Yesss!

The novella update: Despite recovering from oral surgery, I was able to format and upload I Will be Waiting for You at the End of the Story on three platforms: Smashwords, Amazon Kindle and Draft2Digital. Or maybe it was because of it–I was on painkillers, at home with some unexpected free time, so I grabbed this opportunity to do the last step in self-publishing.

Once again, it was maddening at times to create a proper Word document for Smashoword, but I was successful in my first attempt to upload the book. I like Smash, the final product looks sleek and elegant. Amazon KDP was easy up until the very end, when Kindle Create wouldn’t let me export the manuscript. I spent several hours looking for the solution, but I found it. D2D – well, a piece of cake at first glance, a pain in the rear immediately after that. The templates are so unappealing that I could only pick between tasteless and horrendous 🤪. I chose kitschy. On the other hand, their software does many things for you and D2D provide wide distribution, so I don’t mind having my books on their platform.

After some deliberation (or perhaps at some point I waited too long for the next round of painkillers and I was a bit edgy), I decided not to put up this book for free on Smash. I set it for US $1.99, and I can always send free copies to my friends. Smashwords will soon have their annual Christmas sale; it makes sense to wait until then to offer them free of charge.

Now that I used my lovely cover for my last post, I don’t have anything new and I have to use it again. On the other hand, I baked a lot the last week, so I’m including the image of a loaf bread I did on Saturday, to make this post a bit more visually interesting. It could be the best bread I’ve ever made.

From me to (some of) you – Christmas gift: On a very different note, I have small presents for some of you who follow my blog – a review of your books. It’s going to be four posts in total, involving three bloggers and a friend of mine. I read three of those four books and the reviews are ready. I wrote them all in one day. (I’m still on sick leave and on painkillers). I have one more book to read and review but it’s a novella, and it wouldn’t take long.

I would’ve written those reviews anyway, but it’s a holiday season and this seems fitting. I have very few followers and this my way to thank them for sticking with me, for encouraging me, for reading my posts and leaving comments.

The first Christmas review is scheduled for Thursday, December 8th. Stay tuned!

I’ll wrap it up with a few of my photos from the last Christmas.

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I’ve been waiting…

A happy announcement: It’s been a while since I finished the first draft of my recent novella, I Will Be Waiting for You at the End of the Story. It took me no more than three weeks to write it but more than two years to put everything together. I could’ve done it faster, but I don’t want to scold myself–we’ve all lived through challenging times with the pandemic and other changes we had so little time to adjust to. I’m simply happy to come so close to publishing it.

Cover design Meera Thakore

The book’s “passport”: I Will Be Waiting for You… has 120 pages (about 25,000 words). My previous book had started with the cover; this entire journey began with this long, inconvenient title I liked so much.

I’ve hinted at the storyline and the characters in one of my earlier posts, but if you haven’t read Best Friends and Other Lovers (and by no means are you obliged to do it), these little clues wouldn’t mean anything to you. But, I believe you could forgive me for a little bit of bragging–I’m truly delighted about my newest release.

This book continues a year after the conclusion of the previous story. A contemporary romance with a fresh set of primary characters and a plot spiced up with a pinch of suspense, it’s set in the fictional town of Bonnybrook, in the Colorado mountains. (Why Colorado? I don’t know, but all my stories are located there.) Since this is a novella, the time span is short–a couple of days–with the exception of the last chapter, a sort of epilogue, that takes place a year and a half after the main event.

The characters: With all her imperfections, Harper McCain, the heroine of I Will Be Waiting for You, might just be my favourite so far. She’s prone to assumptions; she’s not always sure about her decisions but not ashamed to admit it; she’s stubborn but not unbendable; she has “a problem for every solution”; she’s vulnerable but brave enough to show it. She’s feisty and courageous; a fighter and a survivor; a woman capable of deep, unconditional love. She has strength to forgive and move forward. At least this is how I envision her; readers may see different character traits.

