Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 December Reading List

Sycamore Row by John Grisham – I wish I could remember A Time to Kill better so I could evaluate how Grisham’s style has evolved over the years, but too many years have passed and back then I wasn’t giving much consideration to style while reading. 4/5 stars
Ferestrele timpului. Antologie de fictiuni speculative (Windows of Time) edited by Stefan Ghidoveanu – Since one of my stories is included in this anthology, I was very curious to read what the other writers have imagined related to time travel. My favorite stories were written by Adrian Buzdugan, Narcisa Stoica, and Florin Pitea.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – This book frustrated me to no end. First, because the premise is so cool, but the engagement for the reader is lacking big time. Second, whenever I became invested in one storyline, the focus jumped to something else. Instead of making me hurry to read further, I just put the book down, knowing that a large chuck of text that didn’t particularly interested me at the moment followed. 4/5 stars

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Recap

2013 was a year rich in events. Let's start with the writing first.

I wrote 5 short stories, 2 novellas, and almost finished a novel. It might not sound like much, but I think it's better than writing 20+ short stories. To this I'm not adding the dozen of RPG threads and about 50k in critique on CC.

I published:

6 Romanian short stories

one traditionally published Romanian short story collection

one traditionally published Romanian novella (the English edition was self-published in 2012)

3 short stories in Romanian anthologies

one self-published English series, The Impaler Legacy, (3 novellas and 2 short stories)

I have short stories included in 3 upcoming anthologies, and 2 texts commissioned for another two.

So, I debuted with not one but two traditionally published books, which I guess entitles me to officially call myself a writer.

I also received the Encouragement Award from the European Science Fiction Society at Eurocon.

I was interviewed for Suspans.ro, Galileo Online, Argos Magazine, Revista de Suspans.

As far as reading goes, I barely managed to finish 75 books this year. Since getting a Kindle, I've been in a hurry to catch up with my reading, and this isn't really working for me anymore. When I got to the point that I actually felt guilty for not reading for several days in a row, I realized something wasn't right. Reading is supposed to be fun and not add even more stress to your daily life. From now on, I'm determined to enjoy what I'm reading and not worry about the length of my to-be-read list.

Health was no better or worse than usual despite the unusual, cold summer.

Part of the highlights of the year was the two week vacation spent in Croatia and organized by yours truly.

Oh, and we got a new kitten, which meant we had to get a tiny Christmas tree in fear that she might ruin it. Both the kitten and the tree are fine. :)

See you next year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

The tiniest tree in the whole Visan family's history, but the little guy is full of life and light.

Merry Christmas!
Best Wishes for 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Self-publishing in 2013


At the end of 2012, I wrote a series of posts about my six-month experience as a self-published writer. Now it’s time to share what I learned during the past year so prepare yourselves for a long post.

For those who don’t know me, I write English ebooks in the sci fi and fantasy genre – only novellas and short stories for now but there will be a novel soon too. I publish through Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) and Smashwords (it also delivers to Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, and a few others; they recently added Oyster and Scribd to the list too.) My ebooks are DRM-free, and I don’t do KDP Select. I ven’t bothered with printed books based on the consideration that novellas don’t sell that well.

Last year, I published two titles: Human Instincts (an apocalyptic novella), and Blue Moon Café Series: Where Shifters Meet for Drinks (a paranormal short story collection). This year, the focus was on publishing the entire The Impaler Legacy series:
- The Impaler’s Revenge (The Impaler Legacy #1) in April – novella
- Sweet Surrender (The Impaler Legacy #1.5) in April – short story
- A Victory that Counts (The Impaler Legacy #2) in August – novella
- Casualties of War (The Impaler Legacy #2.5) in August – short story
- Order Restored (The Impaler Legacy #3) in December – novella


The biggest part of The Impaler’s Revenge was written in December 2012. I continued writing the rest of the series in the spring of 2013 with a few breaks in between a couple of short stories written for magazines and various anthologies. At the end of June, I had the final draft of Order Restored done.

The editing went well and felt less rushed. I tried both sending bigger and smaller chunks of text to the editors, and the total amount of time seemed to be about the same. I lost some editors on the way, and while some were already starting to work on Order Restored, a few were still stuck on The Impaler’s Revenge. What I learned is that after the editing is done and before publishing, it’s still worth going through the entire manuscript once just in case.


Initially, The Impaler’s Revenge was planned for March, but I had to postpone it because my traditionally published Romanian short story collection Efectul de nautil came out and I didn’t think I could handle two book releases in the same month. Then I had to move the release of A Victory that Counts towards the end of August because of my vacation. After the experience with the Blue Moon Café Series from last December, instead of releasing Order Restored closer to Christmas, I did it in the beginning of the month. Everything worked all right in the end, but this is why I don’t advertise an exact release date months in advance.

One issue I hadn’t expected was that, unlike Goodreads, Amazon and Smashwords only accept integer numbers for the book order in the series. This kind of diverted my plans so I decided to host the short stories on my website since I wanted them to be free anyway. This caused another problem as it turned out several readers didn’t know where to find them. I usually go to the author’s website if I need information about the books, but apparently not everyone thinks like me. In the end, I had both Sweet Surrender and Casualties of War published on Amazon and Smashwords without a number in October.

This gave me the opportunity to figure out how free titles work on Amazon. First, there’s no option to make an ebook free. You need to have lower price reported by several customers and then wait for Amazon to catch up and match the price. I did that for Sweet Surrender. It shot up into Top 100 in the vampires category for free ebooks and stayed there for a while. I promoted the heck out of it on Twitter, Facebook, and any site for free books I could find, and the result was 500 downloads in a month which I find an okay number since it’s a short story and not the first in the series. After that I was busy with the release of Order Restored and did no promotion at all for Sweet Surrender, and it still got 100 downloads in three weeks. Granted, most of them are compulsive buys and will probably never be read, but I did notice a spike in The Impaler Legacy series sales while Sweet Surrender was in Top 100 so it’s something worth remembering in the future.


