Thank You for Reading

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For the better part of December I’ve shared my latest book, Christmas Reunion, so anyone who was interested could read it on my blog for free. It gave me great pleasure to be able to finish it in time and offer it to my readers as a personal holiday present.

Thank you for your amazingly kind and supportive words and thank you for taking the time to read it. I hope it was a fun, relaxing experience.

While the book will no longer be available on the blog, in case you haven’t finished reading it or might want your own copy, you can still download it for free on smashwords.com

Once again, thank you, and I hope 2023 is off to a good start for all of you.

Stay safe, everyone!

Continue reading “Thank You for Reading”

New Book Jitters and December Gifts

I started this blog in December, but that’s not the only reason why I usually try to do something special this time of year, as far as blogging is concerned. I try to post more, to open up more, but also offer small virtual thank you gifts to my readers.

A year ago, as I was doing a Christmas song countdown, I thought it would be fun to write a holiday themed story and share it with everyone in a few instalments. All well and good, but who had the time and energy for that, especially since I quickly realized that a short story would be too short for my idea? So off to that mental storage bin labelled “some other time” the idea went, together with so many others.

It’s been a year… I won’t elaborate, we all know what sort of year it’s been. So this autumn I acknowledged a fairly sad fact about myself. I wasn’t able to write anything fun… and when it came to reading, the whole year I’ve been drawn mostly to non-fiction depicting the sad state we’re in from various perspectives. After finishing an emotionally draining story that I felt the need to write this autumn, I understood I needed something else as well. Something light, something cheerful, perhaps something silly…  So I decided to give my Christmas story idea a try. Meanwhile it grew into a short novel that I wanted to serialize on my blog, but I didn’t have much hope to finish it in time for December 1st. I refused to give up on it – writing it was actually fun – thinking that I’d finish it and if not this year, I’d share it next December.

But much to my joy and surprise, it was ready in time, even if just barely. When I hit Publish last night, I could hardly believe it. So here it is, a writing project out of character for me. Be gentle, I’m not 100% certain I was awake when writing the synopsis.

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A family Christmas is not for everyone, so when Sandra suggests a singles’ reunion over the holidays, her childhood friends are all in. But what is her real reason for bringing everyone together?

Romance is in the air, but when old rivalries and forgotten feelings resurface, drama, intrigue and misunderstandings are inevitable. Bright, beautiful, successful Sandra may think she knows her heart and her friends, but a flurry of mixed emotions, funny moments and unexpected distractions will reveal everyone’s true desires.

Secrets and scars are exposed on a path to forgiveness, friendship and love, as second chances become real on Christmas.

Like I said, I will be sharing it on my blog this month and hopefully it’ll bring a sweet smile to your faces, briefly helping you forget about the doom and gloom out there. If you want the book or know someone who might like it, you can also download it for free, for now only on Smashwords.com

Hopefully by tomorrow it’ll also be available on B&N, Kobo, Apple Books, etc. as well as on Amazon (sadly, because of their pricing restrictions, it cannot be free there as well).

Happy reading!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Robert Burns wrote to a friend:

“I myself can affirm, both from bachelor and wedlock experience, that Love is the Alpha and the Omega of human enjoyment. All the pleasures, all the happiness of my humble Compeers, flow immediately from this delicious source. It is the spark of celestial fire which lights up the wintry hut of Poverty, and makes the chearless mansion, warm, comfortable and gay.”

Continue reading “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

February Traditions

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In the early days of this blog, I started a Valentine’s Day tradition. As my little gift to you (it isn’t much, but that’s the best I can do to show my appreciation during what many consider to a holiday of love), you can download my books, Parallel Lives and Frames for free on Smashwords.com, Barnes&Noble, Kobo and iBooks. Albatross and Glass Slippers and Stilettos are available for free on Amazon on February 13 and 14.

Given that neither one of them is a typical “they lived happily ever after” romance and they portray rather unconventional, uncomfortable twists and turns of relationships, they might also be a good choice for those of you not really in the mood for celebrating this year. Whether you get them for yourself or as a gift for somebody else, I hope you enjoy my small token of appreciation. Feel free to download as many copies as you want!

