Book 1: Skater in a Strange Land
Sherm Reinhardt is an ice hockey player, first and last. So when he gets the chance to play the game professionally, he doesn’t care if he has to skate after his dream into a parallel universe. Borschland is a mythical country that’s half in this world, and half out. It’s a place lost in time where the locals drive horse-drawn carriages, fly in helium-filled airships, and are mad about their hockey. When Sherm arrives, he’s happy just to make the team. Then his game takes off and his team seems poised to breeze to a championship. But almost as quickly, Sherm is hip-deep in off-ice trouble: talking bears mixed up in political intrigue, the attractions of Rachael, a talented Borschic poetess, and a rumor that Sherm’s success has all been fixed by higher-ups. Is Sherm the center of a grander game? Finding the truth– even if it means losing Rachael–becomes Sherm’s ultimate goal.
“Beautifully written, funny, quirky, and good-hearted.”
“Spot on with the vernacular of a pro hockey player… his description of the hockey games in Borschland made me feel like I was actually watching the game in real life.”
“Romantics of all stripes will enjoy the blooming attraction between the book’s hero Sherm and Borschland’s intriguing poetess Rachael…Prepare to laugh aloud as you revel in Frauenfelder’s captivating writing that takes you along on a rollicking adventure set in a fascinating alternate world.”
After a season of hockey fame, political intrigue, and romantic complications, Sherm Reinhardt’s life is finally settling down. He’s happily married, enjoys his kids, and captains Borschland’s most storied ice hockey team. When a homeless man claiming to be the Borschic “Saint of Light” Willem van Noos appears, asking Sherm to protect Borschland’s most sacred Flowering Branch, Sherm is more than skeptical. But as swiftly as the Branch blooms, just in time for Christmas and after 300 years of dormancy, Sherm’s troubles sprout, too: his sister is arrested for treason, he’s booted off the team, and a Shadow Saint shows up, this time promising Sherm and his family eternal youth if they drink a tea brewed from the Branch’s flowers. Willem assures Sherm that if he follows the Shadow Saints, a cataclysmic war will ensue. But who can pass up the chance for immortality?
CIR: What inspired you to write a fantasy book about ice hockey?
FRAUENFELDER: Borschland began for me in my teens, when I was hockey-crazy, a writer, and inventing new worlds twice a week. It’s hard to overestimate how much pleasure creating Borschland gave to someone who spent most of his adolescence a fish out of water, always yearning for an ideal place to rest my teen-drama-weary head. The Flowering Branch of Borschland (in the second book) seeped into my consciousness a very long time ago, and was the subject of a long-gone short story I wrote in my early twenties. However, I believe the ultimate inspiration for the Branch is the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden. The Bible is a source of so many stories, and the idea of a plant that can give you immortality is irresistible to write about.
CIR: Tell us about your main characters.
FRAUENFELDER: Sherm Reinhardt grew up in central Minnesota and went to Land o’ the Lakes College to play ice hockey. His mother and father have passed; only his sister, Cathy, survives as next-of-kin, so Sherm feels he has nothing to lose by going to a place he’s never heard of. He’s tall and athletic, very committed to ice hockey, but he’s never gotten that one break that can make him believe in himself. Like a lot of hockey players, he is a down-to-earth guy, not complex, but with a true-blue heart, a crooked nose, and the kind of eyes that send poetesses dreaming. Cathy shows up more in the second book, and I feel as if she walked into my life as a spontaneous delight. She joined Sherm in Borschland after the end of the first book, and fell in love with the Borschic church. So at the beginning of the book she is in seminary, studying to be a clergyperson in the Borsch religion. The Flowering Branch, of course, is an object of great veneration in Borschland. Besides her spiritual life, she also has a suitor, a Borschic journalist by the name of Roald Greningen, and part of the book concerns whether they are going to end up married or not.
CIR: So, do you have to be an ice hockey fan to love this book?
FRAUENFELDER: I’ve been surprised at the versatility of this book. Sports fans have praised the hockey; fantasy readers love the world of Borschland; people that read for memorable characters have praised the cast in SKATER. I also find readers appreciate SKATER who have traveled and understand what it’s like to be overwhelmed in a foreign culture. But most of all, this is a book for readers who have “Te Hart” deep down inside. “Te Hart” is a Borschic phrase which means “The Heart,” but it really means “the heart’s desire” or “the deep longing of the heart.” Everyone in this book, even the villain, is pursuing a passion, pursuing what they are longing for or at least what they think they want. That deep desire to live life full speed ahead is what drives SKATER, creates high stakes for the characters, and, I hope, inspires readers.
CIR: What makes this series unique?
FRAUNEFELDER: Imagine a small continent our earth, somewhere in the South India Ocean, where the land regularly “phases” in and out of a parallel universe. Add in talking bears and foxes, Edwardian era technology powered by super-peat-fed steam engines, and make the whole place mad for ice hockey. Oh, and there is also a magical branch that only blooms every three hundred years, and you can make a potion of immortality from the petals of the flowers. Even I never really imagined I would ever write something so strange. But there it is, waiting for adventure tourists (and adventurous readers) to discover.
Learn more about D. W. Frauenfelder and his writing at www.breakfastwithpandora.com