Flow of Information

Having worked for some years now as a freelance translator of both business documentation and magazine articles from Dutch to English, I’ve observed a real drive for information from other countries to reach American shores. If we look at history we see that information - pretty much since the end of WWII - has flowed from the US to the rest of the world. The US has been the big culture exporter. While Europe was rebuilding after the war that was all right, but I think it’s time for that pendulum to swing the other way, or at least for a greater circulation of information in more than one direction. 

The US might lead the way in many things, which is just fine, but I also feel mainstream media is very limited in what it tells us from foreign sources. Granted, it would require an investment in people who know other languages and can monitor diverse and far flung news outlets, but I think the long-term benefits would outweigh any up-front costs. That benefit being a greater understanding of other cultures around the world; a less isolationist view of the world and a greater sharing of resources, knowledge and discoveries across borders. 

The same holds true for literature. So few of good foreign writing makes it the US, and then if it is poorly translated the success of a book will only be limited. 

Despite my reservations regarding Amazon, I do like the fact that one of their imprints is dedicated solely to bringing foreign books to an English speaking market. I’m eager to assist in the translation and bringing to market of Dutch books. A number of outstanding teen novels come to mind as a good starting point, but there are many, many wonderful books in the Dutch language, published in the Netherlands and Belgium that would appeal to an English speaking audience. 

The internet of course is a great source of information and Google does a decent job of translating foreign websites, though some words and expressions become something entirely different than their original, it’s not the same as having a newsmagazine or newspaper that has at least a section devoted to information, opinion and research from overseas sources. I will say though that there is a growing trend in European institutions of higher learning to conduct business/classes in English to better mesh with a global market, but that still only captures a small portion of relevant information.

I’ve talked to small overseas blogs and news magazines that would like to see a deeper dialogue, who would like to be able to start greater cross-cultural discussions, but are stymied in that ambition by lack of funds to pay a translator (some days translating reminds me of my impoverished days writing grants for small non-profits). 

People from different cultural backgrounds will have very different opinions on the same event/activity/experience. Only through sharing of knowledge, information, opinion and research can we truly gain understanding of each other. Surely someone is willing to invest in that?

September Book Review

The Eye of God
By: James Rollins

I picked up this book at the very well stocked, ad hoc bookstore at the PNWA writers conference I attended earlier this summer. Again, it was not a book I would ordinarily choose, but something about it grabbed me and I thought I’d give it a try. 

It must have been the combination of physics, history, a mystery, and an adventure that caught my eye. More than anything though I was curious to see if the author putting all these disparate elements together could still make the book readable and the story plausible. I’m pleased to report that the author succeeded and when reading the book I found myself unable to put it down. 

Some of the elements in the story are: a satellite sent up to study a passing meteor comes crashing down to earth in an inaccessible part of Mongolia, a very old book, bound in human skin, gets delivered to a researcher and priest at the Vatican, setting off a mystery. Then there are the Triads in Hong Kong who weave in and out as well. All the stories converge when Sigma Force, an elite black ops type of team, goes in search of the satellite, because it holds the key to preventing a global cataclysm. But the mystery surrounding the book is somehow tied up in that as well. 

So much happens in the book and at such a fast pace that I can hardly begin to describe it, but the history and science are very well researched and woven into the tale. I now know more about Genghis Khan than before and also about quantum physics, which, as you know, is something I’m always eager to learn more about. I also learned about biohacking which sounds fascinating, but I’m not sure I’m up for trying it.

The violence again was something I could have done without, but it made sense to the story and this author is, thankfully, not that graphic in his descriptions. He also shows remarkable respect toward women and even has a couple of his characters look for ways to ease the suffering of women and children, when they are finally free to do so. 

All in all, a richly woven narrative with strong characters and an excellent balance of fact and fiction. I’m eager to read more by this author. 

Screenplay Done

screenplay and small stack of notes
Now that the screenplay is done and the client is happy and the all-important copyright has been registered, I can finally talk about that screenplay project with you. 

It’s been a crazy ride and a steep learning curve, but I think we have something worthwhile. As if I would say anything else, of course. I put blood, sweat and tears into this project. It was hard not to get too attached to the characters and then have to change them completely. One week the lead character was a middle aged real estate millionaire, then a wealthy investment banker, next a young reporter, before finally settling as a young venture capitalist with a tech background looking to start a business in Detroit. And that was just one character!

