Sunday, September 30, 2012

Of Harvest Festivals and Full Moons

The first time I saw a poster advertising Erntefest*, I misread it as Entenfest** and, not unnaturally, was mildly curious as to what a duck festival involved. It was only when I received a flyer in my post box inviting me to the village Erntefest that I realised my mistake and discovered that it is the German word for Harvest Festival. (This is on a par with my faux pas in my first week in Germany when I was looking for a car to buy. I read the list of features on one of the cars and asked what a Nebelschweinwerfer was. Cue hysterical laughter from my other half – the salesman’s laughter was more restrained probably because he wanted to make a sale – and something I’ve never been allowed to forget. A Nebelscheinwerfer is a fog light, but by the accidental insertion of a ‘W’ I had invented some sort of device for throwing pigs into the fog.) Although a church service is involved, the Harvest Festival celebrations involve much more than the religious part. And, in common with many occasions here, a parade kicks off the party.

So, I’ve just been riding in a Harvest Festival parade, along with three others on horseback and two horses pulling an old wagon with a lovely decorative straw load, all of us dressed in black waistcoats and trousers, with white shirts and cowboy hats. (I don’t think I’ve mentioned before that we all ride Western style despite my many years of riding in an English saddle before I moved here.) We followed a line of tractors of varying degrees of antiquity, all belching smoke of varying degrees of noxiousness. The horses are all used to this sort of thing and mine in particular was on very good behaviour today. Unlike the last – carnival this time – parade in which we took part, but in mitigation the fireworks being let off in our direction definitely didn’t help things much then. So we moved along at slower than a horse’s walking speed and had to make frequent stops to avoid colliding with the plough directly in front of us. The streets along the way were lined with people, and many residents watched from their windows. One woman, sitting on a chair outside her house with a glass in her hand, put the glass down before standing up and applauding us. Most people had smiles on their faces, which made all our dressing up and the prettifying of the horses feel worthwhile. After the parade we took advantage of the free food and drink vouchers we had been given as participants before the carriage horses were once more harnessed to the covered wagon in order to give rides to children. The other four horses diligently mowed the grass and were stroked by some of the children who stood around admiring them, while various tractors gave demonstrations of ploughing with sundry interesting old ploughs on a strip of field a few yards metres away. Only one driver asked if the horses would be bothered when he started his tractor beside them (they weren’t), and I was intrigued to watch him detach his steering wheel, complete with column, insert the column somewhere in the side of the tractor and turn the wheel to start the engine before putting the steering wheel back where it would be needed when he drove. Enjoyment was helped along by the fact that although the day had started cold, about 2 C, and foggy it developed into glorious, warm sunshine. At the very end of September.

The Harvest Festival coincided with a full moon. One of the latest innovations at the yard where my horse is kept is the full moon ride. It starts with a traditional German barbecue of Bratwurst (sausage) and pork steaks, together with a lining of alcohol, then after dark the horses are saddled up and we set off in the moonlight to ride alongside the fields. The popularity of these rides is growing and there were so many bookings for the available horses (mine is only available for me and chosen friends when offered) that we had two scheduled on consecutive nights. I went on the one before the Harvest Festival day itself, resulting in a late night followed by an early morning. I pleaded exhaustion and didn’t ride on the second, so my poor horse didn’t have to go out yet again.

The first ride was so oversubscribed that it turned into a carriage ride for some. The riders followed the carriage and one of the passengers ran frequently through the nine horses that were being ridden, crying ‘Catering Service’ (exactly the same as the English except for the capital letter denoting that Service is a noun)  and offering bottles of beer or a Schnapps bottle to swig from and even a few nibbles. Taking the latter in a gloved hand while on a moving horse resulted in broken nibbles, but never mind they still tasted fine. A stop was made halfway for some of the riders to swap with passengers on the wagon, in the middle of which came the sound of breaking glass and a cry of ‘There isn’t any more wine.’ But nobody went short of alcohol – apart from the children and those who had to drive home afterwards, of course.

Contrary to what I might previously have thought, the Germans have a great capacity to have fun. When I first started to make friends I was invited to more parties than I had been to in several years in England. Carnival season is important here and many villages hold several parties a year for various other celebrations. In my younger days I rode horses in competitions and for fun, but since I started riding with my group of friends I have had more fun rides than I remember in my entire life. It helps that we do very little riding on roads and it is possible to ride for miles and miles kilometres and kilometres without risking life and limb in traffic. And although alcohol is, as already mentioned, often involved, there is no rowdy drunkenness when we ride. We have a bank holiday this week – German Unification Day – and are planning a long ride then. Partying on horseback has become part of my life now.

