The Fast-Forward Button

Sometimes I can’t help thinking how it would be nice

to have a fast-forward button

to speed us through a pain we already know

and don’t need to experience twice

because we’ve already learned the lesson

Like heartache, for instance

it will pass, they tell you

you’ll be fine in a year or so

and it’s true

Fast-forward to that point

Same with grief

a loved one’s death

or a surgery

or a broken limb

or just a nasty cold

anything you can safely say you will recover from, given time

If we could save that time

store it somewhere, for something else

something good

then maybe

maybe

we might be more generous with our joy.

 

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You’ve read the books. Now get the T-shirt.

Aaaaand here’s my second surprise, though I have to admit, this one more or less happened by accident. I wanted something palpable to commemorate the unreal fact that I had somehow managed to write and publish ten books, and then I thought, why not take my Resident Witch logo and put it on a T-shirt? What logo, you’ll ask, and rightly so, because you’ll probably have read the e-book and the thing only shows up on the backside of the paperback. Yes, I’m that bad at the whole marketing and branding issue.

Anyway, I found myself looking for ways to design T-shirts online, and stumbled across a few pages… and then it all went a bit out of hand, and before I knew what I was doing, I had an online shop for merch stuff, and my own Resident Witch shirt. Now the kids want a Resident Nuisance shirt each, which may or may not say something about their ability to self-reflect.

Just kidding. They’re wonderful kids. Most of the time.

I think I designed the shirts in a way that won’t make you feel like you’re running around a living, breathing billboard. No mention of any book on them, no interactive website link, not even my name, which means you don’t have to have read any of my stuff to enjoy wearing a funny shirt. They’re not precisely cheap, but they come with a good conscience. The company producing them takes great care to work sustainably. Organic cotton, wastewater recycling, workers who earn a decent wage, renewable energy, all that, just look here. Good quality, too. I’ve set the price to the lowest possible option, which means if you actually do purchase a shirt, I get a cup of coffee out of it, and I’m not talking fancy caramel soy latte, just an ordinary cup, milk, no sugar.

Here’s the link to get you to the shop, and a bad pic of me with my new favorite shirt. The only thing to rival my marketing skills are my selfie skills.

If you’re missing something, your favorite quote, your favorite color, whatever, drop me a line, I’ll see what I can do.

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Super Special Summer Offer

A few weeks ago, I published the fourth book of my Resident Witch series. A day or so later it hit me. I have ten books out now. Double Digits. A reason to celebrate. I should do something.

I’ve come up with two ideas. One is a bit complicated and needs a bit of effort, I’ll let you know in time. The other is fairly simple. After all, summer is coming, and you’re probably already compiling a list of what to pack for the holidays, and if you’re anything like me, that includes at least ten books… ten books? That’s my cue!

So here’s my Super Special Summer Offer. Free or at least heavily reduced books, all summer long. Just click on the covers below, they’ll take you to your Amazon store. Leave a review, even if you hate the lot.

 

Little Red is Coming Home. A collection of short stories, variations on the theme of Little Red Riding Hood. Nine different girls, nine different wolves. Not suitable for children. Yours for free 21 to 25 June.

 

You Used to Hurry Home. An utter nonsense novella, featuring zombies, the mafia, a Greek muse, God himself, and a fine dose of blasphemy. Also, the apocalypse. Here you go, free 28 June to 2 July.

 

The Girl on the Red Pillow. A strange little novella on depression. Complete with talking closet skeleton, a catchy theme tune, and a broad range of four-letter words. Also free, 5 to 9 July.

 

Tales of Istonnia. A fantasy trilogy that makes do without magic, elves, dragons, vampires or other fancy stuff. There’s honorable thieves instead, machinations, murder and mayhem. Part I, Ratpaths, is free 12 to 16 July. Part II, A Rat for a Rat, is on offer for 99 cents 17 to 24 July, and part III, Once a Rat, is also going for 99 cents 25 to 31 July. They all work as stand-alone, so if you’re fed up after book one, no worries, there’ll be no cliffhangers nagging you for the rest of your life.

