January 19, 2019
Why is understanding culture important?
If you take away all the national pride, political agendas, and religious (not spiritual) dogmas, you have the core of who we are. Not that these ideals are wrong when properly understood and implemented, but they can promote so much hate and antagonism by extremists that they really don’t define who we are as individuals or as a community.
Think of all the wars started on the premise of each of those three ideologies.
Learning about cultural diversity can be such a wonderful adventure. The common experiences that people share influence their perception of the world and consequently how they behave with each other and those outside their community.
Learn about other cultures
Since we live in a world without borders, maybe you can go outside your comfort zones by learning about different cultures!
I write about Bulgarian mythology, folklore and cuisine, so I can offer a few ideas for the summer.
Dine at an ethnic restaurant
I’m sure your first idea is to dine at an ethnic restaurant and this is perfectly fine, we all love food. This is your chance to expand your palate! See if there are any ethnic restaurants nearby that you’ve never been to. If you can’t find a Bulgarian restaurant, you can prepare your own ethnic Bulgarian meal.
My favorite is called banitsa, but since it’s summer, I think you need to try my other favorite for the summer: Zucchini with yogurt-dill sauce
Also yogurt is a known Bulgarian specialty, healthy and tasty.
Visit Maria’s Kitchen to explore more recipes and learn about different Bulgarian and Mediterranean dishes; try the taste of Bulgaria and the Balkans. To discover more recipes, you can get a copy of my book: Mediterranean and Bulgarian Cuisine: 12 Easy Traditional Favorites.
Experience ethnic music and dance
There are plenty of ways to learn more about music in other countries. Here are some suggestions:
- Sign up for a dance class to learn flamenco (Spain), polka (Scandinavia), or the jig (Scotland or Ireland)
- Attend a concert or music festival that showcases music from different parts of the world
- Check out CDs of ethnic music at the library
Bulgarian Music and dance
Bulgarian folk music and dance are quite different from what Americans are used to. Dances are performed by men and women in lines or circles (horo).
I’m sure you’ve heard about some in the movie 300 (Message for the Queen) and other Hollywood movies.
“Go down, go down, bright sunshine
Go down, hide your light
Mourn for your leafs, you forest”
To learn more check my article on Bulgarian Music and Dance.
In my book Light Love Rituals, you can learn more about the Horo and also when the dance is performed.
Learn about your heritage
Doing a little genealogical research with your family allows you to spend time together and reach out to distant family members. Creating a family record is a pursuit you can work on for a long time, and you never know what you might discover!
Even if your heritage is not Bulgarian, maybe you have a friend who is and you want to learn more. Visit my blog or my author page where you can find different books inspired by the rich Bulgarian traditions and mythology.
You can see all my books and the various retails to purchase them from here: Ronesa’s Books.
My latest book, The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village, is a good summer read to travel to the mystical world in Zmeykovo (Dragon Village) and also learn about different mythological creatures.
Learn about Mythology and Folklore of other cultures while making crafts
Bulgarians celebrate name days, birthdays and they observe and practice many more rituals and traditions. In my Baba Treasure Chest series, I’ve described some of them.
My favorite tradition is making a Martenitsa, the white and red amulet of friendship. In the short story The Miracle Stork, I have activities and also steps on how to make your own.
If you’re traveling, some of my book are available on Audible, a perfect way to entertain the entire family until you get to your final destination. You can have an awesome trip while learning about another culture.
Coloring Books for the entire family
Coloring can reduce stress and be fun for the whole family! When you’re coloring, you’re not checking your smart phone, flipping channels or tweeting. In addition, my coloring books (Mermaids Around the World and More Mermaids Around the World) can help you learn more than 50 different mermaid legends.
Do you know any other ways to learn about different cultures?
Earlier this year, in partnership with authors Ronesa Aveela and Denise McCabe, I created Mom’s Favorite Reads, one of the highlights of my publishing year.
What is Mom’s Favorite Reads?
*It’s a community of book lovers
* A monthly magazine featuring some of the biggest names in the entertainment world alongside the best in modern publishing
*A book catalogue containing over 400 books, including many bestsellers and award-winners
*A website with dedicated author pages
*A reading group where readers can discover new authors
*A partner to major businessness including The Fussy Librarian and chess.com
* A fun way to promote books with items like our Advent Calendar and nominations to the Apple News Channel
* A community to support literacy amongst adults and children
This weekend, we published our December magazine. The magazine is available from all major retail platforms, including Amazon. You can also read the magazine, for free…
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December 14, 2018
Did you know St. Nick (more formerly known as Saint Nicholas or Saint Nikolas) had a name day? This is not the Santa Claus version you are familiar with, but the saint from long ago.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “name day,” it’s a festivity like a birthday, but is more popular than a birthday. Each day of the year has several related names assigned to it.