The story is told in first person, from Harper’s point of view. I can just hope that I succeeded in building Jamie’s character as well because we know him only from her perspective and their interactions. I like him, too. Jamie and Harper have superficial differences, which I think makes their relationship more interesting, but they are similar in fundamental ways, which makes their love strong and resilient.

Cover design Meera Thakore

The names: One of the quirkiest aspects of writing, at least to me, is naming the characters. I don’t remember how I came up with the name for Harper. She’s pretty rather than beautiful, very feminine, with a heart-shaped face, red hair, blue eyes and freckles and, for some reason, her name suits her perfectly. Jamie was named after Jamie Fraser, who was, up until book five of six of the Outlander series, one of my most beloved fictional heroes. Lyra was my nephew’s ex-girlfriend and, regretfully, never-to-be daughter-in-law to my sister. Ty Prince was surnamed after my husband’s friend, Guy Prince. Not unlike my fictional character, the real Haya is an astoundingly beautiful woman, but I can tell you right away that she is not a nurse and she definitely doesn’t live in Colorado or on this continent.

Bonnybrook is a community in Calgary. I’ve always liked the sound of its name and I decided to use it as a fictional setting for this story.

Trivia: This story has some traces of real events, changed and modified though my fictional prism. Some of the characters featured in my previous stories: Harper, Jamie, Harper’s son Mathew and her larger-than-life grandmother Bridget appeared in Best Friends (the story); Haya had a cameo role in Once Upon a Night. My trademark character, Dr. Gerd Falkenstein pops up here as well, connecting the two of my imaginary realms.

The invisible support: Meet my editor/proofreader Kristin Muraki and my book cover designer Meera Thakore. Kristin has been smoothing and polishing my stories from the beginning. Meera designed the cover for Best Friends and I loved it so much that I asked her to do this one as well. The fact that we work together makes things easier. I’m more comfortable dealing with people I know and trust than with some strangers. Kristin and Meera did amazing jobs again and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them once more.

Formatting: Now that I have all the prep work done, the next step is formatting. A (very) small part of me is techy, and I’m looking forward to it. It might take me a couple of days or weeks, but my goal is to put the novella up first on Smashwords, along with my other books, Best Friends and Other Lovers, The Two-blood Legacy and Guardian of the Realm, all available for free downloading, and then on Amazon (for no apparent reason except to make my life more complicated).

And finally, a question for you: If you found my post interesting, would you mind sharing how you choose the names for your characters?

