#47 Age of Torridan Cover Art Sketches!

Well met, my friends!

Today, Zelda Devon sent me the sketches for the Age of Torridan (needs a new cover) kickstarter campaign. The final version will look as beautiful as the other images on her website. The purpose for the sketches is to evaluate the arrangement and decide, which composition is the best. That said, I still think they look absolutely gorgeous!

Age of Torridan A Age of Torridan B

Since the third version is similar to the first, I’ll show you sketch A and sketch B – help me decide which one is best!

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#46 Age of Torridan Kickstarter Campaign

Well met, my friends!

As of last Tuesday, Kickstarter officially allows German based projects. Since I am putting the finishing touches on my fantasy novel “Age of Torridan”, I figured this would be a great opportunity for me to participate in the launch. If you have a moment, please check out my project here:

Age of Torridan (needs new cover art) Kickstarter Campaign

Here is what the campaign is about: I wrote a medieval fantasy novel in the spirit of the old Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. At the moment I’m putting in the changes that were suggested by the professional copy editor that I hired. Once that is done, all that is missing before the release in July (2015) is a cover and ebook formatting. With this campaign I’m trying to raise money for a new cover, which will be created by professional artist Zelda Devon (see her work at www.zeldadevon.com). My original estimation was that a cover would cost something around €500, but in reality the price is typically above $1000 (for reference, see this blog post by Rachel Aaron on the cost of a professional quality book).

As the campaign progresses, I will put up videos of me reading chapters from the book. I will also reveal Zelda Devon’s sketches as she sends them to me.

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration. If there are any questions, I’d be happy to answer them :)

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#45 The ARCs are here!

Well met, my friends!

Today the advance review copies (ARC) of my novel “Age of Torridan” arrived. Despite my initial plan, I opted for just 35 ARCs, which seems to be plenty.

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Yesterday I tried to find reviewers and sent out six e-mails to various sites. About the same number stated that they would not take a look at independently published manuscripts. Interestingly enough, the elitist book reviews had a very appropriate post up, pointing out some of the terrible covers of self published books. As you can see, my cover is just a photo with a greyscale filter and adjusted brightness and contrast.

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As mentioned in my previous blog post, I already got in touch with an artist to create a proper cover for the release version of the book. Once the cover and the professional copy edit are done, I can put the book on amazon.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#44 Gearing up for Publication

Well met, my friends!

As some of you know, I’ve been working for a good while on a medieval fantasy novel, inspired by the early Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. My alpha readers provided feedback, which led to some new chapters. I’m finally in the last stages and am looking to release the book via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Createspace later this year. Here are the things that I still need to sort out:

1. Sanity Check:

I want to re-read the book once more to make sure that the changes I made in the early chapters do not invalidate the later sections.

2. Optional Line Edit:

A line edit is crucial, but since I’m on a very tight time schedule, I might shorten the line editing in favor of getting the Advance Reader (or Review) Copy (ARC) out the door.

3. Write Chapter Commentary for ARCs:

This is something cool I’ve planned for the ARCs – the feedback from my alpha readers showed me that there were a few subtle issues that only half of my readers picked up on. Since these things were not crucial to understand and enjoy the story, I left the clues as vague as they were. However, I want to provide some background information per chapter to explain what’s going on behind the scenes and what some of the choices were that I made. Since this is not something that interests everybody, I will include this in the ARCs, but not in the final release of the book.

4. Compile List of Book Bloggers / Reviewers:

As I am nearing the release, I want to drum up some interest beforehand. To that end, I plan to approach book reviewers and bloggers with an interest in fantasy to see whether they would like to have (and possibly review) one of the ARCs.

Of course I got so carried away that I only approached fellow authors so far (Rachel Aaron, Danielle E. Shipley, Michelle Proulx, and Kat O’Keeffe), but at least the response was positive, even if they are not in a position to review. Still, the purpose for printing ARCs is not only to give them to reviewers, but also as a thank you to my alpha readers and to give to cool people.

5. Print 50-100 ARCs:

I haven’t made up my mind yet, but right now I think 50 will be sufficient. I need 16 for my alpha readers, keep a few for myself, and then distribute the rest to reviewers and the above mentioned cool people. Since there is an equal mix of people wanting eARCs and actual books, the number 50 should be sufficient.

6. Line Edit:

The release version should be as error free as possible, so I am contemplating to pay someone for the line edit, in addition to my own efforts.

7. Commission a Cover:

I’ve already contacted an old friend of mine to design a cover. If that falls through, the next person to check is Zelda Devon and her fantasy-esque art style, which would be a perfect fit.

