Casting call: Castles apply here

With 55000 words on my new book, I am about half way there. I don’t know what’s with historical books, they always seem to be so long. Didn’t quite plan it like this, but as I write, I realize there is still so much that needs to happen. And don’t worry: this will be all in one book. Even though it’s long, I won’t split it. 

Btw DOE was meant to be a trilogy from the start, just as this one is envisioned as a single book.

As you know from my previous emails, the writing time at the moment is not only spent by typing words on my laptop but as lots of research too. 

I know that the second part of the book needs to happen in a castle, and Switzerland has many of them, one of the most famous ones you might have seen is Chateau de Chillon, at the lake of Geneva. However, since I know the first part of the story will be happening in Rapperswil, also known as the City of Roses, Castle Chillon being 250 km away is too far for my protagonist to reach. Even on a horse.

Chillon Castle - Wikipedia
Chateau de Chillon

So I went for a search to find another castle which is a bit closer, and found one that could fit: Castle Lenzburg, some 70 km away. I knew about this castle from many years before because the train I used to take from Zurich to Basel (which was my daily commute when I did my doctorate) passed just under the hill where the castle is situated. Seeing it from below it looked fabulous, but I never actually went in to check it out. 

However, with this specific task in mind, I recently did a tour, with a special mention of the early 18th century, so I can fit it into my story.

Schloss Lenzburg | Switzerland Tourism
Lenzburg Castle

For many centuries, the Lenzburg castle belonged to the Habsburg family but from the middle of 15 century (1444), Canton Bern took hold of the Castle and a large area around it which was from then on under the influence of a local bailiff. They would come from the aristocratic families of the city of Bern (which is a capital of today’s Switzerland) and they would govern the castle and the surrounding area for about 4 to 6 years, until they were replaced by a new bailiff.

Habsburg family, also known as the House of Habsburg, is one of the most prominent dynasties in Europe, which held the reign over the large part of Europe from 11st (1020) until 1918 when Charles I of Austria renounced his role in state affairs. One of the most famous individuals most people know about is Maria Theresa (1717-1780), who held the power over 40 years, and was “allowed” to be a ruler only because her father Charles VI made a decree that the daughters are allowed to take the throne (as opposed to being handed to a male heir of a brother or other cousins). 

Maria Theresa

The other daughter you might know is Marie Antoinette, who married Luis XVI (when she was 14 btw), and who had an infamous ending in the French Revolution, taking the “punishment” of all the royalty before her.

But as I said, the Castle of Lenzburg is at the rule of Bern at the time the book takes place, and the Habsburg family owning only patches of land of Confederatia Helvetica (CH, today’s Switzerland). Still, they will appear somewhere at some point 😉 

Castle Lenzburg turned out to be a gold mine for my story. It has several houses, which were not all built at once, but in 18 century all of them were already there, the last one just being assembled. It has the most fabulous knight house (Ritterhaus), the Clock house, the baroque Bern house, the bailiff house, with a stunning garden overlooking the city of Lenzburg, a large courtyard with a single tree that looks like a crooked hand reaching out of the ground (in winter!), and a dungeon with a two cells and variety of torture weapons. 

All in all, this was exactly the castle I was looking for!

Lenzburg Castle (Schloss Lenzburg), Switzerland
Castle Lenzburg courtyard

So the castle Lenzburg took the role for the second part of the book 🙂

And the story continues… 

To use ChatGPT or not to use ChatGPT, that is the question

I was planning to change the blurb for the “Swift Escape” for a while now. If you look at the genres where Amazon places it, it falls under tech thriller. This comes from the fact that people who picked up that book normally read this kind of genre. And also from the fact that it is a thriller dealing with a new biological weapon, and spy intrigue, and science mystery, and so on. However. One of the strongest sub-genre it actually should fall into is a romance. And yet, it doesn’t. 

This presents an issue, and I’ll explain why:

A reader who loves thrillers will love the intrigue and mystery in “Swift Escape”, but they won’t like intimate romance moments at all (and I know this because of the reviews).

But a romance lover will love the romance bits a lot, but they won’t mind the thriller parts. Romance lovers can roll with thriller, crime, drama, paranormal (especially paranormal!) and history. As long as there is romance and HEA 😉

So basically I am in a wrong genre and that means people don’t see my book.

Why such a big intro?

Because of the ChatGPT.

With the big bang of ChatGPT, I know many authors are re-writing their blurbs with the help of an AI, making it better, making it more salesy. And it makes sense more than one might think. You see, for some unexplainable reason, writers can write a novel of 200,000 words within a few months or years, but then struggle when they need to put down only 200 words for their blurbs. And most of them turn out not to be the best sales pitches either. (Writers are generally horrible sales people)

So, yes, getting help does make sense.