 

Resident Witch. A YA urban fantasy series. Teenage heroes (not, repeat, not the chosen kind), werecreatures, demons, and sarcasm. Also bullies, stupid mistakes, unlikely diets, time traveling in all the wrong directions, and unexpected romance. Accused of social justice warrior tendencies by a beta reader. Part I, My Name is Not Alice, is free 2 to 6 August. Part II, Double Double Time & Trouble, for 99 cents, 9 to 15 August. Part III, It Never Rains, for 99 cents, 12 to 18 August. Part IV, No Place Like Home, for 99 cents, 23 to 29 AugustAgain no cliffhangers. I don’t like torturing people.

 

 

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for my second suprise, due next week. May you have a brilliant summer, full of sunshine, epic water gun battles, bare feet, and rhubarb cider at sunset.

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P.R. Black: The Family

Today I’m taking part in a blog tour to bang the drums for a fairly new release – The Family, written by P.R. Black. The reason I let myself be roped in so willingly is that I’m familiar with, and quite a bit crazy about, the author’s work. P.R. Black is no other than Pat Black, whose stuff I’ve presented on my blog before, and who’s also a member of the Cake & Quill group. So far, he’s written a series of stand-alone novellas (look here and here for my reviews) and a few short story collections. The Family isn’t his first foray down horror/thriller avenue, but his first full-length novel.

Let’s just get straight into it.

The book starts in an almost classic fashion – with a flashback to the night Becky Morgan’s family died at the hands of a brutal killer – then does a fast forward to twenty years later, and Becky Morgan as she is today: a deeply troubled personality, somewhere between habitually drunk and hyper alert, a survivor with a death wish, as weary as she’s badass, held upright by sarcasm and pretty much anything she can grab. All we know at first is that she’s the only member of her family who escaped that night. She’s haunted by trauma and nightmares, and a burning need to solve the crime and see justice. Pat does an awesome job painting her character in credible, relatable colors.

In relation to her family’s killer, Becky sees herself as a loose end, expecting, knowing, that he’ll want to tie that end up. So her aim is, to find him before he finds her. Her job as an investigative journalist offers her the means, methods and connections she needs to dig into the past, to unearth the answers to the riddle she needs to solve in order to achieve her goal –  Pat’s own journalistic background shines through here; he used to work as an investigative journalist at the start of his career, and it’s obvious he understands the subject. Many questions arise along the way – crazy lunatic or contract killer? Chance killing or deliberate targeting? Lone wolf or group? One time thing or serial killing? Whatever answers you, as a reader, will try to come up with as the story evolves, I assure you they’re going to be wrong. Pat isn’t a guy for linear plots, or predictable story lines.

I’ve read a few reviews over the past days, to check how other people feel about the book, and found two criticisms I thought I might address. One, that it’s pretty graphic. Well. Yes, and no. The killer is brutal, a torturer by nature, so yes, there is mention of some rather gory stuff people might consider unnecessary. But. Pat doesn’t go into describing it all in detail, so if at the end of the day you consider it graphic, you’ll mostly have your own imagination to thank for that. Two, that it’s a bit convoluted, with too many things happening to be real. Granted, there are parts that are slightly chaotic, information that seems to turn up out of the blue, and sudden jumps in location and/or time frame. One the one hand, I’ll admit that I occasionally found myself wishing for less fast a pace, on the other hand, the set-up is fully in line with Becky’s erratic personality. And: Everything happens for a reason. As I said, Pat isn’t a guy for linear plots. You have to pay attention, and, at times, suspend disbelief. The explanation will come. Just don’t expect it to present itself within the next page, or the next chapter.

All in all, I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good fright, and isn’t squeamish. Keep the lights on. Make sure you’re not home alone. Here’s the link.