8. Format Book as epub / mobi:

When I gave the kindle version to my alpha readers, the formatting was all right, but not perfect. For the release version, I aim to do better.

9. Release on KDP and Createspace:

Even though I plan to have the ARCs done in early March, the cover, formatting, line edit means that the release of the book will be delayed till June. Once I have a more accurate estimate, I will be sure to mention it, either here or on twitter.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#43 Plans for 2015

Well met, my friends!

Last year I did not go to London for New Years, but celebrated the end of 2014 at my new flat in Düsseldorf together with my best friend.

Tomorrow, I will go back to Wachtberg for work. However, I successfully negotiated to be a part time scientist in 2015. The rest of the time will be spent writing novels and building up my own software company. The latter will focus on computer games. Even though I vehemently denied it’d be e-sports related, when I talked about it last year, depending on how things are developing that might still be an option. For the time being, I will start out by reactivating the old game design muscles and growing a community.

What are your goals / plans / resolutions for the new year?

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#42 Lindsey Stirling, Cologne 2014

Well met, my friends!

On Friday the 17th of October 2014, I saw Lindsey Stirling in concert for the third time. You can find my blog entry about her gig in Cologne in June 2013 here and her Las Vegas performance in May 2014 here.

Meet and Greet

Just like last time, I mentioned the Misscliks.com website to Lindsey and indicated that we would be interested in conducting an interview. I decided to write for Misscliks (here is a list of my articles and the Lindsey Stirling Spotlight), because they took the unusual approach of covering positive achievements of female role models in geek and gaming culture. The typical media focus on tragedies and drama may generate site views, but I am of the opinion that this is not necessarily a good approach, long term.

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The picture of Lindsey, Drew, Gavi and myself was taken by Mackenzie Madsen, who seemed a bit surprised that I wanted to credit her. Hopefully I picked the right person, because I did not catch her contact details and went with a google assisted guess.

Q&A

There were no real surprises at the Q&A segment, people tend to ask the same things. Perhaps that is good, because unusual questions don’t necessarily generate better replies, as I demonstrated when I asked something at the Las Vegas Q&A. This time I was busy writing a twitter message, so I missed my opportunity to ask a question.

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Apparently my camera does not cope well with insufficient lighting, so most of my pictures were blurry and grainy like the picture above. I admired the beautiful pictures that other people took when I looked over at their cameras’ displays. I guess that means I need to buy new equipment.

A Great Big World

The pre-show band was called “A Great Big World“, whose big hit “Say Something” caught Christina Aguilera’s attention. I bought their album at the show, which contains a version with and without her.

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Instead of Christina Aguilera, the Vocalist/Keyboard guy performed the song together with Lindsey.

Lindsey Stirling

The 90 minute main show was as good as the one I saw previously. It’s apparent that Lindsey Stirling, her band and dancers are now seasoned professionals, who put on a well choreographed performance. I particularly liked that some of the song introductions – like her explanation of “swag” – differed from what she said in Vegas, while retaining the spirit of it. Whenever she talks, things are ever so slightly different, for example, she mentioned that her first violin “Excalibur” is actually from Germany, whereas this piece of information would not have been relevant in the USA. On the flipside, the segment where she asked the audience to turn around and introduce themselves to random people, did not work. I’d go as far as saying it couldn’t work in Germany, due to cultural constraints. I tried to talk to other people, but they immediately broke eye contact and pretended they did not see me, whereas it worked out just fine in the USA. The whole situation reminded me of my twitter message at the Gamescom:

Overall it was a great concert and I plan on going again when there is a new tour.

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When I tried to leave, there was the expected traffic jam. However, as they say “when they zig, you zag”, I drove off in the opposite direction and joined a significantly shorter line of cars.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#41 Gamescom 2014

Well met, my friends!

On Saturday the 16th of August and Sunday the 17th of August, I visited the Gamescom in cologne.

Initially I wandered around all the halls, just to get an idea of what to do and see. There were many cosplayers around like these guys:

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Or those guys. Who you gonna call?

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Last year at Gamescom I met some of the “Spieleveteranen” (Heinrich Lenhardt, Boris Schneider-Johne and Anatol Locker). This year I saw Jörg Langer by chance, who is also one of the “Spieleveteranen” and the initiator of Gamersglobal. Since he was busy filming stuff, I did not want to interrupt.

After they were done, I introduced myself and one convention visitor was nice enough to take our picture. From left to right, it’s myself, Jörg Langer, Christoph Vent and Benjamin Braun.

