Romantic Mystery: A Man in the Knitted Scarf

At dawn, when the first beams of the April sun gilded the porch of the house and started crawling along the lawn toward the old apple tree, the door of the house opened with a creak and released a man of indefinite age, wearing sunglasses, a gray denim jacket and a nifty knitted scarf. The man fastened up his jacket and hurried out of the yard.

Having reached the mailbox, the man paused to study the sign. It said:

#12, Sara Bonk. Writer.

The man smirked. He took out a cigarette, lit it, and drew on it with a sigh of relief. Then, he threw the used match on the ground, and said quietly to himself, as he walked away:

“For sure, the book was better.”

Since then, the man in the knitted scarf has never been seen in the neighborhood.

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A Checklist for Your Query Letter

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I sincerely enjoy reading every piece of advice posted by Carly Watters (a literary agent at P.S. Literary Agency), especially her tips on writing query letters. I like her ability to put the most valuable information together in a short, easy to comprehend and remember manner. I came across this little checklist on Carly’s blog and found it really helpful in work on my query letters:

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU QUERY IS ACTUALLY A QUERY?

  • Does it read like back cover copy?  (1)

  • Does it refrain from giving away the ending unless it’s absolutely necessary? (2)

  • Is it three paragraphs long? (Intro, Pitch, Author bio.)  (3)

  • Does it focus on why your book is different?  (4)

  • Does it directly or indirectly touch on all of these things: character, their growth, their stakes, and their motivation?  (5)

There is practically nothing to add to this. You write your query, check it for compliance to these five items, and you may rest assured that the query is sufficiently good. Certainly, there is no end to making improvements to every query, but this checklist helps you create a good structure for your document, and then you only need to add some flavor to it.

The only thing I would rather add to this list is one more question, which is not directly related to the book which is being pitched, bu to the personality of the author. In my opinion, the question (6) should be–

  • Does my query look like a business letter or not?  (6)

I would add this item because it seems to me that many authors fail to demonstrate their committment to having long term business relationship with their potential agent. I don’t know if I am right or nit here, but I have read hundreds of sample queries and tried to imagine myself being an agent. Suppose, an agent liked an author’s idea and is considering giving this novel a try. What would the agent’s major concern be at this point? I think it will be the fact that they are not acquainted and the agent has no idea what kind of person the author is.

As far as I understand, the author/agent work involves lots of interaction on person-to-person level, as well as lots of negotiation, counseling, learning from each other, and following multiple rules, conditions, and time limitations. All this is only possible when the two people are compatible and when both understans the business nature of this relationship. This is why I find this item important: the business-like style of the query can tell a lot to the agent about the author and thus, it can influence the agent’s final decision about working with an author or rejecting him/her.

 

The Romantic Russian Phrase Book

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Learn Russian with love!

The Romantic Russian Phrase Book is an easy to learn course of conversational Russian with full audio support.

  • The phrase book was developed specifically for those who are seeking to establish romantic relationships with Russian women;
  • the book is a perfect tool for every beginner who is interested to learn about Russian language and culture;
  • The phrase book contains hundreds of easy to pronounce, most meaningful phrases and sample dialoges, which can be used in multiple life situations;
  • You will find numerous tips from the best linguists and relationships experts;
  • Learn about Russian culture and lifestyle;
  • get the taste of simple grammar and enjoy full audio support for every unit;
  • contact the author Rina Tim at any time to request information, counseling, and/or language training.

The Romantic Russian Phrase Book contains 18 thematic units:

UNIT 1. How To Be Polite In Russian
UNIT 2. Greetings
UNIT 3. Your First Meeting With Her
UNIT 4. How To Say A Compliment To Her
UNIT 5. Making Her A Gift
UNIT 6. Romantic Dinner For Two
UNIT 7. When She Is Silent And Thoughtful
UNIT 8. Moments Of Intimacy
UNIT 9. When Doing Things Together
UNIT 10. Having Fun Together
UNIT 11. Asking For Things
UNIT 12. Speaking To Her On The Phone
UNIT 13. Riding In A Taxi
UNIT 14. Shopping Together
UNIT 15. Meeting Her Family
UNIT 16. Some Conversation Starters
UNIT 17. Phrases To Use In Love Letters
UNIT 18. Words To Use In Conversation

The book is available at Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1519170068

We wish you good luck for your wonderful Russian adventure!