But before I get too deeply into the screenplay story itself, let me tell you about my client and his reasons for hiring me to write this story with him. He’s an 80-year old self-made man, doesn’t look a day over 70, if that old, who made his fortune in Seattle real estate. And at times was quite ruthless about it too from what I can glean from his stories. He’s an old time gambler with hints of big games in Vegas in the old days. Most days he still plays a couple of hours of tennis and bridge whenever he can. 

But none of that is leaving him feeling fully satisfied with life at this stage. He wants to leave a legacy for his kids and grandkids. And what better way than to see your name up in lights, as the old saying goes. 

The idea for the screenplay first took root in his fertile imagination after seeing a documentary on the decline of Detroit, Detropia. As a real estate developer his first thoughts were on what he might do, if he had enough wealth, to revitalize a city teetering on the verge like that. Initially the story was fairly pedestrian in its premise, but it quickly became more than that. 

Some of his deep down motives are fueled by a desire to leave a better planet for his offspring. One where we’re no longer using up every last crumb of the planet, where we’re not continuing to make more, consume more, pile up more trash and stomp on others who have less.

A tall order!

After many outlines and drafts and revisions we settled on electric transportation as the way to save a city. Borrowing from a future we both anticipate will come where electric batteries are more robust, not lithium-ion anymore, and able to power buses, trucks and cars with ease for significantly long distances. And, while we’re at it, why not make it an international effort bringing countries closer together and dramatically reducing pollution. But don’t worry, we didn’t make it sappy, we were sure to add in tension, conflict, history, and even a bit of a love story, oh, and we’re envisioning a Motown soundtrack.

Log Line for “Rescue Me”:  Her technology fulfilled a promise to her grandfather, brought the two largest economies closer together and saved a city.

I will blog more about the screenplay and efforts to see it into production over the next few months, so stay tuned. Or contact me for more info using the comment section. 

Give Away Winners!

I had a such a lovely response to my August Give Away contest that I opted to randomly choose 3 winners to receive a digital copy of  Tales from the Fountain Pen!

And they are:


Dear winners, enjoy the book and feel free to let me know in the comment section what you thought of it, or write a review at Goodreads.com or your favorite E-book retailer.

For the rest of August I am still taking author questions and I'll post a link here to the questions already asked and answered.


Looking forward to answering more of your questions.

August Book Review

Something more than night
by: Ian Tregellis

In the mood for something completely different I downloaded this book onto my kindle before my trip to the old country last month. I started reading it on the flight over and was sucked in from the first line. 

The premise is impossible and yet completely plausible. Someone has murdered the angel Gabriel and on top of that the Jericho trumpet is missing. Angels are trying to make a break for freedom; to escape the heavens. There is the ‘Voice of God’ and a human female set up to either take the fall or solve the crime. 

Written in the style of a classic ‘Noir’ as in Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, it features the patois of the style in the form of a hard boiled fallen angel, Bayliss who narrates most of the book. Toss in a dame “who was going to be trouble”, a priest with a secret, stigmata nightclub dancers, and a world on the verge of collapse. 

The story takes remarkable twists and turns, tosses in all kinds of interesting heavenly characters with bad manners and unfolds toward a satisfying and surprising ending. Despite all those ‘out there’ characters there is a real poignancy in the human relationships which run through the story and befuddle the heavenly beings who turn out to be remarkably self-absorbed and uninterested in the world. 

In with the religious allegory is a healthy sprinkling of - quantum - physics and plenty of homage to the great noir writers. 

The author has done his research and has put together a great story. Not your average ‘whodoneit’ which makes for a good change. I wasn’t sure he could pull it off when I’d read the description, but he has.  Think the Maltese Falcon in heaven to get some idea of this book. 

I highly recommend it. 

The Big August Give Away

I know it's still bright, sunny July, but it will be August in day or two more and I want to let you know about the give away I'm setting up for August.

Due to the 'miracle' of technology my book links are finally active again on Goodreads.com and to celebrate I'm giving away one digital copy of my novella 'Tales from the Fountain Pen'. All you need to do is send an email to : elynnh2write(at)gmail(dot)com with Give Away in the subject line before August 15th. (After that the email box goes away)

On August 16th using some fancy, honest, randomizing method, I will pick one lucky winner.

