Cunning little Vixen

Master of Foxhunt Book Cover with Title and Author NameThose of you who are following my Stories from the Hearth blog site may have already seen that I have just published another book. “Master of the Foxhunt” is suitable for readers aged 12+. It’s an old-fashioned ghost story that had been bubbling away in my writing cauldron for several years until it suddenly boiled over from a short story idea to become a full blown novella with ca. 56,000 words. What’s it about? Here’s the official book blurb:

“Maria Thermann’s novella is a traditional Victorian ghost story with a spoonful of romance thrown in for good measure. Set towards the end of the 19th century in the fictional county of Oxtailshire, the novella takes a humerous look at the genre and hopes to entertain, rather than scare readers.

Furious about his son’s choice of wife and occupation, Sir Hubert Tulking, life-long enthusiastic hunter of foxes, decides to take drastic measures, when his son Allan returns to England to introduce his American actress wife to the county set. The brazen fortune seeker must die! Just one minor problem: Sir Hubert isn’t exactly in a position to wring the lady’s neck…for he himself died a year ago in a riding accident. How can a ghost exact vengeance? Sir Hubert leaves no stone – or ancient book – unturned to find an answer!

Still grieving over the death of his young wife, Roderick, Marquess of Tumbleweed, throws himself into his work and follows his passion: fox hunting. He runs a successful Hunt from his estate, but fails to engage on a personal level with anyone other than his childhood friend Sir Alan Tulking. Even lonelier after his friend departs for Broadway and the career of playwright, Roderick is delighted when Sir Allan announces his return, but horrified when he discovers a ghost is out to destroy his friend’s new-found happiness. Will Roderick be in time to save the new Lady Tulking from a gruesome death at the ghostly hands of Sir Hubert?

Matters are complicated even more, when Roderick finds himself pursued romantically by author Beatrice, who won’t stop at nothing to ensnare Roderick and promote her new novel at the same time. She’s one cunning little vixen and the Marquess of Tumbleweed had better watch out or the Master of the Foxhunt will become the prey.

Whatever happens, rest assured, the foxes will have the upper paw in the end – for those who call causing the suffering of animals “sport” deserve all they get!”

rider and beaglesWhere can you get this delicious slice of romantic Victoriana in time for Valentine’s Day?

It’s out at various ebook stores, incuding Kindle, Kobo, GooglePlay, Barnes & Noble. Will shortly be publishing it via Scribd(dot)com as well: ISBN: 978-3-7396-3465-4

 

Victorian lady riderHere’s the sales link for iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/master-of-the-foxhunt/id1080939714?mt=11

How the story came about and what inspired both story and book cover you can discover on my Stories from the Hearth blog: the most recent blog post explains the Landscapes of my Mind!

 

 

Yuletide Greetings from Vampires

small christmas tree surrouned by moving train setWillow the Vampire, her friends Darren and Felicity are keen to extend their Yuletide greetings to all their friends, so have yourselves a merry, bloodless Christmas and savour every bite (says Willow).

If I get a chance to finish The Little Book of Ghosts, I will upload it before the New Year – there’s just so much interesting stuff to include, it’s hard to know what to leave out…

For example, there’s the Victorian plasterer, a grumpy man who wouldn’t listen to his landlady’s advice, went out in his white garb and got himself killed by an angry, and very scared, mob because they thought he was one of the ghosts who had caused nocturnal mischief for a while on London’s spooky streets…

Then there are all those wonderful folk legends from Russia, Scandinavia, not to mention Japan, which seems to have more creepy ghosts and demons than all of Europe put together. And don’t get me started on India, what a fascinating place for creatures of the dark…

 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

 

The Little Book of Ghosts

Copyright Maria ThermannWhat’s it about? A while back I decided to start a whole series of books on “creatures of the night” and, as a life-long devotee of ghost stories, I began the series with “The Little Book of Halloween” and “The Little Book of Ghosts”. The concept is to present a blend of 70% non-fiction and 30% fiction, with fun and educational facts about the main topic, followed by two or three short stories inspired by the creature of the night or paranormal/supernatural topic.

I’m not applying the concept of the 70/30% split too rigidly. “The Little Book of Halloween” for example has only two longer short stories, while “The Little Book of Ghosts” will have 3 shorter short stories (around 2,000 words each).

