Review of The Dinner from Herman Koch #MondayBlogs #BookReview

As I live in the Netherlands, my book club often reads novels from Dutch writers. The Dinner was the first novel I’ve read from Herman Koch. I planned on reading it in Dutch, but I received the English version as a gift from my mother-in-law (which is kind of weird as we’ve spoken Dutch together for the past twenty-three years). The novel has been filmed not once, not twice, but three times! Once as a fancy schmancy Hollywood production with Richard Gere. The book is also a New York Times Bestseller and has won various awards. What’s all the hubbub about?

~ Blurb ~

the dinner 3A summer’s evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness – the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened…

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified – by everyone except their parents. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

~ My Review ~

{contains spoilers}

the dinner 2After reading the novel, I’m not sure why this novel has gained the coveted bestseller status. The narration is simple and boring. The narrator tells us in excruciating detail the specifics of the menu and his ordering. I cringed as he ridiculed the waiter. He also sounds like a pompous ass as he talks about the ‘normal’ café where ‘normal’ people congregate. I felt like I was force feeding myself the first half of this book. Will the narrator ever get to the point?

Although the story ostensibly takes place over a dinner, the narration jumps back and forth through various happenings in the past. He omits simple details like the disease from which his wife suffered and his medical condition. As he’s an obviously unreliable narrator, the reader is unsure of which events are fact and which are fiction. Frankly, I didn’t care enough about the narrator to try and figure it out.

There was not one character in this novel who redeemed himself. They are all horrible people covering up a heinous crime committed by their children. I believe the stir this novel has caused is due to this subject matter. The question should arise as to how far you would go to protect your children. This issue, however, is irrelevant here as the severity of the crime committed by the children is such that a decent human being can only hope they would not cover up the crime as these parents did.

~ Lost in translation? ~

As we discussed this novel at my book club, I realized all three of the Dutch members read the novel in Dutch and were decidedly more positive about the novel. They found the writing caustically witty. I have long been a believer that humor does not translate well. Being witty is especially difficult in a foreign language. Maybe someday I’ll have the time to read the novel in Dutch and make a different assessment. For now, I simply cannot recommend reading The Dinner.

A few tips and tricks for using Facebook Ads #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #Author Marketing

facebook 4I’ve tried Facebook ads on and off for years. Several authors absolutely rave about Facebook ads. I couldn’t crack the code, however. Using Facebook ads was like burning money. Money I wasn’t willing to spend. So, I gave up and told everyone I knew that Facebook ads were a waste of money and moved on. But then I decided I would make money from this writing thing and took a course to help me with Facebook ads.

While the course helped a lot (A LOT), it didn’t help me crack the code. That’s when I realized you can’t crack the code! Let me repeat that – You Can Not Crack The Code. Nope. BUT there are certain ‘tricks’ you can use that my help make your Facebook ad work. Here are some things I’ve learned that work (or at least make me waste less money).

Bid cap. Unlike with Amazon ads, Facebook ads will use all of your money. That’s right – all of your money. If you set a daily limit of $5, Facebook is using $5 (and sometimes even more than that). This can lead to a very expensive cost per click rate. Yikes! If you want to ensure you get more than a handful of bids per day, but don’t want to mortgage your house to ‘pay’ for your writing career, bid caps are a good idea. You’ll need to play around with the amounts. I find a bid cap of 20 cents works well whereas anything lower leads to Facebook throwing its hands in the air and screaming “I can’t work with this person!”

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Book covers are a no-no. You need to have a snappy image to capture the attention of Facebook scrollers. You may love your book cover. I know I love all of mine! But a book cover, in my experience, does not capture the audience’s attention as well as other images. With my novel, Finders, Not Keepers, I thought an edited picture of the cover would work. The book is all about a woman discovering a necklace and the cover has a woman hiding a necklace behind her back. Sounds good, I thought. Wrong. This picture works much better.

