24 June, 2017

#BookReview :: Renee's Treasure by Indrani Sinha



Renee lives in a Railway Colony in Varanasi with her family. She has been promised a birthday gift by her Dadaji. In a sudden turn of events, she has to hunt for it through the lanes and by lanes of Varanasi, helped by her friends Anita and Sacchu. It must be kept a secret from the adults as Renee chases her dream in a race against time. Will Renee and Sacchu, venturing out for their secret 
exploits from the safe precincts of their Colony, ultimately find the treasure?




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It is Renee’s eleventh birthday and her grandfather has promised her a fantastic surprise. But there’s a clause to it… Renee must keep it a secret from her parents and she has to go on a treasure hunt to find it. With unfortunate turn of events, her grandfather expires before giving her the first clue. Soon, Renee’s parents move to a new locality where she makes friends with Anita and Sacchu. With her friends by her side and having her back, Renee decides to try and find the treasure on her own. What follows is an adventure of a lifetime.

I loved the book even though the book is clearly meant for a much younger audience. The language is dainty and the narrative is entertaining. But the best part of the book is the way it has captured the innocence of a child. Be it Renee or Anita or Sacchu, they have a certain charm and air of innocence about them that is lost in today’s world. Their camaraderie reminded me of my own childhood and the trust I had in my friends. It is hard to find it these days. The well-paced and interesting plot also has a few twists to offer giving the readers even more reasons to continue reading.

I am not one to judge a book by its cover, but this book has a beautiful and pleasing cover which is a bonus for cover fanatics.


Review Copy received from Leadstart Publishing






23 June, 2017

#BookReview :: Abhaya by Saiswaroopa Iyer



A tale set in the times of Mahabharata. An assertive and idealistic Princess Abhaya meets the enigmatic Krishna Vaasudeva. A bereaved Dhatri, hounded by her own family is saved by Lord Bhauma. When subverted religion becomes a tool in the hands of power thirsty and strikes Bharatavarsha, the land of Aryas, Abhaya finds herself face to face with the impending doom. 

“Can we combat the fear with faith? Can we keep our faith undeterred when the last traces of hope melt away? Can we receive blame and adulation, accept them and yet not give in to them?” 






‘Abhaya’ by Saiswaroopa Iyer tell us the story of Abhaya, daughter of King Dharmasena and the princess Anagha. King Dharmasena has brought up his daughter with great care and as such Abhaya believes in honour and duty. Now there are two parallel stories being told in the book. On one hand, we have Bhauma, the lord of Kamarupa, who is the leader of the Shakta Cult and his exploits. And on the other hand, we have the kingdom Avanti attacking the Anagha. When the king is killed, Abhaya leads her people to safety. At a point, these two parallel stories merge and become one. From then on, we follow Abhaya and her journey.

There is something to be said for strong female characters. I absolutely love them and any book that offers a strong female character leading from the front always has my full attention. Abhaya shows her strength and honour time and again as she is tested through a set of difficult times. Of course, she has Krishna by her side to counsel her, but it is also a sign of strength to know when to seek counsel from more experienced or wiser people. She goes from strength to strength and stick to what she believes is her ‘dharma’. Bhauma represents almost everything that Abhaya is not. Deception and misguidance are his tools. In a way, he is a worthy opponent for Abhaya as their personalities and characters clash on almost everything.

Though it is a mythological novel, I can’t help but relate to it in many ways. Especially Bhauma represents the enemy that we still face today – misguided people claiming superiority and killing innocents in the name of religion. We also need more people (both men and women) like Abhaya who will stand up for what is right and fight for those who are oppressed or misguided.

Saiswaroopa has woven a wonderful story with beautiful and strong characters and an interesting plot which is only further complemented by her delicate language and smooth narrative. 



22 June, 2017

#SpecialFeature :: #GuestPost - One Sliver of Truth by Molly D. Campbell


*** Special Feature - June 2017 ***

About the Author

Molly writes from her pantry, often in pajamas. She exercises regularly, despite the fact that she has sustained numerous injuries involving barbells and exercise balls. She successfully raised two gorgeous daughters, who both pay their own bills. 

Molly has few interests other than reading books and writing, although she and her husband did attempt clog dancing with disastrous results.

A huge fan of HGTV, Molly has been known to watch marathon sessions of “Househunters” while leafing through magazines and snacking.

Molly’s husband has an accordion band. The neighbors have started a collection to fund soundproofing for the Campbell’s basement.

Molly can be found at: Website * Blog * Twitter


ONE SLIVER OF TRUTH


I am not a “trained” writer. That is, I have not belonged to any writer’s groups, attended any lengthy seminars about the craft, and I have not submitted to hundreds of publishers only to be rejected. I have written two books. But my approach to writing has always been to begin with something I can almost hold in my hand.

My goal before I sit down to write anything, be it an essay, a humor piece, a character sketch, or a longer work of fiction, is to decide beforehand what one small truth I want to reveal in the piece. Some might call that a “theme,” but I don’t necessarily think that my writing is thematic. A theme runs throughout a work—it becomes more obvious as the reader delves into the text: it is repeated in metaphors and similes, landscapes are drawn to illustrate the theme, etc.

For me, it is much simpler. For instance, in my novel Crossing the Street, I latched unto a realization that most of us never actually know what “forgiveness” means. So we blunder through life holding onto some sort of semblance of a definition of the word, resenting the idea that we might someday actually have to forgive somebody for something. But the true essence of forgiveness seeps into our lives through the experiencing of various crises. We learn about forgiveness when people do awful things to us. I also realized that maturity doesn’t necessarily bring wisdom. With these two ideas in mind, these two small truths, I built a book.

Too many writers spend a great deal of time structuring, thinking about plots and subplots, time frames and organizational charts. I find reading those books somewhat formulaic. Other writers are absolute spot-on plotters, and the story is just so damn good, that there really isn’t time for doing much other than moving the story along until the big crescendo, with readers scratching their heads in wonder at the genius who thought this whole thing up. The genius plotters can just go right on coming up with blockbusters—I could read a new Gone Girl every week.

