Monday, September 30, 2013

Revenge of the Promaja (Serbian killer draft)

I, unlike all Serbs, don't believe in Promaja, aka a dangerous draft that allegedly can cause headaches, distorted faces and mouths and ear infections, not to mention any other kind of bodily pain or harm.
I guess I used to believe in this villain, while I lived in Serbia, but once explain by Americans that the draft is quite harmless, even friendly during a 90F day, I came to become friends and even enjoy the company of this creature at home or in my car on a hot summer day.
Yet, the Serbian version, or Promaja, must have held a grudge. Cause, on my way back from Greece, I had my window open for about two hours before a humongous migraine hit me, hit me hard. It was one of those that go through your eye, in my case, the right eye, the one close to the open window. It also came with a slight nausea. I couldn't even keep my eyes open.
So, I complained to my mother in the back seat who immediately reacted: "That's promaja! It's very dangerous. That's because you wouldn't listen to me and you opened the window...your face could get distorted from it!"
Now if a distorted face while visiting your hometown won't scare you into submission to Promaja, I don't know what will.
So, this self-afflicted monster hasn't let go of my eye and head for the next two days, which confirmed my mother's fear of promaja, and rendered my nine-year long denial of promaja's frightful, threatening existence, utterly useless and a colossal waste of time.
I'm migraine free now, but a little bit scared of opening two windows in the house at the same time, or a car window, even just one, so close to my ear and eye. I mean, did it unleash on me just because I was in the Balkans where it can "my way or a highway" me, or could it catch up with me wherever I go?
Could promaja cross the ocean?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Travelogue: Orange Beach

My last day in Greece.
I'm a creature of (some) habit. Went back to Baradise. (I wonder why "Baradise?" There must be a "Paradise" nearby.)
The water temperature is not to my liking, i.e. it's less than 80F. But I might take a dip a little later in a small lagoon at the end of the café-beach in Sarti.
Alas, I'm here to tell you about the Orange beach, 6 km away from Sarti. It is one of the cutest beaches I have ever seen. It's tiny, and secluded, and framed by white rocks, but the sand is whiter and thinner, softer, finer. There are fish swimming in it, you can clearly see them. This small beach in laced in beach chairs and the way to obtain one is to order a drink. Drinks are about 3 Euros, a standard price everywhere in Sarti, beach or land. (I'm drinking a Nescafe Frape, a signature summer beach Greek drink, that also costs 3 Euros, about 4 U.S. Dollars. A price of a latte in DC.)
The water was chilly until 6pm. Then it suddenly became warmer. Maybe because of some warm tide. Maybe because I already swam in that chilly water and then it seemed warmer once I got out. Maybe...
It is a much prettier beach than the main, large one in Sarti. The music blasts from the café-truck on it, but it's good, café-lounge type. And I saw not only Serbian license plates, but Greek ones as well. That's never a bad sign.
I think I read that this Orange beach is one of the most beautiful in Greece. Maybe even one of the most beautiful beaches in the world? That might be a huge overstatement, could be. The turquoise water that awaits you behind pines as you go down the mountain, and colorful umbrellas are nothing short of a skillful painting.
Enjoy the photo.
As for me, I'm going to finish this blog, finish my Nescafe Frape, do a little more shopping, pack, and maybe dip. Maybe. Then it's take off time at 2pm. Back toward Thessaloniki, then Macedonia, then Serbia...
Bon voyage to moi meme :-)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Travelogue: Greek food,cafes, people...

Two more days in Greece.
I'm sipping my Nescafe frappe, which is the best Greek invention since tzatziki. Hmmm,tzatziki. Had so much great food here--previously glorified sheep's milk yogurt, tzatziki, grapes, peaches, nectarines, even my Mom's crepes taste better with Greek flour, eggs and milk than Serbian; Olives are truly the best ones I have ever tasted and we buy them off a truck a man brings every evening, by the bus stop, by the beach. And the olive oil. If you have never left the United States, you don't know how real food tastes. Seriously. I don't even eat dairy in the States. It tastes processed. But here? You can tell that it's home-made, or at least, made in small batches like real food, not in huge factories where animals are tormented.
And Nescafe Frape. They mix Nescafe, sugar, milk in a tall glass with a special little buzzer thing, a mini-mixer, and it has tones of thick foam on top which is delicious! Yum!

Anyway, besides eating here (which is obviously all I have been doing) and reading Politikin Zabavnik which a brilliant Serbian weekly, and Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer winning novel-in-stories), I have done Yoga on beach last night for about 15 minutes in front of all the smoking Serbs. They must have thought I was crazy. My mother encouraged me, she wanted to see what kind of Yoga I have been doing regularly for the last three years, and she loved the show! But, damn, it is hard to do Yoga on sand. Your hands are unstable, you fall into it, they move, your feet too. And, of course, this morning, I'm sore. Sore from 15 minutes of Yoga. There go my three years of getting into shape. I don't lift anything heavier than a fork eight days and I'm as weak as a sponge. Not cool. I see a boot camp in my future.
Dancing Bar/Pub George keeps on turning the music loudly at 10pm every evening. I need detox from all the smoke I have inhaled cause in this Serbian/Greek town EVERYBODY smokes. It's like air.
The water is still a bit chilly but swimmable, extremely salty to the point that my eyes sting, and very, very clean. The beach is covered in cigarette buds though.
Greeks in general are friendly and casual, similar to Serbs. For example, I had to browse cafes to find one where I can charge my old Dell laptop (I didn't want to take my AirMac here, it's my right hand.)  "Jasas," I said. "Do you have WiFi?" The owner of Baradise café on the beach:" The best WiFi in town." "Do you have a plug, outlet? Could I charge it?" "Yes, yes, the best coffee in town too." He hooked it up himself, converter and all, the owner, cigarette hanging from his lips. I called him a genius. I think Greeks like that.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Travelogue: Dancing Bar George

I'm staying in Sarti Inn, in a room right across from Dancing Bar George. You are probably wondering what a dancing bar is? Well, it's a place where Greeks and maybe tourists come to get drunk, yell, scream from 10pm to 4am. Yes. I'm sleep-deprived. Again. At least in London, it was worth it. I was in London. But now, I feel cheated.
This loud music, screaming, singing has been going on for three nights. Of course, this Inn doesn't have a concierge or a front desk. Doesn't have anyone working in it, except a few maids who come in the morning then mysteriously disappear an hour later, without cleaning anything.
Night No. 1. I couldn't fall asleep for a while. At least the music was good.
Night No. 2. I was so tired from Night no. 1 that I fell asleep instantly.
Night No. 3, aka last night. I drifted in and out of sleep, then at 3am, there was loud pulling, jerking of a flimsy iron gate across from the room, then someone, a man, yelled, yelled like someone was murdering him. Of course, I have no idea what he was saying. When I looked out of the window, there was a man, sprawled on the street, kissing the pavement, and another one on top of him. Neither one was moving.
There were several women in high heels just a few feet away. One wobbled on her 10 inch heels, looked at the two men on top of each other, and not in a sexual way, but in a I'm so drunk I can't move way, then she casually strolled back to join her smoking, laughing girlfriends right in front of the bar's entrance. I was sure, someone is going to call the police--the noise, the bizarre way two men were laying in the middle of a street. A street, where cars drive, not a sidewalk.
Nope. No police.
I concluded, there's no police in this town. Either that, or this is normal behavior for Greeks.
Criminals and lushes, rejoice!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Travelogue: Greece's middle finger

Greetings from Sarti, Sithonia, Greece! (If you don't know where it is, it's on the middle finger of Chalkidiki's. There. I'm not trying to give you a finger. God forbid.)