*Ernte = harvest, Fest = party or festival
**Ente = duck (the quack, quack variety, not the get out of the way before you hit your head variety)        


Our two carriage horses and two of the group

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Free full-length romantic novel this Sunday and Monday

My latest full-length novel, Family Affairs, will be available free on Amazon Kindle this Sunday and Monday, 30th September and 1st October. The link on is:

And on

If you are in Europe, it is also available on all the European Amazon sites.

I would really love you to read this and, if you would be very kind, to write a review. Most of all, I hope you enjoy it. If you do, please tell all your friends about it!

If you want to know what it is about, this is the blurb shown on Amazon:

After a whirlwind romance Tanya Webster has found her ideal man – rich, handsome Phil Clough. At Tanya’s wedding, elder sister Chrissie meets Phil’s cousin, the magnetic Matt Brinklow. But newly single Chrissie isn’t looking for love and Matt isn’t used to being left in the lurch. Add to the equation the loss of something very precious to Matt and things don’t look promising for him and Chrissie.

When Tanya’s marriage runs into trouble, she runs to big sister Chrissie for help. But then Tanya takes things into her own hands and makes a very big mistake. Meanwhile Chrissie’s love life takes a turn for the better- or so it seems. Not all is as rosy, however, as it looks at first.

While Chrissie has to be on hand to give her little sister some much needed advice, it takes a nosy but mostly friendly supporting cast, and not a few four-legged friends, to help smooth the path of true love for her.

Have a good read.

PS - I've just found a really good site by the name of Author Marketing Club. Any site that can help me sell my books has to be good. So I've joined and entered all my books on the site. Take a look. You'll find it here:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mangling the English language

If you’ve tried to learn French, or if you’ve visited France without trying to learn French, you will no doubt have heard of Franglais. Well, visit Germany and you’ll come across Denglisch.

In the part of Germany where I live, which belonged to the other side of the Berlin wall, most children  before 1989 and reunification learned Russian when they were at school, but not so many learned English. Which opens up a good market for the private English teacher here as there are a lot of older people who never learned any English and now find they need to do so. Whether it be for business, increasing amounts here being transacted in English, or for holidays (and it’s not in only English-speaking countries where they need it. Visit many countries like Greece, France, Egypt and more, and the second language there is English. So if you want to read the menu it’s the local language or English), I get adults wanting to learn my language. So I can keep on practising my mother tongue on a regular basis.

But even those who never learned English and never want or need to come across plenty of examples of what is perceived to be English. I’m not denying that some of it is, but a lot is English as you have never seen or heard it before. Of course some springs from American English (Wellness, for example, which is much used), but some is just a marketing ploy that has gone a little wrong in the translation. T-shirts bear incomprehensible slogans. Some English words have been imported into the German language and are used more or less side by side with their German equivalents. The pronunciation, however, can be a little unrecognisable. Hi-Fi is Hee-Fee when spoken. So not far from where I live is ‘Der Car Hi-Fi Spezialist’. In Erfurt, capital city of Thüringen, is a ‘Second-Hand Laden’ (Laden being the German word for shop. Some shops do call themselves a Shop instead of a Laden.) Another word which sounds the same but has a subtle difference from our usage in English is Kompetenz. This sounds just like ‘competence’ when spoken, but is used more as ‘expertise’ or ‘authority’. So while I would think of someone competent as being quite capable of doing a job, they might not be astoundingly special at it. Someone here who is ‘kompetent’ is the bee’s knees. Not a million kilometres away from the Car Hi-Fi Spezialist is another shop that has a proud sign declaring, ‘Celebrating Coffee Competence.’ Now, I don’t know about you, but do I need my coffee to be competent? I mean, I assume that the shop itself, or at least the people who own or work there, are meant to be the competent ones, but even so…

The trigger that prompted me to write this was a slogan I spotted on the side of a lorry this morning. The lorry belonged to a company that galvanises metal. And the slogan read, ‘It’s beauty and forever.’ Now intrinsically there is nothing desperately  wrong with this as a piece of advertising-slogan English at least it was spelled correctly - but it just doesn’t sound English. Well, not English as I would use it, anyway. It’s not as bad as the posters displayed on lamp posts all over here advertising ‘Life Music’ or ‘Life Musik’ for those who prefer their posters to look a little more German. I itch to change the F to a V when I pass those posters, but I’ve not yet given in to temptation. A DJ is a DJ. A computer is a Computer (note that German nouns start with capital letters; I am not using them merely for emphasis, in case you have been wondering).