So if you're in the mood for an atmospheric journey back to WWII the Netherlands where a young woman, Maggie (age 17 almost 18), is trying to navigate the challenges of growing up in a time of war, enter the give away!

Also, in the month of August I will be taking questions on Goodreads, so if there's anything you've ever wanted to know about my writing, future books, how to survive rejection, etc. please feel free to ask.

And reviews on Goodreads are of course always welcome.

Conference Lessons

This past weekend was the annual Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) conference. It was the first time I signed up for this one, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. My initial impression on the first day was that the atmosphere seemed subdued, but I quickly realized my error in judgement.

The writers conferences I’d attended in the past had been SCBWI (society for children’s book writers and illustrators) conferences and had a far more playful feel to them because we’re talking about children's books. 

My main reason for coming to the PNWA conference was not so much the breakout sessions, though they were interesting, but the opportunity to interact with agents and editors, and to meet new people. 

A writer, any artist really, grows stale if he/she doesn’t step out and meet new people, have new experiences, and look at things from a different point of view. Of course stepping out is not always easy for a bunch of introverted artists, but the PNWA was a huge success in that sense. 

Whenever I sat down somewhere to take a few notes or quietly practice my pitches someone would join me and offer to help, though it invariably turned into a wonderful conversation. There were people there from all over the country and even some from outside the country.  

I feel I learned the most from those people because we shared a common interest, though we came from completely different backgrounds, and through that common interest we were able to start a conversation about writing, publishing, and life in general. 

Sometimes a question as simple as ‘what kind of writing do you do?’ opened the door to real depth and a human connection. 

It reminds me of something I observed and try to incorporate in my encounters with others. A brilliant marketing lady I had the good fortune of working with many, many moons ago at a non-profit I wrote grants for, had the ability to make people feel at ease and open up simply by finding one thing to complement them on in the first 5 minutes of meeting them and then really listening to their response. (Thank you, Carrie!)

I wonder what the world would look like if we all took the time to even for 5 minutes put our egos aside and found something good in another? 

But now I’d better get back to putting together submissions to the agents who expressed interest in my manuscripts! Wish me luck!

July Book Review

The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel 
by Jasper Fforde 

I tried to finish this before heading to Europe but ended up taking it on the plane to finish. Thank goodness my offspring had room for one more book in his carry on. Though I had my e-reader loaded with other books, this one was still a nice old-fashioned paperback. You really can’t beat the joy of traveling with a paperback book, but they do add a lot of extra weight to already overstuffed luggage.

The Eyre Affaire is an odd blend of science fiction, fantasy, murder mystery and maybe just a hint of romance. Though entertaining and written well enough that I wanted to know the end, it did at times leave me confused and wondering where the author actually wanted to go. Or what the book was supposed to be. 

It features a female protagonist, Thursday Next, who tracks down people who tamper with books. A Literatec investigator, and a veteran of a very protracted conflict in the Crimea with Russia. So an altered history timeline has been thrown into the mix as well. 

A master criminal has taken a rare original manuscript and using an ingenious device designed by the protagonist’s uncle, adding a personal stake to the mystery, is lifting characters from the book and killing them. 

The first half of the book was better than the second where I felt the author rushed the story and didn’t do the characters justice. Or maybe I was reading it too fast in between the turbulence bumps on the flight across the Atlantic. Either way, I’ll give the sequels a miss.  Though I will admit that I did enjoy the literary in-jokes and was pleased to find I had read enough classics to keep up.  

The Blog Tour, My Writing Process

Theo dictates when I take a break!
Thanks to my friend and fellow author Lynne Kennedy for inviting me to participate in this new blog tour. It’s kind of like a virtual studio open house tour. I’ve not yet met Lynne in person, but we talk online and discuss historical fiction, the process and dogs. She has also given me a lot of information about the process involved in self-publishing using Amazon. 

But before I get sidetracked here is my contribution to the tour. 

I’m currently working on a work-for-hire screenplay project for a client with a great idea. That’s about all I’m allowed to say about that. Hopefully he’ll be able to sell it so I can talk about it. I’m also working on a historical fiction novel for teens set in WWII Strasbourg, France (well it’s France now, it wasn’t then). And I’m editing my novel “Out in the Dark” with the idea of self-publishing it. That decision kind of depends on where this feud between Hachette Book Group and Amazon goes. 

