Everything you need to know about AMS campaigns

Thrilled to post this awesome tip for authors today! Those who follow my blog have often heard me rave here about Dave Chesson aka The Kindlepreneur for his indispensable blog and his out-of-the-box thinking.

Dave has created a fantastic tool for authors called KDP Rocket which has worked wonders for my keyword research, increasing remarkably my books’ visibility in Amazon searches. Now, Dave has gone and done it again by creating a 100% FREE online course where he reveals to authors a step-by-step guide to master AMS campaigns!

Any indie author worth his salt knows that AMS campaigns are currently the best way to increase book sales on Amazon. But if you’re anything like me you’ve been trying again and again to make money with these campaigns to no avail. “Yeah, why is that?” I hear you say.

This is simply because the hidden knowledge bestselling authors have been applying to make money on Amazon have been evading the rest of us.

Well, that was then… and this is NOW!

Last week I followed Dave’s FREE course which took me 2-3 hours to do, but don’t let that put you off! I did it effortlessly, and in my own time, as the course allows you to stop and pick up another time from where you’ve left off.

The course presumes you’re an absolute beginner so it starts from square one by explaining AMS campaigns and how to set them up. Even if you feel you could start at a later point, I strongly advise you don’t skip the early parts. I found a pearl of wisdom or two there myself!

 

The FREE course includes mentions to Dave’s app, KDP Rocket, simply because it is the Alpha and the Omega of indispensable tools for keyword research on Amazon for your 7 keywords per book on KDP, and now also for keyword research for your AMS campaigns. Dave added the AMS campaigns component on KDP Rocket only recently.

Please note:

You do not need KDP Rocket to apply Dave’s pearls of wisdom and to increase your sales with AMS campaigns, however, using KDP Rocket WILL save you hours and hours of time. The app can and will produce hundreds of suitable keywords for your book in a matter of minutes, including the titles of the bestselling books similar to yours!

“But… it’s not allowed to use other authors’ names and books,” some of you may say. Well, did you know that the rules that apply in AMS campaigns are different to those in KDP? And yes, it is allowed and advisable to use the competition as keywords in your AMS campaigns!

Dave recommends to start with 5-7 basic keywords that best describe your book. They must be popular but not too competitive.

From there, with the FREE course you will be able to expand your keyword list, finding hundreds more for your AMS campaigns that can attract the right readers to your product page. The course will tell you exactly where to go to Amazon to get them!

I hope you will check out Dave’s FREE course and give it the attention it well deserves! With it, I am sure you will experience firsthand all the WOW and the A-HA moments I had while taking it. June is a hectic month for me but as soon as things calm down I will apply the knowledge I gained and share my experience here. I will also blog the features of KDP Rocket on a separate post at first opportunity.

Before I go: If you are an author, you may want to sign up to my mail list just for indies, HERE. From now on, every time I blog a tip I will email it to this list. There are other benefits to sign up and you can find out all the details on the same page. Believe me, you do not want to miss a thing!

If you haven’t already, check out Dave Chesson’s awesome FREE course now!

Yes! I want to increase my sales!

Please note: KDP Rocket has left me so enthused that I recently decided to become an  affiliate for this app. This post, which I hope you’ve found useful, contains my affiliate links that allow me to earn advertising fees from any resulting sales of KDP Rocket.

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A summer giveaway for you! Win ebooks and more!

Yay! Thrilled to announce today my new giveaway. The stunning, exotic locations in these prizes will take you twice around the world!

2 winners will win a bundle of 12 ebooks!

Dozens more will win individual copies of the ebooks.

ALSO:

1 lucky reader will get a stylish novelty bookmark and an ebook of The Amulet by yours truly.

3 winners from USA/Canada will receive in the post a paperback of Count the Roses by Jackie Weger.

I will soon be blogging all the prizes in detail in two separate posts, so watch this space!

My giveaways are exclusive to my email subscribers who enjoy even more special benefits. You are welcome to sign up today and join the fun!

This is from the heart: I hate spam as much as you do. I send emails very sparsely and promise to  reward your trust by respecting both your privacy and your precious time.

All details and the sign up form are just a click away! Are you ready?

Yes! I am a bookworm and I feel lucky!

Are you an existing subscriber? Our newsletter with the giveaway link should hit your mailbox by June 3rd. If you cannot find it, look in your junk/spam folder and also in your Promotions tab if you use Gmail. For any problems, let me know. Just comment below or use the contact form!

