Tag Archives: Sandy’s World

The Pig-Dog in my Cupboard

Yesterday a pig-dog* moved into the cupboard where I keep the sweets (among other things). The common German pig-dog (Schweinehund) is something that keeps you from starting a difficult project or task – either because you succumb to laziness or because you’re riddled with self-doubts or fear of the unknown. In other words, pig-dogs are our weaker selves.

The pig-dog which moved into my cubboard, however, is a new variety of pig-dog and is supposed to help you with a difficult task. In my case, the pig-dog sits on my gummibears and chocolate and reminds me to eat something healthy instead of sweets. Like, you know, fruit.

So far he has been moderately successful.

Well ….

 At least he’s been successfuly in so far that I now feel the need to justify myself whenever I grab a piece of chocolate. As in, I’m talking to a stuffed animal that’s sitting in my cupboard.  O_o


* The pig-dogs name is Puntito and has been designed by my Weight Watchers coach. Just so you know whom to blame when I go completely ga-ga.and start writing odes to the pig-dog in my cupboard. 😉


One of Richard Doyle’s initial letters for the Victorian magazine Punch

I’m currently preparing my dratted diss (aka my PhD thesis) for publication. As always when a deadline is looming near, I’m full-blown panic-mode. But hey, this time there are reasons. Good reasons!

  1. I have to format the dratted thing in MS Word, which, as everybody knows, was never intended for professional book formatting. But when it comes to German academic publishing, we format our books in MS Word. Hooray!
  2. The final publication will include a fair number of pictures (35 at the last count). According to Plan A, all images would have been included in an appendix at the end of the book. But how reader-unfriendly is that? So I came up with Plan B: put all images into the text, at the appropriate places. Have you ever put high-definition images into a MS Word document? Let me tell you, it’s not pretty. Hence the panicking. Because scratch Plan B. 
  3. Plan C:  Buy the Student & Teacher edition of Adobe Creative Suite Design (which includes Photoshop and InDesign, among others). But which version should I buy? The German version or the English version??? (Later on, I’d  like to use the programme for e-book creation. Therefore I’m thinking English version. But I’m just not sure. *sob*)
  4. I have to hand in seven special-PhD-thesis copies at uni (these have to include a German summary of the study and a CV) (I think). They are freaking me out, too. 
  5. I want to (must) have finished everything by the end of next week. 

In other words: Argh! Argh! Argh!

Signs of Life

“Knock, knock, who’s there?”


“Sandy who?”

“Sandy who hasn’t posted in ages.”

As you can see, I still haven’t been abducted by aliens, nor have I fallen off the edges of the earth. Instead, life hit me over the head.

Real hard.

Almost from the beginning, 2012 turned into an annus horribilis for my family: we lost three people from among our close friends and family, among them my sweet, dear grandfather. Shortly before Easter he became seriously ill. After a stay at the hospital, he moved in with us and was nursed by the family. We all hoped his health would improve again, but instead he became frailer and frailer. He died the day I returned home from RWA National.

I love this picture of me & my granddad – it was taken in 1994

As you can imagine, his illness and subsequent death hit us all quite hard. I had enormous difficulties coping with the whole situation. Indeed, all I could do was try and get through each day without breaking down. Consquently, I lost touch with friends, I no longer updated this blog, and I stopped writing. Well, I’ve never been able to write through heartbreak, so this was hardly surprising. But I also got bad at handling phone calls and e-mails (e-mails still present a problem …), and by the end of the year I suffered from panic attacks. In addition, we lost Carlos, one of our remaining family cats, and Teh Kitteh’s kidney problems worsened. Indeed, they’re now so bad that she will die soon. So as you can see, 2012 was a shitty year all around.

Given this background, I doubly grateful for the good things that came my way:

  • In May I attended the wonderful 1st LoveLetter Conference in Berlin.
  • I returned once again to Freiburg for another academic conference.
  • After years and years and years, I finally attended RWA National once again – and went to Disneyland as well! Whoohooo!!!
  • After a long struggle, I finally got the rights to my three novels back. Yay! I plan to dip my toes into self-publishing and I hope I’ll soon manage to get new editions of all three novels online – in addition to a brandnew novel. More about this soon!

Knock, knock …

… anybody there?


Ah, there she is! 🙂

Hello everybody! I hope you all had a great start into the new year! Mine was certainly fantastic — I had a sweet baby on my arm (though not my own, alas).