I came to the conclusion that reviews help sales best. After The Impaler’s Revenge came out, the readers’ opinions were split. I knew it would be a tough sale because the market was already saturated with vampire stories, but I was counting on the unique take on the vampire myth. It turned out I was wrong on both accounts. When they hear about vampires, it seems people expect either YA or erotica, and then they’re disappointed when they discover my books are neither.

A book blogger described the first book in the series as “a political thriller with vampires”, and I think the description fits it perfectly. The second book focuses on action, while the third one is more character centric instead of going global like most second sequels tend to do.

Another popular complaint I got was that the books are too short. Well, they’re novellas and clearly labeled as such in the book description so those readers haven’t bothered reading it or forgot all about it by the time they started reading the book. Besides, there’s just as much information you can cram in a 35k book.

Two good things came out of this. No less than 4 star reviews came from readers who actually bought the books, which means all of the 3 star reviews were written by people I have personally contacted and offered them a free copy in exchange of a honest review. It stands to reason that those people wouldn’t have bought them in the first place, but it’s hard to say no to a free book. The less than stellar reviews helped trim down readers, helping them decide whether the books are for them or not, so after a while only 4 and 5 star reviews showed up.

In order to get some of those most needed reviews, I contacted people who had already reviewed some of my books, but many other book bloggers too. I offered the first book in the series, and if the review were favorable, I would offer the next book too. Several Goodreads groups were very helpful with this. I also tried to offer them on Tomson, but I was less pleased with the quality of the reviews received. After each release, I did a giveaway on LibraryThing. It’s hard to say how many of the winners read the book, but at least it got the word out.

For Order Restored, I ran a giveaway on 20 book blogs for a week and received over 1200 entries. I wasn’t expecting such a high number, especially since it was the third book in the series, and I regretted I hadn’t offered more copies. The amount of time put into organizing the giveaway was almost as high as for a blog tour, I reckon, so I’ll think twice before doing it again.

What else helps selling books? I have no data showing that Twitter ads do. In fact, I think they don’t. Spamming Facebook groups works best for free ebooks and only moderately so for $0.99 priced ebooks. Facebook fan pages are a bust since most posta don’t reach over 200 people, and if they include links they’re barely seen by a handful. I’m almost tempted to start friending people with my personal profile, but I’d rather not bore my friends and family with book related posts.

I haven’t tried any paid advertisement. I wouldn’t know where to start, and the books aren’t making enough money to afford that. And, honestly, I’d rather write instead. At the end of the day/year, when I did the math, it turned out that my best seller is Blue Moon Café Series and I did no promotion for it at all. Shrug.

January, August, and November had the most sales. Amazon is leading the pack, followed in the distance by Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Smashwords, with Sony and Kobo far behind.

Aside from publishing and obviously writing, I’m also offering ebookformatting services for indie writers and started a book blog where I plan to spotlight indie books.

So now the entire The Impaler Legacy series is out, and I’m working on the Broken People series.

That’s about all for this year, let’s see what the next year will bring!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Impaler Legacy Reviews

A whole bunch of new reviews has appeared now that The Impaler Legacy series is complete. It makes me so happy to see that those who decided to stick with it weren't disappointed in the end.

The Impaler's Revenge (The Impaler Legacy, #1)

Back stories slowly and naturally unfold to fill in the details of the characters’ lives. I thought the plot was a fresh take on the “vampires among us” theme, interesting and entertaining. The author brings out a different telling of the history of Vlad Tepes. I found myself liking the main characters and at the conclusion of this story I wanted to know more about them and what was going to happen to them. -  Karen 

I like that the female lead, Liana, can take care of and defend herself to some extend. She isn't weak and needy, like some female leads too often are. I like Max a lot, and wish there had been more of him. - Portia

The story line that started from the first page continued at a great pace, with a mastered skill of under current story lines, Ms. Visan threw some curveballs that I didn't see coming, which shocked the crap out of me. The biggest one was just before this novel ended, and it left me saying "WTH?!? You can't leave me hanging like that!!" -  Renee

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a more “grown up” type of Vampire book. Anyone who enjoys a good book with political twist and the added benefit of having Vampires involved would enjoy this book. - Melanie 

Sweet Surrender (The Impaler Legacy, #1.5)  

I really liked the story, because it captures the first moments between Liana and Jesse and his love confession. At first, I was skeptical about this character and I did not appreciate him as much as I do now, but he turned out to be a great and mature guy who would not hesitate to risk his life to take care of the persons he loves, even skipping the fact that he hates vampires. The bond that encloses both makes them more human, more sensitive, in a world where the thirst for blood and power is ready to conquer all. Also, together are stronger, but are they strong enough?  - Diana

It tells the heartwarming story of the romance between Liana and Jesse. It's a nice short story great for reading in a waiting room or anytime you have an hour free. Tracy

A Victory that Counts (The Impaler Legacy, #2)  

This was a great continuation of The Impaler Legacy. I really enjoyed the interactions between the characters. I was frustrated by Liana and Jesse's interactions. I felt that they seemed to be drifting apart. I was definitely intrigued by the New Breeds. I wanted to know who was creating them and for what purpose. The warlike setting was interesting, and the torture scene was not for the faint of heart. Overall, this was a great book. It was easy to read and well written. -  Tracy

I love the parallel worlds in this series, where humans coexist with vampires. And I love the introduction of a third vampire species in this book--a new, super-enhanced vampire. But after the first book I was anticipating more romance between characters--more passion and angst--which seemed like a natural progression. Instead, the love scenes were behind closed doors, leaving me wanting more. -  Kelli

Casualties of War (The Impaler Legacy, #2.5)  

You MUST read this story before you start the third part of the series, Order Restored, because it contains precious, vital information to understand the plot. I loved this one very much, despite the bad news I encountered about my favorite characters. This is the moment when the stakes are highest and every decision can make them win or lose the battle.  - Diana

Again it is a wonderful short story, just right for an hour of reading. It keeps your attention and is well written. It has a cliffhanger that leaves you craving more. I can't wait for the next book. - Tracy
Order Restored (The Impaler Legacy, #3)  

I loved this book. Again I really enjoyed the interactions of the characters. The twists and turns this book took me on were astounding. I wasn’t sure which side Max would end up on in the end or if Liana would betray Max to save Jesse. Would Liana even be able to save Jesse? This was a great book that was well written, easy to read, and had just the right amount of action and romance. - Tracy

As a conclusion, I really enjoyed Ioana Visan's fantasy series, an original story about vampires, with attractive characters and thrilling action. I was hooked from the first pages, due to the author's writing style and the way she created this unique universe that appears so real for the readers. - Diana  

More reviews can be found on Goodreads and Amazon, but, of course, I could always use more. So if you want to make me a great Christmas present, write a review of one of my books. :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Impaler Legacy Various Download Links

Major ebook retailers have updated their catalogs so you can find below the download links for the most recent titles in The Impaler Legacy series.

