Daughter of Magic

I know, I’ve been AWOL for a while (again), and it would have been nice to come back here saying that I seized the time to come up with another book, but alas, it is not so. Fact is, over the past months even the thought of writing was enough to send me plunging into some deep hole filled with ‘It’s all crap’ and other fine sentences of self-doubt. There simply wasn’t a story in my head that demanded to be written in a loud enough voice to out-yell the good old impostor syndrom. After a while I decided that if I can’t write, I can do other things, which I did, and which I’m totally going to show off at some point, but not now, because I’m actually not here to talk about me.

I’m here to talk about Karen Eisenbrey. If you’ve been following my blog for some time, that name should be familiar. Karen published a book a while ago, about a teenage garage punk superhero, and I secretly covet her hat collection. Well, maybe not entirely secretly. Whatever.

Yesterday, Karen had another book published – Daughter of Magic. As regards genre, it would probably sit squarely in YA epic fantasy, but don’t expect your usual classic sword and sorcery thing. If you’re looking for dragons, dungeons, handsome princes, damsels in distress and the whole shebang, this book is not for you. If you’re willing to sit down next to the fireside and let a writer tell you a story, a fantastic story, so realistically woven it might as well be real, you will love this gem Karen has created.

Karen Eisenbrey is the sort of writer who doesn’t do twists and turns for effect or drama – all the twists and turns in her stories happen naturally, caused by the characters’ decisions, which are precisely as logical or emotional, as mature or adolescent, as clever or dumb as the characters themselves. If that sounds now like her stories are completely predictable – let me assure you, they’re not. Karen’s characters are complex, like real human beings, as are their decisions. And they even talk to each other, influence one another, which is, sadly, a rare thing in fantasy literature.

Daughter of Magic is the tale of Luskell, a girl who believes herself powerless in terms of magic. Daughter of two rather powerful magic wielders, she’s as disappointed as she is relieved – she won’t have to try to tread in her parents’ huge footsteps. Little does she realize that just because you couldn’t perform any magic tricks as a child, doesn’t mean you won’t grow wings as a teenager – maybe even literal ones. And once you know the power is yours, you’ll quickly consider yourself invincible…

By now you should absolutely want to read this, so I’m going to shut up and leave you to it. Enjoy, and do Karen the favor of writing a review, no matter how brief. Writers love to hear what people think about their books. Oh, and there’ll be an official launch party on 26th May, one of those online come-as-you-are things where you don’t have to leave the house to go there. I hear there’ll be fun to be had and books to be won. See you there.

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Stay Safe

This happened to me today: My dog got into a fight with another dog in the park in the morning. She’s generally a friendly, good-natured creature who loves kids and cats and pretty much everybody, but something about that dog rubbed her the wrong way, so she made that clear. Some twenty seconds of yelling broke the fight. No one got hurt.

And then the owner of the other dog ran at my dog like he was about to hit her. Naturally, I went straight back to yelling, this time at him. Which made him turn from my dog, and on to me. He came way too close and started screaming into my face. How could I let such a dangerous dog run free? Why didn’t I pull them apart? What was wrong with me? Telling him calmly that I had no intention of putting my hands between to sets of dog teeth only angered him further. I realized that he wasn’t interested in a sane discussion, so shook my head and, without another word, left the scene.

That might have been it. Only we met again at the other side of the park.

The guy shot me a creepy grin. It was funny, in a way, because that gave him away. I knew instantly that he was going to follow me. And he did. Lucky for me, I have a fully functioning set of nerves. I didn’t speed up or anything, just checked occasionally whether he was still there.

Five minutes later, and slowly getting close to home, he was still on my heels. Well. No way I was going to lead him straight to my door. Self-employed, thus the master of my schedule, I can easily afford wasting a bit of time on some fun. That might mean I’ll have to put in an extra hour in the evening when the kids are in bed, but so what. Without missing a beat, sticking to my comfortable walking pace, I turned into the next street like that was where I had always intended to go. I considered ringing some bell, but as I wasn’t sure who in the neighborhood might be home at such a time, I quickly discarded the idea, and anyway, I had one thing working for me: Time. Chances were, he would not be self-employed. If he had to be somewhere at a certain time, all I had to do was lead him on a merry chase around the district until he gave up.

