It is already time again for the quarterly Blog Hop. My, how time flies! My grandson has started to crawl, still on his belly, and two teeth are already out. Slowly my days are finding a new rhythm, so I’m writing again. I hope you’ll enjoy this snippet which is based very, very loosely on my experience of becoming a grandmother rather unexpectedly. As usual, you’ll find the links to the other participants below my story.
“Well, you could come in today but only the male doctor will be there,” the gynecologist’s receptionist said. I knew that wouldn’t do. My daughter would never see a man – not when it was her first visit to a gynecologist. I told the receptionist, just as I had told her about the low but persistent abdominal pain Shelly was experiencing. It wasn’t urgent but it definitely needed someone looking at it.
“Well Dr. Paulsen won’t be in before tomorrow. I’ve got a free slot at 9am.”
I smiled and sent a sliver of pleasurable magic through the phone for the woman. “That’s splendid. We’ll be there on time.”
The next morning, my daughter – a little grumpy from getting up this early – and I climbed the two floors to the gynecologist. After the usual paperwork, the receptionist left us in a room with a desk and the gynecological chair. Her smile was meant to be reassuring. “The doctor will be with you in a few minutes.”
Shelly looked at me with a frown. “I won’t sit on that one.” She nodded to the chair.
Before I could answer, the doctor came in. She was a petite woman with brown hair, a white lab coat and tired eyes. “Welcome.” She shook our hands and smiled at my daughter. “It looks as if it’s coming soon. Who’s your regular gynecologist?”
My jaw dropped and for the first time in a long, long while I didn’t know what to say. My daughter’s face must have mirrored my surprise because the doctor said, “Don’t tell me you didn’t know.”
There was no answer to that, but my daughter was too shocked to make a fuss when the doctor examined her. I didn’t even need my magic to soothe her.
“Dear me.” Dr. Paulsen’s eyes widened. “It’s coming right now!” She nearly fled the room to call an ambulance.
While we waited, Shelly’s contractions intensified. She moaned with pain, and my heart hurt in sympathy. At least I now knew her sudden gain in weight hadn’t been due to obsessive eating or cancer or any of the other diseases I had feared. Still, I suffered with her every time the contractions hit. She squeezed my hand as if she meant to crush every single bone to pulp, and it took all my strength not to use a calming spell on her. According to my own mother that would interfere with the baby’s own magic should it have some.
The ambulance took its time and even my spell couldn’t make it faster. All I could do was prevent the gynecologist from panicking. Waves of soothing magic flowed through the rooms, arduously avoiding Shelly. But once the ambulance arrived, everything went fast. Shelly was carried downstairs on a stretcher, and I followed with knees too shaky to manage the stairs without clinging to the handrail. The ambulance headed to the nearby motorway with flashing lights and siren, while my daughter screamed in pain, still clinging to my hand. I tried to make myself as small as possible to not obstruct the doctor and his helpers. The baby arrived soundlessly three minutes before we reached the hospital.
“That doesn’t look good.” The doctor’s face was grim as he cut the cord. My heart seemed to stop beating. I barely dared to look at the rather bluish looking limp body in his hands. “Oxygen. And a tenth of a unit …”
I ignored the doctor’s gobbledygook and concentrated on my daughter. I closed my hands around her wide eyed face. Finally I could help. My magic tugged at her worry, smoothing it out and adding a little hope here and there. “Keep breathing. There’s nothing we can do but hope.” We closed our eyes and ignored the clattering of instruments and the babbling of the paramedic. If we lost the baby, I’d probably never be able to create a bubble of hope again. So we clung to our own little bubble. It was all I could do to keep it up. Shelly’s heart beat the same fearful-hopeful rhythm as mine.
The ambulance screeched to a stop.
“We’ve got her!” The relief in the doctor’s voice was palatable. Very gently he placed the wrapped baby into Shelly’s arms. A content, pink face with the bluest eyes anyone had ever seen stared at us, and a wave of happiness hit me. The baby was magical, and breathing, and moving her tiny fingers, already weaving her spell on us. As I hobbled after the stretcher that was wheeled to a lift, my smile couldn’t have been wider. I whispered to my daughter, “I guess it’s time to think about a name for her.”