As you can see, I still haven’t been abducted by slimy green aliens, haven’t travelled back in time to snatch up Mr Thornton (oh wait, he wasn’t a real person to begin with … too bad! No wonder I didn’t travel back in time!), haven’t fallen into the duck pond. Instead, I have been hard at work at … well, myself. After gaining 25 kilos in the past four years (that’s 55.1 pounds for you), I’m now determined to get rid of all that weight until summer. Why summer, you ask? Well, because I’m going to RWA National this year (at this point feel free to imagine me jumping around the room and yelling WOOHOOOO!!!! at the top of my voice). I haven’t been since 2007, and I really don’t want people to say things like, “Have you seen Sandy? Wow, she’s become fat, hasn’t she?” No, I want people to say things like, “Have you seen Sandy? My, but she’s looking good, isn’t she?” 🙂

Incidentally, I also didn’t want to buy bigger-sized trousers yet again. So, on 25 November I joined Weight Watchers, and I haven’t looked back since: not only have I lost weight and am eating healthier food, but I am also enthusiastic about food again. I have discovered new dishes (how could I ever live without oven-roasted veggies???) and old favourites. Better still, I feel that I have finally taken back control over my own life. I’m looking forward to things again (RWA National!!!!), and I’m hopeful about the future (despite the Euro crisis and all that).

One thing I want to do over the next few weeks and months is to document my WW journey. So without further ado here’s the first set of pics. They were taken on 13 January, when I had already lost 6.6 kilos (14.6 lbs):

By then, the worst of the wobbliness had been reduced, which was in part also due to umpteen hours spent on the Wii balance board. There’s nothing like riding the bike around the Wii Fit island to improve the shape of your thighs! *g*

There and Back Again

In case you were wondering: teh Kitteh and I haven’t fallen off the edges of the earth, nor have we been abducted by horrible aliens, nor buried under an avalanche of crafting books (though mountainous piles of crafting books seem to grow in my library these days …). What happened was that I didn’t have proper internet access. Or rather, it took me ages (two years to be exact) to install my new computer. But now the ‘puter is connected to all the important stuff (except for the printer — still need to buy a new printer) (there’s a pattern emerging here, can you see it?), and I’m properly back online. Yay! So there’s hope that I’ll get back to posting regularly. 🙂

Much has happened while I was away from my blog:

  • I bought a Kindle
  • I got addicted to Kindle books
  • I started to think that the Kindle is the best thing since the invention of chocolate
  • I sewed softies for Softies for Mirabel
  • I went to academic conferences in Canterbury and Leeds and at a castle on the banks of the Rhine.
  • I also went back to the Black Forest for the first time in 25 years and visited the small town in which I spent a part of my childhood and which was the model for Kirchwalden in CASTLE OF THE WOLF.

Election Day

Yesterday there were town council elections in my tiny corner of the world. The ballot paper looked like this (minus the cat): (The monstrous thing Teh Kitteh is sitting on is not the actual ballot paper; it’s what we were sent in preparation for the ballot so nobody would freak out in their booth on election day.) Why was the ballot paper so large, you ask? Because there are 93 seats in the Frankfurt town council, and the Powers That Are decided it would be much more democratic all around if everybody had 93 votes. (Teh Kitteh was much puzzled)

To make matters more confusing, you could vote for a party list or for individual candidates, and you could give each candidate up to three votes out of your 93. (At that point, Teh Kitteh gave up and started to attack the ballot paper instead.)

You could also rule out specific candidates (though not in the manner Teh Kitteh employed, by ripping off parts of the ballot paper.)

It kind of makes you wonder how many people did not go to the elections because they didn’t understand the procedure or couldn’t decipher the relatively small print of the ballot paper. (Teh Kitteh, for one, decided to hide beneath the ballot paper.)

And even when you had carefully studied the lists on this paper, a somewhat nasty surprise awaited you in your election booth: in addition to the broadsheet monster, you also received another, similarly sized ballot paper (which The Powers That Are had not sent out beforehand) for the town council of your suburb.

For which you had 19 votes….

Still alive and kicking

I have to apologize for my prolonged absence this past autumn and winter. When I came home from my splendid Toronto adventure and the even more splendid conference of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals at Yale U, I fell into a big, fat, black hole, and it’s taken me all these months to crawl out of it. For the most part, I felt like this unfortunate kitty …

… with bouts of self-pity of the locked-into-the-bathroom-and-bawling-one’s-eyes-out variety thrown in for good measure. Assembling the aformentioned unfortunate kitty didn’t help, even if the result was rather pleasing, if I may say so myself …

Not even hosting two tea-parties helped (despite the huge amounts of yummy left-overs) (people went home with doggie bags and I was told I had baked too much cake) (this is not true, btw; it’s just that my friends didn’t eat enough cake!).

