Stefan Bachmann


OwlCrate Jr. – Home Sweet Home


This is woefully after the fact, but Cinders and Sparrows got its own book box!! It was an OwlCrate Jr.’s monthly book pick which means that the lovely people at OwlCrate put together a collection of goodies, and I wrote a letter and signed many thousands of bookplates, and then all of that was packed into boxes that went winging and soaring their way to readers.

And the point of this blog post is that there are a handful of extra ones left, so if you’re in the market for a Hobbit pouch, or a Hotel Ducalion key-fob, or perchance a signed copy of Cinders and Sparrows, I will point you in that direction.

(I’m possibly unreasonably excited that it had its own book box. I love the whole concept of putting together paraphernalia related to a book and kind of adding another dimension to the story’s world that way. It’s making me want to assemble a book box myself with like . . . a fancy writing quill, and the rose-and-lemon candles in Zita’s secret library, and a silver locket, and little pouches for herbs. Maybe I’ll put one together and do a giveaway. But I’m also not sure, because I’m mostly on instagram these days, and I feel like that’s where all the readers are, too. Maybe it will be an instagram giveaway. We shall see.)

(Also-also, my website got an update recently and it’s nigh impossible to find the comment feature now. Sorry about that. You can still comment on the posts, but you have to click through the header of the blog post and then scroll to the bottom, which is not a very agreeable thing to do. I’m not sure why that happened, but I’ll ask get it fixed.)

Anyway. I’ve been writing like mad and am exciiiiited about current projects. I have a good feeling about 2021. Hopefully I can share more soon, and hopefully you all are hale and happy. ūüôā

Speak up:


Baku Adventures

Right at the beginning of 2020, when all of us were still blissfully ignorant lil’ ignoramuses about pandemics, I went to Azerbaijan for a week.

It was nothing like I expected, not as surreal and over-the-top as Dubai, nor as dirty and gritty as Moscow, but kind of partway in between, a big gleaming Middle Eastern metropolis mixed up with ancient sandstone castles and minarets, and just a hint of Vienna in the tall, baroque apartment buildings lining the downtown.

On my first day I found the Swiss embassy, which made me feel right at home.

Then I stumbled across a museum of tiny books, which was equally delightful. Why are tiny books not more readily available? Think of the shelf space! *nudges publishers*

This carpet museum is made to look like a carpet.

This part of the city is made to look like a small, fake Venice.

This building was made to look like a beautiful, swoop-y wave, I’m assuming, I don’t actually know. I trekked for miles to see it, and I got a little lost and scurried across a (not-too-busy) highway, but it was worth it.

I don’t know what this demonic presence is, but I like that that one lady is completely unbothered by it and is using its serpentine skull tongue as a comfy spot to chat with friends.

So many skulls.

After that, I walked another very long way to get to one of the largest soukhs in the city, which was something I was recommended to do, and which, if you find yourself in Baku, I recommend you do, too.

They made little houses for all their outdoor plants for winter, which I thought was very considerate.


Carpets for days.

At the end of the trip, I went to the airport and shared the waiting area with a sheik’s entourage. The entourage was returning to the UAE from a hunting trip TOGETHER WITH THEIR HUNTING FALCONS. (I asked for permission to take this picture, and I’m still proud of me for doing that because they were an intimidating bunch. They were like “Is it for your Tinder profile”, and I was like, “AHAHAHA, no, I think I look more pheasant-y, actually” and they didn’t get it.)

And that was Baku! After that I went to Chicago for my brother’s wedding, and then all travel ceased, so I’m glad I squeaked in when I did.

Speak up:


Tidbits of Cinders #6 – The Characters of Blackbird Castle











I hope everyone had a good Halloween! I diiiiid, though I did nothing of import, only watched a scary movie (Gretel and Hansel, the new one from 2020 with all the pretty cinematography) and ate ice cream. I’ve been doing nothing of import in general since Cinders and Sparrows came out, though I have done lots of walking and reading and baking of blackberry crumbles. I’m also working on a short story about mythological deities in Victorian London that’s breaking my brain. BUT BE THAT AS IT MAY. Cinders has been out for two weeks, and so here are some of the characters that populate it.

