Tag Archives: Rohini

Hearts for Valentine

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Valentine’s Day was approaching and our publisher was in the throes of revamping the website. How do we make it more interesting? Let’s add a blog, he said. Let’s add stories and so I was moved to write this story, which is now available on Smashwords as a free read.

Here are the opening lines

They never celebrated Valentine’s Day, “Such a load of nonsense!” she said as they held hands and laughed at others’ follies: boxes of chocolates, bouquets of red roses tied up in guilt, hasty dates at restaurants waiting to lighten the lovers’ wallets.

There were jewellery stores dripping diamonds with their adamantine facets, sharp enough to break hearts. Rubies as red as the blood of the nightingale’s heart in Oscar Wilde’s tale, that beckoned lovers into the stores. Emeralds as green as the eyes of a mistress when she sees her lover with his wife on his arm winked through the shop windows at passers-by. The temptations and offerings were everywhere, and so hard to resist.

“We show love every day, and that matters more than chocolates,” he said.

“It does,” she answered laughing that carefree laugh that comes from the heart of a woman who knows she is loved.

Their children teased them, “C’mon Dad, get with the times!”

He shrugged. She laughed

Yet, one year arrived when she wished – it was just a little wish, light as the last snowflake of winter that disappeared in the warmth of his smile – that they did something a little special on Valentine’s Day. They never had, so why start now? After thirty some years of a happy marriage, there was really no need for any special recognition of the day. The commercialisation of love on display seemed too garish for them. Yet the little wish persisted in her mind, no longer an ephemeral snowflake, more like a spangle from a Christmas decoration. So that year, on his breakfast plate she placed a small dollop of raspberry jam in the shape of a heart.

“Oh!” was all he said. His hazel-brown eyes crinkled at the edges and lit up with suppressed laughter. He finished his single fried egg, sunny-side up on toast and then followed it with his second toast and the little heart of raspberry jam melted on its surface, spreading its soft sweet jelly redness over his tongue.

You may read the rest of the story on our Ex-L-Ence Publishing website

http://www.ex-l-ence.com/blogs/high-days-and-holidays/hearts-for-valentine

Or download it here:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/704228

Extract from a work in progress

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I am at last working on a story I had started way back in 1994! It’s also my first novella set in Halifax. I have written one short story set in Lunenburg County in Nova Scotia, and you can read that here, it’s titled A Rhyme and a Reason, the first thriller I have ever attempted.

And now, here’s a peek into a tale to be…

As she approached Scotia Square, Meera looked around seeing everything afresh. She marvelled at the old buildings standing amiably next to newer glass and concrete structures. The red brick and the sombre grey, articulated doorways with raised eyebrows looking forever down their noses at the large plate glass of some upstart new high-rise. Thankfully, there weren’t too many high-rise buildings here. There was an olde-worlde charm she hadn’t noticed before. It’s quite a beautiful old street, she thought. I’ve never really looked at it properly. A bit like Calcutta. Almost straight out of Dickens! Then she smiled, trust me to think of Dickens. I used to think it was a dreary grey English sort of street, which it is, but now I have a job and it takes on a romantic air. I am so, so, lucky. It’s been less than three months since we arrived and I have a job. Part time too, the most wonderful part of all. I can fix dinner, do the housework, make lunch… the plans started to fall into place. I’ll tell Ajoy that now we must do the laundry just once a week. Oh, God! A number two. My bus!

She almost shouted out aloud. Then lifting her sari slightly, displaying silver anklets worn over skin-tone knee-high nylon stockings, she ran to catch her bus. ‘I have a job’ the chorus in her head came to a crashing crescendo as she clambered up the steps and tossed the coins into the receptacle with a flourish. I’m an expert at doing that already. How Canadian will I get? She wondered. Will I ever wear pants? I may have to when it gets really cold. A dress? Never! It must be so strange to have all that cold air going up your legs, oof! She shuddered at the thought of it.