But here’s where I see a problem. Not only in getting AI help with blurbs but in writing books in general (go check the internet and you’ll see there are already many how-to YouTube videos where people explain how to write a book with the help of an AI). And if you check this podcast from TheCreativePenn, you will learn that Tim Boucher published 60 books in the matter of 5 months ( ).

Let me repeat that because I could hardly believe it myself.

From November 2022 to March 2023, he published 60 books.

And then there is a long pause where I’m looking into the distance and I am pretty much stunned and I don’t know how to continue.


…to compete…

…with that?

I decided some years back that I cannot compete with the “super-writers” who publish a-book-every-month. How do they manage to do that I have zero idea. But good on them. 

I can’t . 

I know now that I need time for a story to mature in my head first. And then there is lots and lots of research after that. Which needs lots and lots of time. So, yes, my books take minimum two years. Minimum. 

But, with the dawn of the ChatGPT, the book-a-month goes out the window too. Now, it will be a-book-a-day. Or perhaps several of them.

Maybe not quite yet – as the AI writing still needs editing step – but soon. Because the AI is getting better by the second. 

And now comes my question.

If we give the writing to the AI, what is left for us?

What is left for me?

If we give illustrations not to the artist on DeviantArt but to Midjourney – and let me tell you, the stuff that comes out is mind blowing – what is then left for creative humans to do? Because I always thought if humans can do something really well, creativity is it. A lot of manual and statistical work can and will be taken away. But art? 

I will not be able to compete with an AI generated content. Not by a long shot. It will be generated too quickly. Who will wait 2 or 3 years to read my next book?

Now, does that mean I should stop writing? 

This AI topic threw me in a deep well, made me question my decisions, my strategies, my books and my future in writing. It made me think a lot about creation and about already created content. 

It made me think of art.

What is art? 

Creating something out of nothing.

But does AI create something out nothing? No. Or certainly not yet. It uses all the creative work available on the internet and mixes it and jumbles it into a new content. Which of course begs the question of a copyright. If AI uses a photograph, or a painting, or a music composition, or a book, to twist it into something new, the copyright and ideally any kind of royalty payment should go respectively to the original creator.

But it doesn’t. 

Hopefully that will be changed with time.

Also, there is a certain fear the unknown.

When radioactivity was first discovered, the people thought it was amazing. You can see your own skeleton, you can check how well a shoe fits your foot by looking at an Xray screen, you can even make jewellery out of a radioactive material. Until it was discovered that it wasn’t so amazing after all. 

Technology ahead of ethics.

But then again, when computers just started being made, many people were afraid of it. They feared that it will take their jobs. And it did. But it created many more new ones.

So which of the two extremes is the AI?

Should we be afraid of it? 

Or should we embrace it and ride the wave?

I think what terrifies me the most is the fact that all the software engineers who are involved into making AI curcuits say they don’t know what is happening inside. They don’t understand how it actually works. It just does. And that automatically means lack of control. And also lack of consequences. 

If a human makes a crime, we place them in jail. 

Bad behavior – bad consequence. 

Other humans learn.

But what kind of “jail” consequence can we place on an AI when we don’t even know what it is afraid of, or what is it that it doesn’t want?

But I ran away from the conversational AI, our ChatGPT.

Let me get back to the point: the blurb of the “Swift Escape”. 

I wanted to write the new blurb, make it more romance-y, make it clear that it is the romance readers who should be interested in this book rather than thriller lovers. And though I am certain I am not the best person to write this sales pitch – a professional copywriter or ChatGPT would do it much better (as I said, I’m a lousy sales person), I still want to do it myself. 

Because I love creating, and I find the creative process rewarding.

And so I did it. 

And to prove to you that I actually didn’t use ChatCPT, I made a screen video recording as I did it.

If you want to see it, check the link here. And – please don’t mind my grammar mistakes: I am not a native English speaker.

I would love to hear what do you think of ChatGPT and AI in general. Where do you think this will take us?

Research needed!

I have 38072 words – which translates to 175 pages – done!
38000 words of research, that is  🙂    

But with all the information I’ve gotten so far, it was enough to start writing. The research however is far from over. With every chapter I write (currently 77 pages) new questions come up. And I think the story – though made up – needs to be as close to reality of the 18th century as possible. You wouldn’t think it needs so much research, but the moment you ask yourself some simple questions, you realize it’s needed.

For example, what did people eat, what did they drink? Remember, most of the water, unless it was a mountain spring, was contaminated as there was no sewerage or water control. 

How did they dress (women started wearing knickers, eg. underpans, only in the 19th century!! How, on the Moons of Senthia, did they handle a period, I still have no idea!) And then some larger questions, like the influence of the church on the population or changes in the philosophical views at the time. It all influences the story.

Dan Brown, when addressing the new writers, said “When your readers buy your book, they are not only paying for the words in the book”. Meaning, they are also paying for all the words you deleted, either because they have been edited out so that your story is distilled to enable your reader the best experience possible. But he also means the many words of your research, because although none of your readers will see those words, they will certainly feel if the author did the research or not.