Our heroine and long-lost heir, Zita Brydgeborn – formerly known as Ingabeth, or Mrs. Boliver’s housemaid. She’s generally a cheery and optimistic sort, but this picture finds her practicing the Language of Clouds, which she finds highly annoying.

Cinders and Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann


Bram and Minnifer – the castle’s two remaining servants after everyone else flees.

Cinders and Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann


Absinthia Klarmp, or her gravestone, at least. (I think Absinthia is mentioned one time in the entire book, but her gravestone is too nice to exclude from the character list. It is, like all of these, by my mom.)


This next one I made myself, very hurriedly, but I’m determined to do it again in detail with a proper background, and a proper hand holding the key instead of a lobster pincer, and also proper spacing of the words in the dress. In the meantime, this is Ysabeau Harkleath-Cantanker St. Cloud, Zita’s somewhat mysterious guardian and teacher.


And lastly, coin and lavender in hand, and surrounded by sinister accoutrements, Magdeboor III, our dangerous, dangerous villain. (This is a picture of her hundreds of years ago when she was alive. Things are rather different now. . .)



















There are more characters – several ghosts, an enchanted beast, a crow, and a rather ineffectual lawyer named Mr. Grenouille – and hopefully I’ll have sketches of them all eventually. Also, I’ll be able to share some exciting news soooooooon! Possibly next week. Watch this space. ūüôā I hope everyone’s doing well!

Speak up:


Announcing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CINDERS & SPARROWS

Photo by Tim Walker, who if you like the same sort of aestheteeck I do, you should google because his fairy-tale imagery is the best.


Some of you may have already seen this on Twitter or Instagram, but those are quick and flighty platforms, and is anything really official before it’s been carved into the unbreakable, everlasting stone of WordPress? I think not. So. . .


I’ve been very slow at writing these past three years. My last book was released in the US in 2016. In 2017 I graduated and intern’d in Prague. In 2018 I military’d and did quite a few other life-changing things like moving to Berlin. 2016 – 2018 I worked on a book that I love dearly but isn’t ready yet.

BUT . . . In 2018 I also wrote another book, and I’m so very pleased and excited to say that CINDERS & SPARROWS will be out Fall 2020 from Greenwillow/HarperCollins!!!!



When you get lost on the way to your goth picnic and wander into a pond, but you’re so goth that you’re kind of ok with that.


It takes place in a pseudo-Victorian world run by dynasties of glamorous witches. An orphan named Zita Brydgeborne is plucked from obscurity when it’s discovered she’s the last surviving heir to a distant castle whose original inhabitants have all been assassinated while breakfasting. Needless to say, all is not well in that castle.

It’s basically my take on a Gothic novel, but for children, and with a lot more magic and monsters, ghosts, boneyards, and skullduggery going on.

Also, I saw the cover art the other day and it’s lovely, and I just want to say thank you to my awesome editor and agent, and to Greenwillow for continuing to let me write books. I’m beyond lucky and grateful to be working with these people.

So. . .




Mark your calendars! Add it on Goodreads! Rename your firstborn! Or just return to whatever you were doing before you read¬†this post on the internet¬†about some book among 47,000 other books! Regardless, I’m super excited. Writing this book was a startlingly enjoyable experience, and while its release is still a while off, I can’t wait to share this story with you guys. ūüôā

Speak up:


Japan Adventures – Tokyo and Kyoto



This post will be ONE GIANT THROWBACK THURSDAY. I never got around to blogging about being in¬†Japan last year, but¬†I took many pictures which I think are pyootiful¬†– not because I¬†know anything about¬†photography but because¬†Japan is so pretty you could have your camera on self-timer and just pirouette through the streets and you’d get lots of good pictures – so I figured I would do a massive post full of pictures or¬†they will never see the light of day.

Backstory: My mom was there for her 60th birthday. She made lovely paintings. I jogged around Nijo Castle every evening.¬†We lived in a house in Kyoto made mostly of paper, and then Mom¬†returned to Switzerland and I moved into an apartment the size of a small packing crate in the depths of Tokyo’s Takadanobaba district. It was great. I’ve split this post very¬†scientifically into phyla, classes, genera, and species,¬†beginning with. . .

Random Pretty Pictures

Origami crane


Fluffy Chrysanthemums at a Chrysanthemum competition in a temple courtyard. (I hope that purple one won. It was A++ fluffy.)


