I am very excited about the Oscars tonight. For the last two weeks I have watched about every major nominated film, which was quite a task to be honest. There wasn't one that I didn't like, but I have to say some necessitate strong stamina. Such a load of human reality can bury the emotionally fittest of us.

So here are my predictions:

Best Picture: "The King's Speech” although I would give it to Inception

Leading Actor:
 Colin Firth in "The King's Speech”

I think he deserves it, but James Franco in 127 Hours was way more original.

Supporting Actor
: Geoffrey Rush in "The King's Speech”

Leading Actress: 
Natalie Portman in "Black Swan"
She was amazing. I was stunned. All the other women were incredible great this year, too.

Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit"
I wonder why she only gets nominated for supporting role. She was not only the main character in the film in my opinion, but also the pulling factor. I guess she wouldn't stand a chance for the Leading Role Oscar, though.

Animated Feature Film: 
"Toy Story 3"
Art Direction: 
"Alice in Wonderland"
Cinematography: "The Social Network"
Costume Design
: "Alice in Wonderland"

: “True Grit
It's probably gonna go to The King's Speech, but I don't see it as the winner. I guess I would like it to go to The Social Network.

This is random, because I haven't seen any documentaries, which is a shame.
Documentary (Feature) "Inside Job"
Documentary (Short Subject) “The Warriors of Qiugang"

Film Editing
: “Black Swan"
Foreign Language Film
: “Biutiful"

"The Wolfman”
Original Score “Inception
Original Song "Tangled
My absolute favourite. I so hope it gets an Oscar.

Animated Short Film: 
"Day and Night"

Live Action Short Film: 
"The Crush”
Sound Editing
: "Inception"
Sound Mixing: 
Visual Effects
: "Alice in Wonderland"
Just to say something different. Probably goes to Inception.
Adapted Screenplay “Winter's Bone" - Great film.
Original Screenplay "The Kids are Alright"
That's more of a hope. I guess it goes to King's Speech again.

Last thing to say: I'm very bad with predictions.

Who haunts - you?
Today I had a workshop in a beautiful church. A huge building with endless empty wooden benches and colourful windows. The chanting of a men choir reverberated constantly from the walls. Creepy setting. Just what we needed for our ghostly session.
Last week we went on a "ghost walk" around our old English city (more of a town, but as they 'lately' built a cathedral, it can name itself city now). A tiny, gaunt old lady told us various stories surrounding quite a few buildings in Leicester city centre. Some of my classmates even believed to have seen the hooded hunchback that supposedly follows passengers when they walk home from the famous market through a long alley. His distinct footsteps shall be audible from behind all the way down. Similarly freaky was the monk that comes around the cathedral corner and points at the person in a group that won't have to make any plans for birthdays anymore.

A good ghost story, according to Noel Carroll, uses a variation of "onset" (first manifestations of the unnatural), "discovery" (learning about the unnatural), "confirmation" (convincing of the unnatural) and "confrontation" (approaching the unnatural). These seem to be very useful starting points.

More crucial, I would say, and it is partly hidden in his suggestions, is the need to evade clichés and deal with the hesitation between the natural and the supernatural, because a reader will naturally struggle to belief. This way one can build up the uncanny, a term in the German language describing both the scary and the homely. A contradiction that has more in common than you might think.

How do you make the supernatural believable? Is it about setting, character or voice?

Another special Sunday post:
This time with one of my short stories in full. Most of the things that happen are based on actual events. At some point my imagination went so far astray that I couldn't distinguish between reality and story anymore. This is a truly fantastical experience as a writer.

Did something similar ever happen to you?


