New Release plus Storytime Bloghop April (free fiction)
I’ve done it, I’ve published the first short story collection of the six I’ve planned for this year. This one is all about portals. If you like the idea of stepping into another world through a door or something similar, you might like this little collection.
Below the information about the release, you’ll also find a free flash fiction story about a pretty confused old lady that I wrote for the Storytime Bloghop. I hope you’ll like it. But the release first:
Doors are useful. Close them to keep people out. Open them to let someone in. Or step through … into another world.
His music condemns a young musician to death on a pyre.
Katlani’s plans of revenge crumble around her when her goddess interferes.
To save her father, a young woman must face the danger of doors that take her anywhere.
A disabled phoenix must rekindle his flames or die forever.
To save herself and those she loves from death for being different, a young woman must find the City of Many Worlds.
A bereaved tyrant faces loneliness if he doesn’t atone for his actions.
In these six portal stories, Katharina shows people at a crossroads. Their actions lead them to a literal or fictional door where they’re faced with an impossible choice.
But now to the free flash story I promised you. We hold the Storytime Bloghop quarterly, and all stories are free. I hope you’ll like mine, and as always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
The day faded and night fell. With the moon absent, it was so dark in the house, Jane couldn’t see where she was. All she had was a sense of space and age. Dust motes hung in the air, she could smell them more than see them.
The whole world seemed like that, slightly off. When she tried to look out of one of the windows, the curtains wouldn’t budge until she used all her strength. And when she went to the kitchen to fry some eggs, the sink under the window contained different dishes every time. As if someone put them there when she didn’t look.
Was there a ghost in the house? She remembered her gran—ages ago when Jane was still young—telling her stories in hushed tones about the young, handsome laird who’d been killed in this house and who’d come back to haunt it.
Jane shook her head. There were no ghosts. And if she was wrong and and the laird did exist, she would have noticed him by now, wouldn’t she? After all, she’d lived here for sixty five years; ever since her marriage.
She made her way to the living room by touch. One of those big, modern TVs hung at the wall. She didn’t remember buying it, but since it was there, she might as well use it. The living room smelled of stale beer, and she wrinkled her nose. Was someone trying to annoy her? But who?
She had no lodgers, even though Katie had often suggested she’d get some. Maybe her daughter was right. After all, the house was rather big for a single person.
But she didn’t feel ready to give up the life she’d known for so many years. The memory of Todd’s death still brought tears to her eyes. The clingy wetness tasted of salt and reminded her of the many times they’d taken their daughter to the sea. Those were the days … She sighed and there was a good portion of longing in the sound.
If only her day-night-rhythm would improve. The pills she was using didn’t seem to help. She still fell asleep at sunrise and lost most of the day to weird dreams before waking at nightfall. If she could reverse that, she wouldn’t depend on Katie so much.
Poor child. She walked to the fireplace and looked at Katie’s graduation photo. How the child had grown. Jane frowned. She really had to talk to the cleaning lady. She didn’t pay her for cobwebs and layers of dust.
The old-fashioned grandfather clock from the hall chimed melodically. Jane loved the clock. It had been a wedding present from her parents. She counted the beats automatically.
Nine, ten, eleven … twelve. Midday! A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Todd would come home any minute now. She had to prepare his lunch.
With a spring in her step, she hurried into the kitchen—was it winter already? It was so dark—grabbed a pan, a bottle of oil, and eggs, set everything on the table, and turned on the gas.
Someone gasped audibly.
“See, I told you.” Even though the person was whispering, Jane knew the voice.
She put her arms akimbo. “Katie Joanna Lou Hawkins. Come out wherever you’re hiding. That is not polite, and it might scare your father to death. You know how bad his heart has been lately.”
Katie stood up on the other side of the kitchen table, barely illuminated by what little light from the streetlamp in front of the house the curtains admitted. A slender youth that looked just like Todd when he was still young clung to her arm, and a dark haired young woman was half hiding behind her.
Jane frowned. There were streaks of gray in her daughter’s brown curls. But … but … she’d only graduated from university a few weeks ago, hadn’t she? And who were those teenagers?
“Mom?” Katie’s eyes were bigger than Jane had ever seen them.
Her poor baby. Still as afraid as a rabbit. “Oh, hon. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” She smiled reassuringly and opened her arms wide for a hug.
“But you’re…” Katie and the teenagers took a step back. All three grew very pale when Jane followed. Their gazes clung to Jane’s midriff. Jane looked down, and paled too. She was standing right in the middle of the kitchen table. How did she do that?
But she knew.
