German, Lesson IV (and some random rambling)

I’m in a weird spot right now – I’ve once again finished a book, an epic fantasy monster of 140k words. I started writing it in spring 2020, the pandemic had just begun, the first lockdown had descended on us, everything was shit and I needed a hero. So I decided to write myself one. I abandoned the project some 80k into the story, because it had grown into something too complex for me to focus on with the constant pressure and, especially, with the lack of peace due to no alone time – homeschooling can really ruin your concentration. That was when I retreated to the safe and familiar ground that was Alice & the gang, resulting in the fifth installment of my Resident Witch series. I finally returned to my monster a few months ago, and somehow plowed through…

… and now I’m here, having sent the entire mess out to beta readers. It’s the weird spot where you’re not yet ready to start something new, you can’t yet edit because you’re waiting for the comments and criticism and all to float into your inbox. What with summer coming up, and holidays, I’ve told everybody to please not stress themselves, hey, I’ve been at it since 2020, it can wait a few more months, right? Right. It’s been something like 24 hours and I’m already like, why hasn’t anyone come back to me yet? Is it so bad they had to put it down? I’m obviously super self-confident.

Either way, it’s also the weird spot where you, just for a while, move away from writing completely. I don’t even have ideas at the moment, so I’m doing all those neglected things I’ve been pushing away while my hero needed to fight his fights, like gardening, or finally arranging doctor’s appointments for various family members, or meeting with actual, live people, stuff like that.

There’s still time for badly drawn cartoons though, so I made this. Enjoy.

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German, lesson III

I was thinking of doing a highly philosophical blog post about the random crap that goes through your head when you’re home and isolating because you and the rest of the family managed to catch the damned virus everybody’s been trying to avoid for two years, but then I thought…. nah. I bet there’s like five million of those around already, and no one needs another, and it would be unfair to make everybody suffer for the fact that it’s been a week and I’m bored out of my skull and forced to rewatch every Harry Potter movie.

We’re fine, btw. A slight cold maybe. I’m serious, Mom. I’m not faking being okay just so that you don’t have to worry, I’m really okay. That aside, I’m done with the first draft of my epic fantasy masterpiece. I may even have a title.

Any typos or random randomness in this blog post is due to Covid brain fog. I’m not apologizing.

Anyway, I made this. Enjoy.

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Learn German with me, lesson II

And it only took me like two weeks to come up with the second lesson! See, I’m not entirely unreliable.

PS: In case you’re wondering if I’m doing anything rather more useful these days… well, yes. Still trying my hand at epic fantasy. I’m currently at 127k words and closing in on the ending. Sooner or later, folks. Sooner or later.

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Learn German with me…

Just don’t expect me to teach you anything useful.

But let’s start at the beginning. Like probably a lot of people out there, I really would love to be able to draw. Not to produce an oil painting worthy of the Louvre or anything like that, just so that I can turn a funny idea into an equally funny cartoon. Only I can’t. If I invest a few hours and tons of patience, I might be able to come up with something semi-decent, but I’m definitely not the kind of person who can within a few minutes sketch something that will make people go envious at the copious amounts of talent that must have been holding that pencil.

I pretty much suck at drawing. It’s a fact. Which means that usually, I picture those funny cartoons in my head, sigh, shrug, and move on. Now, though…

Like anyone who, like me, regularly moves between languages which share common roots, I keep stumbling over words which have the exact same spelling, but a completely different meaning. And I had this idea, and it began to fester, until I eventually thought, so what? So I can’t draw, but does it matter? I’m not here to win any prizes, or to pretend that what I’m doing is art. I’m here to entertain. Maybe make you laugh a bit.

Long story short, here’s the first in what may or may not become a series of hopefully funny cartoons. Like all my projects, don’t expect me to be overly reliable, and to post these things in regular intervals. Either way, hope you’ll enjoy my feeble efforts.

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Boom Goes The Head

And I never really sleep anymore…

It’s been two years.