Laura ran through the foyer, past the empty tables of the bar, past the information desk and jumped towards the button between the lift doors. She stood with her plump arms on her knees, breathing heavily. The doors on the other side glided open. She crossed the wet laminate floor and threw herself into the lift.
The place was empty. She wished her parents would not spend the whole day inside. Others went out onto the piste despite New Years Eve, too. The lift stopped. She crawled out of the cabin onto the blue carpet of the floor foyer and lifted herself up, straightening her skirt. She turned out of the lift niche when she dropped her keys. Immediately she jumped after them.
What was that? Her eyes scanned the floor and rested on a chest in the middle of the foyer. The four plants, two of them as tall as her standing, were moved. They surrounded the chest now. There was also an old desk on one side and a cupboard next to the vending machine.
She crawled to the chest and let one hand slide over the dry and rough surface. The dark wood smelled sweet and sticky, somehow like resin. At the front side she found a black punctured hinge. The cold iron sat firmly on the flat bolt. In the centuries the lid had deformed so much that the pieces barely fit anymore. With a loud rattle, the hinge came loose. Pulling it upwards, together with the heavy lid, she peered into the hollow space. It was empty. Just an empty chest. She dropped it with a loud thud, pushed herself up on one knee and hurried down the corridor.

First, I want to thank Elizabeth Müller for freeing her awards and giving me the sunshine award. Second, many thanks to Donna Hole for saying I had one of the best blog sites she has ever seen. I really feel honored. I dedicate this to you both today...
Finally I present to you:

My List of Favourites

This is the best way to get to know me better. It is an even better way to misjudge me by my preferences. You'll see what I mean. I'd be surprised if I can find one person that does not find at least one thing in here they don't like at all.
But: see for yourself, have fun as always and try to find something.

The Boy in the Book
Werther (Goethe)

Black Magician Trilogy (Canavan)
The Age of the Five Trilogy (Canavan)

Strangers (Koontz)
By the Light of the Moon (Koontz)
The House of Leaves (Danielewski)
Das letzte Geheimnis, Henningstadt, Rosarote Herzen, Rainbow Road, ERAGON, Ritus, So lange du da bist, IT, The Swarm, Magma, Hobbit, Ducktales, Maria Magdalena, Homo Faber, The Wheel of Time Series,

Dean Koontz,
Wohlfgang Hohlbein,
Trudi Canavan,
Robert Jordan,
Clive Barker,
J.K. Rowling,

Beautiful Thing

Sex and the City
Barfuss (Barefoot)
KeinOhrhasen + Zweiohrkücken

The House at the Lake,
Black Swan
Boondocks Saints
The Last Song
My Sister's Keeper

The Devil Wears Prada
Son of Rambow

Lucky Number Slevin
Das Magische Schwert

She's the Man, Shrek 1-3, Transformers, I am Legend, Das Vermächtnis des Geheimen Buches, Die Vergessenen, HP 1-7, LOTR 1-3, X-Men, Transporter 1-2 , The Golden Compass, Elizabeth, , Cloverfield, Final Destination 1-4, Resident Evil 1-4, Star Wars 1-6, One Way,  Step Up 1-2, Bend It Like Beckham, Sommersturm, Ocean's 11,13, Brokeback Mountain, Cruel Intentions, The I Inside, Chaos, Lion King, Das Perfume, Inception, Avatar, Twilight 1-3, E.T.

TV Series:

Vampire Diaries

Sex and the City, Buffy, Angel, Desperate Housewifes, Grey's Anatomy, The O.C., Nemesis, Eureka, Lost, Private Practice, Supernatural, Blade, 4400, One Tree Hill, Invasion, Jericho, Queer as Folk,  Brother&Sisters, Sabrina, SURFACE, Germany's Next Topmodel, DR.HOUSE, Medium, Friends, WIll & Grace, Smallville, Dragonball


Avril Lavigne
Alanis Morissette
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Shania Twain

Lady Gaga
Owl City

Oasis, Kelly Clarkson, Coldplay, Britney Spears, Dido, Ich und Ich, A-teens, Anastacia, Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias, Fergie, Gwen Stefani, The Killers, Lindsay Lohan, Nelly Furtado, Rihanna, Sarah Connor, Plaine White T's, No Angels, Silbermond, Take That, Westlife, Kelly Family, Reamon, The Fray, James Blunt, Sugababes, , Glee Cast, Duran Duran, Leona Lewis, Scorpions, Katy Perry

Shocked? If not, just keep reading the blog and you will be at some point.

Finally, on this Special Sunday post, I present to you the amazing Mozzarella poem.

