And another one of those … But this time I’m better prepared. I’ve got all my NaNoWriMo-stuff lined up (more about that tomorrow). And I’ve got a good Halloween-ish story for this Bloghop (I hope you’ll agree it’s good; it’s surely not for everyone). I sent this in to the best writing related podcast I’ve ever listened to: “Alone in a Room With Invisible People“, AND IT GOT ACCEPTED. YAY! So you will hear it on the podcast some time soon.
Here’s my story. Happy Halloween for those who celebrate it:
Satisfied with the makeup that made her look like a deathly pale Victorian vampire, Anne closed her compact mirror and walked through the doors of the golf club. Tonight she would mesmerize her future husband, someone with money. No man in his right mind could resist her allure. Scanning the crowded room for unfamiliar faces, she hoped none of the regulars would notice she was wearing the same costume as last year. The hairdo had eaten up the last of her money.
She dismissed guys with expensive wedding rings, for she needed someone unbound. Two well rounded buttocks in an Armani suit swaying to the music caught her attention. The hands were unadorned. The face, when her potential husband turned, was nothing spectacular but would do. She wasn’t looking for Mr. Universe anyway.
It only took a few heartbeats to draw his attention. With a smile, he asked her to dance. Pressing her body close to his, Anne felt his erection through their clothes. Hook, line, sinker! They didn’t talk. When she looked up, her lips moist to invite a kiss, his eyes glowed a dull red.
“You’ve been tantalizingly close all this time.” His voice was husky. “Come with me. I’ll give you everything you’ve dreamed of.”
He limped, and she lost her synchronicity. Something seemed wrong with his leg, but her eyes were glued to his face. His smile hardened her nipples with arousal and fear. He had promised to fulfill her dreams, hadn’t he? Her gaze fell past him, and she frowned.
People around her had changed, wearing dull colored brocade clothing adorned with golden threads, and so did she. Where were they? Or was it when?
“You could be mistress to a pope.” Her partner pointed to a fat man with a hooknose in a red cloak. Countless jewels studded Hooknose’s fingers. When he smiled, his teeth were twisted black stumps. She shivered.
“Well, if Roderic de Borja is not to your taste…” Her partner whirled her around and the scene and their clothes morphed again. Now he wore a stiff necked suit, and her bosom fought a dress with a whale-bone crinoline. He nodded to a portly man she had once seen in a history book—a king of England or some such.
“Interested? He’ll make you his queen.” His eyes sparkled.
Wealth and power! All she’d ever wanted. That one was Mr. Right. But a question remained, “Why can’t I stay in my time?”
“Because death awaits you tonight.” The red glow in her partner’s eyes intensified. In them, she saw herself lying in a puddle of blood. She swallowed hard.
“What will it be, pope or king?”
She didn’t ponder for long. As queen, she’d be rich and powerful. No man would dare to object to her advances even when she grew old. Also, the king wasn’t as fat as the pope.
Before she could voice her answer, her dancing partner bowed, kissed her hand, and said, “Fair thee well, Anne Boleyn. We’ll meet again.” Bowing once more, he faded away.
And another one of those… I seem to be too busy in between the bloghops to post much. Pleas forgive me. The latest in a row of catastrophes was the death of my youngest’s pet rat and a second pet rat injured himself when he fell out of the cage. Somehow my days fly past and I don’t get much writing done. Only translations (English-German) are feasible and cover art for some clients.
That’s the reason why my entry today is only the beginning of a story. The rest is still in my head. Enjoy, and don’t forget to visit the other participants too.
Under the Bridge
The water fifty meters below me was black as tar as it flowed toward the sea. This high up in the crisscrossing steel beams of the bridge’s construction, it looked like tarmac. A strong breeze tugged at my breeches, carrying the scent of salt, seaweed, and crustaceans with it. Instinctively my long, flexible toes dug deeper into the steel. It groaned. Together with the thrumming of the passing cars, the sound reminded me of a lazy jazz piece.
I smiled, glad I didn’t have to hide my tusks. As necessary as it was, I was tired of lying about what—who—I was. But down here, there was less light than in the shady bar my human friends and I—naturally in my human disguise—frequented. I enjoyed my true shape.
Hoicking up a considerable amount of snot and spit, I let it fly into the night … never saw or heard it hit the water. I sat and dangled my feet over the gray steel balustrade, marveling at the size of the rivets—also gray and bigger than the palm of my hand. And I did have a big hands all things considered.