It’s time again for the quarterly Storytime Bloghop. This time I did something a little different. Easter, my brothers (I’ve got three) and I were fooling around with a new gadget one of them had gotten. We took some really crazy pictures. So I included one of those at the end of the story. Since it is the punchline, you might want to not look at it until you read the story first. 😀
The Day I was Clever
When I arrived in our kitchen that morning, staring bleary eyed at the wood furniture and the stone counter, Dad gave me NewReality™ glasses.
“It’s time for you to see the world a little differently”, he said and vanished. I think he might have left for work, although his vanishing did feel slightly spooky to me.
Due to too little sleep (I’d played with my 3D virtual reality game half the night), my brain wasn’t working yet so I put them on, and the world changed. Now I stood in a kitchen made of white marble and chrome. Where my bowl of cereal had stood, a plate with artfully decorated pancakes waited for me. I dug in, slightly disappointed that they still tasted like my cereal.
The way to school had changed too. The bus had turned into a sleek limousine, my classmates were wearing spiffy suits or skirts and blouses, and everyone wore a tie. When they saw me, they smiled like friends. I knew they weren’t, so the roaring laughter in the background made sense somehow. I just didn’t know what they were laughing about.
At school, I sank into the seat beside my best friend who grinned at me.
“My, do you look strange,” he said. “If you’d brought your mobile, we could’ve taken pictures.”
“They’re just my new glasses.” I answered. They couldn’t be that bad, could they?
Only when the teacher arrived did I realize that I’d forgotten to bring my books. At least I’d brought my homework so I didn’t get a black mark, but everybody was laughing about me. And when I say everybody, I mean everybody.
As I passed through the hall on my way to my next class, people I’d never met more than in passing came to me to shake my hand. As long as I was looking at them, they just smiled, but as soon as they moved on to pass me to the next person, they burst out laughing – even the teachers snickered when they walked past me. I didn’t see it but I heard them.
After the second break, I had enough. Knowing I’d be in big trouble later, I still sneaked off the school grounds and set out to walk home, staring at the ground to keep others from seeing my face. What were the new glasses doing to it that everyone was laughing so hard?
I turned a corner and stopped in surprise. I’d accidentally walked in the wrong direction. Heat surged into my cheeks as I turned around again. I had barely reached the gates of the school when a car pulled up beside me. To me it looked like a beautiful convertible, but it sounded like a robot with asthma. The tinted driver window rolled down, and my mother’s face smiled at me. She looked like an angel in a flowing blue evening dress, so I smiled back involuntarily.
“Get in the car,” she said, and I obeyed wordlessly.
In our new kitchen, she ordered me to sit on a chair, prepared a hot cocoa for me and a mug of coffee for herself. My stomach turned to ice. I know I was in trouble now. Still, she kept smiling – or were the glasses just changing her expression like they’d changed the kitchen?
“How often have I told you not to turn night into day with your gaming?” Her voice sounded cold and distant, but I felt her anger underneath. I lowered my head and apologized, but it was no good. “And now you’re even wearing gaming glasses to school! Don’t you know how ridiculous that looks?”
“Dad gave me those this morning,” I protested.
“That isn’t possible.” Now, Mom sounded more annoyed than angry. “He left for a business trip to Paris last week. Don’t you ever listen to anything I tell you?”
I had to admit that listening wasn’t my strongest trait.
“Now, give me those glasses and go to bed.” Resignation filled her tone although the face I saw was still smiling. “I’ll write an explanation for your teacher. But no more gaming this week.”
I groaned and took of the glasses. Immediately, my mother’s blue dress turned back into the faded jeans and oversized T-shirt she always wore. I yawned and handed her the glasses reluctantly.
“Let me show you how stupid you look with these,” she said and put them on. “Gosh. How did you manage not to run into things with these? Everything’s completely blurry.”
Although I wondered about her last remark, I burst out laughing when I saw her face with the glasses.
This is how clever Mom looked. I still wonder about me.
That was my story. I hope you liked it. And her are the links to the bloghop’s other participants. If it is anything like the last hops, you’ll find many great stories. Go and read them:
“I like living here with you alone.” My daughter set aside another darned sock. “Not to forget that the inquisition will never find us here.”