I arrived here three days ago, after a seven hour trip through Southern Serbia, through Macedonia.

I have a little story to tell you here about my trip through Macedonia.
I enter the country and stop at the first gas stop to exchange money for tolls. You need either Denari or a credit card to pay the tolls. I do that, then go to the bathroom. Next thing you know, I'm laughing out loud in the female bathroom stall. Why? Macedonian language is so funny to me, and there was a sign on the door saying: "It's forbidden to throw diapers into the toilet," which in Macedonian sounds like this:" Zabraneto frlanje peleni vo WC solja!" It's hard to explain why that made me so happy but I'll try.
1) Why do people need to be told this
2)To a Serb, "frlanje" sounds hilarious.

But I love Macedonians! The nicest people in the world, I swear!

Back to Greece...

Sarti is a cafe heaven. There are at least a dozen cafes along the beach, all of them extending right to the beach itself, where, for a drink costing about 3 Euros, you could spend the whole day on one of their lounge chairs under the shade. If that's what you like to do...
Has a pretty little Greek Orthodox church on the hill (photos below) with a service at 5pm.
I'm still shopping around for a boat trip around Mouth Athos, which, I, as a woman, can only see from a boat. (So sexist, so discriminatory that someone should sue Mount Athos...) That's another thing Sithonia, or the middle finger, offers you. Closeness to Mount Athos. It can be seen from the top of the hill above church or even from the beach.

The main, cafe-beach is wide, long and sandy, but it's that coarse yellow sand, not fine, white sand you can see in Florida or the Caribbean.
The water, for moi meme, is too cold. I dipped my feet and ran into the opposite direction.
It rained this morning but it's sunny now and about 75F. It's a beautiful day.
I'm sitting in Cafe Paris, of all places, since it has Wi-Fi and trying not to get heartburn from the strong Nes Cafe they made me, by eating cookies they also served with it. Now I know why.
For about 3 Euros, you get WiFi, casual Greek service that leaves you alone (just the way I like it) and three tea cookies. And a narrow view of the sea. (I'm a street away from the beach).
What else?
There are five supermarkets per street. So it's a town of cafes and supermarkets. Other than that, there's one bakery, one fish shop, and about a million souvenir and beach stuff shops.
Greeks speaks English or Serbian. And the language you hear the most here is Serbian.
The food is excellent! I used to vacation in Greece with my parents in the 90s, and even now, still managed to find home-made sheep yogurt in a mud dish. It's one of the best foods I have ever tasted.
p.s. Sorry about double photos. My laptop has gone insane...


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Covent Garden letters

I'm in Covent Garden part of London. Again. I was here yesterday. And last year in March.
It's like a little New York City to me--lots of shops and restaurants, curvy little alleys, great alive with people worming everywhere like ants.
Why am I here? I'm meeting my friend and host, A, for a latte in Monmouth Coffee Company in Monmouth street. Her British roommate says it is the best coffee in London. Famous, actually. Other cafes brag they have Monmouth coffee. (Mon-mith like Ply-mith)
I highly recommend it!Bloody highly!

I just love London, even when it's 17degrees C, even when it rains. My days are so full and I am so happy. Maybe it's the "mistress syndrome." Maybe if I lived here I would be annoyed by traffic and tourists. (I don't consider myself a tourist. I am a world traveler. I went to the National Gallery yesterday for five minutes just to see Van Gogh's Sunflowers.)

Now I finally understand that "ball and chain" thing. If I were single, I would probably ask my four friends in London to help me find a job, so I could move here.
I think I would be so happy here. Train to Paris? Please! Could life be any better?

p.s. Downton Abbey tomorrow morning. Pray for no rain. Pray for no rain.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Downton Abbey-8

 T-4. Four days to departure. Eight days to Downton Abbey.
Did I tell you the story of how I got a ticket to Highclere Castle?
As soon as I booked my trip to London in June, I went to the Castle's Web site to buy a ticket. Sold out. All. Sigh. It said I could go at 2pm and wait, maybe they would let me in. Maybe not. Sigh.
So I decided to pick a day, Sept. 10th, go to Newbury, an hour away from London by train, take a cab to the castle and wait. A lot of hassle for something that you might be able to see only from a far, right?
I thought it was worth a shot. Would still see the castle from outside of the gates, whatever happened.

But, for some reason, I decided to check the Web site last week. Eyes, Big! Sept. 12th was blue! Blue! That meant I could buy a ticket. Then happiness and panic all wrapped up in a bow. I quickly decided morning or afternoon and put my credit card number in. Then had to decide do I want to see everything or just the garden, just the castle. All, of course. I'm flying to London, then taking a train and a cab to get there? Hell, yeah, I'm seeing it all. Besides, the ticket was not that expensive for the castle, gardens and the Egyptian exhibit. (Now that I think of it, maybe the Egyptian exhibit wasn't such a great idea. I am going to the British museum too, for the second time, since the first time I forgot to see the Aegean Marbles. Go ahead, laugh. I couldn't find them, all right? It was crowded! Anyway...)

So, even now, in a cafe, as I'm fixing up my book before it heads off to readers, I get goose bumps every time I think of that Thursday I'm going to be walking those beautiful gardens and have the afternoon tea in the Castle! Heaven! Are you jealous? You should be, I would be ;-)
Will report back!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Countdown to Downton Abbey...and brief au revoir to my novel

Countdown to my trip to Europe.

My, yesterday, altered trip.
So now it's London, Newbury (Highclere Castle) Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis, Sarti, Greece, Nis, Belgrade, DC.

No Istanbul. Had to cancel that leg. Unfortunately. Another time.

And on the writing front, I am finishing my novel. I came up with an ending. And I'm planning on finishing it by September 8, and sending it to my readers. The whole thing. The whole 83,000 words or 314 pages.
I still need to touch up on my family tree and add that to the beginning of the book.
Then I can finally go on vacation!
I wonder, will I be able to stay away from my book for one whole month? I mean, at this point, we are as attached as a baby kangaroo to its mommy. Or two pieced of Velcro tape.
But, it's a known strategy for writers to leave their books in drawers (or on Sylvester-cat thumb drives) for a while to gain some distance and perspective.

So, I aiming for that, and for the feedback from my readers on the book as a whole.