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On Saturday I tried 4 different games (Farcry4, Assassin’s Creed Rogue, Borderlands the pre-sequel and Call of Duty Advanced Warfare) and saw one presentation (Assassin’s Creed Unity). On Sunday I only played one game (Destiny) twice and saw one presentation (Witcher 3).

The game demos were of varying quality – it really is an art to rip a portion out of your game and still aim to provide an entertaining experience in a limited time slot. Typically there were long lines of about two hours for usually 15 minutes of game play. All of the games I saw were presented on consoles, which made it more difficult for me, as I am used to mouse and keyboard controls and did poorly on the gamepads. Case in point, when I played the Call of Duty multiplayer, there were two rounds, one of 5 minutes and one of 10 minutes. I died 11 times with 0 frags in the first round and did slightly better at 18 deaths and 6 frags in the second round. It’s a steep learning curve with those controllers.

Farcry4:

In the demo, you had the option to select sneak, ride or fly at the beginning. The map was always the same, but if you selected ride, then there was an elephant that you can mount. I picked fly and had a gyrocopter at my disposal. I am not sure what happens when you chose sneak, but glancing at other people’s screens, I had the impression that they gave you a sniper rifle in that case.

The map consisted of a military base and you had a machine gun and a grenade launcher to wreak havoc. Since this was the first game I played, my non-existent gamepad skills were quite apparent. At some point I decided not to run into the base and fight, but instead take the gyrocopter to bypass the base and explore. Unfortunately there was an invisible line with a message popping up to turn around or be destroyed in 10 seconds. Oh well, so much for that idea.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue:

This demo was really well done: They had a short intro and then tell you that your task is to sink 5 enemy ships. When a ship is destroyed, you can salvage the cargo. Apparently it was also possible to board other ships in the demo, but I did not manage to do so. I only saw that on other people’s screens.

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Borderlands the pre-sequel:

This is the demo that I liked the least. The mission said “Enter Drakenburg, get AI core.” There is no time to waste, so I started running towards the Drakenburg. Then one of the guys working at the booth told me that I had 22 skill points to assign. Really? You give people 15 minutes to form an impression about your game and you want them to assign skill points? I thought that was an odd design choice.

Destiny:

Bungie’s Destiny impressed me the most. While waiting outside, they had a screen that showed game play footage and behind the scenes stuff. There was a different line to take pictures on one of the hover bikes. I snapped a picture, when a guy in a master chief suit dismounted from it.

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Inside, they showed a 15 minute video with different game play scenes and commentary of the game designers. This was followed by a 15 minute multiplayer match. Since they used similar controls to Call of Duty and their damage system is less realistic, I fared much better. In Call of Duty, I was pretty much immediately dead whenever someone shot at me. In Destiny, it is a bit more noob-friendly: You can survive several hits, so that you have the option to shoot back or retreat. Also, nobody seemed to realize that close combat in Destiny deals significantly more damage, so I typically ran up to people and one hit melee killed them, as they tried to shoot me. At the exit, they also gave you a T-shirt.

The demo was so good that I decided to queue up again, when it was time to decide, which was the last game to try.

The presentations of Witcher 3 and Assassin’s Creed Unity were quite impressive as well. The lines were also long and you didn’t get to play yourself, but having a competent player showcase the game allowed them to go through an entire quest chain and really demonstrate what’s cool about the games. They both looked awesome and I’ll certainly buy them, even though I did not have the time to play the earlier games in both franchises.

Towards the end of Sunday, I caught the last bit of the LiquidRet vs Grubby Starcraft 2 show match. It’s good to see that Starcraft is still around, even though the big e-sports event at Gamescom was Counterstrike.

Out of the two days, I felt that Saturday was better, since it had longer opening hours. The amount of people is roughly the same, which means that waiting times are around 2 hours no matter when you go. With that in mind, having those extra hours is quite important. Looking forward to next year’s Gamescom :)

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#40 MLG Anaheim

Well met, my friends!

In June I attended MLG Anaheim (Major League Gaming) and Vidcon, which will be covered in a separate blog post. On previous trips to the USA I learnt that taxis are expensive and that there is hardly any free parking in L.A.

Since I would be at the convention center for most of the duration of the trip anyway, I opted not to get a rental car. Thus, I ended up booking with supershuttle to transport me from the airport to my hotel and back (18$ per ride).

Without planning this, I ended up meeting up with some people from the Day[9] gatherings (see my blog posts from May 2013 and March 2014). First, I ran into Jeff at Starbucks. His brother Andy managed to snag a competitor pass for Starcraft 2. The spots in that competition were filled up with up and coming talents as well as a lot of the professional players, who did not qualify directly for MLG.