Those of you who have read my novella “Tales from the Fountain Pen” will have some idea of what I mean when I say that one of the main differences in my stories is the emotional component. A sense of feeling what the characters are feeling and making an at times difficult era very real, making you feel like you are there. Often my characters are quite ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and having to make difficult choices, not only for themselves, but choices that will affect others. 

I’m not so sure I have an actual process at this point. It’s really about showing up and sitting down at the computer every day. Most of my stories or books start with either an idea, or simply the first line. There are times when I’m playing with a thought or feeling and trying to figure out how to put it into words. From there the story either flows or it doesn’t, if it doesn’t it goes away for a while till some other time. Sometimes I start handwriting a story because the very act of writing by hand stimulate a different part of the brain than typing does. 
But if you want me to get technical on what my writing day looks like:
After the morning chores such as driving off-spring to school & walking the dog & feeding the cats then letting them out, letting them in and maybe letting them out again, I’ll make a large cup of tea and fire up my laptop. 
First there is the pure and unadulterated pleasure of reading an email from a very dear friend overseas, then a quick check of the news headlines - why is it always bad news? - and after these morning rituals I get to work until lunch time. After lunch I’ll work some more, often there’s a translation that’s due in that time too so I’ll take a break and work on that. The change in work can help refresh the writing, and the rewriting, and the editing and polishing. 

UP NEXT:  And now I hand you off to another one of my writing friends, Richard Hardie of the Temporal Detective Agency series fame, all the way in England. 

The High Ground

I’ve been following the spat between Amazon and Hatchette Book Group with interest and  growing concern. Actually at this point it’s not a spat anymore, but a full blown battle. What started as a disagreement, has now become a nasty business of one company undermining another company. 

At first Amazon took the big 5 publishers and Apple’s iBooks to court over E-book price fixing. Stating that the prices these big publishers set for E-books were too high and detrimental to sales and authors.  The judge sided with Amazon. Which made sense as the overhead on E-book production is very low, and therefore it follows that the profit margin is higher already. The author as well as the publisher should be seeing a larger royalty too. But that wasn’t quite how it went. I secretly suspect that publishers hoped this whole E-book thing would fizzle, which is probably one reason a number were late adopters. 

But things have turned ugly. Information is coming out of Amazon’s bullying tactics toward publishers on setting prices not only for E-books but also for paper books. Now Amazon are delaying shipments to customers of books published by Hachette or simply refusing to stock them. 

I won’t go into the details as they’re easy to find online, but what concerns me is: what will the ultimate fall out be? How will this have an impact on people who choose to self-publish through Amazon? Will it lower their chances of being picked up by a traditional publisher even further? Will they get blacklisted for - supposedly - siding with either Amazon or Hachette? 

What will happen to those of us who have good books written, but can’t get through the door with publishers, for whatever reason, or just don’t want to wait the years it can take to crack open that door, and who opt to self publish? 

Because of this growing battle are we authors suddenly at risk of having career opportunities cut short? Do we as authors continue to send out submission after submission, that may or may not, reach the person we hope to reach? And then wait sometimes 6 months to a year for a form letter informing us that we don’t fit the current needs of the publisher? 

I’m not trying to put down any side in this deliberation, as I’m a very tiny cog in an overwhelmingly large machine, but I do wonder. And I would very much like to see some discussion around this particular issue, because many of the writers I know are very serious about growing their careers, and if one - perceived - wrong choice cuts them off at the knees, it means we all lose. 

What high ground can I take here and still grow my career? 

Maybe I’ll join my cat, Seymour, on the roof for a bit to contemplate this issue. 

June Book Review

The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer

I read this book in April, but as you know, May was a little busy with boxes, moving and cleaning, so no time for a book review. I’d like to say I’m all settled in but that’s not quite true, there are still plenty of boxes that need to be emptied … or maybe just donated? Not my books of course, they’d be hard to give up.

The Cairo Affair was perfect for those airport lounges and long plane flights in April. Nothing too strenuous, but a very enjoyable, intricately layered, spy yarn. What starts with a murder leaving an 'innocent' expat American widow, slowly unravels into a big web of intrigue, double cross, more murder and cross-border shenanigans. 