Of course, there are the puzzle builders. Mystery writers. I haven’t a clue how they do it. But I am sure decks of index cards, spread sheets, and the “cut and paste” feature come in handy.

Then there are the hacks. Not to mention any names or books, but we all have read one or another runaway bestseller that we wonder how the author got past an editor. Then there are the indie books, some of which, again, make it huge, and we scratch our heads after finding four grammatical errors in the first paragraph.

There is something readers want. A book must resonate at some level. We as authors have our choice of approach. We can write the Great American novel, which I know I am not capable of. We can become that writer who writes well enough and quickly enough to put out multiple books a year, ones that have thrills and chills and develop loyal readers who look forward to the next “knock your socks off” installment. There are the poets, who write a novel so full of either gorgeous or hideous imagery and descriptions that you want to tattoo them on your_____.

There are writers who create characters who are so real that the reader feels he knows them. Characterizations that click are great fun for the reader. We love those characters that are so completely self-centered that we want to slap them. Those husbands married to their jobs? I would like to kick them where the sun doesn’t shine. Writers who create these vibrant characters can write a great book around those characters alone, without throwing in the “plotline of the century.”

So I bring this all back to me. My level of writing. I like to think that my characters are vibrant. How did I do this? I wrote one character sketch a day for a year.  I like people, I like quirks, and I like character names.

This is certainly not a tutorial. But for me, here is the formula: Choose a name. Envision what that person looks like. Write a character sketch of three thousand words or less. Then choose the characters in that person’s family and immediate circle. Write those character sketches. Pick an outsider. Do the same for that person. You need at least one outsider to stir the pot when the time comes.

Choose one small truth: for instance—your mother did a lot more for you than make your lunch every day.  But you never thought about her as a real person, did you? No. She just was that person who kept you clean and fed. No depth to her! Then build a book around that truth and those characters you created, above.

This is my method. Unusual? Maybe. But it is the only way I know how to write stories.

About the Book
This wasn't the way Beck Throckmorton had planned it. She wasn't expecting to find herself in her thirties writing erotica and making flat whites for a living while she stewed over that fact that her ex had wound up with her sister. She never saw herself living in a small suburban Ohio town with an octogenarian neighbor best friend. And she definitely wouldn't have imagined the eight-year-old great-granddaughter of that friend turning her world upside down. 

As summer comes around, Beck's life is unsettled in every way. And that's before the crazy stuff starts: the sister taunting her with her pregnancy, the infuriatingly perfect boyfriend, the multiple trips to the emergency room. The needy, wise-beyond-her-years little girl finding places in her heart that Beck didn't even know existed. 

Beck has found herself at an emotional intersection she never anticipated. And now it's time to cross the street.

CROSSING THE STREET is a funny, touching novel that brims life's complexities. Filled with characters both distinctive and welcomingly familiar, it is a story that will entertain and enlighten.


Giveaway
1 eBook of Crossing the Street
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21 June, 2017

#BookReview :: Daughter of the Sun (Cult of the Cat #1) by Zoe Kalo

Sixteen-year-old Trinity was born during a solar eclipse and left at the doorsteps of a convent along with a torn piece of papyrus covered with ancient symbols. Raised by nuns in the English countryside, she leads a quiet life until she’s whisked away to the Island of Cats and a grandmother she never knew.

But before they can get to know each other, her grandmother dies. All that Trinity has left is a mysterious eye-shaped ring. And a thousand grieving cats. As Trinity tries to solve the enigma of the torn papyrus, she discovers a world of bloody sacrifices and evil curses, and a prophecy that points to her and her new feline abilities.

Unwilling to believe that any of the Egyptian gods could still be alive, Trinity turns to eighteen-year-old Seth and is instantly pulled into a vortex of sensations that forces her to confront her true self—and a horrifying destiny. 

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Trinity was born on a solar eclipse and left at an orphanage door with nothing but a mysterious papyrus to her name. She is then raised by the nuns in a quiet countryside till she discovers that her grandmother is alive and living on an island. At sixteen she is shipped off to live with her grandmother on an island of the cats. Unfortunately, the reunion did not last long as her grandmother dies and she is left to fend for herself while discovering her own truth.

Trinity as a character is quite loveable. Growing up in an orphanage by the nuns, she is sheltered and naïve, but only to a point. As she is thrown into an adventure of her own, she learns to ask the right questions and look out for herself. Her temper is the only thing standing in her way. Seth on the other hand is just as loveable because he is hot and sweet. There is a plethora of other characters in the book, some of who played an important part but there were a couple without whom the plot would still go on. The starting of the book is a bit slow as the author builds up the world and the character, but few chapters into the book the pace picks up and maintains a steady flow. 

What I loved most about the book is how it weaves in Egyptian Mythology. I have read a lot of Indian and Greek mythology, but this is only the second book I have read on Egyptian Mythology. The author does a beautiful job with it too. Though this book mainly deals with the Feline Goddess, I couldn’t help but feel curious about the rest of the Gods. I will surely look up more about it. The language used is easy but in no way simple. It was another highlight of the book.

Overall, this book was a complete entertainer and I cannot wait for the second book in the series.


Review Copy received from the Author



20 June, 2017

#Spotlight :: ICED: A Resort to Murder Mystery Avery Daniels

ICED: A Resort to Murder Mystery

Avery Daniels

June 20, 2017 Book Blast

Synopsis:

Iced by Avery Daniels
Julienne has her ideal job as an event planner at a prestigious resort. During a luncheon event she coordinated, a renowned celebrity pastor is killed next to the buffet. All eyes turn to her as the suspect. If she wants to stay out of jail or even keep her job, Julienne needs all the help she can get to solve the crime.
She has her work cut out for her with a vengeful high school rival now reporter, the public demanding she be fired, plus family who know what's best for her, and a boyfriend who doesn't understand her. She turns to friends and a new ally to uncover who wanted to put the pastor on ice.
Julienne goes undercover and investigates a local swingers group as she follows the trail of clues before they go cold. Can she gather enough suspects and motives to convince the police to her widen their investigation? Can she do it before the killer sets his murderous sights on her? Will her personal life ever be as simple as unveiling a murderer?