The name day in his honor, Nikulden (Никулден, St. Nicholas’ Day), is celebrated on December 6. What many people know him for is his reputation for giving gifts. The most famous story about this was that he secretly threw three purses of gold coins through the window of the house of a poor man who had three unmarried daughters. In those days, women needed a dowry to marry. Without one and with not much hope of obtaining employment sufficient to live on, most poor women ended up as prostitutes. Thus, from this generous act, Santa Claus came into existence.
Less known is the fact that St. Nicholas is the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. Since the eastern side of Bulgaria borders the Black Sea, this is an important holiday for Bulgarians. As a sign of respect to the saint, men don’t go out on the sea.
A fish — in particular the carp — is an important part of celebrations in his honor. It is called the servant of St. Nicholas and is considered sacred because a bone inside its head is shaped like a cross. The bone is often used as an amulet, sewn inside the hat of a newborn, to protect the infant.
Bread is the center of the Christmas feast. It has a coin or fortunes hidden inside. Whoever finds the coin inside his bread is certain to have luck throughout the year.
This tradition is incorporated into my children’s short story and coloring/activity book, The Christmas Thief, where a seven-year-old boy named Christopher is determined he’s going to catch the Winter Monster who steals food from his family’s porch every Christmas. What he discovers instead is the meaning of sharing.
Go to The Christmas Thief page to find more information about the book.
November 12, 2018
New Release Spotlight
Past & Present: A Marketville Mystery #2
By Judy Penz Sheluk
Release Date: September 21, 2018 Trade Paperback and Kindle
Pre-order Kindle on Amazon for special introductory price of $2.99 (reg. $5.99)
Buy link: Kindle
About the book
Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…
It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?
Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.
It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted.
Early Praise for Past & Present
“Psychological realizations and self-inspection are an exquisite touch to this story that keeps readers not only engaged, but completely cognizant of the forces that motivate families, murderers, and investigators alike… The result is a tense, emotionally gripping, multifaceted mystery that serves both as a perfect continuation of Callie’s life story and as a fine stand-alone read for newcomers.” — Diane Donovan, Senior Book Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“A well-crafted story that keeps readers engaged as history blends into the present.” — Debra H. Goldstein, award-winning author of the Sarah Blair mystery series
“Sheluk nails it with this intriguing mystery that stitches together an investigation into the past with people’s lives in the present—including that of protagonist Callie Barnstable. Treat yourself to a new present-day read—you won’t be disappointed.” — Edith Maxwell, author of the Agatha-nominated Quaker Midwife Mysteries
“An intriguing small-town mystery populated by engaging characters you want to spend time getting to know. Ocean liners, immigration, and family ties; the past is always present—an idea Ms. Sheluk explores to great effect.” — Micki Browning, Agatha-nominated author of The Mer Cavallo mystery series
“An engaging journey into the past that ripples into the present. Sheluk’s well-written narrative and clever banter follows protagonist Callie Barnstable as she seeks answers for a client; each photo, memorabilia, and news article reveals an intriguing picture of love, family secrets…and murder. A top-notch mystery that keeps you guessing to the end.”— Kings River Life Magazine
About the author
Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short stories appear in several collections.
Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime – Guppies, Sisters in Crime – Toronto, International Thriller Writers, Inc., the South Simcoe Arts Council, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors, representing Toronto/Southwestern Ontario.
Find her at www.judypenzsheluk.com.
October 7, 2018
Dear friends, readers and fans, I would like to present to you an interesting project, the film “Samodiva.” I had the pleasure of meeting the talented Olga Docheva and Nikol Kostova, who are behind this project, and I wanted to share with you more information about it.
(Bulgarian version below)
How was the idea for the script and the movie “Samodiva” born?
The original idea of a “samodivi” film was born in 2016 when I was taking a script-writing course at the New York Film Academy led by Golan Ramras. Of course, the initial idea had nothing to do with the current version; the only thing that is the same is the “samodivi”. From the first version of this idea, we attempted with my colleague Nicol Kostova around five or six different variations until we reached the final story we are working on now. When we met Nicole, she liked the idea very much, and we began to develop a new story together, keeping some of the characters enriched, but some of them drastically changed.
How did you select the team?
The vast majority of the ship’s crew, “Samodiva,” as I like to call it, has come naturally. There were people who were enthusiastic at first and then dropped out, and those who had joined at the last moment took off like jet engines and became part of the group.