Sweet Surrender (The Impaler Legacy #1.5)
Amazon (US, UK, FR, DE, IT, ES, CA, JP, IN, BR, MX, AU)
Barnes & Noble

Casualties of War (The Impaler Legacy #2.5)
Amazon (US, UK, FR, DE, IT, ES, CA, JP, IN, BR, MX, AU)
Barnes & Noble

Order Restored (The Impaler Legacy #3)
Amazon (US, UK, FR, DE, IT, ES, CA, JP, IN, BR, MX, AU)
Barnes & Noble

Friday, December 13, 2013

Short Stories on ReadWave

I've been on ReadWave before, but since the last time I checked in the summer the rules have changed. It turns out only short stories under 800 words get featured on the main page so this week I posted three shorts that were just lying around on my pc. So far the feedback is good, though not as many reads as expected. You can find them here:


Blogger Extraordinaire

For the Love of a Man

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Impaler's Revenge Giveaway

The Order Restored giveaway is going to end in a few hours, but because Christmas is coming, I'm feeling generous so you might like to check LibraryThing for a chance to win The Impaler's Revenge, the first installment in The Impaler Legacy series. There are several copies available, and the giveaway ends on December 25.

Also, this is the last week you can get Order Restored for only $0.99 on Amazon. On Monday, the price goes back up to $2.99. Just saying.

P.S. If you read any of them, please leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Thanks.

Monday, December 9, 2013


This year, RomCon, the Romanian sci fi and fantasy convention, is taking place in Iasi, between 13th and 15th of December. The program of the convention can be found here.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Order Restored Giveaway

Have you been good this year? Tradition says that on the night of December 5, St. Nicholas comes and leaves presents inside the boots of those kids who have been good all year.

Well, I can't give you all presents, but I can offer 5 ebook copies of Order Restored (The Impaler Legacy #3) in a giveaway that starts today and ends on December 12.

There are several ways to score an entry: you can like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, add Order Restored to your to-read shelf on Goodreads, become my fan on Goodreads, subscribe to my newsletter, tweet about the giveaway, and also like and follow the awesome ladies who agreed to host this giveaway on their blogs.

If you can't wait that long, Order Restored has a discounted price of only $0.99 on Amazon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway is also hosted on my site and the following blogs so show them some love!

Monday, December 2, 2013

New Release: Order Restored (The Impaler Legacy #3)

The third novella in The Impaler Legacy series,  Order Restored, is finally here, just in time for the winter holidays. Sorry, but this time you won't get a free bonus story. Maybe some other time.

Oddly enough, Order Restored required no plotting in advance. When I finished writing A Victory that Counts, I only knew the opening scene from the sequel and it was enough. The main goals were to save Jesse, deal with the new breeds, and figure out what to do with Max. If you're reading Order Restored, you'll find out what solutions I came up with. I will miss these characters, but they earned their right to rest. There are other stories waiting to be told. See you in the next book!

Order Restored (The Impaler Legacy #3) is available through Amazon and Smashwords, and soon through other stores too. To celebrate its release, the Amazon price will be lowered to $0.99 between December 2 and 15 so hurry and get it while it's still hot!

The website got a new layout to celebrate the new release so you might like to stop by too.

Romanian Horror and Fantasy Roundtable

Mihai Adascalitei from Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews invited a series of Romanian writers and artists (Raluca Băceanu, Marian Coman, Oliviu Crâznic, Ştefana Cristina Czeller, A.R. Deleanu, Andrei Gaceff, Teodora Gheorghe, Teodora Matei, Cristina Nemerovschi, Claudia Niculescu, Mircea Pricăjan, Radu Romaniuc, George Sauciuc, Cristina Schek, Narcisa Stoica, Ioana Vișan) to talk about the state of Romanian horror and fantasy not only in literature but in culture, in general, as well. I think our answers describe the situation quite accurately so check them out. Oh, by the way, the interview is in English so, hopefully, it will reach a wider audience.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo - post-mortem

At the end of October, I wrote a post about NaNoWriMo and my plans for it. To sum it up, I was planning to write 1,000 words daily in November, including during the weekends.

Now the month of November is over so let's see how it went. Did I reach my goal? Yes. On November 29, I had 31k done so I took the last day of Nano off. :P I didn't write only one Sunday, but I didn't fall behind with the word count because I had already written an extra 1k. The main goal was 30k with hopes to get to 35k. I didn't get to the 35k, but that's okay. The writing flew smoothly with no major roadblocks, even if I only had about half of the plot figured out when I started. 35k was a tentative margin, however, I don't feel like I reached the end yet. There are another two major events that still need to happen in the story so probably another 30k. It turns out it's a novel after all. Oh, well ... I guess the readers will stop complaining about my stories being too short when they expected full novels instead of novellas.

What did I learned? I can do it, obviously, but I already knew that. Will I do it again another time in November? Not a chance! November is the worst month for this as far as I'm concerned, coming in second only after Euros and Worlds. When I decided to do the Nano, I hadn't taken in consideration the fact that the skating Grand Prix events were in full swing and Eurosport planned on airing all of the competitions during the weekends. So in between watching skating on TV and running the AS site, getting the word count done too was pretty stressful. On top of all, my pc monitor broke and for a week I had to work with a borrowed one. Not fun.