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Dream a Little Dream

What is your dream? This question was originally posted on Writers Support Writersa blog that I visit every now and then — and reposted on another blog that I follow. Everyone was invited to share their dreams. I didn’t. I’m shy when it comes to exchanging thoughts and comments with other bloggers. Sometimes I can overcome my diffidence; other times I can’t. It’s never easy. As with small talk, this kind of communication doesn’t come spontaneously to me. (This explains why I so often don’t do more than give you a “like” and I’ll be grateful if you understand that.)Snow Queen But like everyone else, I do have dreams, and I am comfortable talking about them here in my own space. Long before I became a writer, I was a dreamer. It all started with reading as a child. I believe I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that, when I was about five, my aunt bought me a collection of fairy tales illustrated with lavish, flamboyant, baroque-style images. Once I learned to appreciate the art of book illustration, I starter seeing other breathtaking examples. However, none of them had the magic that was pouring from the pages of my first picture books. (Although… Recently I came across an illustrator that seems to be practicing similar “alchemy”. His name is Vladislav Yerko and here are his illustrations of Snow Queen and The Little Prince.) Those picture books set my imagination on fire. I told and retold the stories in my head, adding places, events and characters, inventing their family members, relatives, friends and foes. In each of these tales, there was a role for me as well. The “happily ever after” wasn’t the end, but a new beginning. Children would be born and grow, Snow White and her prince would visit Princess Aurora and her family, the evil stepmother would turn up again and cause trouble. The seven dwarves would move into a house in the forest near Snow White and the Price’s castle, and in the same forest lived a bewitched dragon who would become a man again when his true love broke the spell… And who else who would do that better than Snow White’s best friend—me. In short, it wasn’t happily ever after until I said so. Naturally, my reading needs grew as I grew, but I never lost the ability to insert myself into stories that I felt connected to. I would fall in love with male characters. I would modify the storyline and when I wasn’t happy with the end, I would re-write it in my head.Little Prince Oddly enough, I never wanted to become a writer; my entire life I’ve dreamed of being an Egyptologist. I was a passionate reader though and I devoured everything that would catch my attention. I read nonfiction and popular fiction. I was a big fan of comic books and graphic novels, but the primary reading materials of my youth and adolescence were classical and classic books. I also read a lot of modern contemporary literary fiction. Being a writer would mean to create such literature and I knew I simply wasn’t good enough. Not then and not now. When I came to Canada, and learned English, my reading inclinations shifted toward pleasure and escapism. Better still, that kind of fiction was even more suitable for my imaginative meddling with stories. Somewhere there, between the countless fantasies, romances, mysteries, thrillers, science fiction, contemporary, historical, normal and paranormal novels, great, good and not so good reads, I realized I want and probably could write a book. What followed was like a mild madness, a grip of passion, an unimaginable pleasure of making my own world. That creative fever produced two full-sized novels in two years. Later, I would add to my opus a collection of love stories and a novella. Recognition and financial gain didn’t follow, but disheartening as it was, it didn’t surprise me. Perhaps it was because I knew from the beginning that I was writing for myself more than for others. It was my dream– to write, to create my own imaginary realm that I could visit  whenever I wanted, to hold printed copies in my hands, as physical proof that I did it. Somehow readers found my books (most of the time they’re free on Smashwords); quite a few really liked them and several of them became my friends. Some of that imaginative fire — or my dreams, if you want — eventually burned out. The reasons were numerous; internal and external. Some I could control and some others I couldn’t, like having a full time job and tons of other duties and obligations. I always wanted more time to write, but ironically, when I got it, during the pandemic, I couldn’t write. I’m getting older and my energy level is lower. I have some serious issues with my eyes… Anyhow, I still feel privileged. Knowing how to make fictional characters real is an extraordinary beautiful ability. There is a  werewolf or a vampire or a dragon called Temeraire, and they’re more real to you than your co-worker. I did that, too. My friend Judy told me she had a crush on one of my characters; one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received. The same goes with the ability to live, in a sense, in the universe I conceived. These days I need more time to flesh my characters out, more effort to conjure my world. Some authors are able to write from the “outside” of their stories. I can’t. I need to be in: I have to be in love with my heroes, fragments of me have to be in my heroines, I have to offer a tiny bit of myself to every person in my book, even to villains. I need to live out their pains and aches, joys and triumphs, anger and disappointments, fears and traumas. Whatever they do, feel and think has to be filtered through me. I don’t know any other way to write. And that’s my dream now. To never lose this magic.
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Snow

After my recollections of September, my former magazine delighted me by publishing my memories of snow in their latest issue. I translated it in English, fascinated with the process once more. The two texts are similar; they both have the same trunk, yet all the little branches coming out of it are different, giving each text a distinct meaning, atmosphere, and focus. Another piece of evidence for me that writing in two languages involves two “persons” or better yet, two personalities, as my inner writer/writers relays/relay on specific knowledge, mentality, and tradition connected to the language used at that moment.

Here is the English version.

Every time I said I liked snow, people would give me a strange look.

The snow of my childhood was deep and heavy. The sled pulled by one of the adult family members would bounce off the frozen bumps, while my four-year-old self, bundled up in thick blankets, would shriek in delight and try to catch snowflakes with my tongue.  A quick note: part of the country where I was born lies on the bottom of the ancient Pannonian Sea that existed up until a million years ago. Now it’s as flat as Saskatchewan so sledding has always required three elements: the sled, its child passenger, and someone who would drag it. 