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Make it snappy. I have a tendency to want to tell potential readers all about the book. This happens, but then this happens, and then – oh! – this happens. *Cringes* Facebook ads need to be short and snappy. Facebook users are scrolling and scrolling. Attention spans are incredibly short. You’ve got seconds – if not milliseconds! – to get a potential reader’s attention. Here’s an ad that has worked well for me:

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This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox!

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London Book Fair ~ Come for the atmosphere, Stay for the Networking #LBF19 #WriterWednesday #BookMarketing #ByteTheBook

Hello! *Waves* I’m back at the London Book Fair for the second time.

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Last year, I had a smashing time at the fair. But is it worth attending two years in a row? Or, frankly, at all?

If you’re looking for seminars to attend as an author, there are tons. This is my schedule for the week.

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To be perfectly honest, however, I’ve been a bit disappointed in some of the seminars this year. They are a bit basic and many are repeats of last year. Is it still worth it to attend? Well, you can always rub elbows with famous authors – if that’s your thing.

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And there’s at least one seminar I enjoyed yesterday. Call me a geek (it’s not an insult as I know I am!), but the lecture from Nielsen on trends in the publishing industry is always interesting.

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But if that doesn’t float your boat, there is one reason every writer should attend the London Book fair – networking. There are authors to meet, agents to try and meet, and publishers to schmooze. I attended a networking event from ByteTheBook yesterday. I met some interesting people and there was wine. Win! Win!

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Tonight SPF is hosting a drinks get together at a pub. Reason enough to attend right there! I saw the famous (or is it infamous?) Mark Dawson yesterday at the fair and – gulp! – put on my big girl panties and went to introduce myself. I’m sure he thought I was a total weirdo. Doesn’t matter. I did it!

If you’re at the fair, give me a shout.

How I plan to manage to publish four books this year ~ Time management for authors #WriterWednesday #AmWriting

time management 1I’ve just finished the rough draft for my next book. My previous book was published last month in January. People often ask me how I managed to write this latest book and get it ready for publishing just three months after my previous book was published. Mostly, they’re pleasantly surprised and slightly impressed. Just don’t ask me what they say on Twitter about writers who are prolific. (Yes, I take it personally. No, I shouldn’t.) Anyway, whether you are like me and planning to publish several books this year or you just want to be more productive, here are a few tips that helped me get more writing done.

Neglect blog reading. I know we writers are supposed to support other writers by reading and sharing their blogs. This is, after all, the best way to gain blog followers. It’s also a huge time suck. It’s the first task I throw out the window when I’m busy.

time management 2Ignore Twitter. I’m sure every time management expert says the same thing – Ignore social media. It’s not that easy when you are an indie author. Social media is part of our brand. (Anyone else hate that word as much as me?) If you want to be productive, however, you need to learn how to ignore Twitter or at least learn to manage your time spent on the platform. Twitter is not my favorite platform and yet I can find myself being sucked in. When I’m on a strict schedule, I limit my “Twitter time” to five minutes in the morning, five minutes at lunch, and five minutes in the evening. That’s all. An app to schedule tweets is a lifesaver!

Put blogging on the back burner. My goal is to blog three times a week. One way I’ve been able to make this commitment is to have specific blogging topics for each day. Monday is for book reviews or other bookish things. Wednesday is about writing or marketing writing. Friday is expat day. Whenever I have a blog idea, I quickly jot it down in my phone. This information is transferred to a notebook of blog post ideas. Whenever I’m stuck, I grab my journal and scan ideas. Often, this works. If it doesn’t and I find myself staring at my computer for fifteen minutes with no idea, I move on. That’s right. I. Move. On. The world will not fall down upon me if I only blog once or twice a week.