I smiled at her to show her how much I love her, but in secret I longed for something more important to do than making a living. I sighed and went back to my spinning. The regular rhythm and Melinda’s breathing relaxed me and the internal unrest subsided until the peace of our evening routine was disturbed, when something heavy thunked against the window of our little cottage. Since it was dark outside we couldn’t exactly see what it was. My fingers stopped turning the spindle, and we both held our breath, fearing the same. But there was no screaming, no pitchforks, and most of all no fire. Slightly relieved but still wary, I called. “Who’s there?”
“Sh-sh-l ivri” The voice sounded muffled, as if it held something in its mouth and was trying to talk around it. Melinda looked at me, and I looked at Melinda.
“I know someone who talks that way,” I whispered. “But this is a different voice.”
Whoever was outside the window bumped against the delicate pane that kept out the winds. If it broke, winter would send its icy fingers into our home, so I got to the door and opened. But not without stopping at the hearth and picking up the biggest knife we owned. I dropped it the minute the door swung open and revealed a roughly human sized dragon with red scales and a bundle of cloth hanging from its maw. When he saw Melinda standing behind me, he took the bundle out of his mouth and moved his jaw from side to side to loosen the muscles.
“I don’t understand why the boss insists on carrying it in my mouth,” he said and handed the bundle to her. “Special delivery for you. New Stork Inc. sends their congratulations. You’ll find a welcome bonus packed right in.”
With shaking fingers Melinda opened the bundle.
“It’s a boy,” the dragon said needlessly. “Plus a few nappies.”
Melissa’s face mirrored the shock that kept me rooted to the spot. I had to clear my throat several times before I managed to speak. “Why’s Stork sending us a baby? We never ordered one.”
“New policy.” The dragon smiled, displaying more teeth that I was currently happy with. I swallowed, and he smiled some more. “We’ve got a few remnants that need old-style distribution. Your daughter was one of the candidates the boss chose.”
“Remnants? Come in and explain.” I stepped aside. I’d been one of Stork’s helpers for as long as I remembered, learning the midwife’s trade from my mother and passing on my knowledge to Melinda. However, since the inquisition started burning midwifes as witches, we’d gone into hiding. So far successful.
The dragon curled up in front of the hearth, enjoying the warmth of the fire. He puffed a few happy smoke curls before he got to the point. “Stork lost a lot of his delivery crew when the inquisition decided stork deliveries were not real and anyone believing in it was superstitious and needed to be punished. People actually started shooting storks then, I guess because they’re hungry.” He stared into the flames for a while, and I took up my spindle again. He sighed contently. “Well, as I said, Stork lost a lot of his crew that way, so he decided to go direct with a delivery system designed to work without stork transportation. I helped him set up the system. It took quite a lot of magic to get it working properly, believe me.”
“Direct?” My mind whirred. “Stork-free delivery?”
“Well, the seeds get harvested when they’re still in single cell state, and a magical tube shoots them directly into the mother’s belly. It’s a marvel. It really is.” He preened his claws and looked smug. “And I was a major part in developing that system if I may point that out.”
How could Stork send babies straight to the mothers? Into their bellies if I hadn’t misheard. My eyes widened when I realized what that meant. “If he sends the parcel into the mother, it must come back out at some point, right?”
“Yup, and that’s why he’s inviting you to an advanced training in what he calls ‘birth’. That’s short for ‘binary inter-rump transfer holistics’, the name of the new technique. The participants of this course will have to spread the word.”
Suddenly I saw my life stretching out in front of me – always traveling, helping women through ‘birth’ and teaching Stork’s new deliver method throughout the country as best I could while evading inquisition. Ever so often I’d visit Melinda who had to stay behind to take care of her son. Suddenly, Life was exciting again.
My year will be extremely busy, and here’s why: I’m planning on writing 52 short stories this year. I know this sounds crazy, but after the scare with my father’s breast cancer I need a fun challenge, and I love writing short stories. I know I’ll probably not be able to write one short story per week, translate it into German, and post it here on my blog, but I pledge to at least try. My goal is to write enough of them to fill 4 or 5 anthologies. Should you have cool ideas for story prompts, you’re welcome to eMail them to me through the contact form on this site. If it’s a good suggestion, I’ll take it.
