all around renovation

Isn’t it normal to set resolutions in January? So I’m going to jump in too. This came to me when my parents brought my middle daughter back on January the 5th and announced surprisingly that they wanted to renovate her room. The room was a disaster area (she’s a teen) with lipstick writing on once pink walls and piles and piles of unwashed laundry, books, discarded toys, and waste paper, so the renovation was overdue. Naturally I didn’t let my parents do it all on their own (they’re in their late 70’s), and this is the result:

xxx

The colors were chosen by my daughter. She loves them.

Zimmer2

The fake window was originally planned for the kitchen but never made it there.

When the room was done and my daughter happy, I felt a deep sensation of accomplishment. Improving something felt good. So I vowed that I will manage to update all those novels that are published but not perfect enough before the year is out.

Don’t worry though, I haven’t forgotten about my new stories. After all I wrote enough new words in 2015 to publish at least one novella every three months.

Did you make any resolutions for 2016?

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The Year in Review

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I’m wishing all my readers a happy New Year. May all your wishes come true eventually (not all at once though because that’d be pretty overwhelming). May you remain (or become) healthy and may you live with love and tolerance. This also applies to those readers whose New Year is yet to come. 😀

Looking back at 2015 I must say that I managed to do a lot more things that I had thought I would. The kids are becoming more and more independent, so that left more time for writing. Still unbelieving I stare at my numbers. I wrote 169,054 words on new stories (the next 4 fairy tales, a couple of short stories, a love-story novel with dragons, and the beginning of the sequel to Scotland’s Guardians), PLUS I translated 151,516 words from the English first draft back into my mother tongue, German (most of what I wrote new).

What does that mean for you?

Glad you asked. 😀

In 2016, I can guarantee that you will see the publication of one fairy tale every three months (I don’t yet know if I’ll be able to keep up that publication speed in 2017, but I’ll try), PLUS the publication of several other projects in between (I’m doing my best to finally get my non-linear fairy tale murder mystery done).

And then, I’ll create some more. But before I can get back into writing, I set February 1st as my official starting day, I need to get the mobile theme for my website done (I had a very talented web-programmer do the basic layout and now I’m fiddling with the details. Here’s a (not yet fully functional) preview), I must sort my bills and prepare my tax papers so I can hand them in first thing in February. Also, I’ll need to find book-bloggers interested in reviewing my first ever novel-length audio-book: Scotland’s Guardians, and some who want to read “Juma’s Rain”. Also, I’ve got several novellas, short stories, and novels in the publication pipeline.

You see, this year is most likely going to be just as busy as last year was. So, let’s raise our hands and dance a happy dance — may merry times come to all of us.

Happy New Year!

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Merry Christmas everyone

This is the time of the year where I usually spend less time writing and more time doing Christmas-y things with the kids. This year, we made gingerbread houses (although there’s no ginger involved). They had a lot of fun, and I thought you might enjoy the sight too.

Here’s my middle daughter’s house:

haus1

Here’s my youngest daughter’s house:
haus2

And this is mine:
haus3

They were a little tricky to photograph since I wanted the pictures to have the right mood for the season. Using the flash made them look like sample pictures from a cookbook.

Merry Christmas to all of you from Cat!

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Autumn Blues doesn’t exist

Regardless of what you say, Autumn Blues doesn’t really exist. It’s only the head-cold that’s keeping me from enjoying the crisp cool air and the late sunshine, the stunningly red leaves and the smell of freshly picked apples (I really wish I could smell them, it’s one of my favorite smells).

My cure so far, I’m spending a lot of time in bed, listening to the audiobook versions of my novel “Scotland’s Guardians” (to catch all pronunciation errors before the planned publication near Christmas) while planning my next advent calendar. Yes, I know it’s a little early, but since I plan on doing NaNoWriMo again this year, I’ll need enough time up front.

Hopefully my cold will be gone in time for NaNo. My stories are planned, my writing night trip to Hamburg is planned and paid for, and I’m eager to get started. BTW, did I tell you that I’ve got 3 of the next 4 fairy tale retellings already written? I’m currently translating them so I can keep publishing next year.