And I always get those dangerous dreams
And I never get a minute of peace…

Two years with this weird, vague pressure on all of us. Two years of complete inability to plan ahead, because no one ever knows how the figures will develop, and which rules will apply to whichever distant future date. Two years of restraint, of periods of lockdowns and homeschooling, of going all out on the mom spectrum, of completely spoiling the kids and mostly camping in the living room, all four (or seven, if you count the pets) of us, because adults can process things rationally. Children, teenagers? Not so much, and we all need to get through this with our sanity intact, and snuggles and warmth and comfort are the best way to ensure that.

Two years of not going to see my family across the border, of barely being able to work, what with time alone being a scarce commodity, of mandatory testing in school and missed birthday parties.

I’ve mostly kept it all in, because other people have it worse. Far worse.

And now my head explodes at night.

Maybe it’s nothing and I’m under the weather
Maybe it’s just one of those bugs going round…

Exploding Head Syndrome, I understand it’s called. “A type of sleep disorder in which you hear a loud noise or explosive crashing sound in your head. The sound isn’t real or heard by anyone else. The episode typically happens suddenly either when you’re beginning to fall asleep or when you wake up during the night. Along with the loud sound, EHS can occur along with flashes of light and muscle jerks (myoclonic jerks). Unlike its painful-sounding name, the episode is painless.”

Is this a blessing? Or is it a curse?
Does it get any better? Can it get any worse?

“Exploding head syndrome isn’t dangerous and doesn’t harm your overall health.” The day after an episode is nevertheless interesting. Cotton stuffed around my mind, and jelly where my knees would normally be. My eyes, my brain, have trouble focusing, and if I try too hard, there’s this remote heaviness behind my temples, a warning sign speaking of headaches in the making, and the tears come easily.

Will it go on forever? Is it over tonight?
Does it come with the darkness? Does it bring out the light?

I can ignore its existence most of the time. It’s not a nightly occurrence. So far, it’s been a once-a-month affair, coinciding with times when I was particularly, say, receptive. I can’t help thinking it’s my body’s way of telling me not to let things get too close.

I try. And yet. Sometimes, when I go to sleep at night, I’m downright scared. Will this be another of those nights? What state will I be in tomorrow? “Oh, that sounds familiar,” was the first thing my mother said when I spoke to her about it. “It reminds me of the migraines I had when you were younger.” The second thing she said was, “Have you tried alcohol?”

Maybe I’m crazy and I’m losing my senses
Maybe I’m desperate and I got no defenses…

I don’t know what it is but it just won’t quit…

And I never really sleep anymore…

(Parts in Italic borrowed from “It Just Won’t Quit”, a song by Jim Steinman, sung by Meat Loaf. Rest in peace.)

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Don’t invite me to your fancy party

I will come

but

I don’t know how to do fancy

Look, I’ll make an effort

Mom-in-law gave me this pullover

cashmere, elegant and black

(It’s just that the cat crept into my closet

and half an hour of brushing still left traces of orange tabby)

And the only make-up I own

is some basic foundation

of which I’ll wear a layer

just for you

(or as a shield

to hide behind)

with my black leather boots

(which I polished

only there’s still a drop of blue varnish on the toes of the right one

Should have kept them out of the way

when I painted

the little boy’s room)

I will come

and I’ll pretend

but all my confidence

will stem from the fact

that beneath those black boots

I’ll secretly wear

pink socks.

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Out now: Send in the Clowns

Aaaaand here we go. The fifth book in my Resident Witch series is out and available. Why should you read it, or any book in the series? Let’s see…

Maybe you like Young Adult books in general. Or Urban Fantasy. Or Magic Realism. Or all three.

Maybe you like a female lead. Especially when the female lead discovers she’s a self-rescuing princess.

Maybe you like music, and a story that puts a soundtrack in your head.

Maybe you like people who turn to dark humor and bad jokes when under pressure.

This link should lead you directly to the Amazon page of your respective country. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

PS: Yes, reviews really make authors happy.

