Search This Blog

Nov 29, 2013

Nanowrimo - be gentle with me, it's my first time

National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short has one basic requirement.

Write 50,000 words in 30 days
Start: November 1 End: November 30

I've followed this event from the sidelines for years. But this year I took the plunge and signed up because I wanted to lose the dilly-dally demon inside me for a short time and let him know who was in charge.

50K words requires - do the math - 1667 words per day. For those of you who think of books and writing in terms of pages, well, it's not that easy to convert. But I'll try. My chapters in the Schattenreich series tend to be between 2000-2800 words, depending on the scenes, amount of dialogue, etc. That works out to between 7-10 double-spaced pages of a Word document per chapter. So 1667 words - that's a little less. Let's say between 5-6 pages. Doesn't sound like much. Not really. But there's nothing gentle about it.

Because you have to do this every day. Even if you don't feel like it, aren't inspired, haven't got a clue what you're going to write next or how that scene you started yesterday is supposed to end up.

Here's my stats for the month on a cumulative scale.

It's a bar chart!
The straight line slanting upwards across the chart shows where the bars need to reach for me to be keeping up with the daily word counts. You'll notice a dip in my productivity around the beginning of week 2. Ahem. Yeah. I had some things to do during that second weekend. Let's call it life with something social attached. Then I found it hard to get myself hauled back up to the line. It would have been easy to give up at that point. But I rallied by the end of week 2 and had nary a setback (despite a 3-day head cold) until the end, where I made a nice couple of spurts that put me over today, Thanksgiving, November 28th, even with a hectic schedule of teaching and cleaning and whatnot. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Since I'm an expat, I have the advantage of not having to cook a monstrous (but delicious) Thanksgiving dinner or have alcohol or movies or even football to distract me. Unfortunately.

One of the things that happens once I start writing like this is that I not only quell the urge to procrastinate, I become obsessed. I eat, sleep and dream the novel. I drive with the radio off so I can think! and walk as in a daze through the grocery store on daily shopping trips. I give up having coherent conversation with the family.

I also am forced to stifle my inner editor. Daily word counts of this nature preclude mulling over word choice, fiddling with dialogue or - anything. It's just write write write. And then on to the next day. One thing that helps immensely is to have a plan. I did have one. The writing took a huge detour (right around where that slump showed up at the end of week 1), but it came back around to where it was supposed to be at the 50K mark, so it all worked out. And I've got the badge to show for it. 

I did violate one of the nanowrimo principles, which is the 50K should be your book from start to finish. Well, if you've ever read any of my books, you'll know that 50,000 doesn't even come close. So shoot me. I already had 50K going in. Now I have over 100K. And I need probably another 30K to 40K to be finished. But I'm a huge chunk closer than I was to finishing Triple Junction, the fifth and final book of the Schattenreich series. And totally psyched. So that dilly-dally monster, well, bless his heart. He's just going to have to go bother someone else for a while.

And now we can have our traditional Thanksgiving dinner (see below) on Saturday and I can look again at the faces I've been ignoring for the past 28 days and that I hope will no longer be frowning at me (including the cat), begin to sort the full laundry baskets (there were at least 10 of them last time I counted), get caught up on the other things...there are other things. I'm sure of it.

Raclette: our expat version of Thanksgiving

photo credit: jonlarge via photopin cc

Nov 20, 2013

Release notice: Double Couple, Book 3 of the Schattenreich

 Available in trade paperback at - or the Amazon store nearest you. In a few weeks, you can order Double Couple at your favorite local bookstore. Ebook coming soon!

Double Couple begins in Burg Lahn, the ancestral home of the von der Lahn family deep in the heart of the Rhineland, Germany.

Finally reunited, Caitlin Schwarzbach and Hagen von der Lahn, newly returned from his journey deep into the Celtic Otherworld known as Ande-dubnos, seek to pick up the threads of their relationship.

But treachery again thwarts their attempts to return to a semblance of normalcy when someone sets fire to the Burg Lahn woods.

Science takes on the Otherworld when geophysicist Caitlin Schwarzbach strives to unravel the mysteries of the Schattenreich.

But the Schattenreich refuses to cooperate.

Double Couple: a fast-paced supernatural suspense that narrates the story of one woman's journey to overcome her fear, mend a broken heart, and solve the riddle of a 2,000-year old family curse.

