Monthly Archives: August 2015

Why do I need to write?

In one of the posts on The Kill Zone blog, when asked for the reason to write, I answered in the comments that I write because I need to release the stories looming in my head.

This is true.

But there are also more straightforward, simpler reasons for this.

One of them is that I just simply need this.

I need to write.

I liked how J.K. Rowling has put it in her interview with Oprah Winfrey. She said that writing kept her sane. In a similar way, Lady Gaga described how her creativity in songwriting and costume design didn’t let her go completely crazy.

I quote both of them from memory, but I guess this applies to everyone. We all need a bit of creativity every day. Whether it is a drawing with one circle two dots and four lines symbolizing ourselves, when we are young, or when a programmer composes a new and simple algorithm for a complex problem.

We all need something to keep us sane. We need that glimpse of light that appears inside us when we have just created or discovered something beautiful and exciting. This pulse of light comes much earlier than the appreciation by others we all strive for, even if we are not doing art professionally.

There is this genuine self-appreciation, completely lacking arrogance. It might be a sigh with a smile, it might be a nod. It might be completely invisible to someone else watching. But it is there.

We often ignore it, because we don’t think it is important. We think the others, whether family, friends or strangers, can evaluate us and what we do best.

But do we really need external evaluation to live our lives to the full? We do strive for the positive one. But do we need it?

I don’t know. I am not quite sure we do. In spite of all the striving.

Sometimes we think we need something, like a new peace of furniture, a new scarf, a new note-book for writing, a new book to read, another cup of espresso with dark chocolate on the side to savor.

You guessed correctly, all of these and many more do appear in my thoughts lately, some of them regularly and with exponentially ascending intensity, where the last three share the second top position on my “What do I need to survive?” list after my family.

But today I had an epiphany. I might have had it before or I might have even read it somewhere written by someone else (probably many times in many different ways) and forgot afterwards. I will probably forget it and have it appear as an experience again, when I most need it. Just like today.

So here it goes.

We all need to create or discover something new every day.

Even freshly cleaned house can be set into this category. Because when you unclutter your home, find new ways to arrange things, dust and vacuum or wipe the floors inside and then look around, you might think that it looks like a new place. This happened to me on Saturday, when after four hours work I finished laundry and cleaning our house. Our new house looked even newer and cosier then.

There are many possible ways to be creative. And there are many new to discover. Writing is still my favourite.

I am sure you have also experienced such glimpses of creativity and the pleasant feeling inside during the process and right upon completion of a creative activity.

Such a feeling of appreciation to be able to create something new is sparkling for me also right now, in this moment, as I am finishing this post.

Wishing you many creative, sparkling moments! Every day!

Picture: There are many necessary ingredients to feed our creativity. Beauty is one of them. Here you can see our orchids — glamorous but unpretentious beauties in our living room.


Summer impressions

You might not have noticed but I was away for two weeks with my family. We visited my parents- and my grandparents-in-law in Germany. We all had a wonderful time.

It makes me smile as I see reactions on most people’s faces when I mention my parents-in-law. It is amazing how the prejudices against in-laws are ingrained into the cultures we grew up in. All those fairy tales and jokes about the awful mother-in-law.

I love seeing how the faces relax when I tell them how much I like my in-laws and that my mother-in-law is one of my best friends.

My family and I try to spend Christmas every year with my parents-in-law as well as the whole of my husband’s family. And we love spending our summer holidays with them. Every time we spend time with them we tank energy and good mood.

Also this summer we had very colourful and wonderful holidays including three celebrations on my Mom’s-in-law birthday.

Here are some impressions from our vacation.

We …

  • hiked on a motor-cross test track close to were my in-laws live:


  • enjoyed my grandparents’-in-law garden, some of us awake and aware of the blooming and ripening beauties:




  • some of us asleep:


  • inspected damages after a summer storm:



  • made selfies:


  • enjoyed the world and ourselves from the top of a rock called Grandfather:




  • went for a walk:




  • enjoyed natural and human creations:



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  • verified quality of Mama’s writing:


  • and finally unpacked our bags today:


Mid-month news: August 2015

What happened since the last Newsletter in July:

I finished the self-edit of the “A Spy’s Daughter” and sent it to my beta-readers.

My dear friend and reader of this blog Marcy (A call-out and a hug to you here, dearest Marcy!) has read the book several chapters at a time and put some eye-opening questions to the end of the story. I was so happy to hear that she liked the protagonist. Marcy’s questions about a secondary character made me go deeper into the Hannah’s world set up in the sequel “A Life Upside Down”, of which “A Spy’s Daughter” is the first book. I discovered at least one more intriguing story during this exercise. You can read about the work on this new story below. I am sure I will discover many more interesting stories there. I’ll keep you updated.

Now, two other beta-readers are reading the book in its whole. And I play a game with myself, in which I am the forth beta-reader. It is challenging not to be too critical and to imagine the book being written by another writer and not by myself. It works when I read it for short periods of time and then change to another activity. If I do then longer than what feels like half an hour, a fight starts in my head, where the critic and the defender try to prove who is right in their opinion of almost each sentence and in some cases even words. The fun part comes when I notice and smile or laugh at this normal brain behaviour and switch to something else.

The work on the cover of the “Spy’s Daughter” has started. I purchased two great images and Alice Jago made a wonderful first draft of the cover for paperback, the front cover of which will also be the cover for the e-book. I showed this draft to my husband and his parents and got their encouraging nods and smiles. We all liked it. So, now the cover will have a break until after Alice’s edit of the book. Then, we will see if any changes to the cover are necessary.

What is happening now:

I’ve got now a working title for the story on language learning in Moldova: “Does Anyone Speak English in This Country?” The story is taking place in Kishinev, Moldova’s capital in the second half of 1990s.

But right now this project is set to rest, because the sequel “The Life Upside Down” occupies most of the attention during my writing time. Thanks to the feedback from Marcy, I realized that I have to find out more about a secondary character, who bears in her the original cause to the chaos in my protagonist’s life. Hannah’s mother. Her life is surely full of secrets.

As I dig deeper into her secrets I rediscovered the following truth: the ideals, which seemingly drive human behavior, are often just a cover to some deep and secret reasons arising from the pieces of our past, which we refuse to let go or which we resent.

The same is with Hannah’s mother. She runs away and resents her past so much, that she needs a hemisphere to stop finally and find her place and somewhat peace, which is of course another illusion.

What are the next steps:

The story about Hannah’s mother is too short to become a whole novel but too long for a prologue. So I am writing a prequel, which will be a short story or a very short novella. I am finishing the fifth chapter right now.

I am not sure how and when exactly I will publish it. But so far the plans are to publish it whether at the same time or shortly after the first book in the sequel.

The two beta readers, I mentioned above, have agreed to send me their comments in the beginning of September. I promised myself to have my own beta-reader comments at the same time. So the next time I write the newsletter I will let you know what surprises came out of this very first collective read.

One more step is planned. To turn marketing of my books and my platform as a writer into a daily habit. Writing turned from a wish into a dear and very pleasant habit, deeply ingrained into the rhythm of my day. And marketing is becoming one as well. I love speaking about my books to my family in friends. Going global with this sharing is somewhat scary but also exciting, as well as fascinating. I’ve read and am reading several sources on the topic right now. If you are interested in these references, then let me know in the comments and I will share the sources I found and find very helpful.

Have a wonderful third part of the summer 2015, dear friends!

Picture: this August’s gifts.


Is there more than one story looming in a favorite book?

Have you ever thought whether a book or a story you fell in love with while reading could have been told differently? Or have different characters?

I haven’t ever wondered about this until my writing teacher and friend Menna van Praag shared her one-minute writing class with an idea to develop a story, which starts with the first paragraph of her best-selling book “The House at the End of Hope Street”. You can find the posted on Facebook video here.

I’ve learned a lot at Menna’s international seminars, both from her edits of excerpts from my books, as well as her feedback to the works of others. My first book “The Truth About Family” profited considerably from Menna’s advice and feedback.

Each of Menna’s one minute courses provide a self-standing, inspiring and complete in itself piece of advice, which I never before believed possible to embrace in one minute.

So the idea I mentioned above was given by Menna in her one minute course titled “One Minute Writing Class – Play & Taking the Pressure Off”. Menna has been giving one of her students a sentence a day from her favorite books and her student wrote a page inspired by this sentence or paragraph. This exercise took pressure off Menna’s student because she didn’t have to come up with the first sentence herself and she didn’t have to face an empty page. The start was made by the sentence provided by Menna.

In this particular one-minute course, Menna read the first paragraph from her book “The House at the End of the Hope Street”. I read this book and loved it from the start, its every scene. Images generated by its text come up again and again as bright glimpses in various situations of my life. They make me smile. This is truly one of my favorite books.

