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:
Here’s my youngest daughter’s house:
And this is mine:
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.
to everyone celebrating it. When I lived in Scotland for a year, I got hooked on carving pumpkins. Since I didn’t have much time this year, I made the best of what I had. It’s not going to win prices but I very much like it. Enjoy!
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. 😉
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.
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. 😀
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.
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 😀
Sorry for the delay in posting about the final day of the book fair. When I sat down to write it yesterday, I opened my Inbox to 160 eMails with only a very small percentage of spam. Also, I had forgotten about an important meeting I had to go to in my lunch break. So instead of getting things done, I helped my kids with their appointments. Life happens. 😉
Now to the book fair. The final day was less busy than the Saturday. Still, the book fair had a new visitor record. Two hundred and ten thousand people wanted to see what’s new. When I roamed the halls, I had the feeling that at least a third of them came dressed up, although I’m sure it only felt that way.
The Sunday was also the best day for selling books, especially since we were allowed to sell them without paying a commission to the mess after 3pm. Naturally, we didn’t sell quite as many books as we wanted or had taken along, but we did sell some. And more important, we were seen. I managed to give away more than 300 free eBooks (printed and signed, see picture). Since the idea of a printed eBook is relatively unheard of so far in Germany, I’m sure that most people will download the eBook and read it. I already see spikes in my download statistic. I just hope that the readers will move on to my other books as well. 😉
Toward evening, the crowd began to thin out. I saw the best Cosplay costume (Mononoke Hime from the film Princess Mononoke) but couldn’t take a photo because I had left my camera at the booth. Sigh… Still, I can picture it in my mind and it was truly gorgeous.
I was extremely grateful for the two colleagues who stayed to the end with me and helped to empty the booth. We were done in record time and I was home before my kids went to sleep. That was a wonderful conclusion to a great weekend. I hope I’ll be able to repeat that next year.
Over the next few days, I’ll post a couple of the Cosplayers I photographed to showcase how much time and effort some people put into their costumes. I’ll also post the promised pictured of our booth, of Boris, and of my fellow German Qindie-authors.
I’ve been nominated again by Elizabeth McCleary, but will not post everything again that I’ve already posted. I’ll just answer her questions.
What color shirt are you wearing right now?
My jumper is bright red and the T-Shirt blue.
Have you traveled outside your native country? If so, where’d you go?
America, Scotland, France, Denmark, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Austria (for five minutes 😀 ), Switzerland, Netherlands
I think that’s all; at least it’s all I can think of.
You’re all writers. Tell me your primary genre, any secondary genres, and what genres you prefer to read. (Not all writers read in their own genre.)
I love to READ anything Fantasy and SciFi and some Romance as long as it is well written with interesting characters, plus I love good Non-fiction especially all things history.
I write mostly Fantasy with some SciFi and Historical novels on the side. At the moment, I’m writing Fairy Tale Retellings (that reminds me, I’ve got to put up the page about the next release on March 12th)
Who or what has been the biggest inspiration for your writing?
My overactive imagination 😀
Computer or longhand?
Computer, longhand hurts after a while.
Location of your ideal writer’s retreat. Where would you go to just write? Would you take someone with you, or go alone?
I don’t need to go away to work. I would go to my tiny office (2.5sqm) and I will need my family in the afternoons but not while I’m working.
Aside from writing, what other creative pursuits do you enjoy?
I used to make dolls, but haven’t done so since the kids were born. The last toy I made was a donkey with a music box inside for my baby (which is now 13 years!).
If your life was a movie, who would you want to have play you?
She’d have the right size to do it.
If your book/story was a movie, who would you want to have play your main character and/or antagonist?
I’ve written many books, so this is a tough question. I’m going to answer this for my novel “Paralan’s Children“. For the antagonist I’d like to get either Merryl Streep or Jamie Lee Curtis (obviously they’d need to wear a wig), and for the protagonist, I’d like Kirsten Dunst.
Coffee? Tea? Soda? Wine? Water? Double bourbon, no rocks? What is your beverage of choice?
Plain water, unflavored
Roller coaster or carousel?
Roller coaster — I love the mixture of speed and safety
What interesting writing rituals do you have? Include anything you want… music you listen to, habits you have, whether the TV is on in the background, whether you pour coffee and let it sit there getting cold while you’re working (like I do). Whatever. The question is wide open.
I write from 7:30am to 1pm. First I’ll answer my eMails, go through the forum where I’m moderator once. Next, I’ll write 1500-2000 words on a new project. If I’ve got a new release planned or need to write a new blogpost, I’ll work on that next. If I’ve got nothing scheduled, I translate. I need silence for working but can listen to music when doing other stuff.
I was nominated by Juneta Key for the Liebster Award. Sure, this blog already got it once, way back when I was starting out, but these questions are new, so I’m going to give it a go.
Here are the rules:
Who is your favorite author?
