Monthly Archives: March 2015

5… 4… 3… 2… 1… – My first self-published novel – Go, go, go!

Note: The post below was updated to reflect the latest developments.

As some of you know already, my first novel is now published. You can see a short description and links to retailers at my homepage.

The process:

I have to confess something.

I gave myself ten weeks to publish the novel, but since quite some time I wanted to publish this novel until end of March. And I am thrilled to have managed it.

It was quite an unusual experience to be aware of the stress I was making myself and doing all to be kind both to myself and to my readers. No one wants to here: “the launch is postponed”. So, I reserved more time for the whole process but pushed with all force to achieve my personal secret wish.

And it worked. Both e-book and paperback formats are available, whereas the e-book can be found with many different retailers. So my book has started its journey. I even sold several e-book copies already!

And many friends has sent congratulating messages saying that they are eager to read it. Their intention makes me feel a bit dizzy. It is wonderful to know that they will read the words I have put down on paper. The words read and re-read by me and by my wonderful beta-readers Mihaela and Marcy, by my great editor Alice Jago, by my terrific writing teacher Menna van Praag, and parts of it by my fellow writers from “Passionate Writers” group. The words packed in a wonderful cover created in a team work between Alice and me and supported by my family. My dear, dear supporters, you will read the thanks in the Acknowledgments section of my book, but I would also like to thank you so much here for all your help!

A few more words on the process. I have spent two nights on publishing during the last weekend: first the e-book and then the paper-back. Both nights until 4 a.m. But the interesting thing was that I didn’t feel tired. As soon as I started the process, I couldn’t stop until there was nothing to do but wait for the answer from reviewers at the retailers’ and printer’s side.

It was a strange and amazing mixture of relative smoothness and being-undramatic of the technical side of the process and an extreme roller-coaster of emotions and excitement inside me.


The excerpt for this (probably) last post with quoted parts from my first novel is the prologue in its full length.



Stinging heat woke him. As he opened his eyes he saw a wall of fire where the windows were supposed to be.

Mommy always told him to keep away from these hot orange-red tongues, which once had painfully licked his thumb and index finger.

But now this hot, red monster crawled with a loud hiss toward him all by itself. Not knowing what to do, he called as loudly as he could for Mommy.

No one answered. He wanted to be brave like his Daddy had taught him to be, but he could not contain the sobs, which now mixed with his cries: “Mommy, Mommy, come! Mommy, Mommy, I’m scared!”

A whisper stopped him. “Sshh! Hush, baby, hush! You’ll be all right. Be quiet now.”

He turned to see who had called to him and, through the choking clouds of smoke, he noticed a woman he had never seen before.

He withdrew from her. Mommy and Daddy had told him not to talk to strangers, but just as he was about to fall backwards into the fire, the woman grabbed him and dashed from the room through the door frame that had already caught fire.

She carried him through the hallway, down the stairs and then through an even larger hallway to the main entrance. “It’s all right, little one, everything will be fine, you are safe with me, but you have to be quiet.”

Something in her voice convinced him she was telling the truth. And he wanted to get away from the fire. So he decided not to fight and to let her carry him.

She suddenly stopped at the entrance and lingered a bit, hiding behind the curtains of the nearby window.

He looked up at the woman, followed her line of sight and saw a small group of soldiers passing by. The men glanced at the burning house and laughed. The fire took hold of the back of the house so they could not escape through the back door. The front side hadn’t caught fire yet, so they waited inside, unnoticed. He didn’t understand why they waited. But the way the woman was hiding reminded him of hide and seek and he knew that it was important to be still. So he kept checking the woman’s face to guess when the game was over and they should run out shouting: “We won, we won! You didn’t find us!”

Sizzling and cracking noises of burning furniture got closer. This was not a game he knew. He was never allowed to play with fire. He held tight to the woman’s shoulders as he gazed at the fire behind her. In this moment he felt the woman shift her weight, move closer to the front door, and open it carefully. Then she moved him onto one arm, grabbed his boots from behind the door with her free hand and went through it, closing the door behind her.

“Are Mommy and Daddy coming with us?”

The woman didn’t answer.



Cover of the paperback brought to its beautiful finish by Alice Jago.

P.S. Happy Easter!

paperback cover

Countdown to the first self-published novel: 6 – Happy ending to an emotional roller-coaster

The countdown continues. SIX.

The process:

I finished proof-reading my book on Kindle.

If you would like to experience your adrenaline values jump from maximum to minimum and back, here is my recommendation: write a book, improve it as much as you can, then compile it as an e-book or a paperback and read the result. An emotional roller-coaster is guaranteed.

In my case I had the following thoughts, while reading my book. “Wow, did I write this? It is really good!” Followed by, “What’s this? How could I have made such a mistake? This is so bad! Should I publish something like this?” And then back to a high slope and back down. And so on, and so on.

The happy ending to this roller-coaster is that I am still going to publish my book.

There are two reasons for this.

First, I have shared my process with so many people and so many support me in the process that giving up is impossible. I guess my dear supporters will only stop asking about it when I’ll tell them that the book has been published. I bet that shortly after they will start asking me about the second book. Being supported like this is one of main fuels for an author to keep going.

And the second reason is that I am extremely curious where to this whole journey will bring me. I am curious about every step, every crawl, ever millimeter on this path. Of course I have dreams of many liking and buying my book, but I am thrilled when I discover one more person, one more friend following my blog or postings on the Facebook and commenting on what I have written.

It is so exciting to be able to touch someone’s heart and hear in return. I don’t think there is a higher reward for a writer than this.


Speaking of happy endings. I love them, but I also love referencing to them ironically. My favourite flying quote about happy endings is the one my sister often uses. I like it so much that I had to use an interpretation of it in my book. See an excerpt from Chapter 39.


I sighed. “… I don’t want a lack of food to be the reason that I marry.”

“What should the reason be? Love?” When I didn’t answer, Efim shrugged and said, “You read too many books. I know that many of them are science fiction, like those of your idol Alexei Tolstoy, but they aren’t any better than those films where our army wins and the two heroes marry.”


Call to action/question after the quote: How do you refer to happy endings without calling them as such directly?


One of my father’s greatest happy endings or rather happy beginnings was meeting my mother, falling for her and being loved in return. This is a picture from their wedding in 1962.


Countdown to the first self-published novel: 7 – How to enjoy chocolate

The countdown continues. SEVEN.

The process:

The edits are complete! My wonderful editor, Alice Jago, has sent me the last ones yesterday. I’ll incorporate them today or tomorrow.

Along with working on edits, I am learning formatting my novel as an e-book and as a paperback. It is amazing how many things need to be taken into account. And they are extremely interesting.

Have you for example ever noticed that most of novels on paper have first paragraph in a chapter without indentation and the rest are indented? I have never noticed this until challenged but Tim C. Taylor in his book on formatting for CreateSpace (Amazon’s daughter business for self-publishing paperback books). He challenged his readers to go and check the novels on one’s bookshelf and when I did it with many books on my shelf I found that he was right.

The same is with page numbers.

“If you are publishing a conventional novel, most people will never read the page numbers.” Tim C. Taylor in “Format YOUR Print Book with Createspace …and Lulu, using Microsoft Word”.

True. The page numbers are only observed when they are missing. I’ve learned that there are mostly two practices with page numbers. One is to place them centred in the footer and another in the header in the outer corners, while the book’s title and author’s name are in the middle of odd and even numbered pages, correspondingly. I haven’t decided yet, which to choose, the most important criteria here being, that they don’t attract too much attention.

It is amazing how we do not notice details when everything is to our comfort, but as soon as even a tiny thing is amiss, we notice it.

The same is with writing itself: as soon as we are torn out of the story and notice the written word, we wrinkle our noses. Although we do forgive our favourite authors for a mistake or two. Also a smooth flow of a story for one reader might become a trip full with tripping hazards for another. I am quite excited to further try my pen to create flowing and captivating stories.


We learn many of our habits from our parents, and we give them further to our children. Many of these habits relate to how we enjoy our food. We learn traditional meals and we learn how our parents enjoyed various treats. If you ask me what is the best way to enjoy dark chocolate, then you will always get the same answer: with white bread. This is how my father taught me to eat it. He used to say that it tastes best like this. And I agree. Although, I do suspect today that he enjoyed chocolate with bread and taught us to do so in order not to let usually small amounts of chocolate, we could buy on a rare occasion in Soviet Union, disappear at once in our mouths.

With the quote and scene below from Chapter 20, I wanted to capture this tradition invented and introduced by my father.


I never tasted chocolate at the orphanage. The first time I did was in Odessa, when Anatolii shared a small chocolate bar his mother had sent him.

I remembered breaking the dark, almost black chocolate, into small pieces, almost crumbs, on a slice of bread. For that occasion we had bought several pieces of white bread, instead of the usual grey. The gentleness of the bread’s soft flesh and the sweet but bitter taste of the chocolate had made me forget for a moment where I was. When I opened my eyes, I saw Anatolii’s, Nikita’s and Anya’s closed eyes, happy faces and soon finished slices of bread and chocolate in their hands. We laughed to tears when we opened our eyes and saw one another doing the same thing. We all agreed that combined with the tea, this was one of the best meals we’d ever had.