The selection was a cosmic feeling, as we say; it attracted the right people at the right time, and this is an indisputable fact that our experience showed us. We are far from believing that we did it on our own; with a clear purpose and being proactive, we moved toward our objective. Enough on that subject. There are enough literature and videos available for anyone auditioning who wonders how to be selected. For those who don’t believe this, I can only say that if they want a break, they have to reach out and grab what they want in life.
Which actors did you choose and how did you find them?
The Samodivi were chosen first by their appearance, because we had predetermined what they should look like. For the main female roles (as well as males), we had auditions and we knew in advance which Bulgarian actors would fit them best. What’s intriguing is that long before we knew we could get in touch with some actors, they appeared after our initial wish. One of them is Stefania Kocheva, whom it is an exceptional privilege and joy to work with. She is a true incarnation of a Samodiva.
We also work with Ralitsa Stoyanova; her character is Magda, the most powerful and terrible Samodiva, both beautiful and magnetic, but she veers away from your typical exotic beauty. Of course, the skills of the professionals were taken into account for each of the cast; they are actors, not mannequins. We all had the pleasure of working on the Meisner technique during rehearsals.
Why exactly did you choose “Samodivi” for the main characters in your movie?
Because we want to bring out folk mythical beings and started with the samodivi; because they are beautiful, fabulous and unseen on the big screen. The Samodivi themselves wished and allowed themselves to be shown. It’s time for them.
How did you come up with the idea for the script and the film Samodiva?
In the early autumn of 2017, Olga and Nicole met; perhaps this meeting was fateful and predestined. We created a magical and fabulous story based on the idea of preserving nature and how each person can believe in his abilities.We have been pondering, prodding, and digging into myths, legends, and tales to build our insights into the samodivi and how they rescue nature from pollution and external influences.
In fact, she was joking about the whole story – Olga often traveled to London, and from there she discovered more and more interesting stories.
Along with Olga, we decided that this is history and this is a movie that can touch both children and adults as an unforgettable adventure. Of course, its very creation is a much bigger adventure in which we both believe we will succeed. And here we gathered a team of friends of professionals and actors with whom we rehearsed and conceived a proof of concept in a few shooting days, and the magic happened.
Who is the designer of the costumes?
The costume designer is our wonderful designer Velina Kokalova, who has been a stage designer for 10 years and who graduated from the National Academy of Arts and then photography. She participated in many performances in our theaters, in our well-known Bulgarian feature films from the big screen as well as abroad, constructed and created costumes and decorations as well as a poster design.
For a very short period of time, Velina made ten suits, entirely inspired by fairy tales and folklore, to ride the vision of the samodiva. Our other designer is Nikolay Gerata – he designed a concept for the boys’ vision. Nikolay Geranliev – Gerata, is engaged in hip-hop music and clothing.
Which actors did you choose and how did you find them?
Each of the actors did not happen accidentally in our project. We held an audition for the boys; we watched we discussed and we decided that Todor Berov is best suited for the character of Damien, typical and curious.
Kiril Nedkov was Jay’s best friend Daimian from the university, an explorer who is hungry for adventure. They themselves do not know what awaits them when they go to Jai’s father among the splendid peaks and forests; mystical creatures expect both of them.
Where did you shoot the scenes?
We took pictures first at Pancharevo with only three samodivi, then we had a photo shoot at Krushuna Waterfalls with Stefania Kocheva as Dana and Ioana Dralchev in the role of Sevda.
The proof of concept itself was shot in several locations – Prohodna Cave, more commonly known as God’s eyes, Topolnitsa Dam.
After visiting many lakes and dams, we found Topolnitsa, a magical place surrounded by fabulous flora and fauna and ecosystem. We also shot near the dam the scenes that are in the woods.
What connects you to Samodivi?
The intriguing thing that connects us to Samodivi is freedom and nature. Everyone knows or has heard of the samodivi that kill men, but we do not kill men. The Samodivi are the closest fairy-tale creatures embodying forest beauties in Bulgarian folk tales. Samodivi are the guardians of the forest; both in animal and in human form they communicate with plants, trees, wind, water and fire, all those elements that awaken human freedom.
Thank you, Nikol and Olga. We all wish you good luck with this awesome project, sending powerful message to the world.
Photos are selections from the movie.
The painting is mine. It’s called “Samodivi.” I painted it when I wrote “Mystical Emona,” inspired by the legends of the Samodivi and their dangerous charm. As you know, all my books are inspired by Bulgarian legends and myths. They help us understand the world around us.
Mystical Emona: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M9FEYF6
Please share and support this unique project with friends and other admirers.
