Friday, December 16, 2016

Ludwig's Roses

If you want roses, you get them at Ludwig's. 

I've heard this sentence about a hundred times since coming to South Africa, so needless to say that I was very curious to go visit this renowned rose farm.

December 16th - the time had arrived. 

That day, a public holiday here in SA, Ludwig himself offered a walk among his unique creations and explained everything you wanna know about roses. It was the perfect finally see the beautiful flowers I had heard so much about. And, of course, to spend quality time with my husband. 
So, off we went.

Turns out, Ludwig is actually from East Germany, just like me. Even though we tried to chat a bit in our native tongue, we quickly switched back to English, as if in silent agreement to honor the country we both now called home.

The day was perfect.
Roses sweetened the air despite suffering from a drought that had the country in a tight grip. 

I was stunned to stroll among hundreds of new creations that didn't even have a name yet.

Led into tents filled with a refreshing mist, I watched in awe as workers prepared new stems for rooting and cutting. Ludwig, ever proud and patient, explained the incredible and sometimes unsuccesful process of filtering traits when creating new roses.

Whether you are a tourist or a local, be sure to make Ludwig's Roses an experience to remember.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

"Just One Look" by Harlan Coben

Just One Look

by Harlan Coben

Published April 26th 2005 by Dutton (first published 2004)

Mystery, Suspense

My Rating: 

A snapshot from the past unravels her present.
Grace Lawson's world is turned upside after she discovers a photograph from twenty years ago. Her husband leaves the house without a word and disappears. Soon not only Grace but also others are interested in both her husband's past and the photo. Fighting the rising doubts in herself and her marriage, Grace has struggles to find the truth and her husband.

As intriguing as a spider web. I love a book that has me guessing until the very end. When said end has a big light bulb popping up over my head, that moment of final understanding that needs to savored to be fully grasped...then I know I've read an amazing and gripping mystery. Coben's Just One Look did exactly that for me. 
Interesting characters, nail-biting twists and that wonderful zig-zagging thread of mystery to follow. This one keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The good...and the sad...

South Africa is a beautiful country. There's no doubt about that.
The people, the landscape that can change from one minute to the's incredible and breath-taking. Spring is in the air, but not in sight. The brush of colors is missing because the rain hasn't come yet, just like last year. 

Even knowing that South Africa is suffering from the worst drought it has seen in the last century, I was shocked when we visited the Kruger National Park. It looked like the setting of a post-apocalyptic story, not the lush home of Africa's magnificent creatures I'd visited almost two years ago.

The trees were white skeletal branches as if a fire had raged through and left them behind. Silent statues of death. We saw few animals. Among them a herd of elephant circled a dead baby lying on the ground. They huddled close while mourning their loss.

We shouldn't be sad. Some might say it's nature, that's the way of things. 
I understand. 
However, what makes me angry is that this circle of life wouldn't feel so bad if I didn't know that an elphant dies every 15 minutes in Africa - due to poaching. The same goes for rhinos and lions in the wild...we are losing enough animals as it is. 
In the end, it's not nature that upsets me, it's the destructiveness of mankind.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

"Envy" by Sandra Brown


by Sandra Brown


Published August 29th 2002 by Piatkus Books (first published 1999)

Mystery, Suspense

My Rating: 

After reading a tantalizing, partial manuscript by a writer only identified by three initials, book editor Maris Matherly-Reed knows she must find the author.
She manages to track down Parker Evans, and is riveted by his tale of two friends who chater a boat with a young woman for an excursion...from which only one of them returns.

Envy is in parts also a book within a book, which had me utterly intrigued.
The story unfolds at a perfect pace, giving you crumbs to jump on and twists that knock the breath out of you.
Along with Maris the reader has to solve a puzzle of deceit and murder to understand a story of retribution and redemption...but most of all envy.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Golden Peach Crumble Muffins

When I'm not writing, I love to bake. 
Today I was in the mood to try out something new...

I wanted something juicy and fruity...yet still somehow crunchy. These muffins fit it all!

Ingredients for the dough:
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
a bit of lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder

Ingredients for the layer of peaches:
1 tin of sliced peaches

Ingredients for the crumble:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the dough, mix butter and sugar until creamy before adding eggs, vanilla essence, a pinch of salt and lemon juice. Then incorporate the flour. Fill your muffin form, distributing the dough evenly.

Drain the peach slices and layer them on top of the dough, two to three slices for each muffin.
In another bowl, using your hands or a fork, mix the flour with sugar and vanilla essence before adding cubes of butter. You might have to add more flour to reach a nice 'crumbly' texture. Add the crumble on top of the peach layer.

Bake for 15-20 min at 175°C/350° F.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Don't give up...

There are moments in life that leave us with two options...
either giving up or to change our plan of action.

The last couple of months have left me facing such a decision with regards to my writing. For a lot of reasons I am unhappy and disappointed with the way the self-publishing movement has developed. In my opinion the market is flooded with self-published books...and to be honest readers are not as grateful as they once were. If an author gives a book away for free, readers would thank them with a review in return. feedback. More often than not a free book ends up forgotten on a shelf filled with to-read books that will probably never be touched in this lifetime.
It's a shame.

I started writing as a form of I do it for the pleasure of it. Still, writing a good novel is hard work which should at one point in life earn a reward of some sort. Even if it is just knowing that my book allowed one reader to switch off her everyday worries and relax for a while. But not even that bit of feedback is offered anymore.
I had a choice...either to give up. Let it all go, and try to get a 'real' job as they say. Or I could adjust and keep on fighting. 

A lot has changed in my life in the past two years. It all gives me the strength to choose to fight. I love to write. Even though despair tried to discourage me - and actually did for quite a while - I know now that the only thing to do is to keep on pushing. To keep on dreaming.
In today's world there are so many forces that try to bring you down, to demotivate...
do not listen to them!
If you have a dream, goal or a story in you - whatever it may be - if it makes you feel good and fills you with passion, pursue it! Focus on it and don't ever let it go! Push through the hard times, because it will lead you to the good ones.
For myself, it meant to adapt to the market today. I don't see a future in self-publishing anymore. Especially not if you are a new fish in that gigantic ocean and no one has yet noticed you. 
I have returned to the old ways and will rather try my luck with an agent.
The chances are probably as slim as winning the lottery, but I feel better about myself for trying. 

I won't give up.
And I hope you won't either!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Enjoy the little things in life...

Quite often the best moments in life are made so by the smallest of things.
"Hey, let's grab some ice cream and head to the lake."
Sounds simple, right?
And yet it turned into an amazing ending to a great day.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A review by Inishowen Cailin...

There is nothing better than offering your ebook in a giveaway...
and then receiving a thank you in the form of a review by the winner.
Thank you, Inishowen. 

"A brilliant introduction to a new series that I can't wait to read more of.
I don't dip into fantasy very often but when I do it has to be for something that will grab my attention and keep me wanting to read right to the end. The Ivory Guard does that and more."
- Inishowen Cailin from Just Book Talk 

Life will make you stumble... 

One peaceful afternoon Lillian finds two angels in her living room - wings and gloriole and all - telling her she is an Ivory. Half human and half angel, she is born to fight for humankind and guard the hellholes where the membrane between worlds is at its weakest. 
She, an important warrior? Yeah, riiiight. 

Life can make you fall... 

Raz might be an angel, but he doesn’t do compassion. His job is to train and make her a leader. So Lillian will just have to suck it up when she discovers the deadly truth behind his words. When she does exactly that, he has to admit there’s more to the bookworm than he thought. Much more. But there’s one thing he shouldn’t forget – in his world feelings come with a price. Is he willing to pay? 

Love will give you wings.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Dark Side of Self-publishing...Amazon rejects book blogger's review

How am I supposed to market my book?

One should think that after almost 4 years of self-publishing I would know the answer to that particular question. However, I do not. Things change so fast - what was done last year, doesn't work today. What works for US authors, isn't always available for me living on another continent (for example making my book available as an audiobook through Amazon's ACX).
In my opinion the best way to spread the word that your book is out there in the big sea among lots of other fish, are book bloggers. Tours, reviews, giveaways...that always seemed to do the trick. Not that I could lavishly live off my books, no, not at all, but at least I managed to earn enough to spurr me on, to show me that I'm on the right track.

Now, things have changed. So much so that I'm currently at a loss as what to do to get the word out about my new book.
For my last two publications, I worked with a trusted group of book bloggers. They know my writing and I know I can rely on their professionalism. Be it a release day giveaway or other sort of promotional spotlight, things always ran smoothly. It seemed I was off to a good start.

I thought wrong. 

Amazon now rejects reviews from bloggers that have been reading my work for the last years, claiming we have more than just a working relationship. Seriously? We live on different continets for crying out loud. Just because they read all my books, doesn't mean that I paid them do so or that we are friends.
I know, and support, the fact that Amazon's fighting fake and purchased reviews. However, mine do not fall under this category.
Over the years, I've been approached - especially on Twitter - by people who tried to dangle the promise of a five star review like a carrot in front of my eyes. It didn't work. I want my reviews to be fair and square. I want them to be honest. There are even book blogs out there that ask an author not only for a free copy of their work, but also for money in exchange for a good review. I don't even look twice at those.
And yet...Amazon rejects my book's reviews. How ironic.

Even contacting Amazon didn't help. My first email was apparently not even read properly, seeing as their response had nothing to do with what I had said and all I got was the usual 'We can't say...' mumbo jumbo. And my follow up email was outright ignored.

Since this seems to be an increasing occurence, I would now go so far as to advise other authors to forget about Amazon, and especially about their KDP Select programm.
Why should I give exclusive rights to Amazon when I get nothing in return? 
The "Free Kindle Book" campaign lost its appeal long ago. Amazon customers may want free books, but the time when that resulted in a review as a sort of Thank You to the author is gone. As for Kindle Countdown Deals, it seems they serve more to promote Amazon's KDP than my own books. KU (Kindle Unlimited) and KOLL (Kinlde Owners' Lending Library) used to work, but since Amazon switched to paying authors according to how many pages an individual customer reads in the book (only counts for first time reading) my sales have dropped. Which means customers can lend my book, but I only get paid once they actually read it. 
If a person finds my book interesting enough to go and buy it, I get paid. If a person finds my book interesting enough to go and lend it, I have to wait until the book is actually opened and read before I see a cent. I find that odd - especially given the huge to-read piles most avid readers tend to have.
So why limit myself to Amazon? Why not go to Barnes & Nobles, Kobo, Smashwords etc.? My changes might be higher for my book to land in the right reader's hands. 

While pondering that option, I also decided to approach more book bloggers. There are a LOT of them. It takes time and research to find the ones that will read the genre I write in, but I don't mind. I have no choice about it actually. 
30 review requests have been sent out as a first wave. More will come.
So far I got 2 replies. One accepting the request, another one saying that they are not open for reviews.
That's it.
To be honest, I'm a bit pissed off. Because of the responses I did NOT receive. A lot of bloggers emphasize - some even quite rudely - that they want authors to be understanding and polite towards them. You know what, that should go both ways. I understand reviewers are busy, but a simple "No, try again next year 'cause I'm swamped at the moment" would go a long way. 

I know that being an indie author means there is more to my books than just writing them. There is editing, cover design, marketing and promoting. Which I have to take care of myself mostly, depending on my budget. That's the self-publishing way. I knew that from the start, but by now I feel that despite all the time and effort I push into my books and the work surrounding it, there is no reward whatsoever. Two years ago I was in three of Amazon's Top 100 list in the US and could technically call myself an internationally bestselling author (which I won't do until The NY Times says so), but now Amazon rejects my book's reviews instead.

Is Amazon cutting off its own nose to spite the face?
Well, maybe not.

Perhaps, Amazon has just become more selective when it comes to its indie authors. Whereas standards equalling that of traditionally published books - professional cover design, hooking blurb and fully edited work - could make you stand out not so long ago, it seems that now quantity wins over quality. And with quantity I mean money!
Another option KDP Select (exclusive book rights to Amazon) offers is for authors to run an ad campaign. The author sets a budget to spend and the maximum amount willing to pay when a customer clicks the ad. Customers who click an ad will go to the book's detail page. Sounds simple and interesting so far.
However...there IS a catch.
Before any campaign starts the book's ads automatically compete in an online auction, and this is where the author's actual cost-per-click is determined. In that auction all authors who can't afford more than let's say 1 cent per click are kicked out of the boat.

Long story short: the authors who can afford it can advertise their book in ads that will be delivered to customers who previously browsed the Kindle Store for a particular genre or specific products on Amazon. 
However, it seems that quality authors who do not have the money...will inevitably fall behind.

Funny enough, this will only make me fight harder. 
I will try out other ebook platforms and I'm open to go the traditional way. I love what I do, and no one will keep me from writing. One day, the hard work will bear fruit.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Guard Duet - The Winners Are...

Jo M.
Inishowen C.
Renee S.
Christina W.
Eleanor L.

You guys won a copy of both
Ivory Guard
Ebony Fight!

Thanks to everyone for participating and helping to spread the word. 
Especially to M's Bookshelf for her wonderful review and Mario Saincic for co-hosting the event. You guys rock! 

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Guard Duet - Giveaway

books in giveaway

Yip, I'll be giving away both books of The Guard Duet series to 5 lucky winners. I'll be hosting the giveaway with the help of fellow writer Mario Saincic and book blogger M's Bookshelf
Find her review here.

The line between good and evil is as blurry as the world 
seen through a bottle of tequila...



Enter the giveaway to stand a chance to win a copy of Ivory Guard and Ebony Fight 
in mobi, epub or pdf format.

Open Internationally

a Rafflecopter giveaway