Read an E-book Week on Smashwords

For one week only, thousands of Smashwords authors and publishers will provide readers deep discounts on ebooks, with coupon code levels for 25%-off, 50%-off, 75%-off and FREE.

Stop by and take a look, you might find something you like. After all, we can never have too many books :-)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

http://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1

Reward (Weekly Photo Challenge)

What does reward mean to you?

 

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Patience rewarded

Have a beautiful spring!

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 52

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“Cheers!”

“To us!”

And they both drink their burning courage, hoping to be able to remain true to themselves and provide each other with all the fulfilment craved.

“To you and I,” whispered Amalia, carefully setting the empty glass on the nightstand by his side of the bed.

“You’re amazing… I can’t believe the way you look, I never dreamt of something quite this spectacular.”

“I like to make an impression.”

“Oh you do… this is the stuff of memories, every boy’s wet dream.”

“How about men? Real men? Since that’s really my target audience…”

“Oh… you’re what we dream of when we say our prayers at night, just before we have to fuck our wives. You’re what keeps us hard, that phantasy which makes life worth living.”

“You do like your clichés…”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Rule of Thirds… But not Today

This week, compose your subject off-center, obeying the Rule of Thirds.

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It’s beginning to look and occasionally even feel like spring, so going to see the sea on a beautiful, though windy and somewhat chilly afternoon seamed like the thing to do. The afternoon almost became evening by the time that I was actually out, but the perspective of taking a nice, quiet drive – maybe even a walk if the weather allowed it – thinking of nothing and just stare at the scenery was too attractive. I had the sea on one side, the sun setting over the town on the other, but it struck me how instead of clearing my head and taking in the view, my mind was preoccupied with something else. I was looking for a good place to park and take a few shots of the sunset… or maybe I should just go on the beach… no, the sunset and the trees are a better choice, who knows, that way I could even come up with something suitable for the photo challenge.

Or maybe I could just look and see – actually see – the beautiful images I was looking at. It took getting out of the car and shivering in the cold wind to come up with that ‘revolutionary’ idea, while my already frozen hands were searching for the phone. The bag went back on my shoulder, my frozen hands went into warm pockets and I went back to that old habit of watching, seeing and perceiving everything through my own eyes, not through a camera. More and more often we need to see reality on a screen in order to perceive it… You know how it is, you notice something, you have a small revelation of your own, and then you can’t help noticing all the manifestations of said idea. I was clearly not the only one willing to brave the cold wind for a few cute photos; in fact, my stubbornly not taking any pictures was making me feel a little bit out of place amongst the people out for a walk by the beach in the early evening.

I hurried back to my car and turned up the heating. I would just stay there for a while, in the warm comfort of the metal shell and stare at the view, at the waves, at the sand, at the sky and think of nothing – just a little bit of ‘me and the sea’ time. No photos, no phone, no camera, just my own eyes :-) I have countless shots of seas and sunsets, many of them taken in a hurry – having had only a moment to stop, I had more and more often used it to take a picture at which I would look more carefully later, when I’d have the time. So I could certainly take a break from that sort of behavior I had adopted without even noticing it.

And here we are – no new photos for this week’s Rule of Thirds, just a few adapted oldies; somehow, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about this one…

Ghosts of Valentine’s Dates Past

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It’s not every day that a flower delivery guy almost throws a bouquet of roses at you, I thought to myself the day before yesterday. He had harassed me all day, calling like a maniac in order to find out when exactly I’d be home, so he could bring me the flowers – a Valentine’s Day bouquet which for some inexplicable reason they had decided to deliver a couple of days early. As soon as I closed the door in the face of the man who was still expecting a tip in spite of his rudeness and almost offensive words, I got to enjoy the beautiful roses – in spite of the commercial fuck up, they were still the symbol of a loving gesture, from a person so dear to me. I have long ago made my peace with the holiday dreaded by many, but I can’t deny that the incident brought back bittersweet memories of Valentine’s Days past.