And that’s precisely what I did. He followed me for a good twenty minutes, including stopping when I stopped, like when my dog discovered a cat on the opposite side of the road and insisted on sitting down the better to watch it, or when I was waiting at a red light – he actually went so far as to sit on a bench ten steps away while I was standing there.

Long story short, my trick worked and at some point, he gave up and was gone. I did a few more detours to be on the safe side, and went home.

I don’t know if that was a man/women/power balance issue, and frankly speaking, I don’t give a fuck. It was one human being trying to intimidate another human being by way of intruding into their safe zone. Girls – or boys, I don’t care – if this happens to you, do whatever feels appropriate. Ring a bell if you know someone’s home. Use your mobile phone, if you’re carrying one. Stop that nice old lady you see on the streets sometimes, explain the situation and ask her if she can pretend to chat with you. Or do as I did, and play merry chase, whether you’re self-employed or not. No job is worth risking your safety, and if your boss doesn’t understand that, go find another.

Take care, protect yourself, and stay safe.

By the way, this is my dog. Okay, you can’t see much of her in that picture, but you can surely see that she’s totally, utterly dangerous.

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Oh, the horror

Since I occasionally tend to lazily put things off, I’ve been sitting for months on a pile of to-be-written book reviews that just kept growing to the point where it really started to look like work. That made me feel so guilty, I decided to give a few of the authors on that pile a bit of a shout-out here on my blog, to atone for my neglective behavior.

Let’s start with Pat Black. At one point in the past, I stumbled upon one of his collections of short stories and greatly enjoyed reading them. Let’s face it, short stories are an art of their own, like a minimalist painting – not every painter can capture the moment with just a few strokes of the brush, and not every writer can draw a reader into their world with just a few lines. Pat Black is one of those who can, which is also why I invited him to contribute to the last Cake & Quill anthology, Paws and Claws. Luckily, he said yes.

But as good a short story writer as he is, there’s one thing Pat Black is even better at, which brings us back to the title of this post. Oh, the horror.

Last atumn I got myself this little novella, innocuously titled ‘Sleepover‘. Oh boy. Do not, repeat, NOT read home alone in the dark. This is a seriously masterfully scary tale. I made the mistake of reading it in bed before going to sleep, which promptly resulted in the most horrid nightmare and, when I woke up in the middle of the night, me being too scared to even go to the bathroom. There simply didn’t seem to be a safe place outside my blanket, and I wasn’t even home alone. I had the husband there, both kids and the dog, but I nevertheless felt like a child driven to almost wetting my pants based on a work of complete fiction.

Stupid, eh? Ha. You just go and read it yourself. Sleep well. If you can.


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Here’s To Another Year

I may be a bit late to the party, but we’re only two weeks into 2018, so I guess it’s still okay to wish everybody a Happy New Year. Hopefully it will turn out a good one for all of us.

Of course I came up with a handful of resolutions, like, um, be a little more active on my blog maybe… you can already see how well that is working out. At least I managed the exercise-and-eat-healthier part all right. I even forced to kids to eat salad last Saturday, and I’m still alive to tell the tale.

Usually on New Year’s Eve, I fall quiet around midnight, with half of me wanting to sing Auld Lang Syne, and the other half craving to hear the bells of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and subsequently waltz into the New Year like I used to do in Vienna. Living in Germany now, I get to do neither, so I just settle for watching the fireworks and let the past year’s fears and worries get born away, one colorful explosion at a time. Then I go back inside with the blessed feeling of a tabula rasa, ready to start over. This year, I somehow missed the magical moment where everything resets. Probably because it was a super stormy night, the teenagers from vis-à-vis were drunk as hell, and one could never be quite sure which way their fireworks would take off. The little girl got scared, the bottle of sparkling wine got blown off the wall and shattered before anyone had more than one sip, and in the end I went inside with an unsatisfied, pissed off feeling. One year swished off into the next, and that was that.