When she reached her stop, Meera almost ran up to the strip mall on at Lacewood and Vimy, where Ajoy had recently established their video rental store. She pushed through the door, he had a couple of older customers and was deep in conversation. so she wandered to the side and looked at the list of videos on offer. Through the corner of her eyes, she watched him speaking with animated gestures to his enchanted audience. Her heart skipped a beat, he had grown old so suddenly. The hair at his temples had begun to grey and there was a thinning patch at the crown of his head. His large soulful eyes, usually edged by laugh lines, had begun to droop in the three months since they had come to Halifax.

Excerpt from ‘Five Lives One Day in Bahrain’

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Until another author friend sends me something to share with you, here’s an extract from Five Lives One Day in Bahrain published by Ex-L-Ence Publishing. Check out the site for many good reads.

Rosita is late:

Rosita had been so exhausted that after her six o’clock Skype call to her mother that morning she’d gone back to sleep and had slipped into such a deep slumber that she’d gone past her softly buzzing alarm and her roommate Wendy’s door-banging departure. She woke with a start, “What time is it?” she exclaimed aloud, rubbing her eyes and yawning all at once. She reached out and looked at her large wristwatch, which she’d set on the small table near her bed. “Oh No! Nine o’clock! How did I do that? Now I’ll have to take a cab, and I was hoping to catch the bus.” The unnecessary extra expense upset her rhythm. But she knew she needed to look good, have all her certificates ready and arrive at least fifteen minutes ahead of the 12:30 pm appointment. No way could she catch a bus now.

There was too much riding on this job! Her very own section for hair styling, a salary of two hundred and fifty dinars plus sponsorship and the lady, an English woman married to a Bahraini, seemed to be kind and understanding. How was she going to get to Budaiya in time? All this buzzed through her mind as she hurriedly showered and sprayed herself with both a new deodorant and the Kenzo she’d used so sparingly and carefully ever since the American marine Ricky had given it to her three months ago. That was something else she’d kept from her mother and the girls at the Red Rose Salon in Juffair.

You can also buy the book here.

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Lest we forget

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A painting by my friend Serena Stevens

A painting by my friend Serena Stevens may she rest in peace she battled cancer as valiantly as any soldier

November is a month to remember. Loved ones lost to all kinds of battles… on the front in war, of course, but there are other battles that some folk wage against disease – that dreaded, insidious, cancer; stroke victims, who wage a daily battle with bodies unwilling and unable to respond to the simplest of their wills; so many other ailments and conditions that render folk dealing with pain on a sub-chronic daily basis, the list is a long one. This November I’d like to remember them all.

I can’t name them, but they are all my heroes.

You and you and you, who see

Life ebbing by in slow degrees

For whom there was a time, I know

When nothing ever went so slow

Today your speech is locked behind

An uncooperative mind.

And you, why half your body can’t

Respond to anything you want.

And then there’s one who cannot turn

For pain that through his body burns

And there’s another one who, while

Her spirit breaks, yet she can smile.

Some have lost their limbs to bombs

And still they somehow all limp on

We know not who has been in war

But this we know, and know for sure

There are brave soldiers everywhere

Who need to know that we do care

For them, our poppies red

We wear and still a tear or two we’ll shed.

Fight on you brave immortal souls

The day will come, you’ll reach your goal.

And for those who are thinking of loved ones lost in war I have this to say in remembrance of ‘Poppy Day’.

The famous poem by John McCrae is reproduced below:

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

With so many wars that have been fought since that poem was written, I’d like to change it around a bit

Forget that quarrel with our foe

‘twill only lead to e’er more woe.

And who is foe may in the end

Turn ‘round and some day be a friend.

The only faith, that we need keep

Is, to try and end each day in peace.

 

Let the poppies, sweetly blow

Lest we forget those laid below

And should our leaders want a fight,

And rant and rave about what’s right,

Let’s hide the guns and send them in

To face each other in the ring.

Note: This post was first published a year ago. I have reworked it for the reasons above.