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Book review: The Heart Stone Chronicles: The Swamp Fairy by Colleen Chesebro

This is not my usual cup of tea, but I knew Colleen Chesebro’s excellent work as a blogger for a couple years and was curious about her debut novel. I am glad I decided to read it! This was a wonderful fairy tale, and in terms of the protagonist’s social relations, it was also a sweet, utterly believable YA novel that really tugged at my heartstrings. I loved Abigail’s relationship with her aunt in particular – it was terribly moving in places and the author’s vivid descriptions and excellent prose made it so lifelike for me, as if it all took place before my eyes. It was all very human, very easy to relate to, what they had to go through as they got to know and trust each other, and I loved this in the story more than anything else. Abigail’s relations with the local youngsters and the horse racing were a delight to explore and, of course, I found the fairies enchanting! I expect young teenage girls will most certainly lap up the whimsical fantasy elements in this story. The antagonist is a scary villain that I believe bordered on madness. His malice balances out perfectly the sweetness and innocence that surrounds Abigail in her world, other than that. I am really surprised this is a debut novel! It’s very well-structured and told beautifully, a real feat for an emerging author. I am already looking forward to the next installment in this delightful tale! (I received a free copy and chose voluntarily to review it.)

 

My rating:

5 stars

A heart-rending, enchanting YA fantasy I couldn’t put down!

 

Do you enjoy YA fantasy? Stories of fairy visitations, or orphaned children who make a fresh start in life in a new home? Check out this delightful book, I think you’ll love it!

AMAZON  US  UK

 

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How to get rid of phishing sites that list your book

First of all, to clarify: when I say ‘phishing sites’, I do not mean pirates. Phishing sites don’t have your book, but pretend to have it. They are scammers of the worst kind. They scan the Internet finding products that seem popular, then pretend to make them available on their site, cheating people out of their email addresses and credit card details.

Today, I am here to give you a cool and simple way to fight back, not just for your own good, but for the good of the indie community as a whole.

We’ve all been there, right? I have lost count how many times I’ve seen my books ‘listed’ on sites around the world (more often than not, originating in China or Russia for some reason). And although I used to do nothing about it, thanks to the fabulous author and friend, Amy Vansant, who also happens to be an amazing computer wiz kid, I now know how to fight back. These days, pages that I find listing my book without my permission disappear from existence in just a couple of days. And I don’t even need to bother with WHOIS or to send a DMCA notice!

(If what I just said sounds like advanced Greek to you, fear not: go to this excellent post by Nicholas Rossis that explains all about WHOIS and DMCA notices.)

Now, as I said, my way to get rid of scammers listing books doesn’t bother with any of that. But before I show you how to deliver to them that well deserved virtual punch on the nose, I am going to quickly tell you how to find the scammers in the first place – presuming that if you are a newbie you don’t know how.

Every author needs to set up some kind of alert for their own author name and the titles of their books on the Internet, so that when they are mentioned online they get a nice email notification about it. Sometimes the notifications you get are good news! When a blogger reviews your book but fails to let you know, for example. Or when they generally mention your work or point to one of your blogposts on their own blog. This gives you the chance to comment and share to say thank you!

And when the notification is bad news, meaning it’s about a pirate or phishing site, you can choose to either ignore it or do something about it.

Either way, you need the notifications to hit your mailbox first and I recommend these to make it happen:

Google Alerts is FREE of charge. Very adequate. Set it up in a couple of minutes by quoting your own author name and the titles of your books.

Mention comes with a free trial for a limited time, but after that it has a cost (their plans start at $29 per month). If you can afford it it’s worth having as its search algorithms are much more complex than Google Alerts and it offers way more notifications.

Now that you’re set up to find those nasty buggers who pretend to have your book, let’s go get them – what do you say?

This is what a Google Alert looks like:

I have circled the website that Google Alert tells me lists my book. In this case, it was a phishing site. Obviously, because my novels are in KDP Select, any site other than Amazon that lists my book with a download button is not legitimate. And very seldom will they be pirates (i.e. will they actually have my book). Most of the time they are scammers, aiming to cheat people out of their personal details. To this day, I have never found a pirate listing my books.

As you can see, phising sites can be very cheeky! This one actually pretends to be the legitimate site FREE-Ebooks.net but of course the actual link says otherwise!

ATTENTION: Do not try to download anything from a phishing site! They don’t always ask for your email address or credit card information first. Sometimes they go right ahead and infect your computer with a virus as soon as you press ‘Download’! When I was still rather wet behind the ears I tried it once and if it weren’t for my nifty antivirus/firewall, I’d have been in a really hard place for a while! I still remember how I shuddered when the antivirus caught the bug and neutralized it for me seconds later.

So be warned! When you get to that darn site, do nothing on there and certainly do not contact them. Instead, do this:

GO TO:

https://safebrowsing.google.com/safebrowsing/report_phish/?hl=en

which will get you to this page:

This is a Google page, as you can see, so use it in every confidence that it’s safe. Here is where you copy paste on the top that nasty web page that lists your book.

In the comments, you basically tell Google that the site has no right to list your copyrighted material and that they are a phishing site out to steal people’s personal details. Print your name at the end of your comment.

A couple days later, if you go to that nasty web page, you will find that it’s no longer there. Sometimes it takes Google a couple days more; I expect they must have a lot of work of the sort to deal with, but they always take down the page within a week!