And when I come back in mid-October, I will be deep in editing phase. After which, there will be a Query letter writing phase. Then looking for the right agent phase. Then submitting phase. Then biting my nails phase. Then the drinking phase. Then waiting by the e-mail box phase.

How fun.

But for now, I am happy. I'm looking forward to my trip. So very much. I have it all planned out. The Highclere castle, and the gardens and the Egyptian exhibition tickets.  Tea at Downtown Abbey (You're envious, admit it!) And the British Museum, Sherlock Holmes museum, Neal's Yard in Covent Garden... and drinking pints and English breakfast with my London friends...and the afternoon tea...

As soon as I read and edit the last two chapters.

So, ten days to we go...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fal-mith or Fal-mouth and fried clams face-off

I haven't eaten this much fried food in a year. 

No wonder some of the South Shorers/ Cape Coders are a little...what should I say...hmmm...fluffy? I would be too if I lived here.

I'm a vegetarian who flirts with veganism. But on vacation, I'm just a vegetarian. I find it impossible to be vegan when staying with friends, meat, dairy, fish-eating relatives or in a hotel. Vegetarian included a bit of sea food. So pescaterian, I guess.

So, I tried what New England does best. Fried clams. Fried scallops. But no lobster or crab.
I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't know that lobster and crab are cooked alive (horror!) until last year. I know, I must be dumb, right? Well, it's not like I have grown up by the sea. I haven't even knew what a lobster was until I came to Boston for the first time ten years ago.
So, since I realized that lobsters and crabs feel pain and suffer terribly, I stopped eating them.
But what do you eat in the land where lobster is on the national flag and in the anthem?
Scallops and clams.
Yes, I believe they don't have the central nervous system, therefore, cannot feel pain? I hope? ( I should do research on that...)
So, yesterday I tried fried clams in Lobster Hut in Ply-mouth, and today in Haddad's in Brant Rock, i.e. Marshfield. It's where Steve Carell has a general store. (I love Steve Carell.)

Anywho, the Ply-mouth fried clams were way better! Rounder, and bigger, and softer and just more delicious.
I would pass on Haddad's clams. Just ok. Just eatable.
I hear their clam chowder and award-winning. But I haven't tried it yet. Not enough room.

My second observation about Cape/South Shore.
The names of the towns are hilarious! And you have to know how to pronounce them, you can't just read them.
I like to call Plymouth, Ply-mouth. And Falmouth, Fal-mouth. I guess some people with very bad mouths once upon the time lived there. Foul-mouthed people.
(I know, I find that funny. You feel sorry for me right about now. Oh well. I did good in Charades today!)

Then there's my favorite one. Sandwich. That must took a while to come up with. Then Mashpee. Makes you hungry.

So, I think the town names are the second reason people here are plumper than in DC.

And, I bought great little whale earrings in Falmouth. Amazing views of the ocean and the ferries to Martha's Vineyard from the Nobska Lighthouse, cute little main street with a patisserie making dark chocolate raspberry mouse desert.
Also recommended.
Enjoy the photos.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Travelogue: Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth

If you're heading toward Cape Cod, make sure you stop at Plymouth.

There's a great place on Main Street, Kiskadee Coffee Company (18 Main Street), where you can get a decent cup of coffee and free Wi-Fi, and lots of smiles.

After that, go down the hill to Lobster Hut for fried whole clams! (Delicious and heart-attack inducing, but mostly the delicious part.)

Then after that, and maybe a little bit of shopping or strolling on Main Street, where you can see women walk with pet rats, go to Plimoth Plantation.

I have traveled quite a bit, but have never seen anything like the Plimoth Plantation.

Its Wampanoag village and especially the 17th century English village are definitely worth the trip.

The Wampanoag village is small small-spaced reenactment of how Wampanoags lived before the English settled. People dressed in Wampanoag clothes will answer any questions you might have while sitting on dead animals, or crafting a boat, or making a corn porridge. The men are also scantily dressed if that is what you enjoy.

But the English village is even more impressive in my view since the actors there talk the same way English talked in 1620, and answer questions as if it were 1620. So, to an actor's question where I came from, I said the Ottoman Empire. To that he said he encountered some pirates once from the Ottoman Empire. I'm guessing they weren't very nice.
Then I asked him why would a printer (that was his occupation in England) leave London, come to America and work as a farmer, and he said he was the second son and couldn't inherit land there. All land in England had already been owned. But in Plimoth, if he worked hard for seven years, he could get a 100 acres. He would have been happy with just one, he added.

The whole village is absolutely a brilliant idea and a well-executed one. Together with the live Wampanoag songs, English women buttoned up to their necks next to fire in 87 degree weather, and live milking of a goat that didn't seem to mind it so much, it is definitely worth the time and money.

Go, see, learn, prosper.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Travelogue Day 1: Beware of Budget Rent-A-Car

Greetings from Boston's South Shore, where the nights are freezing in August and the air is salty.

Smooth ride from DC to Boston. JetBlue. One hour. Piece of cake.

But then, only then, the hell unleashed.

Prepaid a car through USAA with Budget.

Oh, if I only had a time machine.

There was a line out the door. Fifty people waiting. Twenty crying children. The bathroom looked worse then once upon a time at a border crossings between Serbia and Macedonia. Dirty, toilet paper only on the floor.

The Budget employees move around at glacial speed. One of them takes a break. The other one asks him"what did you get?" He answers "sea food." He leaves now 60 people in line with only one person working. 30 screaming children.

Tiny little socialist looking room is sweaty, musky.

I intercept an employee to complain. "Everyone available is working," he "ma'am's me.

People are nervous, the employees are laughing to each other, they tell customers not to complaint otherwise it will take "longer."

I call the Budget's office in some God forsaken village near Tulsa, OK.
In a redneck accent he says:"I can't help you ma'am. I'm not there."
I ask for the manager. He can "write it up," but he can't do anything about it either. The Logan Budget manager has left.

Finally I get to the counter after an hour of heartburn. I give her a prepaid confirmation. He disregards it and finds another person's reservation and charges me for that one.
I say no. I already paid.
She doesn't understand what I'm saying. I try again. Nothing.
I say until the 23rd. She says the computer says until the 25th. I show my confirmation. She still doesn't get it.
My husband is about to lose it. He asks what circle is this?
I'm glad I don't carry a gun.

She finally asks for help, and finally gets that she was looking at someone else's reservation. An hour and a half. No apology. Doesn't know how to say thank you or welcome.

She gives us a car with a wrong name on the rental agreement.

We speed away.

Life is too short.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tango Americano

I think I have a girl crush on my Tango teacher.

Yes, I took a beginner's Tango lesson today. My first in the United States.
And it was...not what I expected.

For one, we were partnered up immediately. Unfortunately, not with attractive young men. Or women. Nor with talented ones.