I was thirteen or so when I survived the first “celebration” of the sort. The rumour had spread among my classmates, the boys were up to something and all of us, girls, spent the week before V Day waiting to find out what they were going to do. Nothing outrageous, as it turned out, but still terribly exciting for the time being – some of us got flowers and cards from the boys who liked us and we got asked out on dates. So when my best friend suggested we go out with our classmates without actually saying yes to any of the boys, I breathed a sigh of relief. That meant she wasn’t going to say yes to the boy I liked, who was going to ask her out. Or so I thought, because as we arrived at the meeting place, he headed towards her, holding a rose that had clearly seen better days, looking slightly puzzled by my presence. Sorry I lied, but you wouldn’t have come with me if I had told you; and you know I couldn’t go on a real date with him, but I couldn’t just say no either, she whispered in my ear as he was uttering a shy hello. Well, it made more sense back then – you see, the boy in question was part of our close group of friends and even if my bestie didn’t like him, she figured refusing to go on a date with him would translate into them not wanting to be friends with us anymore; besides, she had no idea that I had a crush on him. I had naïvely hoped he would come to his senses and ask me out, even if I knew who he actually liked. So I brutally refused the other two boys who had asked me to be their date on Valentine’s Day for no other reason than that they weren’t the one I had my mind/heart/hormones set on.

Don’t ever let them know what you feel, don’t ever let them see that you’re suffering, that they hurt you, my mother’s words come to my mind. So with a deep breath and a large smile I started acting my little ass off, pretending I actually wanted to be there and didn’t care about anything or anyone. Our group was smaller than we initially intended it to be, but, luckily, I wasn’t the only dateless wonder. So it couldn’t get much worse, I thought to myself, as soon as the happy couple was done exchanging a few private words. Wrong again, I would immediately find out during a quick gossip session in the lady’s room; he had asked her to be his girlfriend, her need to be liked had kicked in again and she couldn’t refuse him. Yet she wasn’t going to act on it and since I wouldn’t provide her with a good excuse to leave early, she spent the entire evening – and then the following week – trying to avoid him. As we were all walking her to the bus stop, he finally got closer to her and found the right moment to attempt a good night kiss… in the middle of which she broke free from his hug and jumped into the bus that had just arrived, although it wasn’t the one she was waiting for. Yes, we all noticed that minor detail, and it did feel good to see him sad both because of her rejection and of the other boys’ jokes.

As my first experience… or perhaps I should say experiment in celebrating love finally came to an end, I could finally hide in my room and draw all the sordid conclusions. ”Never again” was the first one, and by that I certainly didn’t mean never celebrate the holiday. More than anything, it was a promise to myself, that I wouldn’t sit and wait quietly for a guy to notice me when and if he felt like it; nor would I waste my time pining over boys who didn’t care about me. Moreover, once the anger subsided, I had to admit that my being there to witness the entire drama unfold was actually a good thing; that way I was left with a realistic view on the events of the evening, instead a romanticized, much more painful, image I would have otherwise built in my mind.

Well, that was their only date, their only kiss and all her avoidance manoeuvres made for some ridiculous, yet very funny situations. Between her frequent disappearance acts and my suddenly strange behaviour generated by my bruised ego, the poor guy was baffled by what was going on with his friends. Determined not to become the messenger between the two halves of the “happy” couple, I was acting out, engaging in harmless fun of my own, trying to choose between two guys, in spite of not being interested in either of them. As one of them (the charismatic bad boy all the girls wanted) was getting a bit too flirty with me, I could see said poor guy observing me in a strange, disappointed fashion. He later told me I deserved better than that jerk; I replied he wasn’t the one to talk and left him thinking no good deed ever goes unpunished. Everything went back to normal within a week or so, as he finally got the hint and gave up on following her around and I stopped feigning interest in irrelevant people. We got over our crushes and we were all friends again, just like before the shit romance had hit the fan on Valentine’s Day… Ironically enough, that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, considering that he is now my oldest and closest friend.