 

The Romantic English Phrase Book

Романтический разговорник английского языка

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ИЗУЧАЙТЕ АНГЛИЙСКИЙ С ЛЮБОВЬЮ!

The Romantic ENGLISH Phrase Book is a great assistant for Russian women who are taking their first steps in learning English

Романтический разговорник английского языка – это набор простых, легко запоминающихся английских фраз на все случаи жизни

  • Уникальный набор фраз, необходимых для общения с собеседником-иностранцем
  • множество диалогов, имитирующих ситуации романтического общения
  • полезная информация от экспертов в области лингвистики и психологии отношений
  • примеры житейских ситуаций в диалогах и заметки о Западной культуре
  • постоянная связь с автором на http://www.rinatim.com
  • возможность получения консультаций 24/7

Эта книга дублирует Романтический разговорник русского языка, который мы составили ранее для иностранцев, приезжающих к своим русскоговорящим невестам. Чтобы понимать друг друга, вам и вашему иностранному гостю достаточно держать разговорники наготове и обмениваться фразами из тех тематических блоков, которые подходят к конкретной ситуации общения.

Обе книги имеют одинаковое содержание и состоят из 18 разделов:

Тема 1. Как вежливо привлечь к себе внимание?
               Unit 1. How to Be Polite in English?
Тема 2. Приветствия.
               Unit 2. Greetings.
Тема 3. Ваша первая встреча.
               Unit 3. Your First Meeting with Him.
Тема 4. Скажите ему что-нибудь приятное.
               Unit 4. Tell Him Something Nice.
Тема 5. Принимаем и дарим подарки.
               Unit 5. Accepting and Making Gifts.
Тема 6. Романтический ужин на двоих.
               Unit 6. Romantic Dinner for Two.
Тема 7. Если разговор угас.
               Unit 7. When the Talk Is Slow.
Тема 8. Когда вы остались один на один.
               Unit 8. Moments of Intimacy.
Тема 9. Всё делаем вместе.
               Unit 9. Doing Things Together.
Тема 10. Развлекаемся и отдыхаем.
               Unit 10. Having Fun Together.
Тема 11. Как попросить о чем-либо.
               Unit 11. Asking for Things.
Тема 12. Разговор по телефону.
               Unit 12. Speaking on the Phone.
Тема 13. Поездка в такси.
               Unit 13. In a Taxi.
Тема 14. Ходим по магазинам.
               Unit 14. Shopping Together.
Тема 15. Когда он у вас в гостях.
               Unit 15. Inviting Him to Meet Your Family.
Тема 16. Некоторые стартеры для беседы.
               Unit 16. Conversation Starters.
Тема 17. Несколько фраз для личной переписки.
                Unit 17. Phrases to Use in Love Letters.
Тема 18. Часто употребляемые слова.
                Unit 18. Words to Use in Conversation.

Желаем вам удачи в вашем романтическом путешествии в английскую культуру!

Bye Bye, Blackboard!

(A few thoughts about modern education)

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My group of graduate students called me yesterday to say that they could not attend my class because four of them were having a cold and the rest would be working in the morning hours. In this semester, my class with this group fell on the day when they have no other classes at all (we use to call such days ‘library days’), and of course my students would prefer to spend it taking care of their own affairs.

“All right,” I said, “let us see when we can do it.”

It took us not more than a minute to revise a few options and agree to arrange an online afternoon class instead, in a time convenient for everyone. My students were very thankful to me for understanding, and I was glad to have a chance to use all available Internet resources during my class, because there is so much you can share with your students if you have direct access to the Internet resources right during the discussion!

After the online class, we remained online with one girl for a few minutes to clear up some information regarding her diploma thesis, and that was when she confessed to me that, more often than not, teachers grow quite upset if they find out that their students combine work and study; they rarely agree to change time of their class, to say nothing about giving a class online.

To my regret, Ukrainian system of higher education remains highly conservative and snail-paced. The largest state universities, which traditionally set the pace of all processes in the whole educational system, are the slowest when it comes to having to revise programs of study, curricula or teaching approaches, even when the changes seem obvious and inevitable. They prefer to turn their backs to the newest technologies and look like mammoths of the academic system rather than to make changes and improve the system.

