Copromoted Leprechauns

508px-Leprechaun_ill_artlibre_jnlHere’s a brief update on how my Copromote efforts are doing for my “Linus & the Leprechauns” ebook:

As per my earlier blog post, I “boosted” one of my Tweets with the help of Copromote last Friday. Since then, 30 copromoters have retweeted my original Tweet, thereby increasing my original reach by 3,000% and allowing me to reach 62,099 people. I’ve also gained both Twitter and Copromote followers in the process.

Whenever I copromote somebody, I have a look at how they’re doing so far. Some of the more popular products (music videos, fitness and health-related stuff, sci-fi and romance books) are retweeted/reposted by so many people, their reach can be 700,000+, even with the free Copromote package. Not bad going, given that such promotions can result in a 1% sales take-up rate. The paid for package ($49.44 per month) allows authors unlimited boosts and starts them off with 200,000 credits, so it’s possible to “boost” promotional Tweets/YouTube videos/Vine entries/Tumblr posts for several different products every month with the paid for service.

Using the free package, I had only 8 credits left this morning, but with some quick copromoting efforts, I’ve cranked up my credits again, so hopefully my little campaign can continue today with more people retweeting my call to arms.

If you want a good laugh today, why not read “Linus & The Leprechauns”  – a book singularly lacking in pots of gold but making up for it with plenty of farting jokes – or simply start promoting your own stuff via Copromote…the results should put a big smile on your face!

Pumpkins, Pumpkins everywhere!

Happy Halloween Everyone!

First draft illustration for The Little Book of Halloween short story "Cooking with G Ramsey Beelzebub"

First draft illustration for The Little Book of Halloween short story “Cooking with G Ramsey Beelzebub”

Since the rejection on technical grounds of my ebook, I’ve been busy scribbling away at pumpkin and Halloween related facts in an effort to make the children’s book even better. Now it will have pumpkin dishes, pumpkin-growing tips and even more illustrations in it than before. Am also working on a companion piece of The Little Book of Halloween, a book devoted entirely to the topic of ghosts, spectres, apparitions and ghouls.

The illustration you see here is the first draft for a picture that will appear in my short story “Cooking with G Ramsey Beelzebub”, an adventure four little girls have when out trick-or-treating.

They come across a real witch and things take a turn for the worst from the moment they cross the witch’s threshold…pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere…shooting out of one of the little girls, when the children are magically transformed to become the costumes they are wearing for real. A little bit scary, a little bit funny, the story was written a few years ago for the grandchildren of a former colleague of mine. His grandkids and their friends loved it. Having put the story away for a long time, I looked at it again, worked it over to make it even better, and now it feels right for publication somehow. Hope the girls in question, who are now also a few years older, will like the story just as much now as they did then.

From The Little Book of Halloween

From The Little Book of Halloween

What else is in the book? A recipe for pumpkin soup, my very own, of course, and how to grow champion pumpkins without the help of witches. Have a great Halloween, everyone!

Hidden Gems of the City

on Tower Bridge

on Tower Bridge

Before I launch full-scale into major tourist attractions, I wanted to take you on a stroll down the River Thames towards the delightful village of Rotherhithe. We start off from Britain’s most recognisable attraction, Tower Bridge.

At either side of the River a fabulous promenade or river embankment allows people to admire the city from its best side, the Thames. When first entering Tower Bridge look out for staircases on either side, leading down to the river.

On Tower Bridge, looking towards The Tower and Tower Bridge Exhibition Building (to the right)

On Tower Bridge, looking towards The Tower and Tower Bridge Exhibition Building (to the right)

I walked down the steps that lead to the Tower, but before going there I turned left instead of righ, walking towards the restaurants and shops now occupying the former dockyards.

A new lease of life has been given to the erstwhile warehouses and docks that were once part of Port of London all along the Thames.

Now these lofts and condos exchange hands for well over a million pounds, but in earlier centuries they were nothing but industrial buildings and hovels for the desperately poor, those who worked in the docks and eeked out a living from scraps thrown away by others, by pick-pocketing and nefarious nocturnal activities.

Restaurants and cafes are clustered around Tower Bridge on this side of the Thames. I walked through an archway to investigate the possibility of a steaming cuppa on a windy day, when I came across these fantastic barges moored just outside Tower Bridge.

Thames "paddle steam" boat

Thames “paddle steam” boat

Copyright Maria ThermannThey are tourist cruise ships, obviously taking a Sunday afternoon rest here from ferrying chattering hordes of visitors.

Thames Houseboats St Saviours Dock

Thames Houseboats St Saviours Dock

Walking towards the even smarter housing development of St Saviour’s Dock one soon comes across a flotilla of house boats, some colourful and bohemian, others more like a floating suburban home that wouldn’t be out of place in Surbiton or Kingston.

Canada geese inspect house boat potential

Canada geese inspect house boot potential

Make no mistake, these are some of London’s most expensive dwellings, although the house boots moored at Chelsea are perhaps the better known floating homes, having in the past been sold to famous people like Damien Hirst (that awful man who thinks displaying dead calves is “art”).

Copyright Maria ThermannEven the small bridges and gangways that connect the various housing developments with the promenade sport an interesting architecture.

with every passing river cruiser these homes get buffeted by the waves, BOOM!

with every passing river cruiser these homes get buffeted by the waves, BOOM!

The Thames Path is well sign-posted and although it leaves the immediate proximity of the River at times to wind its way through charming mews housing developments, alongside parks and through former warehouse complexes now transformed into luxury apartments, the Thames Path never leaves the River for long and it’s not really possible to get lost.

St Saviour's Dock, Thames Embankment, London

St Saviour’s Dock, Thames Embankment, London

Copyright Maria ThermannEn route one comes across wonderful sculptures and statues such as this head at St Saviours Dock. At every turn there is something interesting to see. Plaques tell walkers where they are, what local communities are doing or who is being honoured with a plaque or statue and why. The whole thing has a real community feel about it and seems a great place to live. I can still feel the impact each wave made when hitting the moorings of the house boats, BOOM, the hiss of the spray of brown Thames water escaping over the sides of the embankment’s walls, sending careless walkers squealing and running for cover. I remember the scent of petrol from the passing cruise ships and the noise from the tour guides’s announcements over loudspeakers when recalling the history of the Thames. One day soon, all this will find its way into my writing…at another river setting, an imagined location but remembering one sweltering hot Sunday afternoon at the Thames. Perhaps the background for a murder mystery, a romantic interlude before the killer strikes!