Nov 10, 2013

Double Couple, Book 3 of the Schattenreich: an excerpt

Hagen stretched out his long legs, crossing them at the ankle, and propped himself on one arm before taking a sip of coffee. "Sebastian is organizing a meet."
      I raised both eyebrows while taking a drink of the wonderful hot coffee. Sebastian's coffee, always perfect. "What is that?"
Double Couple: Book 3 of the Schattenreich
      Hagen's mouth turned up at one corner. "He imagines it is a Druid concept. Probably should take place deep in the woods with all of us in white robes throwing sprigs of mistletoe at each other, but I suspect we will sit in the formal dining room. I will wear my most comfortable blue jeans."
      I choked on my croissant. Hagen's smile turned into a grin.
      "Druids? So it is true. That's what you all are."
      He slid a foot closer to his thigh. "The 'we' certainly includes you. That is what Sebastian is training you for. Hadn't you guessed that yet?"
      All the signs had been there to see. The Celtic holidays, the exercises, the esoteric books. "But I don't have any type of religious belief compatible with being a Druid." I wiped crumbs from the robe.
      Hagen sat up quickly, crossing his legs in front of him. He took a croissant from the plate and broke it in half, taking a bite full of the chocolate in the middle. "Nor do I. There are no Druids. Haven't been for two thousand years. We're just practitioners of a craft, esoteric and strong in Ande-dubnos. Not so much in the waking world."
      "Isn't that what the Druids did? Practiced their crafts?"
      "Who knows for sure? We only have a few secondary reports about them from the Romans, in particular Julius Caesar. And who could trust the Romans? Certainly not our ancestors."
      I poured us more coffee. "What about Heiner?"
      He shrugged. "More or less the same as me. He delves into the spiritual nature of what we do – he uses his music to explore Ande-dubnos. I'm more interested in the mechanics." He paused and seemed to reflect. "Our skills complement one another perfectly."
      "Why is Sebastian training me? You two have been trained since you were children."
      "That is a good question, Kati, and the answer does worry me. He's training you to journey. I'm against it. I dare not go against his wishes. Not yet."
      "Gus would blow a spoke if I told him all this." I shoved a crumb around the tray with my finger, looking at Hagen, grateful that he finally saw fit to give me some inkling of what was going on, of who and what he was.
      "That worries me even more," he said.
      "What? Gus?"
      He nodded, frowning. He took another bite of croissant and drank his coffee, aiming his dark blues at me. "You and Augustus have been targets up until now. There is a connection between our family and what has been happening to you."
      "The inscription. And earthquakes."
      "And Dagmar," he said. "Although I can't fathom how she would have found out about it."
      "I'm not sure she has. Or at least she's not the one pursuing it. She's more interested in obtaining…revenge."
      "So you told me yesterday. But you didn't mention who is pursuing the inscription."
      "No, I didn't. But you've met him."
      "The red stallion."
      "What does Heiner think? Did you talk to him?"
      "We discussed a few things briefly last night in your dreamscape."
      I wiped my hands, no longer hungry. Everything had a connection. Everything pointed to Kilhian ar C'hoed. "My rowan appeared there as a sapling just after you left. It has grown since then."
      Hagen removed the tray from the bed and vigorously wiped crumbs away. He lifted an eyebrow and sat on the bed. "You are already practicing your craft then, Caitie."
      I laughed. "Right. Magic. Me." Then I thought about Heinrich and his conjuring clothes for us when we had visited the Schattenreich. "What kind of magic?"
      "I prefer the term Schattenwerk. Shadowcraft. It's a more accurate description. But magic is a word people understand. I am not aware that there are kinds of magic. Just effects. Mostly on one's self."
      "And what did I do?"
      "You constructed the dreamscape." He took my hand, pulling me back on the bed with him. "I know I'm going to be sorry about this." He turned me around, with my back leaning up against him. "Relax your body, Kati."
      "I'm too wound up to relax."
      "We can't cross if you don't."
      I practiced my relaxation techniques, comfortable but nervous to be doing this with Hagen. "Okay."
      "Picture the place where you traveled with Heinrich."
      The woods and the river, the open meadow and the grass leapt into my mind immediately as if I had just visited it. "Got it."
      Hagen put his arms around me, and placed his hand on top of mine, which rested on his lynx pendant. "Now concentrate."
      I relaxed into the vision, imagining the sound of the trees, the bubbling of water over rocks. Then, I heard those sounds for real. This time was different, warm and hazy, the leaves loud as they shook in a steady breeze. My eyes sprang open to the Schattenreich, at least the corner of it I had seen before with Heinrich. It felt like returning to a familiar favored place, like my secret spot in the woods.