Everything came crashing back. The short, sharp pain in her chest, Katie’s and her grandchildren’s crying, the overbearing scent of white lilies, and the fact that she’d been standing beside her body, watching the mourners carry it away after the wake.
Heavy boots clonked on the stone floor of the small rear hallway. Katie and the teenagers grew even paler and moved out of the way of the door. It swung open with vigor Jane knew only too well.
“Darling!” Todd opened his arms wide. He was so strong, his shoulders so wide, and the scent of tobacco and leather so intense, she nearly cried for joy. And his voice … his voice still made happy little shivers dance down her spine. “I’ve been looking for you ever since you died.”
“I think, I was a little lost,” Jane said and threw herself into his arms. Gone were the years, the gaps in her memory, and the pounds she’d gained throughout life. She felt young again.
She never heard the grandfather clock strike one.
If you liked the story or would comment with anything else that’s on your mind, feel free to do so. I’ll answer as soon as I can. Meanwhile read the stories of the other participants:
As the world might have noticed by now, the book fair in Leipzig, the biggest reader oriented book fair in Germany, has been canceled due to the Corona virus threat. To say I was devastated is putting it mildly. I’ve got boxes of new books, printed reading samples, flyers and more that I’d meant to distribute there.
Enter the community of German bloggers: in slightly over 10 days they organized several online events, written interviews, video recordings of readings or interviews, and much more. I’m still stunned.
I decided to move March’s “themed month” post a week forward (it’ll appear on the 22nd) and tell you some more about the generous support we got. Of course, participation was a lot of work, but I do think it was worth it. If you understand German decent enough, check out all the places I had the chance to present myself (as Katharina Gerlach or with my new pen name Leonie Joy) or my author group (Qindie):
– Yesterday I did a live online reading (To see me, you’ll have to fast forward the movie to roughly 1:40hrs and watch from there) from a soon-to-be-published short story (the only cat story I’ve written so far).
– I’ve got three pages on the fakriro LBMreloaded site. One for Katharina Gerlach, one for Leonie Joy, and one for Qindie. I was also tagged for a mini-interview.
– At 3pm, Julia posted something about my historical Romantasy “Juma’s Rain”.
– Kathis Lesewelt will present me and my tiny publishing company, the Independent Bookworm (a link will follow as soon as the post goes life).
– Soon, there will be memes from my book “Kissed by Fire” (German version) on ACs bunte Bücherwelt on FB and Instagram. I’ll post the direct links as soon as I get them. Meanwhile check out what else she has.
It’s time for the Storytime Blog Hop again already. Why does it always surprise me so? This time I’m quite unprepared what with my grandson’s birthday and so on. We’ve had several small parties (with his father, with his great-grandparents, with his friends) and now he thinks he’s gong to get presents forever. I’m seeing a big disappointment in his future. 😀 But now we’ll get to the reason you’re here: my story for the blog hop. It’s a mini fairy tale retelling. I hope you’ll like it. As always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
I woke up in a different place and heard people whisper outside my window, just as I had planned. The one thing I hadn’t expected was the fact that I didn’t understand a word of what was said. How could that happen? Had I done something wrong? I looked at the ring on the low table beside the cushiony something that should have been my bed – bed as in “the bed I had slept in for years before dad got himself caught by my Beast.”
No, I wouldn’t think of him. I got up and dressed. Luckily, some of my nicest clothes had come along with the ring. I put it back on my finger. One day was all he had agreed to, so I’d better make the best of it. I opened the shutters in front of the window and sunlight fell in. It was my room and it wasn’t at the same time. Pictures painted on paper as thin and smooth as the thinnest leather I had ever seen hung on the wall. They showed demons with spiked, colorful hair and metal studs all over their faces. Still, below all that, they did look vaguely human.
Like Beast – if it would be possible to remove the ugly and scary bits. I turned and looked out the window. Two kids sat in the grass dressed like the demons in the strange paintings. Hardly older than my sisters when I left them, they were trying to eat each other mumbling gobbledegook. I watched them a while until I realized they were kissing, not eating. Blushing, I closed the shutters silently. I tiptoed out of my room and down the stairs. A real painting hung at the wall half way down. I stopped in amazement. It was my face staring at me. A black veil surrounded my head like a sad halo, and words in my father’s familiar hand sagged along the bottom. I bent down to read.
In memoriam of a daughter who did more than her duty for her guilty father.
A giant fist squeezed my heart.