It was surprising that humans, these frail creatures, had created something so … so solid. I stroked the metal disregarding a few splinters of rust and paint digging into my green flesh. What’s a little pain if you know you’re doomed no matter what.
Not caring one bit (after all everybody was doomed one way or the other) I spat at the river again. It looked like the road to hell.
And on nights like this it was.
Been there, done than. Only Hell doesn’t do T-Shirts—especially not my size. My low laugh shook the steel beams, but then I shuddered. It hadn’t been the best of times. And now I was waiting for an old … well, you couldn’t exactly call someone from hell a friend, but he’d been the closest to a friend I’d had at that time.
Maybe I’d take him to that shady bar. With his horns and cloven hoof hidden, he’d clean up much nicer as a human than I ever would, and he’d smell nicer. Not of rotting meat and dumpster like I did.
But who cared? I was the one who collected the bridge toll which meant I was the one with enough cash to pay for drinks.
It didn’t matter how good my disguise smelled, only that I had one. What innkeeper in his right mind would let an eight foot troll with a three foot devil in tow into his establishment, even when all customers were lying with their heads in pools of vomit and stinking of alcohol and piss?
Don’t forget to visit the other participants. Enjoy their stories:
I know, I know. I’ve been unduly “lazy”. The next bloghop is due, and I haven’t posted ANYTHING in between. My excuse? My life exploded mid 2017. I’ve been trying hard to keep everything together but couldn’t prevent some major issues that needed solving. And then, my husband had to go to a rehab hospital for eight weeks (which means diminished pay) and my father’s breast cancer reared its ugly head again, and my writing time flew out of the window (figuratively).
As a final straw, the EU has decided on a new data protection law — in general a very good and much needed one, but the problem is that they want everything documented. It’s a huge amount of work for me since I am running (or help running) nine sites (of those only 2 can be deleted). For me, that means I’ll be busy until May 25th to get this site (and all the others) compliant with the law so you can be absolutely sure that neither I now anyone I employ (even as a third party plugin or some such) will mess with your personal data. For you, it means the number of publications will diminish a little since I have even less writing time right now.
Still, I managed a piece for the Bloghop. I hope you’ll enjoy the story.
A Snow White Morning
As she left the village behind, the houses huddled together like chicken surrounded by foxes, Nancy breathed the icy air with delight. It tasted of snow – a lot of it, which was confirmed by the mass of dark clouds hanging over the wide valley that connected two mountains high enough to kiss the sky.
Just like Nick and me, she thought. A tiny smile tugged at the corners of her mouth mirroring the wind that pulled at her simple woolen coat. She let it drop to the ground and enjoyed the North wind’s caress on the pale skin of her naked arms. How she’d missed walking in a light shift on a day like this. Had she really been so besotted with Nick that she’d forgot her first love? Well, her swollen belly answered that question without a doubt.
Kicking off her shoes, she gasped as the soles of her feet touched the needle-like spikes of last year’s grass, frozen by the wind’s breath. Like a sleepwalker, she found her way higher up the craggy slopes of the Northern mountain. The need to reach the part where life clung to tiny gaps in seas of rock and stone pulled her along.
Her flexible toes dug into the smallest fissures as she climbed the steep slope, keeping her grounded while the wind played with her long, straight hair, growing wilder by the minute.
When the clouds split and hurled tiny ice crystals toward the ground, she stopped and put her head back to look up at the whirling, coiling mass. With a happy sigh she reached for the star shaped wonders.
One snowflake settled on the palm of her left hand like an icy kiss while others condensed around her into a gown she hadn’t worn for way too long. She hadn’t expected a welcome like this. A tear, driven by nostalgia, formed on her cheek, freezing before it could roll over her skin. She wiped it away. It felt good to be home.
Buffeted by winds gusting from every side and surrounded by a cloud of snowflakes, she found the perfect spot. Snow drifted gently over a flat granite the size of Nick’s bed surrounded by boulders that kept the howling of the winds at bay just enough that a newborn wouldn’t be scared by it. She sat down on the coarse stone, arranging the snow in soft pillows and blankets around her.
As the snow reached the humans she’d left behind, the villagers’ fear rode on the winds and filled her with pain, joining the first pangs of labor. The snowstorm filled her and her world – the perfect weather for the birth of her daughter.
I hope you liked this story. If you did, check out my books. Also, have a look at these wonderful stories by my fellow writers:
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?