draft, I’ll just write the story as it comes to mind. It’s how I’ve always worked and it’s how I’ll finish this one, too. I need to trust my instincts, my artistic talent (or lack thereof, if you believe the trolls online). Once that first draft is done, and I hope to be able to finish that first draft by the end of this month, I’ll have roughly two months to edit the story, and I think this time it’ll need some heavy editing, making sure the language is simplified as I move along in the disease’s timeline. I may even have to build in some inconsistencies, even what to a reader may appear to be plot holes. Because such is the disease. It’s going to be an interesting novel, for sure, not to mention quite the challenge for The Queen of Unconventional Happy Endings.

Speaking of queens… We are about halfway through the Big Gay Fiction Giveaway:

Go, claim your copy now and discover new characters to love and cherish!

Have you been to the website to claim your Instafreebie copy of all those amazing books that are available this week? I’m participating with my most important work to date, The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, a novel about child abuse and trafficking, and I’ve already had almost one thousand claims, so I’m very pleased. Not bad for such a deep novel next to all the sexy and fluffy romances. Have you gotten your copy yet? You have four more days! Don’t miss this.

Have a great weekend, I sure hope I do, particularly if the weather stays as warm and sunny as it’s been these past twenty-four hours. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

#MondayBlogs: authors, do you let your characters get their way? #amwriting #books #asmasg

#MondayBlogs: authors, do you let your characters get their way? #amwriting #books #asmasg

Do you write your characters’ stories or do they write their own? Or is it really a blend of both?

I have a hunch that any non author would shrug at this question, not even understand what I’m talking about. Why would any character, a fictional non-entity, only existing in the mind of the author, have any say about anything in the first place? Well, the easy answer is, “because you’re not an author”… So, allow me to explain how we, and our characters, interact. Disclaimer: I can only speak for myself. The creative process of every author is going to be different.

Here’s one of the last pictures I have of me, my son and my mother. This was taken just a couple of months before she passed away. A treasured memory, for sure.

Let’s start with your mother. I hope you’ve met her and gotten to know her well. If not, picture another kind being in your vicinity. To you, your mother is a real human being. Flesh, blood, you can touch her, hug her, you can feel the warmth of her skin, her breath on your face, you hear her words and you have countless pictures of her in your mind, memories, good ones, mingled with some other ones.

When my mother died, something extraordinary happened. She moved into my head, forever. In doing so, my mother became fictional. Her physical being transformed into nothing but neurons, synapses and bio-electrical impulses. Are you still with me? My mom is now a memory, a fictional character, because how can I know that the memories I have of her are accurate? What memories are false and which are real? This is a huge field in psychology and I won’t get into that here.

With my characters, it’s the opposite way. Rather than moving INTO my head, they emerge from my subconscious, and they manifest themselves. In doing so, the become neurons, synapses and bio-electrical impulses. I have no insight into my brain, and it is impossible to see which parts of my characters are made up from what (former) real-life people, other fictional characters or just plain new creations. I couldn’t know, and quite frankly I don’t want to. I’m sure there’s always a sprinkle or two of me in all of them. What, I couldn’t know. We are, after all, humans first and foremost, sharing much more than what divides us.

Therefore, I claim, my characters are as real to me, as much flesh and blood, as any real human being. No, I may not be able to touch them, hug them, but neither can I hug my mom any more. Doesn’t make her any less real, and to my brain, the distinction is irrelevant.

My characters and I get really close. This was an interesting coincidence where I found a cover model with an uncanny resemblance to my internal pictures of the character.

In my writing, I completely depend on my characters. They tell me their stories, I can’t make them up, even though, “legally” you could probably claim it is me. But I have no clue what they’ll do next or where they’ll take the story. On the other hand, I’ve also noticed that my writing has changed over the past years. While my characters, in who they are, how they act, still is beyond my control, what I can decide over more than ever before is the content, the scenes I’ll put them through. E.g., I can say “let’s do a wedding” or “what happened at Christmas?”, and they’ll take if rom there. I don’t have any control further than that, not yet.