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth
Published by: Blazing Sword Publishing, Ltd
Publication Date: May 31st 2017
Number of Pages: 296
ASIN: B071LFD6JV
Series: A Resort to Murder Mystery, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Kindle Unlimited | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Today everything in my life changed.
I’m the events coordinator and membership manager, in training that is, at a five star resort in Colorado. Some days, like today, it feels like I was sacrificed to some sadistic little idol somewhere. Coordination of conferences and meetings of all sizes in the resort’s convention center facility was part of my training. But this particular event, a Leadership Luncheon that brought together the town’s community leaders to network, was a challenge from the first minutes this morning.
"Julienne, this event must be executed with precision and perfection." Those are the favorite words of my boss, Chad. This particular event is a daylong exercise in patience.
Every job has its great parts and it’s not so great. Today encompassed one of the more unpleasant aspects of my job. Occasionally, okay usually, the hardest part of my job is the customer relations and today was particularly difficult. Some customers just can’t be satisfied and some events are riddled with issues.
We were only serving a modest seventy-five attendees, but I had already been assailed with special requests and numerous complaints. Picky doesn’t begin to cover it.
“How hard would it be to setup for a video presentation with a large screen and surround sound?”
“There are windows. It’s too distracting, people will be watching the hotel guests walking around.”
“Can we change the setup of room C from an L configuration to a U shape? But only for that one session, then move it back.”
“Can we get the Lobster for the buffet flown in that morning? Scallops are out….Can we have the scallops after all?”
“Music piped in during the breaks?”
“No music piped in at all.”
“Red tablecloths with white napkins.”
“Royal blue tablecloths with white napkins.”
“White tablecloths with yellow napkins.”
“Candles on mirrors for lunch centerpieces.”
“Fresh flowers for centerpieces.”
The changes continued even after the event started.
The Convention Center, with its classic European décor had a small lobby area with a few potted trees and plants on column stands. The rest extended down a hallway with two large areas on each side that could be divided into smaller rooms via partitions that extend from the walls as needed. The space could be up to eight small rooms, four on each side, or any combination from one to four rooms per side of the hallway.
The hallway was wide with several half-circle console tables including marble tops holding large dried floral arrangements and a few elegant chairs. The walls displayed large paintings of the Italian countryside and vineyards with carved gold gilt frames.
I was in a partitioned room overseeing the set up of the lunch buffet. The Italian Renaissance architecture was accentuated with interior details and décor that created a European elegance, all lit with the warm glow of a massive amber glass chandelier.
The room was a rectangle with the entrance from the hallway to one end and the door to the catering staging area at the opposite end. The buffet table was along the wall next to the staging door so wait staff could easy restock food items. The six-person round tables covered in rich golden linens were scattered strategically throughout the room to allow easy traffic flow. The thick carpet felt plush and cloud-like under foot.
I was surveying the buffet table with a critical eye. The five foot long ice sculpture of a swordfish occupied the center of the table and looked as though it was caught in mid leap, frolicking in a wave and ready to dive back into an unseen ocean. My stomach growled as the succulent smells of seafood teased my nose. The attendees would be returning to this room for their lunch and keynote speaker shortly.
"Brad, where are the crab leg metal crackers and little forks? Can you grab a few dozen and bring them right away?" Brad, slim and serious, had joined the team only two months ago and was picking up extra hours at every opportunity. He had asked to work this event as soon as I blocked out the time on the schedule. This would give him a good paycheck. He was lanky and took off with an easy loping stride to the staging area through the back door.
The door to the staging area had barely closed when I felt a hand grab hold of my derriere with an iron hard grip.
"This is more like it honey. I haven't had any fun today."
I whirled around and stumbled back. "Don’t touch the staff. That includes me Pastor Tom." I practically shouted. Pastor Tom Drake was well known around town, and getting national attention lately with his mega church. He was included in the luncheon due to his influence, but he was just Pastor Tom since he was a local guy who started his church and radio ministry from his garage.
I had contended with bad behavior before, but never this grabby. I think I was going to have a bruise left from his vicious hand.
"You’re not being very fri…friendly." I noticed his eyes were droopy and then I caught a whiff of the scotch he must have gotten at the Gilded Hornet pub next to the convention center building.
I decided to alert security we needed a person to monitor the rest of the event and turned to go. His iron hand grabbed hold of my arm and yanked me to him. Without a thought I took my knee to his groin and enjoyed watching his mouth form an "O" as his breath whooshed out. I broke free and backed away. I wasn’t turning my back on him again.
"I will see you fired for that you bitch." He whispered with a jagged voice.
He couldn’t do that, at least I was pretty sure he couldn’t. I guess I’d find out. I rubbed my still smarting arm where he grabbed it. Brad would be back or the event participants would start to wander in so he couldn’t do much more, but I didn’t want to stay and find out. I backed out the door to the hallway toward the lobby and took my cell phone from my pants pocket.
"Hey Ron, we have a person under the influence at the luncheon in Convention Center. Can you spare someone for the afternoon?"
"I’ll make sure somebody’s there immediately Julienne. How bad is this guy?"
"Well, I’ll probably have a black-and-blue handprint on my arm and …my backside." I took a deep breath.
"Son of a … I’ll be right there. You stay away from him." Like I would go near that Neanderthal again, pastor or not.
The other participants were starting to exit the smaller break out session rooms and meander to the banquet room and bathrooms. The noise level began to creep upward from multiple conversations competing to be heard.
There was a loud crash of metal from the banquet room and a participant jerked open the door and froze in place. "Oh sh…" The participant’s mouth gaped and his eyes were large circles.
I ran over to the open door and saw Pastor Tom impaled through the chest with the sharp end of the Swordfish ice sculpture, from his back right through to the front. His head was forward against his chest. Blood, running down the swordfish tip that jutted from his chest, dripping to the carpet. Drip, drip, drip in a macabre but surreal scene.