I wanted to inject something of “myself”, or rather my cultural background into each book, so there will be stuff on Germany’s haunted houses and German folk tales about ghosts. There are mainly stories that originated in the North of Germany, most notably in my home town Luebeck, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and birth place of the Hanseatic League that dominated European trade in the Middle Ages.

Copyright Maria ThermannThe Halloween-related book will have many fun facts about pumpkin growing competitions in Germany and what German children say when they knock on doors with their version of “trick or treat”. Naturally, there will also be pumpkin-growing tips and pumpkin-related recipes, as well as general information about the origins of Halloween and what people got up to centuries ago on the night of All Hallows Eve. Halloween wasn’t celebrated at all in Germany, when I grew up there. It wasn’t until the mid-1990’s that this fun autumn festival gripped the nation and is now celebrated widely across Germany. There will also be a brief overview of the creatures of the night that people most commonly dress up as.

What about vampires and werewolves I hear you cry! Don’t they deserve a  book all of their own? Of course they do! Willow the Vampire and her brand new sister Flora Fangs would never forgive me, if their species were to be left out.

Already, I am collecting fun facts about vampires, real ones (fleas!) and supernatural ones, for a future book, which as you may have guessed, will be “The Little Book of Vampires”. Next up in the series is then “The Little Book of Witches”, which should be amazing, since I found a huge amount on witchcraft, witch hunts and trials, not to mention witch museums in haunted castles where the ghosts of murdered women won’t let anyone visit for fear they might end up also being tortured and burned as witcheCovere for Vampire Blind Dates!

I am also working on an ebook with a collection of short stories aimed at an older audience. It’s entitled “Love at First Bite”; a while back I answered the call of a Bookrix.com member for competition entries and, as the theme was “first date with a vampire”, I wrote a short story about a blind date between a vampire and a human. It was so much fun that I thought, why not create a whole book of this, each story based on a different deadly critter?

If you want to read the vampire story, which is set in London in the 1920’s, you need to sign up (for free) to Bookrix, where I’ll be gradually adding to the ebook I have created for the “Love at First Bite” short story. It’s a free download for Bookrix members.

So there, that’s my update.  Am still working away in the background on the second “Willow the Vampire” book, but as I didn’t like the first 4 chapters I’d written some time ago, it looks like I’m having to start afresh. Maybe I’ll turn the stuff I’ve written so far into a short story instead, so it won’t be wasted time. If only we had days with 48 hours in them to get all these projects done…

 

 

Freddy digs for Victory

Since Freddy the Ferret and I shared a tent last autumn, the little albino rascal has been very busy. As soon as the weather got warmer and the ground was no longer frozen, Freddy embarked on major excavation works to create his very own network of escape tunnels under and next to the shelter I had built for him.

I didn’t know anything about ferrets, when Freddy invaded my tent, apart from the two facts most people know, namely that

a) ferrets bite

b) male ferrets spray everything and are quite stinky as a result

Ferrets have poor eyesight apparently, which explains why Freddy bit heartily into my feet, the moment I had taken my boots off. Either he mistook my toes for juice snails or the smell of my swollen feet offended him to such an extent, he had no choice but to sink his teeth into my flesh. As ferrets have needle-sharp fangs, the wounds were quite deep and rather painful. Shame on you, little fluff ball, biting the foot that belongs to the person who feeds you!

I haven’t seen the little rascal for a while, but I know he’s still occupying the shelter, because everytime I go to leave some food, new excavations have been carried out, mounts of fresh soil are piled up next to the shelter’s entrance and I can see an oblong outline in the freshly dug soil, which looks remarkably like one sleepy ferret dozing in the mid-day sun.

Ferrets are not strictly speaking nocturnal – I know, this blog is supposed to deal only with creatures of the night, but we’re making an exception for this particular example of wildlife, shall we?

Freddy does pop out of the shelter a couple of times during the night, probably to go to the toilet and to snatch a few worms on the way back. He is far more active at dusk and at dawn, sleeping around 20 hours a day in the interval. Although Freddy must at some point have belonged to some human, he is quite fierce, now that he’s been living free for a while. I always watch my fingers, when I carefully push a new container with raw meat into the opening of his shelter. Since Freddy wasn’t a wild ferret to start off with, he’s never learned to hunt for mice or other rodents. Not sure he’s figured out how yet, but he’s certainly thriving, or the tunnel work wouldn’t progress to the extent it has over the last couple of months.