I’m still hopeful. The world isn’t half as going down the drain as it sometimes looks. There’s good things, and good people, everywhere. Be one of them, and be vocal. Oh, and plant flowers.

PS: Here’s a free book for you to start off… okay, maybe not exactly start… whatever.



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Kissing Santa Claus

My husband and I, we never made our children believe in Santa Claus or any other mysterious gift bearer. Quite the opposite – the kids always know precisely which gift comes from whom. We didn’t decide to go for the ‘more truth, less mystery’ version in order not to lie to them, or to spoil the magic. Instead we told them that we can’t rightly know whether or not there really is someone like Santa, and that if there is, he must have loads to do, and since we can afford to buy our own gifts, we don’t want to exploit him.

I don’t know what that makes us. All I know is, some stories insist on their existence. Some mysteries simply persist, no matter what parents say or do. Santa Claus, it appears, is one of them.

Jack is an old friend of my husband’s family. Originally from Ecuador, he spent a few years in Germany working as a surgeon. That’s how he met my mom-in-law; they worked at the same hospital, and became friends. Jack took his own family back to Ecuador decades ago, nevertheless, he stayed in touch.

Jack has always been what some people might call a character. That hasn’t changed now that he’s retired, grown a belly and a beard, and his hair has turned snowy white.

He came for a visit a week or so ago. He still speaks German, but occasionally needs to turn to his wife, Monica, to help him out with a missing piece of vocabulary – and vice versa – and he speaks with the sweetest Spanish accent.

“I went to Los Angeles, in summer,” he told us. I saw Monica briefly close her eyes and shake her head. “So embarrassing,” she muttered. Jack ignored her. “I wanted to hitchhike to New York,” he went on. I pricked up my ears. Hitchhike from L.A. to New York? At the age of 70-something? Jack’s face was perfectly solemn, but there was a twinkle in his dark eyes. “I found a truck driver,” he went on. “Guy told me he wouldn’t drive me to New York, he was going to San Francisco, so I told him, fine, take me there.”

That was probably the point where I decided that I want to be like Jack when I grow up.

“And then I thought I’d go back to Los Angeles by bicycle.”

“No way,” my husband interrupted. “That’s too far.” I said no, it’s not, Jack agreed with me, though neither of us was quite sure how far it actually is. “You can go all the way along the coast” – that much at least I knew – “and it’s a beautiful route.” Jack turned his solemn nod my way. “Very true,” he said, “it took me twelve days to get back to Los Angeles. And then I thought I might earn a little money. Here, I’ll show you.”

He dug his phone from his pocket. Monica’s eyes closed again.

The video someone made of Jack showed him sitting on a sidewalk, upturned baseball cap before him, with his flowing white hair and beard, dressed in hat and poncho like the living embodiment of every South American cliché, playing the guitar and singing some Spanish song – not too bad, actually.

My husband burst out laughing. “You look like Santa Claus on holidays.” Jack grinned. “That’s because I am Santa Claus.” My nine-year-old son rolled his eyes. My seven-year-old daughter looked skeptical.

Later, when we said our goodbyes, Jack pointed at his cheek and demanded kisses. My daughter couldn’t reach high enough, so she stood on tiptoe and he stooped, but whenever she got too close, he moved up a bit, just out of her reach. “You need to be taller,” he said. I wasn’t having that, so I lifted her up and she successfully planted her kiss. He laughed.

She was a bit jittery when she put her shoes on, so my dad-in-law couldn’t resist teasing her. “What did you do, kiss Santa Claus?” She scowled. “He’s not really Santa. He’s just Jack.”

Back home again, though, in the familiar comfort of her own bed, the question apparently ran too deep and she couldn’t sleep. “Mom?” she asked me when I came to her room for one more bit of cuddles. “Did I really kiss Santa Claus?”



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Little Red is coming home

A while ago, when I couldn’t sleep, I asked my husband to tell me a story. He was too tired to really comply, but mumbled something about an alternative Little Red Riding Hood, who gave the cake to the wolf and they all lived happily ever after. Talk about planting a seed.