Diana Wynne Jones
If you had 3 wishes what would they be?
Health for my family.
A remote control that allows me to pause my live on hold while I write.
Compassion and tolerance for all people lacking in that department (because I think if every person in the world would think a little more about other people and be tolerant of their way of live, our species might, with a lot of luck, manage to survive).
If you were given a free round trip ticket to anywhere, where would you go?
Scotland, Canada, Kamschatka – and I’d take hubby and the kids
Would you rather live near the ocean, forest, mountains or the fourth option?
Forest – isn’t that obvious? I’m a studied forester 😀
What is your favorite genre of music?
Classic, Blues, Rock, and Heavy Metal (yes, I know the mix is a bit strange)
Plane, Train, Boat, Car or other for vacation travel?
Travel? What for if I can sit in my garden typing at my next novel and enjoying the sun?
Where is your favorite place to escape from the daily grind to?
That’s my office – I’m fleeing RealWorld(TM) when I write.
What is your best memory?
I was a small kid of maybe 2 or 3 years. My mother took me to bed, as always. The one bit I remember vividly is her long, brown hair tickling my cheek. It’s an extremely strong memory that I love a lot even though it’s only short.
Do you have a hobbit? if not, what would you like to do for a hobby?ROFL @ SELF okay this error was too good to correct—go ahead tell me who is your favorite hobbit?
My favorite hobbit… Sigh… I wish I had more time for the poor tyke. 😀
I love to go for rides on my motorbike, but have not been able to do this often in the last few years. First because the kids were still too small, then because there was a bug in the electricity that took my brother and me nearly a year to find. But the machine is running again now. I’ll see how much time I can make this year.
What is the most memorable book you have read, or movie if not a big reader?
I couldn’t say. I’ve read way too many, and a lot of them still stick in my mind.
Would you travel around the world in 80 days if you could?
As long as I have access to the Internet and a laptop for writing, sure. Why not?
11 random facts I’m a dog person but cats like me
I’ve got a PhD in science
my two younger kids hate me (they’re in puberty 😉 )
I hate household chores but most of all laundry
hubby and I have been an item for 30 years this year
I’ve got three nephews and one nice, three daughters, one husband, and one dog
most people get along with me
the ones who don’t don’t know what they’re missing 😀
I regularly get lost in strange worlds, but don’t worry, people there know me well
I love all things fantasy (except for most of the current Epic Fantasy tales)
My muse likes shiny, new, but I force her to finish stories before starting something new… sometimes I fail
I will only nominate 2 Blogger, since most of the ones I would have suggested were already nominated by Juneta. Also, half of the blogs I nominate will be in German. After all, I’m bilingual. 😀
Usually, I wouldn’t write anything specific about my private life (that’s why it’s called private, you know) but this time, I’m going to make an exception. For a reason.
Most of you might know how much I love to combine knowledge and fun. I like nothing better than reading a book I thoroughly enjoy only to find at the end that I learned something too. I’m trying to do the same in many of my books, especially the historical fiction.
During the summer holidays, I participated in a night walk through a Slovakian forest that achieved just that. Like most kids, yours might not like going out for a walk even if it is at night and in a forest. My kids at least weren’t very keen on the idea. With a forester for a grandfather, they thought they’d seen it all. However, I knew they were in for a treat. First, we were in Slovakia at that time (and their forests are a little different from ours), and second, a group of locals had prepared an elaborate background to make this walk more interesting for kids. The tour was open for children from 8-13, but since my girls are not good enough with their English (yet), I was allowed to accompany them.
The organizers pretended that an UFO had crash landed in the forest. Men in Black were searching the area trying to find the one surviving alien. Their scientists were examining the UFO’s energy source. Luckily, a group of people had decided to help the alien get back his energy so he could return home. They were the ones leading the kids through the forest.
the crashed UFO
At the place we had gathered, there was a tent with information about stars, galaxies, the universe, and the biology of the alien who crashed the UFO (for obviously, some of its comrades had not survived). We set out in small groups of 3-5 children and passed 9 stations where the kids had to perform small tasks. The first was an astrologist who explained the stars and where the alien had come from. At the second station, the kids had to steal the UFO’s energy bulbs (little glowing plastic containers) from the lab. At one point, we were captured by MIB’s who searched unsuccessfully for the energy bulbs (the kids were delighted they hid them well enough) and took photos and finger prints. Another time, the army, in charge of the safety of the area, lead us on a detour through a low tunnel and past the crashed ship (illuminated with flickering Christmas lights – unfortunately the photo didn’t turn out well, see above).
After much cross country walking in the dark (we crossed a brook twice), we reached the alien, and it was the highlight of the walk (see picture). It was extremely thankful for the help. Each kid got a little reward, and then we could go home. I was delighted by this little play. My kids never noticed how fast two hours had passed.
Advice for teachers: if you want kids to learn something, make it fun. My kids are still talking about stars and galaxies two weeks later.