And I completely believe him. Research is mandatory. Because you see, some time in the future, next year, or the year after that, this book will be finished. And in that moment, I will ask you to put away your life, your busy, interesting life where you are the protagonist and the main character in your story. And I will ask you to put aside this particular life for a few hours and give your full attention to my book. To my story.

And this is a lot to ask. 
Your attention, your time, is the greatest currency.

For me to be able to ask something like that of you, I need to do the best job possible, and the research is at the very basis of it, because you will not believe my characters, you will not live in my story, if it doesn’t ring true. 

So, I’ll continue researching and writing, and to you I wish happy reading!

Yours, Tara Jade

“The Vision” is finally out!

It is time to celebrate. Not only is one book out, but the whole “Descendants of Earth” trilogy is finally complete. Yeey! I am so happy to have it finished. Clearly, the story was roughly there from the start. Those of you who finished the trilogy will know that I sprinkled clues from the beginning on, and they all, hopefully very rewardingly, wrap up in the end.

Considering that “The Senthien” took 6 years to write and “The Mind” 2, “The Vision” was surprisingly faster, only one and a half years from start to finish. (I have author friends who publish 3 books per year, I know, but this is my best timing!) Knowing my pace, I anticipated the book will be out February or March 2022, but I am really happy that the first draft was done pretty quickly and also that the post-production eg, editing process, was done within the “usual” 6 months I had anticipated. No bad surprises there 😉 Which means that “The Vision” came out before Christmas!

I wish I could celebrate this with you, my readers. Especially those of you who read “The Senthien” when it came out, 6 years ago (Ouch! So sorry for the delay). I really do appreciate your patience and your determination to stay with the story and find out what will happen to Dora and J. And not only that, but what will happen to the whole Uni galaxy!

To tell you the truth, when I was writing the first book, I didn’t know this myself. I had a very clear picture of what will happen to Dora and J, including the whole Monica trajectory. And I was so thrilled with the plot line there! I can even tell you that this particular story bit happened while I was driving, with a snowstorm racking the windows of our car, as we were going to see friends in France, some three hours away. I consciously wasn’t thinking about the plot line at all at this moment, but somehow my subconscious did, because all of sudden I had an ending for them.

At any rate, while I knew exactly the story lines for my characters, the whole social and political ending, with millions of Descendants and Humans in Uni galaxy, didn’t have a clear future until only a few months before the first draft of “The Vision” was done. I had various possible futures for it, just like with Dora when the current situation is not clear, many future scenarios are possible as well. I didn’t want to do a book-genocide, but I also didn’t want to let them off the hook either. In the end, with many extremely useful discussions, probing questions and intriguing feedbacks, mainly from the two people, I found my ending. So, to Tom Brown and Jade Phipps, thank you for helping me find the future for Uni 🙂

The trilogy is done.

And as for me? It is time to say goodbye to “Descendants of Earth”, to all my lovely imaginary characters I spend 12 years with, and it’s time to move on. Time to start writing another book, setting up another adventure, getting to know my new characters.

I am so looking forward to my new adventure! I’m sure you will love it too 🙂

How to deal with bad book reviews

Every author will face it: bad reviews. Some more, some less, but in all cases they will hurt. Bad reviews come mostly because your book came into the wrong hands: that reader wasn’t supposed to read your book but based on your cover or summery they thought they are and they read it. So, a large part of potential bad reviews can be avoided with careful considerations when deciding on your metadata: genre selection, book covers, blurbs and such. But even if your metadata is spot-on, you will still end up with some readers that were never meant to pick up your book in the first place. Here is how I dealt with mine.

Stephen, you rock!

I’m reading “On writing” by Stephen King.

I love it, as most of his fans or aspiring writers would/do.

Two reasons:

First of all, this is the first book of his where I can actually “hear” him, Stephen King himself. Not Carrie White or Stu Redman. But Stephen King. And it was very nice to “get to know” him like that. And funnily enough, he reminds me of Dan Simmons’ Martin Silenius, a satirical character in the epic “Hyperion”. Continue reading “Stephen, you rock!”

What’s a good book?

A good book is when I can’t wait for my next available free time to sit and read the next few pages. When I read the page on the left and my eyes keep jumping to the page on the right, desperate to find out what will happen. A book that I often rewind: I go back to read a paragraph again and again, because I really liked it. A story where I identify with a character: someone who is good, brave, but still has some minor faults I can relate to.

Continue reading “What’s a good book?”

Let’s talk about sex


It’s Tuesday evening, past 11, and my friend and I are still discussing the topic I brought up. She looks at me over a half full glass of Bellini and says, “You could still copy EL James… Take each third word, no one will point fingers at you for copycatting and it would still be a good sex scene.”

We are, of course, talking about writing sex scenes in my books. Continue reading “Let’s talk about sex”