 

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Nazi Raccoons and Nazi Vampires

In the wake of the EU elections, it might be the obvious thing to talk about Nazis, but apparently, luckily, we’ve been spared a major surge of right-wing populists. They did harvest some gains, but remain well below ten percent, so let’s take a moment to lean back, breathe deeply, and dwell on the thought that the real surge was a green one, especially among voters aged thirty or lower. That’s enough to give us hope for the future, and time to talk about different Nazis. Less real ones. Raccoons, and vampires.

Raccoons first. The Nazi raccoon is, of course, a myth, even as it was pushed by established newspapers such as the Times. Fact is, the entire population of German raccoons seems to stem from two raccoon couples let loose around Edersee – and rumor has it that this happened on orders of Hermann Göring himself, who was an enthusiastic hunter and looking for new game. Bullshit. Berlin actually vetoed the release of said couples into the wild, warning of the damage raccoons can cause, only they took so long with the paperwork, by the time they got round to voicing their misgivings, it was already too late. Either way, the rumor is a brilliant one, given how the creatures were released in 1934 and from there went on to conquer Europe. That’s where any similarities end, though, thank heaven, because the raccoons were rather more successful. They’re also infititely less horrible, and way cuter. A couple dozen after the war, they numbered around 20k 25 years later, and around half a million now.

Whatever. Vampires. And yes, this is a recommendation, for a book titled Division of the Damned, by Richard Rhys Jones. A friend recently made a list of authors he liked, incuding this book, which he refered to as the book with the ‘effing Nazi vampires’. Needless to say I found that little note pretty enticing.
I went into it expecting either satire, or a thriller. It’s neither. Fact is, it reads like historical fiction, which adds an interesting aspect to the whole concept.
Based on what must have been a ton of research of history and religion, Sumerian and Christian, the author wades through the last two years of WWII. In his version of events, a certain Romanian count approaches Himmler, offering him the solution to all his problems – a vampire army. The count, of course, has his own agenda, as does the demon Lillith at his side.
The image of Nazi Germany that Richard Rhys Jones paints is an image along the front lines, of disillusioned soldiers whose once-upon-a-time notions of their own superiority have long died in the reality of the atrocities committed by their regime and fellow soldiers, and who are left with the knowledge that they someday soon will have to pay for it all. It’s a believable and relatable picture of fools falling for lies, of regret and despair, and the need to somehow make amends.
The book is a bit lengthy in places, and regrettably short in others, the latter especially towards the end, where you’ll have to leave an unlikely group of main characters you’ve come to care about – German, Russian, English, and Jewish – behind enemy lines, and never learn what became of most of them. I had a little chat with the author though, and he told me he’s in the process of writing a sequel, which means sooner or later we will learn what became of those folks.
All in all, it’s a weird, enjoyable read, though another proofread wouldn’t have come amiss. The latter is also why I originially rated it three stars, but I’ve since added a fourth, due to the fact that it’s a powerful story that just remains stuck in your head. Here’s the Amazon link, if you need to get your copy right now, which of course, you do.

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Out now: No Place Like Home (Resident Witch IV)

There are writers out there who spent months drumming up attention for an upcoming release. They’ll have a perfectly planned and similarly executed marketing strategy, with blog tours, cover reveal, you name it, and they’ll have their ARCs sent out and a dozen reviews ready to go on publication day…

… and then there are writers who’ll fiddle ages over the final editing and proof-reading, get taken by surprise when they’re suddenly finished, curse a lot over the publishing process because the stupid cover size is still not right for Amazon despite five adjustments, get taken even more by surprise when the book appears on the sales pages, shoot out a panicky tweet to announce the new release and then log off to tend to the family who’ve all come down with a stomach bug.

I am firmly of the latter category.