Fall colours.


I imagine these lanterns having the personalities of grouchy elderly people and gossiping about everyone who passes by. Make it a short, Pixar.





Judge-y, judge-y.


The famous Torii gates in Kyoto, featuring a black cat who is almost certainly a spirit of the dead.




This is my favourite picture. It looks like a corny postcard, but it was just a regular scene we stumbled across one afternoon in a Kyoto park.







This photo makes the Golden Pavilion look very serene and lovely, like something you would find while frolicking through a woodland glen a thousand miles from civilisation, but no, dear reader, do not be fooled. There were a million people around and I held the camera really high in the air so their heads would not be in it. If you look carefully you can still see a head, though. Off with it.



Now I’ve gotten most of the fancy pictures out of the way, here are the food pictures.


Green tea ice cream

Elena, who has an excellent instagram and who happened to be in Kyoto at the same time as me, knew of a pretty great ramen place. It was cool. You ordered and paid at a machine in a narrow passageway, got a stub of ticket, waited a good long while, because lots of other people thought it was a cool place, too, and then got the above dish, which was delectable.


Travelling with family means eating much nicer food than I would ever buy for myself. Note the six raspberries. Someone had to count those out. Imagine being a Counter of Raspberries. Also, please tell you me you thought that red goop was jam, because I did, and I dipped a ridiculously perfect bite of French toast into it and it was KETCHUP. I’m still mad about the shock of that bite.


Every department store in Tokyo has a food court in the basement with the vastest, most beautifulest array of pastries you will ever see.










YUMMMMMMM. (Ok, I don’t actually know what this is, but I’m sure it’s good. Don’t judge books by their covers. Don’t judge people by their shoes. Don’t judge gobbets¬†of brown¬†goo by the pale, tumorous lumps floating¬†within.)

This was the pastry I ended up buying. It had about seventeen layers under that shiny red shell.


Look at this small adorable bird, which is edible and filled with sweet bean paste.


Look at these small adorable birds, which are also technically edible but are not filled with sweet bean paste and therefor should be left alone.


After 22 o’ clock the pasta ceases to be yummy. Don’t say they didn’t warn you.


Random pictures that are not artsy at all

Fashion. Also, how I feel when more than one person tries to call me on any given day. (Also-also, I don’t know what was going on here, but I think they were filming a video?)


My head would literally snap off my neck if I had to carry around that much hair on top of it.


The only picture I got of Shibuya crossing. Note Miss Tay Tay Swift in the top left corner, swinging on her swing, getting that Japanese coin. Look what you made her do indeed.



Uh, rude, I’m tryna take yuh pic-shah hya.


This cool squad. I love how the people in the background are wearing dark, serious clothes and this group is *not* partaking.
















At some point a bullet train was taken to Kyoto. People say Switzerland is precise and has a great train system, and like… it’s fine, but Switzerland’s got nooooooothing on Japan. See¬†those little lanes¬†on the ground? Those are people lanes.¬†You form a queue to board the train. Every door of the train stops exactly in front of its corresponding gate, and each gate is¬†marked so no one has to walk through miles of wagons to find their seat. Also, every time a bullet train pulls in, these women in pink go in and do¬†a lightning-fast, perfectly coordinated clean up and are out again in two minutes flat. It’s fascinating¬†to watch.


Japanese convenience stores are an experience unto themselves. I don’t know what any of those things in the picture are but I find them delightful and intriguing, and if a convenience store can delight and intrigue you, it’s pretty good.


A Dance Thing and more random pictures

In Kyoto, we stumbled across some sort of dance event.¬†I don’t know exactly what it was and never quite found out, but doooooozens of colourfully costumed dance troupes were walking from point to point throughout the city and performing choreography and looking super happy. It was a cool thing to happen upon.



More random pretty pictures


Evening light.


Why you starin’.


Reading material and a book.


Those leeeeeeaves.


Where does the door in the water go?