Rotherhithe Church, Mayflower plaque

Rotherhithe Church, Mayflower plaque

Eventually one reaches a park, where the Thames Path suddenly seems to end in the church yard of Rotherhithe Village; it’s a delightful place and the appropriate spot for honouring the intrepid Rotherhithe citizens who sailed one fine day off into the unknown blue yonder on a wee ship called The Mayflower. Can’t remember what happened to her but yon American citizens might recall that part of the story….

Rotherhithe village

Rotherhithe village

Encircling the church and small churchyard are various 17th, 18th and 19th century houses – this one with the statues above the entrance caught my eye because it was adjacent to a cafe and small park. By now the weather was deteriorating and working itself up to a full-scale storm with thunder, lightning and torrential rain thrown in for good measure.

London's temperamental weather strikes again

London’s temperamental weather strikes again

Naturally, the village has all sorts of connections with the Thames’ staggering historical importance and various famous people stem from this part of London. A miniscule museum honours one of the world’s finest engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Voted as one of Britain’s 100 most important people ever, this extraordinary Victorian is responsible for the world’s first tunnel under a navigable river (the Thames Tunnel), the Great Western Railway, the first propeller-driven steamship that went across the Atlantic (1843), the Clifton Suspension Bridge and countless other famous structures, bridges and ships. Sadly, I didn’t have time to visit the Brunel Museum that day, but hope to do so in the next few weeks.

Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe Village

Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe Village

A typical English pub honours all those dockhands, tally-men and mariners who worked and drank (beer and gin mostly) at Rotherhithe Dock over the centuries. By an amazing co-incidence the pub is called The Mayflower – I wonder who thought of that one…

Pilgrims at Rotherhithe Village

Pilgrims at Rotherhithe Village

A look into the future

A look into the future

The Pilgrim's Pocket - plaque at the foot of the bronze sculpture

The Pilgrim’s Pocket – plaque at the foot of the bronze sculpture

Finally, before leaving the village of Rotherhithe one comes across this lovely threesome, a boy, his pilgrim father and their dog. Step onto the pedestal and take a peep into the pilgrim’s book, for the Mayflower pilgrims’ future is revealed in its pages, hence the pilgrim father’s bulging eyes!

Bye Bye Red Room

Princess_Victoria_and_Dash_by_George_HayterGloomy news for authors who have enjoyed the warm glow of the Red Room’s pages. With a short notification to all members Red Room’s cosy hearth fires were extinguished this week and the loud, cold brashness of Wattpad was announced, for Wattpad have acquired the Red Room.

The new owners immediately switched off the lights, put out the coals, and killed the Red Room’s purring literary cat, presumably to remind talented authors that their time in literature’s motherly embrace is over and the harsh reality of trashy novels and illiterate word-salad has arrived.

Wattpad is a site that can best be described as a bottomless pit of teenage angst and fan-girling giddiness with very few sparks of talent in sight among its members (at this point I’m quickly naming authors Michelle Barber and William Stadler among those talented highlights, before they send me an angry red raspberry via their WordPress blogs). Generally speaking: If you don’t write gushing books about Justin Bieber or other pop sensations, if you don’t like reading endless sexy scenarios of juvenile fan fiction dreams, Wattpad won’t really be for you.

During the few days that I was a member some months ago, I must have looked through about 150 groups of readers/writers on Wattpad; frankly, I didn’t discover a single group any self-respecting grown-up writer would wish to join and engage with.

Although I got a lot of reads/downloads for the stuff I uploaded, nobody left a single comment, which means no feedback that is constructive, if you have WIP you want advice on. People just press “like” buttons, if you’re lucky, but most readers just consume story after story for free without so much as bothering to press any of the Wattpad review buttons to at least let you know they liked what they read.

Eek! Is that a bottom feeder I spy with my little eye?

Eek! Is that a bottom feeder I spy with my little eye?

For the august literature gang assembled at Red Room to fall into such a black hole must be heart-breaking. Many authors have used the fantastic author pages and blogs they received with their Red Room membership to build up a solid fan base for their work over many years.

These were readers and talented, professional writers who left grown-up comments, constructive critiques, helpful advice – not “cor’ blime me, that was a corker/stinker of a story” or words to that effect. The author page one gets with Wattpad resembles a poorly constructed social media site – not the glorious author profile and blog the Red Room furnished their members with.

So yet another small but beautiful thing has been gobbled up by a big fat American fish that cruises the waters of literature and the world of reading with an unending appetite for Facebook contacts. A huge behemoth of a shark that’s hungry for authors’ connections, but essentially an eating machine that’s not very keen to regurgitate anything useful in return, making the world of literature the poorer for it.

Yep, you're right, it's a an ugly literary shark.

Yep, you’re right, it’s a an ugly literary shark.

When I dared to complain to the outgoing Red Room team, I got not one, but two defensive emails back, from two different senders no less.

Since the Red Room will close its door any moment now, any new emails from Wattpad will naturally go into my spam folder…which is also a Big Fat Bottom Feeder that gobbles up writing…the type of trash good authors and good readers don’t want to see.

Consider yourself pounced!

mopple tapping footQuietly and almost without me noticing, this blog has crept up to the 1,000th follower mark. In the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh’s friend Tigger: “Consider yourself pounced!”

Naturally, in the nicest possible way and with velveted paws. There may be the occasional outburst of excited whisker twitching and purring though, as I bounce around the room on the bounciest tail of all, with arms flung wide open to give all my lovely followers and WordPress readers a virtual hug. Thank you all for continuing to stop by and for putting up with my boring ramblings (as a person half my age told me a few days ago) and I promise I shall do better in the near future.

But now there’s time for bouncing and purring for two milestones were reached today:

  • this blog has increased in followers by staggering proportions and
  • some of the ebooks I recently uploaded to are now starting to appear at a variety of online outlets. Yay!