From early on I suspected that not having a date is by far not the worst thing that could happen to a girl on Valentine’s Day. As the years went by, I became convinced of it. Yes, ladies, when a man you barely started dating shows up wearing not much else than a red thong, revealing thus his idea of romance, you wish you had no date. And when a man brings his mommy along for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner because she was feeling lonely that evening, you know you must draw the line and boundaries must be set for this particular day of the year. Since I never had an issue with being single or dateless in the middle of February, I made a decision several years ago: no more dates with people I don’t know well or care about on Valentine’s Day. After all, shouldn’t this day be a reminder to celebrate people we love?… As far as I am concerned, that’s not a feeling limited to the person I’m in a relationship with, and some of my best Valentine’s Days were spent with close friends, regardless of whether I was or wasn’t in a relationship at the time. And let’s not forget one undeniable fact – dating somebody doesn’t necessarily mean loving them, nor does it guarantee the death of loneliness…

So this year it was just me, myself and my roses for Valentine’s Day… and maybe a glass of wine at the end of a relaxing, quiet day of pampering :-) . Distance and timing may have gotten in the way of spending the day with a certain someone, but that’s not really as big a tragedy as some make it out to be… because I know that I’m loved and appreciated for more than just one day a year!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved. ”

W. Shakespeare – Sonnet 116

There’s more to this day than cards, flowers, chocolates, heart-shaped knickknacks and all sorts of gifts that make us feel wanted and appreciated. Not that they are completely irrelevant – much like the day itself, they are a reminder that a certain feeling, a certain human emotion should be cherished and celebrated once in a while! (And hopefully there’s a little bit more to that feeling than 50 Shades of Grey ;-) ) So I hope that today you get to enjoy a few special moments with someone you love, either face to face or at least hearing their voice on the phone.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you and to the people you love!

Scale (Weekly Photo Challenge)

This week, share an image that highlights a size relationship — make us pause and take a second look to understand the scale of the elements in your photo.

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Remember those old camera phones? Yes, the ones equipped with VGA cameras :-) Oh, that sense of pride and joy many of us have felt when having purchased our very first one… Well, this is a picture taken with such a phone many, many moons ago. While reminiscing, go ahead and see if you can find the butterfly :-)

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And now for something from this decade… It’s interesting to see how all those things so important to us can at time seem so small and insignificant, if perceived from a distance, within a larger picture.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 51

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Those eyes will wonder from the stiletto heels, upwards on the long, graceful legs, even more enticing in black stockings; they will linger hungrily on the garter belt and on the lace panties and they will take their time, being thankful for the tight corset, sending a distinct message to the tip of the fingers which almost feel it, anticipating the moment when they would struggle to tear it off the woman’s body; they will feel the heat of the body, as they focus on the whole image of the sensual woman standing a few metres away, the white flesh contrasting with the sexy black lingerie, her soft, long hair covering her shoulders and her naked back. The happiness becomes complete when those eyes meet another pair of long lashed, desire filled eyes which mirror the same wishes and carnal promises for the moments to follow. The young, beautiful face becomes even more irresistible, when the sincere smile lights it up with images of seduction and satisfaction, as the woman acknowledges her power and beauty and control over the man, yet again. She knows what effect her standing there, a speechless embodiment of sex, has over the man in front of her, and she takes her time, because this is one of those sensations which need to fully be perceived in order to set the right tone for the night to follow. She then motions slowly and lasciviously to pick up the almost forgotten glass offered to her moments or maybe centuries ago.

“Cheers!”

“To us!”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Depth (Weekly Photo Challenge)

This week, share with us your take on “depth” — you can take it literally, like me, by showing something (a dense forest, your lawn after a blizzard) that suggests volume, a distance between surface and bottom. Or go with a more figurative approach.