Sophie Kohl has just confessed to her husband, a career diplomat, that she had an affair while they were stationed in Cairo when he's suddenly shot dead in the restaurant in Hungary where they're having dinner. 

Since Sophie was told that it was Stan, the CIA agent in Cairo she'd had the affair with, who had told her husband, she calls him and confronts him. Stan, still very much in love with Sophie, wants to help. But both of them lie to each other, as does everyone else in the story that follows, and we learn that not all is as it is portrayed. Who works for whom? Who's double crossing which organization? And who's paying for what exactly?

The author has an excellent grip on current affairs and seamlessly blends past and present events across the globe, including Egypt, the former Yugoslavia and Libya. In a time when we no longer have the iron curtain and the cold war, we now find ‘freelance’ spies selling information to the highest bidder in an effort to raise capital for a cause in their own countries, of course with disastrous consequences. 

There were a number of unexpected, though very plausible, plot twists, and the characters were drawn in a fine enough detail to come alive without have been labored over. 

My only objection was a rather brutal description of war crimes, and some heinous crimes against women in particular. It seems to be the season for that, if the news media is anything to go by. A very sad state of affairs which almost made me stop reading. It seemed unnecessarily detailed for the flow of the story, but that's my personal opinion.

I will probably seek out more books by this author, especially since there are a few more airport lounges and long plane rides coming up later this month. And there's just nothing like a spy novel to liven up international travel!

Moving and Stress

My new workspace 

I'm still in the middle of this move, which is keeping my writing from being written, my blog from being blogged, and my laundry from being laundered... okay, you didn't need to know that.

After a physically grueling weekend of carrying heavy things to and from a truck I managed to translate a small article this morning that tells me of the benefits of stress. It had some well-reasoned arguments about how stress boosts certain hormones that then help you have a burst of creativity, or how it can help you find solutions more easily. Though it did warn that there should be balance with that stress so you don't overload on that cortisone hormone that's released. Endorphins sound much more fun right about now.

Anyway, in a bit of good news, my screenplay client is very happy with two-thirds of the screenplay. He admits that perhaps he rushed me a tad toward the end there.... and there was that move, too!

Now we can get to work on polishing it up to the point where he can go out and pitch it, which is what he really wants to do.

And in other news, I have received some very good and useful editorial feedback on that first chapter of "Out in the Dark". Maybe next week I'll post chapter 2.
The cat is helping with my work

Out in the Dark, chapter 1

After much thinking, soul searching, research and asking other writers, I've decided to try an experiment. I will self-publish this dark, young adult novel 'Out in the Dark'. Below I've included the first chapter and I welcome comments or inquiries. A previous post on this book can be found here along with a synopsis: Out in the Dark

A friend of mine is probably going to do the cover art, so stay tuned for that as well. She's the very talented artist Karin who did the lovely pen and ink drawing of Sydney in the post on 'Tales of Sydney'.

Let me know what you think and stay tuned for updates on the process of self-publishing. I hope it won't cost a fortune, or I may need to start a Kickstarter campaign!

Nicola Adams

Chapter 1.