    Willow the Vampire series draws blood at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Thalia and Bookrix!

    Willow the Vampire series draws blood at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Thalia and Bookrix!

  • Author can't believe her luck...such lovely readers!

    Author can’t believe her luck…such lovely readers!

Finding the right Pitch

220px-HMCoSecondEdHobbitsThis blog is predominantly about location and what role location plays within our writing. However, location is also important when it comes to selling your book: namely where to start looking for readers and what slot in the market place your book might fit into. In other words, this post is about aiming at the right pitch so that author, literary agent/publisher and readers sing from the same hymn sheet:)

Time and again I read blog or Google+ posts where writers have written a book without determining FIRST who they are writing for. Now they are sitting on a doorstop of a novel and have no idea where it would fit into the book market. They bemoan in their blogs that they’ve had nothing but rejection letters and cannot think why their 140,000 epic can’t find a publisher or literary agent.

Their location problem is twofold:


Any publisher or literary agent will want to know what readership the manuscript is aiming at and would not take a writer seriously if they haven’t taken the time to acquire the most basic industry knowledge. If the writer can’t be bothered to concern herself with her potential readership BEFORE starting a book, why then should a literary agent or publisher spend their valuable time reading her manuscript? 240px-MaxMoritz

Ask yourself this:

Would you want to take a taxi ride with a driver who has never even looked at the street map of the city you’re in?

Would you want to buy shares in a company where the board of directors never bothered doing market research to discover who might actually buy their product?

If the answer is NO to both questions, then:-

Take time and trouble to make sure the story you are planning to write can be positioned correctly in the market place BEFORE you’re even outlining your plot. If you don’t get the readership issue sorted out first, you’re inviting trouble.

220px-Fairy_Tales_(Boston_Public_Library)Re-writes take much longer than getting it right in the first place. And that’s what a literary agent or publisher would ask you to do, if your story is essentially good and well written but doesn’t fit into any niche/genre or marketable slot. Always think of your book as a marketable product first, before considering how your friends and loved ones might look upon what you’ve written. An author is a seller of products – if you think your words are too precious to be changed to please your readers…get out of the publishing game!

A publisher or literary agent doesn’t want to waste time with lengthy re-writes, for it means getting editorial staff involved and that costs money. And books that weren’t written for a specific target audience will inevitably have to be rewritten.

12 notebook and pencilWhen you submit your story to a professional, you should be able to state clearly in the covering letter what type of reader your book is for, e.g. what age range are you aiming at? Will the book appeal to boys or girls, men or women, horror fans, sci-fi geeks or romance readers?

What other essential landmarks do you need to consider BEFORE writing your book?

Ask yourself this:

Are established children’s or YA writers addressing abstract issues in their best sellers?

Nope, they are not, for such subjects are firmly for adult book readers. Seasoned YA and children’s writers deal strictly with issues that children and young adults can relate to and understand.

Are best-selling children’s and YA writers presenting epic doorstops of 140,000 words to their young readers?

Nope, they know better than to irritate their precious pint-sized readers with such book lengths!

Think LITTLE HANDS…don’t like to hold HEAVY books. Children are conservative in their reading habits. Like me, they prefer their books to be tangible and physical not virtual. Forget about selling tons of e-books to wee readers. Kids love real books best. Quite right!

Astrid Lindgren wouldn't have made such a rookie mistake!

Astrid Lindgren wouldn’t have made such a rookie mistake!

The best location you can be at for your research is a children’s and YA book shop or the relevant section in your local library. What’s flying off the shelves? Who’s sticking their chocolate-covered nose into picture books and who is really hogging teen novels?


When you submit a manuscript the literary agent or publisher wants to find out what YOU are about as a writer. Nobody wants to work with a rank amateur who doesn’t want to spend the time doing even the most basic of research into marketing and promoting their book. Researching your potential readership is as essential to selling a book as writing a gripping story and having writing talent.

So at the risk of repeating myself:

If you’re currently gnawing your pencil with a big frown on your face, pondering if the 140,000 word epic fantasy novel you’ve written could possibly be promoted to a YA readership or even be squeezed into the children’s literature market, think again. How long is the average children’s or YA book? Well, it’s not 140,000 words, for that is an adult reader’s book length.

Age range 8 – 12 will tackle books with a max. word length of 80,000, which is the minimum requirement for an adult length novel for most publishers. So your 140,000 word epic should not be aimed at the children or YA market – if you must bother young readers with such an epic doorstop, then write it as two books of 70,000 words, each one a complete story in itself but marketable as a series of two. For younger age ranges storybook texts have typically no more than 600 – 1,000 words. And the 5 -7 age range will go up to around 10,000 words in books that still carry pictures.

Secondly, where should you pitch your book?

Don’t send out your manuscript willy-nilly to every publisher that crops up on your Twitter feed.

Take time to research the literary agents and publishers who deal in the genre or age group you want to write for.

Who do the agents represent?

The right pitch can be worth millions...

The right pitch can be worth millions…

If their portfolio contains authors who write similar books to yours, e.g. picture books or age group 8-12 or YA readers, then it’s a safe bet they’ll be interested in your manuscript.

If the majority of their authors are crime writers, non-fiction authors or romance novelists, don’t send in your YA manuscript. It seems so terribly obvious and yet, so many writers out there get this wrong. If the literary agents’ or publishers’ website says “we currently don’t accept submissions” – then DON’T bother these good people with your manuscript!

Send your manuscript only to those literary agents and publishers you have identified as relevant for your type of readership and who currently ask for submissions. You stand a far better chance of getting accepted and won’t get frustrated with zillions of rejections.

green bookBe sure to follow each and every submission guideline you are given by the individual literary agency or publisher and submit your manuscript EXACTLY as requested or you’ll end up at the bottom of the slush pile or worse, in the reject pile without being read at all.

(picture source Wikipedia; animation source

Am I too late for Spring Cleaning?

Willow the Vampire & Sacred Grove for Buchrix I’d been looking for ages through new WordPress themes to find the right new layout for Willow the Vampire’s blog site and now I’ve finally found it. Am still tweaking things, but it’s beginning to look much more like I wanted the site to look like in the first place, all those years ago when I first braved the world of blogging. It’s good to “spring clean” one’s blog from time to time, to think of new themes or perhaps to catch up with old ones that have been lying abandoned, but not forgotten, in the dusty drawers of one’s writer’s mind.

