Friday, May 4, 2018

Too personal to share? Author interview for Lost Atlantis 1 and 2. (rants)

Before I die, I want to have built up some body of work that expressed some of what it was like to have lived my life. But for about a year or two now, I have been going through things that are too personal to talk about to people I don't know for certain I can trust (thus ruling out the general public). I never would have thought there would be things that I just couldn't express to anyone because they were too intimate or too strategically unsound, but here we are. It's a sad feeling. It feels like little shavings of my life being scraped off, never to return. But there came a point at which writing was burdensome. The need for discipline overcame the joy of expression, and I just didn't have the energy to keep going.

I've managed to crank out another Lost Atlantis book after about five or six years, so before I release the book, I thought I'd write a little bit about the series. It doesn't feel as though it's been that long. That's probably because all I have are tiny snapshots of moments as memories, and can never re-experience the day-by-day tick that makes time feel so slow sometimes. I can still remember the excitement six years ago of sitting at a two-story cafe, looking down at the passersby on the street, preparing to give myself a birthday present by self-publishing whatever I had at the same age Stephen King published Carrie. It was important to me that I made that deadline... probably because I am creature living in a society that places so much emphasis on age, dividing so many life-events by it. It is what it is. (Depressing.)

Since I'm so close to self-publishing the second book in the six-part series, I've been trying to think of questions or statements about the books or series that might interest a reader. If you have any questions for me, please ask!

Book I
I've had this story in my head since I was 11 years old, and have made several versions of it. The first version was a comic book, and the heroine was a superhero from outer space. Half of the comic book took place in outer space, and half took place in what I imagined New York City to be. Having the story take place in the Lost City of Atlantis at about age 16 was an effort to make the storyline more "realistic." That version took place in what I imagined living in LA could be like, especially in its effects on people. At that point, I had never been there, but had visited other large cities.

I've always been a big fan of kung fu films, and this particular version (the novel) was based off of a screenplay for a kung fu movie that I wrote while I was bored at work. In particular, I see the influence of Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury in it. I also listened to a steady electronic soundtrack while imagining this story.

There are a lot of things I'd like to change about the first book, but I feel as though it's been written, and that there's no point in going back when there's so much to do in such a short time-frame going forward.

Book II
Spoiler: the heroine lives. This upcoming book is about her training and refinement as a martial artist, and how she has to figure out how to balance her love of people like her mentor, Bone Shield, with her disappointments in them. I tried to explore group dynamics and tried to figure out how it might feel okay for a group of people to form conspiracies to kill. I also wanted to see what she might think afterwards about her acts of violence and murder, or if she'd bother to think of them at all. She experiences life very much so "in the moment," but she's very introspective at the same time, so I wondered if she could live her life the way she has to if she stopped too long to think about it. There are a couple silly moments, but again, I'm to the point that I don't see why I should keep going back and changing something so far in the past.

Questions

I grabbed these ten questions from Queer Sci-fi

Do you write more on the romance side, or the speculative fiction side? Or both? And why?
For the third through the fifth books, I hope to write more about sex and romance. I don't plan to write much about the mechanics of the fantasy world until the sixth book. It's implied more than it's described. I decided to weight romance and speculative fiction this way because I felt that it was more relevant to appeal to a fiction reader's emotions than to his or her mind in fiction. Emotions happen before thoughts, in my opinion.

Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
A character. I try to imagine a fully-fleshed out person and then put myself into his or her positions.

If you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose?
I would be 19 again. I didn't have to worry about school, work, or the religion that had dominated most of my life. I drew one picture a day and offered it for sale online, and spent the rest of the time taking walks in nature, photographing it with a friend's borrowed camera. It was probably the happiest year of my life.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
It's very difficult to be honest with yourself about a lot of things, like how you feel each line is affecting you and what it could mean about who you are, who other people are, and what things and events really mean to you, even when you're writing about fictional people and events.

Of your writing, who is your favorite character/favorite book?
My favorite character is without a doubt White Sand. I feel that she is the reason I write and she gives me a sense of structure in a life that otherwise feels uncomfortably without purpose.

What are you reading?
Among other things, Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight.

What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in writing your books?
I was surprised at how aggressive I was when I was being honest. Through writing, I've come to embrace much more of my dark side and my natural impulses, and often enjoy them now. I feel as though I see life more realistically because of it, and can anticipate future events more accurately.

What’s one moment specifically that inspired you, which you can remember vividly?
I remember drawing Paul McCartney and changing his features around enough to become exactly what I wanted for White Sand's romantic interest.

Where do you like to write?
I prefer to read and write in cafes. 

What do you like to write about the most?
I'm not sure if it's what I like, but I tend to write about what a character is thinking or feeling in a given moment.

What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
I'm "working" on a story (thinking about revising one) in which a cat and a woman have a bond true enough for her to be let in on the highly contemplative world of the cat. I've created a first draft, but I'm not sure if or when I'll really flesh it out.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

"Learn Swedish with Beginner Stories: Interlinear Swedish to English" (book review)



Click to see this book on Amazon.com!