But there are some positive aspects too. I have a new story in the works that I hope to finish by the end of the year. I like the characters and the world I created. What I don't like so  much is that I keep getting ideas for sequels. I'll have to do something about that, or I'll get stuck with them for another year. Okay, the truth is I have an idea of how to handle the issue, but I'm not ready to divulge it yet. ;)

So ... plans for December. I'll be busy with promoting Order Restored so I'll try to keep a light schedule: finish the story or get as close to the end as possible, and come up with some kick-ass cover(s) somehow. Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

2013 November Reading List

Well, this is an embarrassingly short list. I blame it on Nano for ruining my social and reading time this month. Besides, the first two books are big and wordy and it took me a week for each just to start on them.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – If someone removed the interludes, this would be a great book. It’s too wordy the way it is now. The Gentleman Bastards are, of course, a hoot! 4/5 stars 

Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks – This one seemed a little uneven, especially in the second part, and the last battle scene is huge, but a fine conclusion in the end. 4/5 stars

Inferno by Dan Brown - I'm half way through it, but while a considerable improvement compared to The Last Symbol, the infodump is huge. I'm basically reading it because the action takes place in Florence, still there's no chance it will get any better from this point forward. 3/5 stars

Friday, November 29, 2013

Mention in Observator cultural

While doing a recap of what happened this year in the Romanian sci fi and fantasy literary world, Catalin Badea-Gheracostea mentions me in his "Observator cultural" column as "the unofficial best debut of the year", mostly thanks to Human Instincts. Well, that's as good as an official title, I guess. Read for yourself here.

The Romanian of Human Instincts edition is available here.

The English of Human Instincts edition is available here (and several other places listed in the right sidebar).

Update: I nearly missed there was a new issue of Helion Online out. In 2014, Catalin Badea-Gheracostea mentions the idea of a bilingual anthology of Romanian hard sci fi and adds my name to a list of important writers. I suddenly feel so popular. :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Free Webhost and Domain Registration

I've been delaying all summer the search for a new free webhost, knowing how frustrating and time consuming it can be. I'm quite happy with Zymic.com (6000 MB space, 50 GB bandwidth), but I already have four websites hosted there and I didn't want to push my luck.

My new discovery is Hostinger.ro. The free plan includes  2000 MB space, 100 GB bandwidth, FTP, PHP, MySQL, and bilingual control panel in both English and Romanian. There's a limit of 20,000 files, but other than that I didn't notice any restriction that might bother me. The upload went fine, and the sites are loading in a reasonable amount of time. I already moved three sites and I'm considering moving other four. It's too soon to tell if the promised uptime is real so I'll keep an eye on that.

For free domain names, I'm using dot.tk. Some keywords are flagged and reserved for the paid subscription, but it's easy to find a combination of words that still works. The maximum free subscription is 12 months, and it can be renewed.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ebook Formatting Services for Indie Writers

I've been a self-published/indie writer for 18 months now, which means I'm in charge with the entire publishing process from the beginning to end. Some tasks I delegate, like editing, but the rest I pretty much do by myself, and this includes manuscript formatting before uploading to various platforms.

After 6 published titles (soon to be 7), it occurred to me that I had enough experience when it comes to ebook formatting and I could offer my services to other writers. Not everyone is ready to tackle everything, especially the technical part, but I never minded that. So after thinking about it for like 5 minutes, I decided to put the idea into practice and came up with this site: http://www.formattingforindies.tk (alternate URL http://ebookformatting.esy.es).

For now, I only offer formatting for Kindle (.mobi). My experience with .epub is restricted to formatting for Smashwords, and while I'm getting better at it, I still feel like it's a bit of a hit and miss at times. So no .epub, but possibly in the future it will be added to the list too. Mobi will do for now, and let's face it, everyone wants to be on Amazon, right?

Take a look at the site, and if you know anyone interested, send them my way. The prices are very low right now compared to what's out there. I'll increase them once I get more clients, so now it's your chance to get your Kindle ebooks formatted for cheap.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

About "Ferestrele timpului"

When I received Mr. Ghidoveanu's invitation to write for his time travel anthology, "Ferestrele timpului", I had recently finished another time travel story for "Calatorii in timp", the SRSFF anthology that ended up being published by Nemira (read more about it here).

After the fun romp in Barcelona's streets, as "Punct the rendez-vous la cota +3000" turned out to be, I felt like writing something different, grittier, and with higher stakes. I had been toying with this idea for a couple of years, ever since reading Cherie Priest's Boneshaker. What if there was a person able to resist a poisonous gas that could kill everyone else? What would he do with his ability, and why was he this way? These are the questions I'm trying to answer in "Daca aerul n-ar avea miros" (If The Air Had No Scent).

Half way through it, I got blocked thinking there wasn't enough time travel in the story. But then I told myself my readers are smarter than that. Believe me, there is plenty of time travel in the story, you just need to pay attention. Oh, and there are also some aliens I had to threaten with selling just to make them behave, tee-hee!

"Ferestrele timpului" (The Windows of Time) was published by Tracus Arte, and the official launch is scheduled for today at Gaudeamus book fair in Bucharest.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gaudeamus 2013

Gaudeamus International Bookfair is taking place in Bucharest this weekend.

The new release that interests me is "Ferestrele timpului", editor Stefan Ghidoveanu, Tracus Arte, November, 2013. It includes my short story "Dacă aerul n-ar avea miros". The official launch is scheduled for Sunday, November 24, 15:00.

As usual, I won't be there, but that doesn't mean you can't go and buy some books. Aside from the one mentioned above, I also recommend you the following:

"Instincte umane", Ioana Visan, Millennium Books, May 2013  
"Efectul de nautil", Ioana Visan, Millennium Books, March 2013
"Călătorii in timp. Antologie de povestiri SF", editor Antuza Genescu, Nemira, March, 2013  
"Zombii: Cartea morţilor vii", editor Mircea Pricăjan, Millennium Books, March, 2013
"Cele 1001 de scorneli ale Mosului SF", editor Stefan Ghidoveanu, Millennium Books, November, 2012
"Venus – povestiri erotice science fiction”, editor Antuza Genescu, Eagle House Publishing, November, 2011
"Steampunk: A doua revoluţie”, editor Adrian Crăciun, Millennium Books, March, 2011
"Dansând pe Marte şi alte povestiri fantastice”, editor Michael Haulică, Millennium Press, November, 2009

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Story: "Nu-mi călca pe Umbră, doar..." and "Ferestrele timpului" News

Some of you might wonder if I still write Romanian short stories now that I seem to be so busy with publishing English ebooks. The short answer is yes. The long answer is a little more complicated.