So, my partners' age range was from about 40 to 70. No, I'm not kidding. There was a 70-year old Russian man there today, dancing with me, asking me to "lean in."
Hmmm...I guess I was leaning back? Self-preservation? No wonder I have lower back pain.
p.s. He probably owns half of Montenegro.

Anyway, back to Tango.

My first ten minutes, I was thinking No way am I coming back to this. It was slow. The men couldn't follow the beat, tempo. Kept stepping on my socked feet. Yes, I went to Tango, ladies and gentlemen, in my sneakers. And was politely asked to take them off.
In case you didn't know, you Tango in shoes. There. Now I feel extra dumb.

Back to the men. They should I put this... really really bad. And they all smelled of very strong colognes.
What is it with Tango and long squirts of cologne? Literary every one of them was cologne-full.
And not of a good kind.

Then, I got to dance a bit with the male teacher, whose cologne was yummy, who obviously knew what he was doing, knew how to lead and was nice and cute. So that helped.

But my female teacher. Oh, my. Let's just say, for an hour there, I wish I were gay. Or she were gay.

She was/is British. So she obviously has that uptight British accent.(I like uptight). Everyone knows I'm the biggest Anglophile there is. Oh come on, I have seen Sherlock Holmes and Downtown Abbey about 37 times. Each. I have been to London eight times!

Then she was so fragile looking, gentle, and sophisticated, like a doll. And, oh, beautiful and so pleasant, nice and funny even.

Hence the girl crush. I don't get those often. (Next thing you know, my girlfriends start avoiding me. Please don't.)

So, now, a dilemma.

Do I stay away from all the beat-less, stinky, unattractive men? Or do I go back to enjoy the woman?
That is the question?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A birthday card that made me cry

Sometimes I forget I'm an immigrant. Maybe because I'm an American citizen. Maybe because I'm married to an American. Maybe because my sister and her family are American too. Maybe because I'm bilingual. Or because I write and dream in English. Maybe because I went to graduate school here.

Then something happens like a birthday card arriving from Serbia.

My husband said last night: "You have a letter from your mother."

Letter from my mother?!?! First comes panic. Then I glance at the envelope on the table and it's big and thick.
Oh, it's a card. Of course. My birthday is in a week. My mother always sends me a card. I always send her a card too. That's how I was brought up.

So, I'm happy, I open the card, but then, as I'm reading throat clenches and I feel my nose twitching and my eyes watering up.

Yes, I'm an immigrant, and the words like:" I love you more than anything else in the world, and on your birthday I'm going to go to church to thank God he gave you to me, since I cannot be with you...."

Even now, I'm in a cafe, and I'm choking back tears so my mascara wouldn't drip into my latte and people wouldn't come by to give me their therapists' cards.

If you're an immigrant who left part of your nuclear family in another country, you will understand me.

If not, just try to.

Being an immigrant is like running a race where everybody's lane is flat, and yours has hurdles.

My books touches a bit on this issue.

Let me post this before my nose starts dripping down on my laptop...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Confessions of a germophobe

Today I had my annual gynecological exam. Yes, women, smart women have preventative gyno exams once a year. Deal with it.

So, I'm waiting for the doctor to come in when the nurse comes back into the office to :"check something:"

She meddles with the tray with plastic gloves and swabs and such wonderful things :(

Then she leaves the room, and I notice that she touched the door knob twice and didn't wear gloves, and didn't wash hands before touching the gloves my gynecologist is going to examine me with.

The following is my train of thoughts from that moment until the doctor walked in:

Should I throw those gloves away and put new ones on the tray? But I have to wash my hands first. I can do that, there's a sink and soap, even Purell. Oh, I'll be fine. But what if I'm not? I'm in a hospital and these knobs carry some probably very angry germs. Hah, I'll be fine, I haven't even seen until now what they do with the gloves and swabs and I have always been fine. But this one time, what if I don't do anything and then I catch some...uterine virus...or some infection...or parasite...."

At that moment, I decide to act. So I get up from my bed, but not before I put my socked feet into my Chucks, because God knows what's on the floor, and wobble to the tray with gloves. I grab them, throw them into the bin with a "hazardous material" sign, wash my hands quickly, Purell them as well, just in case, pull other two, three gloves out of the glove box with my two fingers, put them on the tray and as I'm dropping them down, my doctor walks in.
I smile and walk back to lay down.
I don't think she noticed that I'm a bit crazy.

Yes, my friends, I am a germophobe.

And I'm getting worse with age.

And behind it all is a fear of getting sick, and a strong belief that I would get sick if I don't wash my hands, or other people don't wash theirs. So, I would rather be safe than sorry.

I'm actually proud of doing what I did. I should have also probably reported the nurse who touches the knobs then gloves for internal exams. But then again, maybe gloves cannot transfer germs. Can they?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Calling all Serb-Americans to star in my book

Checking in.

It is August 2! (Crap, already?!?!)

And I have 79,708 words to plug in.

So, I'm almost there, almost reached my goal.

Oh man, these last few days were brutal, I tell you, brutal!

I bring this chapter, Storm, to my writing-partner/editor, and she very rightfully says: "These are two chapters, not one. Rewrite."

And I look at her elaborate report. Yes, she writes a report. Golden.

And she's right. I see that she's right. She just is. It makes sense. This is why writers make horrible self-readers. No perspective.

Now if this were another person's story, I would have probably said the same thing.

So I start rewriting the same day, full of anxiety, there's my deadline, I can't afford to lose word count, I have a trip coming up, blah blah, but mostly I had no damn clue what to do?!

So I take it slow and work through it, and I can finally say today, I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or the sun above the water.

I'm swimming upstream! (Just hope I don't get caught in some damn net.)

Of course, I'm nowhere near polished completion.
But, pay attention, light!

Also, one of these chapters is about these three Serb-Americans in the States who get drunk, so drunk on rakija over Ceca one evening they glorify Serbia they left behind and trash Americans. So, I myself cannot think of every little genius thing that bugged me when I moved here from Serbia in 2004. It's been a while. So, if you have moved from Serbia to the U.S. in this century, please contact me to tell me what you missed the most? What is it you couldn't stand about America?

It would be of enormous help.

So, I have six more days to build, then a whole month to polish. Then I'm taking off.

My birthday is in the middle too. I have big plans for that marvelous day too!

And a photo shoot planned.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Confessions of an overwhelmed novelist

Is nothing going to be easy while I write this book? I mean, could I just get a break?

I'm once again going to bitch about a rewrite. A huge, enormous, humongous rewrite that I just started. The key word being "just."

I met with my writing-partner. Submitted a third to last chapter in my book feeling pretty good about it. I mean, sure, she'll have edits but those are good, they would make the story better.

"This chapter is actually two. Two stories."

And the important thing to realize is that I do not just do whatever she tell me. She proves her theory, she elaborates. And she almost always right. She's just that good.

So, I sigh. I say, "that's right," "great idea," and so on.

And I'm thinking, when will this end?

I want to start writing my second book!