 

So this is it, peeps! This tactic is simple, quick and effective. I know it’s not a permanent fix, by far. Goodness knows the scammers don’t get deterred and will only create a new site to do this all over again. But hopefully, in time, if enough of us keep reporting them, maybe they’ll find it hard in the long run and decide to do something decent for a change. I am a dreamer, what can I say? In any case, the very thought that someone uses my labors of love to deceive people makes me mad. And since I started using this Google tool, I’ve been feeling a lot better. I hope it helps you too!

Thank you, Amy Vansant, for sharing this awesome tip!

Did you find this useful? Consider giving Amy a few minutes of your valuable time to browse through her website. I am a huge fan of her work and have devoured everything she’s written! If you love reading and laughing out loud, it’s an absolute must!

 

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Book review: The Greek Isles Collection Vol. 2 by Angel Sefer

I loved this boxset and believe it’s really good value for money as it contains no less than three novels – and they were so amazing I couldn’t pick a favorite! Sefer surely can spin a yarn, taking her readers on a wonderful ride. The common characteristics in these novels are guilty secrets, lust, danger and heartache as well as the stunning Greek locations where the stories unfold. Having said that, each novel stands out in memory uniquely and is equal in merit. I am really amazed at Sefer’s seemingly inexhaustible capacity to create stories that are simply unputdownable! I recommend this boxset to anyone who misses Greece since their last holiday there. It will certainly transport them there in no time. If you love lustful romance that conquers all and is fraught with danger, look no further!

My rating:

5 stars

Exhilarating and unputdownable!

 

Do you enjoy Greek island romances? Stories of dark secrets and love that’s fraught with danger? Give this fabulous boxset a try – chances are you’ll love it!

VISIT AMAZON  US   UK

 

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Remembering my grandparents, Spyros and Antigoni Vassilakis

Spyros and Antigoni Vassilakis

Today (May 2nd) marks one year since my granny’s passing and the memories are flooding in. Granddad passed away back in 2010 on May 5th. As a result, early May for me has become a time that inevitably brings me sadness, but somehow floods my mind with loving memories and fills my heart with blessings at the same time too.

Last summer, having inherited my grandparents’ house in Moraitika, it was hard opening the door and finding an empty house inside for the first time. What’s more, I was burdened with the gruesome task of having to go through my grandparents’ belongings, deciding what was to keep, what to throw, and what to give to charity. The task took days, and it was a surreal experience. Being interspersed with short bursts of summer holiday fun, it felt odd to do this too but, somehow, my mission was accomplished. At the end of my holiday I had given loads of clothes and medical equipment no longer needed to a couple locals who were grateful to have them, my husband and I had scrubbed dirty and moulded walls and ceilings clean, the house was tidy and aired after having being left uninhabited for a long time, and our minds were enriched with beautiful new holiday memories.

I share with you today a couple photos I took while sorting through my grandparents’ personal belongings. I found these in their aged bedside cabinets.

I quickly recognized all the items in the above photograph from old memories and was deeply moved to see Gran Antigoni had kept a couple of the handkerchiefs I used when I was little. The moment I saw them I remembered them as mine. Those among you who have holidayed in Corfu in the 70s and 80s may recognize the item in the middle as a pill box. They were all the rage in the 80s, being sold in many shapes and with various depictions on them in the souvenir shops at the time.

As for granddad’s things, the only item I didn’t recognize was the binoculars. They are dented, as you can see, and you couldn’t see much through the lenses, but he must have been fond of them as he kept them all the same. I can only imagine how many years he must have had them! As for the torch, granddad had a few, and this one is the oldest I remember and probably his favourite! It’s the one he used during our annual ‘pizza nights’ at the beach when the August moon was out – a memory that made its way into The Ebb, the novel I wrote to share my love for my grandparents with the world. Speaking of The Ebb, Sofia’s dented fork is also real… and I have proof. Scroll down below to see a photo of it 🙂

Granddad Spyros, born in Moraitika in 1913, was one of the children of Stefanos Vassilakis, the priest and teacher of Moraitika in the early 1900s. Granddad never had an education beyond elementary school but his impeccable manners towards family and friends as well as his loving, giving heart were prominent parts of his character. During the forty odd years that I was blessed to have him in my life he’d always been upbeat, sweet and loving and I never witnessed him lose his temper or fight with anyone, not even when he had every right to. And believe me, in my typically dysfunctional Greek family he had many opportunities to act that way.

Being the son of a preacher, Granddad spent Sunday mornings sitting with a radio and chanting along to the priest and the hymn singers. He also chanted in the church with gladness whenever asked. As I share in The Ebb, he had an odd affinity for the TV remote control, driving Gran to a frenzy. Actually, all his eccentricities that I share in the book are true, and he was a man who loved to laugh and entertain others too. Near the end of his life, he kept asking us to be merry when he dies, saying he wanted people to laugh, not cry, at his funeral. I last spoke to him (on the phone from Athens) three days before his passing at the age of 97. His mind was crystal clear, his voice jovial, like a young boy’s. His answer to my question ‘How are you?’ was a hearty laugh and the typical answer, “Got to be here another day!”