To give you an impression on the scope of this challenge, let’s dive into a couple of numbers (strangely enough I love numbers nearly as much as words). A good sized crime novel has between 50 and 75 thousand words, an epic fantasy between 100 and 250 thousand. If I assume an average short story length of 3,000 words, I’m facing 156,000 words plus the same in translations plus the ca. 100K words I need to finish the novella I’m currently writing, the ending of Scotland’s guardians part 2, and another installment of my fairy tale novellas. That makes 412,000 words in total for 2017 (not to forget the publications that need to be done).
Now let’s have a look at my stats from last year: I managed to write and translate a total of 304,574 words. Had I been writing every single day (even on weekends and holidays) that would have been a mere 835 words per day. Taking off weekends and the times my children were not in school, I think I wrote more than twice that amount per day. To make my goal in 2017, I’ll have to write 2,200 words per day. I call that a real challenge, and I won’t bereave myself should I fail. However, my ambition is to make it through the year reaching all my goals.
Wish me luck (and enough writing time)! I will start posting on January 26 when it’s time for the next Story Time Bloghop.
P.S.: If you want to read more than the beginning (the first 100-250 words) of the short stories I manage to write, you will have to be fast (the full version will be available for a few days after posting only) or wait for 2018 when I’ll publish them all in bundles of 5-6 stories.
Do you love supporting awesome authors and grabbing FREE books at the same time? Well here’s your chance. Get 22 YA novels totally FREE. Check out the teasers and descriptions on this page, choose the ones that look good to you, or grab them all! You’ll be taken to Instafreebie, who will give you the book via email (don’t worry — it’s quick, easy, and painless). The author may follow up with you and check in on you now and again because we all love chatting with our readers.
Ever since spring I had meant to add all the books I published last year, but I only get round to it now. Somehow time seems to go faster with every year (Help! I’m getting old). Yesterday I got started.
The overview of my books is done, but some of the individual book pages are still missing. Therefore you’ll stumble over an “Under Construction” sign in some places for a while. Don’t be annoyed. It was the only way to avoid dead links.
I promise to work as quickly as I can, after all I want to be done before November. As always I’m starting NaNoWriMo, a month where authors all over the world try to write 50,000 words, on November 1st. If one can write every day, one needs to get 1667 words per day. Since I have to take the weekends off (due to my children), I need to write 2381 words. That doesn’t sound like much but is hard work if the words are supposed to make sense. copying the word NaNoWriMo 50,000 times is not an option for me. 😀
By the way, next week there’ll be another episode of our quarter annual Storytime Bloghop. My story will be in English and German (as always) and only available for a limited time. I hope you’re looking forward to it.
Together with my book, you can get more than 40 other speculative fiction eBooks for free in this promotion. It is open until September 14th. Go and grab your copies now (you’ll have to find the books you’re interested in on a retailer if you want to read the blurb). I am giving away Amadi, the Phoenix, the Sphinx, and the Djinn.
It was one of the first books I published. Back then, I knew next to nothing about cover art, coding, or creating print books. Since I’ve learned a lot in these areas, I updated the story about a girl in an Arabian Night’s setting. To celebrate the re-release I am giving the story away through instaFreebie until the 14th of September. Get the book here.
About the book
Amadi enjoys the busy frenzy the souk and tries to escape the harem her stepmother rules as often as possible. Unlike her sister Bülbül she feels caged, not protected. When Bülbül becomes engaged against her will, Amadi longs to evade a similar kismet.
Luckily a master thief wants her as an apprentice, and she grabs the chance to live like a boy. Too bad that she and her teacher become targets of a jackal-headed god of death and an assassin when they accept an assignment from a magic-using customer.
Who wants them dead so badly remains a mystery she must solve to survive. And now that she fell head over heels in love, she very much wants to live. With her life spinning out of control, will her skills be enough to save her … and, maybe, the caliphate too?