Plot, plot, plot. Plan, plan, plan. Although I’ve always considered myself a plotter, I’ve come to the realization that my ‘plotting’ cannot actually be considering plotting. Jotting down a few pages of a rough outline a plotter does not make. I’ve now expanded my plotting and try to write down chapter ideas for ten chapters at a time. This way, I’m never at a loss on where to begin writing when I sit down on my computer. I’ve got my chapter outline.

Free writing. I write a chapter every single day I write. Once I’m done with the chapter, I practice a bit of ‘free writing’ for the following chapter. I don’t write for a preset time period or anything. I just jot down a paragraph or two at the start of the next chapter with ideas of how to proceed. When I sit down to write the next chapter, not only do I know the scene I want to write from my outline, but I’ve also got quite a few ideas on how to make that scene come to life.

That’s it! These are the techniques, which helped me to write my latest book Hide Not Seek in just over two months. Hope they help!

 

Downsides of ACX royalty share deal #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #WriterWednesday #BookMarketing #audiobooks

For the past two or three years, industry ‘experts’ have been pushing audiobooks. It’s the fastest growing market segment, they tell us. Although I’m interested in increasing my market share, I’ve been dragging my feet at jumping into the audiobook market. I’m not exactly jumping up and down at the idea of learning yet another segment of the market. Quiet possibly, I’m just lazy.

acxFor those of us writers who have been sitting on the fence because of the cost of producing an audiobook, ACX offers a royalty share deal. This deal allows you to pay nothing out of pocket to have an audiobook produced! You forego upfront payment in exchange for agreeing to share your royalty earnings equally with your producer for the life of the audiobook.

Sounds like an awesome deal! Why am I still hesitating? (Besides, there just not being enough hours in the day.) There are a few downsides to the royalty share deal, which need to be thoroughly evaluated before going forward.

Exclusivity. As a recovering lawyer, the word ‘exclusivity’ always causes my teeth to clench. You have to give ACX exclusivity if you do the royalty share deal. Your audiobook will be distributed to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. That’s better than the exclusivity Amazon offers its Kindle Unlimited writers, but you are missing big markets and distributors like Storytel, which has been gaining traction in markets in which Audible is underrepresented.

7-year exclusivity. It is possible to request removal of your audiobook from its exclusivity contract after one year, but NOT if you do the royalty share deal. In that case, you’re stuck with exclusivity for seven years. Seven years is a long time. Who knows what the market will look like then?

Fewer narrators. As many audiobooks in the royalty share deal have not made back the initial investment for the producer, many narrators have dropped out of the program. Fewer and fewer narrators are, therefore, available for the program. Does this mean the best narrators are no longer working with the royalty share program? Quite possibly.

findaway voicesUncurated narrators. Other programs (such as Findaway Voices) curate the narrators they recommend. Not so with the ACX royalty share. The author is responsible for curating narrators and finding one who fits with the novel being made into an audiobook. As someone who has yet to make an audiobook, I worry I’m not qualified to select a narrator.

As you can read, there are positives and negatives to the royalty share deal with ACX. On the other hand, producing an audiobook (especially if you’re new to the audiobook market and have yet to market one) is expensive and may not be worth the initial cost. Personally, I’m thinking of using the royalty share program with one of my backlist novels. I’ll let you know how it goes (assuming I ever get off the fence).

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This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox!

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Lost in translation? Maybe? Reading translated novels #MondayBlogs #AmReading #BookAddict

lost in translation 1I’m currently reading The Dinner by Herman Koch for my book club. I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time as Koch is one of the most popular Dutch authors, The Dinner was even made into a movie! I’ve been quite neglectful in reading novels of my adopted country. Upon my request, my mother-in-law bought me the book for my birthday. Unfortunately, she bought the English version. I prefer not to read translations if necessary. But, oh well, I thought, I’ve got the book so…

The problem with translations is that they not only translate the words from (in this case) Dutch to English, they also adopt the cultural and other transactions to make the story comprehensible for foreigners. As someone who has traveled extensively and loves to study foreign cultures and societies, this doesn’t always gel with me. Part of the story is lost when the story is not only translated but altered for foreign readers.

