Saturday, October 21, 2017

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

Click to see this book on!

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:  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 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!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Joker may have had someone kill Batman in Morocco. (dream)

Picture by mconnors at


The camera is omniscient. I'm a detective coming down some stairs into of a building made of adobe. We're in Morocco and I have a couple of local police officers backing me up. We've been summoned to a crisis in a restaurant. We must have arrived at the right spot, and a little too late, because on the floor in front of the bar stools is what appears to be a human body lying under a white, linen sheet.

The Joker is here at the bar among the gawkers. Accompanying him is a soft, gummy rabbit made of soft metal. The bunny's features make him look like a little gummy bear, but a gummy bear the size of a cat with elongated ears.

Several people have stopped to look at a corpse lying on the floor of a very busy corridor. The bunny just  happened to be passing by only recently. The bunny is really cute, but I don't trust it. It seems to have even more vigor and juice than the Joker, its companion. He doesn't match anyone or anything in the building, except the Joker. And the Joker seems to be feeling quite alive and well, just a little bored. Several hours prior, they both went upstairs into the hot noonday sun. I wasn't there to stop them for questioning.

I lift up the thin fabric. The man underneath is dead. He's wearing a Batman mask. There are several holes in his torso with dried blood surrounding holes singed with flesh and dried blood.

There's another criminal investigator in the building, but he's private. I can't expect him to do well. But he looks as though he means business.

The bunny and Joker seem genuinely confused.

"I'm going to regret having compassion, for those two, aren't I?" The police and I leave the crime scene to the private detective and we leave the Joker and the bunny and go back to the station. The bunny immediately starts causing trouble by whipping out a pistol. It seems to be some kind of extension of the Joker.

I go further into a nearby building and weave in and out of darkened, tiled, public showers, which open up into sunny gardens where parties are being held and I have no clothing to wear except for towels.


This dream took place a very long time ago (last summer). The worst thing that was happening around that time was my cat's severe respiratory illness and renal failure. Actually, I wasn't doing much of anything at that time except feeding her meat baby food with a little spoon, finding kitty foods she was capable of eating, helping her in and out of the litter box, playing kitty songs and videos for her, and giving her subcutaneous fluids. It was a very sad time, but I'm glad I could take care of her, and at least I had her with me, alive and taking some enjoyment from her videos of birds and squirrels. At the exact same time, I'd gotten into a pretty serious argument with my best friend of almost 10 years (and we knew each other 10 years prior to that). I thought it was over for two of my very best friends.

The main connections I can think of with the time and the dream is how the seemingly good may or may not be genuine (the guy dressed as Batman wasn't definitely him) and the villains weren't necessarily evil, unstoppable or even large. It wasn't the Joker, but a much less obvious, innocent-seeming bunny that did the most damage. There's no evil to blame for my cat's multiple illnesses, or even (more arguably) the ending of yet one more old friendship from my hometown. And if there was a goodness to the ending of the friendship, well maybe I needed a break and it was good for both of us to get motivated to try something new. The maze may symbolize all of the running around I had to do to take care of my cat: finding affordable IV administrators, visiting her in the vet's boarding room, appointments with the vet, giving her the new medication on top of the old, being told she wouldn't last the night and crying my eyes out for her in and out of the clinic- completely unprepared (without the right clothes).