Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Morning After...

The weather report said snow showers. That was yesterday.  I admit, I had to google that.  What the heck is a snow shower?  I mean I knew what was going on out there, it looked like a small scale blizzard, biting winds that got stronger through the day and a steady pelt of snow that smeared the windows and made it look like there was a white haze between indoors and outdoors.  And on days like this, as all you winter babies know, nothing, not even modern heating systems, completely ward off the chill.

Even the snow kite race event was cancelled.  I figured that as the wind picked up, it would be a bonus for the racers.  Apparently not.   I think that's got to be amazing fun.  Just imagine, snow covered prairie and you attached to a kite that's skipping you across the drifts, launching you briefly into the air and back down.  Or not, I just imagined the potential face plant, or worse...

Anyway, here we are the morning after.  I'm going for my daily dog walk and the sidewalks are plugged with snow.  There are some that have been out early and others that match my schedule and are out blowing snow.  And then there's those that just want to sleep in on Sunday or worship or anything but get the snow off the sidewalk.  So I do the shuffle walk to clear a primitive path for the dog.  And when the drifts get too high, we stop.  I know what this means...with a sigh I pick up forty pounds of winter bundled dog and trudge through drifts deep enough to drown my much shorter companion.  A man drives by, slows, smiles, waves and carries on.  I imagine he thought he might need to be a good samaritan and then realized that we were doing just fine on our own.  Or maybe it's not often that you see a dog with boots and coat being carried through snow drifts.  But hey, when you've reached the grand old age of fourteen you deserve, occasionally, to get the royal treatment.

 A public path blown clear by someone - thanks!
So after our walk or snow slog - there's snow to be cleared, and after that, a path to be dug through the backyard, again for the dog.  Who said dog
ownership was easy?  Then clearing snow off the deck and away from the back door so it doesn't track in and... and...  Winter is definitely a project.  I remember a month ago, Arizona and yard maintenance seemed to mean nothing more than a man showing up with what looked like a leaf blower on his back and blowing the dust off patios.  Now it means, shovelling and shovelling and shovelling again...   And the humidifier is running just like it was down south because despite the snow, it's a dry kind of cold...take my word.

It was a day of cleaning out the yard of the white stuff and clearing out the story of the debris that has had me stuck for too long.  But that's the good thing about these cold winter walks, there aren't many distractions to ones thoughts, the traffic is light and the people outside are busy hurrying to get back in.

Today I'm shutting the door on the cold and the snow, and getting some work done... writing related that is.   And if someone, somewhere is enjoying a bit of sunshine and heat - maybe send just a tad, a pic even - my way.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Michelle Moran and Rebel Queen

From the internationally bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra's Daughter comes REBEL QUEEN, the breathtaking story of Queen Lakshmi - India's Joan of Arc - who against all odds defied the mighty British invasion to defend her beloved kingdom.  

Enter to win a signed copy at the end of this post!

I'm excited to welcome Michelle Moran and her latest book Rebel Queen which is set in India.  As usual, Michelle has done extensive research in the country and has come back with some interesting stories.  I'll let her take it away from here.

With every book I write, I discover something about the culture I'm researching which completely blows me away, often because it's so unusual and something I've never encountered before.  In the case of my book, REBEL QUEEN, set in India during the British invasion, the concept of Janam Kundlis struck a chord with me, particularly since Janam Kundlis very nearly played a role in my own life and my marriage to my husband, who is Indian.

Also known as an astrological chart, a Janam Kundli is made by a priest for each child in India.  No one is sure when the concept of a Janam Kundlis came to be, but as Vedic astrology is several thousand years old, it's not surprising that my protagonist's Janam Kundli would have looked similar to my husband's, even though they were born more than a hundred years apart.  A person's Janam
Kundlis includes the details of their birth-time, date, planetary alignments.  It also includes other things which aren't so common in the West, such as that person's probable future career and who they were in their most recent past life (in my husband's case, a yogi!).

