Category Archives: Book

Moments of Connecting

sam and me

When traveling with my dad through Europe, he used to point out all the historical buildings and sites. He was fascinated with the styles and epochs and would lecture mom and me for hours, pointing at the houses we passed, explaining the structure and peculiarities of each and how we could tell in which century or decade it was built. While buildings came alive for Dad, they were just dead, meaningless structures to me. I remember tuning him out and gazing at trees, bushes, birds, clouds, and butterflies instead.

When I began traveling by myself, I stayed the same. Predominantly focused on nature, on characters. I still am. Whenever there are encounters with human beings, flora, and fauna, I am fascinated. Even more so, I feel happy and glad to be alive. Years later, what I remember most, what sustains me, are these moments of connecting.

Like here, I can’t even remember where exactly this was. Just that it was somewhere in Illinois, in 2004. I was there for a friend’s wedding, but I can’t remember the names of the towns the Greyhound bus took us through. Even the actual wedding with its glitter and room full of strangers is but a faint, misty image in my mind. What I remember most from this trip is meeting this little guy. His name was Sam. He was the bride’s nephew and he was fascinated with horses. However, he hadn’t had much chance of getting close to them in the town where he lived. I ended up staying a couple of hours at this paddock with Sam, teaching him how to gently wait for the horses to come closer. How to not spook them with fast movements, and how to soothingly talk with them, letting them get used to his presence. Then we stole some apples and fed them to the delighted animals. Sam’s sparkling eyes made my weekend. I can still hear the pounding of hooves, feel the dust on my tongue as the small team of five horses thundered past us, and smell their strong scent as they slowly approached us in the end. Alert. Majestic. Powerful.

Mondays are Writing Days

liam at breakfast

Mondays are my writing days. I am slowly getting into it today, cuddling Nacho, while Pushka is contentedly snoring on the chair behind me. All the while, little Fellini is sitting on top of the fridge, fixing me with his most intense, unblinking stare, no doubt wondering when the silly bi-ped is going to stop fiddling with the rectangular, glowing box so he can have a second round of breakfast.
I am tackling the sixth chapter of Word of Mouse today. As I am developing the book, I am wondering where it’ll go. But then, the next instant, I go “Nah”, stop thinking, and just write. Most important for now is to go with the flow and get my 1st draft done. All fine-tuning will come during the dozens of drafts that are sure to follow.
I won’t rest until it’s an awesome, authentic, gripping read. That’s a promise.

I Hope, Deep Down You Knew

2000 young man in malta

Uniting my body with my soul meant breaking the heart of the one person who had always been there for me – my oma (grandma). As the hormones took an ever-firmer hold, I tried explaining to her who I was. Unfortunately, she was becoming progressively more senile. Oma sadly asked for me. Countless times, she would ask Dad, “Why does Stefanie never come home to visit us anymore?”

Every time I visited, I would cook her favorite rice pudding. We would sit together at her small dining room table, holding hands and gazing together out the window at the night sky. Sometimes, say when there was a full moon, Oma would happily point and exclaim, “Look! The moon has come to say hello. Isn’t this magical?” It was. But, while my eyes followed her outstretched arm, she would try to hide my, to her palate, unsuccessful attempt at making rice pudding. She would spit the gelatinous mass quickly into her napkin and throw it under the table. I noticed each time this happened, but would always pretend I hadn’t. Immediately after she shuffled to another room, I would quickly grab a rag and bucket and clean up the mess. On other occasions, I would search for her dentures. Due to her ever-increasing senility, they would end up in the oddest places – inside flowerpots, in the oven, or under her bed.

During her clearer moments, Oma would look at me and I would hope to see a small spark of recognition in her searching eyes. Most times, though, her eyes would seek out Dad with a confused, heart-breaking expression on her beautiful, deeply-lined face that spoke of such a long, well-lived life.

“Konrad,” Oma would ask, “who is this nice young man who is taking such good care of me?”

To this day, it breaks my heart if I let myself think too much about Oma’s last years. I hope on some deeper level she understood I was always right by her side. She meant the world to me.

(Excerpt from Paralian, photograph from the year 2000, when I was 29, just after my transition, finally being myself. More info here)

A Global Existence

1991 hanford high school pass

Stepping way out of my comfort zone (geographically as well as mentally) for the first time when I was 18 years old was one of the best things I ever did… It was the beginning of a nomadic life, a global existence, an openness towards things and people unknown, that I wouldn’t trade in for anything.