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Still, the changes are coming and they are inevitable. Today, when people around the world have become accustomed to communicating with each other remotely, it is obvious that they expect to have this opportunity everywhere – in the streets, at home, at work and of course during the process of learning. If my students spend their morning time wearing headphones and listening to audiobooks online just to pratice their English, and then roam through the Internet in search of materials for their essays during their subway ride to the university, how on Earth can I make my classes interesting in a classroom equipped only with a blackboard and a piece of chalk?

Soyer, Paul Constant, 1823-1903; Old Man and a Young Girl Learning to Read

We all have to realize and agree with the fact that the time of reading coursebooks has passed. It does not mean that we should stop reading books, no. But we’ve got to adapt to the fact that we need to combine all available ways of information perception — books, the Internet resources, and all possible audio and video based information — to share knowledge with students Why? Because-

learning should be consistent with the requirements of the time.

In the nearest time, all students will interact with others remotely, and teachers who will try to keep their students in classrooms by telling them about the pleasures of silent contemplation of books, are going to fail miserably. Again: why? Becausein the 21st century-

reading books has become an intimate, pleasurable and luxurious, yet time-consuming occupation, which very few can afford.

Alas! This is true. Reading, as well as real-time listening to a highly skilled professional in the quetness of a library or a museum, has become an unaffordable luxury because the most precious thing of the 21st century is time (not money anymore!). If some of us have not realized this yet, they will. Very soon. I am sure.

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One more thing to add to this is a simple fact that in this situation, people’s general attitude to acquiring diplomas (as well as other forms of professional certification) is going to change.

Very soon, pictures like the one you can see below, will become exclusively the property of art. Even today we are more accustomed to seeing kids using electronic devices instead of books, and, however sad it may sound to us, the older generation, the faster means of learning will take over, and this is going to happen in the nearest few years.

learning5 The situation when students had to adapt to the requirements of the educational system will soon change to the exact opposite: the system will have to adapt to the realia of life, and– you know what? I cannot wait for this to happen.

Being yourself in the 21st century

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”. Oscar Wilde

Now, replace the word “mask” with the word “Facebook” and read the quotation again. It remains true in today’s world, doesn’t it? We can put in “Twitter”, or “Google”, or any other name of a virtual communication network, and Oscar Wilde’s words will sound like a correct observation about our current lifestyle.

behind-a-mask

A century ago, a mask (a really good one) was needed to help a person feel safe about speaking out their mind. Today, you can click on an “enter” button and write anything you want on a virtual wall; what is more, you can be pretty sure that you won’t be made responsible for your words. Does this mean that “being yourself” and expressing yourself openly has become more welcome in today’s world?

Honestly, I don’t think so. Our current lifestyle has given us unprecedented freedom of expressing ourselves and sharing knowledge with each other – freely, unconditionally, and practically in no time, but today, unlike it was in Oscar Wilde’s time, even when you say something meaningful to the world, your words will drown in the ocean of other stuff, which pours into our minds through social networking systems, press and media every minute.

Well, of course there are topics which people prefer to bypass even on social media. I have noticed that some articles of ambivalent meaning on Facebook (nothing special, just the ones that require a different angle of vision) are often ignored and receive no feedback at all, which means that people are still wearing their masks, even when their identity is “protected” by the freedom of social networks. Yeah, people have become smarter.

carrot-stick-approach  

But have they become wiser?

There is so much information everywhere around us that we – the people of the 21-st century – have learned to protect our minds against it: we simply don’t care anymore. In our crazy run away from the past to reach out for the future we forget to pay attention to the reason of the run.

To a 21-st century writer, whose mission is still the same – to observe and reflect the reality as it is – the new system of mind protection raises a problem: I mean, how can writers’ voices be heard when the readers have lost the ability to care?

behind_mask_cat_woman

In the 20th century it was not unusual to hear a saying that “a good writer is the nerve of his time”. The new millennium has led us to an opposite approach: how good is the writer’s “nerve” unless it is connected to the reader’s brain?

I hate to say this, but today, what used to be called the “nerve” has a tendency to transform into a logbook. The only hope is that the emotional personality in each person will still remain intact, it will require some emotional activity from us. If human feelings (like compassion, tenderness, affection, sympathy or others) are going to hide behind even harder masks than a century ago, then people will probably want to turn back to reading fiction in order to satisfy their needs in emotional life. Have you noticed that reading fiction is already becoming an intimate occupation? I think this trend will intensify in the nearest future.