This week truly turns out to be a LOL-week (laughing-out-loud-week) on my blog. The pure purpose of this poem is to be fun. An Ode turns the attention to the small things in life that we rarely appreciate. For two years now, I have dedicated most of my daily nutrition intake to Mozzarella; life just tastes, feels and works better with the power-filled protein bomb. So it was time to honour its powers in a poem.


The Ode

Mozzarella, o Bella,
let your soft skin swim.

Let your resilient flesh buff.
Let the moist bubble run

so that I can spot through the silvery glance
how beautiful you are.

I press the knife down
and your lump bends over
and tears through.

when you blister on my Pizza.

Please circle in endless tubes around my fork
before you lift to my mouth.

Squishy and

I feel the gratitude
that you dedicate to me.

Mozzarella, oh Bella.
O beautiful you.

What would qualify for an Ode in your life? 

The weirdest day I've ever had. Also the one that I laughed the most as far as I can recall. (A good sign: my jaw hurts and my eyes are red from crying)
I feel I need to share this with you and I promise it is going to be funny.

For writers it is very hard to convey comedy. What makes people laugh anyway?
I can't be sure, but from today I would say spontaneity and improvisation are key aspects. Something personal as well.

There were three funny events for me today. One is being myself. (That always works for me.) The second is a story about a crocodile. The third is the Leicester Comedy Festival, of which you can see a video below.

I always knew I'm clumsy. The problem is when you don't notice it. I drove to Uni today on my motorbike (first time), came late, quickly sat down and took off my backpack. Oh wait ... where was my bag? Definitely not on my back. I couldn't believe it and tried looking for it, kept checking under my desk. No, it was at home. Stupid me.
For one day this should have been enough stupidity, but it got worse ...

For class, we were supposed to bring in a newspaper article as inspiration for a story. Now I found the most hilarious happening from last week in a Leicestershire (England) area: a crocodile had swallowed a mobile phone. Now write a story about that! In the middle of writing I just burst out laughing. It was too funny. I couldn't deal with it. Too comical to believe.
In my story, the ranger asked why they knew the crocodile escaped. (That's when I broke off and hid my face, too embarrassed with dripping tears. A friend asked, are you alright? I laughed even more and everyone joined in.)
So this is how it goes on in the end:
"Well, we rang it ..."
"You rang it?"
"Yes, but it didn't ring." (And here I started laughing all over again.)
It took me 20 minutes to write these lines, because I kept laughing so badly. My thoughts always went back to the ringing crocodile, which it apparently really did. Just imagine it having a Britney Spears ringtone "Oops!... I Did It Again".
Couldn't stop laughing. No way. And all the others laughed at me. That just made it worse. I think my sweater is still wet from wiping my eyes.

Comedy Festival
Over two weeks, there are copious acts all around Leicester for the festival. I went to my first comedy gig ever today. Front row (always a bad sign), only male at the front, accompanied by two girls (very bad sign), no one else on our side (very, very bad sign).
My friend's golden silk scarf was the running gag of the evening. The host put it practically everywhere. When he put it on that naked guy (completely naked) to congratulate him on the act, everyone burst out. Not laughing actually. I'm not sure if my friend is happy to have it back.
I was the second running gag. It came out that I'm German, the only foreign in the audience (why did I put up my hand?). So he kept explaining the British ways to me (yes, they do live in houses and apparently their kids can't resist hitting balloons when they see one). I'm good at making a fool out of myself.
The next comedian tried to explain to us what masculinity really means. First he made comments about my two diamond earrings (they are not diamond in any way) and said I should put on my motorbike helmet to hide them. For whatever reason, he then still wanted me to be his role model for his argument. ME! A role model for masculinity? My two friends and me, we started laughing really loud. For everyone who didn't know, I'm gay. The guy didn't get why we laughed, but it was definitely funny.

Now, the next act did something amazing that I want to share with you. Watch the video and tell me what you think of comedy. What makes you happy? How do you put it in words?

I planned to give you my Mozzarella poem on this week's special Sunday post, but I just stumbled across Christine's blog and her Blogfest. Now I'd like to share my experience with editing instead.