My latest WIP, The House Detective, is another of those semi-abandoned projects that I recently unearthed during a spring clean – and now I’m writing again, with chapter nine progressing nicely and with ideas for a second book. No doubt there are writers out there who are organised and can stick to one book project at a time, but I am a “fluttermole” who gets so many ideas that they have to wait their turn, get written as an outline and then shelved until the hamster wheel inside my head builds up enough momentum to spew out the next writing phase.

der kleine maulwurfAnd just like Mr Mole abandons his spring cleaning for going on adventures with Mr Badger, Mr Toad and Ratty the Great, my mind tends to stray into other imaginary worlds where my fictional heroes leave their current setting and have their big and small adventures somewhere else, before coming home and sheepishly finishing their “homework” with dull-old-me and the setting originally intended for them.

two big booksHaving started on this belated spring cleaning of my mind (and my dusty, coffee-stained laptop drawer), I have begun to prioritise the writing projects under the heading “bits with the greatest chance of commercial success”. Not that this has ever been a motivating factor in my writing before; I write mainly because I MUST or I’ll get carted off by men in hospital uniforms and bundled into their smelly white vans. But I feel that it’s time to bring some order into the chaos and since there has to be some heading with a number one, two, etc below, I might as well “follow the money trail” and see where this takes me. A writing friend of mine has been sending her book to various agents for the past couple of years, and after long deliberation I have decided to do the same. Will keep you posted on any rejection letters that are meaningful or entertaining:)

When was the last time you had a spring clean of your writing drawer? Did you unearth any gems?

Willow book cover1You can find Willow the Vampire’s shiny new blog here at WordPress: Stop by stop by and meet the residents of Stinkforth-upon-Avon. Be sure to take some garlic along or you might find yourself the main course at Willow’s dinner table.


(artwork copyright Maria Thermann; animation sourced from


Merry Christmas to Arthur, Merlin, Gandalf and all the other magical Pranksters

Till Eulenspiegel

Till Eulenspiegel (Photo credit: pipebär)

After watching the utterly amazing, epic and awe-inspiring The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last week, a movie directed by Peter Jackson and filmed in New Zealand, a country made for epic story-telling, I was once again reminded how important location is for writers to set a scene.

Just like Pierrefonds Castle became another character in the BBC’s Merlin series and J K Rowling’s Hogwarts was instrumental in luring us into Harry Potter’s magical world, the various locations Tolkien uses on Bilbo’s journey all signify different stages of the hobbit’s “inner” journey, showing us where young hobbit Bilbo’s at in his development to become a bona fide hero.

The opening sequences of the beautiful “shire”, where the hobbits live, are reminiscent of a brief and blissful time in Tolkien’s childhood. At dream-like Rivendale, where wise elves rule, Bilbo reaches adulthood, realising for the first time, there’s so much more to the world than just the little shire outside his own windows. However, the landscapes soon turn into a nightmarish labyrinth of inhospitable terrain, alternating between mysterious forests, bleak rocky deserts, harsh snow-capped mountain terrain where giants rage against one another and dark caves where cruel orks prowl. In other words, adulthood and the dangers all around us besiege our young hobbit – in Tolkien’s own life the arrival of a senseless world war put an end to the joys of his youth.

The Pinnsee lake near Mölln in Schleswig-Holst...

The Pinnsee lake near Mölln in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It also struck me how great authors can weave history, in particular “legendary” characters, into a tale without disrupting the fantasy world they have created. Merlin may or may not have spun his magic to impress guileless ancient Britons but he became the inspiration for Tolkien’s Gandalf and therefore we no longer care whether or not Merlin really lived.

King Arthur may or may not have fought at Camlin and in the process inspired every heroic sword-fighting battle scene ever written; dwarves may or may not have been famous miners throughout the medieval world, prompting countless tales of underground wealth, but in a carefully crafted fantasy story, real history and invented “historical” figures can blend successfully to draw on our combined cultural references and make us believe that all these legendary figures actually existed.

One such “legendary” character has fascinated me since childhood. On my father’s side of the family, people came from Mecklenburg and the Duchy of Lauenburg in Schleswig Holstein in Germany, where the medieval town of Mölln is another good example of how location and local historic characters make for a brilliant setting for a fantasy novel. The town was founded in the early 12th century and is another one of those medieval towns with a natural moat surrounding it.

Eulenspiegelmuseum Mölln

Eulenspiegelmuseum Mölln (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ring-fenced by several small lakes (to whit the States, Schulte, Ziegelsee, Hegesee, Schmalsee, Lütauer See, Drüsensee and Pinnsee) and traversed by the Elbe-Lübeck Canal, Mölln was once part of the famous Old Salt Route, on which salt produced in the salt mines of Lüneburg in Lower-Saxony was transported on horse-drawn carts to the Baltic Sea, namely to the harbour in my home town Lübeck.

While salt may be a cheap ingredient to flavour your chips today, it was once as valuable as gold and any town along the medieval Salt Route was as rich as a Middle Eastern oil state by modern standards. Hence the enormous number of monuments such as vast cathedrals and imposing town halls that can be found in relatively small towns like Mölln. Think Dubai architecture and more oil money than sense and you’ll get the medieval picture.

Although located in the middle of the Duchy of Lauenburg, medieval Mölln was mortgaged to the Free Hanseatic City of Lübeck, which legislated and ruled Mölln from 1359 to 1683 with an iron merchant fist.

However, the town’s most famous inhabitant is not a rich merchant or romantic highway robber attacking carts on the Old Salt Route but lowly Till Eulenspiegel, who wasn’t actually born there, but came to Mölln to “retire” from his duties as court jester, charlatan and medieval prankster.

Deutsch: Braunschweig: Detail des Till Eulensp...

Deutsch: Braunschweig: Detail des Till Eulenspiegel-Brunnens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Till Eulenspiegel reputedly lived in Brunswick (Braunschweig in Germany), before moving to Mölln, where he allegedly died of the plague in 1350. There is no actual proof he existed or even lived in Mölln, but throughout the centuries various documents appeared that related to him and today an entire museum is devoted to the antics of this medieval confidence trickster, juggler, comedian and irresistible charmer.