Months went by, and one after the other nine alternative Little Reds popped up in my head. Some don’t stray overly far from the original story. Some are barely recognizable. Some get a happy ending. Some don’t. One of them might actually be called a fairy tale. None of them are suitable for children, but then again, neither is the original, when you think about it.

All of them are in this book. I hope you’ll enjoy it.


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The end of the world, and superheroes

It’s been quite a while since my last confession… no, since someone else’s confession, meaning me inviting another writer over to spill all their secrets in reply to my silly questions, so I thought I might let C H Clepitt have another go. You might remember, I got her to talk about a fantasy novel of hers once, The Book of Abisan (still highly recommended). This time around, I’ll let her tell us about something a little more realistic – the end of the world, and superheroes. Aaaaaand here we go.

Who are you again?

C H Clepitt

Where are you this time?

Right now I’m on the sofa. I may move, I may not.

Sounds reasonable. How are you?

World’s most stupid question! Does anyone actually want to know the answer?!

Duh! Would I ask the question if I didn’t want to know the answer?! Okay, which book do you want to talk about?

I’m gunna talk about Everything is Better with a Cape, the Second Part to I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse.

Why did you write it?

Because the characters still had stuff to say, and people wanted to know what happened to the badger.

Of course. Everybody always wants to know what happens to the badger. He’s not the main character, though. We want to know about that one, too.

My main character and narrator in both books is Kerry. She is a sort of hopeless every woman. We know she’s five foot six, and attractive, but I don’t go into more detail than that, as I want readers to be able to envision characters that they can relate to, and for that reason I try not to over describe physical appearance, unless it’s relevant to the plot.

If you could make up your own genre for this book, what would it be?

I would like people to look at my book and think “I might like that” without me having to label it for them. I suppose I could label it “not erotica” because eeeek!

Is there a message in your book? Do you want your readers to take something home?

There are quite a few messages in my books, but if I have to explain that then I’m doing something wrong! Read it and see!

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a fantasy novel, working title is The Smuggler’s Daughter. It will be a stand alone book, but will tie in with The Book of Abisan later on. We’ve waited a while for that series to continue.

Indeed. And we’re not happy about it. We don’t like waiting. Anyway, back to superheroes… Which target audience do you write for? What do you think makes your book especially appealing for that audience?

I write things that I would want to read, which means I write diverse characters who react plausibly to whatever situation you put them in. There is not only one type of person in the world and I try and show that through my writing. It makes me really happy when a reader tells me they found something they could really relate to in one of my books.

Do parts of you shine through? Are some characters like you, or friends, or family?

Almost all of my characters have parts of me, they’d have to, wouldn’t they? Some have more annoying parts of me than others.

Who is your favorite author?

So many, how can I choose? I will say that all through school and much of university, I didn’t really like reading, because the syllabus I was given was mainly old white, male writers, and I was yet to find a voice I could relate to. Then, for my master’s degree I read Virginia Woolf and Silvia Townsend Warner and I finally heard voices I could identify with. It was like an awakening, and I thought, yes, there are books for me out there. I think until that point I’d felt rather sidelined. Everyone deserves to love reading and find books and characters they can relate to, and the way we do that is by encouraging all different types of authors to tell their stories.

Is there an author you’d love to be compared to?

Depends if it was in a positive way or not! How about Angelika Rust??

Depends if it was in a positive way or not! 😛 What are you addicted to or can’t live without?

Writing. I need to be writing something all the time. I don’t know how I’d survive without it.

What happened to sleep and coffee? Ah, well. Not everybody needs those, apparently. What’s the most stupid question you’ve ever been asked?

I look much younger than I am, so I get asked a lot of stupid and patronising questions. Fortunately I have mastered the Paddington Stare!!

A badger with a Paddington Stare, now that’s surely a sight. I mean, Batman. But wait, you’re not really Batman, are you? Are you? Hey, where have you gone? Somewhere here, presumably:

Find C H Clepitt on Facebook, Twitter, her website, Amazon.


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