The digger dragon is born

It is a joyous moment for every writer when another story or chapter is finished. It is hard to express how good that feels. I am even happier because it has been a long time since I finished a new story. To me it is the confirmation that I am back as a writer. I allowed myself a long hiatus because a lot of changes were happening in my life. Although I knew the writer in me would always out. And he did.  Finishing a story and the ease and fluidity with which that went, is the sure sign that I am ready to write again.

The story I finished is another chapter in The Chronicles of Wormsprong. They are stories about the dragon created world of Wormsprong. They are children’s stories, but I am reliably informed that adults may like them too.

A version of the book has already been published years ago, and it is still available at Amazon. But somehow it never felt finished. There was so much more to tell. Today I finished a story that will open up a whole new line of stories and sagas. So the book will become a lot thicker in the near future. And that is how I intended the book to be. A large collection of stories about Wormsprong. Maybe a leather bound tome even, or am I letting my imagination fly to high now?

I also developed more ideas about the form of the book. I have been struggling with the idea of illustrations for the book. Commercially, people tell me, it is a necessity. But to me it doesn’t feel right. It just doesn’t fit my idea of the book to make illustrations a focal point of the book. I want children to form their own versions of all the creatures in the book. Anyway, did Tolkien stuff “The Hobbit” full of drawings? It is similar to the fact that I don’t like  children’s books that use overly dumbed-down language. How are children supposed to learn then? Their natural curiosity and curious brains want to learn new things. And learning a language by stories that are a little bit above a child’s current level is one of the oldest ways of education.

So the book has gained a story and the writer has gained valuable ideas about the form of the book. All in all a very productive morning!

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The Mammoth Rider

Mammoth riderIt hadn’t been snowing long, but it fell thickly. The falling snow made it impossible to see more than a few yards ahead. Ge-ort did not feel the cold while he lay perfectly still in his hastily constructed shelter. The snow had gathered on the old mammoth skin his father had given him. The low shelter was completely obscured from view. The mammoth skin had been in the family for many generations and it was only used during the initiation rite.

Compared to most other ceremonies, this one started out as a quiet affair. Ge-ort lay there, buried under the snow, with only a thin slit of his face visible. He felt like a hunter, waiting for prey. But he wasn’t a hunter yet. Practicing patience he tried to remember all the things his father had taught him about survival in this harsh environment. This was only the beginning. Only by completing – and surviving – the initiation rite he would become a true hunter.

Ge-ort shivered. Not from the cold, but from excitement. And yes, fear. His father had hammered into him that fear was the natural ally of the hunter. It was a valued companion that warned against rash decisions. It made a hunter reflect and judge a situation. Apart from the dim-witted ones. But the dim-witted ones died young.

Fear was also an ally you needed to learn to control, his father had said to him. Never let fear rule your decisions. Let it advise you, but never lead you.

Ge-ort concentrated on his breathing. It went too quickly. He slowed his breathing, using his belly as a bellows. This technique he had learned when he was still a little boy. He felt his fear ebb away.

He tried to peer through the thickly falling snow, but he knew it was useless. The snow obscured all visibility. He had to rely on other senses than sight to detect their coming. There was no telling how long he had to wait.

The others were observing him from a distance, using the same senses he now used. They evaluated his every movement, or even more importantly, lack of movement.

The vibration was almost imperceptible. Ge-ort would have missed it if he had not been lying perfectly still and had slowed his breath. There it was again. Slowly the vibration changed into a rhythmic pounding. The thin layer of snow that covered the tundra did little to dampen the thump of massive feet. The prey Ge-ort had been waiting for was approaching.

His heart was pounding. He tried to get his breathing under control to slow his heartbeat, but he failed. There was no doubt now: a herd was coming. The pounding of his heart merged with the vibration of the ground. They were moving at an easy pace, unworried. He could tell by the frequency of the steps and by the fact they moved as one. They were probably moving in single file, walking in step.
Suddenly he saw a dark shape appear through the curtain of snow. The shape towered over the frozen flatland. Enormous tusks, that curled intricately upwards were attached to an equally enormous head that swayed calmly from side to side. The massive trunk hung down from its face, almost reaching the ground but curling up just above it. The tip of the trunk sniffed the cold, early winter air.

Behind this gigantic shape another appeared. And another. He counted ten animals as they walked passed his shelter unaware of him. And it was as he had thought: they walked in single file. The ground now heaved with their gate.

Ge-ort detached himself mentally from all unnecessary thoughts. He needed to concentrate on his goal. His initiation stood or fell with the next few moments. And he was not going to return to the village having to spend another year among the women and children. He was not a child anymore.