Yes, it’s that time again. Here’s the Storytime Bloghop for June. This time we have 12 participants (including me) and their stories. Enjoy. Here’s mine
“Lobster One. Report to base.” The voice from the loudspeaker crackled. The lonely bluish gray crustacean on the bridge sighed. Luckily the trip was nearly over, so he needn’t worry about repairing it any longer. His long-range sensors had already caught the data stream of a suitable planet.
“Lobster One reporting. Possible planet found. Commencing scouting endeavor. Requesting full weapon access.”
“The use of all weapons has been approved. Good luck, Lobster One.”
A few seconds later the vessel slowed and found a place in the orbit of the planet. It looked promising with its wide expanse of water. With a little terraforming it would surely not be a problem to submerge most of the land masses.
Lobster One observed the planet from above for four days. They were the hardest days of his voyage since he had to remain on high alert due to space junk. When is data scan was finally complete, he marvelled at the results. The planet was perfect except for one, minor detail. It held a semi-intelligent species, some kind of ape-like creature walking on two legs mostly warring against each other. Their weaponry would not suffice to stop an invading army from his home planet.
Lobster One decided it was time for a peek. Since the planet’s atmosphere was too thin for his breathing organs he ordered the ships transporter to deposit him in the middle off the biggest ocean. What was that? Why couldn’t he breathe? His handheld scanner showed that he was surrounded by water. He should not have difficulties breathing. Still his intake valves seemed to be clogged. He used up eight of the ten time intervals he could hold his breath to clean the valves and grab a water sample. Then he reprogrammed the transporter to deposit him in a different ocean. Thankfully he sucked in oxygen.
A strange undercurrent caught him unaware and pulled him along. The more he tried to escape the current, the faster it got. More and more crustaceans appeared around him. Although they were a lot smaller than him they resembled each other strongly. Just when he realized that the tiny creatures around him were not intelligent, they were lifted out of the water and dumped onto a big metal surface.
“Oh look, we caught a lobster!” His universal translator managed to make sense of the garbled noises of the ape-man. “Finally something better to eat then shrimps.”
Lobster One froze. These creatures ate crustaceans? What kind of world was this? Where there more predators specialized on cracking exoskeletons? With small sound that the ape-man didn’t even notice Lobster One activated the transporter and returned to his ship.
During the next three hours he set up a new scan with very specific parameters. It took the ship a whole week to complete.
The perfect planet he thought he had found was infested with creatures hunting and eating crustaceans. Commercial calculations showed that even if they eliminated the worst few species the whole ecosystem would collapse. Defeated, Lobster One reported his failure, set course to the next planet, and began to repair the loudspeaker.
Here are the links to the other stories. Enjoy them and please leave comments. We can only improve our craft if you let us know what works and what doesn’t. Thanks for reading.
Yes, it’s that time again. Remember that my story will only be up for a limited time (let’s say until May 2nd). So if you want to read it, hurry up. 😀
There are many more participants in this bloghop who are listed at the end of the story. Make sure you check out their stories too. Now, have fun:
The coarse fabric of the chaise longue itches under my fingers as I lay there with my eyes closed. Why do I have to lie anyway? It isn’t as if I’m ill or so … (a little while ago the rest of the story was still here. Yoon you’ll be able to get it as an eBook)
Remember that here are more stories for you to read:
P.S.: I’ve got a promotion scheduled for “Juma’s Rain” (a YA Fantasy Romance) on the 7th and 8th of May. The price will drop from $4.99 to $0.99 those days. You can’t have it cheaper than that. So bookmark this link where you’ll find my eBook and 150+ on the 7th and 8th of May.
On the last Wednesday every three months, a couple of Indie authors get together for the Storytime Bloghop. We each post a flash story (500-1000 words). This month doesn’t have a theme aside from Speculative Fiction.
If you enjoy my story, please leave a comment. For the other stories follow the links below my story. Now, have fun (although this story is rather dark for my standards).
I stare at the scars on my arms. The thin lines look crappy. Blood pulses in them — so close to the skin’s surface. I imagine what it would look like if it welled out; blooming dark red on my pale skin. A token of life no-one could mistake. A tiny cut would be enough to prove that I’m still here.
But I’m not gonna do it.