Reading a person's natal chart is serious business.  Once a person's Janam Kundli is created, they will keep that document with them for life, producing it when it's time for marriage.  Even today, Janam Kundlis are used to make prospective matches between brides and grooms throughout India, where the majority of marriages are arranged.   And woe betide anyone whose Janam Kundlis declares them to be a manglik, or a bad-luck person.  If that's the case, as it was for the famous Bollywood actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, one of two options are available.  You can either marry another manglik, thus cancelling out your bad-luck status, or you can hire a priest to conduct a variety of ceremonies that will make it possible to marry someone who isn't a manglik like yourself.  This last option, however, is only available if the non-manglik person's family finds the risk acceptable.  In Aishwarya Rai's case, her in-laws obviously felt the "risk" was worth it, and in 2007 she married a tree before she married her husband, thereby cancelling out her bad-luck in this way.

Why a tree?  Well, this was something I very nearly discovered myself when my own Janam Kundli was made.  Apparently, like Aishwarya Rai, I too am probably a manglik, meaning marriage for me would most likely end in the divorce or death of my spouse.  I say probably, because my Janam Kundli was done online.  The effect, however, was very nearly the same.  Major discussions took place as to whether I would need to marry a tree before the wedding could proceed, or whether my Janam Kundli should be discounted since I am not, after all, Indian, and my Janam Kundli hadn't "officially" been made by a priest.

In the end, it was decided that my husband should take the risk and go for it.  I never had to marry a tree or even choose among a variety of clay urns for my groom.  Either option, apparently, is acceptable, as it's believed that a person's manglik dose can be cancelled out if the manglik person's bad luck is spent on the first marriage.  Thus, the bride first marries a clay urn or a tree, then either breaks the clay urn or chops down her tree-husband in order to become a "widow" (in some places, the tree is allowed to survive).  After this, the second marriage is ready to proceed without a hitch.

There are varying interpretations of this ceremony, and even though it didn't end up affecting me, a person's Janam Kundli can alter their destiny, just as I describe in the beginning of REBEL QUEEN.  It's cultural gems like these which make researching historical fiction such a pleasure, and it's these type of details which I try to include in each of my books.  As a writer, my hope is that they pique the reader's interest along the way, and as a reader, they are the sort of facts which help ground me in another place and time.

Michelle is giving out a pair of bangles she's brought back from India and a signed hard cover copy of Rebel Queen to one lucky entrant.  The bangles are all unique and won't look exactly like the ones in the picture.

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Leave a comment and you're entered to win.  One entry per.   Good luck everyone!  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bad Sex - It's Really About the Edits

It happens to the best of us.  You read the story too many times and you miss something.  Sometimes you've read that scene so many times that your brain rewrites it to what it wants you to see.  Or maybe that deadline had you rush, you sped read your way through.  Who knows how it happens but we hope that others will catch it, maybe our beta reader or the final catcher, the editor but alas, sometimes they too, are merely human.  As a reader I'm pretty forgiving, I imagine most of us are.  Usually I'll just skim read over the occasional blip.   But in a recent book by an author who never fails to deliver a great story, I stumbled into some pretty big glitches.

The story started out smoothly enough as early on a character goes to another country for an interview.  It was a secondary character so I didn't put much thought into any of it as the character flitted in and out of the story.  I assumed that when she got the job she moved to the country of the interview.  A city was mentioned which is a good sized metropolis in the country of the interview.  However, the city is also in another country and is one of those that can be mentioned without tagging on the country of origin, like Paris and New York.  But why would I assume that it was anything other than the one in the country where the interview occurred?  So when all of a sudden the character is roaming around Europe as a result of the proximity to her job I was stumped.  I had visualized her for half the story in North America in the country she had gone to for the interview.  I had to skim back pages before I realized the problem.  The author assumed there was no city by that name in the country where she was interviewed - wrong.  Okay, one hiccup but the story was still going along great.

And then the characters made love or the sex scene screwup (play on words not intended, really).  If you're going to make an error, I would suggest you make it good - and make your reader laugh.  And this one did just that.  Everyone writes awkward phrases but this topped them all as the hero banged her nub and he kept banging it.