Granddad loved a good joke. Once, when he was well into his 90s, we were sitting around the table and he was laughing his head off with his own morbid joke. He had recently paid the council for a family grave and had had it decorated with the marble top and cross, and even his own picture, ready for the big day! Apparently, a local had passed by and seen the grave and told another: ‘Crikey! When did Spyros Vassilakis die? I never heard!” Someone had told Granddad and he relayed it around the table, laughing heartily at the ridiculous notion someone had thought him dead, even though he had set the scene perfectly for anyone to be fooled! And that was Granddad. He had this wicked sense of humour that often annoyed Gran and led to those ‘fights’ at the table that always caused me and my sister to exchange glances and chuckle no end.

Granddad also loved to joke with his friend Andriana, a local woman, and mother of Leftis from Romantica. Granddad and Mrs Andriana had approximately the same age and often joked with each other, betting who would pass away first! As he lay in his bed towards the end, Granddad heard the church bell toll intermittently in the typical single strike that signalled a death in the village. He turned to Gran and said, ‘Andriana’s gone’, which was indeed the toll of the bell for her passing, but we will never know if it was just a guess or if he knew somehow. The next day he died too.

Above all Granddad’s delightful eccentricities, one stands out for me as the most endearing: he always carried a little plastic comb in his shirt pocket and loved for me and my sister to comb his hair when we were little. Ever since I remember myself this ritual kept going strong. When I stayed or visited his house in Athens as a little girl he’d sit on his armchair, pat his shirt pocket and give me a cunning grin. I’d then rush to him, take the comb from his pocket and begin to comb his hair for a long time, the longer the better for him, but it was something I enjoyed too so much that time just flew. Often, before I knew it, he’d be fast asleep while I did this, sometimes even snoring loudly! He’d often wake up a little later to find he had all sorts of plaits braided on his head with colourful plastic hair clips at the end of them. He had the softest, snow-white thin strands and to this day I remember how they felt in my hands.

Outside the house in Moraitika – early 2000s

When Granddad passed away in 2010, I asked Gran if she had one of his combs to give me. She gave one to me and one to my sister and we both treasure them. Often, when the going gets tough in my life, I take it in my hands and tell Granddad my troubles. It always helps me to soothe any kind of heartache or mental strain – the comb having been established as the ultimate symbol of his love in my heart and mind.

I was deeply moved and very fortunate to find these old documents in an envelope in my granny’s bedside cabinet last summer. Time had rendered them gossamer thin but the writing is still legible in most places and it’s been preserved quite well despite the dozens of humid winters. These documents were my granddad’s call to military duty twice: the first in 1935 and the other in 1945.

The document of 1935, when Granddad Spyros was 22, had him registered as a coffee shop seller who was assigned to serve as a telephonist in the Communications Corp (I translate all this to the best of my ability seeing I am not familiar with military jargon). The rules that were mentioned overleaf state that the person called to duty was obliged to appear on the date specified. It was also stated that a delay of one day in showing up would result in imprisonment, while a delay of two or more days would automatically declare the person a deserter, which was punishable by death, or a life sentence in prison if evidence was put forward for their defense. There was also a clear instruction in bold to treat the assigned post and the document itself as confidential.

The document of 1945 called my granddad to duty in Acharnes, Athens in September 30th, 1945. He was 32 at the time. The document listed the same kind of rules overleaf, although with less severity compared to the other document. It was also stamped in Patra in October 1945 and there’s writing beside it but sadly it’s impossible to make out what it says.

What I do know about granddad’s service during the war was that he fought in Albania and when released from duty he returned to Corfu on foot. I also know that in Corfu he was stationed in two places: the (Venetian) Old Fortress in Corfu Town and in the Palace of Mon Repos in Kanoni. In the latter, he served as a cook and rubbed shoulders with Greek and English officers.

Gran is pictured with one of her brothers and her father in Corfu town

Gran Antigoni was born in Lefkas (Lefkada) in 1924. Her father, Nikolaos Kopsidas from the village of Karya, Lefkas, owned two inns in the island capital but a devastating earthquake that destroyed many buildings in town, including his two businesses, forced him to leave the island and seek a new life for himself and his family in Corfu. Granny was about four when she moved to Corfu. Brought up in the ancient quarter of Campielo of Corfu town, she spoke melodically, her vocabulary rich with unfathomable Italian-sounding words dating from the island’s occupation by the Venetians. When she was nineteen, one of her brothers made friends with my granddad who was thirty years old at the time. Granddad would often say that when he first led eyes on my demure grandmother she was wearing a long pleated skirt and the sight made him loose his mind (‘tin itha ke vourlistika’, were the exact words!). The rest is history, as they say.