Of course, not all German words are derived from the English. There are some that amuse me because they read like something entirely different from what they actually are if your brain doesn’t work primarily in German. So, again not too far from my other examples, there is an ‘Angel Shop.’ How sweet, I thought, until I found out that the German word Angel means angling or fishing in English.

I cannot finish this without commenting on German music radio stations. I’m not referring to classical music here, but those that play modern music feature a very high percentage of English language songs. (Which is nice for me as I can relate to them!) Some of those songs that are played regularly haven’t been played on English radio for many years, certainly not very often. And whether they know English or not, people sing along and ‘know’ the lyrics. That is, they have learned them phonetically and generally haven’t got a clue what the words they come out with mean. So when a friend sang along to Frankie Goes to Hollywood singing Relax, I asked him if he knew what he was singing. He confessed he didn’t. So I told him. He stopped singing.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A bit of a ramble

I realise it’s a week or more since my last post and I’m slacking. So I shall have a bit of a burble about things because I’m in the middle of cooking for a party I’m going to tonight (the theme is chicken and my Coq au Vin is finally in the oven).

Last night, instead of writing a post as I had intended, I had to spend hours removing a virus from my computer. Well, I didn’t spend hours doing it, more like hours trying in vain to get rid of the thing. I finally gave up at nearly two o’clock this morning after the software I was trying to install stubbornly refused to be installed. After a restless night, I switched on the computer this morning, tried once more to install, and hey presto! So finally the computer is clean again. But I’m feeling worn out and stressed.

Stress is not helped when I’m trying to cook something special – like real Coq au Vin without resorting to a cook-in sauce. Nor is the situation improved when the phone rings at a crucial moment, when I’m trying to slowly add stock and wine to a paste of oil, butter and flour. Resulting in my dumping all the wine in in one go and having to spend some considerable time later sieving the sauce to get out the lumps. Then after the big dish was finally in the oven I had to clean up spatters of red wine sauce not only from the hob (I hate ceramic hobs. They look lovely when they’re clean, but they’re such a pain to get clean) but from the tiles behind the oven and even splashed down one of the kitchen cupboards. The kitchen currently smells strongly of garlic and red wine.

One of the beauties of writing is that the characters you create can be anything you want. You need someone who is a technical whizz and can sort that computer problem out? There he or she is at the tip of the fingers. A brilliant cook who can produce any dish you want without resorting to a recipe book or making an almighty mess doing it? Just write. And of course, for the terminally untidy like myself, a neat freak is there or not at will. For every tricky situation the characters get into, there can be a solution, as well. Not like real life! I love making my characters up.

My romantic novels are all written in the third person, so I can get into the heads of those characters I wish to lead the action. My short story, Suspicion, has a first person narrator so one sees an entirely different perspective as the reader sees the views of only one person. I like experimenting, and Suspicion was an experiment. I know it’s relatively expensive buying one short story, even when it is a long one and I priced it as low as Amazon would let me, so I was happy to use the option Amazon gives me to offer the story for free last weekend. I shall do so again in the not too distant future and shall of course post here when it is planned. I have had only one review so far, but since it’s a nice one I’m quite happy! The reviewer suggested she wanted to learn more about the characters in my story, so I’m thinking over ideas for making a collection featuring the people in the village I made up. Perhaps I shall write them in spaces when I get a bit stuck with the full length books, or just need a short break from whatever I’m writing. It is really good when readers give me pointers like this, telling me what they want to read. It means I’m not just doing it all for myself, and it’s so nice to know that.

Since I’m not a work of fiction, I have to go back to my food now. There will be twenty or thirty people gathered later, all bringing their own contributions, either chicken things or side dishes. I hope they like my Coq au Vin as much as my fictional dinner guests would if my brilliant cook character had made it!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Free to good Kindle-owning homes

As I promised in my earlier post, I am offering a free download of my short story, Suspicion. This weekend, 15th and 16th September, you will be able to read the story without paying.

It is also available on,, etc if you are not in the US.

If you read it – and although it is long for a short story it won’t take long – I would very much appreciate it if you would be kind enough to write a review. I’d love to know if you think it was well-written and your thoughts about it. Obviously I’d be extremely happy if you give me lots of stars, but since I’m interested in your real opinion, I can’t expect everyone to give it five stars. If you have criticisms, then I shall pay heed to them and try to improve next time. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads would be extremely helpful. Comments here are also welcome.