Freddy the Ferret goes on Holiday

Kingsgate cliffs, Kentish coast

Kingsgate cliffs, Kentish coast

Of all the bizarre things that have happened to me over the years, when I’ve been travelling, the following incident was not one this writer’s mind could ever have imagined. Last autumn, when I couldn’t find anywhere to stay in a hostel or camping ground, I decided to pitch my little tent in the wild for a night.

The temperatures that night began to plummet and it was suddenly bitterly cold. It was early in the evening, but utterly dark and I was about to snuggle into my warming covers, when suddenly some creature made a determined assault on one side of my tent, trying to burrow its way underneath and through the tent’s bottom. Bevor long, my tent was invaded by what I thought in my panic was a huge rat. I’d dropped by torch, so couldn’t at first find the creature, but when its red eyes finally flashed up in my torchlight, I discovered to my utter amazement that my tent had been invaded by an albino ferret!

After an epic battle that lasted more than an hour, I gave up trying to evict the ferret. By now it was quite late and there was no way I could find accommodation anywhere else. Since I wouldn’t survive a night out – and the ferret wouldn’t either – we had to make the best of things and SHARE a sleeping bag and covers. The ferret was obviously used to human contact, which is why it had sought me out in the first place. My theory is that some homeless person use to look after little Freddy the Ferret, but lost him some day in the dark woods and undergrowth. Now Freddy, as I promptly named the little intruder, was quite content to make a new holiday acquaintance – ME!

Eyes glowing in the dark...Since then, I’ve been keeping an eye on him, supplying him with food throughout the winter, since no animal shelter would take a half-wild, feral ferret on the run from authorities. He seems to be thriving so far and has taken over the shelter I built for him with relish, snuggling into an old duvet every day at dawn, after a couple of hours of activity.

Willow in 300 Words

small girl aloneI haven’t had a chance to publish my books on Neobooks or epubli yet, but will do so this week and let you now how easy it is. But now for my next Willow project:

For a while now I’ve wanted to write Willow stories suitable for a picture book, little snippets of Willow’s life before she arrived in Stinkforth-upon-Avon. These stories are for a younger age range of readers than my Willow stories would normally target. So here’s the first of Willow stories in 300 words or less. I hope you’ll enjoy it. I plan to eventually publish a collection of these as either a regular book or as a flipbook online, if I can get to grips with the techie aspect of putting it together that way.

©Maria Thermann 14.07.2014

Small and Alone

Small and alone, Willow watched her mother and wondered when she would see her next. It was time to say goodbye again. With her mind already on the wider world, out for her next kill, Alice took little notice of her 8-year-old daughter. Alice was a mother, but first and foremost she was a vampire. She was too busy packing her suitcase to sense the tears brimming up in Willow’s eyes. Too busy thinking about the streets of London, where people went missing every day. The trembling throats she would bite; the food she would bring home to her family.

Small and alone, Willow walked over to the window and watched the taxi take her mother away. She tried to count on the fingers of her hands how often they had said goodbye this year. In a moment, some stranger would walk through the door and smile, trying to take her hand and tell her that everything was alright. But it wasn’t alright.

Aunty Verushka was from Russia and rolled her “R’s” in the most frightening way. When she spoke, it always sounded like a snarl. She wasn’t very popular. Willow practiced her “happy face” and squared her shoulders. Now she was ready for Aunty Verushka, ready for child minder number 503.

Small and alone, Aunty Verushka stood on the porch and waved Alice goodbye. She squared her shoulders, practiced her “happy face” and went inside. Now she was ready to face the little girl with tears in her eyes. The little girl, who needed a hug from her mother, just like Verushka needed a hug from hers.

Small and alone, the grandfather clock ticking in a corner, the two faced each other. It was going to be a long week, Willow sighed at last and held out her hand.

©Maria Thermann 14.07.2014. All rights reserved by the artist.

 

(picture source: Wikepedia,Taylor and Moulana, authors. English: Portrait of the Colquhoun children of Lake Clarendon, early 1900s Two girls and a boy from the Colquhoun family of Lake Clarendon, ca. 1900-1910. The girls are wearing smocked dresses and the boy is wearing pants and a shirt with a crocheted collar. The youngest child is seated, and the boy has his arm around her shoulder. The portrait was taken by Taylor and Moulana, Brisbane and Ipswich. Date between 1900 and 1910; Source Item is held by John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vampire masters eBook Technology with minimum Bloodletting

Iconic scene from F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu, 1922 A screenshot of the 1922 film, Nosferatu. Though the film is in the public domain in the US, It is not in the public domain outside of US (and its origin). License details Public domain in the United States, likely copyrighted in Germany until at least 2029.

