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:
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In January, I booked a flight for my middle daughter (13) to the US where she wanted to spend time with close friends of mine. The booking went through, and I got an eMail asking me to also book an accompanying service for her at the price of $300 payable upon departure. I did. After all, I want my child to be safe.
In July, I phoned the airline to ask if I could please accompany my daughter to the gate. However, they told my my daughter can’t travel at all because I didn’t book an accompanying service. I’d have to book a new flight plus the service and that’d cost me $1,700 for the flight and $300 for the service. Shocked and frustrated, I called my travel agency and they sorted things out for me (or so I thought). It turned out that the computer system American Airways is using is not compatible with the one US Airways are using, so no one told US Airwaiys that I booked the service. But also, no one told my travel agent or me. After a lot of shouting and insisting, American Airways booked my flight anew, directly through the US Airways system. They charged me $400 (which I thought was way better than close to $2K). So I paid, and they told me that with US Airways, kids under 15 but over 13 can travel unaccompanied so I wouldn’t have to pay the $300. Fine, I thought, all sorted out.
On August 10th I took my daughter to Schipol airport (some 5hrs drive from us) because that was the only place in the North where I could get a direct flight to her destination. I checked her in and asked again if I could walk with her to the gate since she was only 13 and travelling on her own. The clerk informed me that this wasn’t possible because I didn’t have a boarding pass. So when the time came that she had to leave or miss the plane, I hugged her with a heavy heart and let her walk off. She looked so terribly grown up…
Then, I went to search for my car (a feat in itself) and drove 1 1/2 hours to visit an uncle. We ate lunch and talked and had fun, which took my mind off my worries, until a phone call interrupted us. The friend who was taking care of my other daughter told me that the airline had refused to board my daughter and that she was still sitting in Schipol.
After a nervous breakdown, countless phone calls and hectic action, the airline finally admitted that the fault was theirs because no one had told me to go to a ticketing officer to get the REQUIRED!!! accompanying service and pay the fee. I was close to bursting with frustration at that point. Surprisingly, as soon as they found out how terribly misinformed and upset I was, they asked me to come back to Schipol. They checked us into a nice hotel, paid for all expenses, waived the service fee, and let my daughter board the plane on the next day. All I had to do was sign a form.
Naturally, this time I waited until the plane was in the air and the checking clerk confirmed that my daughter was aboard. She’s now with my friends and obviously very happy.
Writing (and reading) Fantasy is supped to be fun. But lately, I find myself not finishing books because imho the author ignored the most important rules. The fist one is the most important one. If it works, I can skip blunders of the other two rules.
Rule 1: Thu shalt not bore the reader
Obviously, this rule applies to all genres not just Fantasy. Unfortunately there are plenty of authors who don’t adhere to this rule. This is an instant “Won’t Buy” sign for me.
Rule 2: If you create something unusual (flying donkeys, two moons or three suns), it must have consequences in your Fantasyworld
Like many people’s, my education was scientifically biased. I always enjoyed the logic behind it. Therefore, nothing annoys me quite as much as a Fantasy-novel where basic rules of nature are ignored without giving a proper reason and without consequences for the world. Consider how many religions surround our single moon. What do your think would happen if you’ve got two moos (regardless the strange effects on ebb and flow)?
Rule 3: Magic complicates matters and doesn’t solve problems
Most Fantasy-novels contain a magical element. Of course, that’s cool and surely one reason why people read Fantasy. Still, an author shouldn’t make the mistake to use Magic to clear away obstacles for the hero (or heroine). On the contrary. To achieve rule one, it is essential that magic complicates the main character’s problems. That can happen for example through “costs” of magic (bodily exhaustion, increased ageing) or through mistakes when used (see Disney’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, originally written by Göthe).
Of course, these rules (aside from rule one) aren’t similarly important to all readers. So, tell me, how do you feel about rules? Which ones are important to you when you read (or write) stories?
As you might have noticed from the number of covers (see here), my first Indie release (Urchin King) is a sort of tryout book for me. I keep fiddling with the cover, the formatting, the blurb… anything, to see what works best so I can apply it to the other books as well.
