Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 6

The heat of the early summer and the salty air had always been a promise of future pleasure, one could actually believe in the possibility of a carefree, beautiful time of sensorial depravity, and Amalia was breathing it all in, focusing only on the sound of her heals on the almost deserted pavement. The lazy afternoon hours, when people would either enjoy a brief siesta or would still be trapped in their stuffy offices, and the peace she could get from the short walk pushed her to decline his offer to drive her home; besides, she felt she needed to escape his sight as fast as possible, the need of being alone was always more overwhelming than anything else. Just as some people have an innate fear of being alone with themselves, certain other individuals feel the burden of human company and forced socialization so heavily, that they need to create their personal escape routes, they need to run away as fast and as far as possible, so they could preserve their sanity.

When the parking lot where she had waved a quick goodbye to him while rushing away was no longer in sight, she finally slowed down, breathing deeply and finally relaxing her tensed body a little bit, allowing the latest sensations of the afternoon to sink in, so she could split each one of them into the smallest fractions, analysing every potential implication and cataloguing any shred of emotion. One often knows that certain situations are inevitable and in spite of telling yourself it was all sorts of coincidental actions that threw you in the middle of that particular instant of life, the truth is constantly close to the surface of your thoughts: you went looking for such a context, because – whether aware of it or not – you needed it to define yourself, as it was part of you even before having the chance to pursue it. People often deny it, first and foremost to themselves, but the buried urge is still there, a tormenting and guilt-inducing presence, pushing to surface at the most inappropriate times; she wouldn’t deny it though, she knew that certain things were bound to happen to her and that she would go chasing certain others, her upbringing and education didn’t allow her to hide under the shade of stale propriety and biased morals. The thrill of the new and the chill of fear dug deep into her chest as she was slowly walking home, realising that her desire to run and hide was more powerful than usual: she had promised herself a summer free of her old constrictions, she had promised herself a summer of feeling as young as she actually was – for how long would she still be that young anyway? – and now that it was there, she felt she didn’t want it anymore, she didn’t want anything anymore, other than to get home, close the door behind her, and be left alone, without having to see or hear from anybody.

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/analinden

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Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 5

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“I apologize, that was rude of me. But I tend to be a curious person by nature and I have the feeling you might know a lot more about me from your friend than I know about you.” Game on. He decided honesty was the best choice for the time being. “Most of the people who work with me – not for me – are friends of mine and we socialize in various contexts that aren’t work-related in any way. Whether we decide to collaborate in the future or not, you strike me as an… intriguing person and I would enjoy getting to know you.”

I’m very curious, I’m sorry… I’d like to know you better… At least he didn’t say “you’re an interesting person”, which she felt was his first instinct, but he managed to overcome it just in time. She normally didn’t go for that kind of approach, but she sensed he had meant the clichés he had just uttered, he was playing his one card left after the inappropriate question – directness would score him some points. He was clearly a spoiled man, used to being blunt in his sentimental approaches, not because of a certain lack of imagination or poetry, but because he felt that such endeavours belonged to a period in one’s life that he had already passed or overgrown.

“Anyway… would you mind if I called you sometime soon, to reach a decision about the summer job?” She kept staring him in the eyes without saying a word, so he decided there was nothing more to be done or said then and there. He was slightly annoyed by her superior, know-it-all look and he wasn’t going to pursue the issue any further, the intriguing brat could make up her mind about him all on her own. “Or you can call me whenever you prefer, in case that’s more convenient to you.”

He hadn’t meant to utter the last sentence, but what’s done, is done, he thought, while he was watching her heading out. Not wanting to completely give in to her, he figured that finding a middle ground was his best option, since she was clearly not going to respond to his “hot and cold” play. Yes, summer was looking up… for sure… And as she was walking away, he felt a pang of unadulterated enthusiasm and challenge, the same way he used to feel when living in the old university town which had also been her home… like there was purpose in life and everything and anything became possible.