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

I still can hear the sound of wooden shovels in the early morning and the muffled clanging of the old streetcar. I can recollect the narrow path on the sidewalk framed with the walls of snow so high that it would obscure smaller kids. Only the pompoms on their caps would be visible and moving. The city was wrapped in a soft, white cloak, sleepy and slow. The air was slightly bitter from chimney smoke, and our kitchen smelled of burning wood, black tea, and apple fritters.

When I was seven, my family moved to the mountain region of my country. From my typical Central European birthplace with strong Catholic roots, we settled in a village near a big city, where my parents, both teachers, had gotten their jobs. In many ways, the new city was shockingly exciting and exotic. Its predominantly Islamic heritage was a result of 500 years of Ottoman rule. At the same time, it preserved a significant Orthodox Christian tradition and developed a specific and cautious yet enduring brand of Catholicism, encouraged in the 19th century by the new sovereign, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This incredible and—then—harmonious amalgam would soon ignite my curiosity and deep appreciation for Islamic and Eastern Orthodox cultures.

Everything else was different: the climate, the dialect, the food, the mentality, the architecture… The sounds and smells, the landscape. No more endless plains where your sight couldn’t rest. Whenever you turned, there were hills, cliffs, pikes, ridges, slopes. The air was sharp and cool. The rivers, unlike the mighty, slow, and murky Danube and Drava, were clear, noisy, and rushing. The forests were not the hectares upon hectares of centuries-old oaks but the dark green expanses of spruce, pine, and beech. It was love at first sight; this corner of the world became my spiritual homeland and I couldn’t love it more.

Photo by Emily Toycen on Unsplash

During winter, there were blankets of snow. That snow had almost a transcendental quality: it was whiter and it shimmered; it was pristine and sweet. (I can vouch for that for I kept eating it). It was so pliable that it could be effortlessly molded into anything our imagination conjured.

Sledding became a completely new experience. The sled used here was a small, bullet-fast one-seater. From the top of one of the countless elevations, we would zoom down head first to the bottom. More often than not, we would end up half-buried in the snow.

Later, when we moved to the city, like little Heidi I would mourn the loss of my rural idyll, including the magnificent winter months. Everything had changed once more and the snow was no exception. There was less and less of it, and when it would snow, it stayed unspoiled only for a short time. Traffic, smog (which the city was infamous for), and hurried steps of countless pedestrians would quickly cover it with a grayish patina or melt it into slush.

I do remember one particular winter and the biggest snow of the decade. I was fifteen or sixteen, the time when children start their journey to adulthood. Snow, like a special gift from heaven, had started falling just around Christmas and hadn’t stopped for several days. Its slow, unwavering descent filled me with some soft sorrow wrought with even softer joy, as a premonition of all my future quests and wanderings, and temporary discoveries of joy and relief.

This strange melange of melancholy and delight would stay with me forever.

Fast forward many years ahead… For a long time, snow here in my adopted homeland was unlike what I remembered from my childhood. Powdery, dispersed in tiny dry and angry flakes, it would barely sprinkle the ground, leaving depressingly yellow-grey grass and brown trees uncovered. I was disheartened – I came to Canada believing there was plenty of snow (almost) everywhere. Yet, year after year, the only proper dump would happen in April or May.

That has changed, though. More abundant and less dry, it’s now more like what I think snow should be to be properly enjoyed.

When it’s snowing, I like to stay home, open the blinds and peek outside every now and then, just to make sure it’s still falling. And I wait for my old friend to come and sit with me—that feeling of subdued joy and hushed ache I know all too well. I don’t need to wait for long; it never disappoints.

Then I like to make a cup of black tea and grab a book from one of my beloved Russians that really knew how to write about winter.

And when I say, with a smile, that I love snow, people give me a strange look.