Later on I saw that Chris “Kobayshi Maru” Negrin posted on twitter that he and his friend Mark were heading to MLG as well. I saved some seats and we did get to hang out and catch up throughout the weekend.

At some point early on I found the Misscliks people: I also write articles for Misscliks.com, which focusses on the achievements of women rolemodels in geek culture and gaming. However, so far I hadn’t met any of them and had only interacted online. To the side of the group, I saw Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson and Stephanie “Missharvey” Harvey. Since they were having a conversation, I did not want to interrupt. Still, I positioned myself next to them, in order to introduce myself once there was a lull in the conversation. This is where Anna Prosser Robinson impressed me: apparently she recognized me from my tiny profile picture and greeted me by name. She proceeded to introduce me to everyone there, the aforementioned iNcontroL, Missharvey, Stephanie Powell and Neil Sharum. In the evening I met the rest of the group, Neal “Koibu” Erickson and Geneviève “Livinpink” Forget, as well as some other cool e-sports people like Jaycie “Gillyweed” Gluck, Matt Wiltshire, Michael Young and Matt Marcou.

Since I was there for leisure and not work I opted to watch some Starcraft (II). Perhaps Blizzard should consider enabling an offline mode. It’s an old game now, there is no need to worry about piracy. I bring this up, because when the internet at the venue gave out, all the other games like Call of Duty and Super Smash Brothers Melee continued, but due to the always online “feature” of Starcraft, its matches were interrupted. On the bright side, it gave everyone the chance to check out the other games.

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To me, one of the big surprises of the event was the popularity of Smash Brothers.

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It was entertaining to watch and the Smash fans cheered even louder than the Starcraft crowd.

My brother is making fun of me for being very selective about my time whenever I am in London. The thing is that I know several dozen people in London and I couldn’t even manage to meet up with everybody, if I am there on a weekend. Thus, when I am there, I plan out different time slots, which I then assign to people. Often times, I also prioritize, leaving the Friday and Saturday night slots for good friends, whereas I’d meet up for lunch with people I am less close with. There are exceptions, of course – people I see on every trip won’t be disappointed, if it only works out for lunch every once in a while. This time I was on the receiving end of this, as a friend of mine was extremely busy and had to juggle around his breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings. Due to scheduling conflicts, I ended up meeting my friend, who is also one of my Alpha readers, for breakfast to talk about game design, magic the gathering and the discoveries I made, while revising Age of Torridan.

Back at the venue, the Starcraft matches were pretty crazy – the best moment was when Scarlett switched from Zerg to Protoss for a game and received standing ovations. I loved the atmosphere and the spectators’ energy. Earlier on I had used up all of my credit on my pay as you go phone. I had one more code to charge another 15 Euros, so I decided I would only use my phone in an emergency. However, when Scarlett switched to Protoss that counted as an emergency, so I enabled roaming to post on twitter about it.

The highlight of the trip proved to be the after party at Matt Wiltshire’s and Michael Young’s hotel room. They nailed the important ingredients for any party and I ended up leaving at 7 a.m. when we were down to six people. Even though I was the only person above thirty, I did not feel out of place – everyone was just so friendly and awesome. Thanks for making me feel welcome, I had an absolutely terrific time!

Hopefully MLG Anaheim and Vidcon will be on consecutive weekends next year as well, as I would love to attend them both again.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#39 “Skin Game” Launch Event

Well met, my friends!

Today I went to the launch event of Jim Butcher‘s latest book “Skin Game”, which was held at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach.

I arrived early in the morning, so that I could get a low number for the signing, but several other people had the same idea.

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Still, I managed to snag number fourteen, which wasn’t too bad, considering how many people ended up being there in the evening.

Before the signing there was a Q&A segment. What really impressed me was that Jim Butcher repeated each question before answering it, so that people at the other end of the room would get the full story. I’ve been to Q&A sessions where you only get to hear the answer part, because the questions directed at the author don’t carry far enough into the room for everyone to hear. The complete session can probably be found on youtube, as people were filming. I only want to mention a few of the questions and answers:

Someone asked about another short story collection in the spirit of “side jobs” and Jim mentioned that there would indeed be another one called “brief cases” once he collects enough material. There is an option for a new TV show with the additional point that if it ever gets the green light, Jim Butcher will probably be involved as a consultant / executive producer.

Someone asked about Harry Dresden’s character in the D&D game that he played in one of the books, which prompted a bit of a digression. First, Jim said that Harry plays a barbarian, but would also gets into arguments about how magic should work. This then triggered the confession that Jim Butcher once saw a Star Trek movie with an astrophysicist…

In general he lightened the mood with jokes throughout.