From left to right, Ioanna, Gran, and Stephania

Granny lived and breathed for her daughters, Ioanna (my mother) and Stephania, who were also brought up in Campielo.

When I came to be, it was a story of love both ways. Granny and I soon developed a very strong bond. When I was little I’d often stay in her rented house (in Athens back then) and I was so attached to her I called her ‘mama’ (mum) and refused to fall asleep unless she held my hand. Gran would often laugh and say I gave her a hard time back then, seeing that as soon as she moved her hand away from my grasp I’d snap my eyes open, which meant she had to give me her hand and wait for me to fall asleep all over again.

 

Although my grandparents lived in Athens when I was little, we often visited Corfu in the summer to stay with my aunt Stephanie’s family in Garitsa (coastal quarter of the town next to Anemomylos). My grandparents had inherited a small quarter of my great-grandfather’s house in Moraitika but they needed to build upon it to make it a proper home with the necessary commodities first. They managed this in the early 1980s so I began to spend my summer holidays for three months at a time in the village as of then.

In The Ebb I share many of the terms of endearment Granny used to address me. There is an entertaining one I didn’t share, which tickled my husband’s funny bone so much he uses it for me now. The term is ‘kontessa’ (countess), my granny’s way of teasing me whenever, as all kids occasionally do, I acted lazy or self-indulgent. Every time Andy calls me that now if, say, I snooze a little longer in bed, there is a tug in my heart, but the feeling is wonderful, knowing the term  of endearment survived, somehow.

In the recent years, I’ve been blessed to have had Gran stay in my house in Athens for a month or so at a time during the winter. Back in 2011 when the above pictures were taken I had a dog, Nerina, a sweet and benevolent soul. I guess she must have found in Gran a kindred spirit, as she’d follow her around the house, especially when Gran cleaned fish at the sink as you see in the above photo. To stretch her legs, I often took Gran to the seafront for a stroll and as Gran loved eating fish, she often proposed we buy some for lunch straight from the fishing boats. On sunny days, more often than not, she would suggest a walk in the fields around the house to pick wild greens. You’d think a 90-year-old would cringe at the thought but Granny was tireless. She didn’t mind at all bending over for an hour to pick greens and often did a little gardening too, picking sprouts of spearmint from one place to put them in a new spot, or just watering my plants. She loved to be around plants and did the same in her tiny yard in Moraitika till the day she left it behind the last time.

 

My grandparents’ children, Ioanna (my mother) and Stephania

 

When Gran and Granddad started their life together in the 40s, times were hard. If they needed to visit Moraitika from Corfu town, they often walked the whole way. That’s a 45 minute ride in the bus today! As a young married couple they lived in Campielo as I said before where, to make ends meet, Granddad used to do deliveries for a refreshment company. He made the deliveries all over town riding a horse carriage. During the summer, he worked a lot more hours to meet the higher demand, often on all days of the week. He’d leave home at first light and return after dark when the kids were in bed. As a result, his little daughter, Stephania, called him ‘o babas o chimoniatikos’ (winter dad) as this was the only part of the year where she got to see him.

Later in life, to seek a more secure future, my granddad took his family to live in Athens where he worked at the Skaramangha shipyard. In my debut novel, The Necklace of Goddess Athena, I mention the scrap fabric pieces that the workers used to clean their hands from the dirty work. Granddad would often take the odd scrap home and Granny made clothes for their children from them.

Back in Moraitika is where sheer bliss began to pour into my life. Roughly from the age of 12, I began to stay with my grandparents nearly every summer from early June to early September. I played and swam daily with a multitude of cousins and village children and as neighbours I had a host of great-uncles and great-aunts who’d each inherited a part of my great-grandfather’s big house. Every morning would find me and the other children playing with a ball or cards under the mulberry tree or on the cemented step that can still be found today outside the house.

The mulberry tree in front of the house always causes myriad fond memories to come to surface. This lane that leads to the village church has been my playground for many happy summers.

Towards midday, we’d all descend to the beach in large numbers for our daily swim. In the afternoons, after our siesta, my cousins and I would go for long walks accompanied by my grandparents or the odd great-uncle. One of them, Great-Uncle Lilis who was a retired teacher at the time accompanied us in our walks military-style, shouting out ‘ena-dyo, en-dyo’ to give the marching rhythm but of course we kids laughed it off. We did find it endearing though so from time to time indulged him by parading like little soldiers for him as he followed last on the side of the road, supervising us.

Most of the time, we’d walk along the Corfu-Lefkimmi highway and stopped at Messonghi past the tiny bridge near the turn off to Agios Mattheos where the petrol station is today. Beside it on the corner, there was a cafe owned by my uncle Thanassis Tsatsanis from Messonghi. This was our resting place for a refreshment or a sweet before our long walk back home on the hill in Moraitika.

