Letters from Home, a project by the CompuServe Books & Writers Community

Christmas 2005 Edition, with huge thanks to Diana Gabaldon, Silvia Kuttny-Walser, Berit Bhm, Elvira Mittheis, Britta Schffmann, my ever-patient husband Michael ... and Joss Whedon.

Letter from Krefeld, Germany (mostly, though, from My Amazed Brain)

            I know that the Letters from Home (if you wonder what that is, take look at the message where Carol Krenz proposed the project on Nov. 6, 2004) are supposed to take a look around at your neck of the woods and report what's going on. Since the Holiday Season is traditionally also a time to look back and reflect, though, I hope I'll be forgiven if I do just that.

            I didn't have a New Year's Resolution at the beginning of 2005, but I had a few dates marked in my calendar. Back then, Diana still expected to finish A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, which I was already translating pretty much as her printer (well, her e-mail provider) spewed it out, by the end of March, so I assumed attending the European Dressage Championships on the last weekend in July as a photographer wouldn't be a problem (they were supposed to take place in Moscow, but there were rumors early on that the Russians wouldn't be able to finance them and that they'd be moved to either Arnhem/Holland or Hagen/Germany, both places that I can reach by car in an hour). I also blithely (and very gladly) accepted an assignment to translate Dana Stabenow's A TAINT IN THE BLOOD into German, due September 1st. There was one film that I was really, really looking forward to, and that was Joss Whedon's theatrical debut SERENITY, based on his wonderful-but-short-lived TV FIREFLY. Oh, and there were plans for a quick trip to Scotland in October.

            Little did I know.

              So the year started with something I hadn't expected at all. I got to visit Nadine Capellmann, the current Dressage World Champion, at her home in Aachen. Nadine is a very sympathetic lady, and a very graceful rider. Her new hope, Elvis, had been training in my home town for a while, and she sometimes jokingly calls me Elvis' court photographer, so I was honored when Britta Schffmann, a fellow journalist and author (and my invaluable riding instructor), asked me to take the photographs to illustrate a series of articles she was doing for the American magazine DRESSAGE TODAY.   

            Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Diana said I could have the completed manuscript of ABOSAA by May 1st, and the American publisher announced September 27 as the release date for the U.S. version. So I had an idea ... that was going to have Consequences. I knew that Random House wanted to repeat the reading/signing tour we did two years ago when the Lord John Mystery came out, so I called Silvia Kuttny-Walser, the German editor, and told her that if we wanted to do a tour, it would have to be before that date because the Americans wouldn't let Diana go for months, once the book was out. So Munich made plans with Diana, and set a German release date for the 6th of September.

            Little did I know.

            Local dressage rider Heiner Schiergen asked me to do his web site, wich was/is huge fun. And the German version of LEGENDS II (which contains another Lord-John-story) finally came out, titled DER MAGISCHE PAKT and featuring Diana's name prominently on the cover. And Jessica Sss, who is only 21 but practically grew up on horseback in circus arenas all over Europe, started training my five-year-old Friesian stallion Talisker, who is turning out to be ... pure joy to work with. And my e-mail-box received increasing numbers of messages from fans titled Book #6 when?


            On May 15, Diana sent me a message titled Section 10 <puff, pant, gasp>. I was a bit taken aback that the message itself was so brief and matter-of-fact, since she had said, way back when, that the book would consist of ten sections, so this was it then, right? I sent her congratulations on being finished ... and she said that, er, hadn't she told me that there were twelve sections by now? So here I was, three and a half months before this 1300-page monster was to be released (and don't forget to allow a month for production) and I realized that I still had almost a third of the book ahead of me. This was pretty much the point when Diana, who of course had her own nice chunk of the story to finish yet, started sending prayers to St. Jerome, whom her research had turned up as the patron saint of translators. Me? I went out and photographed some horses, in this case a herd of pony colts at the Bnniger Pony Stud Farm. Magic ...

On June 16, Diana sent me Section 12. Her message, again, was brief, but this time it was accompanied by the sound of every fibre in my body relaxing, so I felt safe enough to tell Silvia that I'd deliver the book on the first of August. (I had told her the middle of July before, and I  don't want to know how many sleepless nights she spent over this ...)