Till Eulenspiegel Mölln

Till Eulenspiegel Mölln (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout the town there are several statues commemorating his pranks and colourful life. Here are some Google pictures of the town:

Till’s career as a prankster reputedly flourished in the rich medieval merchant towns of Germany, the Low Countries (Flanders) and France. Today, most historians believe Eulenspiegel was just a literary figure that populated stories in medieval cities like Braunschweig, Cologne, Bremen, Marburg and Rostock – or indeed anywhere, where rich burghers had been the victim of a prankster and felt enraged enough to report such misdeeds to the authorities.

Such pranksters soon entered local folklore and if you can’t remember the name of the chap who pulled wool over your eyes and a purse out of your waistcoat, you might as well call him Eulenspiegel and pass the warning on to your wealthy friends.

Stroll through Mölln and wherever you look, you’ll see Till Eulenspiegel holding up his mirror, reminding us who we pretend to be and who we really are. In Welsh tradition those who master “the word” and can “read” people are deemed to be magicians or sorcerers like Gandalf or Merlin. The modern day equivalent are perhaps genius tricksters like Simon Baker’s The Mentalist, a man who solves crimes by noticing even the tiniest things about people, thus unmasking their real motives and manipulating them into revealing their guilt.

Deutsch: Eulenspiegel

Deutsch: Eulenspiegel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Till Eulenspiegel strikes me as just such a character, someone who knows instinctively where society is going wrong and what makes people tick. Interestingly, like the aforementioned sorcerers, Till uses communication to make fools of his contemporaries, although occasionally he can’t resist employing slapstick humour such as tricking a priest to voluntarily cover his hands with poo or by causing a medieval traffic jam with horse-drawn carts.

Despite historians telling us Till never existed, a gravestone emerged in the itinerary of one Fynes Moryson in 1591 that proclaimed in its epitaph Don’t move this stone, let that be clear – Eulenspiegel’s buried here” in Low German dialect – reminding us that Till is still a force to be reckoned with even after death. Or as Mulder and Scully would say…the truth is out there…and no matter how hard you try to cover up your misdeeds, eventually truth will bite you in the rear and your secrets will be outed.

Till’s practical jokes aimed to expose his contemporaries’ vices such as greed, hypocrisy and folly and in Till’s pranks, literally anything that can go wrong, when people communicate, does go wrong and with spectacularly funny results. Till is a master of communication, and acts as the intrinsic trigger, the unpredictable factor of complication that can throw any communication totally off course. I’ve always loved the list of his pranks that highlight our narrow-minded outlook on the world and show us how this outlook can be subverted and turned up-side-down: he reveals a universal truth to us…

…just like any gifted fantasy author would do.

Deutsch: „Eulenspiegel Gedenkstein“ an der Kir...

Deutsch: „Eulenspiegel Gedenkstein“ an der Kirche Sankt Nicolai in Mölln. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some Eulenspiegel Museum pictures and information on Till and the town of Mölln, where he reputedly died after playing his final prank on the priest who read him his last rights:

If your feet are aching as much as your credit card, perhaps it’s time to leave the shopping to somebody else and take a critical look in the mirror instead; why no adopt the Eulenspiegel view of Christmas and play a prank on your nearest and dearest?

Dear Word Press children, this year our stockings only appear to be empty…for Santa’s blessing us with the gift of “air”!





BBQed Sausages with a Side Order of Brothers Grimm

row of xmas housesFollowing on from my yuletide reminiscence yesterday I thought you might like to learn a little more about St Mary’s of Lübeck (Marienkirche), another of the city’s most recognisable emblems and the host of the fairy-tale forest for several decades.

While the Christmas Market is held by the City Hall and was first mentioned in 1648 in an official document, the fairy-tale forest by St Mary’s church is a 20th century addition to the overall yuletide festivities held in the city.

Constructed between 1250 and 1350, St Mary’s still ranks as Germany’s third largest church and its arrogant spires still look down on the scurrying shoppers and worshippers below, quite safe in the knowledge that no other building outshines them with regard to height or the affection they can command from the city’s inhabitants.

Larger than even than Lübeck Cathedral, St Mary’s plays host to many classical music recitals and has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage central cityscape since the 1980s.

As a Lutheran, protestant church, St Mary’s is quite unadorned inside, lacking the wealth of gold leaf and paintings Catholic churches display in abundance. Its magnificence lies in its architecture: at 38.5 meters (125 ft) St Mary’s boasts the highest brick vault in the world and the church’s towers, including the fetching weather vanes on its spires, measure 124.95 meters (406 ft) and 124.75 meters (405.5 ft) in height – not bad for early medieval builders, don’t you think?

Principle trading routes of the Hanseatic League

Principle trading routes of the Hanseatic League (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Situated in what was once the borough that housed the rich merchants of the Hanseatic League, St Mary’s close proximity to the City Hall and the main market square is not an accident.

As a Free City (a status acquired in 1226), Lübeck’s architecture had to reflect the wealth, power and influence of those who were not born with blue blood running through their veins but who’s enterprising spirit had prompted this small town to rise to predominance in Europe simply because of ingenious trade and shipping.

The charming fairy-tale forest I referred to yesterday was photographed by someone who kindly posted his pictures on Flickr:

The medieval market on the main market square by the Rathaus (City Hall) is a favourite of mine. here you’ll get umpteen different kinds of barbequed sausages in all shapes and sizes, find toffee apples and spiced gingerbread hearts, stalls with gorgeous wooden Christmas decorations handcrafted in Bohemia as well as mouth-blown baubles, each and every one a piece of art.

There are stalls selling liquorice, spices and leather goods, sheep’s pelts and warm socks, merchants offering yummy bread rolls filled with smoked delicacies like salmon, eel and halibut (my own particular favourite), stalls selling fresh coconut slices and hand-made jewellery, and if you get cold, why not buy a beaker of spiced, mulled wine with a shot of rum and take up position by one of the fire-cans, where you can defrost your toes and hands by a cheerful log fire?