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

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

A Strange Kind of Serenity

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I will never bake perfect looking gingerbread. But I can bake great tasting gingerbread and, in my book, that’s more than enough. In fact, that goes for all my baking – it’s something I love doing, I’m not at all bad at it, but my baking will always have a homemade look about it. I have neither the patience to strive for an army of identically looking gingerbread figurines, nor do I have the discipline to always stick to the recipe for all my baking. Since I do understand how it works, I have fun with it, I experiment and I enjoy the slightly different results I get. That very diversity and that imperfect homemade look are perhaps what makes the entire process just right… dare I say, my own kind of “perfect”?

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Continue reading “A Strange Kind of Serenity”

Christmas… Quirkiness?

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How are you, did you have a nice Christmas (in case that’s something you celebrate) or a nice December, in general? I certainly hope so…

How about your little corner of the world, is it festively decorated? All sparkly and lit, perhaps boasting a Christmas fair or two?

It’s certainly the case in my neck of the woods… Our town was in lockdown for the entire month of December last year, so there weren’t any Christmas lights or seasonal festivities and decorations. That made sense. This December however… isn’t making that much sense. As for common sense from our local authorities… well, that’s been MIA for so long now, why should it be any different this month? “Someone” clearly felt the need to make up for last year (in more ways than one), so Christmas was going to put on a show in our town this year, at any cost… And when I heard the obscene price they decided to pay for it… never mind, I’m doing my best not to get political.

I love a nicely decorated town on Christmas. In normal years, in December I tend to take a longer route home only to enjoy the lights; and even if I’m not a big fan of Christmas fairs, I might go and take a look, enjoy the atmosphere. And we could have had all that, at much lower a cost, the rest of the money being put to much better use…

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Given the context, I didn’t feel the usual joy at the sight of brightly lit up streets and parks. I didn’t even bother to visit the Christmas fair. Not until Christmas day, that is, when I finally gave in and went for a walk in the area to take a look. Sure, all the booths were closed and I didn’t get to see it in all its disturbing glory in the early afternoon, but what a sight it was nevertheless… What else can one do but laugh, at that point? It’s either that, or pack up one’s bags and run far, far away… Continue reading “Christmas… Quirkiness?”

1 Song ‘Till Christmas

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Well, my blogging friends, have you been nice this year or perhaps more on the naughty side? Not much time left to make up for our transgressions… or is there? Personally, I believe the most we can ask for is to have someone to accept, respect and love us for who we are, warts and all… someone who doesn’t give up on us even when we’re at our lowest, someone who endeavours to point us in the right direction when we’re wrong and has the patience to let us get there on our own… someone for whom we can do the same. I hope you have such a person… I hope you are such a person for somebody… because if that’s the case, then yes, there’s still time – not everything revolves around a holiday (season) and there’s more to Christmas than unrealistic expectations, countless presents and excess of all sorts. So in case you celebrate Christmas, may you have a happy one, filled with joy, love and appreciation!

Be kind and stay safe!

December Gifts

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A blogging anniversary notification from WP, that’s yet another sign that Christmas and the end of the year are near. Thank you for sharing sharing yet another year with me, for letting me be a part of your lives and for teaching me so much about appreciation and kindness, simply by opening up and telling your stories.

My small “thank you” gift to you is the same as every year since I started this blogging journey – electronic stocking stuffers, my ebooks.

If you want a copy of Parallel LivesGlass Slippers and Stilettos, Albatross or Frames, or  perhaps you’d like to offer them to someone who might enjoy them, use the following links:

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

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1053416

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/822554

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

Feel free to download/offer as many copies as you like!

Happy reading and Happy Holidays!

Underneath the Tinsel or Making My Own Christmas Traditions – Part Three

Note: I wrote and first published this lengthy 3-part post in December 2015. I was in Madrid – as so many other times that year – and contemplating December frenzy in Spain was (much like that entire year) a special experience I will never forget. So much has changed since then… in more ways than one, I have changed too… But my core values are the same and so are my Christmas related beliefs – because many things are still the same. So this is why I chose to repost it and hopefully you’ll enjoy it. Have a decent December, everyone!

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Part One – The Illusion

Part Two – The Reality

Part Three – My Own Christmas

I didn’t know it then, but that Christmas Eve would stay with me for as long as I would have memories to hold on to… not because it was fabulous, but because it was the first time I felt and understood what it was all about – what I needed it to be all about.

It was just the three of us listening to Christmas songs and staring at the flickering lights in the Christmas tree… my Christmas tree, as I felt the need to point out several times that year. We were 16 or 17 and it was the year that my grandmother had decreed that I was too old to have a tree. Well, if I was too old for a tree, then I was certainly old enough to do things however I saw fit when it came to Christmas in general. Faced with a minor family drama and a harsh blow to her loving grandmother image, she gave in and allowed the tree. That concession, however, would cost me all my Christmas gifts, I was warned. I didn’t mind, a few pairs of socks and another ugly scarf were definitely worth giving up.

