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!

 

 

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For my next Publishing Adventure I’m heading to

Vampire-bats-animated…Neobooks(dot)com, which is affiliated to one of Germany’s most respected publishers.

Unfortunately, the site doesn’t seem to be available in English, which will cause problems for the non-German language indie authors among you, but when I emailed Neobooks a while back they assured me they do support literature of other languages and they do accept authors from other countries.

Your book will not just be listed and sold by the biggest ebook retailers in the world – including Amazon.de, Buch.de, Kobo, Der Club/Bertelsmann, Buecher.de, Google Play, Ciando.de and Apple iTunes – but will also cover the entire German-language book market, as they sell into Switzerland and Austria also.

These are the heavy-weights of ebook sellers in Europe, so if you’re thinking of publishing your vampire, fantasy or non-fiction book on bats as an indie author, don’t be put off by the German language aspect of it. All of these retailers sell English language books.
Covers: According to the blurb on the site, it looks easy to upload cover designs (which need to be 1,400 pixels wide min).

Text: All headings for chapters must be set to Header 1/Header 2 etc in order for them to translate properly into epub readers apparently – now would it not have been nice for other ebook publishers to tell us that? Grrr. Don’t bother adding one of those stupid “floating” tables of contents either, Neobooks do that apparently.

The difference between publishing with Neobooks and say, Amazon Kindle or Bookrix, is that at Neobooks authors can go straight into a daily “most liked/most read” type competition that could easily bag them a traditional publishing contract with Droemer Knaur Verlagsgruppe, which incidentally is working in cooperation with Rohwolt Verlag on this venture. These are two of Germany’s, and therefore Europe’s, most prominent, respected and powerful publishers of fiction and non-fiction. They feature heavily at all the big book fairs, inc. Frankfurt Book Fair and New York’s book fair.

And the partner list of Neobooks also makes for impressive reading: Leipzig Buchmesse (Leipzig Book Fair) is only one of THE biggest book fairs in the world and I think the second largest in Germany after Frankfurt Buchmesse. ZDF stands for one of Germany’s largest and most prominent TV channels. I don’t have to explain to magazine readers or men and women of the WordPress world who or what Stern.de stands for, do I?

werewolf-under-full-moonIf Neobooks accept your manuscript on their site for ebook publication and you put the time in to promote your book/s, you stand a good chance of not only making book sales but getting proper literary respect from your peers, publishers, readers and critics. They have nurtured a large number of authors who since then have become bestsellers.

The site encourages reviews and acts as a useful resource with lots of excellent tips how to protect your work. If you were looking for an outlet for your translated manuscript, this could be the one for you; you’ll just need to borrow/hire a German speaker to help you with the set-up and upload.

I’ll report back when it’s done. Incidentally, all my uploads into Bookrix (dot)com have now been made available at the retailers they work with. It took about a week, no more, before all was up for sale. Pretty good, bearing in mind that with traditional print publishers it can take up to 2 years before a book sees the light of day. Please stop by to leave a review if you’ve got the time…and give us a howl, if you cannot make sense out of uploading with Bookrix.

Happy writing everyone!

 

(source of animation: heathersanimations.com)

Faeries, Faeries, quite contrary

flying pixie manDuring research for one of my WIPs I came across this lovely book “Faeries, Elves and Goblins – The Old Stories” by Rosalind Kerven, a National Trust book published under their Folklore banner. It not only has beautiful illustrations by Arthur Rackham and other acclaimed artists but also contains a very interesting collection of stories and a wealth of information about the Little People living under hills, in meadows and ancient groves.

I had never realised how wicked some faeries, goblins and elves could be – just read King Herla’s story or the plight of poor farm boy Tom Tiver, when he meets goblin Yallery Brown, and you’ll know what I mean!

Not all of these nightly creatures are wicked though and some are rather helpful to humans, provided said men, women and children are deserving of their magical interference. I also didn’t know how many different kinds of faeries existed in the folklore catalogue of mythical creatures populating the British Isles – there’s a veritable legion of them.

fairy on islandThanks to J K Rowling we all know about Cornish Pixies, and if you aren’t friends with Hermione Granger it’s probably not a good idea to invite a Cornish Pixie into your house for tea. But did you know there were pixie populations in Devon and Somerset, too? Would a Devon Pixie have a different accent than a Cornish one? Would a Somerset Pixie offer you a pint of scrumpy if you asked nicely?