Hagen took my hand. We walked to the globe that floated a few inches above the grass. Heinrich followed, bringing his guitar. He eased down effortlessly next to it, holding his guitar as if in preparation to play. Hagen stood, studying the surface that had evolved into a complex landscape, ever changing, it seemed, and interspersed with intricately carved ladders and sinewy wooden snakes. An overlarge playing card twirled of its own volition above the globe. I reached out to grab it, but Heinrich stayed my hand.
      "That is a closed postern, chérie," he said.
      I eyeballed him a question.
      "Anyone trying cross the borders that Sebastian has 'wired' will be trapped within the 'game'. A miniature version of him or her will appear here," Heinrich said, and pointed to the globe. He took the card delicately between two fingers to stop it spinning, but did not remove it. The illustrated card showed a collection of intertwining serpents in twos and threes. Heinrich twirled it and flashed it at Hagen, before letting it loose to rotate once again.
      Movement caught my eye. I looked closely at the board. "Look!"
      There on the globe, climbing his way upwards, out of a snake, was a miniature person. We bent closer.
      "Who is it?" Heinrich asked.
      "Erich," Hagen said.
      "It is him," I said. "Can he see—"
      Erich put his hands on his hips. He looked around. Then he looked up. Erich waved to us. Then he disappeared.
      "Well," Hagen said. "So much for traps."
      "Maybe he will return to the Burg now," Heinrich said.
      "That was the agreement," Hagen said and began pacing.
      "I don't understand any of this," I said.
      Heinrich patted the grass next to him and I sank down. He began to play a lively Irish tune. The only thing missing was a fiddle. "Let's start with the game," Heinrich spoke as he played. "Sebastian dabbles in trying to reveal the big picture."
      "Oracles, right?" I plucked purple daisies out of the grass.
      "The board has divinatory properties, but the more participants, the better the results."
      "How many more?" I asked.
      "More than Sebastian and me," he said, looking up. "And you."
      Hagen snorted.
      I took a deep breath and let it out. "Okay. It's a game of Snakes and Ladders for more than three players that Sebastian uses like a crystal ball. It both influences and is influenced by the players. Small symbols guide the pieces. They move across the board on their own. Based on what the players decide and wish and do, the landscape evolves. It shows things. The players have to try to figure it out. Ladders are good. Snakes are not-so-good. Like in the children's game."
      I pointed to a small wooden ball filled with symbols that hung above the larger earthlike globe. "To my mind, the tiny ball is the data processing engine, and the globe is the exploratory analysis part. The symbols initiate a graphical display on the larger globe where one or more representative pieces move in response to the implied meaning of the symbols. Sebastian wants to understand the big picture."
      Heinrich nodded. "Smart girl, Hagen."
      "Expert," Hagen said while continuing his pacing, "at many things." He slid a smile my way.
      "The floating card is a special kind of tarot card and carries the symbols for responsibility," Heinrich said, teasing a sweet, sexy note from his guitar in response to Hagen's innuendo.
      "Sebastian is sending us a message?"
      Heinrich glanced at Hagen. "He is reminding us about our duties to the family."
      "As if we had ever shirked them." Hagen waved his hand over the globe and it faded slowly. "You and Bastian know my feelings about Oracles."
      "And what are those feelings, Hagen?" I asked.
      "Divination is a double-edged sword," he answered. "As I told you once before."
      "And that means?" I asked.
      "Something is given, and something is taken away."
      Heinrich continued to play, the music shading into a softer melody with a pronounced sinister tone. "I think in this case whatever is going on has been operating despite Sebastian's workings."
      "Whatever's name is Erich," Hagen said. "That's why I'm even more concerned with the price for our attempts to divine events."
      "What do you suggest then?" Heinrich asked.
      "We solve it more directly," Hagen said, coming to stand behind me.
      I leaned into him. "Whatever directly is, it sounds good."
      Heinrich looked up. "Count me in, brother. I'm committed to anything that will lessen the danger to Caitlin."
      "And don't forget Gus," I said.
      Hagen patted my shoulders. "Let's go hear what Bastian wants to tell us."
      I raised my arms, and Hagen pulled me to my feet. "How do we get back?" I snuck a look at Heinrich in time to catch that sly smile of his. "Oh. Is that the only way then?"
      Hagen scowled from me to Heinrich. "How have you gotten in without us before, Caitie?"
      I sighed. "With a lot of nausea and internal earthquakes."
      "That fits," Hagen said.
      "Is there an easier way?"
      Hagen took me in his arms, raising an eyebrow at Heinrich who slung his guitar over his shoulder and headed off towards the forest.
"For the moment this one works well, don't you think?" He swept me into his embrace and kissed me all the way back to reality.