All the things fun I just mentioned, interspersed with out-of-this-world good meals prepared by my granny only repeated themselves the next day and the next after that, for three months at a time. I am sure, therefore, you can imagine my joy every time June came when I was a youngster, and the absolute heart-wrenching sorrow that hit me when September arrived each year and it was time to go.

As I have said many times and also recorded in The Ebb, Gran Antigoni was an amazing cook and prepared her meals in a tiny kitchen barely big enough for two people to stand in it. These photos from the early 2000’s serve as proof!

 

Speaking of proof, here is a picture of the dented aluminum fork described in The Ebb. Every summer, on my first day in the house, Gran would take it out of her ancient cabinet drawer and set it in front of me at the table with a glint in her eye as Granddad chuckled. You can imagine what it means to me now they are gone. I took this photo last summer, and it was quite emotional when I set it down on the table to eat with my husband, without either of my grandparents present for the very first time. But of course, their love remains inside me, safe, where neither time nor death can ever take it away.

Below, I share a couple videos from happy days with my grandparents. These were taken in the summer of 2004.

The two first videos feature my conversations with my grandparents as I take the video and Andy and Granddad watch Gran BBQ fish for our lunch. During that time we elaborated a lot on the fact Granddad was difficult to cook for because there were many foods he didn’t like much (fish and meat included). I then tried to convince him to have some fish but he seemed intent on only having the boiled greens and skordalia (garlic dip) that were to be served with it. By the time Gran serves at the table, she and I have managed to annoy him somewhat to a hilarious effect right at the end of video 3.

“San polla de lete?” (Don’t you think you’re talking too much?) quips Granddad in his typical mock-stern tone. It made my grandmother and I laugh many times as we watched this video together after his passing. Grandma would laugh while her fingertips caressed his face on my tablet’s screen, the words ‘Spyro mou…’ issued wistfully and repeatedly from her lips.

I hope you’ll find the videos entertaining, even those among you who don’t understand much Greek, if only for the mannerisms and the real-life depiction of a typical ‘row’ between my grandparents at meal times as described in The Ebb.

 

I truly believe that Granny and Granddad were sister souls. They were married together for 67 years and remained in love till the last day when Granddad died peacefully in his bed in Granny’s arms. Granny often relayed how he opened his eyes and gave her one last, intense look, before he closed them again, this time, forever. Granny said it felt like he was aiming to take her image along with him.

Last year, my grandmother’s parting words to me were said over the phone and during a rare moment of lucid thinking as osteomyelitis had long begun to cloud her mind since her fatal fall. Even though she kept silent or mumbled to herself whenever I phoned the old people’s home in Limnos where she spent her very last days, during that call I was lucky to make out these words: ‘Na eisai kala kyra mou, na eisai panta kala’ (may you be well ‘my lady’, may you always be well). I knew that day this was goodbye. And I was right; she died just a couple days later. I do hope in her heart she knew I was there when that happened, if only in spirit.

Goodbye Grandma. Goodbye Granddad. Until we meet again.

 

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Book review: Genteel Secrets by S.R. Mallery

Having thoroughly enjoyed Sewing Can Be Dangerous by this author, I jumped at the chance to read Genteel Secrets. This is because I had high expectations, knowing this author’s unique ability to weave historical elements into her stories seamlessly, and to make them come so alive that it feels like you’re living them firsthand. As I expected, this delightful short read didn’t disappoint. This was the first time I read Civil War fiction and felt perfectly immersed into it, meeting legendary figures of this era for the first time and learning all about the espionage, the battles, and the unfair treatment African Americans suffered at the time. The romantic story was sweet and tender, the misunderstandings and adversities that often created distance between the protagonists spurred me on to keep turning the pages, and all the while I rooted for their love to have a happy ending. In a nutshell, the story was utterly delightful and its ending fully satisfying. I recommend this book highly if you’re looking for a short, romantic read to transport you to a different era and have you experience it in vivid colors!

My rating

5-stars

A compelling read!

 

Do you love historical fiction? How about a tender love story that is tested by strict social restraints and the hardships of war? Give this delightful short read a try! Chances are you’ll love it! VISIT AMAZON

Check out my interview with S.R. Mallery on this blog & marvel at her various artistic skills!

 

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GODDESS ATHENA AND HER SACRED TEMPLE, THE PARTHENON

Today, I am re-issuing an old post of mine. It is about Goddess Athena and her magnificent temple on the Athens Acropolis – the Parthenon. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Goddess Athena was greatly revered by the ancient Greeks. One of her many epithets, Pallada (or Pallas), was owed to the peculiarity of her birth. According to legend, she sprang forth from the forehead of her father Zeus, fully armed and shaking her spear fiercely, making a fearsome sound. The word Pallada is derived from the Greek word ‘pallein’ which means ‘to shake’.