So I dragged me, myself and my laptop to a cafe and began the monstrosity of a rewrite.
Good news! I have a clear picture of where I want to go.
Bad news?
I can't save much of the old story (24 pages). I tried but it's developing in a different way, with a different voice and point of view and... uh!

The good news? The book is getting better and better!!! Bad news? I'm never going to finish this book. Ever!

Is it September yet?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Random coffee shop poll on Weiner's sexting

As I'm trying (the operating word being trying) to write/edit, I'm overhearing this conversation (overhearing being a euphemism) between two middle-aged women next to me:

"Why is Weiner in the news again?"
"Cause of the sexting."
"What's wrong with that? If it's consensual?"
"Well, he' married."
"Oh, well, then it's wrong."
"At least keep it confidential!"
"He's a sick guy, some sort of exhibitionist, something must have happened to his parents..."
"So, how's your weekend...?"

Well, I have to say Weiner sexting is better than the royal baby. I mean, I have been frustrated with the royal baby coverage, or over-coverage. This is how I would report on it, if at all. "The royal baby has been born. The end."

So what do you think about what Weiner has done? Been doing? I have to say, there's something "interesting" for the lack of a better word (bizarre) about knowing how your mayor's penis looks like.

The saddest thing for me in that whole sexting, penis showing to strangers affair, is his poor, smart, successful wife. I don't understand why a woman like that would stay with a creep like him. She's out of his league and she's standing next to him at the podium, supporting him. It must be mortifying. I wish I could understand her reasons. But I don't. Do you?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Thirteen Shades of Yellow or London in September

So, I'm back to 76,143. (Damn.) That many words in my book. Just that many. I need more.
Why am I losing words?
My writing partner made a very strong case for one of the chapters not belonging in it. She suggested I rewrite it from scratch and put it at the end of the book.
But, I don't want to end my book with my main character Ana hanging out with her Ex and hooking up with someone who likes her red hair.
My book is so not a romance, or any kind of a hooking-up book. I wish it were. (That's my next book, Thirteen shades of yellow:-)
This one is deep, and political, and Voodoo, and important.
Sometimes I worry that Serbs might shun me after reading it. As a fiction writer, I can be hard on them. But that's also being hard on myself. Or anybody else for that matter.

I'm going to sacrifice one chapter. Sigh. And work on others.
The other one is already getting more complex with Ana now dating her Bosnian Muslim professor in Serbia during the war in Bosnia in 1994-1995.
I know.
Let just's a bit complicated.

So...I have been sighing a lot. And thinking about London.
Did you know that I began packing last week for my trip on Sept. 8th?
I'm not kidding. I need professional help.

I also began writing a list of things I would like to do while in London: Neal's Yard, Downton Abbey (I know it's not the castle's real name), British Museum for Greek Freezes, Sherlock Holmes museum for a bigger Baker Street sign than the one I have in my bathroom now, tea houses, lots of tea houses, and friends, lots of friends.
Don't have much time (unfortunately). Four days. Four nights. I'm not planning on sleeping much. English breakfast, anyone?

I'm not going to plan Serbia. (Who plans anything is Serbia?)

Then maybe Greece and probably Turkey.

So, where was I. Oh yes. What month is it? How much longer to September?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Kale Apple ReWrite

Today is one of those days when I wish I weren't a writer who put years (I'm embarrassed to say how many) into her book, and who just got feedback from her writing partner, whom she trusts, to basically can two chapters and write them all over again.

Sigh. Panic. Backpedaling. Anxiety.

And the worst thing is? I knew she was right. I knew she was going to say that and I couldn't do anything about it. I just couldn't make those two chapters better. From where they started and where they ended, I couldn't see any other way.

But now I do. Through discussion with my brilliant writing-partner, I came up with compelling, deeper ways to rewrite the chapters. It's conveniently only in my head. In about two sentences.

But my numbers have dwindled down again. Significantly.

Up. Down. Up. Down.

So here I am, after about four hours of recovering from this review I deserved, in a very Sherlock Holmes red velvet chair in a cafe, about to dive in, once again, for God knows what time, into those two chapters.

One, about my character Ana dating her college professor.
One, about her reaching out to her old boyfriend when she was lonely. In a nutshell. It's of course much complicated than that. (Everything is.) The Professor is Muslim, she's Serbian Orthodox, it's war time in  the Balkans...

I honestly don't know how some people whip out a book every year of so. It's damn hard to write a good book. It's easy to write crap, but damn hard to write with depth and significance.

And another thing? This is why I need my writing partner more than anything. She called BS on my timeline. My timeline, in my final book of my Book, is all over the place. So now I have to fix that too.

Maybe I should have ordered another happy hour cocktail instead of Kale/Apple smoothie.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Yoga according to Taliban

I had a bizarre day yesterday.

Morning was wonderful. I woke up early, strolled to a cafe with my laptop and had a writing breakthrough.

Then I went to Yoga at noon.

And if you know me, if you have been reading me, you probably know I have been doing Yoga regularly in the same studio for almost three years now.
Everybody knows me there, addresses me by name, just waves me in.
And I have been feeling there at home. Until yesterday.

After the class, a young woman in pink, sporting a strong Eastern European accent approaches me and tell me the following:

"I work for (Studio name omitted) and you're not suppose to walk into the studio with shoes."

It's not what she said. It's how she said it. Like a bitch. Now that I think of it, she looked at me weirdly a few times during class as well, when I requested Tree and Dancer, and when I came back from the bathroom (I have the smallest bladder ever.)

So then, of course, my inner bitch awakens.

"I wouldn't be wearing flip flops if I hadn't found broken glass in this room multiple times."

Then I just walk away.

I have never, ever seen her before. She must have been brand new.

So, I shrug it off, go to the Manager to tell him how much I love their new Zumba class. We chat, laugh, he tell me "he loves me" cause I'm so upbeat, funny, excited.

Then an hour later, I get an e-mail from him. From the same manager who "loves me:"


Hope you enjoyed your cool class this morning.
After class I recieved a number of complaints from 2 clients about class
concerning you, that I decided to bring to your attention. 

Shoes are suppose to be kept off during class so dirt from outside won't muck up the floor.
I personally sweep before every noon classs.

Also, was told that your skirt was revealing enough to see your privates and that
while doing certain poses you move ahead of the class distracting those around you.

Please be cautious of your dressing and positioning. When people see how good you are they assume to follow you which throws off the class. 

Not in any light an I meaning this in a disrespectful tone.
But when people come to me I must do anything I can. 
Thank you for understanding. 

Oh my God, I was so mad!  What is this, Yoga according to Taliban?

And here's my response to him:

"Wow! I'm stunned and shocked by this e-mail! I have been coming to (Studio name omitted) for three years regularly and never heard anything like this before.

The reason I came in with flip flops is because I stepped on a piece of broken glass about ten times in the last three years. I didn't want to get cut. I have pointed this out to whomever was at the desk at the time, repeatedly, but then again, a few weeks later, I find another piece of glass, on the floor or my mat. 