***
Excerpt from Iced by Avery Daniels. Copyright © 2017 by Avery Daniels. Reproduced with permission from Avery Daniels. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Avery Daniels Avery Daniels was born and raised in Colorado, graduated from college with a degree in business administration and has worked in fortune 500 companies and Department of Defense her entire life. Her most eventful job was apartment management for 352 units. She still resides in Colorado with two brother black cats as her spirited companions. She volunteers for a cat shelter, enjoys scrapbooking and card making, photography, and painting in watercolor and acrylic. She inherited a love for reading from her mother and grandmother and grew up talking about books at the dinner table.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook

 

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19 June, 2017

#BookReview :: The Women of Baker Street (A Mrs Hudson and Mary Watson Investigation #2) by Michelle Birkby

As Sherlock and Watson return from the famous Hound of the Baskervilles case, Mrs Hudson and Mary must face their own Hound, in the swirling fog of Victorian London . . .

When Mrs Hudson falls ill, she is taken into a private ward at St Barts hospital. Perhaps it is her over-active imagination, or her penchant for sniffing out secrets, but as she lies in her bed, slowly recovering, she finds herself surrounded by patients who all have some skeletons in their closets. A higher number of deaths than usual seem to occur on this ward. On her very first night, Mrs Hudson believes she witnesses a murder. But was it real, or just smoke and mirrors?

Mary Watson meanwhile has heard about young boys disappearing across London, and is determined to find them and reunite them with their families. As the women's investigations collide in unexpected ways, a gruesome discovery in Regent's Park leads them on to a new, terrifying case.

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I have not read ‘The House at Baker Street’ which is the first book in this series. Though this book can be read as a standalone, there were places where certain references made me feel like I was missing something – something that I ought to know about Mary and Mrs. Hudson’s first adventure. I would straightaway suggest people to pick up the books in the series in order.

Mrs.Hudson has been taken in ill and has been admitted to the hospital where she shares a ward with various other quirky characters. But Mrs.Hudson soon notices some very uncommon things which seem to be coincidental; yet they feel like anything but coincidental. With the number of deaths involved mounting up, Mrs.Hudson knows she is the only one who has noticed and hence needs to do something about it. With the help of Mary Watson, she delves deep into the case… Only, is what she seeing real or her medicines are causing her to hallucinate?

The highlight of the book is its characters and their dynamics. The characters of Mary Watson and Martha Hudson have been well fleshed out in the most believable ways. While in the Sherlock Holmes stories they are more or less in the background, here when you read about them, you have no trouble believing that they are one and the same. Sherlock and John Watson have been added to the story in ways that they add something to the story without ever taking the limelight off Mary and Mrs.Hudson. their dynamics is something that I really enjoyed, whether it is between Mary and John Watson or it is between Sherlock and Mrs.Hudson. The plot can stand on its own. Several seemingly unrelated incidences are strung together to build up the plot. This could be almost categorized as a cozy mystery; the kind you read to brighten up a dull day. 

All in all, this book is a complete entertainer as Michelle Birkby weaves a wonderful story with her pleasurable narrative with strong characters and a classic whodunnit mystery.


Review Copy received from Pan Macmillan India



18 June, 2017

#ShortStory :: Deep Roots by Jatin Kuberker

About the Author:
For the mortal world, I pretend to be a Software Engineer who works hard (or hardly?) in the hours of a day. I am the guy next door, a hard core Harry Potter fan and a movie buff. I literally ‘live’ every movie, I have strong opinions about its content and I hate it when a movie based on an interesting concept is messed up for the sake of commercial value. I enjoy watching cartoon shows (doremon, dora and Choota Bheem) with my son. I never get bored of listen to the endless chatter of my wife. When I’m not writing, I make toys for children.

But beyond the boundaries of this ‘cholesterol rich’ coil, I am a rider of rapturous thoughts. I am a thinker, a philosopher, a seeker, a story-teller, a writer, a wanderer and every other thing that a thought can be. At times some of these figments fire out of my thoughtful bowl and command me to write, muse, create, recreate, destroy…EXPRESS!

Who Am I? I have been asking this question to myself since 33 years, and I got a different answer always. Sometimes I get confused and think, am I asking the right question to seek the correct answer? or may be that am I missing the  whole fantastic universal drama around me while I am busy finding an answer to an irrelevant question?

Does the answer even matter?


Deep Roots

Arun woke up to a bright Sunday morning of April. It was the first Sunday of his summer vacations; a day when his father was at home. While still in bed, fireflies of excitement began dancing in his ten-year-old mind. A long list of tasks battled within him to gain priority but none could beat the rope swing and the bird house. Just like every other day, Arun sauntered into the courtyard and sat heavily on the circular cement bench under the mango tree. He expected his mother to come and greet him with a good morning kiss. If she was busy, then it would be his father. None attended to him. He sat there for a while, cross-legged, like a little Buddha awaiting enlightenment. 