The image flashed across his brain again and Jake rubbed his eyes to make it go away. He knew what it was and why he was seeing it, but he didn’t want to deal with it. He shouldn’t have to, not at his age. He should be having a normal life, going to baseball practice, sneaking a smoke behind his mother’s back and cutting the occasional class to prove he was a normal teen, except that he wasn’t. 
It was all his father’s fault. 
His father had taught him to see; to see what nobody else could see. To see far away and see what was hidden. His father had taught him to read people, events and places from afar. And now his father was sending him images. Things Jake didn’t want to see. 
There was nothing especially terrible about them, except that they were an unwelcome intrusion and made him feel uncomfortable. He didn’t want to see where his father was; the man had left. 
“Hey, you listening?” Jessica nudged him in the ribs, hard. The school bus bounced across  the potholes like it had lost all suspension. It was the oldest bus in the fleet, used to pick up the rowdiest kids along the rural routes in Washington. The seat covers were torn and the windows covered in permanent marker graffiti; some good, most terrible and just about all of it lewd. 
“Yeah, I’m listening,” Jake grumbled. She might be his girlfriend, but he was getting tired of her constant chatter about clothes and parties and celebrities. “When’s the party and where?” he said in his customary gruff voice, the one he’d adopted after his father left for one last mission. It had only been a year since his dad got called up for a special and highly secret project, but it felt so much longer. Jake’s mother could barely cope and Jake felt sure she would start something with Mr. Caruthers, the high school football coach. He’d been hanging around for weeks now, supposedly helping her out with chores around the house, but acting as if he was about to own the place. 
Why did Dad have to go away? Jake was mad at him and wanted him to come home to make everything right again, but that was little-kid dreaming. Life didn’t work that way. 
“Now that you have your driver’s license you can pick me up in your mom’s car and maybe we can go somewhere afterwards.” Jessica leaned suggestively against his shoulder and looked up at him with eager and expectant eyes. Her eyes were her best feature, big and round and deep blue. Aside from that she had an okay body, it was shapelier than most girls in his class. He wished she wouldn’t bleach her hair, though, it made it look unnatural, almost like straw. 
Everyone said he was lucky to be with her. His friends all thought they would marry after high school graduation. He could keep his job at Ramon’s garage and be all set. Why bother with college? 
If they only knew. Jake had very different plans. He was determined to get out of this small town. Rural Pacific Northwest was not his scene. Any place had to be better than this. 
The bus squealed to a stop in front of James Madison High. A standard one-story, sprawling school building that every day reminded Jake more and more of a prison. Throngs of teens in flannel, fleece and jeans shuffled into the building. The new principal stood at the door greeting each kid who walked past. It was his way of showing that the kids mattered, but Jake knew better. If each kid mattered then why had nobody suggested to him he try for a top science college or even just community college? His math scores were off the charts and the only thing keeping the school scores from being at rock bottom. 
Yeah, he was ready to get out. The sooner the better since it was obvious that nobody cared about him. 
“Ah...” Jake doubled over at the searing pain in his head. This was not supposed to happen. His dad said that only on rare occasions could you feel the pain of others. What was happening to his dad? This was not like before.
“Dude, you okay?” A hulking figure stood over him and put a hand on his shoulder. 
“Yeah, no worries,” Jake said to the prize offense-player of the football team. “Hangover, sunlight’s too bright,” he said, knowing that was the right answer. Besides, Brandon would never in a million years understand what was going on in Jake’s head, or his life. 
“Awesome, dude.” Brandon slapped him companionably on the shoulder, which nearly sent Jake sprawling. At six feet, 2 inches he wasn’t exactly small, but his slender frame was no match for the over 200-pound mass of Brandon.  
All through calculus Jake was plagued by the images his father sent him telepathically, no matter how hard he tried to shut them out. 

An idea started to form and by lunchtime he knew what he had to do. 

April Book Review

By: Hermann Hesse

Quickly before I dash off to St. Louis for the robotics world championships, I thought I’d put together a book review. For a thin book. 

I read it some time ago and planned to do a book review of it all along, but I didn't feel ready to write it until now. There is something about the book, that simple story which at its heart explains Buddhism, that stays with you. Regardless of your own spiritual persuasions. 

We can all identify with the seeking the main character goes through. First pursuing fortune and pleasure only to learn that those offer little fulfillment or peace. Then struggling to quiet the ego in a simple life and finally, hardest of all, learning to let go of the struggle we all face of letting go of expectations for others. This is particularly poignant when you have kids because you want to guide them and show them the right way, but only they can find the path that’s right for them. 

Where the book truly excels is in the simple telling of a universal story. In some ways it is the story of the Buddha, but in other ways it is the story of each and every one of us as we traverse this shiny blue bauble out in the middle of a vast universe. 

The book also shows the intense seeking the author, Herman Hesse, went through in his life. A writer whose life was not without struggle and pain. He started writing at a time when romanticism was very much in vogue in Germany and Austria, he at first embraced that style and direction of thinking, wanting to find the harmony with nature and the balance in the natural world. World War II changed all that and he retreated deep within himself and away from the world for a long time. 

Siddhartha is a book that lets you step back, for a moment joining the author in his quest, and reflect.  At least that is what it did for me. 

Screenwriting Week 14

I had this wonderful blog post almost all written about my progress on the screenwriting project; how we had worked together, talked almost daily on the phone, researched, reworked, added new characters and deleted other characters, and then I got a phone call from my client … Let’s change it! he said. 