“You like it?” A boy, surely no more than six or seven, grinned at me from the bottom of the stairs. I’d never seen him, but he spoke my language. He wore short, blue pants and nothing else and dripped water all over the floor. Where did he come from? My gaze went past him. How much this part of my home had changed! The floor was no longer stamped earth and cobbles as it used to be. Shiny wooden floorboards, soft carpets and comfortable looking furniture made my home resemble that of the ugly love I had left behind.
“Hello-o… Do you like it?” The boy climbed the stairs.
I nodded, meaning the house, not the picture but he obviously misunderstood.
“It’s my great-great-great-and some-grandaunt Belle. She was eaten by a monster, and no one has ever found her corpse. Maybe it ate all of her, hair and bones and all.” His eyes sparkled with excitement.
He could have hit me with a hammer and I wouldn’t have felt worse. Great-great-great-and some-grandaunt? What had happened? Where had all the time gone? Beast must be frantic. Then, it dawned on me. Beast would be dead after all this time.
“Say,” the boy had reached the step below me. “You look awfully like her.”
I stared at the ring. Would it be strong enough to take me back to my time? Without a word, I fled up the stairs toward the bedroom that had once been mine. I had to go to sleep. I had to!
After locking the door to keep out the boy, I slammed the ring on the nightstand and flopped on the soft bed. A single beam of light fell through the shutters onto my face. I tried hard, but sleep wouldn’t come. The sunlight was my greatest enemy.
The German bloggers of “Our Favorite Books” (Facebook and Webseite) had a genius idea. A whole group of authors and bloggers will each write monthly posts to the following themes:
Since I’ve had problems blogging regularly (blush), I promised myself to be active this time. At least once a month I’ll write something so you’ll know what’s going on. Aside from the themes posted above, I’ll inform you about where I am with my current writing project.
My posts will go life on the 15th of each month here on this website. This is not a New Year resolution (those always fail), but something I’ll do long term. I’d love to see you comment once or thrice because I enjoy feedback of every kind.
This year hasn’t been good to me. I’ve been out with an illness that was supposed to be a minor nuisance but turned into nearly half a year of convalescence. I did finish “High School Dragons 3: Crowned by Fire” (more on that later) and just got it back from the editor. Getting it published asap is my highest priority. At the same time preparations for the Indie Authors’ Advent Calendar are underway (this year’s theme: dragons!), as well as the preparation of my NaNo novel. You see, I’m very, very busy.
That doesn’t stop me from participating in the Storytime Blog Hop again. This episode will also be featured in one of the two Halloween episodes of the “Alone in a Room With Invisible People” Podcast (FB page is here). Check it out, it’s awesome. So without further ado, my whimsical story for the hop. I hope you’ll like it. As always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
Edda’s Second Chance
Edda didn’t want to leave the afterlife to become an invisible friend. Not even the reward, a day of being human again, excited her. She only agreed after securing another boon.
As a slave, sex toy, and food tester for a rich Roman, she hadn’t enjoyed life. Her only fond memory was of his face, as he realized she’d poisoned the wine.
Grinning at the memory, Edda slipped into a little girl’s room. Only in second grade, Suzie already was victim to severe bullying. Edda wondered how she might help.
It turned out to be easy. Suzie was still young enough to believe in her. So Edda scouted routes, kept Suzie away from the two bullies, and encouraged her to learn Judo, which did wonders for Suzie’s self-esteem.
Halloween rolled around.
Since Edda didn’t feel like having a day off, she and Suzie devised a plan. In human form, Edda hid behind trees and followed Suzie as she and her best friend collected sweets. As expected, the bullies showed up soon.
Edda jumped out of her hiding place, grabbed the boys’ bags, knocked them over hard, and pretended to attack Suzie. As discussed, Suzie grabbed her lapels, and threw her over her shoulder. Edda dropped the bags and fled. Suzie handed the boys their bags.
After that, they protected her, and Edda was assigned a new case.
James father came home drunk every night, and James prayed half the day that he’d be too tired to hit his mom. But that hardly ever happened. Edda did her best to hide the three year old, but James’ mother’s screams found him everywhere. Every night, the boy fell asleep crying, no matter what Edda tried.
One day, she hid him in the garage under the car, and James climbed into the motor compartment. Something ripped and squirted oil, so she convinced James to hide someplace else.
The next day, his father had a car accident which kept him in the hospital for months. Unfortunately that saved his life because the doctors discovered a heart problem.
During his absence, James bloomed, making friends and even laughing. His mother, too, looked healthier and happier—until the day her husband returned and the beating commenced.