This time, I decided that the last cover I did, as beautiful as I think it is, doesn’t reach the intended audience (Young Adult). I came up with a completely new cover. Do you think it’s better suited to reach the intended audience? Can you tell how many pictures I used to create it? Do you like it? Do you think the KBR-seal should be bigger (and maybe in a different place)?
Here’s the new cover (I’ll still need to change the German words for their English cousins, don’t worry about that for now). We’ll get to the new blurb soon.
Meanwhile, I’m sitting at my PC, tired but happy, and write my next story. This time, it’s a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” set in a steampunk world. I love the genre. If you’ve never tried it I advise you to watch the film “Wild Wild West” with Will Smith or read the free online-Comic “Girl Genius” (highly recommended but quite long by now).
Next Saturday (Sunday at the latest) I’m going to draw the winners of the giveaway. Please be patient until then. And finally, I’d like to thank all the wonderful people who helped to make this tour a success for me. Hugs to all.
Yesterday, Mathew Reuther, a fantasy crime writer using considerable more gore than I do, posted an excerpt from my novel on his homepage. Also, one of the most successful Indie authors from Germany published my guest post on Mixing and Balancing Genres on his site (German only).
Today, German book-blogger Katja posted my guest post “Developing Swordplay” in German on her site (this has also been posted in English). She read the book and liked it a lot, so she’ll be writing a review in a few days.
People on my list already know this story (list members get early access to a lot of stuff and some exclusivity and special offers), but I want to share it with you too. Here is an introductory snippet for Moira (in German it’s been posted on Kathleens Bücherwelt in today’s tour stop). The English post for the day is about names in worldbuilding. Check it out here.
Moira wriggled on the chair in front of the principal’s office. Her hands felt strangely empty. Up to this point it had been very comforting to hold on to her application papers. What should she do with her hands now?
The door opened and the secretary looked out, the gray bob over her haggard features blending in with the mint colored walls.
“You may come in now.”
Moira’s heart began to beat faster, and the palms of her hands grew wet. What if her application was declined? This was the only chance she was going to get, and it was a miracle already that the Academy had invited her for an interview. She forced her trembling legs to get up and follow the secretary along a narrow corridor with many doors. Not one of them was labeled, but she assumed they led to the teachers’ conference rooms. At the end of the corridor, the secretary showed her through a big oaken door into a gigantic room. It was so different from what Moira had expected, she stopped and stared at the expanse. Big windows on the far side allowed the sun to light up the room, blurring it into a bright nothingness. White walls emphasized the feeling of being out of this world. On the left side of the door stood two comfortable looking chairs and a low table with two cups, a coffee pot, and a plate with cookies. It was the only furniture in the room.
Moira’s gaze searched for the Academy’s principal but aside from her, there was no one in sight. Even the secretary had left. Feeling small and insignificant, she walked to the seating arrangement but didn’t dare to sit down. Patiently, she waited.
“Please, make yourself comfortable.” The principal’s voice she knew from a previous parlebol call filled the room before a dark shadow appeared beside her and condensed into a portly man with a big, curled mustache.
With his wide, black robe and the beak-like nose, the principal reminded Moira of a rather plump raven. She curtsied and stammered a greeting before her legs gave and she settled into the nearest chair. Did he always appear like this? Would she ever get a chance to get used to this?
He sat too and filled both cups with coffee, leaving it to her to add sugar or milk.
“You seem rather young to be sitting here.” Stirring his own cup, he leaned back and studied her. “I understand that you skipped two classes, and I must say, I was impressed by your grades. They’re the one reason why I decided to take a look at you. You’d be a great addition to the Gendarmerie Générale. So, why do you insist on joining the Gendarmerie Magique?”
“I’ve been working very hard to be considered.” Moira hated to feel so defensive. She knew she was lacking in magical skills. “My parents have both been very successful officers, and it’s been my dream for as long as I can remember.”
“Not all dreams come true.” The principal drained the cup and set it down. He got up and stepped into the middle of the bright room. “Convince me you’re good enough for the basics. With a deficiency like yours, you’d be a liability for your colleagues.”