And that’s that!¬†After leaving Japan,¬†I went to¬†South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, but I got very ill there and consequently took very few pictures, so we’ll see if they get a post. I hope everyone’s well! ūüôā


Speak up:


Berlin Adventures


I have not blogged in 70,000 yearssss. Is blogging dead? Am I dead? Yes, probably, to both, but every few months I remember fondly the lovely little community over on Scathing Jellyfish (which somehow over the last year got another 80,000 hits? Like, who is reading it? Whoooo?) and how¬†I used to post whole blogs about . . . cows. And cake. And visiting a renaissance fair. I don’t even know. And last year I lived in Japan, and did an internship in Prague, and blogged about pretty much none of it. Lame.


I’m moved! To Berlin. I love it. It’s very different from anywhere I’ve lived before, much more relaxed than Z√ľrich, much huger¬†than Prague.¬†But the main difference is that people are soooooo busily active here.

Which is a change, let me tell you. I’m a merry lil’¬†introvert and can coast along happily on 2-3¬†meaningful social interactions per week.

Examples of meaningful social interactions for a Stefan:

One of any of those and I’m like, “Whew!” *wipes brow* *returns to apartment* *ensconces self*

But in BERLIN this . . . doesn’t fly. Here it seems like everyone is always doing things. And not work things.

Kind, well-meaning Berliner friends:¬†“Stefan, d’you want to come to my sister’s aunt’s¬†baby’s baby shower? Do you want to grill radishes¬†in an abandoned airport? Do you want to protest nuclear armaments, but like in a fun, cute way? Do you want to sacrifice a goat to an obscure¬†moon goddess and bathe in its entrails while listening to Enya?”

And I’m like, “I kind of just want to sit on my balcony and write short stories.”

And they’re like, “NO. THE MOON GODDESS AWAITS HER SACRIFICE.” *pulls a screaming goat by its horns from flow-y shoulder-bag*

So somehow I still end up bathing in entrails while listening to Enya.

(I’m kidding, issa joke, I would never,¬†and anyway 99% of¬†Berliners seem to be¬†vegetarian,¬†so they would never either.)

(Also, I think old-school Berliners might protest that statement, but look, Hypothetical Old-school Berliner who somehow stumbled across this blog: there are a lot of vegetarians here, ok? Ok. Thanks for reading.)



Random Berlin things:


The abandoned airport where one might grill radishes with one’s friends if one were so inclined.


In Berlin, especially in my neighbourhood were there are a lot of Turkish restaurants and bars, I smell that same straciatellia steam floating on the air and am like, “WHERE IS HE?” *wheels around in a panic, expecting to drop to the ground and do twenty* But he’s not there. So that’s nice.




Every once in a while I pass him again¬†on my jogs and he gives me a dirty look, and I want to be like, “Sir, I need¬†you to know that I had VERY good intentions, like the communists, but you did not allow me to enact my plans.”

The moral of the story is that¬†when someone asks you for money either say no and stick with it, or tell them to wait while you go get it, but don’t have dramatic changes of hearts halfway up the stairs, mmmkay? Mmkay.

That’s that. Have a nice¬†day. ūüôā

Speak up:


Updates – Writing, Military, a Tiny Story + Music Project

Kyoto, Japan


Helloooo,¬†poor dusty blog. *blows cobwebs from the windows* *throws wide the curtains* I’m back from Asia, and I loved it, and those posts are still coming, but slowly, alas, for lots of reasons.

I was really sick for most of my time in Hong Kong, and most of December in general. I got all the way through Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, drinking tap-water all the way, and then China KNOCKED ME OUT. My body was not ready.

I recovered enough to get on a plane back to Z√ľrich, and then¬†I sat next to a sick Swiss guy and became ill all over again. (On an unrelated note, this guy¬†watched Inside Out¬†six times on our 13-hour flight, and like . . . I adore Pixar as much as the next person, but whoa.) Anyway, when I got to my parents house for holiday feasting,¬†my older brother, who was visiting from the¬†US, was sick. So between Chinese, Swiss, and American pathogens I got *really* sick. Like, catatonic, stay-away-or-you’ll-die-a-miserable-plague-ish-death, too, sick.

And that’s the tragic tale of why I’ve been non-existent on the internet, even more than usual.

Now military is starting (ahhhhh. . .) and I’ll be confined to barracks and cut-off from the internet, so I’ve been trying to catch up on things before then, and break in my boots, which are awfully¬†uncomfortable and apparently if you don’t wear them in before military they’ll mangle your feet.