“During the first six months, my year abroad had seemed like a life sentence. During the last six months, I got progressively into the swing of things. Time started to fly by. The closer the end date came, the more I realized how much good had come from this year in another world and how amazingly lucky I was to have had this opportunity. Living with my Mormon host family, whose life was so contrary to my own, gave me a first glimpse into the extreme diversity of ideologies on our planet. I fell in love with our world. And I fell in love with its people.” (Excerpt from Paralian, more info here)

Sparks and Dreams

2017 liam on a train

Ever since I began writing Paralian four years ago, my childhood dreams have come alive again. A storyteller is what I always wanted to be. I’ve longed to write and publish books for as long as I can remember.

Since I began doing just that, finding enough money and time to keep on writing has been a tight wire act. What day job should I take so I don’t get too disenchanted, too disillusioned about life? How can I commute with thousands of others every day, whilst at the same time remaining inspired, creative sparks lighting up my horizon like millions of fireflies on a warm summer’s night? How far can I reduce working hours to keep on writing but still be ok and provide for my family? Do I need to worry about being almost fifty years old, with no savings and no real life plan to speak of?

Mostly, I am following my gut. It is telling me, at this point I need not be concerned with financial success. It is telling me to ignore my age and live life to the fullest. I have a supportive partner who loves me no matter what and believes in me. This alone makes me wake up with a smile every single day and gives me strength. I need to keep up the momentum. No one who has played it safe has ever gotten anywhere. Being dedicated, focused, and trusting the process is essential. Working hard and never giving up on my dream will in the end make me happier than any material wealth ever could.

Paralian is a first book I can be proud of. I tapped into something magical while writing it. If I just keep going, I will be able to create a few more books over the years. Maybe, at some point, those books will even be sold in actual book stores with posters saying “coming soon” and people asking for the latest “Klenk”, then heading to a quiet corner to immerse themselves for a couple of hours. Maybe, some of them will even be unable to stop and read through the night, just to see what happens next.

Imagine that…

You’re Becoming You

2017 liam at devil's eye in lembongan

A little while back, on June 2nd, 2017, I read the following text underneath one of Brandon Stanton’s photographs for Humans of New York (thanks for your inspiring work Brandon. I hope you don’t mind if I share this here):

“I don’t think I’m going to miss eighth grade. It’s been a tough year. A lot of my friends are struggling with depression and self-harm, and it’s hard for me to watch. I just care about them so much. Growing up is so hard for some people. It’s such a big thing. It’s your foundation, I guess. You’re becoming you. It’s such a big thing and we’re going through it right now. Some of my friends are struggling with loving themselves and loving life. I think they forget that we’re still learning. They think that they’re already who they’re going to be. They think they know the future. And it’s going to be horrible. And they’ll never be able to fix it. But that’s not true because we’re still changing. And we’ll always be changing. Even when we’re old, we’ll be changing.”

As I read the musings of this insightful teenager, what she said struck me as such a profound truth. She talked about herself and her teenage friends, most likely never realizing that, by doing so, she described the human condition in general. Most, if not all of us, face similar existential questions and troubles no matter our background or age. Many of us are struggling with loving ourselves and loving life. And yes, we’re all continuously changing. Life and change are one. Irrevocably. We spend our entire lives becoming who we really are… learning, un-learning, growing, evolving with each experience we make throughout our turbulent life journey. There is nothing to do but to face those waves as they crash over our heads. Some breakers will pummel the crap out of us. They’ll push us down like a bully in a kid’s swimming pool until we can barely catch our breath. Other rollers will lift us up and carry us further than we ever imagined.

Benji

Benji 3

Here, finally, an excerpt from the 1st draft of the book I am currently working on. This chapter tells about my first canine companion, a cute albeit rather enormous English Mastiff puppy I was given at the age of 7. Sadly, his stay with us was brief, but he will never be forgotten:

“Oh no, he’s done it again.”

My dad looked a curious mix between erupting volcano and deflated marathon runner, arriving last over the finish line.

I followed his gaze downward and saw a fresh layer of deep scratches marking the inside of our wooden front door. Following my dad’s gaze further, I saw books lying shredded in the hallway all the way to the artificial horizon created by the far wall. Puddles of pee glistened on the tile floor like miniature golden ponds. Scraps of torn book pages floated in them like water lilies. If not for the acrid, far too intense toilet smell, this could have been a rather romantic scenario.

Dad sighed a deep rumbling sigh. We had only been away for half an hour to buy groceries at the corner store. I did my best to look understanding and crestfallen even though I relished this rebellion and disaster more than I dared even admit to myself.

We slowly went further into the apartment, coming across what looked like the remains of what looked like one of Mom’s shirts and our TV remote control.

Finally, in the living room sat the culprit. Clearly aware that he had done something he shouldn’t, for otherwise he’d have greeted us at the door. Nevertheless, considering the circumstances, he looked far too delighted to see us back. Tail wagging; thump, thump, thump, into another puddle of pee right behind him. Little, golden drops flying in all directions.

(From ‘Word of Mouse’, Chapter 3, Benji)

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