Call to action after the quote: If you ever try to enjoy dark chocolate like this, let me know how you liked it. And if you have another particular way how to enjoy chocolate, I would be very curious to read in the comments.


Candy, chocolate, ice-cream. These are the words, and in this sequence, used by my mother when she addresses my children in Romanian. I simply have to share these pictures of my two sweeties playing together.



Countdown to the first self-published novel: 8 – A writer’s dream

The countdown continues. EIGHT.

The process:

What happens when a writer’s just about to publish her first novel, this novel is set up in Soviet Union, and she loves watching Graham Norton’s shows on YouTube?

She ends up dreaming of Vladimir Mayakovsky, a Russian and Soviet poet, who wrote about the greatness of the revolution and the Soviet Union, looking in her dream very much like Jamie Oliver, sitting on the red sofa, two pretty young women at each side eagerly listening to him reciting a poem of how his goal is to be himself and serve his country. And this writer woke up realizing that the poem in her dream was in Russian. So she started searching her memories and Internet for this poem. To no avail. Should she start writing some herself?


I think the following quote from Chapter 4 somehow contributed for my dream to appear.


Fedea looked at me. “Yes. Do you remember, I told you about the mark of two I almost got for Russian Literature, and how learning by heart three additional poems by Pushkin and six by Mayakovsky saved me from it?”


Note to the quote above: I still remember some parts of Eugene Onegin, by Alexander Pushkin, we learned by heart at school. Girls learned parts by Tatiana, and boys had to learn what Eugene was supposed to say. I forgot all Mayakovsky I knew. I did have challenges remembering his poems, because for me they didn’t have particular rhythm or rhyme, although the textbooks claimed something different. But I do remember that I liked one or two of his poems, and that he even had some very lyrical pieces too. This was quite a discovery at that time for me, because he was mainly known for his revolution-colored verses.


My father loved reading. He made many notes with quotes he wanted to remember. And he had his birth date set up to the birth date of his favourite writer. You will find more on this in the novel. 🙂 Or maybe also in one of the future posts. This photograph confirms my father’s love for books from his early age. On the picture he is the boy with the book in his hands.


Countdown to the first self-published novel: 9 – Little March

The countdown continues. NINE.

The process:

It was easy to decide what to quote this month. We have a tradition in Moldova, to give small talismans to friends and family on the first of March, which symbolize love and friendship and how everything is entwined in life. But the curious thing is that without a hint from my editor, I would not have much to quote on this. I got the corresponding edits yesterday and found that I did write about this tradition by naming it but not by explaining what it actually is. I was very grateful that my editor pointed the places, where such explanation and description would suit best. And as per magic, my fingers started moving over the keyboard and composing the scene. See below.

It is incredibly wonderful that we have prompts for creativity everywhere. We just need to see or feel them. And if we don’t see but need to, then life will make us see them anyway. And sometimes, it does it quite gently, in form of a kind advice from a good friend.


This is a quote from Chapter 27. As mentioned above, it is about Moldovan tradition of Mărţişor. The whole book including this chapter, but except the prologue, is written in the first person from the point of view of the protagonist, Misha Ikizli, based on my father.

Most of this quote as not edited yet. So, please disregard any apparent failures.


Zina glanced at me briefly and then looked out again at the shady veranda. “Only a few weeks before, Ion and I had been in Tiraspol buying red and white wool for the Mărţişori. It was almost time for the children to start making them for their teachers and friends.”

I nodded. I remembered well how we would all sit together braiding red and white threads into strings, then making little men and women or flowers out of the same wool, binding these to the ends of the red and white strings, and finally making a small bow on each of those strings. How we gave these little Marches, these special little talismans, to each other on the first day of March. How we made wishes, when we bound them to tree branches on April first. And how our teachers had a whole display of Mărţişori decorating the left sides of their jackets and sweaters through the whole March. Mărţişor from every child had its place of honor on a teacher’s cloth.

Misha used to hide when he was making one for me. He wanted it to be a surprise. I always made small pompons out of the wool before binding them to a white- and red-braided string.


Note to the scene above: Misha mentioned in the scene is Misha Fiodorov, one of the best friends of Misha Ikizli at the orphanage.


1) Some Mărţişori, I made this year. 2) A pompon Mărţişor, I made last year. The idea to make it came from remembering my father’s ability to make perfect pompons. 3) You can see for yourself on the third picture with me in a jumper knitted by my mother and pompons made by my father. My father took me shortly after we came back from Algeria in 1982 to a photo studio to have this picture taken. Wishing all wonderful March and spring!


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