Almost a year ago, I wrote a short story and submitted it to "Revista de povestiri" (Short Story Magazine - it's a printed magazine or it used to be until recently). The story was accepted for publication, but there was a waiting line since they received many submissions so... I waited. Until last month when they announced the magazine was forced to discontinue its publication because of lack of funds. O-kay. This left me with a cute little story I didn't quite know what to do with. You might be tempted to think that's not a problem since stories don't ask to be fed, but the thing is stories are written to be read.

About the same time, a new on-line fiction magazine was created, Fictiuni.ro run by Eugen Lengel. The first issue looked good, and I was already considering writing something for it when my little story became homeless. Well, it's not homeless anymore. You can read it in issue no. 2, November, 2013, of Fictiuni.ro:

Nu-mi călca pe Umbră, doar…

The issue also includes an article by Stefan Ghidoveanu in which he talks about "Ferestrele timpului" (Windows of Time) and what it takes to make an anthology.

From Mr. Ghidoveanu's blog we find out that "Ferestrele timpului" will be launched at 15:00 on Sunday, November 24, at Gaudeamus book fair in Bucharest.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Order Restored Excerpt

Okay, you know the drill by now. This week, you'll receive the first three chapters of Order Restored (The Impaler Legacy #3).

Max and Liana are back, and they're looking for Jesse. But will they find him? Read and find out.

Monday's chapter is available here.

Wednesday's chapter is available here.

Friday's chapter is available here.

Update: The excerpt is available on ReadWave and Wattpad, but also here in case the links don't work.


 Order Restored 

(The Impaler Legacy #3)


The snow crunched under my boots. The chilly air brought a slow burn inside my lungs with each deep breath I took. Max’s blood had saved my life after taking an arrow in the chest, but the X-rays had revealed the presence of some scar tissue left three days after the incident. As a Little Council member, vampire blood could only do so much for me since my system had been genetically engineered to be vampire blood resistant—in theory at least. Lots of things had turned out to be different from the way the Romanian history books presented them.

I wasn’t complaining. I was becoming an expert in taking shallow breaths. The cold bothered me more, having moved from middle of the New Zealand summer in Hastings to full winter in the Mount Cook Reservation. The ski mask and suit I wore favored easy movement in detriment of thermal comfort. But then again, since being compelled, I was always cold.

“Bella, look for Jesse,” I repeated the command.

The Doberman huffed and shot forward on the narrow trail. Her paws had to be frozen after spending several hours in the snow. It was a big mountain, and so far our patrols had failed to find an entrance to the new breeds’ base. We’d come across more evidence hinting that it was located somewhere in these mountains, but no exact location yet.

According to our plan, Captain Nour remained with the bulk of our army near Christchurch on the South Island, doing his own scouting in the surrounding area. The Cabinet had protested against the so-called invasion, but no one dared mess with ten thousand trained military people of both pandurs and vampires. The local authorities had completely shut up once we reported that, except for the big cities, all of the towns we had come across so far had been found empty, with no signs of massacre on site. Where had all those people gone to? The Cabinet had no idea, so the powers that be washed their hands of the issue and let us handle it.

So here we were, handling it. A thousand men were deployed on location, split into mixed patrols of ten people each, combing the snow in search of an entrance. Armed with explosive arrows, stakes, and yatagans, and having either human or vampire blood for backup, they looked for new breeds—those vicious, bloodthirsty vampires that threatened to overthrow the world order. This was the official version: find the new breeds, especially their makers, and kill them. I was looking for Jesse.

One would think the purpose of a kidnapping was to obtain a ransom, but over a week had passed and we had received no demands. I couldn’t help worrying about it. It wasn’t like we were that hard to find. Had Spânu, still a transitioning new breed, somehow slipped and killed Jesse before taking him to his masters? The mere thought made me shiver inside. On the outside, I remained calm and collected and so damn cold, thanks to Max’s compulsion. I wasn’t going to betray our cause in exchange of Jesse’s life, even if the guilt of losing him would destroy me in the long run. Out of desperation, I had agreed to Max’s plan to let go of my feelings for the British doctor, but it wasn’t like he had given me much choice on the matter. He wouldn’t let me ruin everything just because I happened to be in love with a human.

I glared at the older vampire’s back. Max and Radu walked ahead, leading the way. With both of them being vampires, they didn’t have much to fear from the new breeds, who weren’t as good as our pandurs when it came to fighting. Or it used to be that way. I wasn’t sure where we stood anymore, what with the explosive arrows brought into play. I had seen enough vampires being blown up during the farm’s siege to know that a well-aimed arrow would kill Radu. I also knew that he was willing to take that risk. Dying was easy. Fighting new breeds and defeating them was worth dying for. I disagreed with the dying part, but this was the pandurs’ main philosophy and Radu stuck to it, even after being turned.

Max, however, had a different set of rules, one I didn’t fully understand. I wondered if the arrows might kill him too. For a thousand-year-old vampire, he’d survived my poisonous blood with flying colors, only ending up with a slight discomfort for a couple of hours. Other than staking or beheading, I didn’t know what could kill him. But as the strongest vampire around, we needed him on our side until the war was over. And then … I didn’t know what was going to happen after that. I couldn’t bring myself to think that far.

From my left, Trotuş kept stealing worried glances at me. Since the attack, he’d pulled double duty, both as my guard and my babysitter. What I used to do for Max during his incognito stay in Bucharest, Trotuş was now doing for me, making sure I was okay. It annoyed me a little, mostly because I suspected he also reported to Captain Nour behind my back, but I understood his concern. He should have kept a closer eye on Spânu after he had been turned. The two of them being friends and my guards for years didn’t help. As long as he kept his mouth shut, I let it slide. I needed to focus on the climb on the steep path that had to lead somewhere, though our guide claimed to have no idea where.

Bella returned and pressed her nose against my knees, whining. The guys ahead had stopped, too.