Iconic scene from F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, 1922

Over on Maria Thermann’s blog I’ve just explained my heroic efforts of dealing with uploading my ebook text into the Bookrix template – so this gives me the perfect opportunity to tell all of you creatures of the night out there what to watch out for when using your own artwork or book cover design for publishing an ebook via Bookrix.

I chose to create my own artwork for Willow the Vampire’s various adventures but this meant that Bookrix’s own logo and the tag line I wanted to insert were causing a multitude of problems.

If you are not choosing from one of their own royalty free templates, it best to use option 2 (upper left hand side of the upload screen), which allows you to upload and insert your own picture/artwork and insert the text via Bookrix text boxes. It also allows you to unclick the Bookrix logo and their book category, so these won’t appear on your book any longer once unclicked.

You are given lots of different font, colour and size choices for your title, tag line and author name but each will always appear in the dead centre of the part of the cover where you place your text box, which can be a nuisance if your artwork just happens to be a face – people who write their memoires will probably be cursing the No. 2 option.

For best results your design should have 3 areas that are fairly uni-coloured, so the text of the title, author name and tag line, if using, stands out as much as possible and isn’t obscured by the photo or artwork in the background. Anything preventing the reader who searches for ebooks to decipher what it says on the cover may throw your book out with distrubtion channels (Amazon, Google etc).

Placing the tag line on the Willow the Vampire & the Sacred Grove cover was a nightmare, because no matter what text colour I chose, it never stood out well against the background colours.

This is approximately what I ended up with: WTV sacred grove cover for scribd kindle amazonSo I’ll now have to change the cover on Amazon & Kindle & Scribd.com to match all of them to the Bookrix cover. It’s not the cover I’d hoped for but hey, I know better for next time.

And herewith I have now addressed a young reader’s – Miss Baethge – concern, namely that my last blog post didn’t contain the links for the ebooks I had uploaded on Bookrix.  I simply hadn’t received them then. Just click on the book title in the paragraph above and it will take you to the sales page, so you can have a look at how your ebook might be displayed to people who have not signed up to Bookrix but could potentially buy your book. It’s free to join Bookrix.

Within the community, once you’re a member, authors can join groups like they would on Goodreads and have discussions, promote their work, get advice etc. I’m really chuffed with the author page I got, which was easy to set up and looks amazing. It comes complete with a blog that allows authors and readers to communicate. Again, this was totally free.

The other two ebook links for Willow’s adventures are:

http://www.bookrix.com/_ebook-maria-thermann-to-hell-with-bloodsuckers/

and

http://www.bookrix.com/_ebook-maria-thermann-an-embarrassment-of-witches/

It is entirely free to publish ebooks, you get an ISBN number without any upfront cost and as long as you ignore their “if your book is ready upload the whole file” option and copy and paste instead into their “editorial template”, the second option on the upload page, you should get your book out there in no time. I’ve explained this in more detail on my Maria Thermann blog.

Description: The Vampire. 1893. Edvard Munch. Munch Museum at Oslo. xfgxdtjh

Description: The Vampire. 1893. Edvard Munch. Munch Museum at Oslo. xfgxdtjh

Distribution with some of the bigger ebook sellers can take up to two weeks before your ebook is listed, so my next post should contain the links to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple iBookstore, Thalia, Google etc and I will update the Willow front page for this blog at that point – to have a coherent promotional approach, according to the Bookrix promotion guide I was sent for free.

A word of warning: if the layout of your book’s manuscript or your spelling and grammar leave a lot to be desired, you won’t be published and the Bookrix team will reject your book; you must revise it before trying again.

You can also upload books without selling them, making them available for free, which is what I have done to whet readers’ appetite for Willow’s adventures. It’s a single short story published as a book.

 

(Willow the Vampire book cover artwork copyright Maria Thermann, all rights reserved; source of pictures: Wikipedia; please note:

F.W. Murnau – screen capture around the 1hr 19min mark; a screenshot of the 1922 film, Nosferatu. Though the film is in the public domain in the US, It is not in the public domain outside of US (and its origin). License details: Public domain in the United States, likely copyrighted in Germany until at least 2029)