Most contestants have submitted prose writing, but I found the editing of this particular poem very insightful. Some may have read this poem before on this blog, but the new version is a first on here.

This is the old poem:

Invaders of Mind

Can’t leave you behind,
want to keep mine shut.
You seek me nightly - but
I am blind,
unable to find
a way to close my head.
I don’t understand this thread
Residing in my mind.

My pain is old
and will not cease,
comes knocking, endlessly.
But, behold,
afield is peace:
Sown seeds there thrive for me!

One of my assignments at Uni was to refurbish an old piece of work and make something completely new out of it. First I was reluctant to change too much. I liked the old set-up, the rhymes and the meaning. Who would have thought I'd like the new one even better.

Mind Intrusion

I listen
to your song,
your thumping
invading at night.
I need
a way
To close my head.

I hide
Among the corn,
Where our naked
Were strong.
Our crops,
Reside in me.

My pain is old,
won’t stop to seethe,
comes knocking,
I make new deeds
and plant them deep.
Sown seeds
Will thrive,
but just for me.

See, the new one is not bound by the generic conventions of the strict form. With free verse, I could increase the speed and make the rhymes less predictable. The short lines also contribute to rhythm and especially in the end convey the hopeful look into the future.

Same as in prose, cutting the unnecessary is important in poetry, as well as showing what is happening. I tried to do that in both poems, but I think the second one is clearer.

Thank you for the challenge, Christine.
PS: A little advice: Write first, edit later. Leaving the poem for a few months has helped me create some distance and an objective view.

I thought I might start sharing some writerly advice that I find every now and then while I scurry the blog world. There is so much to learn for life and for writing. (By the way, you're free to re-post this.)


Feature Article: 12 Secrets to Selling More Books at Events
So you got a book event, great! Now you want to maximize it, right? You've heard your writing buddies talk (or perhaps read online) about the lack of attendance at signings, so figuring out how to maximize the event, regardless of the numbers might be tricky. While I spend a lot of time addressing online marketing, the offline component is one you shouldn't overlook. If book events are where you want to focus, then bringing in some ideas to help you sell more books is something you should consider.

Some years back when I was promoting The Cliffhanger I ended up at a book signing in the driving rain, I mean it was pouring and the store was all but empty. It was amazing I sold even one book, let alone seven. While not a big number, the copies were all sold to people who were seeking refuge in the store from the rain and not there for my event. This signing taught me a lot about events and connecting with consumers in stores. If you have an event coming up, consider these ideas before you head out:

1. Marketing: First and foremost is the marketing of your event. But I'm not talking about the marketing you do in the media (though that is great too) I'm speaking of in-store marketing; this is what most folks seem to overlook. This is where you supply things to the store to help them market your event. Because the first phase of a successful event is driving people to it. Here are a few thoughts.

a. Do bag stuffers. You can easily do this in your favorite computer program, do two up on a page, meaning that you use one 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper to do two fliers. You'll want to ask the store first if they mind that you provide this, most stores or event venues don't.

b. Bookmarks: while most in the industry see these as passé, people still love them. You can do bookmarks and bag stuffers (or staple them to the flier) or you can do custom bookmarks with the date and time of your event. Nowadays it's pretty easy to get these done cheaply. Keep in mind that if you are having the event in a mall or other type of shopping area, you might be able to drop the bookmarks (or bag stuffers) off at the nearby stores to see if they'll help promote the event.

2. Book signings are boring: Regardless of where you do the event, plan to do a talk instead of a signing. People are drawn into a discussion and are often turned off by an author just sitting at a table. Marketing is about message and movement so stand up and speak. If speaking in public is intimidating to you, go to Toastmasters or some other local networking/speaking group and see what you can learn.

3. Unique places: If you want to get more attention for your event, consider doing events in unique places. We've done them in video stores, electronics stores, gyms, even restaurants (on slow nights); doing outside-the-bookstore events is a great way to gain more interest for your talk. Why? Because you aren't competing with everyone else at the bookstore for your crowd. When you do an event at a locale that doesn't normally do events, you'll attract more people just because it's considered "unique."