It may not have been the most beautiful Christmas tree that I ever had growing up, but to this day it remains the one I treasured the most. We were all somewhat sad and ashamed sitting around that tree, my best friend, my boyfriend and I, that year… Yet we were also so very happy, so very content, finally so very peaceful. My best friend and I had gone shopping for the tree the day before and then he helped me get it home, spending hours in the December cold and snow, trying to find the greatest one I could afford. That was as fun and pleasant as it should have been, the way both of us had forgotten it could be. Continue reading “Underneath the Tinsel or Making My Own Christmas Traditions – Part Three”

Underneath the Tinsel or Making My Own Christmas Traditions – Part Two

Note: I wrote and first published this lengthy 3-part post in December 2015. I was in Madrid – as so many other times that year – and contemplating December frenzy in Spain was (much like that entire year) a special experience I will never forget. So much has changed since then… in more ways than one, I have changed too… But my core values are the same and so are my Christmas related beliefs – because many things are still the same. So this is why I chose to repost it and hopefully you’ll enjoy it. Have a decent December, everyone!

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Part One – The Illusion

Part Two – The Reality

The choir started singing all those beautiful carols we loved. That was the best part of it and I didn’t want her to miss any of it. I’d go get her, I told my grandmother. I was handed my coat and scarf, and in a low voice I was warned there would be trouble if I caught a cold, thus ruining everybody’s holidays. I snuck out as discretely as possible, but disgruntled looks from some of the older ladies could not be avoided.

There she was, on the bench in front of the church, just where I expected to find her, smoking a cigarette. Her face was cold, sad and pale, and her fingers trembled slightly as they moved the cigarette back and forth. We could hear the choir from the bench outside the church and that’s where we stayed and listened to the carols that year. Pieces were falling into place – even if I was still very young, even if I couldn’t quite explain it, I was starting to understand why my mother didn’t want to be there in the first place and why my grandfather kept his distance, refusing to take part in that charade every Christmas. Continue reading “Underneath the Tinsel or Making My Own Christmas Traditions – Part Two”

Underneath the Tinsel or Making My Own Christmas Traditions – Part One

Note: I wrote and first published this lengthy 3-part post in December 2015. I was in Madrid – as so many other times that year – and contemplating December frenzy in Spain was (much like that entire year) a special experience I will never forget. So much has changed since then… in more ways than one, I have changed too… But my core values are the same and so are my Christmas related beliefs – because many things are still the same. So this is why I chose to repost it and hopefully you’ll enjoy it. Have a decent December, everyone!

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Part One – The Illusion

The house was filled with that delicious smell of baked goodies. Vanilla and a variety of other aromas I was too young to know or recognize conspired with my grandmother in creating that warm, heavy, divine, mouth-watering smell that could mean only one thing: Christmas was only a few days away.

It was the final element in that trilogy of olfactory sensations that I have associated with the winter holidays from a very early age. The oranges were the first harbinger of the impending festivities and as I stood by the big fruit bowl, scratching at one of them with my little nails so I could carry its perfume with me, I knew there wasn’t long to go ‘till the much expected moment.

Then came the tree. My grandfather was never too involved in all the preparations, but getting the tree was always his job and I was his trusty sidekick. It was our little tradition: we would scour all the Christmas tree markets until we found the perfect one, I would choose it and he would carry it home. I don’t know about him, but that intoxicating fir tree smell would make me completely forget about the freezing cold wind, about the icy patches on which I really needed to watch my step and about the snow, which somehow managed to find its way into my boots each and every time. The serious, respectable, stern man became a child again, analysing fir trees, laughing more than I would see him laugh during the entire year and always indulging me, all the while knowing that the one I chose would inevitably be too tall. He’d be the one severely reprimanded as soon as we got home, but little did he care. Continue reading “Underneath the Tinsel or Making My Own Christmas Traditions – Part One”

15 Songs ‘Till Christmas and Secret Santa Horrors

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Perhaps the secret to a good Santa is not only to know what to give, but also when to just give up and move on… So while I love Christmas and gift giving, I don’t really like this particular Christmas tradition. Luckily for me, I was in high school last time I had to put up with Secret Santa…

I don’t like giving gifts to or receiving them from people I don’t like. There, I said it! As a child, I’ve had mixed experiences with the dreaded Secret Santa gift exchanges – from offering the perfect present to the boy I had a crush on and then slow dancing with him at the school Christmas party in middle school (what was that if not a dream come true?) to having to give a present to the smelliest boy in the class and nearly getting slapped for it in high school.