Moira swallowed. Did he mean she was supposed to do magic? Here? She followed him, marveling at the fact that her legs were still supporting her. The closer she got, the more the principal blurred. When she reached the middle of the room, only his face was still sharply defined, the rest merged with the whiteness.
“If you find my bureau, I will sign your acceptance paper,” he said and vanished completely.
Dumbstruck, Moira stared at the place where he had just been. Surely it wasn’t so very difficult to find his office? She turned toward the door, but it had vanished together with the principal and the furniture. Everything around her was white and blurred into a mist in the distance. She picked a random direction and walked but nothing changed. Drat. How was she supposed to find anything if she was stuck in the middle of a bright, white mist?
This clearly was a test, and the only qualification that needed testing was her magical ability. Since the principal had said he was only looking for the bare minimum of skills, it couldn’t be too difficult. She probably only needed to use a simple Guide-Moi spell. The problem was that she couldn’t even do first grade stuff. She’d tried often enough to know it wouldn’t work. So, she had to find a way that would lead her to the principal’s office and make him believe she used magic. Fine. The GM-spell was simple and straightforward. People using it looked like sleepwalkers. Moira closed her eyes and let her arms dangle as if using the spell. She turned a full circle, hoping for something, anything that might indicate the direction the principal had left. When nothing presented itself, she opened her eyes again but didn’t move her arms. Surely she would be watched closely.
Surprised, she discovered that the windows were still there. A fine web of golden strands ran over their frames. She had seen this kind of webbing before. It indicated active spells. Well, it was nice to know that the whiteness around her was some sort of spell but it didn’t really help, or did it? She walked toward the windows, the only point of orientation she had in the fog. Against her expectations, she was able to get closer. Soon, she stood in front of a windowpane twice the height of her bedroom at home. Outside, she could see the Academy’s running arena. Several students were training. For a split second, her longing to be one of them became so strong she thought her heart would burst. Biting her lip, she turned away from the window. A thin, blue line led from the window into the mist and vanished in the distance. This hadn’t been there before.
Moira hesitated, but only for a second. It was the only hint she could see, and whether it would lead her to the principal or take her out of the Academy and shatter her dream of joining the Gendarmerie Magique was irrelevant at this point. She couldn’t stay here, so she had to follow the blue line. A fifty-fifty chance was always better than no chance at all. With a sigh, she set out, still letting her arms hang limply at her side as if she were using a GM spell.
The floating blue ribbon led her ten steps away from the window, and then angled sharply to the right. Another seven steps took her to a door. Gently, she touched the surface. Yes, it was a real door, solid oak, like the others she had seen in the Academy. She knocked, and it swung open silently, revealing an office stuffed with books and dark oak furniture. The eyes of several teachers and the principal turned to her. Warmth spread through Moira’s belly. All was well.
P.S.: Please excuse any misspellings and grammar errors. If you want more of these, join my list.
Today, the first volume of my first ever Fantasy series went life, and I feel like bubbling over with joy. I don’t know why but it took me nearly a month to get everything in place. Formatting seemed to take forever. I wish I could afford to get someone else to do it for me. Sigh…
That said, I simply love the way the book turned out, and I’m really looking forward to sending out a couple of print copies (although shipping will take a while since the books will be delivered to me here in Germany first and then get sent out again).
So without further ado, here’s “Swordplay”, the first volume in the “Gendarmerie Magique” series.
Swordplay – A Gendarmerie Magique Novel
About the Book
CSI with magic but without the gore
Despite her obvious lack of magical talent, nineteen year old Moira Bellamie apprentices with the Gendarmerie Magique, the magic police. She puts all her effort into solving a burglary at the National Museum where antique weapons have been stolen, to keep the hard won job. Falling for her partner Druidus wasn’t part of the plan. When more and more people are murdered with one of the stolen weapons, Moira must tame uncontrollable magic, or the people she cares for will die, her partner first and foremost.
For lovers of Fantasy and Mystery from 14 years up
At the moment, I’m running a Giveaway on Goodreads for my next release “Swordplay”, the first volume in the “Gendarmerie Magique” series. The book will be released on January the 31st, and you can win a copy right here already. What are you waiting for?