So close. 
The old post is now crumpled up in a ball in the virtual laptop trashcan. I can still see it in there, and I wonder if there’s anything I can salvage from it, along with what I might be able to salvage from the screenplay I had almost completed. 

To change direction I spent a good portion of the day researching and watching old movies. Not a bad way to spend the day, especially not since I really enjoy those old movies. The ones with Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell, or Spencer Tracy & Kathryn Hepburn. 

Surprisingly, I’m not bothered by the change or the fact that I will basically have to start from scratch again. This is part of the collaborative process and will - hopefully - yield a better product. It also means we keep the story fresh and sharp, instead of slipping into an already set pattern, which is very easy. You start writing something and it seems ok, so you keep going only to realize you’re not stellar. Sometimes - often - a total rewrite is what’s required to produce a truly outstanding story. 

While I’m working on this I’m also continuing translation work which remains interesting. And then there are those robotics competitions to attend. Lots of travel, lots of excitement, but at least at the bigger competitions they set up mentor lounges so I can work there between matches. It’s a nice, quiet place with lots of tired looking adults with laptops. I’m in good company. 

Back to work, I’ve watched my movies, downloaded the scripts to read through, and fired up the laptop. I have a few days before we fly off again for the world championships in St. Louis, and I intend to get a lot of writing done. Oh, and I need to pack boxes since we’ll be moving soon too. 


I’ll start off by apologizing for not blogging more regularly this month. I still feel like it’s only the first week of March, everything is a blur of driving, robots and work … lots of work. 

But enough about that. You came here to read about my proofreading methods - and yes, I’ll admit mistakes still slip through. It’s not a foolproof process, especially not when reading my own work. I hear that from many writers. But there is one trick a very sharp, and very good proofreader taught me. 

Actually it’s two tricks. The first one is to read the text more than once; at least three times. The second trick is to use a different color piece of paper, folded over and use it as a reading guide.

Let me explain further with an example of a translation job: 

After I finish a job I’ll often let it sit for a day - don’t tell my client or they’ll shorten my deadlines! - so the text will have a chance to fade a little from my mind. Then the next day I’ll read through a printout with a colored pen or pencil and start marking the glaring errors and punctuation I may have missed. 

Next, after another cup of tea, I’ll enter the changes in the computer. Then I take a folded letter-size piece of paper and go through the piece, line by line. By holding the paper over the other text, I read it no longer as a whole story, but I’m reading it line by line. And when reading it line by line it’s easier to see mistakes our brain would normally correct for. Yes, it is time consuming, but it leads to a better finished product.    

After that I let it sit for a few hours, or maybe just an hour depending on my deadline, and then read it through one more time. You might think that’s redundant, but there have been many times when I’ve caught mistakes or just found clumsy sentences that could be better. Only then will I sent it off to my client. 

Now to apply that rigorous methodology to my novels! 

The Open Road

Ah, the open road, have laptop, will travel. The romance of driving where ever you want, plugging in the laptop and writing about all you see and experience...

Okay, it sounds good, but the reality is you’re trying to see the road in the driving rain. And where is that exit anyway? 

Who has the laptop charger and where is the mobile hotspot? What do you mean you don’t know? Does the hotel have wifi? Will it be any good? I’ve got clients waiting for stuff. 

Is that the street we need? Why don’t they put up legible street signs in this town? Turn left! Are you sure? Oh, you meant the second street, not the first. I’m glad your phone knows the way, because the map got wet at the Starbucks drive-thru. 

What? No cell service? Wait, we’re coming up on an other town... they’re bound to have at least one cell tower. 

We can’t park in the lot? Well, how about if I just park way at the back of the lot, where they can’t see me or even get close enough to try and tow me. Thanks, glad we agree on that. Now, where’s the rest of the team? And, more importantly, where is the bathroom in this place? 

Phew, we made it. Part of our team is in the stands, the rest are building the pit and setting up the robot. I’ve got coffee, not that I need any more, and a print out to work on for now. Nothing like having a stack of papers, poorly stapled together, and only your lap as a desk. But I’m working while the competition field is being set up and the PA systems is doing, ever louder!! , sound checks. 

Other bleary eyed, coffee toting, excited mentors are joining me and we’re start to talk strategy. This is going to be an exciting weekend. 

So did I get much work done? Not really, but it was worth every minute of sitting on those hard bleachers, watching the competitions and watching the crowds. It will only enrich my writing. I’m home and once again able to plug in my laptop, connect to reliable wifi, and work twice as hard and twice as fast to get caught up. Hey, a freelancer can work any 24 hours of the day she chooses. It will mean a few late nights working, but it’s all worth it. 

By the way, our robotics team won the district championship! 

February 2014 Book Review

As you know I’ve been busy reading film scripts and books on crafting a good screenplay, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try to squeeze in some fun reading where I can. 

I’m slowly working my way through an excellent English translation of the novel “The Time Regulation Institute”  by Turkish author Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar. However that’s not ready for review yet. In recent months I’ve also discovered some new comic books. Well, new to me as they are only just now coming out in English translations.

These are the “Blake and Mortimer” comic books and the reason I was drawn to trying them out is because the author was a close relation - and collaborator - to famed Tintin author Hergé. Tintin has been read and reread many times in my house. There is something about those stories that makes them very compelling. 

So, I thought I’d give Mr. Edgar P. Jacobs and his books a try. I wasn’t disappointed. Though he’s a little more serious than Hergé, and a bit more wordy, his stories do appeal in a way similar to Tintin. 

Our main characters are Captain Blake, dashing British agent of MI5, and his best friend, nuclear physicist, Professor Mortimer. They are intelligent, open minded and up for any adventure. Where Hergé just stays within the realm of reality, Jacobs takes us in a different direction. Some of his stories accept magical realism more readily, such as in “The Mystery of the Great Pyramid” or “The Atlantis Mystery”, where others show us a world with an alternate history where the conflict of World War II is different. In the trilogy “The Secret of the Swordfish” we’re shown what the world might look like if China had been the main aggressor in WWII, seeking and claiming world domination. 

It’s an interesting premise and alternative exploration of war and peace. In particular too the designs for the swordfish weapon show that Jacobs learned much from his mentor. 

The drawings are very reminiscent of Tintin and show Jacobs to be an accomplished artist. The story lines are imaginative and suspenseful, though some of the relationships show the time they were written in. There is a truly villainous bad guy, in the form of adventurer and soldier of fortune, Olrik, which adds imaginative complications to each story. The only negatives I find is that the stories are a bit wordy, with extraneous explanations, but I’m not sure if that’s true for the originals as well or if it’s caused by the translator needing more words. In general the translations could do with a bit of polishing and some of the words chosen seem archaic, and could have been updated without loss of context. Maybe some day I’ll look for a few in the original French to see how Jacobs actually wrote them.

All in all, I recommend these books for a lazy Sunday afternoon when you’re in the mood for some adventure, but don’t want to leave your comfy couch. 

Almost tripped, but hanging on

Here I was happily working away on yet another tight deadline translation - why they always have to be done so quickly I don’t know - and then I started to stumble on some words. 

They looked oddly familiar, but weren’t. Even my trusty translation app or online dictionaries didn’t know them. And they weren’t exactly tough scientific words, they were much more simple than that. 

Finally I realized why they looked familiar. They were English words but masquerading as Dutch; a few new letters stuck to the word and now it was normal Dutch. I found it a bit disorienting. 

Although it was a good lesson in realizing that language is a living thing; it changes almost with each generation. A language that gets used and mingles with words from other languages, more so in our hyper-connected world, is bound to change and evolve. 

For example, when I first arrived in the US the word “impact” was rarely used as a verb, but now its use as a verb is very common. When I proof read an essay for some high school students on the robotics team I happened to mention this. The kids reacted shocked. To them “impact” was both a verb and an adjective and they were very comfortable using it as a verb. 

But I could still clearly remember the delicate rant a coworker, with a passion for language in its purer forms, went on some twenty years ago. Consequently I’ve been very careful in my use of the word ‘impact’. 

To the teenagers I interact with a sentence like: “His has impacted the situation...” is very normal.
They’re less likely to say the sentence in this way: “His actions have had an impact on the situation ....” 

I feel I’m on somewhat shaky ground as I'll always consider myself a student of language, but I do pick up a thing or two, and listen when those who know grammar tell me their tale of woe when they see changes happening to their language (on either side of the Atlantic). But truly, language is a living thing and change is inevitable in life. The unique character is bound to remain in any language, despite change.