Support Samodiva Movie:https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/samodiva-fantasy-movie-development-stage
Ronesa Aveela (aka Nelly Toncheva and Rebecca Carter)
Ronesa Aveela Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Ronesa-Aveela/e/B00N02ZS20
Самодивите – дърветата, вятъра, водата и огъня, всички онези стихии които будят свободата у човека
Скъпи приятели, читатели и почитатели с удоволствие искам да ви представя един интерес проект, филмът “Самодива”.
Имах удоволствието да се запозная с талантливите Олга Дочева и Никол Костова който стоят зад този проект и да споделя с вас повече информация.
Как дойде идеята за сценария и филмът “Самодива”?
Първоначалната идея за филм за самодиви се роди през 2016, когато бях на курс за сценарийно писане при преподавателя от Ню Йорк Филм Академи – Голан Рамраз. Разбира се, тогава историята нямаше нищо общо със сегашната й версия, единственото което е същото са самодивите. От първата версия на тази идея преминахме заедно с колежката ми Никол Костова през пет-шест различни варианта, докато достигнахме до финалната история по която работим. Когато се срещнахме с Никол темата за ‚Самодива‘ сякаш си дойде сама. Тя много хареса идеята и започнахме да развиваме заедно една нова история, като запазихме някои от персонажите, обогатени рабира се, а някои от тях коренно променени.
Как подбрахте екипа ?
По-голямата част от екипажа на кораба ‚Самодива‘, както аз харесвам да го наричам, си дойде някак естествено. Имаше хора които много искаха в началото и после отпаднаха, и такива които се включиха в последния момент като реактивни двигатели и станаха част от цялото.
Избора беше на космическо усещане, както ние казваме, има реално привличане на точните хора на точното време и това е неоспорим факт, за който опита ни говори. Далеч сме от идеята, че става от само-себе си единствено, става с ясно намерение и проактивни действия в посока на намерението. Толкоз по темата. Има достатъчно литература и видео материали в пространството на варианти за всички онези, които четат тези редове и се чудят ‚как?‘, а за онези които не вярват – мога само да кажа, че това им е основната и вероятно единствената спирачка да не осъщесвят това което желаят.
Кои актьори избрахте и как ги намерихте?
Самодивите ги избрахме първоначално по визуални характеристики, тъй като образите, които пресъздават са предопределени от преди нас. За главните женски роли (също както и мъжки) си имахме кастинги и предварително знаехме кои от българските актьори биха се вписали по най-добрия начин. Интресното е, че много преди да знаем, че ще успеем да се свържем с дадени актьори, те присъстваха в първите ни желания. Една от тях е Стефания Кочева, с което е изключителна привилегия и радост да се работи. Тя е едно истинско превъплъщение на самодива. Работим и с Ралица Стоянова, която на първо четене не е типичната ‚самодива‘ във визуално описание, но персонажа й – Магда – най-властната и страшна самодива, същевременно красива и магнетична, предполагаше да излезем от типизирания образ и да изберем по-скоро екзотична хубост. Разбира се акьорските умения бяха взети под внимание за всеки един от каста, все пак това са актьори, а не манекени. С всички имахме удовослвието да работим по техниката Майзнер, по време на репетиции.
Защо точно самодиви избрахте за герои във филма?
Защото искаме да изкараме на яве фолклорни митични същества и започнахме от самодивите; защото са красиви, приказни и невидяни на големия екран. Самите самодиви пожелаха и позволиха да бъдат показани. Време им е.
Как дойде идеята за сценария и филмът Самодива?
През ранната есен на 2017 Олга и Никол работиха и се срещнаха в един и същи магичен проект, може би тази среща е била съдбовна и предопределена – започнахме да излизаме редовно и да си говорим за проекти, обикаляхме различни горски места и Олга сподели че има започнат сценарий за самодиви. При което аз реагирах уау самодиви и така започнахме неспирно и с цялото си вдъхновение създадохме една магична и приказна история крепяща се на идея за опазване на природата и как всеки човек може да повярва в способностите си. Дълго размишлявахме, копаехме и се ровехме в митове, легенди и приказки за да надградим представите ни за самодивите и как те спасяват природата от замърсяванията и външните влияния. Всъщност малко тръгна на майтап цялата история- Олга пътуваше често до Лондон и от там докарваше все по-интересни истории.
С Олга решихме че това е историята и това е филма който може да докосне и деца и възрастни като едно незабравимо приключение. Разбира се самото му създаване е много по-голямо приключение в което и двете вярваме, че успяваме. И ето ни събрахме екип от приятели професионалисти и актьори с който репетирахме и съсздадохме Proof of concept в няколко снимачни дни, и се случи магията.