Arun's half shut, drowsy eyes showed him blur visuals. An eerie darkness seemed to have swallowed the brightness inside his house. The house was full of people, and yet, there was a frightful silence. Uncle Pramod was there with his family, but he ignored Arun. The group of pesky cousins, who would normally pounce on his toys and race all over the house, sat quietly as if they were tranquillized. There were people from the neighborhood, some little known ones and some strangers. All of them had the same blank expression on their face. Confused, he looked out for his mother. She was seated in the verandah, weak and devastated. Next, his moist eyes searched for his father but he was nowhere to be seen. As the disconnected visuals continued to fall on his nervous eyes, in an emotional corner of his mind, a reminiscence of yesterday was eager to pounce at him. It attacked at the very moment Arun saw a pair of sandals lying somewhere in the courtyard.
The morning of the day before, was pretty much the same; bright, warm...normal. Arun woke up, walked casually into the courtyard and settled under the mango tree. Seeing his father getting ready for work, he playfully put on his sandals and challenged him for a chase. The courtyard burst into giggles, laughter and squeals. Father won the challenge as Arun melted into his arms. They both shared a hearty laugh. A promise of a fun filled Sunday excited Arun. Embracing him warmly, he kissed his father’s cheek, and waved at him until he vanished at the end of the lane. 
Alas! Little did Arun know that it would be the last laugh with his father, he would never be able to feel the warmth in those arms again, and the kiss would be a goodbye forever. 
It all happened so quickly; by noon, came the news of his father's accident and by sundown, his mortal coil was reduced to ashes. Arun couldn’t recall when it fell dark and how he was asleep.

Death, as Arun understood until yesterday, was only a prospect of a film. But as the bitter reality fell upon him, he stopped comparing his life to a ninety-minute movie. Arun’s moist eyes gazed at his devastated mother. She looked strangely similar to those Indian widows he had seen in the many Hindi movies. The bindi that sparkled on her forehead was gone and so were the chiming bangles. Her glorious smile had vanished and a strange incompleteness surrounded her. The visuals pierced Arun’s little heart. Unable to take it anymore he hid behind the mango tree and closed himself to the world. He cried softly.

The day got busier as it moved on. Many well-wishers visited Arun's house to console the bereaved family. Some sobbed, some cried out loud, some prayed and some just stood in a corner with their heads bent down in mourning. A few attempted to console Arun, they tried to soothe him with a smile, but they did not receive a return gesture. Throughout the day, Arun sat under the mango tree, leaning his back to its trunk, clutching his knees into the chest and watching people entering and exiting the house through the gate of their compound.

A similar routine followed for the rest of the week. But, Arun spoke to no one. Uncle Pramod tried to strike a conversation with him and concluded that Arun needed more time to accept the wicked game of fate. Being an Army officer, Pramod was known for his practicality and logical thinking. He was a highly learnt man and a staunch follower of the Hindu belief system. After the tragedy struck his brother’s family, he had assumed the responsibility to rehabilitate them. He was into it hundred percent. 
As for Arun, he had started to dislike many things that were happening around him. On the top of the list was the attempts the people made to erase his father's memories. Arun particularly started hating Pramod, for it was he who had taken control over the house. He got himself involved in all the matters related to Arun’s family. Ferocious in his approach, Pramod wanted the family to overcome the tragedy as soon as possible. He had spearheaded a campaign to ‘bring life back on track’ with a slogan: "you have to let go, for a better future...".
The process first started with his father's foot wear; they were given away to a labourer. Next to go were the things related to his work, followed by his clothes, watches, books and his things stored in the store room. In Pramod’s words, these were ‘the seeds of pain from which memories came haunting’. they gave away everything until only his father’s photograph remained. Arun felt helpless and consequently, he stopped entering his own house. He came inside only to have his lunch and then, he returned back to his private hideout, the mango tree. 
After all, the tree was very special and an inseparable part of Arun's life. 
The Mango tree, actually, had a strange connection with his father. It was a distinctive memory that no one could erase. The tree was a legend and its story was Arun’s favorite. 
Sitting underneath it, a devastated Arun recollected the story in his father's voice and it went thus:
"This tree was planted by your grandpa; you know?" His father’s voice filled into his ears and his visual imagination travelled faster than the speed of light. He was transported into a happier past where he often relaxed under the mango tree with his head in his father’s lap. The story went on…
"One day, your grandpa bought mangos from a farm. Of all the mangoes, one particular fruit had the sweetest aroma and a magical taste. After savoring the fruit to his heart's content, he resolved to sow its seed in the courtyard. Right here, at this very place. Then, a sweet little coincidence happened. I was born on the very day the seed sprouted. Isn’t it a reason good enough for the tree to be special? I grew up with this tree. It was my companion in every game. Your grandpa got this platform built around it when I was of your age and then, this became my place to study. Oh! And its fruits! They are magical as you know…
Underneath its shade, I dreamt of becoming the man I am today. This was and is my place of peace and solitude. The tree has been a witness to all my joy and fears. This is my best friend or rather I would say, this is like a reflection of my own self!" 
With a legendary story behind it, Arun’s attachment to the tree grew to an immeasurable extant. Its fatherly shade pacified him. Its strong trunk gave him strength and its ripening fruits gave him hope. In its shade, Arun felt like being with his father. He felt fearless and confident.
*****
As days passed, a gradual feeling of normalcy began to set in. The count of consoling visitors nearly fell to zero. The plan for a grand ceremony to commemorate the thirteenth day was underway. A highly revered Brahmin priest was to visit their house and the preparations of his arrival were looked up to. Everyone was busy in a world of their own. Lost in this chaotic turmoil Arun approached his mother, cat-footed. He doubtfully touched her bangle-less hand and questioned her in a feeble voice.
"Ma, what is going on?"
Seeing Arun, she suddenly realized that she had lost touch with her sweetheart. It was probably the first time in days that Arun had spoken by himself. The barren eyes of Arun evoked pain in her motherly heart but she had to be strong. 
"Oh! Beta. We are planning for the thirteenth day ceremony of your father." She answered. 
"What’s a thirteenth day ceremony, Ma?" Arun asked again. 
Finding an opportunity of a connecting conversation, she crouched down to her son, took him into her arms and started explaining.
"Well, according to the Hindu customs, when a person passes away, it is said that his spirit leaves the mortal world only after thirteen days of his death. After the thirteenth day rites, the soul departs to a greater world, to heaven. So, we have to greet him a bon voyage, right? That is why, this ceremony" she explained patiently. 
"Oh! Where will it be for those thirteen days then? The spirit?" he asked, shocked and surprised with the answer he got.
"Hmmm…the spirit dwells in its most loved possessions, watching upon its most loved people..."  she clarified.
Listening to the answer, a tinge of energy flashed on Arun's face. He quickly composed his posture and questioned excitedly,
"Oh! You mean father is watching us right now? Is he still here, with us?" His watery eyes restlessly wandered around the house in the hope of catching a glimpse of his father. He ran from room to room, he called out to his father until his throat went dry. But then, a sudden realization poured into his mind.
“Ah! So stupid of me…why will father be in these rooms?” he smiled at his own foolishness and energetically proclaimed,
“his spirit resides in the mango tree…” 
Like playing a hide and seek game, he ran into the courtyard. The glimpse of the mango tree had him convinced that his father’s soul must be residing within it. He hugged its potent trunk with a wide smile.
Unable to withstand the inconsolable innocence of Arun, His mother broke into wails. Pramod cried too, but he quickly regained his composure.
*****