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I would like to say that there is something deep, profound about anything and anyone, but the truth is I don’t believe it. Sometimes what you see is exactly what you get, certain things, places, situations and people are nothing more than what they appear to be. And this can be a real blessing in some cases, the same way shallow waters can become a nightmare in others. But it’s the hidden meaning, the dark depths of mystery that I generally like to look for, whenever existence becomes dull and predictable. It just adds a special thrill to life and routine once in a while :-)

A Little Something Before Valentine’s Day…

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I have a little something for all of you, just to say ‘thank you’ for reading and considering my thoughts. All I can give you right now is a book – I wish it could be more… Last year, just before Valentine’s Day, I created a coupon for everybody who wanted to read Parallel Lives and find out how Amalia’s (love) life would evolve. With the risk of seeming repetitive, I’m doing the same this year, I’m making it a tradition :-) So feel free to download the book as many times as you want or send the coupon as a cute gift to any of your friends!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Promotional price: $0.00

Coupon Code: XW47A (enter the code at checkout)

Expires: February 15, 2015

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Express Yourself (Weekly Photo Challenge)

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Faces from the crown can often be very expressive. You’ve never seen a person, you’ll never see them again, and yet…

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 50

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“I thought it’s more of a whisky night, rather than wine. What do you think?” Robert almost yelled as soon as he heard the bathroom door open.

“Pour me a glass too.”

She entered the room and everything was quiet again. Words were unnecessary, his lustful smile was enough for both of them. There is a certain gratification in having imagined what the unseen would be like and then discover it is even better than expected. It was worth waiting.

The man that feels proud to be seduced will not bother to hide his admiration and desire, he will enjoy the woman that tempts him and he will not waste any of her beauty, because certain women can be a rare gift needing to be unwrapped slowly and enjoyed to the full extent. And the visual impact is something so relevant in such an exploration, the penetrating, lustful eyes are not an offense, but a true acknowledgement of beauty, a source of new sensations for both of the newly discovered lovers.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Serenity (Weekly Photo Challenge)

This week, show us your interpretation of serenity.

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No matter where I go, I always find peace and solace by the water. That’s where all those storms of thoughts, worries and fears in my head quiet down for a few moments, allowing for a deep breath, hope and a fresh perspective.

Shadowed (Weekly Photo Challenge)

For this week’s Photo Challenge, find the shadows. You can choose a literal interpretation and shoot an actual shadow, or you can play with the light and dark, and create a moody scene, or capture your subject in a rich and interesting way.

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We can’t escape the shadows in our lives, no matter what we do, no matter how nice a moment might be… But a little perspective does help us see everything else there is, aside from dark shadows.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 49

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He had already planned to have a quick look thorough that bag when she’d be in the shower, but he hadn’t thought about the fact that she would need it exactly then. Never mind, everybody’s tricks would become clear soon. After closing the terrace doors and the curtains covering the windows, Robert lay down on the bed, pulling the hotel bathrobe, so that he would maintain a certain amount of decency, absently watching TV while waiting for her to finish with the bath.

I’ve certainly taken my time… The room was endowed with a very elegant, large bathroom, of which Amalia took full advantage, and she finally felt relaxed and ready to move on. She could hear the room service waiter knocking at the door a few minutes earlier, the drinks had arrived. One more glance in the mirror. Good, exactly how it was supposed to be. It’s time. Game on.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

New (Weekly Photo Challenge)

New year. New opportunities. New adventures. Let’s inspire one another — show us what’s new.

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The new year started on a sunny note and one can never enjoy too many sunsets… or too many flowers about to bloom :-)

Warmth (Weekly Photo Challenge)

Whether you live on my side of the planet or in the Southern Hemisphere, enjoying real heat on the beach or in your yard, show us your take on warmth.

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As the year draws to an end and the days grow colder and colder, I tend to think fondly of those warm summer days and the even warmer memories they left behind, sweet reminder that we should make the best of those little moments when life offers us beauty and happiness…

Since this is my last post for the month of December, I wish you all a Happy New Year and may all your wishes come true! :-)

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you! I hope you are exactly where you want to be, sharing a few nice moments with your dear ones! And if by any chance your wishes didn’t come true this year, remember, there’s more to life than Christmas… ;-) Hopefully next year will be a better one for us all! :-)

 

Do We Want What We Want For Christmas? (Repost)

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It’s Christmas – you cannot forget it for a second, given the hustle and bustle of people trying to purchase anything and everything that isn’t nailed down – and like everybody else, I keep thinking and obsessing about what I want. After all, what else is there to do every year in December, other than be frustrated and angry with yourself for all those things you so desperately wanted and needed and yet you haven’t been able to offer yourself or your dear ones?