Also,¬†I have a massive revision to do, and fun little story project, so let’s talk about those!


A picture of lovely Japan, until the actual Japan post happens.


The Revision

Monster Middle Grade continues its sloooooow evolution into readable book-form. A part of me doesn’t want to talk about this, because I think there’s sometimes this expectation that¬†book-writing should be a straightforward flash of inspiration, a flurry of passionate¬†writing in a garret, some careful revision, and then you churn out a tidy book a year, and it’s lovely, and the characters are all perfectly evolved, and the plot has no holes, and the world-building is neither too much nor too little.

And if that doesn’t happen, there must be something wrong with you, or you’re a bad writer, or whatever. And the thing is, some¬†writers do manage to put out an excellent book every year, and¬†keep up the appearance of having everything under control¬†(which is very cool, and I admire them for that greatly).

But once you meet other writers and get a peek behind the scenes, you realise that book-writing is¬†almost never¬†tidy and appearances can be gravely misleading. Some books are messy and bursting at the seams. Some books – probably some of your very favourites – didn’t only take 1-2 drafts to get right. Maybe they took¬†3-4 drafts. Maybe they took¬†10 drafts or 15 drafts or 20 drafts, and the writer despaired many times, and doubted they were up for the task, and questioned whether the book would ever work the way it worked in their head, or whether they should become a Yak-herder¬†in Nepal.

So, thats where I am right now. But I’m also determined to do this, and¬†if your book or piece of music or whatever you’re working on is taking a long time to click, I would say that’s ok, and you’re ok, and you’re growing an entire world, and that takes time. If people outside of the working process don’t understand, that’s on them.

The good news is, Monster Middle Grade is getting there, creeping closer with every massive, unwieldy draft, and I’m so, so¬†grateful I have an awesome publisher and editor and agent who let me¬†work at until I get it right.


Carnations at a temple in Kyoto.


Military and Absence

I’ll be gone¬†from everything – life, friends, emails, texting, social media – while in military, so I’m very sorry if you’re waiting for a response on something. I have a backlog of emails, and I will answer them. I heard things get¬†less stringent as the months go by, and so I should be able to catch up before I’m discharged at the end of May, but the first few weeks are rough and busy, and I only have about 24 hours off every weekend, and so I just won’t be online much, or doing any of things I’ve done in my life thus far, like having a piano, or writing. Which brings me to. . .


Hello, kitty.


A Tiny Story + Music Project!!!

To keep the creative juices flowing on a hopefully easy-to-manage scale, I’m going to be posting a super-short story on the weekends, together with a short¬†piece of music I’ll write that’s meant to be listened to while reading the story. I think it’ll be fun way to recover from¬†running around with guns and being shouted at by sergeants. I hope by¬†the end of military I’ll have 4-5 short nice little bundles of stories and music.

The first one is¬†called The Whale and the Tea-Kettle, and¬†I’ll post it on¬†Sunday!

I hope everyone’s well! See you on the other side! ūüôā


Speak up:


Aarhus / Stockholm / Copenhagen



The second half of 2017¬†has been The Half-Year Stefan Travels Everywhere, partly¬†because I’m finally out of college, partly because I have work or internships in those places, and partly because I’m going to military in a mere 25 days, from which I’m assuming I will emerge¬†aŐ∂ Ő∂bŐ∂rŐ∂aŐ∂iŐ∂nŐ∂wŐ∂aŐ∂sŐ∂hŐ∂eŐ∂dŐ∂ Ő∂vŐ∂eŐ∂gŐ∂eŐ∂tŐ∂aŐ∂bŐ∂lŐ∂eŐ∂ utterly changed and intent on¬†getting serious about life.


Anyway. I’m writing this post in Hong Kong, on the 103rd floor of the Ritz Carlton, which is not a brag so much as an¬†admission¬†of having friends who drag¬†your stingy, plebeian self into those places because they’re nice like that. (Thanks, L.¬†ūüėä). But this post is about Scandinavia, and I’ll blog¬†about Asia – where I’ve been since November – next week. And probably the week after and the week after, into infinity. It will help ¬†keep my morale up while¬†I’m wriggling around in the mud.