Do you have a wishlist of stories I should write (either fairy tales or sequels to my other books)? Maybe I’ll pick one or two as a special Christmas surprise. 😉

Let me know in the comments.

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Better late than never

I know, I should be posting more often again, especially since the summer is over. Strangely enough, time seems to have accelerated and, after an initial lag I’m whizzing along (like in those newer Star Trek movies where the light of the power-units expands while the Enterprise seems to be stuck in one place for a second before it zooms away with warp-speed). Not that I like it, mind, but there are so many things I didn’t get done in the summer (due to the heatwave and a couple of personal catastrophes), that the mountain of work barely shrinks.

Still, I just discovered that I completely and utterly forgot to let you know about my upcoming release of “Juma’s Rain” (you might remember the posts I did about the NOK-culture and Stone Age tools and weapons). I’m currently in the process of coding the eBook and print book and will hopefully be able to post the link to the pre-order page some time soon. For now, I’ll share with you the gorgeous cover, Hendry Iwanaga made for me (well, he drew the picture, I did the fonts etc.):

eBook cover for Juma's Rain

eBook cover

And this will be the full cover, front and back, for the print version:

wrap around print cover for Juma's Rain

wrap around print cover

Oh, and I’m currently releasing another 99ct short-story too. It’s about a gen-designed newt-human who has to escape two hunters. Here’s the cover and the blurb for “Newtling“:

Newtling-coverI love my webbed fingers and my ability to stay under water for a long time…
I don’t mind that my backside is blue with brownish dots and my belly bright orange…
Neither do I care that me and my family are much smaller than our creator though we share his genes…
But what I do hate is being hunted … especially since I’m unarmed and running through the local swamp. Can a newtling like me outsmart two hunters and their state-of-the-art hunting gear?

This short story takes you into the mind of a genetically engineered newt-human-crossover and lets you witness his struggle to survive.

15 page short story with an XXL reading sample of “Paralan’s Children”, a YA scifi murder mystery.

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My very own summer nightmare

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.

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It’s my life (Bon Jovi) … in songs

I woke up with the crazy idea that it should be possible to tell my life’s story in song titles. Since it’s my birthday today, I’m going to do just that. And because I’m bilingual, I’m going to use German and English songs. 😀

What happened so far (condensed version):
Birth: (Here I am, rocked you like a ) Hurricane, Scorpions
Childhood: Wenn ich König von Deutschland wär (if I were king of Germany), Rio Reiser
School: Die pure Lust am Leben (the undiluted joy of living), Geier Sturzflug
Puberty: Smooth Criminal, Michael Jackson
A-Levels: Love is in the air, John Paul Young
Apprenticeship: Die Regenballade (the rain ballad), Achim Reichel & Ina Seidel
University: Life is Live, opus
Scotland: Lord of the Dance, 19th century Shaker tune (here by The Dubliners, and I know they’re NOT Scottish)
PhD: Wishing you were here, Pink Floyd
Wedding: Wolke 4 (cloud 4, its a love song that emphasizes that cloud 7 is mightily high up 😉 ), Philipp Dittberner & Marv
1st Child: Wie schön du bist (how beautiful you are), Sarah Connor
2nd & 3rd Child: Keine ruhige Minute (not a peaceful moment), Reinhard Mey
Writing: Nothing Else Matters, Metallica
Ever since: Paperback Writer, Beatles

Still to come:
Sustainable Success: We are the Champions, Queen
Husband’s Retirement: Wind of Change, Scorpions
The Inevitable End: Sound of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel

Theme:
My Way, Frank Sinatra
and Geh aus mein Herz und suche Freud (go my heart and look for joy), German hymn by Paul Gerhard

I hope you’ll enjoy listening to those songs. They’re a good representation of the styles I enjoy (it’s a little short on classic music which didn’t really fit the idea). And now, I’m challenging William L. Hahn, Rabia Gale, Elizabeth McCleary, Patricia Jankowsky, Jaqueline Spieweg, and David Pawn to show us the playlist of their lives with a minimum of 5 songs plus a live-theme. I’m looking forward to those! 😀