Title: "Learn Swedish with Beginner Stories: Interlinear Swedish to English (Learn Swedish with Interlinear Stories for Beginners and Advanced Readers)" 
Author: Kees Van den End
Genre: Fairy Tales (language)
Length:  149 pages
Naja's MPAA rating: (G)
Publishing Date: February 3, 2017


I've heard so much about the health benefits of being bilingual that I'm trying to learn new languages on Duolingo. My dad went to school in Sweden and left behind Swedish poetry he was translating in his estate. I also found out that I am a little bit Swedish. So I settled on learning this language for those reasons and also because there's a preponderance of excellent, inexpensive resources for understanding this language. (I also dreamed about swearing in Swedish after watching PewDiePie's "how to swear" videos. It was a sign!)

I think it's good to use a variety of resources and to practice under a variety of circumstances, so I purchased the paperback copy of this book. There's also a cheaper Kindle ebook version, but I preferred having a physical copy in this case. It's refreshing to go to a café, get a nice, cold coffee, turn off all technology, and immerse oneself in a book like this without having to break out the phone or the laptop to look up meanings. The only things I did end up looking up now and then were pronunciations. But in addition to programs like Duolingo, you can watch subtitled movies in other languages. I've enjoyed laughing at or watching jokes that I've never heard before and wouldn't have expected to be humorous, just because of where I was born.

When my copy arrived, it had that velvety matte feel to the cover that Amazon's print-on-demand books have (indie!). I really appreciated the format of this book. There's a string of larger Swedish words at the top of each line of text, and lighter-colored English text underneath those words.

The stories are short and simple but fun. This beginner's book featured fairy tales. There was one folktale about why a mountain in the Netherlands looks the way it does, a Swedish version of Rumpelstiltskin and Hansel and Gretel, plenty of trolls and plenty of brave young boys outsmarting them.

It's also nice that there's a kind of sequel to this book: a more intermediate Swedish text, which translates this guy, Hasse Zetterström's, stories from the 1800's.

My first concern about this book was whether or not the author was a native speaker, because this author has published over twenty books in this format, but in different languages. It wouldn't be impossible for one person to speak so many languages fluently (less than twenty, since there a multiple books for a single pair of languages and different combinations of languages, but it's still a lot). But it sounds like a risk to me as a buyer. Maybe this guy's friends speak a lot of languages and helped out with the books. I don't know. But I wouldn't want to accidentally pick up bad habits in a language, and I would like to pick up idioms, slang and other unique cultural details that a native speaker would have better access to (at least that was my gut reaction). By the end, I did feel that the book did help the reader to learn a few cultural tidbits, but "Kees Van den End" seems to me to be a Dutch name. However, most of what I've read online suggests that if you understand either Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish or Finnish, it's pretty easy to pick up on the other three countries' languages. So I feel pretty safe reading this book. I had some questions, but there's a lot of help online.

If I were to make a suggestion though, it would be to choose titles for this book series that were a little more different from each other, and a bit more fanciful in their descriptions of the stories. I didn't know what interlinear text was until I looked inside the book.

Unfortunately, the book is fairly short (only about 150 pages). But as a beginner, I was very slow and did have to go back and reread a lot, (I didn't understand all of the story while trying to pronounce words in my head, and I didn't notice the Swedish while I was reading the English) so it's also nice not to feel overwhelmed by a bulky book. The English grammar suffers a bit in the translation, but that's to be expected. Words aren't arranged the same way in different languages. It was good to see how differently the words combined.

So if you're interested in learning a new language, these books might be a good tool to use in conjunction with some audio-based instruction, like Duolingo or Rosetta Stone!


Monday, October 2, 2017

Mass shooters aren’t going away anytime soon. (rant)

I think that we don’t understand mass shooters because we don’t want to. It's not as much fun as shaking your head with your tribe and playing a game of "Ain't It Awful," but when has playing head games with people and acquiring gossip resulted in better relationships? Look at people like Philip DeFranco (who I like, but he's a good example). Guys like Phil love to judge and generalize without digging into why after a certain point of disgust occurs. But until Americans push beyond our feelings of disgust about shocking events, and until there’s love and a sense of healing and redemption for everyone, mass shooters will keep developing. I sometimes think this is why Christianity is so popular here. There needed to be an outlet to acquire these things, so one developed. But especially with the advent of the internet, it’s become very easy to become self-taught and more strategic in almost anything, regardless of what that thing is or your motivation for learning it.

My biggest concern and plea for my fellow Americans is to not overestimate our own goodness and in doing so to avoid thinking about why mass shootings might happen. It might stretch some of us (a lot of us) to accurately put ourselves into someone else’s shoes, but those two things are part of what you should want from life: a challenge and being able to consider human nature as it is. We accept cats' and dogs' nature to hunt, and in considering this, we've become able to take steps to humanely replace those behaviors that are destructive to local wildlife. The fact that we have so many mass shooters suggests that we still have an incredibly deep inability to comprehend others' experiences. I think that we've gotten to this maladaptive place through a simplistic belief in good and evil.