“What is it?” I asked, while the rest of the pandurs and vampires in our small group caught up to us and surrounded us in a loose circle.

“There are barely enough hours of light left to make it back,” Max said. “We should return.”

Radu frowned beside him, and although he didn’t say anything, it hinted at how he felt about it. He would go all night and probably longer than that if it were up to him. Max could have easily matched him step by step, but he also had to think about me. The new breeds wanted me, there was a prize put on my head, and while it would have made more sense to hide somewhere safe, preferably out of the country, we had all agreed this wasn’t the way we did things.

I checked my watch and looked at the sun’s position in the sky. It wasn’t safe for me to be out here in the open, but we still had time. Descending on familiar ground would take less time than going up.

“Let’s get over there first,” I said with the voice of a kid asking for five more minutes of watching TV before bedtime, and I pointed at a small plateau fifty meters ahead of us. “We can take a good look around from up there.”

Max gave a slight nod, as it wasn’t far, and let me go in line with them, already knowing there wasn’t any danger ahead. Of course, Bella got there first. She circled the flat rock, her paws leaving footprints on the fresh snow, and then she looked at me as if asking why we had stopped. You and I both, girl. I sighed, aware that they weren’t going to let me go any farther.

The view was magnificent from above—many snow-covered mountain peaks and no activity below us. I didn’t see the point in going higher than this. The entrance had to be somewhere closer to the ground. It wasn’t practical to have a new breed army squeeze down that narrow path to get to any kind of transportation.

“Okay, I think we can—“ I began to say, but stopped when I noticed Max staring intently into the distance.

What was he looking at? I took a step closer, then another one. The ground gave way underneath my feet.

And I fell.


I groaned and waited for my head to clear. The only move I dared to make was turning my head a little to the right. I was lying on my side with my face half-buried in what felt like frozen snow, and I didn’t want to suffocate, especially not after surviving the fall. The ski suit and mask had protected me some, but my shoulders and hips hurt from being slammed against the hard rock multiple times. I didn’t think I had a concussion as I had fallen feet first and apparently had landed the same way. Where, though, I had no idea. I was surrounded by darkness.

Twitching one limb at a time, I made sure no bones were broken. The left side of my face ached, and the trickle down my cheek could be either blood or melted snow, but other than that I seemed to be fine, enough to attempt rolling on my knees and gingerly pulling myself into a sitting position. Luckily, I didn’t hit the ceiling.

I remembered I had a flashlight in my pocket and pulled it out. The bright spotlight revealed a small cave with a low ceiling, a snow bed on one side and a larger opening on the other. No blood marred the clean snow, so my face had to sport only some bruises. Pointing the flashlight up, I discovered the hole I had fallen through. I remembered sliding into that crack below the edge of the platform before anyone could catch me.

My backpack had gotten lost, its straps breaking upon the first impact with the walls, which had saved me from getting stuck inside the narrow tube. A ventilation shaft? The walls had felt too smooth and too straight during the several meter fall to be a natural occurrence.

“Hello?” I called out with half a voice.

No answer, only the echo that carried my voice farther in the cave. I checked my cell phone but, of course, I had no bars. I was too deep in the mountain for the signal to pass through. And no one was coming after me. All the men left above were too large to fit through that tube. There was no point in waiting for help. I needed to move and get myself out of this mess. That corridor had to go somewhere.

I left the cavern, aiming the flashlight forward, and walked in the corridor. Again, something wasn’t right about the way the walls looked, but I couldn’t quite tell what. I was no speleologist. My source of light prevented me from noticing a faint light coming from the distance. I started when a sensor-activated lantern was automatically turned on, alerted by my approach. I inspected the fixture on the wall from up close and nodded to myself. No wires, so it had to be battery powered and fairly new. Someone had been here recently.

Urging my stomach to settle down from the excitement, I advanced more carefully. If someone had been here, what were the chances of running into that someone, or anyone for that matter? Whoever that one was, my guess was it would wear fangs, and such a meeting I would rather avoid. The fourth lantern was already on, not being sensor activated. I turned off the flashlight to save the battery and pondered. The previous lanterns hadn’t stayed on long enough to get from one to the other, but maybe if one moved faster … yes, definitely a vampire-friendly environment. But why?

I got my answer when the first opening appeared in the wall. In the absence of a door barring the way, I peeked inside. In the faint light given by the two lanterns hung on the opposite sides of the large enclosure, it took me a moment to come to terms with the idea that those hunched shadows sidelining the walls were bodies. Lots of bodies. Dead bodies? They weren’t moving. But then why were they chained with manacles to the walls? I took a step closer. One of them moved and mumbled something.

“What?” I whispered, kneeling by the man.

“Is it time yet?” he murmured without opening his eyes.

Time for what?

“Not again,” another voice moaned not from far.

I shook the man’s shoulders. “Hey, look at me!”

Glassy eyes opened and watched me with equal amounts of fear and … excitement?

“Is it time yet?” he repeated.

Since I didn’t answer, he tilted his head to the right, exposing a badly bruised neck. Ah. He expected a feeding. And because of the ski mask, he couldn’t see I sported no fangs.

“No, not yet.” I pushed him back gently to rest against the rock.

“I thought so.” He sighed.

Well, if he could still tell the time, maybe he was conscious enough to know other things too.

“I’m looking for Dr. Carver,” I said. “Dr. Jesse Carver? Is he around?”

The man just blinked. I took it as a “no”.

“He should be with a newborn new breed called Spânu,” I insisted. “Tall, bald, wears a brown leather jacket … no?”

“She means the one who did that carnage a few days ago,” the second voice made itself heard again.

I turned to the woman slumped a couple of bodies away from us. That sounded like something Spânu would do. “Yes?”

“He’s new around here … the new breeds don’t like him,” she said. “He doesn’t let anyone touch his human—”


“Could be … they don’t understand why he gets to have exclusivity … we’re just … food.” The words came out with difficulty, as if the longer she spoke, the harder it became for her to stay focused.

“How many humans are here?” I asked.

“Hundreds … thousands … more…”

“Many caves … many floors,” the man said, watching me with hooded eyes.

Hundreds of thousands. The bulk of the new breed army was here, and its sheer size made me gasp.