This divine young virgin was among other things, the goddess of wisdom and justice. Her sacred symbols include the owl and the olive tree. According to legend, she challenged Poseidon on the Athens Acropolis aiming to win the patronship of the city. The two Gods agreed to each offer a gift before king Cecrops and the witnessing Athenians; the better gift would grant the deity the greatly desired patronship status.

Poseidon went first, striking the Acropolis Rock with his trident to produce the Sea of Erechtheus; a salt spring. As the myth goes, the Athenians weren’t particularly impressed with this gift, as the water wasn’t fit to drink. Poseidon then offered a second gift, a horse, to be used for war. When Athena’s turn came, she struck the ground with her spear and an olive tree sprouted from it swiftly; a magnificent gift to be used for nourishment, beauty and light in the dark. King Cecrops and the people of Athens favored the gift of the olive tree and declared Athena the patron deity of the city that inevitably took on her name.

According to myth, Poseidon was enraged by this and stormed to western Attica, where he flooded the Thriasian Plain. His rivalry with Athena, even though she is his niece, is legendary in Greek mythology. Homer’s Odyssey illustrates it heavily, telling the world of this fearsome uncle and his cunning niece who fight over the fate of Odysseus. The cunning Greek king and his loyal crew roamed the sea for years, going through infamous trials and tribulations as they made their way back home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Although Poseidon tried to lead Odysseus to his demise, furious with him for blinding his beloved son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, Athena kept going against his will assisting Odysseus out of difficult situations, until he made it safely home back to his palace and faithful wife, Penelope.

The Athenians loved their patron Goddess like no other deity. During the Golden Age of Athens (460-430 BC), under the leadership of Pericles, they built the Parthenon atop the Acropolis hill, along with other glorious edifices; all of them famous through history in their own right as well: The Propylaea, The Erechtheion and The Temple of Athena Nike.

Famous architects Iktinos and Kallikrates took over the construction and the legendary sculptor Phidias was commissioned to create the colossal chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statue of Athena for the interior of the Parthenon, which was named Athena Parthenos (Athena The Virgin). Phidias also sculpted the gigantic bronze statue Athena Promachos (Athena standing in the front line in battle). This statue was placed between The Parthenon and The Propylaea.

The word Parthenon is derived from the word ‘parthenos’ which means ‘virgin’ as per the epithet ‘Virgin’ for Athena. Once in four years, the Panathinaia Festival took place in honor of the Goddess. Although it also involved athletic events similar to the Olympic Games, the main event was the religious procession that made its way from The Parthenon to the town of Elefsis via Iera Odos (The Sacred Way); today, Iera Odos survives as a busy motorway between Athens and the historical town of Elefsis (also spelled Eleusis in English). This historic town is also the very site of the infamous Eleusinian Mysteries of antiquity that to this day, historians know very little about.

The archeological site in Eleusis, the seaside town west of Athens that held the infamous Eleusinian Mysteries in ancient times.

Over the millennia, The Parthenon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, has suffered devastation repeatedly and on a large scale. Other than being occupied by the Turks and turned into a mosque in the 1460s, it was also bombed by the Venetians in 1687, cruelly looted by Lord Elgin in 1806 and has even suffered substantial damage by overzealous Christian priests who destroyed the depictions on the friezes that seemed indecent in their eyes.

In order to graphically illustrate the Parthenon back in its glory days as well as its demise through the millennia, I’m including below a remarkable video by the Greek Ministry of Culture. I hope you’ll also enjoy therein, a classic poem by the legendary philhellene, Lord Byron. The great romantic poet’s imagination has captured the wrath of Athena (Minerva, in Roman) further to the merciless destruction of her sacred temple. For the benefit of poetry lovers, I’m including here a link to the whole poem, that was written in Athens in 1811 by the great British poet.

 

Note: This post was originally published on the fabulous blog of author and historian, Adam Haviaras. If you love Greek history, Greek travel articles, and historical fiction set in ancient Greece then you should really check out this author. Visit Adam’s blog here

 

Do you love Greek myths? My highly acclaimed fantasy, The Necklace of Goddess Athena, combines delightful Greek myths with compelling family drama. Check out the book trailer and download a FREE excerpt here

 

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An insider’s view of Greek Easter

Easter in Greece is the brightest holiday, even more so than Christmas. The Greeks celebrate it with wonderful customs that make it a huge joy to attend the festivities. No matter where you are in Greece, the evening of Good Friday will find you following the epitaph procession with a lit brown candle in your hand, an experience that always makes my heart swell as the fragrance of jasmine and honeysuckle from the yards waft in the crisp night air, and the solemn melody of the hymn ‘Oh glyki mou aiar’ delights my ears. The epitaph is a wooden structure adorned with a multitude of flowers. A depiction of Christ lies inside and the epitaph serves as His tomb. Seeing that the procession symbolizes His funeral, the mood of this procession is mournful and voices are kept to a respectful low volume.