I need a break this year. And the reason I know this is because I had a little, insignificant revelation of my very own this year – for the first time, I had the chance to offer myself something I wanted for so long; and that was the moment when I stopped, I took a deep breath after a heavy moment of panic and I was able to admit it was not what I wanted after all. Because what I wanted was what I actually had all along. In that particular case, it was a new apartment I thought I just had to have in order to feel good about myself, so I could derive some deep and lasting feeling of fulfilment regarding my life. Pen in hand, about to sign the contract, I finally acknowledged the fact that I was about to obtain a collection of nice walls in a new and trendy neighbourhood at the price of giving up my home. Yes, my own apartment, the one I had been living in ever since I was a student, was smaller, the building was older and somewhat duller, it didn’t have much of a view; but it was a home, one that represented me down to the last nail in the floorboards. I both loved and hated that place over the years – initially, it had been a symbol of freedom; then it became an obsessive reminder of all that I wanted and could not have, the exquisite view, the spacious rooms, all those things I grew up with and ignored as a child, all those details which became important only when I stopped having them. I had been so adamant about wanting to have more – after all, it’s shameful to settle for what you have, isn’t it? – that I failed to notice that I actually liked the home I already had, the one in which I had invested so much over the years, the one which was ‘me’ from all points of view. I opened my eyes and my mind and noticed that my home was also my refuge, a place of peace and safety which never failed to provide me with the tranquility I needed, in spite of some of its shortcomings. And the neighbourhood had actually become one of the nicer ones, not at all the way it was when I moved there; and yes, I wasn’t fond of my neighbours, but most likely I wouldn’t have been too impressed with my potentially new neighbours either. So I spent that afternoon at home, for once appreciating what I had, instead of only focusing on the ‘more’ and the ‘better’ that I felt compelled to want. I deleted the numbers of all the real estate agents from my phone, and not because I had decided to never change my apartment. I will move, but only when I know I like the new place better than the old one, and not out of misguided ambition dictating what I should want.

So what do I want for Christmas? Do we ever really know? Do we ever really know before getting it and realising we never needed or desired it, because it doesn’t become us? Do we ever really know before obtaining this object of our desires only to set it aside and move on to the next goal, the next thing we don’t have yet, so therefore we want so badly? I’m doing something else this year – I’m digging up all those things I wanted, I got and I forgot to appreciate in my rush to move on, because I’m hoping that there might be some happiness in actually liking and cherishing the reality of our existence, not only the unattainable dream ahead.

I will enjoy my Christmas tree, remembering what every ornament means to me, the moment in time and the memory it entails. I will put an amazing gift under the tree for somebody special, because their joy when opening it will make me as happy as any perfect present I might receive. I will put on that black dress I like so much – you know which one, we all have one of them, the one that cost us a fortune and we only wore once, because we think no occasion is special enough for it; I will also put on my favourite pair of shoes – one shall not name names, but it’s that pair a girl never wears when driving, so she wouldn’t ruin them. And bundled up in a warm coat, because the outfit is only meant to make me feel better, I’ll go for a drive and enjoy the Christmas lights in the city, without thinking of all the things I would change. I will also think of those people dear to me that might be away for the moment and instead of falling into depression or despair, I will choose to remember that there’s more to life than the holidays and I will treasure the fact that we will be together on various other occasions. But I will refuse to share my time with any of those persons I do not particularly like, only because this is what one must do or because one should not be alone even for a second on the holidays.

And last, but not least, I will remember that not only are there so many people who are happy to have less than I do, but I also used to have less sometimes in the past, so perhaps one can find reasons to appreciate one’s life – with all its failures and accomplishments – after all.

This is why I will take a break for a few days, I will want less and I will appreciate more.

Happy Holidays!