480px-Église_Sainte-Marie_de_LübeckIf your feet are still cold, you can get hot under your muffler and bobble hat by taking to the dance floor. Medieval music is at hand thanks to students from Lübeck’s very own academy of music. There are zillions more markets with yuletide cheer, just look at the website (available in English) and plan your trip for next year (nearest airport is Hamburg-Lübeck, which is still being used by Ryanair, methinks).

Listing the main markets (English language site) :

Christmas market in St. Mary’s churchyard

28th Nov. – 23rd Dec.

daily 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.,

Fri./Sat. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Fairy-tale forest in St. Mary’s church courtyard

26th Nov. – 30th Dec.

Mo. – Sat. 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.,

closed 24th and 25th Dec.

450px-Germany_Luebeck_St_Mary_naveThe Maritime Christmas Market is a new thing and I haven’t visited that but it looks amazing. It’s being held in the former maritime district, which is located in the north-west of the historic city centre against the backdrop of St Jacob’s church, the Hogehus and the Seafarer’s Guild building (together they form part of the Koberg district). From the Rivers Trave and Wakenitz cogs used to sail out all over the Baltic and North Sea, trading with Russia, Scandinavia and all the areas that form today’s Baltic States.

xmas turkey and wineMaritime Christmas Market on the Koberg

26th Nov. – 30th Dec.

daily 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Fri./Sat. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.,

Fri. 30th Nov. 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. for late-night-shopping

24th Dec. 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., closed 25th Dec.

santa on horseWhen I was little my grandparents occasionally ran a sausage-grilling stall with some friends of theirs to make some extra money. Their stall was not located in the centre of town, but on the main site were all the large fairs are being held, a site that attracts several hundred thousand visitors each year. Should you visit the city and indulge in a few grilled Christmas sausages, spare a thought for the stall holders…it’s freezing cold standing there; while your eyes water thanks to the sausage smoke, your feet are screaming “frostbite, frostbite” all day long.

German Christmas markets are a great way to get a feel what medieval markets must have been like generally. If you’re a writer of medieval mysteries or write for children and plan a time-travelling adventure into the past, you could do worse than visit one of the many yuletide markets held all over Germany at this time of the year.

Homely Northern Castles (Part 4)

Nydam Boat, Gottorp Castle, Sleswig

Nydam Boat, Gottorp Castle, Sleswig (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No tour of homely Northern Castles would be complete without Schloss Gottorf located in my native Federal State of Schleswig Holstein in Germany.

It’s not a castle I’d use for the setting of one of my children’s books as it is too “new”, but Castle Gottorp as it is called in Low German is important for different reasons than its architecture and splendid interior.

Just like a person (it’s the inside that counts, not the gorgeous exterior) Castle Gottorp or Schloss Gottorf in the small town of Schleswig is a character with hidden depths. It is home to some of Germany’s most valuable historic collections and adjacent to one of Northern Europe’s most important archaeological sites.

English: View of the southern wing of Gottorp ...

English: View of the southern wing of Gottorp Castle, Schleswig, Germany Deutsch: Blick auf den Südflügel von Schloss Gottorf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Built originally as the ancestral home of the Holstein-Gottorp branch of the House of Oldenburg, a bunch of local aristos, the castle sits just 40 km from the rough Baltic Sea coast on an island in the Schlei, a river-cum-firth-cum-estuary of outstanding natural beauty.

The estate sprung to life in 1160 as home and imposing residence of Bishop Occo of Schleswig, another one of those all powerful bishops that couldn’t possibly live in a hovel like a good Christian , medieval monk-boy should have done at the time.

In 1268 the Danish Duke of Schleswig bought the whole estate but in 1340 the estate changed hands again, when Count of Holstein at Rendsburg acquired it (a member of the House of Schauenburg, another aristo branch hanging out by the Baltic Sea’s stormy coast, must be the lovely white sandy beaches that lure them there, I reckon. Perhaps somebody should have told them it’s always freezing cold up in Schleswig).

Eventually, after several generations and through inheritance the estate fell into the hands of Christian I of Denmark, who was the first Danish monarch to head the House of Oldenburg in 1459.

Nicodemus Tessin d.y. (1654-1728)

Nicodemus Tessin d.y. (1654-1728) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout the centuries the estate was enlarged and altered until it finally became the Gottorp we know today. Construction on the castle as seen today did not start until 1697 and the whole complex was finally completed in 1703 under the watchful eye of famous architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger (one of my favourite names…Nicodemus…perfect for a children’s mystery or horror story…also the name of Marian’s cat in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the Kevin Costner movie).

Like so many castles in Northern Germany, Castle Gottorf served as home to refugees and displaced persons for a number of years after WWII.

Just like Schloss Eutin (see earlier post), the restoration needed was considerable after such “misuse” and the works were not deemed complete until 1996, when the State Art and Cultural History Museum and the State Archaeological Museum moved in (see for pictures and if you speak German, there’s plenty of stuff on temporary exhibitions held at the Schloss).

Deutsch: Schloß Gottorf in Schleswig

I feel after 800 years of various uses the castle has finally found its calling: its museums are superb and offer great insight into the early dwellers of the region – particularly, as Castle Gottorp is THE place to go, when researching Vikings – important for my Willow the Vampire and the Sacred Grove novel as well as for Willow’s new adventure, which will still have Viking-related plot twists and turns, despite the fact that it’s partly set in the south of Germany, in the town of Würzburg, which couldn’t be less Viking and Nordic, if you showered it with Pretzel and Sauerkraut and shouted “Skol”.

Haithabu (known as Hedeby in English), located near the castle and island, is an amazing place. Once it was the largest trading post in the “south” for Scandinavian Vikings.

Map of Schloss Gottorf

Map of Schloss Gottorf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The many archaeological finds displayed in the castle museum and the separate Haithabu-exhibition show a lively and huge merchant settlement with “all the trimmings”, including walled fortifications. Over the last few years the museum has expanded its exhibits considerably, and now there are 7 Viking houses and a jetty, where visitors can experience what it must have been like to be part of this important community.

English: Iron axes and shield bosses from Nyda...

