Tag Archive for free

Vaguely Familiar

2020 Corona Heart

The oddness of invisible threat is very unsettling but oddly familiar. If we think back on our lives, we all had periods of time when we were forced into isolation. I can personally think of several. I will list them chronologically. I was five years old when I noticed a bunch of kids playing together in our neighborhood “dvor” — a Russian word of a shared public space created by an apartment building complex that surrounded a little square of green space including a playground. I wasn’t a particularly social kid, but I liked playing jumping rope games and wanted IN. I begged my parents to let me go to a local Kindergarten. Such institutions were set up after WWII all over Russia. The idea was to help single women work and have kids — there were very few men left after the war, “the state was the father.” In my family, we had grandparents living with us, and so it wasn’t necessary to send me away. But I wanted it, got to go…for about two weeks. It was horrible! I had to drink castor oil by a tablespoon and other atrocities. I promptly accused my parents of not loving…

End of Year Thoughts and Bookish Gifts

reading on X-mas

My husband asked me the other day what do I like more? Having my books on Amazon and other bookstores? Being “famous”? Getting a hard copy of my book in my hands (the unveiling, as people call it on Twitter and post videos of themselves crying upon opening a box of books)? Reviews? The strange thing is that it’s not any of these things (although reviews are great and greatly appreciated!). What I love most is the actual writing part of writing. I like the creation of a brand new world populated by beings from my imagination. I actually go through a mourning period after each story I finish. And I feel this way about my painting, too. Don’t get me wrong; having accomplished something as hard as writing a novel is nice. Real nice. But the time when I sit in front of my computer and put “words to paper” is the best part of writing for me. All those ideas and thoughts that were expressing themselves in my dreams (day and night), the little notes I wrote to myself about plot points or definitions of words, the searches through interesting imagery, the many months of research into the…

A Path in Life

mind

There is a general recognition that time perception speeds up as we get older. As kids, we felt our summers lasted a lifetime; as adults, summertime slithers out of our hands before we even get a chance to pull our sun hats from storage. With each year, time shortens and compresses to practically nothing. But is that all? Are there other changes that we are simply less aware of that transform our psyche as we age? And is this adult feeling for temporal foreshortening uniformly distributed throughout human cultures (historically and geographically)? Since I’ve just published two books this year (“Harvest” and “God of Small Affairs”) that considered human development on cosmological scales of existence, there was something in those stories that tickled my brain — what else changes so dramatically over our lifetimes? And I think the answer might be our goals and expectations. As a kid, I played at how long I could hold my breath, how long could I hang from a pole, how many times I could jump the rope before getting tangled up… How many grapes could fit into my mouth? (It was really gooseberries, but who knows what they are on this side of…

Fantastical Halloween

Books are good for the Soul

We are quickly falling into Fall. Warm sweaters, blankets, and books. But why bother with books when there is so much other entertainment around? Netflicks, HBOs, Amazons of the world are eager to grab hold of our eyeballs and never let go. It’s great for their bottom line. In 2017, the American Time Use Survey (Bureau of Labor Statistics) said that according to their survey, the number of Americans who read for pleasure had dropped by 30% since 2003. Who has the time, right? I hear that a lot too. “I’d read, but I have kids…I commute…I work long hours…I read at work…” There are many excuses. The one that most people don’t typically mention is that it is much easier to plump on a couch and watch something on TV or to simply play on one’s cell phone (for those who no longer own a TV). But reading is an active activity, while watching videos is passive. Cognitively, that makes a huge difference. Consider a piano. About 100 years ago, most households in America (middle class) had a piano in their parlor. Everyone learned to play a little bit. People could read music and play it off a sheet.…

Forty Years of Cultural Dissonance

Pastrami Sandwich

This May was the fortieth anniversary of my family’s arrival in America. We came as refugees. My husband and I celebrated this momentous event (this marks over two-thirds of my life here) by visiting the Tenement Museum in downtown New York City. The biggest takeaway was the strong sense of “strangers in a strange land” mentality. People arrived not knowing the language or customs, not having a place to sleep or an ability to source work. It was scary. It took a very strong impetus to leave all that one knew and understood behind, to leave family and friends, to leave familiar food and places…to leave behind the mother tongue. (Did you know that the word “cow” is not under K in a dictionary? How are people supposed to find words when they don’t even start with the letter that they sound? Back then, I ended up drawing a cow in the middle of a sentence to finish my homework.) Without a language in common, it is very difficult to forge social ties. It is the main reason people “bunch up” by their cultural heritage into neighborhoods like “Little Italy,” “China Town,” “Little Russia,” “Jewishberg,” “Japantown,” “La Pequeña Habana,” “Little…

First Lines

unreal reality

There are readers (and book-writing gurus) who want the first few words of the story to grab them so hard that they can’t let go until the end. I thought I felt a little this way too, so I started to pay attention to the first sentences of the books I read. Strangely, most were quite plain. It took time to get into the story, to fall in love with it. Some books, which I absolutely adore, required my attention for at least the first few chapters before love blossomed. That felt contrary to every writing advice I’ve read. But I did notice that while falling in love with the story might take a bit of time, strong dislike can be achieved in just a few sentences! We might relate to stories the way we relate to people. There is a ton of research that points to the human ability to judge one another — we can tell if the teacher is any good in the first 30 seconds! And our opinions don’t change, staying quite stable after an hour, a day, a week, and even after a year’s worth of instruction. That’s an evolutionary advantage — it’s good to…

Not So Random Musings

Paper Birds

I’m overdue for an update. Usually, I have ideas and themes all worked out (and ebook giveaways all set), but this time it’s different. I still have books to give out, but the main theme of this “sharing” eludes me. So I’m going to write about a few issues that I found interesting in my last month of reading, editing, and watching the news. Reading Last year, I finally bit the bullet and started reading Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” series. I’m on book 11 now… Robert Jordan (this is a pen name of James Oliver Rigney Jr.) began writing the first book in these series, “The Eye of The World” in 1984 and only published it 1990. Considering just how popular and influential these series were/are, it gives hope for writers like me… I love the world created in these books. It’s very complex and deep (and wide). But I kept finding similarities to other fantasy series I’ve read. Of course, there’s the homage to Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series. But I expected that — those were really the founding high fantasy series that gave birth to all the rest. But there was also more than a…