I hope you enjoy the story.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What is it about Germany? Part 2

Not so very long ago my aunt and uncle celebrated their golden wedding anniversary (if I tell you I was a bridesmaid, that is really giving more information that I like to give, but I was very young at the time). They had a big party and I made one of my increasingly rare trips back to England taking with me the teenage son of some friends, who loves practising his English on me and is very good at it. We flew to Birmingham, where I rented a car and drove to East Anglia. As we were getting nearer to our destination my friends’ son said to me ‘England is very beautiful.’ My reply to him was that he lives in a very beautiful place. He disagreed. But I suppose familiarity breeds contempt, particularly in the young.

Thüringen is beautiful. It is a country of mountains and forests, and the landscape is stunning. One of the big contrasts between this part of the world and England is the space. Here, once you leave a town or village there are no, or virtually no, buildings. The sign that marks the end of the place you are leaving marks the beginning of the countryside; there is no sprawl. The fields are big, often vast, with no fences or hedgerows unless there is livestock, in which case electric fences are most often the only boundaries. The fields are usually separated only by ditches. Sometimes, especially from high ground, you can see for miles and miles and the views can be breath-taking. The first time I rode a horse out, I marvelled not only at the view but at the fact that I could ride for hours hardly going near a road except occasionally to cross one. And sitting on top of a horse is a great way to see the countryside.

Oh, and there are no grey squirrels. I’ve seen red ones in my garden almost close enough to touch.

Villages and towns are filled with gorgeous old houses, many half-timbered. The fact that this area is in the old DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik)- East Germany- means that there was less money to spend on post-war regeneration than there was in the west. So in West Germany many old towns suffered from rejuvenation – beautiful old buildings being torn down to be replaced my hideous modern monstrosities – while in the east it was only after the wall came down that many towns were restored. And because attitudes to historical architecture over the post-war years had changed, this meant that instead of tearing down the old buildings, the state has restored them to their former glory. So if you go into for example Erfurt, the capital city of Thüringen, you will see the Krämerbrücke, a bridge with medieval houses built on it, the Augustinerkloster (a monastery where Martin Luther once lived) and a host of impressive buildings all lovingly restored. And right in the centre a dearth of new buildings.     

But living anywhere is not just about nice views and attractive buildings. The people are of course important. There are a lot of very nice people here. In the days before reunification this part of the country was not overly rich, but there was full employment and nobody was really in need. Not being rich, however, led to much more of a community spirit than one sees in much of the west and that spirit is still often here today. People, especially those brought up in DDR times, are friendly and happy to help if you need help. When my gate was frozen up one winter (I keep it locked so my dog cannot inadvertently be let loose; there used to be a right of way across my land and some people think there still is) a neighbour, someone I don’t even know by name, saw my dilemma, presented me with a little bottle of lock de-icer and told me to keep it. Nobody minds if you ask for help.
One thing the collapse of the wall did allow people to do, which most hadn’t been allowed to do for a long time, was to travel in the west. Even those who miss the DDR times – and there are some – will admit to this benefit.

When I first started making friends, I started being invited to parties. The Germans like to party and any excuse is harnessed. Birthdays are big – but it is bad luck to with anyone a happy birthday before the day. If a birthday party is held, for instance, on a Saturday evening when the birthday is on Sunday, the guests form a queue at midnight to give their birthday wishes and presents. Before a wedding instead of stag and hen nights there is a Polterabend. The verb poltern means to crash about (think Poltergeist) and everyone is expected to bring a piece of china to throw down and break for good luck. (A friend’s nearly-two-year-old at a party a couple of months ago thought this was great fun, of course – I think he had to be kept out of the kitchen afterwards in case he got over-enthusiastic with the crockery.) Polterabends involve large numbers of friends and family of all ages. Children going to school for the first time have a party involving the presentation of cardboard cones (varying in size from quite small to enormous) called Zuckertüten (sugar bags). These are filled with a few practical items for use at school and enormous quantities of sweets. Hence all children look forward to going to school, of course. There is a big celebration for those going to university. No occasion remains uncelebrated, in fact. Despite this, and drink being a major part of celebrations, there is not the problem with drunkenness that is apparent nowadays in England. Of course some people drink too much sometimes, but they don’t generally behave badly when they are drunk. And alcohol is much cheaper here – which rather contradicts those who think that raising the price will solve the problems.

If it weren’t for the distance from my (English) friends and family, having to do everything in a foreign language and the lack of certain important English commodities like marmalade, mature Cheddar cheese, bacon, Marmite and decent bookshops among others, there might be little reason to miss England!