So think back to a time that an adult insulted you. You might have done something to trigger them, but was about them, wasn’t it? For whatever reason, you triggered one of their fears. The more and more you think about what they say and why, the more those thoughts they’re abusing you with seems to go back to them and their experiences, and where they’re at in life. It so rarely has anything to do with your own life. They can’t make the empathetic leap in that condition, because anger snuffs out empathy and blinds one to all but a narrow, self-interested focus. For as long as people are fearful, they will attack, and they will always fear, since fear is an excellent motivator and survival tool that’s built into us. And we all suffer from the fear of death.

Mass shootings might be thought of as coping mechanisms, some sort of way to embrace and overcome a fear- maybe a fear that humanity and the possibility of love is doomed. That’s why I just don’t see this problem with mass shooters in America going away. There are a few organizations that try, but in general, Americans don’t have a culture that attempts to repair, redeem and restore connectedness to other people. We have a culture that judges, blames, is self-absorbed, contemptuous and dismissive. I feel as though I’ve written about this many times before, but I have always felt that it only takes one pissed off person with nothing to lose to really do an increasingly massive amount of damage- far more than just fifty-something people, especially if there have been a lot of random people pissing them off. If they’re random, and a person is lonely, or isolated, it’s easy, especially as an adult, to come to believe that the whole world is truly, deeply fucked up.

For one thing, people die after learning their lessons from about 80 years of life, and then a brand new generation of people who haven’t learned their lessons repeats the most common mistakes. It’s the legal system that keeps generational errors from happening to another generation. In the chaotic system's self-regulating way, death also keeps serious errors from going on and on in perpetuity on our planet.

Do I know what the answer is? No, but I think it starts with a sincere attempt to understand what motivates this behavior, not just tabloid sadism as I like to call it, followed by some thought about how our culture, and perhaps our legal system, must change in order to steer people away from this kind of behavior. I don’t think there are any innocent people in this world. Just people without the knowledge to solve their problems effectively, and I think that includes everyone in the culture.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Five more questions about "Megachurch Versus Tattoo Studio" answered!

Someone recently asked me some questions about my new novel, and I thought answering them might make an interesting video! I love feedback, so if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know!



P.S. Here is a link to "The Phantom," which I must have rented while reading the book since it's from 1996: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvK9ZJVsiPM  It was a poorly-rated film, and somehow that made it all the more interesting to read about.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Three author questions answered! "Megachurch Versus Tattoo Studio"

Hello, there! Today is the last day to enter the Goodreads giveaway for my new novel! I jumped out of the shower and thought I'd do a quick author Q&A. Please let me know if you like videos and stuff like this!



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

My new book is out! "Megachurch Versus Tattoo Studio"

Megachurch Versus Tattoo Studio is now available in both eBook and paperback form on Amazon! The eBook is free for the next five days (Wednesday, June 28, 2017 until Sunday, July 2, 2017).


And if you live in the United States, there is also going to be a Goodreads Giveaway of three copies of the paperback starting a week from now on Tuesday, July 4, 2017 and ending a week thereafter on Tuesday, July 11, 2017.



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Megachurch Versus Tattoo Studio by Naja Tau

Megachurch Versus Tattoo Studio

by Naja Tau

Giveaway ends July 11, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway


Please leave a review or ask a question if you feel so inclined! I'm always trying to improve my writing and would like to hear your thoughts!

P.S. To anyone who bought the eBook before now, I did a few minor edits earlier, thinking that I was going to get away with sneaking this book onto Weebly, Goodreads and the sidebar of this blog without anyone noticing before doing a blog post about it. If you'd like a slightly more smooth/correct version, please e-mail kdp-support@amazon.com to ask for the most recent edition. It doesn't cost anything for Amazon eBook updates!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

I've had a lot going on lately... (rant)

Hello, readers! I have a quick announcement... I just wanted to say that I have been going through a lot of really big changes in the past few months, many of them very unfortunate, but one of the best things about this time in my life is the opportunity to spend more time working on the novels I've wanted to finish for years. I can't say I'm happy with the current body of works I've put out or tried to put out, and I'd like to feel comfortable enough with a version of edits that I would be comfortable physically publishing. But I know that each book or script or story that I put out increases my chances of writing something I do like.

There are two books I'm focusing most of my attention on: Lost Atlantis 2 and a little horror story I haven't talked about yet about a couple who become enmeshed in a gigantic evangelistic church in the 2500's. I'll probably release the first version of these two novels either in August or December, depending on how fast and how well I can polish my drafts and persuade people to be my beta readers (thank you beta readers)! I'm also thinking about lowering my prices to see if it helps generate sales. I am rather broke and sad after the events that happened which have brought me to this point in time, but there are a lot of good things that make me frustrated about what I know I have to do next.

I'm looking for feedback, suggestions and honest opinions, so if you have any comments, I'd love to hear them in the comments below, or on Goodreads, in an e-mail, or on Twitter!