            So, the European Dressage Championships came and went without me, and I delivered the last part of the book in the wee hours of August 2. Seconds later, the first parcel of galleys to be proofread hit my doorstep. Five weeks until publication, six weeks until the first night of the tour. On August 11, Silvie sent me a message titled Geronimooooo! after sending the last of the corrected galleys to the typesetter. On September 2, the postman brought me a copy of EIN HAUCH VON SCHNEE UND ASCHE. It was unreal.

            Almost unnoticed, I also received a copy of my first Dana Stabenow mystery Das verleugnete Grab (A Grave Denied) sometime in August. And fortunately, my editor for those mysteries stretched my deadline for the second one, which I should have turned in by September 1st but did eventually finish early in November. Thank you, Elvira Mittheis! So I could at least attend a few days of the CHIO in Aachen, the world's greatest riding event. Got to see a few of the new European Champions performing after all, and caught a few glimpses of the new talent likely to compete at next year's World Championships, especially Isabell Werth, who is back big time (heartfelt congratulations!), and of course Nadine Capellmann and her truly unique Elvis.

            September came and went in a whirl of activity. The center of that whirl was, of course, the tour with Diana (and my tour diary made the click counter on my web site soar). Britta Schffmann asked me to do pretty much all the illustrations for a new book she was writing on Horse Handling. And fate had it that a hay field adjoining the stable where my horses are boarded got fenced in by corn fields so we could let the horses run free there without having actual fences in the pictures I naturally took. Not an opportunity I get every day, so I photographed the horses of several friends there and, finally, my own two Friesian stallions. And I translated thirty pages of a soon-to-be bestseller titled IM ZEICHEN DER SERAPHIM (THE FRANCISCAN CONSPIRACY) by John Sack. Don't ask.

            On September 21st, I saw SERENITY. It was everything I had hoped for. What I hadn't dreamed of was that I'd get to interview Joss Whedon (my other favorite storyteller, next to Diana) and his two leading actors, Nathan Fillion and Summer Glau (I already posted a report of that here). The disillusioning part, of course, was trying to sell those articles afterwards. Everybody loved the article I wrote about the release of the German version of the FIREFLY DVD box, but unfortunately, they had formats to stick with, and they didn't see how it could fit in. Ditto for trying to sell the interviews along with my review of SERENITY. In the end, I was grateful to my editor Dietmar Kanthak at the Bonner Generalanzeiger not only did he not butcher the review itself, he at least honored my obvious love for the film by doing all he could and printing a portrait I took of Joss Whedon along with it. I hope that putting all the material up on my web site did at least help a bit as well.

            In December, the nice man who delivers parcels to my house got a lot to do. Okay, a lot of it was self-inflicted, like the FIREFLY box set I ordered for my daughter (whom I would never have expected to love SERENITY so much), the ASTONISHING X-MEN and SANDMAN comics for my son (no surprise here). Then I got the first parcel from Random House a box of (extremely yummy!) gingerbread from Silvia. Then, the second parcel a small burlap bag with greetings from Santa, filled with hundreds of tiny chocolate bars. Berit Bhm, the German publicist, had already sent me one of these last year, to carry me though the work to come (little did we know) and she was kind enough to remember me again. Danke! And a day before Christmas Eve ... first an envelope from Random House, contaning a Christmas card from Diana, astonishing enough, given that her Christmas cards ave a tendency to arrive around Easter. A couple of hours later, Parcel Guy rang and delivered this huge box, also from Random House. Inside a card from Silvia's secretary, saying that she was sending this on behalf of Diana and a boxed Book Club set of the first five of Diana's books. Now, the Book Club editions of the books are usually not for the faint of heart, since the covers make your eyes hurt. And your teeth. And your stomach. And your toenails. I had no idea that this particular edition existed, though, until folks started showing up with books from it at the signings. I asked Silvia how to get it, and she said that it was a limited edition and for all she knew, it was out of print. Diana must have caught me drooling over the books (the illustration doesn't really capture their beauty, but trust me, they are a sight to behold. And to fondle. And to look at with incredulity, because two of them have my name in them ...) so she asked them to send me the box.
So, this year at Christmas, tears of joy! Plans and hopes for next year? Scotland in June. The World Equestrian Games in August. Getting the copy of SERENITY I ordered from amazon sometime soon. Holding the first copy of Britta's book in my hands. And of course whatever Diana comes up with next.

              Love to all, Barbara