As for my clothing, I was wearing shorts under that skirt. And whoever said that they could see my privates is ridiculous and is lying. It's absolutely impossible.

Was it that spiteful, rude girl in pink with an Eastern European accent? I'm appalled and offended you would take her word over mine. 

Either way, I'm very disappointed you would send me an e-mail like this. I practically have been living in (Studio name omitted).

Maybe it's time for me to look for another Yoga studio.

I think I paid until the 25th, so please don't charge me after July 25th.

This is all just very sad. 


There you go. There goes the loyalty.
What angers me the most is that I'm still upset about all this!

So, now, after three years, I'm dating again, looking for another Yoga studio.
So much for Namaste!
Well, Namaste to you too!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fit flopped Zumba led to John Daly

I had a weird day yesterday. It was one of those days when you wonder where you have misplaced your brain.
First, I went to my first ever Zumba class.
I usually go to Yoga, or Pilates, or Budokon. None of these require shoes. So I go in my flip-flops if the temperature outside is above 70 degrees. (If it's below 70, I'm wearing faux-fur boots, or wool-socked sneakers. What, I was raised in Eastern Europe! You have to protect your feet, i.e. your ovaries from cold!)
And I heard once, a long time ago, maybe twice, that Zumba is some kind of dance. Dance/Aerobics. Something like that.
But my brain yesterday didn't register the fact that dancing in my Fit Flops, (those famous flip flops that allegedly make you workout when you walk? Yeah, I'm not convinced either. Buy I bought them once upon a time in NYC. Two pairs. I'll shut up now.) will be that much more difficult.
For someone who has a serious background in Latin dancing (I used to compete when in high school, in Serbia), I was in love with Zumba after two minutes, and calling myself a moron after one. Zumba is really a partner-less samba, cha cha and rumba combined. It's wonderful! Fun but sweaty workout. And in fit flops? Total nightmare!
I had to rest my ankles every five minutes. I felt as if I were going to get arteriosclerosis or wear my ankles out or something. They seriously hurt, not muscles (good kind of pain) but bones. Yes, I could literary feel my bones and joints screaming "You, moron!" Especially since the rest of the class wore sneakers. And the incredibly sexy Latino teacher on the podium And nothing else. Just kidding (Sorry. Hope I didn't cause any heart attacks. E-mail me for details.)
But I'm no quitter. No sir. I danced my ankles away through the whole delicious hour. I had to take a "bathroom break," and several "water breaks," short but necessary. I considered taking my fit flops off and dancing in my bare feet, but then again, my Serbianism got in the way. The floor was dirty. Jedna li je muka, my mother would say. Or, in English, I wish there were only one problem.
But I did it. I will never, ever wear fit flops or anything floppy to Zumba. I will take Zumba twice a week from now on because it's a party, not a workout. In my sneakers.

Then in the afternoon I went to a cafe to write, with an empty battery and no charger.
I laughed and decided to order a happy hour cocktail. John Daly. Someone told me he was a golf player who liked to drink? (Too lazy to look that up too..)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sweater-novel, boot camp, trip to Europe

So, I have been back from my week-long vacation on the island of Saint Martin for five days now. And I'm glad to be back. Yes, I don't have the Caribbean sea outside of my bedroom deck anymore but it was time to come back to my book. (For all of you who don't know this, I'm obsessed with my book.)
I managed to write on the plane there and back, for an hour or so, between soda and juices being distributed. But now I'm on a schedule.
I have to finish this novel by September 7th, since on September 8th I'm going to Europe for over a month, again (Yay!).
So, I have a little less than two months. And I officially renamed the month of July as the boot camp month.

Boot camp July rules:

1)I have to write every day. Even on weekends.
2)I should try to get two shifts in.
3)I have to have 80,000 polished words, comfortable words, by August 7, so I still have a month to line edit the whole book.

By now, I have 74,407 words and it's July 11. So I have to write, not any, but words that make sense and fit in, polished words: 80,000-74,407=about 5,600. Now, sometimes I have to delete something, so it's really about 6000.
I know it doesn't sound like a lot. It's basically two short stories. But I need to expand some chapters/stories as well as maybe include one new one.
And new stories don't come to me so easily. I'm a very stingy writer. Unfortunately.

I know what's you're thinking (maybe.) I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days, and now I can't write 6000 in 26?
It's not the same thing. Not at all.

Think of a novel (good novel, not that crap people write in two-weeks, or two-years for that matter), as a sweater. You pull a string and it falls apart.
There you go.
So, I'm on my way.
If I can do this in two months, I will travel to my very, very exciting trip to Europe with a finished novel.
Wouldn't that be just amazing???!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why am I in love with Wendy Davis

Yes, I have been in love with Wendy Davis since yesterday.

Yes, the Democratic Senator who spoke for more than 10 hours in Texas without a bathroom break, water, food, or anything to lean on.
She's a super-woman! A super woman with Harvard law degree, and apparently a super-bladder!
I don't think I could stand on my feet or go without water or bathroom for two hours, let alone ten?!
She should run with Hillary Clinton on the ticket in 2016! Not only would I vote for them, but I would want to work on that campaign.

I'm very, very tired of hearing men discuss abortion and women's rights.
If you want to discuss women's rights, you have to be a woman, how's that for a rule of harmonious living!
What's up with all those old white men and the abortion?
If you're against one, you don't have it then! It's a free country. Still. Why are you trying to make it not be so?
This ban on abortion after 20 weeks is a slippery slope. Again, I have a problem with anybody telling me what I could or couldn't do with my body. Especially a bunch of men both the House and Senate are filled with.
We need more women representing us!!!

And for the record, I'm not pro-abortion, and I'm pro-choice! I don't think any woman would have an abortion unless she really had to.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Novel silence

This has been a novel silence. A "novel" silence.
Still going at it. Still with my writing-partner.
(Have I mentioned she's brilliant?)
She has such gift of pointing out the crap in my writing--the occasional cliche we all succumb to once in a while, all the gaps and holes, and the best of all, the potential! All the things, people, events I should be writing about but I haven't thought about it. (Duh!)

Me? I'm great with endings! My endings are always dramatic. My beginnings? Not so much! I like to warm up, my "runway" tends to stretch long. (Then I forget to cut the beginning all together). But once pointed out to me, oh boy, could I rewrite the hell out of it! And make it into a gem it's meant to be. (Oh yes.)

So, this is why I haven't been writing my blog lately, while I have been reading more (God bless me), watching less TV (I love Breaking Bad, so shoot me), and rewriting my whole book!
It's looking good, my future-readers, it's looking good!
I still have two mountains and a hill to climb over but my deadline is October 15, and I think by then, I will actually have a kick-ass Balkan family saga novel-in-stories, that would scare the hell out of you.
(Just finished reading Junot Diaz's Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and boy, was I wowed! He made me sad but I still love him. This is what I'm going for! Making you miserable!)
So today, ahead of the storm, I'm rewriting my Angela story into a chapter, based on my partner's extensive, painful feedback. (Have I mentioned she's brilliant? And has a top-secret identity).
So, sails away!
Here we go.
Here we.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The capital of Chechnya isn't Prague!