So. All of this happened back in October. I left Berlin, where I was doing some transcriptions for a teacher of mine, went home to Z√ľrich briefly for some sad events, and from there went to Scandinavia for the Aarhus International Hay Festival for Literature. It was a great¬†festival. I’ve almost never been to a not-great book event because book people are truly the best people, but I’m still always¬†surprised when¬†they’re¬†enjoyable, because I’m shy and public performances where one is expected to show off one’s glittering personality make me anxious. I don’t necessarily *act* shy, and people usually mistake my jabbering¬†for friendliness but NO. It’s terror. People are crazy and if you avoid them you are less likely¬†to be murdered.¬†That’s just, like . . .¬†a reasonable, not-at-all paranoid fact of life.




We did an event on a boat.


This was the boat. It was an excellent boat. It didn’t sink. That is the¬†sign of an excellent boat.

While I and some other writers were loitering in front of said boat, two missionaries from Utah came up to me. No doubt deciding I looked the most¬†heathen of all of us, they started making conversation with me, and the other writers immediately sidled away¬†and abandoned me to my fate. I told them I was from Colorado because that’s what I tell Americans, even though I¬†was only born in Colorado and then left fairly promptly afterwards. We talked about the Dutch language, which they had learned, and they taught me some words. There’s no punchline to this story except to say that I made some awkward excuse and escaped into the library, and I felt kind of bad for them afterwards because they tried.

Speaking of the library: Aarhus has the best library.


Very sleek, like it just landed.


They also have an excellent art museum.


Personal flurry over the rainbow walk on top of the art museum.


On the last evening, we had dinner with the English ambassador to Denmark and got to paint our own plates.



For some reason I thought the plate was edible and asked my table mates how to eat it and they patiently explained to me that they didn’t suspect the plate was edible. Well done, Stefan. That said, if Iiiii were the chef I would have made it edible. If you have rose-hip and celeriac paint shouldn’t the canvas be like . . . a flat bread or edible wafer or something? Not complain, though. It was delicious, and famous book-people like Chris Riddle and Meg Rosoff were close by, also painting their plates.

Speaking of food, there are going to be lots of food pictures in this post, because I ate lots of good food.


This is an egg salad and curry bagel I got at the train station in Aarhus, and it was DELICIOUS.

After the festival, where I met many friendly authors like Sarah Crossen, Jana Sramkova, Victor Dixon, and Maria Turtschaninoff, I went to Stockholm which I had never visited before.



Yaas, Stockholm, you look so good.


Scandinavia is very egalitarian; even their bridges have crowns.


The old town is one of the very prettiest old towns I’ve ever been to, even coming close to Z√úRICH’S, which is objectively probably not¬†even the best old town but it’s *my* old town¬†so it gets the top spot.

Obligatory food picture. This is how lemon meringue looks when it’s died and gone to heaven. It’s like, the ultimate Pokemon form. The highest evolutionary phase. The zenith of patisserie. It¬†didn’t taste very good.


But it looked¬†good, and that’s what life’s all about.

And then I went back to Denmark! I slept the whole flight, which is a really boring thing to put in a blog post, but I was thrilled about it because no matter how short a flight is, it always ends with me staring feverishly at the little screen-thing and counting down the minutes to landing so that I can escape my seat and my seat-mates and airplanes in general. I suggest that upon entering the planes, flight attendants just start knocking us out with stylish little clubs.


I didn’t know¬†there were factories and shipping yards behind the Little Mermaid statue, but there are and it makes the sculpture even more tragic. Should have¬†stayed a mermaid, gorl. Princes aren’t worth it.



My apartment in Copenhagen was very nice, sparse, frighteningly sterile,¬†definitely a change from my hippy-dippy apartment in Berlin. The¬†only¬†problem was that its¬†sole book was a¬†coffee-sized edition of The Da Vinci Code.¬†This made me question everyone and everything. (Who would buy such an enormous version of The Da Vinci Code?¬†Is it ironic?¬†Why put it on the coffee table? Do they want the renters¬†to read it? Are they superfans? Also, who even reads The Da Vinci Code? What’s that? 80¬†million people? Oh.)

But that’s mean.¬†I’m sure the owner¬†is very smart, and I’m sure The Da Vinci Code has redeeming qualities, like entertainment value or speeding up the inevitable demise of the human race¬†through deforestation.