Double Couple release date: very very soon! Watch this space.

Nov 5, 2013

Reading Event, Museum Night in Cologne

Museum Night Cologne

When: Saturday, November 9
Time: 7:00pm – 3:00am
Where: Museums all over Cologne
Cost: €17 without transportation - can be purchased at all participating museums, €19.50 (according to Köln: Ticket - the museumsnacht website lists the price as €18.50) with transportation and purchased from Köln:Ticket
Website: (in German). Children under 15 can go for free.

This lovely description courtesy of Christine Funke, VP for the American International Women's Club of Cologne:

The "Long Night of Cologne's Museums" is now called "Museum Night Cologne". And, moreover, it is bathed in a fresh, new look. On November 9th from 7pm – 3am the entire city is on the move, experiencing museums and art venues in a very special atmosphere. 43 locations and over 200 exciting events provide a unique atmosphere - a unique combination of special exhibitions, music and live acts make it possible.

Cultural metropolis Cologne: No other German city has so many municipal museums as Cologne. And only on the Museum Night do they open their doors at such a late hour. The large established houses are just as important as smaller, lesser-known art venues. From gaudy pop art and medieval treasures to the remains of past cultures: High-profile exhibitions, great masters and the artistic heritage of the cathedral city lure the nocturnal journey through Cologne. Small houses give direct insight into the creative work of the independent scene and artists. Known collections appear in a completely new light. This is what makes the incomparable charm of the Museum Night Cologne.

I will be at the GeoMuseum of the University of Cologne  from 9:00 – 10:00pm to present a short lecture entitled 'Look, There's Some Science in My Fiction - Main Ingredient or Just a Spice?' which will include short excerpts read from my soon-to-be-released novel Double Couple. There will be a free drawing for ebooks and paperback copies of Book One of the Schattenreich series, Primary Fault.

Nov 1, 2013

The Schattenreich: Heinrich's songs

For Kala Goañv. the Breton Celtic celebration that coincides with Halloween, this year's pumpkin and a song composed by Heinrich von der Lahn for Caitlin Schwarzbach.

The 2013 pumpkin expertly carved by Klaus-G. Hinzen

The Wolf and the Wildcat
Heinrich von der Lahn

The wolf met the wildcat there
Where twin moons rose and trees swayed bare
They found the fire that ate men's souls
Fueled by voices dark as coals
Wolf cried to Wildcat, what have you seen?

She howled and barked, what does it mean?
Wildcat tried to calm her fears
 He said, come let me dry your tears

Little Wolf, I love you
 Like the sun loves the dew
Like the moon loves the sea…
Do you still love me?
I promise you another forever
Just so you know

Bound by blood and bound by desire
Wildcat kept Wolf safe from the fire
Apart and together, they ran and they ran
Wolf became Woman and Wildcat Man
She danced for him fast and danced for him slow
And went down a road where he could not go

She became Swan to float down Life's stream
He became Fish in the Ocean of Dreams

Little Wolf, I love you
Like the sun loves the dew
Like the moon loves the sea…
Do you still love me?
I promise you another forever
Just so you know

Fish washed up dying on the shore
Where Swan found him once more
She said, shed your scales and come with me
We'll ride the winds for eternity

Midnight black and purest white
Two swans flew together through the night
Safe at last from the ravaging fire
They sang as they circled higher and higher

Black Swan, yes I love you
Like the sun loves the dew
Like the moon loves the sea
Will you still have me?
I give you another forever
Just so you know