4. Show up early and talk it up: OK, so let's say you're in the store and there are a ton of people in there shopping (a book event dream, yes?), I suggest that you take your extra bag stuffers or custom bookmarks and just hand them to the people in the store. Let them know you are doing an event at such and such time and you'd love it if they can sit in. You'll be surprised how many new people you might pull in this way.

5. Customize: Regardless of what your talk is about, poll the audience first to see a) what brought them there, or b) what they hope to learn if your talk is educational. I suggest this because the more you can customize your discussion, the more likely you are to sell a book. If you can solve problems (and this is often done during the Q&A) all the better. You'll look like the answer machine you are and readers love that. If you have the answers, they'll want to buy from you. I promise.

6. Make friends: Get to know the bookstore people, but not just on the day of the event. Go in prior and make friends, tell them who you are and maybe even hand them your flier or bookmark (or a stack if you can). Often stores have Information Centers, see if you can leave some fliers there instead of just at the register. Getting to know the people who are selling the book is a great way to help gather more people into your event. If your event isn't in a bookstore but attached to a shopping area or mall, go around to the stores (and perhaps you did this when you passed out the fliers) and let them know you have an event and ask what you can do to help them promote it. If you can rally the troops to help you market your talk, you could triple the numbers of people at your event. No kidding.

7. Take names: I always, always recommend that you get names and (email) addresses from the folks who attended. Signing them up for your mailing list is a great way to keep in touch with them and stay on your reader's radar screen. If you have a giveaway or drawing, great! This will help you to collect names. If you don't, offer them a freebie or e-book after the event. Often if I'm doing a PowerPoint presentation I will put together a set of them (delivered in PDF) after the event. Attendees need to sign up to get them and then once they do, I include them in our newsletter list, which helps me to stay on their radar screen.

8. Pricing: Make sure your book is easy to buy. If you are doing this outside of a bookstore this is easy to do and will help your sales. I find that a rounded number like $10 or $20 makes for a quick and easy sale. If you can round up or down without adding or losing too much to the price, by all means do it.

9. Book pairing: One way you might be able to round up is by pairing your book with a freebie. When I paired Red Hot Internet Publicity with a second, but smaller, marketing book I took the awkward pricing of $18.95, bumped it up to $20 (so 2 books for $20) and quadrupled my sales after an event. Now the pairing doesn't have to be a book, it can be a special report or even an e-book that you send to them after the event.

10. Product and placement: As you're doing your talk (especially if it's in a non-bookstore venue) make sure that you have a copy of the book propped up in front of you so event visitors see it the entire time you are speaking. Hold up the book when appropriate and use it as an example when you can. This will help to direct the consumer's eye to the book - and making eye contact with the product is a good way to make sure it stays on their radar screen throughout your talk. When I do a speaking gig at an event that allows me to sell books in the room, I will sell four times more than I would if the attendees have to go somewhere else to buy it, so make the buy easy. If you can, make sure your books are for sale in the room.

11. Ease of purchase: Aside from pricing, if you're doing your own checkout make sure that you have many ways consumers can buy your book. I take credit cards at the event, checks and cash. Don't limit yourself as to what you can take or you will limit your sales.

12. Post event wrap-up: So the event is over, what now? Well, if you got attendees to sign up for your newsletter (you did do that, right?) now it's time to send a thank you note for attending and remind them (if they missed the chance at the event) to buy a copy of your book at the "special event price."

Speaking and book events are great ways to build your platform, but if you aren't selling books there's little point in doing them. For many of us, our book is our business card and thus, if we can sell our "business card" we can keep consumers in our funnel. If your book isn't your business card you still want readers, right? The marketing before, during and after an event is crucial to building your readership. While it's easy to say that events sell books, they often don't. I find that if you don't "work it" you often will find your time wasted. Seek the opportunities when they are made available to you - and then maximize them when they are, you'll be glad you did!

Author Marketing Experts, Inc. is a full-service book marketing, promotion, and publicity company. We serve authors at all stages of marketing and promotion. We offer a full range of packages and services to choose from. To see a price list or schedule a free consultation, send your e-mail to penny@amarketingexpert.com with the subject line "Author Services Info." You can also visit our Web site at www.amarketingexpert.com.

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