Almost by evening, a car alighted in front of the house. 
"Arun! call your mother...the priest has arrived" yelled Uncle Pramod.
Arun was least bothered about it. He was busy chatting with his father's spirit that resided in the tree. 
Pramod yelled so loudly that even the curious neighbors gathered to get a glimpse of the priest. After a while, the priest stepped into the courtyard. He was accompanied by his disciples too. As he walked a few steps into it, he stopped suddenly and twitched. His ghastly eyes opened wide. He thundered at the top of his voice.
"WHAT IS THIS TREE DOING HERE?" he shouted, pointing his index finger towards the tree.  
"But, the tree has been there since a long time, your holiness" Arun's mother said humbly.
"OF COURCE! IT HAS SPREAD ITS EVIL ROOTS INTO YOUR HOME AND YOU HAVE PAID A HEAVY PRICE FOR IT!" he remarked.
"His holiness is an expert in Vastu Shastra too" one of the disciples said in a perceptible tone.
"Oh! The tree? it might be... otherwise, how could a hale and healthy person meet with such an untimely fate?" someone in the curious crowd suggested. Nodding heads and grim hums vouched to agreed.
“’Vastu’ is predominantly to do with the architecture of temples. But as per the Hindu belief system, a house- or preferably a ‘Home’ is also a temple. Hence, the science applies here equally well!” The priest shared a bit of his revered knowledge.
"But, Sir…the tree..." Arun’s mother tried to speak, but the priest took over harshly.
"NOTHING MORE! BRING THIS TREE DOWN AT ONCE. IT HAS BEEN FEEDING ON YOUR TEARS AND BLOOD, IT IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF ALL YOUR PROBLEMS! CUT IT DOWN, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!" 
The words of the priest startled Arun. By now, he had understood the crux of the situation. He was afraid that even this memory of his father would be erased...
He resolved to revolt and got down the platform. 
"They are going to bring this tree down, aren’t they?" his question induced pity. 
" It’s ok Beta… it is ok..." She could not get any more words to soothe her son.
"How can we allow this? Father loved it immensely...How can we cut it down?” Arun wanted to be brave and face the situation. He knew he was powerless in front of the mean world but he was wanted to fight.
"Arun, you are too young to understand all this" Pramod tried to intervene, but Arun was adamant.
"Back off, I am speaking to my mother!..."  he warned. 
"Arun, you listen to me! don’t get emotionally attached to this tree. As his holiness says, it has brought a bad time for all of us. It has made you pay a heavy price…Arun, it killed your father" Pramod spoke hatefully.
Arun turned to his mother for support.
“Ma, how can it be…tell them Ma, tell them what this tree meant to father, tell them what it means to us...to me...How can a tree kill someone?”
"You have to let go son...your father is no more, accept it and walk away from him..." Pramod reiterated his philosophy.
“Back off, I said…not one more word!” Arun snarled. He did not like an outsider poking his nose into his personal matters. His eyes shone with anger. His tone went deeper and wetter. At one side, there was the hatred that had built for his uncle and at the other end it was a feeling of being helpless.
“CUT IT DOWN! AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!” the priest thundered again. He wanted to break the ice.
“WILL I GET MY FATHER BACK, IF YOU CUT IT DOWN?” Arun retorted with his angry eyes fixated on the priest. Energy pulsated through his weak body so much that given a chance, he would beat the pulp out of anyone who would come in his way. His strange behavior sent goosebumps to the people around him. None dared to raise a voice in front of this skinny ten-year-old. He was surely growing into a man; a cub that was learning to roar.
“The boy speaks more than his age” whispered the priest.  
“CUT IT DOWN… BEFORE IT’S DEEP ROOTS CAST ANY FURTHER EFFECTS.
Cut it down before the thirteenth day!”
saying so, the priest left the house, red-faced.
Arun stood in the courtyard like a lone warrior defending his rightful piece of land. The many eyes that hovered doubtfully at him had the same question in them. "Has he gone insane? Has he lost his mind? Is it really because of the tree?"
At this point, Arun wanted to scream, he wanted to burst and cry and tell that the tree was a gifted legacy from his father and that it was all that was left of him. He wanted them to understand that the tree was, in all aspects, more than any memorabilia or a photograph; it was a living memory of his loving father. He wanted to tell all of them that he loved his father deeply and he missed him, and therefore he wants to save this this tree. 
But how could someone as young as Arun give vent to such deep feelings? There weren’t enough words in his vocabulary to match his emotions. For that matter, there are no enough words known to the world that could translate these emotions. They could be only experienced through ‘love’ and the ‘pain’ that came with it.  
His mother walked up to him and gathered him into her arms. 
"Shhhh! Quiet now, nothing is going to happen. come with me..." she said, hugging him tight. She took him to the bed room and pampered him to sleep. At first, he resisted, but the love in the soft palms of his mother put him to rest. He slept peacefully.
*****
Arun woke up to the sounds of hitting and thrashing. The voice of his father calling for him, filled into his ears. It alarmed him. He ran into the courtyard only to find what he had least expected to see. 
Four men with axes were bringing down his ancestral tree of memories. Arun froze for a moment. With each bump of the axe, Arun’s pain magnified. He grew uneasy as the mangoes fell on the ground and burst into yellow blood. With each branch falling, it felt as though a part of his body was being separated. In a sudden fit of rage, he ran screaming at the top of his voice, and hugged the tree trunk. 
"STOP IT!! STOP IT!! DONT CUT IT DOWN!! PLEASE...
This is my father...don’t kill him. Please!" He cried and yelled at the same time.
"Let go, my son...Let go..." His mother tried to console him by drawing him into her arms and embraced him tightly but Arun was uncontrollable. He pushed her aside and ran towards the platform.
Pramod expected this reaction and was well prepared. He, along with a neighbor waged at Arun and dragged him off the platform. Arun fought vigorously to free himself from the clutches of his uncle, but he was just a ten-year-old boy. They dragged him with all their might and locked him up in the bedroom. Arun banged on the doors and windows. He shouted, cursed, abused, plead and did everything he could. After an exorbitant outburst, weakened by the emotional overload, Arun fainted.