Do you know what a Greenie or Grey Neighbour is or have you ever come across Henkies, Hobs or Hogmen before?

Hands up, who’s heard of Phynnodderees, Portunes or Trows? Ever come across the Siofra, Spriggans or Grogachs after a particularly boozy night out?

I’m especially intrigued by the stories that mention faerie folk living under hills and mountains, for it ties in with my research on Arthurian legends – not the medieval 12th and 13th century romantic versions we usually get to see on telly or on the silver screen, but the “real” 6th century AD legendary King Arthur and Merlin characters mentioned in various historical documents (which may be fictional accounts and not about real people at all but hey, us folklore fanatics take what we can get).

To me, faeries belong to the Dark Ages, the time when the Romans had left the British Isles and Britons had to fend for themselves – and according to legends, Arthur and Merlin were probably the last remaining defenders of the Celtic way of life, before the invading Saxons and their nasty new-fangled religion destroyed the magic that had once permeated every aspect of Brythonic life. King Herla’s story in particular stands out – it’s almost as if the storyteller is referring to the Romans, making them faerie folk who promised a land of golden opportunity, patronage, friend-and kinship and then simply vanishing into thin air.

excalibur out of waterSo if you want to learn more about these mischievous creatures of the night, these laughing, chanting, giggling dancers and musicians with their gem encrusted halls, their faerie gold and silver bells, their colourful clothes and strange sense of humour, have a peek at Rosalind Kerven’s book. It’s perfect night time reading material.

 

(source for animations: heathersanimations.com)

Ghostly Paths through dark Forests

ghost in white sheetThroughout history unusual features in the landscape have sent human imagination into overdrive, spawning legends, fairy-tales and myths. I’d like to use the next couple of blog posts to investigate this super-charged landscape issue a little further.

 

My first candidate for natural phenomena are Hohlwege, the German word for well-trodden paths that have literally been hollowed out by generations of feet, hooves and paws as well as by rain and wind, taking several centuries to mature into their creepy and myth-inspiring selves. Such footpaths lead through fields, forests and mountains and typically connect ancient market towns and places of worship and are usually found close to popular pilgrim routes.

 

So close your eyes and imagine you’re on your way to a medieval market to sell your farm produce. Turnips, onions and beets anyone?

 

Travelling through Germany’s Mecklenburg in your top-of-the-range oxcart, you’ll come across a forested area called Hohenzieritz Woods, which sits in spooky silence between the towns of Penzlin and Hohenzierlitz. The ancient Iserputt footpath or Hohlweg snakes through the wood, where it leads overgrown and hollowed out by the weather, with deep and muddy cart tracks left by a hundred generations of market traders just like you and your team of pretty oxen, to the nearest place to sell your wares.

 

Vampire-bats-animatedMake haste and drive on your team of oxen, for at midnight twelve gleaming white men carrying a black coffin will appear out of nowhere and they just might select you as their number thirteen!

 

We can only imagine with what urgency travellers raced along the Iserputt path, their sandals flying over sticks and stones, their feet splashing through mud-filled puddles and their heads full of ghostly apparitions out to get them for whatever sin their superstitious medieval minds could conjure up!

 

Another legend has it an old man on a cart travelled on this path in the middle of the day. Without warning, the cart came to a halt and his horses refused to take another step. The old man got off his cart and went to investigate the source of the delay. He found a tall, black figure on the back of his cart, laughing wildly and terrifying the horses. The old man was furious to have a stranger mocking him, so he whacked the apparition with his whip. To the old man’s surprise the apparition disappeared and his horses took him and his cart from that place as fast as their hooves would go.

 

Ghost below the Sunset?

 

Ghosts, as one rather rude and ignorant blog reader informed me the other day, “do not exist, you idiots”. I dare to disagree! They may not be Caspar and Co. zipping down the corridor in some abandoned mansion or the Ghost of Canterbury having a score to settle with a new set of occupants, but ghosts are likely to exist in our traditions and belief systems we inherit from our forbearers and that makes them very real to us.

 

English: A ghostly Black Dog.

 

As long as humans believe in a soul surviving death, there will be talk of ghosts…they exist in our minds because they might represent our guilty conscience of unfinished business with the dear departed or our longing to see loved ones again or simply express our own hope that there’s life after death despite scientific proof that we’re just ending up as worm fodder.