As an adult, though, I don’t really see a point to this… Continue reading “15 Songs ‘Till Christmas and Secret Santa Horrors”

18 Songs ‘Till Christmas and A Reminder to Be Human

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One story that will always stay with me is the way someone extraordinary, a person incredibly special to me, found out there was no Santa Clause when he was a child. His out of work parents couldn’t afford to buy their children any presents, so they simply told them the truth. It was the early ‘90s and a myriad of political, economic and social changes, as well as personal choices lead to that situation. But what difference do all those reasons make to a child?… In a different part of the same town, my family (or at least my grandparents) was undergoing its own decline, but our “bad” was nowhere near theirs and so many other families’. There was a Christmas tree in our home, beautiful gifts under it, and plenty of food for all of us – enough to spare, in fact…

Some 30 years later, many things are different in our little corner of the world. And yet, disturbingly many have remained the same. In November, about a month before Christmas, World Vision Romania’s heartbreaking statistics pointed out the sad truth yet again. In rural areas, 1 out of 2 families cannot afford to buy any gifts for their children; 1 parent out of 6 has less than the equivalent of 2€ to spend on children’s gifts, and 1 out of 3, less than 10€; 7 out of 10 parents would choose to offer necessary items like clothes, shoes or school supplies instead of something which would only provide joy to a child.

Outrage was, of course, the standard reaction. Doubt and disbelief followed – that can’t possibly be true, those number must be wrong (media outlets that hyped the news and created some confusion in the way they presented everything in order to make it sound more sensational didn’t help, of course). Then a different sort of outrage was unavoidable – outrage against a useless state, outrage against unfit parents or both. Then, as everything else, it faded away, and we – especially those of us inhabiting large urban areas, went on with our lives and our own compulsive Christmas shopping. After all, how can any of that be true, when shopping centres and stores of all sorts are filled with people and merchandise flies off the shelves this time of year?

I don’t know whether the numbers are right or not; but I believe they could be, and I know there’s lots of that going on in urban areas as well. I also know that there are unfit homes and families, and the state should and could do a lot more at least for the children living in that environment, if not for the adults as well. But how does it help a child to know that their misery is a corrupt state’s fault? And yes, a Christmas tree, a toy and/or a nice meal won’t change a child’s life; but is that to say they don’t even deserve to experience at least one moment of joy, of what life should be for all children?

Like I said, financially speaking things were not always great for my family when I was a child living with my grandparents. But there was always food on the table on Christmas, there was always a tree… And every year we stuck to our little tradition, my grandmother and I – we put together a bag of clothes, shoes, toys and school supplies that I no longer needed or had outgrown and took them to a certain family in my great-grandmother’s village. Was my grandmother doing it out of the goodness of her heart? Hell no, but that’s another story; and it made no difference to those children anyway.

That’s my whole point – if we can, we should do/donate a little something to help a needy child/family, regardless of why we do it. The numbers may not be the same everywhere, but there are people in need, no matter where we live. Is it guilt, generosity, desire to show off? Who cares, as long as that decent deed is done and an innocent soul can have at least one good day a year… because yes, one good day is better than no good day at all. And here’s the thing… even if we’re not exactly well-off, even if we do work incredibly hard for what we have, but are sitting in our cosy, perhaps nicely decorated homes, behind our computers/smartphones/tablets, our belies full and our bodies warm, then we surely can spare a little something for a starving freezing child…

Stay safe, everyone, be kind and share some of the joy!

20 Songs ‘Till Christmas

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I wanted to do a December Christmas song countdown ever since I started blogging. Ideally I would have paired the songs with holiday related memories, thoughts and opinions. Perhaps I would have added photos to reflect the festive – and sometimes not so festive – mood as well… But there was never enough time and/or determination.