Me when I was twelve and an upstart conservatory classmate won first prize over me. Aka green and drooling, but with nice hair.


A murder of crows.


A fort? I think? I don’t remember, plz forgive.


Le Guardia.


And that will have to do. I’m a big fan of Scandinavia. Everyone was very tall and friendly, and the food was good, and the architecture was nice

Next post will be Japan / Korea / Taiwan / China adventures.

Speak up:


Novi Sad / Denver / Prague Adventures

Prague’s Old Town Square


Remember when I used to post every Tuesday? About like . . . upcoming costume dramas¬†and random things we talked about at school?¬†And now that I have actual things to blog about, I never do. ūüôÉūüôÉūüôÉ

BUT THINGS HAVE BEEN BUSY, etc. etc. so¬†since I know it’ll be a least another month before I get around to posting again, I’m going to condense¬†everything into¬†one giant post about my month in Novi Sad, and floods, and moving to Prague, and all that.






1 – It was great. I already have very¬†fond memories and it’s only been like two months, and usually it takes me much longer to get to the fond-memories stage of things. It started out a bit disconcertingly, though. My friend, who is Serbian,¬†in order to secure the lowest possible rent for my apartment, told the landlord that I was a starving artist paying the last of my savings for the lease. He basically invented an elaborate backstory and filled me in on it just¬†as we were pulling up to the building, which is totally something I would make a character do in a book, but is weird in real life.

Friend:¬†I arrange everything so you don’t pay much money. I say you very poor. Ok?

Me: Um, what. . .

Friend: I¬†also say that you’re my brother.

Me:¬†But I don’t speak Serbian. And I look nothing like you. And it’s¬†kind of basically¬†lying, and also, this is never going to work.

Friend:¬†Don’t worry! Don’t speak.

I realised later that his plan was pretty run-of-the-mill for these parts. It felt like even if the landlord didn’t believe a word he said, it was practically expected there would be some truth-bending going on, and anything else would have been viewed¬†as a glaring lack of business-savvy.

(Just so we’re clear: I’m not really¬†ok with this. I’m probably the last person who deserves an apartment rebate, and there’s about 101 ethical reasons not to¬†pretend to be poor to get a cheap apartment.¬†But a) I didn’t have a say in the matter, literally, because¬†I speak like four words of Serbian,¬†and b) it’s a different culture for sure,¬†very much prone to bargaining and embellishing and doing whatever it takes for a good deal, which leads me to number two. . .)



2 – Everyone hustles non-stop in Serbia. The country has a pretty crazy history, including NATO bombings, genocide, and potentially triggering World War 1, and the result is that everyone is constantly out to make a buck, prove their worth, and convince the world that they’re just as worthy as any other country. People in Serbia are fiercely proud, and some of them I spoke to¬†seemed to suspect¬†Western Europeans or Americans¬†look down on them, which was sad to see and¬†isn’t¬†the case at all, I don’t think. (Some of my friends didn’t even know Serbia existed, though, which . . . might also contribute to a country’s inferiority complexes.)

That said, there’s so much¬†to recommend Serbia. It’s¬†an old, culturally rich country, lots of agriculture, horse-drawn carriages on the highways, but also sleek, modern malls, and the fooooood. The food is delicious. And the people I met were lovely and kind. “We hate America,” I was told once¬†by a merry Novi Sadian. “But not AMERICANS.” ¬†ūüĎ欆Good¬†to know.


This was close to the long, long tree-lined street I lived on, in an apartment on the back of an old townhouse. This picture was taken in the evening, but I would jog here early in the mornings a lot because pigeons lived in my ventilation shaft and woke me up at unreasonable hours.


3 – People have a strange sense of timeliness in Serbia. I grew up in Switzerland, the land of be-on-time-or-else-you-are-a-terrible-rude-person,¬†so I’ve gotten used to¬†making a time with someone and knowing we’ll both there. Not so in Serbia. In Serbia you kind of need to learn to go with the flow, and if you’re not a flow-y sort of person, you’ll still have to go with the flow, just probably a bit¬†later or earlier than you intended. Examplement:

Friend, blithely: I’ll pick you up at 15 or 16 or 17 o’ clock. Ok?