And no, buying two more Nordic Ware bundt cake tins didn’t help either. What’s worse, the fir trees surrounding the Fairytale Cottage cake broke off when I attempted to free the cake of the tin. Thus the fir trees became strangely shaped bushes, but thanks to copious amounts of chocolate icing you (almost) couldn’t tell they were supposed to be trees. Ah well …

In the end, it was the writing that did the trick: one day I sat down with my AlphaSmart and took up the threads of a story I started back in … uhm … 2009, I guess. It’s a rather over-the-top story, BUT (and this is really the most important bit) loads of fun to write, and thus I threw myself into it with gusto. Naturally, I once again committed a naming faux pas, yet thanks to my ever watchful, native-speaker friends, they were caught in time (unlike poor Heavens to Murgatroyd! Troy). So my poor, homely, potato-nosed, cousin-to-hero secondary character is NOT nicknamed Flopsy after all (due to the Beatrix Potter connection) (having been reared without Beatrix Potter, I had no idea of the existence of a fluffy rabbit called Flopsy – see that’s one of the dangers of writing in a language not your own: you never perceive the pitfalls until you’ve stumbled straight into them!)
Anyways, I’m having a great time with my still titleless WIP – so far the heroine has managed to shock a carriage-load of strangers, the hero and the hero’s sister (who fainted, poor girl) and I’ve high hopes that she’ll manage to scandalise the hero’s mother in no time at all. The hero surprised ME by suddenly talking dirty about things not to be mentioned in the company of ladies.
Now I only need to find a title for the WIP – must be a title suitable for the first book in a trilogy. “Irresponsible Pleasures”???? Hmmm ….
Must also find suitably silly new nickname for the unfortunate Flopsy. I first thought of Grannie, but alas, my hero’s called Griff, so we wouldn’t want another male Gr-name in the novel. (This just shows you with what kind of difficulties we writers have to deal with. Names! Silly names! Titles! Characters behaving shockingly!)


On Monday the sky above my town was filled with geese.

Lots and …

… lots …

… and lots of them.

Goodbye, geese! Have a save journey!

I iz back!

This summer I crossed the Big Pond once too many times, for when I came home from New Haven last Tuesday, I was hit by a wave of jet lag of epic porportions. A big, old, giant, beastly dragon of jet lag. It swallowed me whole and didn’t spit me out for several days. Hence I barely managed to crawl out of bed in the mornings (mornings? ha!) and was on the verge of falling asleep for the rest of the day. I properly woke up only after 6 p.m. or thereabouts. Gah!

This time, my visit to the USA was a bit of an adventure: not only did I take the train from Newark International Airport to New Haven (& caught a glimpse of Manhattan during the journey!!!), but I also trod the hallowed halls of Yale University. To be honest, I felt somewhat daunted by the prospect of giving a paper at Yale. I mean, Yale!! And I was considerably more nervous than I usually am. Especially as I had to shorten my paper, like, five minutes before the presentation (uh-oh!) (for whatever reason, the whole “8 pages of double-spaced text = 20 minutes of talking” so didn’t work for me this time around — duh!). In addition, it was considerably warmer than I had reckoned with (aka I sweated like a pig). And if that wouldn’t have been bad enough, this was also a conference where I didn’t know anybody AND I was to give the first paper. (Oh the pressure!) (And I’m not just talking about the pressure on my poor little academic soul, but also the one on my bladder!) But I needn’t have worried: Richard Doyle’s illustrations always make people smile and chuckle (even if the presenter has some problems with the stupid Power Point presentation!) Yay for Dicky Doyle!!!

Naturally, I was impressed by Yale. Who wouldn’t be? It’s a beautiful campus; the university owns several museums; and the libraries are so gorgeous they make you cry. But on the other hand, Yale is full of strangeness, too. Take the buildings: somebody took great pains to copy Oxford and Cambridge as well as to make everything look really, really, really old. Think treating the individual stones with acid and/or putting them in the river to artifically age them. Think false cracks in the windows. Think medieval turrets. You get the picture. It made me chuckle.