 

Deutsch: Die Burg Penzlin (Landkreis Müritz, M...

Deutsch: Die Burg Penzlin (Landkreis Müritz, Mecklenburg). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Imagine you’re an uneducated peasant working the fields surrounding Castle Penzlin in Mecklenburg, bringing in your hay in medieval Europe. The drudgery of day-to-day life must have been unbearable for an intelligent, but uneducated person of the lower ranks. How better to while away the time while making hay than to invent little stories about the things that occur in our surroundings – natural or supernatural phenomena, if that’s what you believe.

 

ghostly images in graveyardWhen we see mist rising up from the heated soil after a long, hot day in summer is cooled down by sudden rain, we can easily imagine ghostly spirits are leaving the ground in protest. Morning mist swirling upwards and gathering in clouds around the summits of hills and mountains, the wind changing and moulding their shapes into fantastical apparitions, are perfect candidates for souls rising up to heaven, while pea-soupers in historic towns are bound to be a demon’s breath robbing us of our sense of direction, trying to lure us into a trap.

 

Hohlwege

Hohlwege (Photo credit: crobgun)

 

Naturally, I’m going to use this spooky landscape feature called Hohlwege in my upcoming novel Willow the Vampire and the Wuerzburg Ghosts. Are there any mysterious features in the landscape near you that might inspire a ghostly tale or two?

 

Being a Witch is never easy

Examination of a Witch by T. H. Matteson, insp...

Examination of a Witch by T. H. Matteson, inspired by the Salem witch trials (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my second novel, Willow the Vampire and the Würzburg Ghosts, I’m using several real historical events as the starting point for my plot. One is the recent discovery of a “witch’s cottage” near Pendle in Lancashire, where in 1612 the infamous Pendle Witch Trials took place. Two men and eight women were hanged as witches after extensive trials.

 

The other main historical event I’m using as background for my latest vampire lore is the even more infamous series of witch trials that took place in the city of Würzburg in Germany between 1626 and 1631.

 

The Würzburg witch trials are regarded as one of the largest peace-time mass trials, which were followed by mass executions on an unprecedented scale.

 

Responsible for the persecution of innocent men, women and lots of children was Bishop Philip Adolf, on whose orders an estimated six to nine hundred people were burnt alive at the stake or hanged.

 

heks_in_maan witch flying against moonMy premise is that with such unjust killings there must be a lot of angry spirits about seeking revenge. As my previous posts have shown, ghosts have all manner of motives for clinging to the place where they lived or died. Revenge is always a good subject for a mystery or, in this case, a vampire story suitable for children aged 8 to 12 that discusses the subject of “evil” – what is evil, how do we stand up to it and who gets away with doing bad stuff?

 

This year marks the anniversary of two famous witch trials in the United Kingdom, by the way. Not just the Pendle trials but also the last conviction for sorcery, which took place in Hertfordshire in March 1712, is being commemorated this year. Fortunately, this trial had a kind of happy ending, when Queen Anne pardoned the accused sorceress Jane Wensham and thus saved her from the hangman’s noose.

 

"The witch no. 1" lithograph

“The witch no. 1” lithograph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pretty much anyone could be accused of sorcery – if you were overhead talking to your cat or pet pig you could be accused of being in league with the devil – and the methods used for getting confessions out of alleged warlocks and witches were utterly horrendous…thanks to the oh so Christian torturers in charge of interrogations.

 

Over on http://www.mariathermann.wordpress.com I’m discussing my home town Lübeck’s walled fortifications, in particular the famous Holsten Gate, which was once part of the city’s fortifications. Until 2002, the Holsten Gate housed a gruesome torture chamber and “dungeon” exhibition in the museum, which I remember only too well from various school trips and visits with my grandparents.

 

If I recall correctly, it boasted a rack and thumb screws, branding irons and various other torture paraphernalia among its exhibits. It seems utterly impossible anyone should be so devoid of compassion and feeling that they should use such instruments on anyone, let alone small children, but this is what happened quite frequently under the Christian motto of “love thy neighbour”.

 

Persecution of witches

Persecution of witches (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Willow the Vampire, champion for defenceless children and animals which get a rough deal at the hands of those who should care for them and protect them from harm, is having rather a busy time of it, what with saving the world from Ragnarög, saving best friend Darren AND dealing with an army of vengeful ghosts.

 

Burning at the stake. An illustration from an ...

Burning at the stake. An illustration from an mid 19th century book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vampires, as a rule, like to mind their own business, so getting involved with human and supernatural beings that have their own agenda, is always going to contradict a bloodsucker’s inner beliefs. Vengeance, on the other hand, is a subject vampires can relate to whole-heartedly. Will our Willow be tempted to go over to the dark side?

 

English: J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter ...

One thing’s for sure, Willow the Vampire will remain a champion for children and this writer won’t ever make light of their plight at the hands of adults. Unlike perhaps the writer who brought us Harry Potter. Am I the only one who finds the announcement that J K Rowling’s adult novel The Casual Vacancy will become a BBC drama incredibly ill-timed and utterly distasteful?

 

As if the BBC wasn’t in enough trouble over the Savill enquiry into paedophilia and rape allegations, namely sex crimes against children and young adults that allegedly happened under the very noses of former BBC bosses over a period of some 40 years! Now our licence fee is being used for this, a book that has not received much critical acclaim and is only being shifted thanks to the J K Rowling name?

 

One day I may write a Willow the Vampire novel that will deal with the ultimate evil creature of the night, the Jimmy Savills and Gary Glitters of this world. Naturally, I shan’t use the subject of children or young adults being threatened by rape as a subject for satire and parody, which most of J K Rowling’s readers found distinctly unfunny, when I last looked on Amazon’s reviews.

Willow in black dressNo, I ‘m far more likely to use the subject of BBC bosses in terror and utter distress, as vampire Willow and her friends barbeque them over a moderate flame, while basting them with home-made marinade provided by grateful licence fee payers.

 

Small Critters, big Impact

If you’re writing a paranormal story and are determined to use animals to set the scene, you may want to hold back on the gnashing teeth of wolves, gnawing fangs of killer rats and toothy grins of giant snakes until you’ve read this.

While it’s easy to write something atmospheric and eerie with animals such as bears, wild boar or wolves, because they occur naturally in a rural landscape, writing urban fantasies is often limited to creatures that have been “turned”, either by magic or by man-made means, into something that they are not normally, such as being way beyond their normal size and unusually bloodthirsty.

Here in the United Kingdom we’re not blessed with inquisitive city-dwelling wolves or nosy bears having a go at our dustbins. Vampire, horror or ghost stories include a staple diet of certain creatures of the night that lend a paw to the overall feel of a location. If your story’s set in the city centre of Nottingham, Chicago or Berlin, you might struggle to find a critter worthy of a mention.

It’s the fantasy genre, I hear you groan, just make it up as you go along…but the rule is that within our fantasy world logic still has to apply to really draw our readers in.

The more familiar some things are to our readers – and the more logical – the more shocking the fantastical will be, when it gate-crashes into our worlds. However, this artistic device has to be applied within reason.

Inserting a silky web and hideously fat, red-eyed, tarantula-sized spider will lend great atmosphere to a dark and twisted tale; perhaps a vampire’s kidnap victim is locked in a crypt or basement with little hope to escape and is wordlessly watching the spider munch one of its victims, foreshadowing his or her own fate? Your readers will feel a pleasurable, spooky tingle creep up and down their spine, urging them to turn the page and find out what happens next to the human in peril.

Take the same silky web and insert a cuddly but fanged hamster feasting on a marshmallow and your reader is putting down the book with a “what the f*** was that?” If your heroine is chased by a giant gerbil with insatiable bloodlust you’re not likely to get a second book sale either, so what do you do?

Tiny critters can have a big impact, but choosing the right ones can be difficult. Spiders, flies, hornets and bats, urban foxes, homeless cats and starving abandoned dogs all work in a creepy urban setting, as do crows, mice and rats. Koala bears, wombats and puppies not so much.

Cover of "The Birds (Collector's Edition)...

Cover of The Birds (Collector’s Edition)

The same applies to supernatural beings. Vampires are cool and can be quite sophisticated beings – they work well in any setting and can adapt easily. Let them wear coat tails and sip cocktails with the upper classes in Cheltenham or dress them in a creased linen suit and put their feet up in an office in downtown New York. When they pounce, the impact on your reader will be the same.

Ghosts also advertise their services as being versatile and flexible. They might secretly prefer to haunt a mansion in Belgravia but are just as capable of scaring the living daylights out of someone reading about a rundown brownstone in the Bronx.

Pixies, fairies and nymphs in Manhattan, Paris or London on the other hand are distinctly out of place. While a fairy queen with an attitude will have a big impact in Sherwood Forest, the Forest of Dean or even the Black Forest (especially when bursting out of a cuckoo-clock), a winged, miniscule madam zipping along Sunset Boulevard, LA will only succeed in getting squashed without ever fulfilling the promise of magically drawing your reader into your story.

In other words, the location you have chosen for your story should determine the type of creatures you insert into the plot and that they should be used in a logical way.

English: Studio publicity photo of Alfred Hitc...

English: Studio publicity photo of Alfred Hitchcock. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Choosing the right tiny critter for the occasion can be hard for writers. If like me, you detest anything that buzzes, the very mention of anything with six legs and fifteen eyes can put you off delving into research. But think back to the Indiana Jones films, how Indie hates snakes and bugs – it made us love him all the more for this chink in his armour…for one glorious moment he was just like the rest of us, no longer a super hero.

Français : Borsalino identique à celui d'India...

If the tiny creature of the night is to signify a flaw in your protagonist or is to be a signpost for heartache still to come, great care should be taken to choose the right creature, namely one that will stick in our mind, not just be a gimmick.

If your creature is to be a metaphor for darkness and your villain’s evil schemes – the rats leaving the ship in Nosferatu for example precede his arrival and widespread, plague-like death – than choose an animal or supernatural being that represents all you want to say about your villain.

Why not surprise us with something common place that suddenly turns nasty, when you want to describe a loner-turned-serial killer? The impact is so much greater and such a critter will stay with us long after we’ve closed the book. If I’m not mistaken Patricia Highsmith wrote a short story once about common garden snails killing somebody which has been haunting me ever since…forcing me to circumvent the slimy assassins with big steps whenever I see them, just in case they decide my time’s up.

Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones (Photo credit: creative location)

I can envisage a beautiful moth fluttering in through an open balcony window where it attacks the half-awake sleeper in his bed, gorging out his eyes. How about a toad in a city park that inserts toxic slime into its bench-dwelling, homeless victims before feasting on their flesh?

Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” worked so well because we largely ignore the birds in our city surroundings…unless they bombard us with their droppings, that is. Ordinary sparrows and starlings, gulls and crows with a murderous attitude are far more terrifying than a ten-foot parrot with a death wish chasing us down our street.

The point is that such creatures exist in real urban landscapes and we take them for granted without really noticing them…which makes their sudden appearance far more frightening. Turn a squirrel into a twenty foot Godzilla and its laughable but not scary. Making the same squirrel stand out with unusual behaviour rather than unusual size will turn them into something truly terrifying and memorable.

Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may seem very obvious when laid out in a blog, but all too often we find novels with werewolves trapped on subway trains in New York, when they’d rather be in Sherwood Forest and Godzilla-pretenders languishing in cramped conditions in England’s historic towns, when they’d rather be chasing Japanese maidens along comfortably wide highways in Osaka.

#3407 Mongolian gerbil (スナネズミ)

#3407 Mongolian gerbil (スナネズミ) (Photo credit: Nemo’s great uncle)

So before you sit down to write your urban fantasy novel, get to know your critter and its habitat!

Village Vampires

One of the reasons why Willow the Vampire is set in rural (fictional) Stinkforthshire-upon-Avon is that I grew up in a village and am very much aware of the advantages and disadvantages of growing up in a small community.

As a vampire Willow is an outsider – as a newcomer to the village she is also an outsider. Making friends under such circumstances isn’t easy and when you’re from a “dysfunctional” family background like Willow, it’s even more difficult to fit in.

As my lovely WP friend Michelle Barber (proud proprietor of the Loony Literature Laboratory, surrogate mother to Mildred the Cat) so astutely recognised, Willow’s first novel is a journey of self-discovery. Aged 11, the vampire child is trying to find her place in the world.

So what underlying theme will novel number two have? Well, my obsession lies with the dark underbelly of small communities and how the creatures of the night that stalk the village streets are not necessarily those fanged ones or ghostly apparitions the book title might suggest.

Although Würzburg, the setting for my second novel, was already a city during the witch trials that took place between 1626 to 1631, when hundreds of innocent men, women and children were tortured and murdered by an insane religious nutter-cum-prince-bishop regime, it was nevertheless a fairly small community by today’s standards and serves as a perfect example, how small, insular or remote communities can turn on each other for no apparent or sane reason.

"Würzburg Cathedral" is a Roman Cath...

“Würzburg Cathedral” is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany, dedicated to Saint Kilian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I go to visit Würzburg next year, I hope to join a museum’s tour that deals with this issue of persecution. As part of the guided tour to the historical sights connected with the witch hunt, visitors are shown the Kiliansdom (Würzburg Cathedral) and the Neumünster (the New Minster) as well as the Town Hall, where the gruesome fate of nearly 1,000 people was decided. The guided tour, according to the blurb on their website, serves “to illustrate the religious and secular causes of the witch-hunts of the 17th century”.

Just because picturesque Stinkforthshire, a village with 5,000 souls (minus a few vampires, who are there in body but not in “soul”), is on the tourist trail, has pretty flower baskets hanging from porches and a historic fountain gracing the market place, the village is not an idyll, where no crimes are committed and no unhappy thoughts are coursing through the minds of neighbours.

Some crimes are never brought to justice – they are not even regarded as crimes in the eyes of the law. How’s this for an example?

While growing up in my very own affluent Stinkforthshire village in Northern Germany, we had a cleaning woman going round the houses of well-to-do citizens, whose hypocritical mentality saw no problem in spending her Sundays in church praying and lording it (morally speaking) over the rest of the community.

During the week, however, she would spend the time for which she got paid on snooping through her employers’ cupboards and drawers to see, what “scandals” she could rake up. Naturally, whatever she discovered, or in some cases thought she had unearthed, she would gossip about with the clear intention of causing harm.

She was the mother of a school chum of mine – which made it very awkward at times to stay friends with a girl, whose mother continuously caused a lot of grief to people. In today’s society libel is taken far more seriously than it was then and people are prepared to call in the lawyers, but back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when this village menace had her peak, this was not the case.

The twist at the end of this tale is, as you might have expected, that this gossiping banshee had an affair with somebody. When her family found out, they were devastated and for a very long time, my school chum did not speak to her mother or wanted to have anything to do with her. At long last, the evil spell was broken and from that time onwards, the gossiping menace had to hold her tongue about other people’s affairs.

Cathedral and city hall.

Cathedral and city hall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Crimes like libel or slander often go unreported in small communities – as for making people’s life a misery by intrusive spying on one’s neighbours and criticising their every move or busy-bodies constantly turning up at their neighbours’ doorstep under some pretext to gain access into their home for the purpose of practically “running” the lives of widows/widowers or divorcees…those are in many ways also crimes, but they are not recognised by the law.

I know of one woman who was so terrorised by a couple of busy-body neighbours that she eventually fled to her son’s home at the other end of Germany, just to get some respite for a few weeks at a time.

The good end to that story was that this much-put-upon divorced, single lady discovered the joys of going abroad (on her own) and she broke free of the village-mafia trying to run her life the way they thought she should be living it. She gained in confidence on her own accord and experienced a very different life to the one her neighbours had mapped out for her.

Neumünster, Würzburg, Germany.

Neumünster, Würzburg, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If anyone’s interested in visiting Würzburg in the near future (perhaps to hear guest speaker Dr Dimitra Fimi at the university explain all things Hobbit, Tolkien and Fantasy Fiction), here are the details for the museum’s tour:

Neumünster, Würzburg, Germany.

Neumünster, Würzburg, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Duration: Approx. 2 hours, Reservations: Congress · Tourismus · Wirtschaft, Gästeführervermittlung Am Congress Centrum, Turmgasse 11, D – 97070 Würzburg, Phone +49 (0) 9 31 / 37 26 50, Fax +49(0) 9 31 / 37 36 52, E-Mail: fuehrungen@wuerzburg.de, www.wuerzburg.de/fuehrungen

As for Willow, in the course of the second novel she will discover that EVIL can lurk behind many different masks, often disguised as something quite “harmless” and “socially acceptable”.

(source of animation: heathersanimations.com, source of photographs Wikipedia)