Midnight on Holy Saturday is the exact opposite experience. Here, the atmosphere is joyful, and how can it not be with the fireworks exploding overhead and the church bells ringing madly! The priest brings out the holy light (flown into the country from Virgin Mary’s tomb in Jerusalem the same day and distributed to every church on time), and people light up their white or red candles as they kiss and exchange the news of Jesus’ rising from the dead. One person will say ‘Christos Anesti’ (Christ has risen) and the other will respond ‘Alithos Anesti’ (indeed, He has) or ‘Alithos, o Kyrios’ (indeed, the Lord has).

On Easter day, the Greeks get up early to put the lamb and the kokoretsi on the spit. Lunch is a grand celebration that includes bumping together Easter eggs (traditionally dyed red).

Other than the above festivities that can be sampled anywhere in Greece, there are variations in places. For example, on the island of Hydra, the procession of the epitaph is not done on the road but in the sea by boat. Also, there are special customs in other parts, such as the spectacular ‘rocket war’ between two churches on the island of Chios and the burning of effigies of Judas in various parts of the country.

By far, and I am not just saying this because I am biased – everyone agrees here – the brightest Easter you can ever experience in Greece takes place in Corfu town.

 

The Holy Relic of St Spyridon is taken around town several times a year during the grand processions.

Other than the multitude of epitaph processions and spectacular fireworks display you’re in for here, Holy Saturday stands out for two things: the grand procession of St Spyridon, schools, boy scouts, and philarmonic orchestras that starts in the old town at 9:00 am, and the ancient custom of ‘botides’ that is a spectacle everyone should behold at least once in their lives.

Botides are massive ceramic pots that the Corfiots throw from high balconies when the bell tolls the ‘First Ressurection’ at 11:00 am before a huge crowd. What follows is a pandemonium of cheers and noise that is said to ward off evil and celebrates the victory of Man over death. The atmosphere soon becomes electric and you feel so elated, it almost feels like you’re ready to grow wings on your back and fly. You have to experience it firsthand, I guess, but that’s the best way I can describe the feeling! Here’s a little taste:

 

Here, I will also share Amleto (Little Hamlet, from Faccio’s opera) – my favorite piece of music played by the Old Philarmonic in Corfu town on Saturday morning during the grand procession I mentioned earlier. Total silence falls among the locals when the band begins to play this song as to enjoy it fully – this is a piece of music adored by the Corfiots, including me, as it has the unique power to compel and to make your heart swell. You be the judge – although again, you have to be there to experience the atmosphere to the max:

 

For the Greeks, Easter is a religious experience that goes on inside their souls. It is a chance to gather hope and strength inside and to keep going, no matter the hardship. It is one of the Greek secrets, if you like, for their ever renewed ability to withstand adversity and to keep the faith. During the Holy Week, the Greeks wish each other ‘Kali Anastasi’ (Happy Resurrection), which doesn’t only mean the enjoyment of the midnight festivities on Holy Saturday – it also means a resurrection in their lives; it wishes the preservation of hope until a better day comes. Therefore, as you appreciate, Easter to the average Greek is not just a cause for celebration but a form of psychotherapy too – a provider of renewed hope. I hope this makes sense. For what it’s worth, this is the best way I can share it with you, what Easter is to a Greek!

And with this, I bid you adieu, wishing you a wonderful Easter no matter where you are and how you plan to celebrate.

Please note: if you ever plan to visit Greece for Easter, do check online for the date of Orthodox Easter first. It coincides with Easter in the rest of the world only once in a few years!

 

And now, I am off to my kitchen to make Easter cookies. Holy week is a busy one for Greek housewives. Thankfully, I’ve already dyed the Easter eggs! I make mine with red onion leaves and curry to avoid those nasty chemicals. See how I prepare them here

Kali Anastasi & Happy Easter!

 

 

Do you love Corfu?

Make sure to check out my FREE online guide if you plan to visit the island. It’s unmissable!

 

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Book Review: Kilty as Charged by Amy Vansant

I love the Outlander series as much as the next gal, so when I heard Amy Vansant wrote about a time-traveling highlander I felt compelled to read this book. Having read all her other novels I trusted her wicked humor would guarantee a lot of laughs and, indeed, this book did not disappoint. The romance was tantalizing enough to keep me turning the pages and the fantasy elements were delightful as is always the case with Vansant’s stories but, once again, I enjoyed the humor more than anything else. This is where this author truly excels and stands out! The protagonist’s Scottish accent had me giggling throughout – so spot on – and I felt compelled to read his lines out loud just to enhance my enjoyment further. His lack of understanding of vehicles and mobile phones had me howling in particular! A highly entertaining story you’ll want to read again and again! I highly recommend it!

 

My rating:

5-stars

A highly entertaining story you’ll want to read again and again!

 

Do you drool over muscly lads in fiction? Do you enjoy time-travel or humorous romance? Look no further! This book was written for you!

VISIT AMAZON  US   UK

 

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