A lot. 🙂

And then, there are the secret societies and their buildings, which aren’t shown on campus maps on account of them being, well, secret. Very secret. So secret that each (huge!) building only has one entrance and no windows. Obviously, secret societies meet in the dark (on account of them being so secret, of course!) and don’t like other people peeking in on their secret business (makes you think of Terry Pratchett’s Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night, doesn’t it?). Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly fine with secret societies in fiction (and the Elucidated Brethren are rather sweet in their own twisted way), but in real life? What do secret societies do? Apart from hanging out in places to which nobody else has access??? It’s all a bit cloak and dagger, and very odd indeed!

What shocked me was the rather noticeable contrast between Yale and New Haven: on the one hand, you have this very rich university; on the other, there is a rather poor town with an appallingly high number of what looked like homeless people. Very disturbing!

The conference itself, though, was fantastic. The RSVPers are a bunch of knowledgable and thoroughly nice people with great enthusiam for the Victorian Age in general and Victorian periodicals in particular. Not only did I learn an awful lot, but I also met people who had actually heard of Richard Doyle. There even was a paper on Doyle’s father, John Doyle, the political caricaturist “H.B.”! Not to mention the paper on needlework patterns!!! Attending this conference was a heady and thrilling experience and exactly as academia ought to be, but as it, alas, so often is not.

Signs of Life

Given my lengthy absence, I’m sure that you must have thought that I had either been devoured by a grizzly bear or mauled by a racoon. I’m happy to report that neither happened. Instead my mini-me netbook caught a virus while I was still in Toronto. Though I managed to get rid of said virus, nearly all programmes suffered (aka wouldn’t work properly) and I simply couldn’t risk to go online with the mini-me again when I still needed it to show films in class (which turned out to be a bit of a challenge because the mini-me’s volume adjustment was one of the things that no longer worked …).

So what did I do these past few weeks (apart from torturing a bunch of Canadian students, that is)? Obviously, I managed to survive the G20 and all encounters with Canadian wildlife (I only ever saw a grizzly bear bum — and that was at the Toronto Zoo) and returned home safe and sound at the beginning of August (all my Canadian students survived their encounter with the German visiting professor, too!!!).

After only two days I was off to the IASPR conference in Brussels, where I found out that romance readers do indeed make better scholars. 😉 For this was one of the best academic conferences I’ve ever attended: not only were most of the papers very good (and Pam Regis’s keynote was utterly fantastic AND funny), but a spirit of community also permeated the conference. We chatted, we bounced ideas off each other, and we went to dinner together (and the food in Belgium? oooh, yum!!!). It was intense and absolutely lovely. An Goris, Sarah Frantz and Eric Selinger did an awesome job with organising this conference!

One thing I like so much about this new generation of romance scholars is that we’re all (well, most of us, anyway) widely read in the genre. As a result, the discussions on our various subjects are very fruitful. And because most of us like reading romance and are fluent in “romance lingo”, you can get some very strong reactions from your audience when you present a paper. A nice example for this was Sarah’s paper on the history of the alpha male. You could feel several ripples going through the audience, for example when she mentioned the AAR polls and several all-time favourite books. And when she analysed one of the sex scenes in Loretta Chases “Lord of Scoundrels” (woohooo!) as an inverted bodice ripper scene (she’s ripping his shirt), well, that was one of my favourite moments at this conference. We didn’t exactly shout “woohooo!”, but I tell you, it was a near thing. 🙂

Then back home I went to battle against monster dust bunnies in my flat and to catch up with grading. Now I’m busy doing some more research on Dicky Doyle for a conference paper I am to give at Yale University (v. cool, isn’t it? obviously, I’m thrilled to pieces that I’ve been invited!) next week. Doing any kind of research on Punch magazine can be very disconcerting — especially for the person sitting next to you in the library or standing next to you at the photocopying machine: you’re bound to laugh out aloud at one point or another. (Oh gosh, more laughter in academia, how very shocking!)

As you can see, my summer has been very busy. All in all, the six weeks in Toronto were a great experience. As you might remember, I had been rather worried about the 72 hours of teaching, and so it was an enormous boost to my ego to find that I didn’t have any difficulties at all with the teaching load. I also realised that since I started teaching in 2003 I have rather mellowed and am much more relaxed in the classroom now. Instead of stressing and freaking out when my students didn’t manage to read all the texts, I managed to find a way to work around this. For the very first time I also fully realised that over the past few years I’ve gained a broad enough knowledge of British history and literature (especially of Victorian lit!) to improvise. The only thing I need to do is to improve my singing … *ggg*

P.S.: For some reason or other ALL of the postcards I wrote while in Toronto apparently never made it to their destinations. They’ve all disappeared! Duh!