Either way, No Place Like Home, the fourth book of my Resident Witch series is out and available, Alice is taking a couple more stumbling steps in this world, and I’m quite relieved. Also because this one took me longer to write than expected. I blame circumstances, changes to my daily routine, like one kid moving on to secondary school and suddenly coming home two hours earlier, but also a sort of prolonged mental tiredness. Since publishing my first ever book in 2013, I lived for my stories, I tried to keep a broad social media presence, I pestered bloggers for reviews or interviews, I cooperated with other writers on various anthologies, I did what I could to help other writers, I never refused a beta read or other request for assistance, all while striving to live up to my own ridiculous standards of perfection and simultaneously battling severe impostor syndrom. It was a great time, brilliant and exciting, and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it, but it wasn’t healthy. I’ve taken a few steps now to avoid spreading myself so thin across everything ever again, and the drive is already coming back. I still raise my hand too often the instant someone whispers “Beta read for me?” but that’s probably me and I’m not complaining, I get to read a load of awesome stuff that way.

Anyway, new book. Three months have passed between the events in It Never Rains and this one. It’s spring break, graduation is around the corner for Alice and her gang, and they could have enjoyed their holidays, only I didn’t let them, because I had to go and throw up two basic questions: How the hell did Pepper Burns manage to call Trouble Walker in for help in book one of the series when he was in another world and out of her reach? And: Why is there so much supernatural shit happening in such a small town? Spoiler: I answer both of them.

In case you’re curious now, here’s the link to the book’s Amazon page. Hope you’ll like it at least a bit. Leave a review if you can, tell your friends. I’m always happy to hear readers’ thoughts, and I’m also totally relying on word of mouth.

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The Importance of Cuddly Toys

I’m forty-one, but I have a toy donkey. Her name is Harriet. I purchased her for the simple reason that she was irresistibly cute, sitting there on the shelf with those huge eyes and tiny hooves. The kids were completely enthralled. Mom got herself a cuddly toy. Wow.

My daughter reacted by crafting Harriet a collar. Both my kids occasionally ask for her to be allowed to sleep in their beds. Whenever that happens, I get at least one of their toys in exchange, so I won’t feel lonely. Sometimes that gets a little out of hand, either because they can’t stop themselves, or because they forget to take them back. It’s a miracle I find space fore my husband, not to mention the real dog and cats, seeing as we’re currently at three unicorns, a kangaroo, and a monkey. Apparently Mom’s personal toy is special enough to warrant that many hostages to guarantee her safe return. But I’m getting side-tracked.

Thing is, ever since I let Harriet into my life,  she’s been a faithful companion. Not only does she watch my sleep, she also goes on adventures with me and provides a little bit of home wherever I roam. So far, she’s been on family holidays to Vienna and the North Sea, but, more importantly, she also accompanies me when I go on no-family trips with my soulmate, like when we went to Amsterdam last September – much to the initial embarrassment of said soulmate, who took to her rather quickly, though, eventually picked the best settings for donkey photos, and in the end didn’t bat an eyelid when Harriet wrote a picture postcard to my little boy’s raccoon.

What I’m aiming at is, cuddly toys are, in their own fluffy way, not to be underestimated. They can be comfort or guardian, a much needed secret keeper, or simply a pillow. You can squeeze them to the point of suffocation, and they’ll never complain. Their supportive powers may not be anything other than our own strength projected into their soft, yielding forms and glassy eyes, but they’re real nonetheless.

And I’m not alone in knowing this.

Recently, a friend mentioned recurring nightmares of the extreme variety, and asked her Facebook bubble about possible strategies to get rid of those. Without thinking, I told her that she needed someone in bed beside her that she could trust, that such a person didn’t necessarily have to be human, that teddy bears were underrated, and that yes, I was serious.

It took about a minute for an old mutual friend to side with me, and by the end of that morning I was swapping the names of our respective cuddly toys with a complete stranger. A brief conversation with that old friend and my kids followed, and a shopping trip later the perfect fox companion was found and prepared to go on his journey. Snail mail let him down, which means the poor creature had to spend ten days stuffed into his box, but in the end he arrived, safe and sound and ready for nightmare guard duty. The recipient called us ridiculously awesome.

I don’t know if that fox will really contribute towards cancelling those nightmares, but if nothing else, he’ll remind his new owner every time she reaches out and touches fur that there are people out there thinking of and caring about her.

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