I’d like to share another observation here: the growing interest to reading fantasy and sci-fi books. Isn’t it another evidence of the changes taking place in human minds to satisfy our need of self-expression? True or not, but one thing I can say for sure: people are actively learning to be themselves in the 21-st century. With a new design of our masks, we still find it difficult to speak out the truth. So, some of us plunge into the world of fantasy as we look for ways to satisfy the need to be ourselves.

Spoiled by Dostoevsky, Healed by Humor

“The soul is healed by being with children.” F. Dostoevsky

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Every man is born innocent. Having been born, a child knows neither evil nor good. It is us, the grown-ups, who turn every child into what they finally become. Dostoevsky was right when he said that a sinful soul of a grown-up is ‘healed by being with children’, but he never paid attention to the other side of this two-way process: being with a grown-up (Dostoevsky included!) spoils the innocent soul of a child. Therefore, whoever thinks that by being with kids they are cleansing themselves against moral degradation, they only lay a time bomb of sin… in the souls of the next generation.

Children tend to copy the adults’ behavior. The little ones don’t realize whether they are copying good or evil. Only later, when they acquire some social experiences, they will begin to differentiate between the two, but at that point, they will already be infected with sin.

child_Adam-and-Eve-Apple

The struggle of opposites underlies our existence: without knowing evil, we can not see the good. I have been thinking about it all my life – as a person, as a mother, as a teacher and now, as an author who is supposed to share with others, and I have finally come up with a solution… at least for myself. To break this vicious circle, we need to turn to… no, not the church, we need to turn to HUMOR.

Yes, exactly. We need to turn to humor. We need to develop the sense of humor in our children, because humor helps everyone to bring sin to nothing.

  • Humor teaches us to think;
  • Humor encourages creativity;
  • Humor has a huge impact on our health, it boosts our immune system;
  • Humor helps us overcome fears;
  • Humor develops divergent thinking (it gives us a chance to see things from a new perspective);
  • Humor comforts and relaxes a person, it reduces stress and cultivates optimism;
  • Humor boosts our curiosity and playfullness; and finally
  • Humor encourages creative problem-solving. Why commit a sin, when you can reach your goal by a different – quite innocent method?

So, let me paraphrase the great Russian writer (with all due respect to his genius) and say that

the soul is healed by living with humor.

If we learn to laugh instead of starting a fight or a quarrel, we can solve millions of problems and avoid conflict. If we learn to smile and teach our children to do the same instead of demonstrating an ugly emotion which we tend to call ‘power’, we can solve the dilemma of all times: conquer evil without a fight. If everyone, including children (and Dostoevsky, by the way), acquired a humorous mindset, the need in confrontation between people would reduce. Then, the real healing could begin.

I am very interested to hear what you think about this. Please, share your opinions. Thank you!

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Feeling Time

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Leo Tolstoy

eggLike in many other cases, one can begin to understand these words only after having a massive experience of conscious expectation for something significant to happen, and then living through the event as it happens. Only having waited for years to meet the one you really love, you can say that you know the science of being patient and the burden of “feeling” time.

Feeling time is a burden, because it is a torrent that flows through and beyond us; it carries us forward – always in the same direction – and we can do absolutely nothing about it. Time has its powerful plan for every one us, but no one of us has the power to alter anything in the plan.

Doesn’t this make Time the greatest antagonist of all? Mmm, I really need to think about it…

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A Few Thoughts About Ethics in Writing

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Interestingly, while ethics are huge in technical and academic writing, it is not given the same attention in the world of fiction writing. As an author who belongs to both groups, I have been watching the difference and wondering why? Could it be because scientists have to be more accurate about every word they write? Or maybe, the fiction writers are in any way more (or less) ethical than technical writers, so they don’t need to set up any rules of fiction writing ethics? 😉 I want to believe that both groups equally care about their readers and this difference is nothing more than a tradition, so nobody ever asks the question.

Ethics codes are present at the workplace: even if they aren’t always enforced, they still exist and we obey them… often mechanically, without thinking. Summing up a dozen of articles which I studied in search for an answer to my question, there are a few basic points to adhere to whenever you are writing a professional document:

  • don’t mislead;
  • don’t manipulate;
  • don’t stereotype; and
  • always check the facts.