A decision grew in Edda’s heart. She could barely wait for Halloween. Rising early, she hugged James and told him to hide in the garden shed at nightfall. He complied. Then, she called in her second boon.
When the moon rose, she turned into the Grim Reaper—scythe and all—and knocked at the door of James’ home.
The father opened. Already drunk, he swore and staggered. “No party here.” He lifted his meaty fist to slam it into her face. With a laugh, she lifted her head so he could look under her hood into the non-existent face.
He paled, gurgled, and clutched his chest. With his family hiding, there would be no help. Edda walked away smiling.
Maybe being an invisible friend wasn’t too bad after all.
Whoosh … there went the time and it’s summer already. I did manage to get most of the final volume of the High School Trilogy written and translated and hope to finish the end this month. If all goes as planned, the release will be some time in early autumn.
But now, it’s time for the Storytime Blog Hop again. Don’t forget to visit the other participants (the list is below my story).
The Salem Witch Trials and what we can learn from them
by Amalia Tenner, class 4c
Witches have always been hunted and killed without good reason. In Europe the main time for killing witches was from 1550 to 1650, but America did not kill witches before the Salem Witch Trials – well, not many that is.
It seems that the people who initi started the trails didn’t want women to ride brooms and go to parties with men they didn’t know, in particular the deivl. They thought that atrocious, and I’ve often wondered why that led to the torture of 55 people and the killing of 20 supposed witches, mostly women.
So here comes my reasoning.
I’ve heard Pa tell Mom that he’d like her to ride his broom again, and she blushed and giggled. So it probably was something I wasn’t meant to hear. After some research, I found that “riding a broom” sometimes refers to the sexual act. Which is kinda strange because, you know, it also refers to using a broom to clean the house and to go flying through the air on an oldfashioend broom with a wooden brush.
So I think that during the Witch Trials, women and men were talking about different things. Men didn’t want their wives and daughters to have sex, especially not with people they didn’t know. But women wanted to clean their houses. After all, a dirty house isn’t very nice, especially if you wanted to invite neighbors for a party.
Conclusion (what we can learn):
We can learn that we should always be very clear about what we’re talking about. Misunderstandings lead to arguing and that can easily go bad fast. So better be careful what you say, or else…
Sandra Tenner put down her daughter’s homework, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. Then she pointed at the stapled sheets and spoke a Word of Command. The piece of lined paper with the round writing obediently vanished and reappeared in Amalia’s school bag beside the table in class.
Not much to say but that I’m very tired and extremely busy. Some things leech more strength than I had anticipated, mostly due to stupid people. So I dug out this old writing exercise for you. I still quite like it despite its obvious flaws. Have fun, and don’t forget to visit the other participants.
Morning has broken
I kicked the pebbles and watched them fly into the gently breaking waves. In the distance, the sea sparkled but close to the beach, its sheen seemed dull. I should have known she wouldn’t come. Not only didn’t she talk to boys, ever, also this part of the beach smelled like rotting garbage, and the water carried brown sludge from Dad’s sewage factory. His slogan still rang in my ears.
‘Synbatec – Cleanliness everyone can afford ‘
Hah! I dug my bare feet into the sand, cooling grains mixed with water squeezed through my toes. I loved this feeling but hated the effort of rubbing them clean later. The sun burned my face and helped me suppress my tears. I had wanted her to come more than anything in the world. I needed her to see what Dad really did when he “cleaned” the waste water. She would have known what to do. After all, she and her father featured eminently in the news—him being a famous actor and an environmental activist. They surely could negotiate something that would keep Dad out of jail and end the pollution.
With my eyes still closed, I strained my ears for footsteps, but not even seagulls came to this godforsaken place. I sighed, opened my eyes, and gagged on a foul taste. A hairy hand pressed a wet, sweet smelling cloth to my mouth. My vision blurred, but I recognized the butterfly tattoo on the man’s forearm. Every Wastopaneer Environmentalist wore it. I relaxed and sucked in the sweet odor of the sleeping drug. If they had to kidnap me to stop Dad’s toxic waste, I wouldn’t put up a fight.
From the corner of my eyes, I saw her. She smiled at me, and her smile stayed with me when darkness claimed me.
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.
After a chaotic week filled with appointments and tight deadlines, I’ve been to the best book fair in the world, a small festival dedicated to Fantasy and SciFi. It’s my favorite. The organizational team is incredible. If I can, I’ll return next year.
However, the day had 20 hours for me including 6 hours car drive. When I returned I was knackered and spend the Sunday resting. Therefore I ask your pardon for not getting the third part of my Roman travels up in time.
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: