“Hunter’s Fortune” is out and about

My sweet romance novella “Hunter’s Fortune” is finally out there and available for free reading. My idea at first was to write a short story about one of the characters appearing in “Forest Magic”. It was Albert, the rich bank manager, who had harbored secret hopes and desires about Nelly, his former employee. Unfortunately for him, he was too late and had to return empty-handed to his successful but lonely life, because, as we know, Nelly decided to…well, read “Forest Magic” and find out.

Naturally, I couldn’t let it rest and I had to give Albert a chance to find happiness. At the same time, I had a lot of contact with hunting (and hunters) and am currently spending a good portion of my time roaming through the local woods. That’s how I came up with the idea to send Albert on a hunting trip where he would come across an entirely different prey than he had expected to catch.

However, when I started writing I realized that what I had to say would not fit into a short story. Albert and Luisa needed more time to understand each other and discover that the person they are dealing with has much more to offer than they originally thought. There is a bit of “Pride and Prejudice” in this story, which was unavoidable considering how stubborn the protagonists are, and a bit of humor. Overall, I hope I have managed to remain faithful to the original character of Albert and skillfully present his somewhat reluctant acceptance of the fact that deep inside he is a decent person after all.

If you wish to see for yourself, you can access the novella HERE. I’m looking forward to your comments!

“Forest Magic” – second edition

It’s finally here – freshly edited and with a new cover, my first book “Forest Magic” is available to the audience starting from today. I love this incredibly romantic story taking place in a small village in the middle of the Black Forest. I’ve become enchanted with it all over again while preparing this second edition.

I have some plans regarding promotion and writing a short sequel, so stay tuned for more. In the meantime check out this wonderful tale of past mistake and second chances. You just might become a firm believer in the powers of forest magic.

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The King of One-Night Stands

For all the fans of my book “The Neighbor” here are some good news – I am working on the spin-off of the novel and will be posting new chapters online in regular intervals. The title of the new book is “The King of One-Night Stands” and you can find it under “My Books” or simply by clicking HERE. I can promise you a lot of feelings and life-changing events for all the characters involved. It is a story of Colin, one of my favorite side characters from “The Neighbor”, and takes place during the time period right after its penultimate chapter.

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“Love in the Villa” Movie Review

It’s not a villa. It’s an apartment.

I’m not sure I even need to do this because many people had pointed out everything wrong with this movie elsewhere. So, I’ll start by pointing out some good things first.

1.) The actors are cute. I enjoyed watching their banter and they’ve tried their best, considering the script.

2.) Verona is an excellent backdrop for any movie.

3.) I liked her dresses.

4.) When you’re lying sick in bed like I was, and your brain refuses to work, this movie is a good choice to watch, because it won’t overwhelm those exhausted brain cells at all.

But, now to come to what was so obviously wrong with this movie that I sincerely hope someone at Netflix deciding what to film next will look at the comments people are leaving, and take them seriously. Spoilers ahead, so, be warned!

1.) The beginning of the movie and the meet-cute are perfectly fine for a romantic comedy. So, why ruin everything by forcing an enemy to lovers trope? And, in the process, making Julie look like a deranged psycho? Let me explain – after she arrives in Verona and finds out her apartment was double-booked by Charlie, he allows her to stay in the apartment, and although not happy about it, is actually quite civil. She, however, wants to get rid of him – by triggering his cat allergy and getting him arrested. What? Since when does endangering someone’s health and job count as romantic?

2.) Yes, we all know, Italians have a funny accent and drive their cars like crazy. They are unorganized and all men have mistresses. They like to hug and kiss. I don’t know, is there a single stereotype about Italy and Italians that was not served in this movie? Is that even funny anymore?

3.) Why is Julie so upset that Charlie served her horse meat, that she throws plates of food around a rented apartment? I would understand if she were a vegetarian, but why is in her non-vegetarian world eating horse meat so much worse than eating cow meat that it makes her puke and redecorate walls with food?

4.) And finally, after the movie spends most of the time focusing on their “little war”, which involved the police a couple of times, there is hardly any time left to persuade us that Charlie and Julie actually like each other. Enough that she would decide not to marry her boyfriend of four years. I don’t know, maybe I don’t understand the workings of an insta-love, but I didn’t buy it.

Maybe by scaling down their antagonism and allowing Julie and Charlie to spend some more quality time together in the movie, their romance would become more convincing and we, as observers, would get a couple of thrills more out of the whole thing. Or any thrills at all.

This way, I am left mildly underwhelmed and am giving the movie 2.5 * out of 5.

Then again, what do I know? I’m only a romance writer…

What do you think? What are your favorite romance movies of all time? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear your opinion.

About Queen Bees and other nonsense

July is well on its way and for me, July feels like the end of summer. Wait, I hear you say, summer has only just begun, and July is the most summery of all summer months, so how can it feel like the end of summer?

Well, I have a confession to make – besides being an author, a bookworm, and a blogger, I’m also a passionate beekeeper. And for bees in central Europe, July is pretty much it when it comes to summer. In two weeks I’ll be harvesting the last of honey and then it’s all about preparing the bees for winter.

As I said, I’m a passionate beekeeper, and that’s because I passionately hate bees. You’d probably hate them too if you’d been stung hundreds of times like me. My beekeeping efforts can be reduced to me trying to get some honey out of the hives while avoiding being eaten alive by their occupants. Every year I tell myself it is the last one I’m keeping any bees – and then, spring comes, they start flying around looking cute, pollinating stuff, and I decide, one more year.

It’s been like that for more than a decade now and after a lot of experimenting, I developed a formula for how to get a lot of honey and keep healthy bees with a minimum of effort. I even wanted to write a book about it and I still might, if my romance novels allow me. It will begin with the first step: get your partner to help you and then slowly let them do most of the work.

But, being intimately acquainted with the life of bees it grates on my nerves when I encounter the expression “Queen Bee” connected to women in a position of power who behave as if they were more important than other women. It implies someone spoiled, someone who rules others and doesn’t do it kindly. However, the whole idea that a queen bee rules the beehive is entirely wrong. A hive is not a monarchy – it’s a democracy and a ruthless one, especially for male bees and the queen. If you want to know more about it, try reading “Honeybee Democracy” by Thomas D. Seely.

So, to debunk this nonsense, I’ll describe in a couple of sentences the true life of a queen bee. Her youth is a race against time – if she is among the first to be born, she’ll have a chance to kill all her other sister queens and remain the only one because, as we all know it, there can be only one. Then she’ll embark on a perilous journey to a secret place, known only to the chosen few, where, high above the ground, she will mate with up to twenty males, one after the other. Her partners will all die following the mating, dropping down completely exhausted (that’s how good the sex is). Thus burdened by their seed, the queen will return to her hive, where she’ll remain for the rest of her life, in complete darkness, never to see the sun again, giving birth every two minutes. Her whole life will be controlled by her daughters – they’ll feed her, clean her, tell her if she’s to give birth to a daughter or a son, or, at last, to her successor. Maybe one early summer she’ll get carried away by a rebellion and leave her home in a swarm to find a new habitat. But eventually, she’ll live through many seasons, while her short-lived daughters die around her or get lost on their foraging trips. When she grows old and cannot fulfill her childbearing duty any longer, her daughters will raise her substitute, and she, their old, spent mother will starve in one corner of the hive forgotten by everyone – a queen of everything and of nothing.

Also, honey is actually the vomit of bees.

So, after we’ve clarified these important facts, we might agree that the life of a queen bee would be good material for a romance novel. A reverse harem, dark, suspense, and a generally weird romance novel, so maybe it’s better not to go there. But anyway, the next time someone describes a woman as a Queen Bee to you, feel free to quote me and ask them if they’re sure they know what they’re talking about.

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“The Neighbor” has a new cover

Newly edited and with a new cover – “The Neighbor” is still the same heart-melting age gap romance telling the story of Samuel and Emma. The cover is adapted to fit the other two books from the series, “The King of One-Night Stands” (coming soon) and “The Plaything” (in the outline stage). It still features the fateful window, but now there is a silhouette of a man in front of it. I rather like it – the dark atmosphere of the cover appropriately reflects the events in the book and it looks great when printed. How about you? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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The Most Romantic Book Moments

Isn’t it interesting that in most books, independently of the genre, we come across romantic elements? Sure, a hero can save the day against all odds, and people can fight against evil and for the freedom of future generations, the mysteries of the past can be revealed and horrible monsters can be sent back to where they came from, but if there is nobody falling in love in the process…well, what’s the point, right?

I guess romance is there to give us something entertaining to read and show us a vulnerable and sensitive side of the characters. And don’t you just love it when you’ve been through thick and thin with the protagonists and know them inside out and firmly believe they should get together because…they MUST. They are just perfect for each other. Their fictional lives would be so much better if they could only stop being so blind!!!

And then – it happens. The moment when everything becomes clear (to us at least). Our hearts tremble as if we were the ones just realizing we are hopelessly, deeply, terribly, IN LOVE.

I live for such moments in books, even though they are sometimes only the beginning of torment and the book characters require a couple of sequels to finally follow their feelings. It becomes even worse when I know that a happy end is not guaranteed. However, that’s what makes me want to read on, no matter how many pages more. How about you?

Here are some romantic book moments that remained etched in my memory forever.

My first favorite romantic moment is from the book “The Tombs of Atuan” by Ursula Le Guin, happening between Tenar and Ged. Tenar’s young life has been spent serving dark, ancient, and utterly evil gods, which she abandons to help Ged retrieve a talisman that will bring peace to their world. Ged is a wizard – and as such he seeks only power, not love. So, it will take these two souls another two decades (and two more books) to find their way to each other. And it all starts with this innocent sentence:

“She watched him, and never could she have said what was in her heart as she watched him, in the firelight, in the mountain dusk.”

My heart just bleeds for her, even now, after I know how the story ends, it still does. It sucks to be young, lost, and in love with a wizard.

All that lay ahead of her was unknown. She knew nothing but the desert and the Tombs. What good was that? She knew the turning of a ruined maze, she knew the dances danced before a fallen altar. She knew nothing of forests, or cities, or the hearts of men.”

Ursula Le Guin was a master of such subtleties and I will be forever grateful to her for making Tenar so amazing – Tenar goes on to live a life without Ged, but according to her rules, and many years later, when in her forties, she meets with him again. And yes, women (and men) in their forties can find true love. It’s not reserved for young people only.

The second favorite romantic moment chosen for you out of my library is from the book “The Dark Volume” by Gordon Dahlquist. It’s the second book in the series “The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters” that is an action/mystery/suspense mixture with a taste of steampunk, taking place in a Victorian London of sorts (but in a parallel universe more or less). We follow the fates of Miss Temple, a headstrong heiress, and Cardinal Chang, a thug, as they try to thwart the mysterious plot of a sinister cabal. And almost a thousand pages into the book 2, at last, there comes this paragraph:

“Miss Temple looked up at him, her hands held tight, and saw with a piercing despair the beauty of his jaw, the broad grace of his shoulders, and his especially elegant throat, bound as it was by a filthy neck cloth. Then with a swallow she looked into Chang’s eyes, visible past the skewed black lenses…squinting and damaged…confusing and hideous…and she realized that this man was the exact image of everything that had gone so horribly wrong, of so much she had lost and could never recover.

Like a striking snake Miss Temple stabbed her face up to his, her lips finding the rough stubble of his cheek and then his mouth, which was so much softer than she ever expected.”

In the next moment, Cardinal Chang is stabbed to death (or so it seems), and I had to wait a whole year for the next sequel, which seriously affected my health (but I was ten years younger then, so I survived). Although the last sequel of the book series had some points I would have liked resolved differently (and the things were starting to confuse me at that stage), the romance part played out well.

And finally, I’ll end this post with one of my favorite book endings of all time. And yes, it has something to do with romance – a love gone wrong, where people hurt each other and were never given a second chance to correct their mistakes. At least, not until the main protagonist Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the intelligent ocean that covers its surface. But it turns out there are no real second chances – not for this man and not in this universe. “Solaris” by Stanisław Lem.

“On the surface, I was calm: in secret, without really admitting it, I was waiting for something. Her return? How could I have been waiting for that? We all know that we are material creatures, subject to the laws of physiology and physics, and not even the power of all our feelings combined can defeat those laws. All we can do is detest them. The age-old faith of lovers and poets in the power of love, stronger than death, that finis vitae sed non amoris, is a lie, useless and not even funny. So must one be resigned to being a clock that measures the passage of time, now out of order, now repaired, and whose mechanism generates despair and love as soon as its maker sets it going? Are we to grow used to the idea that every man relives ancient torments, which are all the more profound because they grow comic with repetition? That human existence should repeat itself, well and good, but that it should repeat itself like a hackneyed tune, or a record a drunkard keeps playing as he feeds coins into the jukebox…

Must I go on living here then, among the objects we both had touched, in the air she had breathed? In the name of what? In the hope of her return? I hoped for nothing. And yet I lived in expectation. Since she had gone, that was all that remained. I did not know what achievements, what mockery, even what tortures still awaited me. I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past.”

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Dumbledore’s Northman in a Jurassic World of Madness

Recently, after a long break, I had a chance to finally go to a cinema and see some of the new movies out there. It’s been ages since I visited a movie theater and naturally, I was very excited and ready to be entertained.

My first movie was “The Northman” – Vikings, slaughter, romance, and shirtless men, I mean what’s there not to like? So, I sat in the darkness, eagerly expecting an exciting story supported by an excellent cast and great directing, and what did I get? I got a bloody and muddy version of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (or, “Lion King” for those who like a friend of mine had managed to avoid reading Hamlet in high school). This version, however, had a rather forced strong female character Olga (instead of poor Ophelia), and no catchy songs whatsoever. In addition, as usual, the lead male actor was closer in age to his movie mother (9 years age difference), than to his movie love interest (20 years difference), but I’m not going to go into that discussion here. Sure, the last scene where Amleth and his uncle swordfight naked next to a stream of sizzling lava is absolutely worth watching, if only for the fact that the fighters are, well, naked, but there was overall too much drama and too little sense in the story. Visually, the movie delivered, but it’s a tale we’ve all seen so many times before and my brain screamed, “Give me something new!”