They have no idea…

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First, Second and Third of all…

First of all, congratulations to my friend JP McLean on her newest book, Ghost Mark! I read it before it was published, and I loved it! Stay tuned for my review, and in the meantime, if you like well-written, clever thrillers with a touch of romance and paranormal, I highly recommend her novels, including Ghost Mark.

Second of all, I’m about to publish my fourth book. That could mean this month, the next month or in the spring. I’m not in a hurry. I have a cover image (included below), the manuscript has been sent to my proofreader, I did a mock formatting so that my designer, the same gal who did such an awesome job with the cover for my previous book, knows the page number for the paperback edition.

It has a long, romantic title that no publisher would ever accept: I Will Be Waiting for You at the End of the Story. One of the perks of being a self-publish author is that you don’t need to worry about it. You can call your book however you like.

The main characters, Harper McCain and Jamie Breckenridge had supporting roles in my previous novella, Best Friends and Other Lovers.

Here is the blurb:

Love, then marriage, then a baby in a carriage? Not always in this order. For Harper and Jamie, the baby came first, love was there all the time, just tangled up with heartache and despair. And their happily ever after? It just might be waiting for them at the end of the story.

Trivia: Some plot details are based on real events related to my short but exciting career in police force.

Back to the novella: the heroes and heroines of my contemporary romances are often related through family ties or through the setting, and Jamie and Harper are not exceptions.

I also established another connection within my books: every now and then, the inhabitants of my love stories and novellas jump into the fantasy realm of my paranormal romances or vice versa, intertwining the two worlds.

And of course, the trademark character of all my books, Dr. Gerd Falkenstein, the very fictional descendent of the Holy Roman Emperor Josef II, is here again.

A decade ago, when I started my writing journey, I believed I would have the time and energy to spin many other love and fantasy stories. Alas, I didn’t take into account getting older and having much less time and energy for writing than before.

Just in case I might not be able to touch on all I’d once planned, I’ve hinted in this book how some of those untold tales should unfold. Christin Enescu, a mighty Tel-Urugh from my Red Cliffs Chronicles books and one of my most beloved secondary characters, did manage to swipe the young human girl, Lucy Daville, from her feet. That’s the only reason Lucy is mentioned in this story—so that we know they ended up together and very much in love. Between the events of Best Friends and Other Lovers and this novella, the gorgeous, self-confident, Arless Dexter married Jamie’s father, David.

The story of Jamie’s sister, Daria, and Harper’s cousin, Simon, is still in the making. I hope I’ll finish it one day. If I give up on them for whatever reason, I want my readers to know, from this story, that they’ve also had their happily ever after.

Third of all… Wait a second. Do I have it? Yes, I do! I’ve been commissioned to write another article for my former magazine and its famous column, and I expect to appear there one of these weeks, with my melancholic memories of snow.

I’ll make an effort to change into my other linguistic self, translate it in English and post it here.

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Belgrade via Texas

My original recollections of September have been written in my language and post on my FB, after a years-long gap in this kind of writing. Later, I translated it. Not an easy task since I, like many others who operate in two or more languages, have some sort of “multiple personality”, depending which language I use. I’m a linguist, and this aspect of being bi-lingual is terribly intriguing. Although I don’t know much about it theoretically, I live it every day and it’s never ceased to fascinate me. Or us, because there are two linguistical mes, as I said. 😉

I’ll turn my attention to this phenomenon sooner or later, and try to explain to myself and others why I can’t write fiction in my language and some other forms in English.

Last week, however, was all about me in my native tongue and, dare I say, my native state of mind. I had a great privilege to see my piece published in my former magazine, Vreme, still the most respectable weekly publication in Serbia, in its famous column Vreme uzivanja (“Time of Leisure”).

It’s hard to express what it means to me. It’s a sort of validation–over time, this prestige column has hosted some very big names. Vreme was the last magazine I worked at before I came to Canada. It’s tied to my refugee and war years, the worst and the best time of my life. If I’m proud of any achievements in my career, then it’s my four years there as an editor. These were tough and very dangerous times, when you couldn’t make compromises with your conscience, not in sightless.