I’ll give you a few examples from The Dinner. Serge Lohman, brother of the narrator, is constantly referred to as a candidate for prime-minister. This gives the illusion that the prime minister of the Netherlands is an elected position. It’s not. The Netherlands has a parliamentarian system in which people vote for parties. The party itself choses who is the so-called lijsttrekker the top person of the party. I don’t think it would have been difficult for the translator to illustrate Serge’s influence without making it sound like the Dutch directly elect their prime minister.

Another example is the class Michel, the narrator’s son, attends. According to the novel, he’s a sophomore. The Dutch don’t use terms like freshman, sophomore, junior, etc. I’m left wondering what class Michel is in.

The narrator is also often disparaging about Dutch habits. For example, he spends an entire chapter discussing Serge’s family house in France. He has absolutely nothing – NOTHING – good to say about Dutch people owning houses in France. I have to wonder is this snideness in the Dutch version?

As you can see, the translation has pulled me away from the story Koch is trying to tell. It makes me wonder about other books I’ve read in translation. Have I missed the point of those novels? Have I missed the nuances the writer was portraying? I can’t help but think the answer is yes.

 

 

 

How to tell a biker is not Dutch #Expat #ExpatLife

Biking is a way of life in The Netherlands. We bike everywhere we go: school, work, grocery store, etc. Although cars are being used more and more (and what a shame that is!), bikes are still the primary mode of transport for the vast majority of the Dutch. There are, in fact, more bikes than people in the country, although I do have to wonder how they count all the bikes. Are the ones ditched in canals included?

Expats and other foreigners living in the country often adopt the bike lifestyle. For the Dutch (and other long-term residents), however, it’s easy to tell the foreigner bikers from the locals. Here are a few helpful hints:

Helmet. A helmet is a dead giveaway. Whoever is on their bike while wearing a helmet is most definitely not Dutch. The Dutch do not wear helmets. I don’t think I would even know where to buy one! The only time you’ll see a Dutch person wearing a bike helmet is when they are racing (and sometimes, not even then).

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This is my bike. I call her Pinky.

Quiet bike. Dutch bikes always rattle. ALWAYS. Whether it’s a loose lock, basket, light… the list goes on and on, Dutch bikes are most certainly not quiet. Every speed bump I hit, causes something to rattle on my bike. I could get annoyed. Mostly, I just think how well I’ve integrated into Dutch society.

Bike traffic lights. I nearly had a collision with a foreigner as he suddenly stopped because the pedestrian crosswalk light turned red. I screamed at him, “What are you doing?” He pointed at the red light. I explained that’s for pedestrians. I’m sure he left The Hague thinking Dutch speak really good English but are a bit aggressive on their bikes. Correct on both accounts.

Car blockage. Living in the city, it’s not unusual for cars to block the bike path at intersections. This doesn’t stop a Dutch biker – not even a little bit! We weave around the cars while shaking our heads at the drivers. A foreigner, however, will not move around the cars and instead block the other bikers who want to get going!

Pants clip. I actually had to look up the word because I’ve never used one before. Apparently, a pants clip is something other people (read = not Dutch people) use to keep their pants from getting caught up in the bike chain. All Dutch bikes come with chain guards. No need for pants clips here.

Carrying stuff. The Dutch can handle just about any transportation issue with a bike. Friends will hop on the back of a bike for a ride. Hockey sticks are thrown over shoulders as they bike along. Beer crates (full!) are balanced on the handlebars. If you see someone struggling with a few loafs of bread or six bottles of wine (I couldn’t help it! I was slightly inebriated!), you know their heritage is not Dutch.

Why does it even matter what nationality the person is who is biking? Am I being a bit ethnocentric? No, actually, I’m not. It’s important to pay attention to a biker who is not Dutch, because – chances are – they are not paying attention to you!