****
Absolute silence greeted Arun as he came back to his senses. His mother was sent to unlock him and lead him out. Arun was extremely fatigued but his eyes were emotionless. He was led into the courtyard where there was nothing left for him to adore. Only the circular cement platform remained like a tomb in the memory of the tree. Tears rolled down his mother’s eyes, but Arun showed no emotion at all.
He walked alone, kicked aside a mango that was lying on the ground and sat on the platform. He looked up into the sky as if searching for shade. Apologetically dropping his gaze, he said anonymously.
"The thirteenth day ceremony is not required any more...Father's spirit has left us now."

*********

Time is the healer, they say. Don’t know how true it is, but time does not stop for anyone and that is a well-known fact. 
Years passed, but Arun was never able to forget his father. Contrary to what Pramod wanted him to believe, the world actually helped him in keeping his father’s memory alive. 
Arun was always identified with his father’s name. It was everywhere; it was in his certificates of achievements, in the admission records, in government ID cards and even in the pooja rituals. At times, his mother doubted if Arun worked hard only to get recognized with the S/O (son of) mention - and it was true to a large extant. These little priceless mentions made Arun feel immensely happy. In the adolescent years, when Arun looked into the mirror, he found his father smiling back at him. His mother often complimented that he was growing into his father. The mannerism, the habits, the thinking process, even the posture in which Arun slept were very similar to his father’s. The family friends and distant relatives agreed to this fact and it made Arun flash a broad, proud smile. It was his experience that in testing times, his father’s teachings guided him to victory. 
He proudly shared all these with Uncle Pramod whenever he visited their house. In his mind, he laughed sarcastically on his Uncle’s ‘practicality’ slogan and proved to him that neither his campaign nor his philosophy was fit to exist. He didn’t want him to realize his mistake nor make him feel sorry for what he did, but he just wanted to prove that his father is an inseparable part of his life. Just like the mango tree, Arun was the living legacy of his father and he didn’t need anyone to certify on that!
The cement platform, to this day, remains in the courtyard, holding its destined place since time immemorial. It continues to be Arun’s favorite place. He did most of his tasks sitting on it; be it studying for exams or filling the job application forms. His mother had once suggested to plant another tree there, but he didn’t care to do so.
*****
As of today, the drawing room of Arun’s house hosts a picture frame of his father. His mother regularly cleans and garlands it. Arun is a successful man and is happily married to Sudha for over a year. The couple is awaiting a child very shortly. 
It is a usual Sunday morning in the month of April. Seated over the cement platform, Arun is thinking about the activities for the day. Then, suddenly, his eyes fall at the center of the platform. He sees little green shoots sprouting out of the presumably dead trunk of the mango tree. A closer examination confirms that the mango tree has miraculously resurrected after twenty years! 
Just then, his mother yells from inside the house.
“Arun! Sudha is having labor-pains! Call the doctor, quickly…”
A tide of emotional engulfs Arun, wetting his eyes instantly.
“Welcome back Father!” he whispers excitedly to the juvenile shoot and rushes into the house.

17 June, 2017

#Spotlight :: Four Days with Jack By Kelli A. Wilkins

Spend Four Days with Jack - New Romance Release
By Kelli A. Wilkins
www.amazon.com/author/kelliwilkins

Hi everyone,
I’m pleased to announce the release of my gay romance, Four Days with Jack. In this contemporary novella, best friends David and Jack embark on a sexual relationship. David has always loved Jack and has fantasized about being his lover, but he lacked the courage to admit his feelings—until now. 
Here’s the plot summary and a mild excerpt:



About the Book
Four Days with Jack

When David invited his best friend on vacation, he never expected them to fall in love…

Spending four days in a tropical paradise with Jack is a dream come true. For years, David has lived a lie and denied his romantic feelings for Jack. Now that they’re together in an isolated Caribbean resort, he finally admits what he really wants—to be Jack’s lover. 
Jack has been in love with David for years and is encouraged by his desire to explore a sexual relationship. He’s more than willing to introduce David to the life he has always fantasized about. Their sizzling nighttime encounters confirm David’s long-hidden cravings, but what will happen when they leave the resort?
Will David come out and start a new life with Jack? Or will he go back to his old ways and risk losing the best friend he ever had?