I couldn’t open the full article–I’m not a subscriber to the magazine simply because I can’t and don’t want to keep up with the Serbian political scene–but that didn’t matter. September was there, my name under the title, with an error at the end, apparently.

Thanks to my old FB joke/ruse, I was announced as a current resident of Texas.

And that’s fine; this innocent mistake (that I’m responsible for) happens to connect some dots of my past and my present. I’ve loved Texas since I was a child devouring a popular Italian western comics series, Tex Willer. Just to mention, Tex was–logically– a Texas ranger and his physical appearance was modeled after Gary Cooper. I was in Texas a couple of years ago, and that visit only solidified my sentiments toward it.

Somehow, this Texas-slip made my comeback even more special.

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September, the Colours of Scents

September–the summer in autumn and the autumn in summer.

It’s the month in which I was born, right after the equinox. If you believe in astrology and you know me, you can tell that I’m a typical Libra. I don’t, but still, I AM a typical Libra.

I remember September mostly by the beginning of my high school years. I changed primary schools several times, so my memories of those Septembers are vague and mixed up, and the university years were not September-related: they would start in October.

To me, September is irrevocably connected to those first few weeks of school when you don’t have to worry about the exams and how you will survive a year of learning mathematics. It was a promise to yourself that you will study regularly so that the sheer volume of academic subject matter doesn’t overwhelm you, although it will definitely crash over you soon like a giant wave whether you study every day for hours or not. I attended one of the most prestigious grammar schools in my country. To say the program was demanding would be an understatement, but by the end, we were equipped with a solid understanding of just about everything–from science, languages (including dead ones) and literature to social studies, music, and art. In any case, it was enough to be admitted to any university program. Compared to high school, my four-year undergraduate linguistics studies were easy and way more enjoyable. After all, there was no math anymore.

Speaking of math, my high-school Septembers were also a short-lived hope that, if only I tried hard enough, I would be able to grab the bull by the horns. Alas, any hope would evaporate as soon as the teacher wrote the first equation on the board.

(Back then, I believed that my life would be much happier if I didn’t struggle with math. What I’ve learned since then is understanding mathematics is not important; mathematics teaches us to think in a certain way, even when we don’t know how to arrive at a solution. Just as the written word, or art in general, teaches us to learn about the world through the experiences and feelings of others. Ultimately, mathematics, at least in its fundamentals, isn’t something that cannot be learned, as I realized later. What I knew then, and I know now, is that our approach to learning mathematics, unlike many other disciplines, was fundamentally wrong.)

I still remember that the weather in September, especially at the beginning. It was usually sunny, with cold mornings and warm afternoons, right up until early night, when the sharp and humid mountain air would descend upon the ground like a cool blanket. Like many people who suffer from migraines, I too see abstract concepts in colors: letters, colors, days of the week, months of the year, feelings. So, for me September is not golden-orange-brown, as might be expected, but bluish-greenish like water, airy, and slightly golden-yellow like sunlight through birch leaves starting to change colors. That’s how it smells: bluish, airy and golden. Because for me, a migraine veteran, even scents can have colors.

The classrooms of our sturdy, spacious high school were full of sunshine; they smelled of polished floors, although it would quickly air out. The big, sparkly windows were kept open allowing the air to enter and dilute the miasma of all kinds of scents: from young bodies still going crazy with hormones, new books and floor polish to various eau de toilettes that we then had at our disposal—the inexpensive ones that could be bought in local stores and ones that were brought from Italy. Somehow, in those years—and I’m talking about the late 1970s and the early 1980s—the light, fresh floral fragrances were not in fashion or we couldn’t afford them. Those available were either aggressive, sharp, on the edge (migrainous!), or sweet to the point of vulgarity. Olfactory memory brings up Yardley’s Shanida, Khadina and Sea Spray; Babe and Charlie from Italy or from duty-free stores. I vividly remember our biology teacher, who really liked to spray herself with one of those Yardley’s perfumes; she was wrapped up in the fragrant cloud which would then fall on us in the front seats, creeping into our noses and memories. Some boys used their fathers’ Pino Silvestre or Brut (one domestic, one imported, respectively), the cheap male equivalents to the popular female Charlie and Babe; I can’t think of any others.