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 4

Amalia was staring straight into his eyes while she was offering him basic information about her and her studies, about her summer plans and all sorts of other trivia he felt he needed to know. It wasn’t about a part-time job that would reduce the number of boring hours a week over her summer holiday, nor was it about supplementing her income or providing additional experience for her resume. It didn’t matter that she was still using a very distant, neutral and polite tone of voice, Amalia already knew that those warm, boring summer hours would be filled with something else, perhaps more exciting than the tedious tasks of an assistant. Yes, it was the right moment to finally have an affair with a married man, with the married man in front of her, and while they were both debating university and job related matters, they became aware that they knew more than enough about the person they were looking at from their mutual friend, the one who enjoyed idle gossip so much. She had no doubt he felt the same, and even if he hadn’t, her arrogance still wouldn’t have allowed her to think otherwise. Amalia found Robert intelligent, intriguing and strong enough in order to consider him the one to make the final cut; besides, she welcomed the new challenge he presented and the change of direction he was bound to bring into her life.

“So do you have a boyfriend?” The sudden, rudely intrusive question almost shook her new resolution to the core – could she have actually misread him so badly? Was he really that ordinary and if so, how come she had missed all the signs that normally accompany such stereotypical individuals?

“I find that people tend to have a very personal, subjective image of terms such as the one which you’ve just mentioned. I do know men and boys, and some of them are even friends of mine, while others are something else altogether; and some are just acquaintances. Regardless of whether this is relevant to the topic we were discussing or not, I hope at least it answers your question.”

Actually, it hadn’t. He had uttered the out of context question without even thinking of what he was saying, during a very brief intermission in their conversation and he could now see very clearly that it had been ill-received, judging by her vanishing smile and the very vague and cold answer. Other girls… women… girls… would have tried to act coy, some would’ve tried a flirty response, their egos hugely tickled by his awakened interest, whereas she dismissed him with a non-answer, clearly penalizing his lack of finesse.

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 3

When Robert noticed Amalia entering the sun-bathed restaurant, he suddenly became aware that he was hoping she would be the woman he was supposed to meet. He was expecting a girl, but something about her made you think “woman”, in spite of the youthful features of her face. And he realised exactly what it was – she looked cold, on the torrid summer day, she looked cold. The clinging noise of her heals on the wooden floor became louder as she was heading towards his table and he felt he had to find a way to keep her close, at least until he could decipher whatever accounted for that cold layer and what was hidden by the elegant, well-organized, attractive look. The long legs, the slim figure, the poised posture and the beautiful face were an additional incitement, if any such thing was still necessary, and as he stood up to offer her a chair when she was only centimetres away from the table, he could sense her perfume and her cold, silky hand shaking his after the quick, polite introduction. “Expensive” was what came to his mind, and before he had any chance to decipher the implications of that thought, she was speaking to him about the reason why she decided to meet him; but the words he was more focused on were her very first ones.

“Hello, I’m Amalia. I assume our mutual friend already told you a few things about me and my educational background.”

But he was no longer interested in her educational background or in the fact that he had set that meeting to find a girl who would be willing to be his assistant for a few hours a week, for the rest of the summer. Yes, actually, he did want to know things about her background, he thought, but he wanted to know everything about what made her tick. His old, perverted curiosity took over and he realised he wanted to break her down into little bits of information and figure out whether there was indeed something different about her or she was just one of the many who managed to put on a nicely carved facade. She was now talking about her BA and the thesis she was preparing and she suddenly became full of life, so he felt contagiously alive too, like he was back in time, back in his student days, in that far away, quaint university town, where – as it turned out – they had both spent years of their lives, not knowing of each other’s existence, probably not even at the same time. The urge to ask her when exactly she lived there was immediately repressed though, he had no intention of feeling old again, he would hold on to that surge of youth for as long as possible.

For more sample fragments: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample fragment 2

Amalia felt there was something of a sociopath lying dormant in both of them, as guilt was mainly a foreign concept in most of the circumstances with which life presented them, at the most mundane level possible. On a large scale, they both had a very acute sense of right and wrong that responded to their personal reasoning regarding the world, people and morals, a sense that suited their open-minded characters, their egotistic needs and their somewhat legal, more abstract rather than moral, view of correctness.

Robert was old, or at least he was old compared to her, but that was not relevant for either one of them when they initially met; just as it made absolutely no difference that he had a wife and a child at home. If anything, these aspects regarding his condition only made him more attractive and Amalia was well-aware that their relation might have ended before having a chance to begin, had he not been the man he was, leading the life he lead. It was time, she decided about five minutes after she met him, it was time to start dating a married man. Date him? Would that be the appropriate phrase for it? She felt it instantly, nothing about it would be what common souls derive from the idea of dating; after all, he was married, there was an age difference and she had no desire to change his status or to manipulate him, so that he would present her with the opportunity of a “normal” role in his life. They would have whatever kind of a relation they both felt like sharing and they would interact on a commitment-free level.

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

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 1

The buzzing sound of the plane engines and the milky view of the clouds with the protruding mountain peaks below failed to provide her with their usual sleepy serenity. Relinquishing control of her life and relying on the mysterious laws of physics to transport her exactly where she needed to be had been replaced by frantic panic, as her fingernails were deeply embedded in the window seat from the beginning of a flight which would normally allow her to spend some of the calmest hours of her existence. She had to make use of all her self-control to complete the boarding procedures and to maintain her resolution of going through with her trip, but she felt the plane would take her nowhere this time – it had occurred to her that she was only drifting, she never really had a clear idea where any of the planes would take her, she was just spinning in a circle, in the vague hope that access to the right flight would eventually be gained, by chance or by mistake. And as she felt falling deeper and deeper, she couldn’t help wondering why she kept leaping from one flight to another, as none of them had proven to be the right one.

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

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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Let’s Judge the Book Cover

It happens every day, we all do it… We all judge the book by the cover – be it in a figurative or literal manner – at least on some occasions. But this highly disapproved habit does sometimes yield constructive results. I’m thinking of changing the book cover, so if you have a moment, please focus all your judgemental energy and tell me what you think. If you have already read some of the fragments, choose the one you think is the most suitable. If not, you can pick the one you find most appealing.

Cover 1
Cover 1
Cover 2
Cover 2

 

Thank you!

“Village Teacher” or a Different Kind of Book

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Village Teacher was a surprisingly pleasant break from the books which generally fall into our hands these days. In fact, I could say it’s reminiscent of literature from another time and not only because the action takes place at the end of the 19th century in a politically torn, myth laden Vietnam, but due to the fact it creates an atmosphere often similar to that of an epic poem.

“The footprints never overlapped or touched one another, but there was no doubt that they were walking close together and going forward in the same general direction. They turned around once more and resumed their walk.”

The reader can guess early on how the story is going to end, but that doesn’t detract from the desire to follow the journey of those extraordinary main characters, who never betray their moral values, belief systems and feelings. Teacher Tam and Giang are the protagonists of a delicate, innocent, yet profound love story bringing together two worlds, two cultures, two completely different lifestyles. He is a poor, but erudite, honest, incorruptible village teacher, who values tradition, but keeps an open mind and is able to admit and accept progress, both when it comes to education and to mentality. She is the daughter of a highly influent, well-off, interracial family in the capital, encompassing the best traits of the two nations, French and Vietnamese. So you just know the adventure they have to survive in order to be together is going to be an interesting, entrancing one! As expected, they do manage to overcome social and political intrigues, selfishness and malevolence of their enemies. Their intelligence, selflessness and above all, their unconditional love both for each other and for others predicate their actions and lead them to a life together, in the spirit of their destiny.

Are such characters believable in the real world? Perhaps not, but I chose to see Teacher Tam and Giang as the embodiment of hope and dreams, the voices of aspiration for a better world. The task of establishing a connection with reality falls on the historical facts punctuating the love story, a task carried out in a clear, captivating fashion. Thus even a reader with few notions regarding Vietnamese history (such as I was) finds it easy to create a strong context and a cultural background, a veridical stage where the characters can perform. Some of the obstacles the protagonists face – such as prejudice, religious oppression and discrimination, gender bias – are also some of the plagues tormenting modern society, our own lives. Perhaps I’m not even too far from the truth if I say that the intertwinement of Vietnamese history and culture creates and entity to be metaphorically viewed as a third protagonist of the book, that’s  how much it affects the lives of Giang and Tam, often representing a challenging obstacle for the two young lovers from different worlds.