There is something to be said about approaching the world thinking (or believing) that most people are idiots.

So, when some (a lot of ) people called the Czech Embassy after the Boston marathon bombings, to threaten Czechs, the Slavs, a famous tourist destination with the beer we (Americans) import and gulp down, I, as one of the people who goes through life assuming most people are idiots,was not so surprised. Or disappointed. Or embarrassed. But I was. All three.
(Imagine poor people had to write a statement on their Web site. We're Czech Republic, not Chechnya, a former Soviet Union Republic. Sigh. That's your proof there's more than one belligerent idiot out there. Scary.)

This idiot-ism, (I know, most of you have moved on, but I can't) immediately transported me to 2004, when I immigrated to the United States, and wasn't an American I am now, and when asked around, I would say I was from Serbia, and got a blank stare, then when elaborated with "Former Yugoslavia," I was finally able to see that little light of recognition in their eyes. Sometimes.

Then the questions: "Is it very cold out there? " (Siberia)
"Is that in Germany?"
"Is that in Australia?"

I kid you not!

I'll grant you, I don't know everything either. But I do not ask stupid questions if I don't know. I shut up, listen, go home and google. And I certainly don't call an Embassy or write e-mails to threaten people based on my (not my, but theirs) ignorance and inability to distinguish between countries and nations. Hell, even continents! Totally different cultures!

My advice? Travel a little! Read a book! Get out a bit out of your football/baseball/basketball/anyball watching/ domestic-vacationing frame of mind.
Or go back to school. Learn geography. Learn another language.
Stop blaming the wrong country for something two monsters did.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Play a Writer

I have finally joined the corporate world. After years of bitchin' about it.
I walk to work. I work 9 to 5 (or 10 to 6). I have my own office with my name by the door. I go to the gym at 530pm.
Life is good.
Except that it isn't.
I can't travel when I want, and I haven't written a word in three weeks.
So what do I want? I have no idea.
All my dreams of going to Caribbean at the end of the month, then to Martha's Vineyard for my birthday in August, then in September to London and Downton Abbey, and to Serbia and Istanbul (or Constantinople if you prefer) are slowly fading.
But, the worst is the fact that I was just on the right path to my novel, and now that might be gone as well.


But I do have a nice, full-time job that makes me feel...useful? It's good to make money! Makes you you're doing what you're suppose to do? Contributing? Blah blah?

I guess freelancing ain't so bad?

I don't know, something's gotta give. I guess I'm trying this out, to see if it fits.
It's too early to say if I'm cut out for it.
But I do miss my book. I miss it a lot. I miss my characters, I miss the world I live in with them when my nose is pinned into the page.

And of course, I haven't written this blog FOR-EVER!

But, don't despair! I'm still meeting with my writing-partner (for now.) I'm signing up for a writer's conference next weekend.
I'm still gonna play a writer...
For as long as I should live...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Deal with the Devil...

OK, I just have to blog about this meeting I just had.

I just met with my brilliant writing-partner, who always knows the right things to say.

So, I say to her:

"You know that I have just about 50,000 good words, and another 10,000 or weak ones I have discarded in December. And I need 80,000 words to enter the competition we agree on. And I won't quit. So I'm a little panicky right now, and a little depressed about it."

And she says: "You already have 20-30,000 words of a novel that needs to be written. You already have a novel between the lines. You can easily write those by September."

And then I take her feedback on two stories-two chapters, and get back into my "perpetual latte-making" office, and the words pour down! She was right. With a little bit of guidance on what's missing in the novel, I'm expanding on chapters pretty quickly actually.

Now, it's tiring. It's intense. But what job worth anything isn't?!

I also love her telling me that "I have chosen to go for the Boston marathon, not the Cherry Blossom 5K," by picking to work on my book to expand it in every direction over picking to publish it the way it is.
"You want a million-dollar book deal," she says. "So do I."

And there's nothing wrong with that. Right?

And only now am I realizing that I made a deal with "the devil." I can't really focus on anything else but this book for the next six, seven months.
Not if I want to do it right this time.
It's now or never, it really is.

Not only has my writing-partner given me ideas on how to expand my chapters, but also what new chapters to write.

So, I sat down a few hours ago, with this Golden-Grip gun chapter I have been working on for the last couple of weeks, and it's like a puzzle I MUST solve, it MUST be perfect, it just has to be.
And all of a sudden, I'm researching World War I, and the battles between Serbs and Croats in it, and the gun ends up being a gift to my character's great grandfather from the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand just before he was killed by the Black Hand. And, oh, history blends with fiction, and politics, and superstition, and magical realism...
It's just blowing my mind, where it's going, and it only needed a gentle push...

It's gonna be a great book, I promise you, no false modesty here needed. I can already see it. It will kill me to create it but once it's born, it's gonna be a great read.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Grannies and Frogs

It's Sunday.
And what Sunday means to me is freedom. Yoga. Writing. Lattes.
But my body or brain doesn't necessarily agree with my plans.
So, I barely survived an hour of Vinyasa Flow class, and I have no idea why. I was just so low energy, cramping and inflexible.
But I did it.
Then I showered up, got ready and walked to my favorite cafe, ordered an exquisite latte (yummy) aaaaand...nothing.
I don't know what to do.
I mean I know what to do, but....I don't know where to begin.
Let me elaborate (I love that word!)
I need about 30,000 to 35,000 words of excellent quality by September.
It might not sound like a lot, especially since I did manage to write over 50,000 in one month in November, but we are talking here about apples and oranges, or, as Serbs would say "grannies and frogs."
It's one thing writing every day for a month in order to reach a goal, it's totally another writing an excellent literary novel, a family saga, a novel-in-stories, where every fact has to match, and every story-chapter has to have a purpose.
Out of those, let's say, 35,000, I have 10,000 that are weak and I have discarded in December.
So, I either need to rewrite those, or write a whole new 35,000....
Why do I need 80,000 words, you ask? (Or you couldn't care less. Either way, I'll tell you.)
That's the minimum to send to the big competition in October. The deadline me and my writing-partner (who, by the way, already has a 450-page novel) have set for ourselves.
And I don't get out of deadlines or deals. Ever? Well, yeah, I think, never. Unless my life is in danger...
So, I'm just slightly depressed right now, despite the sun and all.
Not even the sight of a guy in front of me right now with a very, very,very high red shorts (hello butt cheeks) and a leather jacket, can't make me feel better.
But in order to write a good story, a good chapter, I need an inspiration, an idea, and those don't come along that often.
The best idea I have right now is to start rewriting, hoping it will lead to more writing, new writing, more stories.
And I hope to God my writing-partner will have a resolution to my problem tomorrow.
I need to tell her how skimpy my book is.
Tomorrow morning.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time...."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I have recently acquired myself a writing partner.
And I'm allowed to write here about her since she's not on Facebook because "it would take from her writing time." (See now why we're a perfect match?)
How did this happen? What's a "writing partner?"
It's not as naughty as it sounds. Let me elaborate...