I could tell you stories about “stuff” my characters pulled on me. One actually died on me, in the middle of the story! My main character! The name on the cover of the book. Needless to say I had no idea how to “fix” that. It righted itself because I just kept writing (after a couple of days break), but yeah, sometimes they pull some real stunts. But that’s never really been my main concern or worry. What really drives me crazy is when I lose one of my characters. Not all, of course. A villain who dies, or a tertiary side character won’t be missed much, like some of the aunts and uncles we lose in real life. It’s not the blood relationship that counts, but how close we were to those people. I have characters who mean more to me, who I love a great deal more than many relatives I’ve had in the so called “real world”. But alas, we aren’t entitled to loving them as much, because “figments of our imagination”.

Not sure any of this makes any sense to anyone but myself, because it’s really all crystal clear to me. I love my characters, their quirky ways, their incredible adventures, the depth of their emotions, the thrill rides they take me on. In that way they’re different from Mom, because with her, there are no new adventures. All I ever get to do is revisit memories. Nothing wrong with that, but memories fade and become bleak with time. The adventures my characters take me on are forever saved on paper. And they’re not just for me, but for the world to enjoy. That is what really makes us authors privileged.

Now over to you. How do you relate to your characters? What relationship to you have with your characters? Are they running you or do you have them run your errands?

Have a great and productive week, I sure hope I do, and if you like what you’ve just read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

PS: Today is the first day of the Big Gay Fiction Giveaway. You aren’t missing this, are you? Dozens and dozens of free books are waiting for you:

Go, claim your copy now and discover new characters to love and cherish!

Relief: I’m finally writing again, and my WIP is actually progressing #amwriting for real #asmsg #LGBT

Relief: I’m finally writing again, and my WIP is actually progressing #amwriting for real #asmsg #LGBT

For every day I wasn’t been writing, I felt worse. Writing again? Bliss!

The existence of a writer is not one you should envy, trust me. Most of my author friends have day jobs, and when I see their Facebook posts, scrambling home from work, jotting down plot bunnies, or writing this scene or that chapter late at night, I still often find myself feeling envious. Envy for their jobs and the social interaction in provides them with, envy for being able to sit down and write, no matter the hour of day. Seems my brain is wired differently.

I can’t. Sit down and just write i.e.. At least not fiction, certainly not a novel. When I began writing fiction, in early January of 2013, my writing was carefree, I think my entire existence was in a state of elatedness at the time. Pregnancy hormones flooding my system (we were six months pregnant then), I had managed to get out from under a psychopathic boss largely unscathed and yes, the story within me was literally bubbling under the surface. It was on file in less than two weeks. Book number two was finished as a first draft two weeks later.

Sometimes I look back on those days and wonder how I did it. How would I deal with the death of my main character halfway through the story today? Most likely very different from what I did back then: I kept writing, and my wondrous subconscious righted it all. Thank you brain, you’re the best (mostly!) Today, I realized at around eleven in the morning that I’d run out of errands to do, places to call, invoices to pay, posts to write and even my brand new Apple Watch was conspicuously silent. Traitor!

Yeah, this is my work space while I'm in the zone in my author cave. The zone is a mental place, the author cave simply the place where I sit with my laptop, somewhere in the house, in close proximity to our espresso machine.

Yeah, this is my work space while I’m in the zone in my author cave. The zone is a mental place, the author cave simply the place where I sit with my laptop, somewhere in the house, in close proximity to our espresso machine.

Carefully I opened the two Pages documents that contain the current WIP for Disease and the notes. In my MacBook’s split screen mode, they enable me to write and keep notes at the same time. Who needs Scrivener, right? It has been so long since I last opened the document that I had forgotten much of what I’d written, where I had stopped. The story is told from the main character’s point of view, largely as diary entries, but here and there, there are comments from someone else. You’ll see why in time, i.e. if I stick to that approach. I’m not 100% sure yet. Anyway, I had just begun to add those comments when I’d been interrupted by, well, let’s call it “life”?