I didn’t even ask questions this time, but someone else brought up beta readers, so he said that in case of his books it’s more of a “beta asylum”, because a regular reader can just turn the page and find out what happens next when there is a scene that makes one turn over the table in frustration. The beta readers on the flipside might have to wait a long time for that next page to get sent to them.

Another good question was about recommendations regarding up and coming authors that didn’t get as much exposition so far. At that, he threw out the name Benedict Jacka.

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When it was time for the signing, I said “I flew in all the way from Europe to see you.” but unlike my trip to the UK to attend the Patrick Rothfuss signing, this time it wasn’t the complete truth. I actually flew to Las Vegas to see Lindsey Stirling, so I did confess that I was exaggerating, but that I did get a rental car and drove from Vegas to L.A. for his book launch.

I got an extra book for Day[9] and mentioned that he plugged Jim Butcher’s books several times on his show and also in his “Why we like it” series, which surprisingly only has about twenty thousand views. I’m very much looking forward to reading “Skin Game”.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#38 Lindsey Stirling Las Vegas Concert

Well met, my friends!

As expected, the highlight of this vacation was the Lindsey Stirling concert at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. This was her tenth concert of forty six of her North America 2014 tour.

Before I arrived in Vegas, I spent half a week in London, catching up with old friends. It’s also more convenient as there is a direct flight from Heathrow to Las Vegas, whereas I would have needed to change planes, if I had gone from Düsseldorf. On the plane, there were two wedding groups and one stag night group. I sat next to one of the guys from the stag night group, who in turn sat next to one of the women getting married in Vegas. Here I thought those weddings were only valid in Nevada, but I guess I was wrong. Anyway, they asked me why I would be flying to Las Vegas, so I showed them Lindsey Stirling’s video Crystallize and told them that I’m going to her concert.

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Just like last time when I saw her at her Cologne gig, her sister Brooke Passey took the photos during the meet and greet segment. I had to ask Drew whether it was her, since she used to have blonde hair back then. In the photo above, I explained that I also write for the misscliks.com website that focuses on positive achievements of women in geek culture and gaming. Despite practice, I botched my pitch a bit, but fortunately I was able to fall back on the letter I wrote in advance. When I got the picture with Drew, Lindsey and Gavi, I didn’t know they were making weird faces, but then again, I probably would have just smiled anyway.

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When I went to get a coke at the bar, the guy, who stood in line behind me, was there as well. After another bit of small talk, we headed to the stage where we ended up talking to a few of the other meet and greet attendees. His name was Justin and there were Brett and Elizabeth and another girl, but I forgot to introduce myself. Justin raised a good point that it’s hard to find someone, who creates original songs for the violin, rather than just performing classics, which is one of the reasons he likes Lindsey Stirling. During the meet and greet segment, I did manage to ask a question this time: “I was pleasently surpised to find such a strong track like ‘eclipse’ in the bonus material and that made me wonder, what factors govern whether a song is put on the regular track list or on the bonus material?” I’m hitting some points with my questions, for example I haven’t heard that particular question before and it shows that I listened to the CD including the bonus tracks, but on the flipside the question lacked a bit on the emotional impact. Thus, the answer was short – it’s simply a matter of preferance, so the songs that she likes best get regular slots on the CD. Brett actually recorded the whole Q&A segment on his phone, so I asked him whether he could e-mail that to me. During the Q&A it became apparent that our position wasn’t the best, as the instruments blocked out the view. Brett joked about it that he strategically positioned himself in front of the drums, so he could catch one of the drum sticks. However, he actually did catch one in the end!

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Before her segment, the band Archis performed. Their lead singer Dia Frampton also joined later on for her collaboration song “We are Giants” with Lindsey Stirling.

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While performing on Youtube’s Dance Showdown, Lindsey met the dancer Anze Skrube. He planned the choreography for her video of “Stars Align”, which happened to be Justin’s favourite LS song, and also for her tour. So for most of the songs, Lindsey was accompanied by two dancers Stev-o and Pete. The music is already fantastic, but coordinating all those moves really lifts the performance to a whole new level.

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Lindsey played a good portion – or maybe even all of it? – of her new album, as well as hits from her first CD, like “Crystallize”, “Moontrance” and “Stars Align”.

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Towards the end of the show, Gavi switched to a portable keyboard. Despite my blurry on stage photos due to the lack of light, I managed to get a good shot of them having fun.

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It was an amazing show that is even better than her 2013 tour. If you can, do check out one of her concerts (the dates can be found on her homepage). I’m definitely looking forward to her return to Cologne this October.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

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