Ge-ort reached for the spear lying next to him. Without giving away his presence he checked the leather strap that held the stone tip in place. He checked the tip itself. It was as sharp as he had been able to get it after a week of hacking and scraping. It had to do, there was nothing more he could do about it. He grabbed the spear tightly without letting his grip get too tense. The spear had to become part of him, as if it had become an extension of his arm. His father had taught him the technique to no longer view the spear as a tool separate from the body, but as an extra limb that moved to your will without conscious thought.

The herd of mammoths slowly trundled past. Ge-ort waited till the last had cleared his shelter. Then he slipped from under the old mammoth skin. He had picked his target when they were passing by and now he trotted as silently as he could after the enormous animals. They had not noticed him yet. Their booming footsteps masked his pattering feet. He matched their rhythm as much as he could. As he reached the hindmost animal he began to sprint.

He passed the old mammoth cow that brought up the rear. He had set his sights on the animal walking directly in front of her. It was a magnificent young bull, only just full grown. Before the animals knew what had happened, he had ended his sprint with a long jump. He had launched himself towards the flank of the young bull mammoth. As soon as he felt the impact his left hand gripped a good size tuft of mammoth hair and for a moment he just hung there, dangling by one arm. His other arm hung down and it was all he could do to not lose his spear and at the same time keep it away from the mammoth’s side. There was no sense in spooking the animal more than he had already done. Not yet anyway.

As soon as the young bull had felt the impact of the small, slender creature against his flank, he raised his trunk and bellowed. The other animals reacted instantly. Panic erupted and they started to run. They thundered across the tundra, their mighty feet pounding the frozen earth.

Ge-ort knew he couldn’t hold on much longer. Still holding his spear he brought his right hand up and grabbed another tuft of hair, while frantically holding on to the spear as well. Losing his spear would mean the end of the hunt. Quickly he used his left hand to grab a higher part of the mammoth’s greasy pelt. Slowly he pulled himself up hand over hand towards the top of this moving mountain.

Finally he reached the sloping ridge that was the spine of the mammoth. The other animals had formed a protective circle around the young bull, but they kept at a distance, unsure of what to do. The bull continued to gallop.

Ge-ort knew what he had to do. After catching his breath for a mere second or two, he scrambled along the heaving back of the animal towards the front. He had to use extreme caution to not lose his balance or grip. The back of the animal was surprisingly thin and bony. It was a far from comfortable ride. He scrambled on until he reached the shoulders of the animal. There it was easier to use both his legs and his arms to gain purchase. He positioned his legs on either side of the young bull’s neck and then he pressed as hard as he could. One day this animal would become the leader of this herd, Ge-ort thought. It was a large animal, and although young and inexperienced, he already had the muscle tone and attitude to one day become the undisputed head bull. Ge-ort’s legs could only barely hold on to the thick neck of the animal.

He held on, precariously, some 14 feet above the hard tundra floor. With his left hand he grabbed the thick pelt of the mammoth while his legs squeezed the neck of the animal. He readied his spear which lay firmly in his right hand. For a moment he almost lost his balance but he managed to regain it. His heart was pounding and he took a few seconds to calm himself. Breathe! He instructed himself. Concentrate!

The first jab was not noticed by the young bull mammoth. The spear hadn’t even penetrated the thick woolen undercoat of the animal. Ge-ort used a little more force on his next jab into the right side of the animal’s neck. He had to judge the jabs just right. He had to use enough force to cause pain but not so much that he would actually wound the animal.

With a frightful roar the trunk came up. The animal shook with the force of it. Ge-ort hit the trunk with his spear and the trunk moved down. Again he stuck the spear in the mammoth’s neck. Again the trunk came up. This time Ge-ort used all his strength to hit the trunk. The mammoth had to learn not to try and swat this musquito off his back.

At the fourth stab the mammoth changed course. It veered left to get away from those annoying stabs to his neck. Ge-ort stabbed again. A little less forcefully now to reward the animal for veering left. The bull mammoth went to the left a little more.

The other animals, confused by the erratic behaviour of the young bull, ran on in a disorganised rout. Then they stopped at a distance to watch what was happening.
The young bull also stopped. His eyeballs almost fell from their sockets, he was that afraid of the strange creature on his back. A sabretooth or some other predator would have administered the killing bite by now. This two legged monster seemed to have other plans. A sharp pain in his back, near to his spine, forced him to start moving again. The mammoth tried to shake off the pesky bully on his back. But the bully was hanging on.

A jab in the left side of his neck made him move right, and right again. They were now galloping back to where they had come from. The animal was wild with fear. What ever he tried, the pest on his back was impossible to get rid of. Another jab in his spine made him run faster. The mammoth wanted to run back to the safety of the herd, but at every attempt to turn towards his companions, he felt a sharp pain on the opposite side. He decided to run straight as this seemed the least painful.

Suddenly the young bull saw more two legged animals standing on the tundra. At first they were hard to distinguish through the thick curtain of snow. But quickly the mammoth and his rider closed in on the group of figures, who were shouting and waving their spears excitedly. Suddenly the group dispersed and a path formed between them. The mammoth went for it and at full speed he thundered through the gap between the two groups of creatures. He forced a little more speed out of his exhausted body to leave the group behind as quickly as possible.

Ge-ort had left his lofty position as soon as the mammoth had reached the other hunters. They had all seen how he had directed the mammoth left and right and how he had navigated the young bull through the gap they had formed. He felt he had shown his worth and the excitement and the physical strain of holding on to the mammoth in full gallop had exhausted him. He had scrambled back to the back of the animal. This was to be the least elegant part of the initiation. There was no elegant way of dismounting a mammoth at full clip.

Luckily the young bull had slowed a little. He was winded and almost at the end of his strength. He still moved at a respectable trot though. Ge-ort threw his spear on the ground and he watched as the spear tumbled over and over in a wild, uncoordinated dance. Finally the spear came to rest. He swallowed. That would be him in a few seconds. He knew of initiations that had gone well until this moment, many still ending in mutilation or death of the aspiring hunter.

Ge-ort tried to judge the right moment. He tuned his body to the movement of the mammoth. At the next downward move of the trot he closed his eyes and let go.

The moment he hit the hard tundra floor he tried to roll away and did his best not to think of the massive legs of the mammoth and what would happen if a hind leg would hit him. The forward speed made him half tumble, half roll. Finally he lay still. His breathing came in erratic gasps. But he was alive! Slowly it dawned on him what he had accomplished.

He sat up, still dizzy from the tumbling and rolling. He touched a few painful spots but his limbs all seemed to work. The first to reach him was his father, who carried his spear. Ge-ort got up, painfully and groggily. His father beamed at him and presented his spear to him. Then they hugged. The other hunters followed suit. With every hug, Ge-ort’s face grimaced in pain while his aching body was squeezed and prodded, but he felt pride swell in his chest. He had become a hunter! In the distance he saw the mammoth. A vague, nebulous form that blew white clouds into the freezing tundra air.

“You are both exhausted,” his father said as he placed an arm around his son. “Come, let’s go home.”

They walked off, followed by the excited troupe of hunters. They went back to their village. A village that had gained a hunter.

I installed the Kindle app… So what?

To many readers in the English speaking world, the Kindle is old hat. You love it or hate it, but it’s been around for awhile. But although I followed the developments around the Amazon Kindle rather closely, it just wasn’t available here in the Netherlands. Neither were the books.

Launch

Late 2014 Amazon decided to launch their site in the Netherlands. Well, not their full site, just the books and ebooks part of their stock is available in the Netherlands. For me as a writer and self publishing writer at that, this is the most important part of the Amazon empire, so I am happy with that.

Germany

I say the Kindle is now available in the Netherlands, but strictly speaking it still isn’t. When I follow the ‘buy a Kindle’ link on the Dutch Amazon site, it directs me to the German Amazon site to buy the Kindle there (which is not a big problem). The books are available though.

App

I am not ready to buy a Kindle yet, but I am getting there. This is because of the smart move on Amazon’s part to make an app available that does much of what the Kindle does. The app is available for Windows, OSX, Android and iOS. By making the app available on those platforms, anyone with a (mobile) computing device worth its salt can read ebooks sold by Amazon.

Travel companions

I have loaded my Kindle app with books. Of course my own books (to have them on hand when I need to promote them on the fly), but also a lot of books that I hold dear and feel I should always have with me. Like valued travel companions. Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Dickens, Henry James, Tolstoy, Joyce,Kipling, Sun Tzu. They are all available. And thanks to my old world taste in literature, most of them for very little money or even free.

Free

Speaking of free: Amazon is not the only place delivering books for the Kindle. Take Project Gutenberg for instance. It’s an ideal site to find thousands of books that are in the public domain. They offer most of their books in several formats, one of which works fine on the Kindle app (the mobi format). The only snag is that books not bought on the Kindle store do not automagically update through whispersync. Whispersync helps readers keep track of what page they were on when they use multiple devices to read on. But Amazon has solved this by giving each device the Kindle app runs on an email address. A book sent to that address is seen by the app as a book that should be kept up to date, just as if it was bought on the Amazon store.

I like the Kindle app (I use it on Android and on iOS) and it has kindled (sorry for that) my interest in a true Kindle ereader. I think I’ll start saving up for one.

 

Should you write for money?