Friday, September 7, 2012

A new story available on Amazon Kindle

I’ve written something a little different. It’s not a novel but a long short story. It is technically, at 8,000 words, eligible to be called a novelette, but as it is not much longer than a short story, I call it that. It is the sort of story you can read at one sitting and, hopefully, enjoy.

It’s not a romance, although there is a hint of romance in it. It’s not a crime mystery although there is a hint of crime in it. The title is Suspicion – and that is what it is about. A woman is under suspicion for something she didn’t do, and she doesn’t even know at first that she is suspected of anything. Written in the first person it is again a little different from my romantic novels, which are all of course written in the third person. This time you get inside the head of the narrator, who is the only one, apparently, who hasn’t a clue what is wrong. The setting is a prosperous village somewhere in England.

I have priced the story as low as I can because, after all, it is only short. I shall let you know when I can put it on free offer for a day, which I shall do soon, so watch this space. If you like it I’d love it if you let me know, both here and on Amazon if you can.

The link is:

I’d love you to read it and I really hope you do like it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Facebook and other modern technology

After swearing I would never use Facebook, and sticking to my guns for years, I have finally caved in. There are two reasons why; because there is a group I am interested in and I talk to people there, and because I’m trying to get the word about my books around. I’m not sure whether the latter is having much effect yet, but at least I’m having some interesting conversations.

I must be a bit of an old fuddy-duddy, but I don’t see the point in ‘talking’ incessantly online with people I see regularly, some most days of the week. It is great for chatting with people I don’t see much, and living out of my native country there are a few of them. But although I’ve been on FB for barely a couple of weeks now, I’m seriously alarmed about some of the people who come along with ‘Friends’ requests, or are suggested by FB itself as being friends of friends. Apart from those I’ve never heard of who may have mutual friends but since I don’t know them I’m not sure whether I want or need to add them to my list, the suggestions have included even a tradesman I had a bit of a falling out with a few years ago to whom I definitely don’t need to talk. I can’t see that he’d want to get into any sort of conversation with me, either.

So you are asking me why, if I want to publicise my books, I’m being so picky. Well, in the above cases because they are all German and wouldn’t read my (un-translated) books. I had a complaint from a friend – a real one – that she couldn’t understand something I’d written on my front page. I think they call it my Timeline. I had to explain to her, and add another message for my German friends to the same effect, that I have to be bilingual online so she didn’t need to understand. I find myself sometimes having conversations with people in two languages at the same time. Since my written German isn’t up to much, it does stretch the old brain cells a little. However, English-speaking friends who like or want to know about my books are more than welcome. Deborah Fenwick on Facebook!

So I use Facebook a little but I don’t post silly personal details like what I’m cooking for lunch because I really don’t think anyone want to know. And I shall never, ever use Twitter. (I know, I said that about Facebook, didn’t I!)

Having been born in an age of black and white television, when not everyone had one (my family was one of those who did) and not everyone even had a telephone, I look back sometimes quite fondly to the days when I could disappear. I don’t mean for long, but I could go out and not be reached by anyone by mobile phone because there weren’t any. I could go for a long walk or drive and nobody knew where I was for maybe hours. OK, if I was late getting somewhere I had to arrive full of grovelling apologies and excuses about traffic or whatever, but everyone understood. Now it’s difficult to come up with a white lie about the weather or road conditions because it’s so easy to find out whether someone has been telling the truth or not.

As a crossword fanatic, it is easy now to complete a crossword – a general knowledge one at least – because the vast majority of answers are so accessible online. Just Google it and you have it. Once upon a time one needed at least a) a good memory full of oddball facts b) a Bible c) an atlas d) the complete works of Shakespeare and e) a decent encyclopaedia to have a chance of completing the things. Granted you could do without some combinations of b), c), d) and e) if your a) was pretty spectacular but that doesn’t apply to everyone.   

I worked in the computer industry for a while (which gave me some inspiration for Cool Customer) but technology has moved on apace. Nowadays if I have a computer problem I need help! Especially since all the little error messages on my computer come up in German. I see my computer as a brilliant tool for various things, but I’m not a techy. Moving abroad without a computer and the internet would have made my life more difficult; at least I can communicate with friends and family quickly and cheaply. I can write whatever I want to write and save it without needing to print out thick wads of paper. (And I am very careful to back everything up just in case.) Internet banking has been made all but compulsory here so that’s another use. And there’s Google for information, Amazon for books, Youtube for amusement and all that information just there at your fingertips. 

Actually, there is a lot of scope for a time travel book. I have thought about it, but there’s so much more to write that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Maybe some time.