I’ve promised myself. After all, that’s why I’m here, isn’t it?
My gaze wanders through the room, as colorless and empty as my life. Why am I staying? I curl up on my bed. I’d be better off dead. No one would notice anyway. Except for the therapists – maybe. But they don’t count. Neither of them knows what I’ve been hiding in my mattress. So close. So easy to reach. Maybe I should make a cut … a tiny one … in a place where no one will see it.
No. I don’t want that any more. Breathe! I roll on my back and force myself to lie still. The display of my mobile that’s lying on the table casts a bluish rectangle of light on my ceiling, but I have to strain my eyes to see it. It’s not yet dark enough outside. Maybe I should turn on the light, but my strength has gone. If only the mobile were gone. Everything would be fine then. Or it wouldn’t, but at least I wouldn’t know.
„I’m dating Mandy now,“ he wrote. That was it. The end of our relationship with a text message. Who does that? And I’m not even sorry … or angry … it’s not important at all.
I remember what it was like when we first got together. His arms felt so warm on my shoulders. His laugh filled the emptiness inside. But he laughed less and less often. I’m a burden for everyone. I even kill the laughter.
The razor blade in the mattress calls for me. Not with a real voice or so, but I can feel its presence. I try not to think about the comforting and familiar pain spreading from my arm. Soon it would be stronger than the hollow feeling in my chest. Maybe it would finally open the door that traps me in this life. I wonder what’s on the other side. Will I be able to really feel?
The door opens, and Mr Bollart looks in.
“Half an hour to the meeting, Tanja. Are you alright?”
“Shall I turn on the light?” He reaches for the light switch, waiting for my answer. I nod again.
The room is now too dark, and he probably can’t see me. But maybe I’m not here any more and that’s why he can’t see me. The right corner of my mouth twitches when I ponder what Mr Bollart would say if he turned on the light, and my room was empty.
“Yes, please.” My voice is so low that I barely hear myself, but light floods my room.
“See you in a minute, right?”
“Hmm.” That could mean ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ or something else. Don’t know. It’s not important. It’s important that he looked in. Into my room. As if it were important that I’d show up.
Most likely he does that with all his patients. They trained him for that, didn’t they? Psychology … must be hard. Nothing for me. I roll onto my side using my arm as a pillow. The wall on the other side of my room has a horizontal line. Maybe there once stood a bed. It looks like it. I wonder what kind of problems that girl has had? All kinds of people come to this institute.
Don’t think about the blade.
Think of other people. Of the fellow inmates.
Louise, two rooms down the corridor for example. She swallowed enough sleeping pills to kill a horse. She cries in her sleep. Tonight I tried to comfort her — wasn’t really successful. I mean, she went back to crying as soon as I returned to my room. Just because they were nasty with her in school. Mobbing … must be horrible. But being invisible is worse. Believe me. I know that from experience. Maybe I should tell her?
Today. During the therapy session.
If I go.
I might also … the razor blade … I feel it as if it were digging into my side. My hand crawls to the rip in my mattress. If I use it now, they’ll take it away from me. And then? I won’t get a new one easily. I don’t want to need a new one. I don’t even want to use this one. Shit world. My hand crawls on, and I can’t stop it.
Someone knocks timidly, and I pull back my hand instinctively. Again the door opens. Louise looks in.
“May I come in?” Her voice trembles as if she’s scared of something. Not of me, surely.
“OK.” I sit up and pull my legs to my chest to make room for her on the bed. The chair from the table to too uncomfortable.
She sits on the far end of the bed and stares at her hands.
“For tonight. I felt so lonely, and when you came, it was better.”
Something warm spreads in my belly. I don’t know what it is, but I can feel it. I can FEEL. Without the blade!
“Could we…” Louisa doesn’t look at me. „I mean … would you like to…“ Her hands tighten their grip on each other, and she shivers. “Would you like to go to the session with me?”
All of a sudden, I realize she’s afraid of the answer.
“Of course I’d like to.” I smile. It’s the first time since I came here. If she can find the courage to reach out, maybe I can too. I could start by saying something during the session. Who knows. I might hand in my razor blade some time soon. Or not. We’ll see.