Well, my blogging friends, this is probably the closest I’ll ever come to accomplishing that. I’ve already shared about my love-hate relationship with the holidays, as well as the reasons behind and it and how I managed to make peace with Christmas… and with myself, regarding Christmas. Hopefully I’ll manage to share some interesting memories and thoughts this year as well, but much like when it comes to the holidays in general, I tell myself, “no pressure”… But most importantly, no over the top expectations, from myself or from others. So there will be songs, there will be photos (most of them from previous years), and occasionally there will be stories as well. Continue reading “20 Songs ‘Till Christmas”

2020 Moments

Happy New Year, everyone! But is it, though? Has anything really changed overnight? For the better, I mean…

Much as I try, I cannot shake the feeling that we’re trying too hard to put 2020 behind us. I can certainly understand the need for a fresh start and the hope for a better future. I share them. What vexes me is the senseless desire to “forget”, as well as the strange belief that everything will not only change, but go back to the way it used to be “before”.

Forgetting means repeating the same mistakes over and over again. And… maybe I got something wrong… but wasn’t what we’d been doing “before” exactly what brought us where we are now, to this place we dread and desperately try to escape? I’m sorry, but I don’t think we learned our 2020 lessons… not all of them and not all of us, at least.

Right… deep breath… it’s neither the time nor the place for yet another rant, much as I feel like one. Instead, I’d rather thank our lovely Lens Artists hosts for keeping us together and helping us in our efforts to stay sane and creative in 2020 (Tina is hosting this week’s challenge – Favourite Images of 2020). Continue reading “2020 Moments”

Happy New Year!

I seem to be lacking words of wisdom right now… even traditional sweet clichés are somewhat difficult to string together, because the year that just came to an end was anything but typical. So I’m only going to say this… if we can’t find it in ourselves to do anything for others, to accept we are part of society (whether we like it or not), at least let’s make our own lives easier and better by thinking of the bigger picture. For once, the common good is undeniably our own personal gain as well.

A happy, healthy, and if possible sane and fulfilling New Year to all of you and your loved ones! Stay safe by keeping others safe too!

Holiday Season… Up and Down Memory Lane

Christmas Eve used to be for decorating the Christmas tree. Now my artificial tree sits in its corner, nicely trimmed, for over two weeks. Different place, different times, different traditions. But back then, I couldn’t wait for my mother to arrive, usually on December 23rd; and in my very young mind, the fact that we had to decorate the tree together on the 24th was somehow a promise that she would always be there for Christmas.

Continue reading “Holiday Season… Up and Down Memory Lane”

My December Survival Kit – Part 2

Part 1

Good routine

After all those hectic holidays, you have no idea how much I appreciate a fairly predictable December, ruled by my own festive routine. I used to believe that routine would be the death of my spirit. Now I welcome predictability as the unexpected antidote to maddening, unexpected December drama. If routine means boredom, but it also means no hysteria, emotional blackmail, manipulation or drama of any kind, then by all means, I’m good with being blissfully bored. Continue reading “My December Survival Kit – Part 2”

My December Survival Kit

A particular scene from Ally Mcbeal keeps popping into my mind these days – must be the season… For those of you who don’t remember/know, Ally Mcbeal was a somewhat atypical lawyer show in the late ‘90s. I remember liking it back then just about as much as I liked SATC, although they were very different (some magazine articles insisted on the fact that a girl had to choose between the two shows, but I just didn’t see it that way). Continue reading “My December Survival Kit”

No Trendy Christmas Tree For Me, Santa (Part 2)

Part 1

Now I have my own ornaments and stories to go with them. I somehow managed to hold on to a box of four glass baubles I got at some point in middle school, while shopping for Christmas presents with my best friend at the time. I can just see the store and how we went in looking for something entirely different. I spent a hefty part of my savings on these ornaments and a similar set that I offered my grandmother that Christmas (one of the very few presents she actually liked). They’ve miraculously survived the years and journeys and they went on every tree I’ve had ever since, even when they didn’t match the general colour scheme. Continue reading “No Trendy Christmas Tree For Me, Santa (Part 2)”

No Trendy Christmas Tree For Me, Santa

Note – I wrote this piece a year ago, so that is why some of you might get a slight déjà vu feeling. But I want to share it again; I usually get somewhat nostalgic in December, and this is a small part of my personal story and the way I perceive the holiday season and it’s trappings. 

She frowned and immediately dismissed the idea of a Christmas tree.

“I’ll get one when I can afford to decorate it properly,” she concluded, “not with all that cheap tacky stuff.”

Oh… I couldn’t help feeling my friend’s not at all veiled dig at me. So my Christmas tree was cheap… and tacky. Well, I could certainly give her “cheap”. Continue reading “No Trendy Christmas Tree For Me, Santa”