Well, I did a thing which I may regret doing: I tried to apply these rules to fiction writing this morning… and found the reason of my writer’s block! I realized that everything fiction writers do is exactly the opposite of the four rules!

Unlike academic writing, which is all about sharing facts to feed the work of mind, fiction writing works with reader’s imagination and emotions; it’s principal idea is to mislead, manipulate, hide (or distort) facts of real life with the only purpose of creating stereotype universes in the readers’ minds and enticing them into reading! 

Does this mean that fiction writers are unethical, immoral, dishonest, improper, corrupt, unrighteous, unjust and… (could not think of more antonyms to the word “ethical”, sorry)?  Uh-huh, I kind of regret I took up the topic already!

To calm myself down, I decided to accept the following explanation: fiction writers have to break those rules of ethics. Like mathematicians, who sometimes look for a proof by contradiction, fiction writers need to show their readers a ‘different’ world, where rules are broken and norms are corrupted; we only have one rule to follow: we must expose the fake in the end. If writers did not do this, the world would never get to know “Alice in Wonderland”, “Winnie-the-Pooh” or Harry Potter books! These books mislead, manipulate, create unusual stereoptypes, and distort our reality, but they do this so awesomely well that no one can resist reading them again and again!

So, what is the answer? Is it ethical for fiction writers to ignore the ethics of academic writing? 😉 The question is still up!

Please, share your thoughts, I am very curious to know your opinions on this.

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Stepping into the Same River

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This time, visiting my home city felt like stepping into the same river. Sevastopol, the notorious Black Sea port at the southern tip of Crimea, where I grew up, has finally and completely turned into an imprint of the Soviet era. As I walked along its streets, I could not resist a funny feeling that I’d been thrown there from the future: all surrounding objects, people, little street conversations, sounds, smells – everything was amazingly familiar, but had undeniable touch of the past- of the time about 30 years ago, when I was a teenager.

After the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, local residents of Sevastopol (more than the other dwellers of Crimea) were re-captured by their own old misconception of being the main southern forpost of Russian military glory that had protected mother Russia in a number of wars, thinking that they would now regain the attention of the Russian government and receive abundant accolades from all Russia’s population. This did not happen, though. After a short emotional moment (also provoked by the Kremlin propaganda) the population of Russia realized that Crimea is no more than another needy region that requires support, and its vaunted seaside resorts are uncomfortable and inaccessible for many Russians. Litle by little, Sevastopol – the Crimea’s dead end – was completely left to fend for itself. The only part of its nearly half-million population that feels more or less protected are the miliary and naval personnel, paid by the Russian government.

sevastopol_1

The sanctions, which affected Crimea more than any other region of Russia, have reached their goal: my childhood city looks abandoned, humiliated and deceived; people are troubled and moody, no one smiles back at you if you make eye contact – just like it was in the Soviet time. Their interests are scarce, everybody is busy surviving, and again, like it was in the Soviet time, they tend to be happy with very simple things: a lucky purchase of some fresh food in a store or a drinking party with friends in the kitchen.

Every moment I was there this time, I could not help thinking that in only three years (since the annexation) both conflicting countries – Russia and Ukraine – have estranged from each other to a huge distance, moving exactly in opposite directions: Ukraine to the west, Russia to the east, which means (unfortunately for the city of my childhood) that it has been moving backwards, into the past, and this movement will soon bring it to complete disappointment and depression.

My own mind has changed a lot, too: when I visit Sevastopol now, I see it with the curious eyes of a westerner who has purchased a time-travel tour; the only difference is that my mind still keeps clear memories of the childhood spent in that time.

Interestingly, I just caught myself on thinking that I am not even sad about this fact. All people deserve to have the life they want to have. The population of Sevastopol, at least its older (and prevailing) generation, looks quite satisfied with the movement back in time. Well, if they like it, let them have it. I will simply wave my hand to them and go my way.

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there and back again

Relocating back to the UK after 12 years in Hong Kong

Learn Fun Facts

An Archive of Curious Facts for the Curious

The Working Writer

Pro Advice For Freelance Writers

ALEX MARKOVICH

Author, scriptwriter, theater director