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MIA – problems piling up unexpectedly

The world gremlins decided to have a go at me. Everything I did aside from writing seems doomed. My motorbike, in urgent need of an MOT, won’t start any more after I took the back wheel out and put it back in. There’s no reasonable explanation why it’d stop working because of that action. My youngest daughter will have to go to the hospital for a few days for an MRI because her feet are turned inward, and I’m worried sick that it might be something serious. And then, there’s the trouble with my middle daughter’s flight to the US in a few weeks:

Anger boiled in her chest hotter than the heatwave outside. A thousand dollars? Where should she take them without stealing? When she booked the flight for her daughter in January, she had thought that the special service required for an under-age child had been booked too, but somehow there had been a hickup. Now, changing the flight would mean buying a new ticket – three weeks before the trip. A nightmare!
How was she going to face her daughter’s disappointment? Bile rose in her chest and her heart hammered like a steam engine. At the same time, her throat constricted and her vision blurred.
She’d tried contacting the travel agency but they’d been playing muzak on the phone for close to 15min so far without anyone feeling the necessity to pick up the receiver and help her. Her annoyance grew. It’d be an effort not to scream at whoever would finally be at the other end – if at all. Grinding her teeth, she tried to ignore the perversely happy song blaring from the phone’s speaker.
Finally, a voice … a young man who let her anger roll off him like water off a duck’s back.
“Yes, Mam, you did send an eMail regarding the special service. Let me see what happened … please hold the line.”
Slightly calmer, she searched her Outbox. There was the eMail in question. How could she have forgotten all about it? Did that mean everything was fine now? The eMail she had answered said something about a fee that needed to be paid. A quick scan of her pass sheets revealed no payment. Had the travel agency answered her eMail in January? She couldn’t remember. She’d have to ask the friendly clerk when he picked up the phone again … toot toot toot – the line went dead.
NO! NOT NOW!
Shaking with anger, she dialed the travel agency’s number again. After maneuvering through the voice guided menu, the artificial announcer said, “Your waiting time is ten minutes.”
By now, she’d been on the phone for close to an hour already and her patience was wearing very, very thin. She closed her eyes and breathed while the muzak kept squawking “summer feelings”.
She needed to DO something or she’d go crazy. Another ten minutes of forced repose would drive her up the walls.
So she opened a document and began to write.
The anger subsided … little by little.
The song became bearable.
Fifteen minutes and counting.
Breathing deeply, not thinking about all the things she still needed to do today seemed to help – a little.
Twenty minutes …
Drat, she had left the eReader on the attic. Did she dare run upstairs? No, better not. It must be any minute now.
Hopefully.
Thirty-five minutes – at least her husband had been so kind to fetch her eReader. Waiting was boring but reading calmed her nerves.
Forty-three minutes – another clerk.
She sighed and repeated her problem, this time making sure they got her phone number to call her back just in case the line broke down again. More waiting while the clerk inquired about her problem, then the reassurance that she’d done everything right. Still, the problem wasn’t solved yet. Someone higher up in the hierarchy had to get back with her to find out why she had neither gotten confirmation for the special service nor the bill that needed to be paid. But for now, it looked as if everything would be sorted out in time for the flight. They promised to call her back tomorrow.

FYI – they haven’t called back yet. Neither have they sent an eMail. Right at this moment, I’m in the waiting line again. No time estimate this time.

FYI-Update – Everything is sorted. The fault lies with American Airlines – they didn’t tell us, that the combination we booked wasn#t possible in their system. At least they waived the horrendous fees they first requested for re-booking the flight, and the travel agency will issue a complaint as well. Still, the fee we’ll have to pay now is ca. 200 € higher than what it would have been in January, but my daughter can fly as planned. So, we’ll have to tighten our belts a little over the next few weeks – or you could buy more books 😀

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my 3 most important rules for Fantasy

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?

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