MoneyOur society is dependent on money. I regard this as a sad state of affairs, but it’s something I can’t change. I am a writer, but writing does not earn me a living. So whenever I leave the path of writing, under duress from an empty bankaccount or the looming spectre of the taxman, I feel sad, unhappy and a traitor to myself. My ideal was, is and always will be: earning a living through writing. Putting this in a wider perspective, but seen through my eyes, it begs the question: should anyone write for money?

Short answer

The short answer to this question is: NO!

Long answer

The longer answer is: yes, but only if it isn’t your primary reason for writing. Let me explain myself.

Writing bug

The writing bug bit me one day, and on that day I knew that writing had always been my dream occupation. It was as if life suddenly clicked. Me behind a keyboard or holding a pen, pensive, with occasional bursts of words flowing to screen or paper, it just was the image that looked right, felt right, was right. And that image still holds true, regrettably the image has become smudged. The culprit is money. It poisoned the writer in me.

Poison money

In order to live and write, I needed to earn money through writing. But I soon found out that it is not an easy thing to do. It is not even a merely hard thing to do, it proved nigh on impossible for me. This has a lot to do with personality, who you are, how well one is able to sell oneself. And I am just not very good at that last part. Adding insult to injury: the selling bit detracts from the writing on so many levels.

Eccentricities

And I did it all: social media, Facebook ads, marketing workshops, lots of research and so much more. But it didn’t work for me. Neither my creative writing, nor my commercial writing in its many forms, provides me with a living wage. And now I know why: all those things aren’t writing, they are writing-for-money. Writing my way, with my eccentricities, and on my terms, is the one thing in life I can do with a passion.  So as soon as something detracts from that, both the passion and the commitment fall to pieces and it all becomes a painful slog.

But…

But what if I could make money writing on my terms? What if I could sell just enough stories, ebooks, and the old fashioned paper books to survive on? Recently I have hit rock bottom when it comes to financial health. This is not something I am ashamed of. It’s just a reality of my life. It hurts, it depresses, but it is not shameful. I just ran out of money. The coffers are empty. The credits outnumber the debits.

But there is a new factor to take into account: I drifted away from my original game plan. Pressed by money I started to do all kinds of things to make money with things that had to do with writing in the loosest of terms. And those things detracted from the core of my plan: living as a writer.

But that can be changed. And another element I failed to take into account since last I tried to make a living by writing: the world has changed in five or so years. Traditional books are hardly sold anymore, and yet authors are selling their stories. The world was changing when I started to take my writing onto a commercial path, but now the world has actually changed.

But where does that leave me? It leaves me with a challenge. And I like those. The challenge is to find out what the world has changed into and what the main avenues of sales are for 21st century writers. This challenge has a very important extra rule: do not get distracted form my core being. No side paths to commercial writing, no words written because Google likes them, no website building to make a few bucks. Write, write and write, to satisfy that being inside of me that is screaming to be let out again.

The last but

Sometimes a person needs a downwards move to motivate the upwards one. Like the stock market that always moves from high to low and back up again, there can never be a high if there hasn’t been a low, gathering breath for the momentum upwards. So, although frustrating and painful, the low points in life are what make the high points work. A low point forces those grey cells to work harder to maintain sanity and a sense of being. But, and this is the last but, a low point is the place to get back to the core of your plan. With nothing left to lose, there is only one way to go: up!

The best of enemies

I am a child of the sixties. Just. I was born in 1967. Those were turbulent times. The war in Vietnam, the hippie movement and Woodstock, apartheid in the US, and many more areas of political unrest.

Iconoclast

I have been reading my whole life. Always reading one or more books and almost always by authors writing in English. That’s how I came into contact with the books by Gore Vidal. Around my 30’s he resonated with me. Rebellious, kicking the system. An iconoclast. And that spoke – or rather – speaks to me. Why is our society the way it is? Too few people ask questions? Too few people demand answers, too few people listen.

Vidal rediscovered

Today I watched the documentary “The best of enemies”. This documentary is about television debates between the free thinking Gore Vidal and the ultra conservative William Buckley. Besides the fact that it is an interesting documentary, that vividly portrays the era I was born in, it made me rediscover Vidal. I want to read him again. Admire him again. Kick the system in unison with him.

Reader without time

But I lead a busy life. Busy with plans that will help me free myself from the system Vidal and I love to rebel against. The powers that be determine how I should live my life. I do not want to give in to them. With shivers running down my spine I physically feel their ways and wants are not mine. It just doesn’t work for me to put a lot of energy into just surviving in a society based on money and the gaining of it. I (have to) fight to be free from that. This fight takes a lot of time and effort and the search for freedom has taken precedence over reading books.

Rebellious

But the rebellious soul lives in me just as much as it lived in the times when I was born. The child of the sixties. It kicks inside of me. It protests inside of me. It screams inside of me. My own small revolution is still in full swing. And this documentary has fed that fire even more.

The best of enemies” on DVD at Amazon.