Do you remember me writing, once upon a time, about a class I took at the Writer's Center. One of them? (Of course not, cause you probably have a life. Good for you!)
Well, there was one very talented woman there, taking it with me.
Then she invited me to read at her reading last June, as her guest.
We stayed in touch, and one thing led to another and...we exchanged work!
(Is Facebook gonna block me for this?)
So, she is everything I'm not and a lot of what I am.
She's an excellent writer and a perfectionist. She's been working on her novel for six years, had refused agents a couple of years ago since her novel didn't have "sufficient depth." She said "I only have one debut novel, and I want it to be the best it can be." (Not a problem or concern for many novelists out there right now....)
And the best thing of all?
She's helping me structure my novel, i.e. make it into a novel out of a collection of interwoven short stories.
The problem is, this immensely exciting process in which my baby is growing, changing forms, reaching maturity is also very painful for me and sooooo much work!
I have to write tones more, rewrite and discard a lot.
All the while sustaining one Arc.
And we are on a schedule, meeting every ten days, reading each others work, critiquing, writing, rewriting, editing...
And the cherry on top?
We have a deadline--end of September since we are submitting it to some Big Shot Novel Competition on October 1!

For the first time since two NYC agents told me that "the writing is wonderful but it needs to be novel-in-stories in order to sell it" I think I have a grip on what I'm doing with it.
And I have a family tree! In which male characters are not important (try explaining that to my Serbian father who, I am sure, is part Turkish).
So, at this point, my future readers, we are looking at a Balkan family saga with a family curse, an heirloom gun with old Slavonic writings on the handle, and lots of mystery and secrets.
How does that sound to you?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Greetings from Hollywood....

Just got back to Washington, DC from Hollywood. Florida. Hollywood, Florida.
"How was it," people been asking me.
My students (yes, I'm teaching again), my new writing-partner (brilliant, genius, I must add) etc.
"Well, I brought my laptop in hope that I would find a cafe and write with the view of the ocean...except there are no cafes in Hollywood, Florida...."

Let's see, that was my fourth or fifth time in Florida.
A few times in Saint Petersburg, once in Miami and now Hollywood, and I have to say, it makes me appreciate even the DC culture. Don't even know how people from NYC or Europe can stand it.
To be fair, it had some perks. The Ocean, for one. Except, in February, I can't swim in it. So, it's a big, wavy tease. But I did get my feet wet. Is that worth a two and a half hour flight?
(Whenever I say "two and a half hour flight," I automatically think of the Belgrade-London flight. But DC-Ft. Lauderdale and Belgrade-London? Two different planets in two and a half hours, I swear. Would take the European flight over the other one any time....)
What else?
Warm pools?
Well, you can, to be fair, read a book with a Strawberry Daiquiri by a warm, nice pool, I'll give you that. Which was the highlight of my trip. (Aren't you pitying me right now?)
A water taxi from Hollywood to Ft. Lauderdale where they have actually heard of a cafe, an Italian cafe (Yay!), is kind of fun, but it takes hours and hours to make a 15-minutes car ride, and the waiting time, and transfers...Too much time, too much effort.
And Ft. Lauderdale is kind of nice. Reminds me of Rodeo Drive in L.A. just slightly less expensive.

I'm sorry to say, I wasn't impressed by food. As a matter a fact, my first night there, I ordered a guacamole in a Mexican restaurant on the boardwalk, and after coming back from washing my hands in the bathroom, I prayed not to get food poisoning. I never before let guacamole go to waste. (it's my favorite thing to eat!) The one in Trader Joe's tastes better, that's all I'll say.
Fish tacos were good though, but with the side of a dirty bathroom I have seen just minutes before...

So, I know, I know, I'm complaining about four days of 80-degree weather and the ocean breeze.
But would it kill you to have a cafe on the boardwalk? A tiny Starbucks at least, if not something independent?
And if I see one more old, "pregnant" man with a leathery-tan skin and no shirt...

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year, New Walls!

New Year, New Walls, right?

Remember Sandy? The storm?

Well, my bedroom ceiling leaked then, so after all the elaborate repairs (the roof, the deck above me, the drywall etc.), it was time to paint the whole bedroom.

A contractor asked me: "what's the paint you used before," and I said, without hesitation: "Caribbean Blue!"

I was absolutely sure of it, as sure as I am of the fact that I'm sitting in a cafe now writing this blog, staying away from home while my housekeeping is cleaning the mess painters left and while the walls are still drying, releasing that nauseating smell (toxic too.)

How could I possibly be wrong? I take great pride in my memory! I am one of those people you ask:" what did you wear on March 5, 2008?" and I say:" that yellow sweater I bought in Amsterdam!"

Of course, neither me, nor the contractors thought of checking if the paint matched, before actually...well...painting!

I trusted my memory without reservations, and the contractor either A) didn't care; B)trusted me.

So, yesterday, they began painting my sky blue bedroom into...Caribbean blue, i.e. a dark, turquoise color.
I have been to Caribbean many times, and I ain't seen anything that color. That dark, that green.

By the time the mistake was uncovered, lots of money and time had already been invested.

And there was really no time to go back to the store (I would have had to do it), buy new paint, or exchange the wrong one (is that even possible?) for what really was blue (not green.) And I was at my writers group meeting at the time, then meeting an old friend from Belgrade, on a very tight schedule.

I have a feeling that people around me are often color-blind. Benjamin Moore certainly is.

So now, if you walk into my bedroom you either A) panic because you think you're drowning B) begin waving your hands and kicking your legs. C)holding your breath.

Maybe I should hire an artist and paint some fish...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Everyone, raise your mug of chamomile tea!

Here's to an excellent writing day! (I'm raising my mug of chamomile tea!)
Hmmm, why chamomile at...2pm, you wonder?
Well, with a great writing day come... nerves. Hence the chamomile tea.
Let me elaborate. (It's actually kind of interesting for psychology students.)
So, I'm working on a story that has an abortion in it. And I'm basing it on interviews I conducted with older women in Serbia.
And when I write, I write like an actor. What do I mean by that? Well, I use my acting training to get into my character's skin.
So today, I was in the skin of a young woman getting an illegal abortion in 1940s or so, in rural Serbia.
Uplifting, right?
Hence the chamomile. I got anxious a little while writing. Just a little. The room, i.e. the cafe began spinning a little, and it became a bit warm (it's 74 degrees here) and...just got a little anxious.
But since I'm also kind of happy that my story got a real good shape today, and I'm ready to workshop it, I decided to cope with my "flight" instinct and sit down with a nice mug of chamomile and some honey.
I wonder if other fiction writers get upset by their characters going through hell?