Кой е дизайнер на костюмите?
Дизайнер на костюмите е нашата прекрасна сценографка Велина Кокалова сценограф от 10 години завършва Националната художествена академия и след това фотография.Участва в много представления в театрите ни, в наши познати български пълнометражни филми от големия екран както и в чужбина, конструирала и създавала костюми и декори както и дизайн на плакати. Велина за много кратък период от време изготви десет костюма, изцяло вдъхновени от приказките и фолклора за да съсзде визията на самодивите.
Другият ни дизайнер е Николай Герата – той ни изготви концепция за визията на момчетата. Николай Геранлиев – Герата, се занимава с хип-хоп музика и облекло.
Кои актьори избрахте и как ги намерихте?
Всеки от актьорите не е попаднал случайно в нашия проект, направихме кастинг за момчетата, гледахме обсъждахме и решихме че Тодор Беров най-добре се вписва в персонажа на Деймиян, типичен и любопитен. Кирил Недков в ролята на Джай най-добрият приятел на Деймиян от университета, авантюрист който жаднее за приключения. Те самите незнаят какво ги очаква когато отиват при бащата на Джай сред прекрасните върхове и гори, мистичните същества ги очакват и двамата.
Къде направихте снимките?
Снимките направихме като за начален старт бяхя на Панчарево, само с три самодиви, след това направихме фотосесия на Крушунските водопади заедно със Стефания Кочева в ролята на Дана и Йоана Дралчев в ролята на Севда.
Самият Proof of Concept заснехме на няколко локации – Пещера Проходна или по-позната като Божиите очи, язовир Тополница, след многото огледи на езера и язовири попаднахме на Тополница, едно магично място обградено от приказна флора и фауна и екосистема. Снимахме и близо до язовира сцените които са в гората.
Какво ви свързва със самодивите?
Интересното което ни свързва със самодивите е свободата и природата, всеки знае или е чувал за самодивите, че убиват мъже е ние не убиваме мъже. Самодивите са най-близките приказни същества олицетворяващи горските красавици в българските народни приказки. Самодивите са пазителките на гората, както в животинска така и в човешка форма те общуват с растениятя, дърветата, вятъра, водата и огъня, всички онези стихии които будят свободата у човека.
Снимките са фрагменти от филма.
Картината е моя, казва се “Самодиви”, рисувах я когато писах “Mystical Emona” история вдъхновена от легендите за самодивите и тяхният опасен чар. Както знаете всичките ми книги са вдъхновени от Българските легенди и митове. Една неостаряваща тема, която е неизчерпаем извор на идей.
Mystical Emona: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M9FEYF6
Моля споделете и подкрепете този уникален проект с приятели и други почитатели.
Support Samodiva Movie: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/samodiva-fantasy-movie-development-stage
Ronesa Aveela (aka Nelly Toncheva and Rebecca Carter)
Ronesa Aveela Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Ronesa-Aveela/e/B00N02ZS20
May 28, 2018
I strongly believe that learning about your heritage and preserving your traditions in our own family is a great way to teach our children about the family’s cultural and religious history and adding to their personal identity. Observing, preserving and creating new traditions are ways of honoring our ancestors and also welcoming new members in.
This is the reason a few years ago I started writing books inspired by Bulgarian mythology and folklore, and tales learned from my grandparents in Bulgaria. What better way for the whole family to read, do activities and learn more about their heritage, or learn about another culture?
My latest book, The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village, is not an exception. It’s inspired by the mythological village called Zmeykovo (Dragon Village) where all mystical creatures live. It’s a perfect summer read. As soon as it was published, it became an Amazon #1 New release in Children’s Multicultural Literature.
Amazon Review: “It is a magical adventure story that is steeped in Bulgarian and Slavic myths. This is a book that will appeal to both boys and girls as it is filled with adventure and magic. Many positive messages can also be taken away from this story such as; together you’re stronger and that love is a more powerful force than hate.”
I didn’t forget about summer reading for parents. My novel Mystical Emona, set in Bulgaria, is an inspiring story about love. It takes place in Emona, a small village on the coast of the Black Sea. It’s a place where wild horses have roamed the land since of the time of King Rez and the Thracians. In the novel, Stefan is a widowed artist from Boston, Mass, with a young daughter. He hopes moving to a secluded village on the Black Sea coast will ease his pain, and the wild, untamed beauty of this surrounding will inspire him to take up his art once again. He meets a mysterious woman and his life changes. He is drawn to her by some unknown bond, but cannot give his heart to her fully because his memories refuse to release their hold on him. Then the dreams begin. Some delightful. Others terrifying.