Me: Ok! Which one exactly, tho- *phone clicks*

Me, all dauntless and When-In-Rome-ish: I’m going to assume he’ll come in the middle of those¬†three options. So, 16 o’ clock. (In retrospect, that’s not super logical, but I’m not a super logical person.)

Friend: *arrives at 15:05, pounds on door, me stumbling out of the shower, looking a fright*

Friend: You’re so stressed! We’re not in New York City! Or Z√ľrich! You need to RELAX.


Inside a genuiiiiiine Serbian house. Iconic.


4 – I finished my book while in Novi Sad. I’ve probably mentioned finishing this book five times now on this blog, which would make sense because this is Draft 6-ish? I asked my editor for more time before she had even read the last draft and went back to the drawing board for some things that weren’t working for me. I thought I would only change a few things, but I changed a lot. And now it’s off, yay!


There are so many caption options for this picture¬†but I imagine it as one of those Pixar shorts where an umbrella falls in love with, like, a coat-rack or whatever. That’s definitely what happened here.


5 – On my¬†second-to-last night in Novi Sad, my apartment flooded. It was very close to the Danube, and the week before it had rained pretty heavily, and late one evening¬†the Danube got into the pipes and oozed up out¬†of the drains. I heard a gurgling coming from all the pipes at once, then saw this sheet of water spreading over the floor of the living area. I started by frantically shovelling water into buckets with a dustpan and dumping the buckets out the window (loooool, Stefan, so wise, so resourceful), but there was more Danube than dustpans. So in the end¬†I gave up, packed my suitcase, and fled to my friend’s house.

(The landlord was super nice and apologetic about it afterwards, which is funny because I assume it wasn’t his fault? But who knows, maybe he’s a wizard and wanted me gone and so enlisted the help of the rivers and ponds.)


After that, I went to Denver. I was in the US for about five seconds, attended a lovely wedding, drank some lovely cocktails, saw some lovely rock formations, spent 3 hours in Iceland, and escaped back to Europe.


The loverly, loverly view across Prague from my apartment window. *flourishes*



And now I’m in Prague!¬†The Vltava river¬†is right next door, which is giving me Danube¬†flashbacks¬†but I’m on the 13th floor, OK, RIVER? Please¬†stay away. Plz.

It’s been really nice. I’ve been interning¬†during the mornings and some afternoons, which allows¬†lots of time to¬†visit museums and eat chimney cake¬†and putter around in graveyards. The food is not aaaaaas¬†good as in Serbia, in my humble opinion, but still good. The public transportation system is nice, as there’s a subway and a tram-line. It’s definitely a much bigger city than Novi Sad, or maybe my neighbourhood is just a bit sketchier, but I definitely don’t go jogging after nightfall anymore.


I was tying to get this excellently-jacketed person exactly in the corner of the picture for a balanced shot, but she was too quick.


My favourite part is the graveyard right behind my apartment. It’s vast and¬†overgrown and quiet, and I’ve spent many a long evening walking through the lanes and mausoleums. The picture below is a teeny tiny grave that has no writing on it but¬†looks old and sad and mysterious. It’s either for children or very short people, but what’s interesting is that even some of the oldest graves still have flowers and candles, as if someone totally remembers the person lying there¬†and cares about them. I usually think graveyards are the height of human hubris, and headstones kind of a sad¬†attempts to last past your expiration date, but if people actually care 500 years later I guess that’s¬†nice.



And that’s that for a bit! ūüôā I hope everyone’s well.

Speak up:



Hey! Hi.¬†*waves* This is a super short blog post, because I’m in Prague and busy interning / eating all the Czech people’s food /¬†wandering graveyards, etc., but basically PALAST DER FINSTERNIS is out next week on August 23rd (hurray!) and I’ll be flying back to Z√ľrich for a short while on September 2nd to do a reading for it.

The info:

What and when:

September 2nd, 2017

14:00 Рreading from the German edition of A DROP OF NIGHT (Palast der Finsternis)

Book signing afterwards



Zentralbibliothek Z√ľrich

Zähringerplatz 6


8001, Schweiz

(The reading is part of the festivities for the 100 Year Anniversary of the Z√ľrich Public Library.)


If anyone I know from online or real life¬†can make it, come say hi!¬†ūüôā That would be awesome.

Speak up: