Giving thanks

Thanksgiving owls

Yes, I know, I am writing late, after the American feast that we don’t actually celebrate. Besides the symbols of this holiday, of a harvest day and of friendship with the Indians at that first moment, which was turned into several ungrateful and cruel wars not much later, I find interesting and necessary to have a day meant to remind us to stop for a few second, give thanks for what we have and count our blessings. Then, pray.

I am grateful for a wonderful writing community, both online and the local one in my city, whose literary events I attend. I am grateful for good friends, including the NaNoWriMo local group and those who had helped me be represented (and participate actively, in person) at the International Book Fairs – all of them, not only this Gaudeamus one. I am also grateful for the publishers who help me grow with their recommendations, no matter that the present social realities do shock and disappoint me sometimes. And for the fact that I won a literary prize.

I am grateful for an understanding family who allows me time to write, and encourages me. My husband has always supported me, with everything he could, from actual housework to being my first reader and finding inherent little expression mistakes, as well as with wise advice and encouragement in my low moments.

I am also grateful that my mother’s health, albeit deterriorating, isn’t as bad as to require permanent supervision. I can still manage with going to her mostly in the mornings, and having the evenings free for writing, when no other literary events.

I am grateful as well to the two interactive writing communities (roleplaying games) I am a part of, as all the people had been understanding with me putting an absence notice for the month of November. Be sure I’ll reply to all the due posts in the first days of December!

It is always easier to say what one doesn’t like, what is frustrating. Better focus on what we are thankful for!

The world is upside down

It is nothing new that the world is functioning upside down in various aspects of life. Why not in the writing realm too?

As you know already, and as you can see from the blog header, I have published three novels up to now. Two others and a short stories anthology will follow soon, almost certainly all three to appear this year. I published with small indie presses, because this is what I have the possibility in the current book market conditions. Many writers more seasoned than me published with the same two indie presses, so I am in good company. (And they aren’t vanity presses, printing and dumping the books in your arms. No, they assure launching events, participation at fairs, the collaboration of literary critics, etc.)

I am glad that I have started to become a little known among the contemporary writers in Bucharest. If one googles my pen name (despite being quite common internationally) one can find something about one of my novels too. If googling the titles, there are few information about them, but they are, reviews and photos. I had good reviews from the literary critics at the book presentation events, I had my novels displayed at the bi-annual Bucharest International Book Fairs… all these are successes for a junior writer, with only 3 novels published up to now.

I think I have a few more good things to list, including being on some senior writers’ good list. It sounds lovely, but… let’s vent my frustrations too. And this comes with the warning that the Romanian book market, unfortunately, doesn’t resemble the English speaking books market, so most of the book marketing ideas I find online, in English speaking blogs, unfortunately do not apply. For example, the English-speaking literary world promotes very much e-books. Here they are negligible sold. Printed word is the base… where it is.

While the English speaking market is catering to nearly one billion people (there were, in Internet statistics, 400 million native speakers of English, to which to add 400 million speakers of English as a second language, in 2006, and I assume the population has increased in 12 years), the overall population of Romania was of 19.5 million people, out of which about 4 million are abroad, about 3 million too young to read my novels (below 14)… and from the remaining 12.5 million, about 40% or more are poor, too busy to survive and not reading anything else than an occasional newspaper or religious book. Sad, but true.  Of course, from the remaining people who would read in principle (some regularly, some occasionally) not all are fans of historical adventures fiction/ YA, what I am writing. This is a realistic analysis.

As far as I heard the publishers say (not only personally to me, but also in interviews on the internet) – and we have our “big fives” here too, plus a whole constellation of small indie presses (the equivalent of self publishing would be here dealing directly with the printing house without a publisher, which is recommended only for professional books which have already the distribution ensured or for people who print one memoir book in their lives to give to 50-100 people, not needing ISBN or anything), in my country a book (written by a contemporary national writer, not translations of international bestsellers and not books required for school reading like our classics) printed in 1,000 copies is already considered a best seller.  My novels were, 2 of them published in 200 copies, the first one in 300. It is the level generally the writers around me use.

Now, my sincere frustrations?

– I haven’t recovered the costs on any of them. Yes, I have sold some, but the greatest amount was given freely. Now, to be honest, I knew from the start that I wouldn’t get rich from writing. I did it from my heart, and I loved when I received compliments about the books (not only from the critics, I appreciate more the readers’ compliments and questions, even if I know the critics’ are of importance for the accession to the Writers’ Union). This is when I felt they got their mission, to brighten someone’s day and to transport them to another time and place, offering them an insight on that way of living. But I would have appreciated if I succeeded to recover my costs. Some writers know business owners and get sponsors. (I had sponsors too, back in 1999, for my professional handbook in project management). I don’t know influent people who would be able to sponsor me, every cost is supported from my meager savings (given that I am retired now).  Yes, I sold books at various events… but the money received covered the expenses of the event, with very little margin (if any).

– I can’t reach exactly my target group, the high-school and Uni youngsters. Until now, my novels were bought mostly by grown-up or older people who were nostalgic about the style of novels they use to read, because these were the ones coming to the literary events.

…And everything needs more money. Half, I understand this as in the fact that if I try to expand my marketing network, this doesn’t come for free because this is what those people gain their living from – organising things, writing things. I am lucky that I haven’t had to pay for some things, though. There are friends who help me for free, and I thank them wholeheartedly. At my turn, I have always helped people for free, with whatever I could. It had never occurred to me to ask money, and I am always shocked when I am asked money for various things which, in my thoughts, shouldn’t.

In a world which wouldn’t function as upside down as it does, the writer should be allowed to write – like it was before the ascension of social media – and the others should do the marketing part. I am sure that Hemingway, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas weren’t the ones to do much more than writing. Yes, they received their money after the books were sold, but nobody asked them money for publishing, for book launching events organisation and other things. Or, if now shedding money is a must because there are too many books published and no publisher assumes the economic risks anymore in this crisis economy, at least they should want the money from the sales! Not before recovering the costs…

One would say fame has a price I am paying. Even little fame. Others say it’s something wrong with me and my writing, otherwise merit triumphs. What I have seen and heard around me, says that it’s not only me, and not only merit triumphs. Besides merit, it takes good luck, knowing the right persons and maybe also having some financial reserves… But I still have the feeling that things aren’t how they should be. The system doesn’t function how it should. (Where does it?)

 

Other people’s opinion

Well said… Live your life, don’t be crippled by fear. My mother is the one crippled by fear, if it was for her I would stay at home, barely leaving for shopping and for visiting her. I have heard so many times, “Don’t go! What if…?” “Don’t do it! What if…?” (an apocalyptic scenario following. The latest is wanting to go on a one day pilgrimage to a church I love and I haven’t visited for at least 10 years (I bet there are many more in truth). “There are so many traffic accidents, don’t go!” (250 km or so). I am still going. I think one can’t avoid destiny, and being crippled by fear means not living your life.

Half a century

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth olf old age.

Victor Hugo

Yes, I am turning half a century old. My soul is still a teenager, my bones are ancient and often painful.

It’s Good Saturday, Easter Eve. When I was born, it was Sunday of Palms, and I made my entry at 10:45 or 11:45 am. My mother gave me, in different moments, any of these two hours. Yes, it hinders with the calculation of the rising star, that’s different for each of these two possibilities. But I can live without a detailed horoscope.

She was waiting for me 2 weeks later, but I decided early in the morning that the Sunday of Palms was a better day for my arrival (yes, I heard that girls usually come sooner than boys). 50 years ago there was no echograph. Doctors guessed the baby’s gender by other signs, and my mother was told she was having a boy. She decided to name me Andrei and therefore as a newborn I grew up in blue clothes.

My doctor was away fishing, since Palm Sunday is a day when traditionally people eat fish. It wasn’t far from Bucharest, though, so he was brought back in emergency to perform the c-section which was needed in my mother’s circumstances. To my doctor’s and my mother’s surprise, I was a girl. So my mother found me a rare Latin origin name, and her best friend, who came 2 days later to visit her, advised her to give me also a saint’s name, reasoning: “She’s a girl; when older, she might not want to tell anymore how old she is, so give her a patron saint, to celebrate her name’s day. Call her Gabriela, for example, it’s in fashion.” (Yes, I had in my class, all through school, 4-5 Gabrielas, 4-5 Danielas and 3-4 Cristinas, these being my generation’s popular names). My mother said then that if it is to choose a saint’s name, I’ll bear her mother’s name, Elena. And I love it more.

Also, in most of my stories I have always written, I had a brother named Andrei.

50 years later, I can say I have got a nice life. Not everything was good and bright; I think nobody’s life is brilliant and spotless. I had disappointments, but I had also achievements. When calculating everything in balance, it has been all right. I have known professional success, including a PhD in World Economics. I have contributed, with my small possibilities, to my country’s European integration. I have taught several people.

I have lifetime friends and newer ones, I have known love and I have a husband who understands, supports and respects me (I do love, support, understand and respect him too). Lately, I have started to know writing success too. I have been writing for a lifetime, and I want to keep writing. It would be interesting how to interact with my readers now, though…

I have seen most of the European countries. Outside Europe, I saw Ceuta (part of Spain, but on the Morocco side) and Israel. I might see more, later… I have met lots of interesting people of various nationalities, ages, professions. Now, I am stepping into a new part of my life, and I am decided to live it to the fullest.

Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind ….. ~ (Jackie Joyner-Kersee)

I want no regrets in life. To do everything I can, while I can. I am not ashamed of my age, I will never pretend I am younger, and I am ready to embrace my next half century with a smile. (And a Greek dance, why not?)

 There is a fountain of youth.  It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. ~(Sophia Loren)

 

Călătorie prin Vlăhia mare – de azi, de ieri și de odinioară

Am descoperit pe multele cărări neexplorate ale internetului linkul către o arhivă a unei scrieri pe care o publicasem demult, la sfatul cuiva care nu mai este în viață, Dumnezeu   să-l odihnească, într-o revistă online intitulată NEAMUL ROMÂNESC.

Calatorie prin Vlahia mare

Povestea a fost scrisă în 1999, conținând amintiri din două călătorii în Grecia, din 1999 (AZI) și, respectiv, 1994 (IERI). ODINIOARĂ este istoria…

Și, bineînțeles, scriitoarea de astăzi nu mai crede tot ce credea cea de acum 18 ani. Timpul trece, oamenii învață și evoluează. Anumite realități, din păcate, nu se pot schimba în bine, în tot acest timp…

A March Amulet For You All

martisor_potcoava1_zpsa18d7635I am offering each of you a March amulet, according to the tradition in my country, to bring you good luck, happiness, love, good health and everything else you wish. Well, my wishes for you include inspired muses too.

The 1st of March is the traditional holiday of the March amulet, day when Romanians celebrate the coming of spring. In most parts of Romania, on this day girls and women receive “March amulets” from men. In some areas of Moldavia, there still exists the ancient custom that men receive also a “March amulet” from women. “March amulets” are bicolor (white and red) twisted braids to which various figurines are bound. They celebrate the rebirth of life after the hard winter.

The name ‘Martisor’ comes from the God Mars (Marte, in Romanian) which was celebrated in March (Martie). According to the Roman calendar, it was then when they celebrated the beginning of the year on those times. The amulet called Martisor became a traditional gift for the New Year’s Eve, which was supposed to bring luck and happiness. It has remained a March celebration even after the new calendar was adopted. Now it is a happy celebration of Spring which comes to brighten our days after so much snow and freeze.