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Sometimes Stories Grow

Once upon a time, in 2014, to be exact, I found one of those newsletter thingies in my inbox, listing short story competitions and anthologies open for submissions. Usually, I delete stuff like that unread, or after a very cursory glance. I’m not much of a short story writer. That one time, though, something caught my eye. A wonderland-themed anthology. Tales featuring a girl named Alice, they said they wanted, who meets a white rabbit and has an adventure. I liked the idea, I had been toying with a handful of story threads in my head which losely fit the theme and just needed a little tweaking…

Side note: I’m not particularly good when it comes to reading and/or following directions.

… and within a day, I had a story of about 1.5 or maybe 2k. Which was when I began actually reading the list of criteria, which clearly stated 4k. Well, okay, I was heavily invested by that point, so getting deeper into the story, adding details, background, you name it, was no problem at all. The result was something I was proud of, and which the beta readers loved.

I never got to submit it, because I had been watching the wrong deadline the entire time.

That’s how particularly not good I am.

I could have chosen to be super frustrated, but that didn’t work, because I was already toying with the next idea, namely, forcing poor Alice through the next adventure. If I couldn’t get her into someone else’s short story collection, I would start my own. A remembered typo later (thanks, Mike, for the leftover bear) there suddenly was a lot more to tell, and then an overall arc evolved, and before I knew it, I had a 50k jumble which with a ton of help (looking at you, Karen) grew into an 84k novel, which I published in 2015.

It didn’t stop there either. Questions needed to be answered, neglected plotlines wanted to be continued, random remarks some characters dropped demanded to be dwelled upon…

And here I am, in the final editing throes of the fifth in the series, to hopefully be published some time next week.

None of this was planned, and I don’t know if Alice is done telling me her story, or if there’s more to come. I guess we’ll see.

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Between the Years

I run into Vicky sometime during those limbo days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the time Germans so aptly call between the years – the old one all but over, the new one not yet begun.

I don’t know much about Vicky, other than that she drives the fanciest car in town. I do know, though, that her horse had to be put down just a few weeks prior.

I tell her I’m sorry. Tears glisten in her eyes, and I want to hug her, but we’re in the middle of a pandemic and hugging is not the done thing anymore. Instead, I do something far less substantial. I ask her if she had a good Christmas time.

“Oh, stop it about Christmas,” she demands, eyes now blazing. “I’ve been stuck inside with an indoor plant of a husband. Tell you what, husbands are really just Tamagotchis. Feed me, play with me, whine, whine. I went on a 16-mile hike yesterday, on my own, because I just couldn’t stand it anymore.”

She falters, and a little shock drags at her features, regret over the words she let escape. “Don’t get me wrong,” she continues in haste, “I love him, and I don’t want to get rid of him. But I can’t wait for the holidays to be over.”

I laugh. “Not judging you,” I promise. “Your holidays, my 2021.”

She pulls a quizzical frown.

“Lockdowns,” I explain. “Home office. Home schooling. Try getting any kind of focused work done when it’s Mom, can you help me with math, Mom, can I have an apple, every five minutes.”

Vicky closes her eyes for a second. “Oh dear.”

I laugh some more, and the conversation moves on to the new horse she’s getting soon. We part smiling.

I still don’t know much about her.

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New Year’s Day

Lilly texts me on New Year’s Day. “He’s hungover like shit, and god knows what else,” she tells me. “I sat in the car this morning, wanting nothing more than to go home to my mom, and the darkness was full of creepy sounds. And I couldn’t get any bread rolls for breakfast, because all the shops were closed. Weird start for the New Year.”

“Wanna come over?” I ask. “It’s comfy here, and there’s freshly baked chocolate cookies.”

“Nah, I’m good,” she replies, and even though it’s just white letters on a black screen, I can see her smile. “I’ll just wait for him to recover a bit, then give him a good talk. Schadenfreude is a real thing right now, you know?”

“Go get him,” I send back.

I close my messages, and my mind starts to drift, back to another bunch of texts exchanged, just a few weeks ago, and farther back, to a phone call that left me in tears. Resolutions, I realize. Well. Maybe one.

No photo description available.
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