“How many floors?” I asked, needing more information. I couldn’t go in blind.

“Don’t know … at least two more … three if you count them, too.”

Them. The enemy.

“How often do they feed?”

“Twice a day,” he said. “In the morning and then again in the evening … some may think not often enough.”

Addiction. The vampires kept them hooked on new breed venom. Max’s guess had been right. It was addictive, even more than the regular vampire venom.

“What about the guards? Are there any?” I asked, as I still had to encounter one.

“What for?” He raised a manacled hand.

Good point. Chained and weak from the blood loss, they didn’t need any guards. I could move around freely and look for Jesse. I would find him and … then what? I didn’t know what I would do once I found him, but I had to get there first.

I glanced once more around the cavern in search of a familiar blond head. No, he wasn’t here. Could I find him before someone else found me? I had to try. After all, the new breeds expected me to come and try to save him. That was why they had kidnapped him in the first place.

“Are you here to free us?” The woman’s voice brought me to a halt.

“I don’t know yet,” I replied with cold honesty. “I don’t know if I can free all of you. But I will have them all killed in the end,” I promised. That should be enough. Sometimes, it was all you could do.

“You do that.” The man nodded. The woman sobbed a little.

The others didn’t react, being too far gone to care or notice.

I pulled myself up, murmuring, “You won’t be forgotten,” and walked back into the corridor.

Knowing the vampires probably weren’t going to be there in the middle of the day, I dared to move a little faster. I still had a few hours of light ahead of me during which I could explore the caves. I couldn’t waste that opportunity.

Even without a map, it didn’t take me long to figure out the layout of the place. Caverns lay on both sides of the corridor, varying in size, holding forty to sixty people each. Those caves couldn’t all be natural. Mount Cook didn’t have many natural caves documented.

It was going to take forever to check all of the prisoners, so as time passed, I became bolder when I entered each cavern and saw no one standing. “Jesse!”

For the longest time, no one answered. I reached the end of the corridor going downward, and somehow I ended up on the level below. Considering how much we had climbed on the outside of the mountain and compared to the corridors and caverns’ heights, I didn’t think I was on the ground level. But somewhere, there had to be an exit. If there wasn’t enough time to find Jesse, I had to at least find that.

At the second turn of the corridor, a certain entrance caught my eye. This one had a door made of metal bars, though it wasn’t locked. I pushed it open, careful not to make a sound, and looked for new breeds. Again, no guards. Odd. There had to be something special about this cavern. It was the only one with a door.

“Jesse?” I asked quietly.

A groan came from the back of the room. “Oh, God, no…”

I knew that voice.


Everything inside me screamed to run to Jesse, but my body refused to show any sign of excitement. Instead, I took my time getting to his side and bent at the waist to look at him. “Hey…”

Glazed blue eyes squinted at me. “Liana?”

I removed the ski mask so he could see my face. There were many things I wanted to tell him, but still no word left my lips. A marble statue would have been more expressive.

“I knew you’d come…” he said. “You shouldn’t have…”

I fought back a grimace at his welcoming, part of me agreeing with him. But I hadn’t done it on purpose. It had been an accident. We were looking for the entrance to the new breeds’ lair, not for him in particular. At least, that was the official mission.

“How are you?” I asked, kneeling to take a closer look.

Before he could answer, I turned his head around, taking the matter into my hands. There was dried blood on the left side of his head, but no actual wound underneath. I pulled on the collar of his shirt and found the same thing there—dried blood on his neck, but no ugly fang wound.

“I’m fine, considering…” Jesse said.

He wasn’t. I didn’t have to be a doctor to know that. His eyes were unfocused and his forehead was covered in sweat. I removed my glove and touched it. He winced at the contact with my cold hand. His face was burning up. Not good, not good at all.

“They healed you,” I murmured, frowning. Then why did he have a fever? Vampire blood should have taken care of that. What else was wrong with him?

“Yeah, well … they don’t feed us, so they have to do something to keep us alive.” He grimaced with resignation.

No food at all? I was appalled. How long could a human body survive relying only on vampire blood to cover its basic needs? Apparently, long enough. The new breeds weren’t turning them because the blood would be no good for feeding if they did. So they kept the prisoners sedated and half-freezing. The two portable radiators set inside the cave did little to improve the living conditions. It wasn’t as cold as outside, but it was close.

“It’s good to see you,” he said with a weak smile, glassy eyes lingering on my face. I looked away, unable to return the compliment. “What happened to your face?”

Ah, so there was a bruise forming on my cheek. Oh, well, he’d seen me in worse shape.

“I fell,” I deadpanned and pulled on the chains to test their resistance. I had to get him out of here. Those summer clothes he wore failed to keep him warm, and there were no blankets around. Of course, that was the least of our worries. Vampire blood would prevent him from getting pneumonia, but too much biting did much worse. I pulled harder on the chains.

“No use…” Jesse said. “I tried that too, and they’re human-proof.” The blood coating his wrists under the manacles was proof of that.

Maybe, but that looked like ordinary iron, not even steel, and that meant it wasn’t bulletproof. I happened to have a gun with explosive bullets tucked into my belt, so the chains weren’t a problem. I wondered how far the sound of a gunshot would carry in these caves. Who might it alert and how fast was their reaction time? Rather fast, I reckoned.

“What can you tell me about their organization?” I asked, reaching for his wrist to check his pulse. It felt weird to have the roles reversed as he usually did that for me, but I didn’t like the way he looked. His skin was cold and clammy, both from the vampire venom withdrawal and the cold. In fact, he looked worse than the other prisoners, but at least he was awake.

“Not much…” he said. “They dumped me here and pretty much forgot about me.”

Damn it, too slow. I let go of his hand. It fell by his knee on the floor and opened. A fang lay in his palm. I thought I recognized it, though all new breed fangs looked the same. Nature hadn’t been creative when designing them but focused on purpose. They worked well, I knew it firsthand. I winced at the memories of being bitten, and then I winced once more remembering how I took out my frustration on that poor girl while torturing her to get information out of her. I had kept her fangs as a trophy after removing them and threw them at Jesse during a fight. That fang had to belong to Tawny. Where else would he get one?