In search of novelty, I went therefore to see the next movie “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore“. I liked the first two movies of the series, and all the Harry Potter stuff anyway, so what could go wrong, right? Well, just about everything. I really don’t want to sound whiny, but the best thing about the movie was that I was watching it in a 4D movie theatre, with special seats, which shake and blow air every time a spell is cast on screen. I’ll abstain from spoilers and further comments in this letter because I don’t want to bore you to death, in case you’re not interested, but in case you are, this video on Youtube nicely sums up everything wrong with the movie and why I will probably not see any further movies from this serial in a theatre.

My general disappointment, however, runs much deeper. According to the trailers of the upcoming movies, this year we will be honored with such masterpieces as “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” or “Top Gun: Maverick” in May, and “Jurassic World Dominion” in June. Don’t get me wrong – I am a total fan of Doctor Strange, I love dinosaurs (on screen, that is), and, I mean, Top Gun is history. However, these are all franchise movies, tried formulas that cannot fail to bring in money due to the already existing fan base. There is no sense of adventure, risk-taking, or pushing the limits of cinematography. I guess for that we should go to streaming platforms, not movie theaters. What do you think?

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Could Artificial Intelligence Write Romance?

And Could You Tell the Difference?

Recently, I came across Sudowrite, an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that helps writers to write, obviously. Like, really write. You put in a couple of sentences and it spits out the rest of the paragraph in all levels of heat! I played around with it and I was a bit shocked when I realized that a lot of tedious searching for the right adjectives, descriptions, and plot lines can be substituted by a click of my mouse (worth 20$ per month for the subscription). And then I was even more shocked when it turned out there are AI writing tools out there for everything – from ads, e-mails, blogs, up to business pitches and song lyrics. What the heck? Have I been living under a rock?

I might have, but putting that aside, the fact that AIs can write (and probably are writing) instead of humans is kind of sad, terrifying, and intriguing at the same time. It makes one wonder how much of what we read is actually written by humans. And could one tell a difference?

Some research has found that AI-generated texts can be indistinguishable from human ones and can provide insights into future creativity. Fears around the abilities of AI algorithms to generate convincing text have led to some claiming that machine intelligence would render creativity obsolete. For some people, AI writers have even made writing more natural. They have to put in much less effort to create a coherent storyline. The audience doesn’t notice the difference when reading their work, but it helps them save time and get their work done quicker.

To prove my point, this paragraph above has not been written by me, but by Rytr (Best AI Writer, Content Generator & Writing Assistant – as the creators like to point out). Have you noticed? Sure, it helped me fill this blog post, but it also made me feel like a fake, nevertheless. And call me old-fashioned – I still like to write my books without the assistance of Rytr and the likes of him/her/it.

If you want to read more about various AI tools for writing out there, here’s the link to an interesting article providing more information.

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Remembering Conan the Cimmerian

Sure, you may ask what does the brawny fantasy hero Conan has to do with romance stories but I’ll come to that.

On the 22nd of January 116 years ago Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan and one of my favorite writers, was born. He wrote his first story when he was ten and started writing professionally at the age of fifteen. For him, it was the easiest way to earn money in times of Depression. For me, earning money with writing is not for the faint of heart, but maybe the times have changed.

“My sole desire in writing is to make a reasonable living,” he said. “I may cling to many illusions, but I am not ridden by the illusion that I have anything wonderful or magical to say, or that I would amount to anything particularly if I did say it. I have no quarrel with art-for-art’s sakers. On the contrary, I admire their work. But my pet delusions tend in other directions.”

And yet, he has created one of the most famous and striking characters in literature, known to a lot of people throughout the world. This brings me to a common conundrum and a question – should books be written for the sake of the art, or should they be entertaining? And why not both? Why should anyone put up with bad writing to read something interesting, and why should anyone tolerate a boring book no matter how well written? I believe they shouldn’t and that it is the job of the writer to tell a good story skillfully, which is what I strive to do. What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion!

Inadvertently I suppose, or maybe not, Robert E. Howard has written one of the greatest romance stories ever. It is called “The Queen of the Black Coast” and tells about the adventures and love of Belit and Conan. If you haven’t read it, and you like fantasy and romance, you should. It’s worth reading if only for the dialogue between Belit and Conan, in which they talk about life, death, and beliefs, and which ends with her famous words:

“…My love is stronger than any death…My heart is welded to your heart, my soul is part of your soul! Were I still in death and you fighting for life, I would come back from the abyss to aid you…”

If that’s not romantic, then I don’t know what is.

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