I also used Yardley’s sprays; of course I did. Back then, they smelled lovely to me. I was fortunate enough, however, to get a bottle of Arpège from my much older and quite wealthy cousin, a gift that would broaden my perfume-wise horizons and shape my taste in a different direction.

September was an opportunity to show off the new cloths bought during the summer, a new pair of shoes, to talk with your best friend about your sweet and innocent summer love affairs, to check who is with whom on the lunch break, and whether a certain he was still looking at your direction.

As the days went by and September shed away the last traces of summer, the initial lightness of being would also start to fade. The school was heating up, the dreaded math tests would be approaching us inevitably like a train entering the station, becoming a serious threat that somehow had to be neutralized.

Even to this day, I sometimes can’t believe it’s over.

Like many other things in my life, my experiences of September are divided into those ‘there’ and those ‘here’. Climatically, September here is unpredictable: it can be sunny and very warm, or it can snow. However, it is still bluish-golden and airy in my inner colour chart. If the weather is nice, the sky is a deep, azure blue. I might have caught her in one of the photos. The good thing is, even after all these years—there are no math tests; sometimes they just pop up in my dreams and wake me up.

My album of memories of September here is full of pictures of my children and their beginnings of the school year, when the teachers, assistant teachers, staff, management… introduced themselves to the children and parents and welcome them to the new school year. Later the kids would fly the kites and blow soap bubbles.

My boys, thank God, don’t have math traumas like their mom.

The only thing is, September here goes by very quickly, although this is more related to now than here: time speeds up as we get older. The latitude also contributes to this phenomenon to some extent: around the equinox, the days are already noticeably shorter, so it seems that they change quickly. The golden-yellow leaves fall after the first hard frost, the trees shake almost all them at once, but the whisps of warmth can remain in the air for some time, and the sky, if it is sunny, is still cerulean blue, as if washed out.

And then suddenly we’re in October, which I love because of the holidays I’ve learned to observe here, but also because of the heavy clouds, wind and cold weather that I sometimes need as much as sunshine and cheerfulness. Seen in colors, to me October is reddish-brown, like cinnamon, but that’s another story.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I was ready to close my blog for good. After several years of posting about what I read and what I write, with a few excursions into the art of film, painting and history, I was ready to throw in the towel.

Writing a post takes time, a commodity I don’t always have. I have a full-time job, but less mental and physical energy than before. I’ve had a couple of tough years… I’ve been struggling to find the audience from the very beginning of this journey (which makes me even more grateful to those four or five who’ve stayed with me all these years).

My contribution to the Library Silent Auction 2017. Beneath the pink cover is Rosen Torte: a luscious cake made of 12 layers of thin sponge and 12 layers of walnut buttercream.

Does it matter if I call it a day?

Yes and no. Blogging doesn’t affect my sales, doesn’t attract more attention to my books. My absence certainly wouldn’t leave an unfillable void in the blogging community. Nonetheless, I feel that, if I give up on blogging, I may give up on writing in general. Somehow, blogging accompanies my creative process, it helps me stay in touch with my stories and people who live in them, even if I write posts about unrelated topics such as history, or painting, or food.

I’m still not sure how this is going to end, but for a little while, I would like to explore a sort of “fusion” blogging. I make wonderful desserts, so I may write about famous cakes and share my recipes. Or about savoury food my family consider me famous for. Or more about acrylic painting… and about books, of course.

Speaking of books, I’ve just found another review of Best Friends and Other Lovers on Smashwords, from January. The reviewer appears to be an author as well.

“Loved all three of the books. The first one’s ending was a little abrupt but that was okay. The second one was the fastest-paced of all of them. But if you know me, I like a good fast-paced romance. The last one was the most aggravating but so rewarding at the end. I’m happy all three of them got their happy-ever-afters.”