Jesse’s fingers closed possessively around it, though not fast enough for me not to notice the scratch in his palm. Was he self-medicating? Most fangs still contained drops of venom, so I hoped he was—anything to make himself more comfortable.

“One would expect a little more courtesy for the prince consort.” Jesse put on an ironic smirk. “I didn’t know I signed up for misery and dirt when I got into this,” he went on, rambling. “I was expecting a five star hotel, but they might be saving it for you. They still call you Princess, you know?”

That was irrelevant at the moment. Someday, I would get to the bottom of this, but not today. I had more urgent issues to attend to. Like how to get out of here unnoticed.

“Is Spânu here? Have you seen him around?” The new breed turned pandur had kidnapped Jesse, but maybe, just maybe, the creature he had become hadn’t lost all trace of the fierce loyalty he’d once felt for our cause. Spânu was our only possible ally inside this blasted mountain.

“Oh, I’ve seen him all right…” Jesse rested his head back against the wall, his eyes threatening to close, but he forced them to stay open. “I see him every four hours.” His throat worked, making the sight of the blood on his neck more jarring.

“Four hours? Why would he—” I trailed off.

There was one reason why Spânu would visit him so often. Security wasn’t an issue, therefore it could only mean he came to feed on Jesse. They were getting him addicted. The glassy, unfocused eyes told me that. He was craving his next fix already and hated himself for it. They were turning him into what he hated the most. His sister had died because of that. I wondered if they had any idea what they were doing to him.

“Is he coming alone?” I lowered my voice, considering my options.

“Yeah, usually … why?” Jesse narrowed his eyes. “Don’t even think about it … He’s way faster than you.”

I knew that. I was no match for Spânu’s pandur and vampire skills, but I hadn’t been thinking about killing him, not yet. I intended to at least try to get him on our side first. For this to happen, I needed to be alone with him without outside interference.

“How is he?”

Jesse had to think about it before answering, “A quieter, grumpier version of himself…”

Spânu used to be on the quiet side when working, but I had often heard him joking and being friendly with Trotuş when they weren’t on the job. If he got quieter, he didn’t speak at all.

“He never hurt me…” Jesse murmured then rolled his eyes. “I mean other than feeding on me. He protected me.”

“Yeah, he’s been compelled to protect you,” I said, distracted by some other thoughts. “We figured out that much.”

We…?” He arched an eyebrow. “Where are the others? Are you alone?”

“Yes, I’m alone.” I nodded, aware of how dumb that sounded. “It couldn’t be helped.”

“That’s … not good.” He shook his head. “You should go.”

“I know, but…” I let out a choked laugh. “I don’t know the way out … so you see, I have to wait for Spânu.”

“In that case…” Jesse raised his voice, “You can come in now. She’s not going anywhere!”

I looked back and saw Spânu’s tall frame darkening the entrance. He hesitated at first, but then walked quietly over the rocky floor.

“Let’s get it over with so I can think clearly for a couple of minutes,” Jesse said, the excitement in his voice hard to miss.

Spânu kneeled by his other side, and I looked away so I wouldn’t have to see the double pair of fangs sinking into Jesse’s flesh. Turning my upper body slightly, I arched my left arm. I had a perfect shot at Spânu’s back. If he indulged for too long in the delicacies of human blood, my stake had a good chance of finding his heart.

He didn’t. He pulled back a few seconds later and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. Then he ran his palm along the blade of the yatagan he still carried attached to his belt. Once blood had gathered in his palm, he let it drip on the fresh wound that decorated Jesse’s neck.

Jesse groaned, and his eyes snapped open, suddenly alert.

“You have to get her out of here,” he told Spânu in a commanding voice.

The big man straightened himself up. “Can’t. They want to see her.”

“You can’t take her to them!” Jesse protested loudly, startling a few of the prisoners in his vicinity.

The knot in the pit of my stomach tightened. Finally, I was going to meet with the brains behind this mass murder operation. Max had shared his suspicions and told me a little bit about everyone involved, since they wanted to talk to me and I needed to be prepared, but we had no confirmation that he was right on all accounts.

“It’s all right,” I said, placing a hand on Jesse’s shoulder to keep him calm. “That’s what I’m here for, to negotiate the release of—” I gestured around the place “—all of these people.” And among them, him too.

“Liana…” Jesse’s hand covered mine. “I don’t think it’s worth it. They’re too far gone … you can’t save them.”

It didn’t sound like him at all—this was the venom, pain, and despair talking. He hadn’t been able to save his sister, and now he knew what she had gone through. He was giving up. It had taken them only a week to break him. They had to have known it would have this effect on him. One more thing to make them pay for.

“It doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying,” I said coldly and got up. “Take me to them,” I asked Spânu in a confident voice, as if we were still at home and he was under my command.

“Liana—” Jesse outstretched his arm, but I was already out of his reach.

“Don’t worry, I’ll come back for you.” To anyone listening in, it would sound like I was referring to everyone around. Thank God for the lack of difference between the plural and the singular in the English language. To Jesse, it would mean something else.

“Worry…” He slumped back, but his eyes kept staring at me. “What happened to you?” he asked, and this time he wasn’t talking about my face.

I had hoped he’d miss that, but he knew me too well. He was freezing, and I hadn’t asked Spânu to bring one of the radiators closer to Jesse or give him his jacket, which the new breed didn’t need anyway. I couldn’t fake such indifference in front of Jesse unless something had happened. Well, it had.

“I did what I had to do,” I muttered. I didn’t like what Max had done to me, and I hated the way it made me feel inside. However, given the circumstances, the only way to save Jesse was to set everyone else free.

Jesse nodded in understanding, and it broke my heart to see he still trusted me. My anguish had no outside manifestation, though the idea of leaving him here unprotected was killing me. The compulsion held.

I gave him a small nod and started for the exit. Following my lead, Spânu walked ahead with a steady pace in the corridor. He didn’t fear me, but he did fear something, because he whispered in Romanian, “Don’t try anything.”

Whether he worried about me or them, it was hard to tell. But the cards hadn’t been dealt yet. We could still change something, so I held back a grin.