An excerpt:

David wrapped his arms around Jack as they stumbled into their room. “I can’t believe she tried to pick you up.”
“What do you expect? I’m gorgeous and charming, the drinks are free, the women are horny, and all the husbands are on the golf courses.”
David started laughing again. It felt good to act silly and have fun for a change. Allison was too serious and never wanted to go anywhere fun, but Jack was up for a night out. After dinner, they had hit one of the nightclubs at the resort. 
A few hours of drinking and dancing had put them both in a playful mood. To add to the evening’s entertainment, a middle-aged woman had been flirting and dancing with Jack all night. Before they left, she had invited him up to her room.
“Did she really offer to pay you?”
“Yeah. You should have heard the filthy things she said to me. She practically wanted to screw me right there. I bet she would have blown me in the hall if I suggested it.” He snickered. “Hey, maybe I should pimp myself out. I could use the money. I’ll be right back,” Jack said as he headed into the bathroom.
David walked to the veranda and opened the sliding glass door. He inhaled the warm night air. This was a perfect paradise vacation. Tonight had been great, and it was even more special because he was spending it with Jack.
A minute later, Jack came out of the bathroom, weaving toward him. He gestured at Jack’s shorts. “Dude, your fly’s undone.”
“Consider it easy access.” Jack extended his arms. “How about a hug?”
David hugged him tight. Jack’s body was taller and thicker than what he was used to, but he melted into his arms. He wanted to stay here forever.
“What do you want to do now?” Jack asked.
“This.” David kissed him, and Jack draped his arms around his waist. They deepened the kiss, their tongues probing and hungering for more.
Jack pulled away. “Bed?” 
“No. Here.” David unbuttoned Jack’s green shirt and parted the material. He stroked Jack’s chest muscles, then toyed with his nipples, pinching them lightly.
“Oooh, that’s nice. Want me to strip?”


Order your copy here:
Amazon * Apple * B&N * Kobo 

I hope you’ll check it out. I fell in love with the characters, and I hope readers will too. It’s got a good blend of humor, drama, and plenty of sizzling love scenes that will heat up your summer!  

Happy Reading,


Kelli


About the Author:
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels.
Her trilogy of erotic romance novellas, Midsummer Night’s Delights, Midwinter Night’s Delights, and Ultimate Night’s Delights was released in spring 2017.
Loving a Wild Stranger was published in January 2017. This historical/pioneer romance is set in the wilds of the Michigan Territory and blends tender romance with adventure.
Kelli's third Medallion Press romance, Lies, Love & Redemption was released in September 2016. This spicy historical western is set on the Nebraska prairie in 1877.

Her writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative guide filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.

Kelli posts on her Facebook Author Page and Twitter. She also writes a weekly Blog
Visit her Website to learn more about all of her writings, read book excerpts, reviews, and more. Readers can sign up for her newsletter HERE.

Catch Up with Kelli:

16 June, 2017

#Interview with Andrew Joyce, #Author of Yellow Hair

About the Author:
Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until decades later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books, including a two-volume collection of one hundred and fifty short stories comprised of his hitching adventures called BEDTIME STORIES FOR GROWN-UPS (as yet unpublished), and his latest novel, YELLOW HAIR. He now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, MICK REILLY.



An Interview:

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/a storyteller?

One morning, about six years ago, I went crazy. I got out of bed, went downstairs, and threw my TV out the window. Then I sat down at the computer and wrote my first short story. Just for the hell of it, I threw it up on a writing site. A few months later, I was informed that it had been selected for publication in an anthology of the best short stories of 2011. I even got paid for it.

What inspires you to write?

Anything and everything.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?

The inspiration for Yellow Hair came to me when I was reading a short article. It made reference to the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862, and also mentioned that the outcome involved the largest mass execution in the history of the United States. That piqued my interest.

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that were written before and never saw the light of day?

I have 150 short stories waiting to be edited so I can publish my two-volume book of short stories entitled Bedtime Stories for Grown-ups.

Tell us about your writing process.

I prefer to write in the early morning hours when things are quiet. I usually get up around 2:00 a.m. and go to work. The commute is not long . . . only a few steps to my computer.

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?

Big Jim sat straight and proud as he inspected the four columns, making sure they were evenly spaced. After nodding his head in approval, he raised his right arm, and in a forward, arching motion he said, “Follow me.”
With that one action and those two simple words, Jim Cody’s infamous train that departed in the spring of 1850 from Westport, Missouri, and traveled into legend, started west, putting into play events that culminated in the largest mass execution in the history of the United States.

As to why it is my favourite passage, I can’t say. What I mean, is that I don’t know.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?

I imbue my main characters with many of my traits—both good and bad.

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?

I’ve read all my life. John Steinbeck and Jack London are two of my favourite authors. They influence me by making me want to write like them. I’m not there yet and probably never will be, but I keep trying.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, to date?

Never, ever, ever, ever respond to a negative review.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?

Read, read . . . and then read some more. Read everything you can get your hands on! Reading to a writer is as medical school is to a doctor, as physical training is to an athlete, as breathing is to life. When one reads stuff like the passage below, one cannot help but become a better writer.

"The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight. The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples. Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide.”—John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?

A knife, a copy of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and a woman.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?

I am permanently unwound. And what is free time? Between writing, editing, and marketing my books, I’m lucky if I can find the time to get drunk once in a while. 

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?

I completed my bucket list back in my 20s. I went everywhere I wanted to go and did everything I wanted to do. I’m now sixty-six and I just go with the flow, knowing that I’m not missing out on anything.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.

There is nothing fun about me.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?

Yes. I would like to thank you for having me over. It’s been a blast.


About the Book:

Through no fault of his own, a young man is thrust into a new culture just at the time that culture is undergoing massive changes. It is losing its identity, its lands, and its dignity. He not only adapts, he perseveres and, over time, becomes a leader—and on occasion, the hand of vengeance against those who would destroy his adopted people.

Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage written about actually took place. The historical figures that play a role in this fact-based tale of fiction were real people and the author uses their real names. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century.
This is American history.

Amazon


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