English: Iron axes and shield bosses from Nydam Mose, at Museum Schloss Gottorf, Schleswig, Germany Deutsch: Eiserne Axtköpfe und Schildbuckel aus dem Moorfund aus dem Nydam-Moor, im Archäologischen Landesmuseum Schloss Gottorf, Schleswig (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Denmark_0396 - Gottorp Celestial Glope,

Denmark_0396 – Gottorp Celestial Glope, (Photo credit: archer10 (Dennis))

Thanks to the Viking museum and the many finds that document what life was like 1,000 years ago in Northern Europe, Castle Gottorp ranks as one of Germany’s most important museums. While the site itself is inspiration for perhaps a dark age island adventure aimed at older children, the finds within the Haithabu museum offer a huge amount of inspiration for any number of stories – for children of all ages as well as for adult literature.

Viking Knit Bracelet

Viking Knit Bracelet (Photo credit: musicanys)

If you like writing medieval mysteries a la Ellis Peter’s Cadfael novels or Umberto Ecco’s The Name of the Rose, this is the place to come for research. The Viking corpses found in the local moors alone are worth a visit by any writer interested in historical fiction and a taste for the macabre!

The settlement at Haithabu was mentioned as a “very large town at the outer most end of the world’s ocean” by the Arabic chronicler Ibrahim ibn Ahmed At-Tartûschi in around 965, when he wrote about his northern travels. This one sentence sends shivers down my writer’s spine and I want to sit down and start a story in which Kirk Douglas type Vikings battle it out with sea monsters a la Jules Verne.

From Haithabu the Vikings traded with far flung places like Russia and Mongolia and with virtually all of western Europe. From here they established trade routes that centuries later were still in place, when Hanseatic League merchants hopped on board their ships from my home town Lübeck and set sail for Bergen, Riga and St. Petersburg.

Deutsch: Orgel in Schloss Gottorf

Deutsch: Orgel in Schloss Gottorf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Read more:

Fairy-tale Castle Wernigerode


My apology for not posting much lately, but life’s a little complicated at present. Having given up my room to a lovely young doctor from Germany, who has already invited me to stay with her and her husband in Berlin next year, I’m currently trying out my brand new camping equipment – living in a tent is hard work, when you’re not used to it! Haven’t done this since I was 21-years-old, which is a very long time ago…

I promise my Merlin fan fiction story will continue shortly – but just to get us back into the magical mood and fairy-tale settings:

Castle of Wernigerode in Winter, Shutter speed...

Having introduced you to the idea of pocket-sized castles, why not take a look at Schloss Wernigerode in the Harz Mountains of Germany? The nearest airport is at Leipzig, which is a great city and worth a few days of your time before you carry on your journey into the Harz Mountains.

From Leipzig take a train to Halle and change to the Wernigerode train there. Services are frequent and the whole journey takes only around 1.5 to 2 hours.

The Harz Mountain range is located roughly in the middle of Germany. At tourist hot-spot Wernigerode you’ll find not just the castle as the major attraction – the real star of the town is a genuine narrow gauge steam train that takes you up to the Brocken, the summit where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe set his witches’ celebration in Faust.

Train heading towards the Brocken on the Harz ...

Train heading towards the Brocken on the Harz Railway near Drei Annen Hohne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wooden witch-dolls, plastic witches, witches on brooms and smiley witches without brooms but clutching black cats…they are everywhere. Walpurgisnacht, as the magical dance and merriment is called in German, is celebrated on the 31st October…and the witches have their party on the Brocken mountain…you see, I’m giving you just enough time to organise your trip, if you’re a real life witch or wizard.

The Wernigerode line of the steam train connects up to Eisfelder Talmühle, where another choo-choo train can be boarded to take you to stunning Quedlinburg, UNCESCO World Heritage Site and stuffed to the gills with half-timbered houses lining the cobbled streets and market place.

Wernigerode, once you’ve made your way from the little train station through the modern residential part into the town centre, isn’t lacking in half-timbered houses either. Its towered Rathaus (Town Hall) dates back to 1277, although it sprang to life as a much more fun place, a theatre. Note the 33 figurines which, rumour has it, depict worthy towns-folk of the time.

Wernigerode (Harz)

Wernigerode (Harz) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

View from Castle of Wernigerode over the city ...

View from Castle of Wernigerode over the city to mount Brocken in Winter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The town hall you see today bears more resemblance to 16th century, late gothic architecture, but is lovely all the same. Wherever you go, there are amazingly beautiful houses, secret little backyards, cobbled streets and more timber-framed houses.

The so called "Brockenbahn" (Brocken...

The castle dates back to the 12th century and has not just been lovingly restored but also much expanded. You can stay in a B & B in the castle complex; if I remember it’s around EUR 45.00 – EUR 50.00 per night including breakfast.

The castle contains a museum as well as much original furniture and paintings, which are used to furnish and decorate the castle as if it were a family home. The Festsaal, or ballroom, is utterly splendid and if you’re a girl, you can just see yourself twirling around in a Vienna waltz with your whiskered beau. From the courtyard there are the most marvellous views over most of the town. Children are treated to fairy-tale readings by a roaring fire and the whole place is simply magical.

Wernigerode (Harz)

Wernigerode in Saxony-Anhalt serves as a gateway into a large part of the eastern part of the Harz Mountain range.

Right next to the station is a sizeable bus terminal from where regular buses leave for the historic towns of Blankenburg and Thale as well as for the Drei Annen Hohne and Schierke, which are both villages at the very edge of the wonderful Hochharz National Park, an area of truly outstanding natural beauty, where you can observe much interesting local wildlife.

Once or twice a week there’s a market being held in the heart of Wernigerode, where they sell the usual fried sausages and various local delicatessens as well as your weekly groceries, if you’re staying in self-catering accommodation.

For lots of great pictures of the castle, please visit their website at On the home page go to the left hand column and click on the 5th entry down “Bildergalerie”…and for even more pictures of some of the events being staged at the castle, click on the last but one entry down in the left hand column “Märchenhafte Impressionen”; when the page opens up, just click on the blue entries.

Wernigerode (Harz)

Other interesting places to visit in the town are Das Kleinste Haus, a miniscule house that somebody actually used to live in and the Harzmuseum Wernigerode, which has all sorts of interesting exhibits about the eastern Harz and the town.

There’s also the Museum for Aviation and Technology (Museum für Luftfahrt und Technik) and the windmill museum (Mühlenmuseum und Galerie im Kornboden) and, if like me you like all things glass blowing, there’s also the glass blowing workshop and factory at Glasmanufaktur Harzkristall to admire.

Useful websites:, where you’ll find information on the town and the museum as well as accommodation details.

Summit of the Brocken, seen from Torfhaus (5 km)

Summit of the Brocken, seen from Torfhaus (5 km) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Information on the narrow-gauge steam trains can be found under HSB stands for Harzer Schmalspur-Bahnen GmbH, the company running the little trains. The train tickets are expensive, but worth every cent. At the bus terminal the bus ticket office is located directly opposite.

Wernigerode (Harz)

So, what are you waiting for? The Harz is great in the autumn; dust off your hiking boots or hire a mountain bike, when you get there or simply sit in the Konditorei and Cafe am Markt, munch a slice of yummy cake and observe the hustle and bustle of this little market town, now that the majority of tourists have gone home…by the way, you’ll have to be relatively fit to get up to the castle, it’s a steep 15 minute climb, but sooooooo worth it!

Schloss Wernigerode is just the right type of castle to give children’s writers lots of inspiration – the type of castle an “average” knight and his family might have occupied. Not too ostentatious, not too large and not too “fortressy” – the kind of castle where a local princess might be waking up every morning, greet the day with a big yawn and throw open the window of her turret to look out for any passing princeling worth a kiss or two.

(source of photographs is Wikipedia, source of animation:


Leipzig – Penguins are optional

For those of you who visited this blog before and are now puzzled by its new colour and design, I’d like to explain how my last rant about living in Cardiff prompted me to take a look at this much neglected blog and do something with it.

When I started this blog I was a complete novice to blogging and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to divulge about my writing and my life. Now that my blog is up and running and Willow’s first novel is out as paperback edition and digital version on Kindle, I can finally sit down and re-think what to do with this blog.

It struck me how my writing – or rather my writing mood – is influenced by the places and surroundings I find myself in. Here in Cardiff, where it’s noisy and where the Grunters of this world make life difficult, I’m far less inclined to be creative than I was while travelling in Germany or the Czech Republic for example. Speaking of the Grunters – as one final twist to the tale if you like – one of these wretched Grunters turned up ringing my doorbell yesterday…had I seen his post?

Of all the nerve! No apology, no sorry for having been such a nuisance! Nope, no matter how often I told him there had been no post for him, he kept pestering me about it, until I put an end to the conversation and shut the door in his face. At which point I heard him swearing outside, calling me names. Welcome to Wales to you, too, Mr Grunter!

While living in Cardiff is having a negative impact on my creative output of drawings and various writing projects, staying in many different German cities and also in Prague had the opposite effect. I found myself constantly scribbling into the little notebook that I keep on me at all times – there are notes for sequels to books I haven’t even started writing, yet!

The penguins floating around in the blog header are there to remind me that one day I shall be back living in Leipzig, where a lovely quiet apartment awaits my return. Leipzig Zoo, where these little swimming aces have their home, was founded in 1878 and has since then undergone huge changes. Its most recent newcomer is the amazing Gondwanaland, where three continents are crammed together under one gigantic vaulted ceiling.

The enormous Gondwanaland glass dome houses the tropical rain forest habitats of Africa, Asia and South America with more than 40 exotic types of animals and 500 different trees and plants. Visitors can walk on wooden walkways through this man-made jungle or take a boat for a trip on the artificial river Gamanil.

Gondwanaland shows the world as it was millions of years ago, before one gigantic landmass broke up and split into different continents. Living fossils, animals that have survived evolutionary changes and natural disasters since Gondwanaland reigned on Earth, are displayed in an amazing array of terrestrial enclosures, aquarium-style tanks and in the river. Outside of Gondwanaland the zoo has geographical zones where animals from around the world are strutting their stuff in habitats resembling their natural ones.

These penguins reside on Penguin Island and have their own dishy human who plays with them, feeds them fish and talks about them two or three times a day to zoo visitors. The two Pingu girls and boys up in the blog header were taking their early morning swim, when I took this picture. Just a little exercise before the nice young man with the breakfast sardines arrives!

No matter what the Grunters of this world get up to in the meantime, I shall look forward to the day when I can say Hello to the Leipzig penguins again…until then I shall dream of a veritable maelstrom of creativity resulting from my move across the Channel.

Living backwards

Yesterday a friend  sent me pictures of her first snowman in 26 years. A little snow and I’m off to childhood days. In November I celebrated my 49th birthday. Today I’m just ten-years-old, hurtling down a hill, racing my sleigh against the other youngsters.

Walking through the forest, I find myself jumping into snow drifts, delighting in the powdery snow sticking to my trouser legs, creeping into my boots. Upon reaching the mountain top, I look over the white valley spreading out in front of me like a princess surveying her frozen kingdom. Half timbered houses dream suspended in time, feeble sunshine lights up trees and paints them in gold. Have I jumped into the middle of a Brother’s Grimm fairy tale?  The absence of colour seems to sharpen my perception of the world around me. Is that a little red choo-choo train racing across the horizon? Are those tiny yellow dots Mrs. Windmüller’s labradors?

I let myself fall into a slice of virgin snow and lie there spreadeagled, wondering where my skating boots have got to. When I was eight, I stayed out until dark,  pirouetting like a weightless balerina on a black lake.  Every sound around me seems magnified now. Birds tweeting, a dog barking at a neighbouring farm, the baker’s van driving through the village below. To hell with adult concerns like mortgages, unemployment, world politics and mountains of ironing to be done. There’s a frozen river down there and I’m itching to show off my skating skills.

I re-emerge into my 49th year round about the time when I slip crossing the road and land on my bottom. Squealing kids, mothers hide a smile behind their gloved hands, a bus driver gives me a friendly wave. Did that dog just grin back at me?

My knees creak, my back hurts, my fingers are frozen and I need to pee. Yep, I’m safely back in middle-age, where I belong. It was nice to take a little holiday.