For me, reading a book has often been an escape from my own reality. And it is relaxing and gratifying to occasionally find escape in a world built on actual history, but populated with exceptional individuals, where the heroes eventually defeat the villains, even when they have to undergo their own personal dramas and emotional growth. Like I said, this book reminds me of another time – that of childhood and innocence, when everything was possible and the good always prevailed in every story. And the fact that the skeptical adult anchored in reality can grasp to the well-documented cultural and historical facts, thus learning something new and interesting, ads exactly the right twist to this exotic story, as far as I am concerned. So it certainly was time well spent accompanying Teacher Tam on the path to achieving his destiny.

This is where you can connect with the author, discover his world and find out more about the book:

http://neihtn.wordpress.com/category/village-teacher/

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 15

“It’s not like that, you’d understand it if you knew her.”

“I’m sure I wouldn’t, but I’m also sure you actually believe that, so you just tell yourself whatever you need to hear in order to go on.”

The silence was drowning the countryside scenery. Nice, cosy and nightmarish, she thought, but that’s not his fault, that appears to be the vastly spread idea about marriage anyway, why would they be the exception? It’s probably never different, they just end up devouring each other’s soul and character in the nicely furnished confines of a home, burying all the frustration, ignorance and dissatisfaction deep under a sea of smiles and placid lies, all under the silent approval of socially accepted behaviour, most likely under the eyes of some child that doesn’t know any better and will probably just grow up to duplicate the parents’ example.

“How about Woollen Socks? Why do you keep him around and not chase him away, so he could find somebody right for him? Or why don’t you make him into more than that, why can’t he make it to the next level?”

“We met not that long after I moved here and he immediately became somewhat obsessed with me. It was pretty obvious and perhaps I should’ve chased him away from the very beginning, because I knew myself well enough to be aware that I didn’t want anything serious with or from him. But I’m selfish and I was a bit lonely at the time too, and the way he worshiped me was quite nice for my ego. He knew that he had no chance to be more than that, the pair of socks on a cold winter night, but he accepted it, or maybe he hoped things would change, that I might change, I don’t really know and I don’t really care. There are still times when I feel lonely and that’s when he’s just a speed dial away, he knows that total availability on his behalf is what I require and he is more than willing to provide that. Because, no matter how bad you think he has it, he still enjoys it a lot more than he would any typical relationship with somebody else but me. It’s me he wants and this is who I am, so that’s what he gets; no more than that though, because he is devoid of any personality, any ambition and intelligence. He may be a nice guy, but he’s no more than that and he never will be.”

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

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 14

“You do realise that’s a person you’re talking about, right?”

“Yes, and the person in question is completely aware of my feelings, I don’t pretend he means much to me, just as you don’t pretend not to be married. There’s a difference, however: he knows exactly how things stand between the two of us, he knows exactly who I am and what my conditions are, and he has the choice of accepting them or not. He decided he was desperate enough in order to accept anything, as long as once in a while there’s room for him in my life as well; but he is free to leave whenever he wants. Can you say the same about your wife, though? Does she know exactly who you are? Does she get the choice of accepting you or not, or does she just have to live with a nice, cosy lie about what her marriage is?”

She was right… or maybe she wasn’t… He didn’t know anymore, that kind of questions hadn’t been tormenting him for too long a time. It made sense from a logical point of view, but he knew there was more to it when it came to a relationship, especially a marriage; the make belief factor was actually the more relevant one in keeping things together.

“Marriage is different. It’s cruel to tell people things that are bound to hurt them just to fulfill some need for honesty. There’s more to it than that and relationships, especially marriages, need to be protected, sheltered from certain aspects of life; there’s more than enough pressure on them as it is.”

“Right… What you don’t know can’t hurt you. How about being at the receiving end of that sheltering strategy? What if your wife protects you – I’m sorry, your marriage – from certain aspects of life as well?”

“It’s not like that, you’d understand it if you knew her.”

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