Short and sweet, and I’m thankful to her.

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The Best Antidote for Self-doubt

I almost wept when I read Audrie Driscoll’s review my three story collection, Best Friends and Other Lovers. It’s been so long since I got any feedback about my writing.

Yesterday I told my friend, Georgette, about it. “I probably should print it out and frame it,” I said. “Of course you should,” she said. “You also should hang it on the wall and read it next time self doubt starts to gnaw on your confidence.”

Not only that, it made me reconsider my plan to give up on my blog.

Not only that, it also made me feel better about my newest novella, or story No. 4, I Will Be Waiting for You at the End of the Story that I’ve just sent to my editor. It continues with the same family/friend angle like its predecessors — the primary female character is Ted’s Canadian cousin Harper, who appears in the third story in a minor role, just to make things complicated. (The third story is also my favourite, although, this upcoming novella might shuffle that order. I really like this new tale and its feisty, courageous and funny female protagonist, who has “a problem for every solution”, as her love interest, Jamie, likes to point out.)

And now — drum roll, please! — the review.

“This trio of romantic encounters features three different couples. An interesting aspect is the family and friend relationships that exist among the six individuals, in addition to the sexy encounters that are the focus of each story. So, for example, Nick in “Once Upon a Night,” the first story, has an ex-wife named Hannah. She is the female lead in “Blind Date,” and Nick’s sister Deanna is the narrator and main character of “Best Friends & Other Lovers,” the third and final story. That means there are references in the later stories to the people in the earlier ones, a nice touch.
For the most part, the characters are professionals in their 30s–doctors, architects, business consultants, etc. They have lots of money at their disposal, so the reader is treated to pleasant surroundings, lovely clothes, and delightful meals.
The first story, “Once Upon a Night,” is about a relationship that develops from unlikely to actual, thanks to a winter storm. It’s told in first person from alternating points of view, hers and his. Since there is quite a lot of steamy sex, I must commend the author on capably rendering the sensations and emotions of both parties.
“Blind Date” begins with a fantasy that becomes reality played out in detail. Readers will definitely want to keep a fan handy for this one. It fairly sizzles.
“Best Friends & Other Lovers” is subtitled “a Christmas story,” and indeed it is. I liked this one the best of the three because it contained more characters and backstory, which made the main characters more relatable and sympathetic. Good friends Deanna and Ted go to his grandmother’s ranch near Calgary, Alberta for Christmas. In addition to holiday warmth and fun, there’s the question of when (or if) Ted plans to propose to his absent girlfriend, and how that might change his friendship with Deanna.
The sexual situations in these stories are explicit and detailed but not gratuitous. All sex is consensual and responsible. I’m not a dedicated reader of romance, but I found these stories to be well-written and diverting.
I would recommend this book to fans of spicy romance.”

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A Long Journey Home

At the beginning of Covid-19, Amazon suspended the shipping of proof copies. I was reluctant to publish the paper versions of my books without physical verification, so they sat there, unpublished. Finally, almost two years after I’d formatted them, my proofs arrived.

Getting the proof copies made me truly happy, as if my books returned home after a long journey. If I have to summarize it, they brought me a lot of joy, some frustration, and a very modest income — about $300. A drop in the bucket of money invested, and it mostly came from the platform that hosted them for a year. Nothing from Amazon, of course, a little bit from D2D and Smashwords, which lists 134 sold copies, the majority of them for free during their promotional events, and about 2,400 free downloads of full books or samples.

I enrolled all three of them for their Annual Read an E-book Week Sale from March 6-12. For free, naturally.

Still, one little step before I’m officially done – I need to change the margins in “Guardian” — the recommended outside trim is too narrow — and fix the pagination on the very end. Big manuscripts are indeed difficult to maneuver. Then I’m going order a few proper copies for myself, and close this chapter.

And open a new one.

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