“March amulets” bring happiness and luck and are worn at sight (pinned on the blouse or around the wrist) for one week, until the 9th of March. The March amulet is a Romanian tradition more than 8,000 years old, as the earliest proofs of this holiday discovered by archeologists showed.

martisoare_zps0f04a039

The pin-charm could only be made during the winter months and worn after March 1st. In earlier times, little silver coins were tied on a thin, twisted black and white or red and white wool rope. The coin charms were originally used to provide both luck for the future and protection from the environment to the wearer. The ropes stood for the advent of summer, warmth, and regeneration, while intertwined with the constant presence of winter, cold, and death. The amulets were also believed to enhance fertility, provide beauty and prevent sunburn in women. Young girls even threw the amulets toward the sun to prevent freckles. They were worn on the wrist or pinned over the heart. Many wore the pins until trees began to bloom, hanging the amulets in the tree branches after that point.

As in all traditional cultures, based on a dualist mentality, March was the time when the old and the new, the good and the evil confronted. For young people, it meant ritual games, gift-giving, and the well-known March amulets.These “tokens” of an old culture survived. We can find them in jewelry shops, sold by street vendors, everywhere, a sign of love, appreciation, respect, everybody is happy to receive.

In ancient times it was a silver or gold coin suspended on a white-and-red braided thread with a silk tassel. Red symbolizes love and white symbolizes purity. This tradition is also considered to welcome in Spring time – by uniting Winter (red) and Summer (white). Parents customarily tied around their children’s wrist, young men offered to young women, and young women used to exchange among themselves was believed to bring good luck, good health, “like pure silver, like the river stone, like the seashell”.

The March amulet is offered early morning on the first day of March; it used to be worn for 9-12 days, sometimes until the first tree would bloom when it was hung on a flowering branch to bring good luck to its bearer. The recipient used to wear it around his neck until he would see a blooming rose and the present was then placed on its branch; in this way Spring was poetically welcomed.

martisoaredisplay_zps081f7c96

This custom began as a magical gift meant for protection against evil spirits of the winter-ending. Even doors of homes and stables were knotted with white-red thread for protection! Now, family members, friends and sweethearts exchange symbolic pins – any jewelry or (more often) trinket, generally with symbols of spring (flowers, leafs, birds, ladybugs), good luck (four-leaf clover, horseshoe, chimney-sweeper), love (a couple kissing, a heart, etc.). Recipients wear the pins beginning March 1st for one to two weeks. If a person wears many March Amulets it shows they are held in very high esteem by friends and family. In this regard, the charms are also a status symbol.

In most places of Romania only females can receive amulets. (But I sent also to males abroad, when corresponding with them, to know how it is, and some liked them very much!)

In Moldavia (both the one still part of Romania and the Republic of Moldavia), all persons can receive a little March amulet – and mainly boys. In Bulgaria also everybody can receive a March amulet, but they have only the threads, without any trinkets. (The boy and girl made of red and white thread offered above is a Bulgarian [b][i]Martenitsa[/i][/b], as they call it!)

In Northern Greece, only children (both girls and boys) can receive it, and it remained a coin put at the wrist or at the neck by the thread.

I gave one to each of you! The ones who want to know the legends of March amulets please click on this link.

martisorbratara_zpse477614d

In modern times, the pins lost their talisman properties and became symbols of love. The delicate silk or wool ropes are still a “cottage industry” among the country people today. They still comb out the wool, dye the floss, and twist it into thousands of tassels. But now students can make them too. Or some, unfortunately, are made in China the most recent years.

The March amulets can be made now of gold, silver, or any metal, but also of plastic, glass, cloth, shells or even feathers. Some have the form of an animal, bird, bug or cartoon characters, flowers etc. The most representative are the 4 leaf clover, the horseshoe and the chimney sweeper which are the symbols for luck. All the men and boys are giving these amulets to women and girls, not only the husbands or sons or lovers, but also bosses, colleagues from school or from work.