As soon as I watched this video with Menna I grew immensely curious what story would appear in my head after reading this beautiful paragraph:

“The house has stood at the end of Hope Street for nearly two hundred years. It’s larger than all the others, with turrets and chimneys rising high into the sky. He front garden grows wild, the long grasses scattered with cowslips, reaching toward the long-hanging leaves of the willow trees. At night the house looks like a Victorian orphanage housing a hundred despairing souls, but when the clouds part and it is lit by moonlight, the house appears enchanted. As if Rapunzel lives in the tower and a hundred Sleeping Beauties lie in the beds.”
Menna van Praag “The House at the End of Hope Street”

And this is what came out. Menna’s paragraph is quoted here again, since it is a part of this new and still unknown to me story. I hope you’ll like the result below.


The house has stood at the end of Hope Street for nearly two hundred years. It’s larger than all the others, with turrets and chimneys rising high into the sky. He front garden grows wild, the long grasses scattered with cowslips, reaching toward the long-hanging leaves of the willow trees. At night the house looks like a Victorian orphanage housing a hundred despairing souls, but when the clouds part and it is lit by moonlight, the house appears enchanted. As if Rapunzel lives in the tower and a hundred Sleeping Beauties lie in the beds.

Elizabeth’s hands dropped to her sides and her mouth slightly opened.

Is this really the house she searched for? The house she came to, to find the answers. It looks nothing like the tall Gothic clog of the house with rain stains below its spiky turrets rising up in a war declaration.

Nothing like the house she remembers from her childhood. The childhood she’d tried to forget, but didn’t manage. Except one single gap. Something so immense that it erased itself from Elizabeth’s memory.

Something that made her the person she was today. Sad, pale, with lips pressed into a flat circle of a cold copper coin.

She came in the middle of the night, because she couldn’t face the house in the daylight after so many years. And now she was glad she did so. If it glowed now, in the moonlight, how would it look like during the day?

Elizabeth drew a deep breath and kept the aroma, coming from the wild roses that framed the door, inside her for as long as she could.

As she let the air out a sudden fear wrapped her into its icy arms. She came to find answers. At least she planned to do so tomorrow during the day. But this house, this fairy tale house surely couldn’t reveal anything. Someone new and good lived here. They were probably unaware of the torture and agony whirling inside this house when her family lived in it.

Elizabeth pointed her intent look at the door both hoping and fearing someone to come out.

And then she suddenly relaxed. Whether it was another gulp of rosy air, or the peacefulness of the street around her, or both, it made Elizabeth lower herself onto the fence base and lean on the metal vine branches behind her. She looked at the house.

Something must have happened here. Was this during this gap she was so keen to close? Maybe whoever lived here knew what happened.

It must have been something big and terrible. Like a hurricane.

Only a hurricane had the ability to remove everything and leave an empty space for something new to grow.

Was she and her father part of this hurricane?


What do you think of this first page?

Let me know in comments below whether you are curious of a continuation. If there is interest, we can start a new category dedicated to this story. And if you like this story to go further, let me know how you would like to name it. You are also welcome to offer the next episode or scene. Let’s discover what will happen next.

What story did appear in your mind after you’ve read the paragraph quoted above?

If you are interested to learn more about Menna, and her books, check out her home-page. And if you would like to see what kind of writing courses she offers, take a look here.  Check out this link if you would like to participate in the sentence game.

Picture: A window I discovered in Cambridge last year. I imagine the House in the story above have at least one such window.

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Did I exist before reading a book?

I can’t imagine my life without books. I rarely go out of the house without a book.

Yesterday I’ve downloaded an app allowing to read books on my mobile. So even if I go out without a book but have my mobile with me, I am still not book-less. A very nice trick.

I read in several different books during the day. Some I use for reference, some I read for pleasure, some for both work and pleasure.

But I can hardly imagine that I ever existed a day long without holding a book in my hands. These days definitely were present in my life, but fortunately I can’t remember them.

First I copied love of others for books. In my toddler years I imitated my father in reading. I took his books and pretended reading by holding my index finger against the text and making some unintelligible sounds. I was reading. Then I was eager to read what my elder sister read. I envied her in many things. So I repeated her in many ways. Including reading. I picked the books she did. And this is when it hit me. Literally. You can find the story on how I grew dependent on reading here.

Whatever the format, books are incredible creations and creatures, which have lives of their own.

My dependence on them grew so strong that at some point I wanted to create some of my own. And this is what I am doing. Reading and writing books. And I am having a blast. One of the dependencies, which I hope will never lose grasp on me.

Today looking into my notes with favorite quotes I found the following wise words about books from a hilarious and intelligent little book “The Uncommon Reader” by Alan Bennett, featuring a queen who falls in love with books.

So here are the quotes:

“Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not.”

“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.”

“You don’t put your life into your books. You find them there.”

Alan Bennett “The Uncommon Reader”

Pictures: Niklas back in the beginning of 2012, when he was a few months and a year old, happy about a big thick book Mama have ordered for her work.

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