Of course there was more to it but I couldn't get past the phrasing.  t immediately had this image and it wasn't one of pleasure.  After I stopped laughing well, I don't know about you, but that read like something hurtful was going on down there.  If it had been BDSM it might have creaked through, no not even then, the wording was just too awkward.  As it was, I suspect that the heroine wasn't reaching for the bed posts in ecstasy.  In fact, I was surprised that she didn't smack him upside the head and resurrect a tattered copy of The Hite Report or maybe the Joy of Sex or...

So as the result of a lazy afternoon's read, I was reminded of the importance of editing and editing again.  BTW - despite it all, in the end it was still a good story!

Any "interesting" reads in your day?


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Going Against Type

Welcome Sharon Black 

with her latest release

A romantic comedy published by Tirearr Publishing, 

Going Against Type

Sharon will be giving away an e-copy of Going Against Type.
Check out the rafflecopter draw below:

Going against Type is set against the backdrop of the Dublin newspapers.  It's the story of two rival newspaper columnists, who write anonymously, meet and fall in love.  They each have an important reason to guard their alter egos from each other.  So, their relationship develops, as they continue to attack each other, week after week, through their columns.

The story came about partly because I worked as a journalist myself, and even wrote a newspaper column for a short while.  So I knew the idea of the newspaper columnist would be fun.  But the real inspiration came from something else.

When I was growing up, I loved the old Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s.  They were always showing them on TV.  And two of my favourite stars were Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey.  They made a number of films together, and they had such a wonderful on-screen chemistry.

One of my favourite films was Woman of the Year.  In it, Tracey plays a stereotypical sports reporter, and Hepburn plays a high-brow pundit, who has no time for sport.  She publicly dismisses sport as a waste of time, and Tracey leaps to its defense and attacks her views.  When they meet, they spar, but then fall in love.  Later in the film, Tracey finds it hard to cope with the fact that Hepburn has won a prize and her career is flourishing, apparently to the detriment of their marriage!  It's of its time, but it's a great film!

What I did for Going Against Type, was to turn the stereotypes on their head.  Charlotte Regan is a sports reporter, and a girl who has always lived for her sport.  Derry Cullinane is a fashion writer and is quick to dismiss sport in his column.  Because the columns are written under pen names, I was able to build up suspense.  And keep it going longer!

Some would say Charlotte "Charlie" Regan has it all.  Beautiful, smart, athletic and a great job working as a journalist - in the almost exclusively male sports department.  But Charlotte is not quite as sure as she seems.  Recently split from her overbearing boyfriend, she escapes for weekends,surfing in the Atlantic, and spends her free nights watching sports, roaring at the TV.

Derry Cullinane is a fashion writer, gossip columnist and sophisticated man-about-town.  The go-to-guy for any woman seeking expert advice on what fabulous outfit to wear for any given occasion.  He's also tall, dark, good looking - and straight!  So what's the snag?  He has a track record of dating glamorous, vain and shallow women.

Charlie gets an opportunity to write a new column under the pen name Side Swipe, but is soon drawn into a war of words and wit with a rival paper's columnist The Squire - and their verbal fireworks get readers and editors talking.  Yet neither Charlie nor Derry knows just whom the opponent is.

When Charlotte and Derry meet at the Races, the attraction is instant.  As their relationship develops, so much more proves at stake then protecting their alter egos.  But a blunder puts Charlotte's job in jeopardy just as Derry's past makes front page, and Charlotte begins to doubt her feelings.

When Side Swipe and The Squire are finally forced to reveal themselves, will they revert to type--or confound everyone's expectations?



Sharon's Bio:

Sharon Black grew up in Dublin.  She studied history and politics at University College Dublin and Then did post-graduate in
journalism at Dublin City University.  She has worked for national newspapers, including The Evening Herald and The Irish Examiner.  She had short stories published in U Magazine and the 2010 Drommineer Library Festival short story competition.

When she is not writing, she reads, walks and sees friends.  She co-founded a local book club 14 years ago.  She loves theatre, old Hollywood films, science fiction and good stand-up comedy.

She lives in Sandymount, Dublin, with her husband and their three children.

Visit Sharon at her author page.
Read more about Going Against Type at
most online bookstores.  Here's a link to Going Against Type on or visit her publisher's page:  Tirgearr Publishing

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