The refurbishment of our bathroom took two weeks, while my husband’s career suddenly jerked upward and sideways, while I’m looking for a day job, while my neighbor is threatening us again… Needless to say, it’s been crazy hectic around here. Add to that my trip to New York three weeks ago, and household work plus a secret project I’m working on, which is taking up a considerable amount of time. I had moved away from the “zone” further and further. And the further away from the zone I moved, the scarier the prospect of writing again began to feel. I was scared shitless when I finally ran out of excuses and procrastinating didn’t work any more…

This, the remodeling of our downstairs bathroom, from a mere space for the washing machine and dryer to a real bathroom for Alex and I took longer and cost tons more nerves than I ever expected.

This, the remodeling of our downstairs bathroom, from a mere space for the washing machine and dryer to a real bathroom for Alex and I took longer and cost tons more nerves than I ever expected.

When I finally laid eyes on the text again, and after I had gotten reacquainted with it, I began to edit. One character had changed their sex/gender early on (no, nothing dramatic), and I needed to fix that throughout the entire story, plus you know, once you begin to fine comb a text you always find stuff… Once that was done, I’d already added five hundred words, I was writing again, and slowly but surely I felt this odd sensation as the corners of my mouth almost magically turned upward into a faint smile. I was back in the zone.

Writing again, but differently…

Yet unlike four years ago, when I’d simply type away, I jotted down some ideas, some things (plus bunnies?) I wanted to address as the story progressed. I considered the time line, thought a lot about the ending, and how I’d get there (had what I think is a brilliant idea, but we’ll see how it pans out once I write it), and just kept writing, scene after scene. In the end, just minutes before the family descended upon the house, I had written almost five thousand words, and I’m now at 19+K (as you can see from the screen shot above). Still far from done, but my fingers itch to continue, although I may not have much time tomorrow, as I need to go to town at nine in the morning (which is why I’m writing this blog post now, Thursday evening).

In closing, let me just say this about what it feels like to be back in the zone, the emotions I feel:

  • I really want to write again, the fear I felt when I first opened the document is all but gone, and I wish my family had stayed away for a few more hours (or days) to allow me to continue uninterrupted.
  • I felt elated when I was writing again, and I feel deprived now that I am not. But I just can’t focus on writing with my husband sitting next to me on his work PC looking at employee statistics, moaning and swearing intermittently.
  • I was happy in my bubble, and I long to get back into it, to wrap that emotion of comfort around me like a blanket. Both of my characters were talking freely to me today, telling me their stories, from their two very different vantage points, and that is exactly how I like my boys (men in this case), talking to me. The plot itself is moving along nicely and the little plot bunnies will hopefully enable me to write more chapters, and right now it feels like this could quickly become a full-length novel, despite my earlier fears I might never actually finish it.
  • I’m not as freaked out about having a 75% done cover for the book any more (and less than a 25% story…)

The weekend is upon me, and next week looks promising in terms of writing again. Who knows, if I keep this up, I might have a first rough draft done by the end of May. I really, really want to be able to focus on editing this time, and I know that I have to submit the manuscript to my publisher by August 1, to allow for all the edits, changes, typesetting, proof reading and publishing to take place in time for the late October publication date. And as we all know, time flies when you’re busy and having fun, not to mention with summer and vacations looming around the corner…

Jeez, I’m just glad to be writing again… You have no idea! (…or maybe you can tell from the above?)

Have a wonderful weekend, and if you like what you’ve just read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

PS: There are two ways you can make an author’s day: a) is to buy one of their books and b) to leave a short review of it on Amazon. Good or bad, books without (or few) reviews are generally ignored.

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