5 tips for writing a memoir …

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… And how I scored

The other day someone asked me if I had any tips for writing a biography or a memoir. That was a tall order. I must confess I am working on one but can no way see myself as any kind of an expert on the subject. My method, quite honestly was to plunge on. Get the story down and then work it into a somewhat linear narrative thereafter.

Why didn’t I do what I usually do, Google it? The main reason was because I didn’t want to be bogged down by external strictures, by what a regular biography should look like. I wanted the person’s own story and own voice to come through.

The memoir I am working on is almost done. But, after the question was posed I decided to see whether my method was nuts, or did it work?

I came upon an old article from AuthorHouse that suggests the following tips:

Tip #1

Have a deep interest in your subject. Don’t pick a biography subject just because you think there’s a market for that book, or because that person is currently in the spotlight. Pick someone you’re dying to know more about.

In other words, ask yourself, “If no one but me ever reads this book (or if, for whatever reason, the book is never completed), would the research itself be its own reward?”

I for one am glad to say an unequivocal YES! I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting to know my subject. We’ve had many laughs, tears, frustrations. But, overall it has been an amazing experience for me.

Tip#2

Be organized. If you’re a thorough researcher, you might interview hundreds of people and review thousands of documents. Simply dumping all those records, transcripts, photographs and notes into a folder with your subject’s name is NOT the way to go. Use a system that works for you.

Oh dear! Nope. I wasn’t that organised, but I wasn’t a total wreck either. I did/ do have separate folders. Fortunately, since we decided to keep it as a memoir, I didn’t need to interview a whole host of people so I didn’t have to check and counter-check with others who would, perhaps have given different versions of the same account, a la Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet.

Tip#3

You don’t necessarily need a new subject—just a new angle. Just because your person of interest has already been written about before (perhaps many times), it doesn’t mean there’s no place for your biography.

This didn’t apply to me or the subject, because the story is unique and there aren’t that many accounts of the person’s life for us to worry about. Besides, it is very much an authorised memoir.

Tip #4

Don’t delay, especially with interviews! Once you’ve decided that you want to write about a particular person, get started as soon as possible. Why? Because interview subjects will, unfortunately, pass away eventually. Waiting a year, a month, or even a week could result in the loss of an eyewitness or a close friend of your subject.

Again, this didn’t apply… thank God! But we had got the bulk of the story down fairly quickly. In spite of a hectic schedule, we met twice a week. My subject is a very focused individual and after a few preliminaries, we wasted no time. I am very impressed by his prodigious memory and tremendous sense of story-telling. I felt I was there, witnessing each event he talked about. That’s why sometimes we’d both end up laughing or emotionally drained.

Tip #5

Be thorough. Because, after everything you also have to write the book!  Follow leads, pursue hunches, and research your subject exhaustively—but don’t forget to write the book! At some point, you have to make a conscious decision to stop digging and start typing.

As you do your research, you might be able to fine-tune the scope of your project, which will narrow the parameters of your research.

My method was to write along. As soon as I had finished the interview sessions I would transcribe the session and keep that in a separate folder. The next day, or sometimes, that very night, I’d get into trying to “write the story” as a story.

This worked to some extent, because, after a very thorough (and I may add: sharp) review by the editor, major chunks of the book had to be moved around and rewritten. Some parts had been repeated and some were inconsistent.

To the above AuthorHouse tips, I’d add a sixth…

PLUS ONE!

Get a good editor. Preferably someone who is not associated or emotionally connected with your subject.

This was a great help for me. Because, although on reading my editor’s comments I was initially devastated, when I returned to fixing the manuscript, I found that perhaps the emotional distance had helped to bring clarity. We are always far too close to our own work – especially long pieces – to see the errors.

And that’s about the size of it. I’m sure there are many other resources for writing a biography or memoir, but if this helps even one fellow writer, I feel I will have done something today.

Poem or Story

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Which works better?

Genesis

It’s all supposed to begin with the first step

The thousand miles or kilometres or whatever: Life.

But what if I refuse to take it?

And stand here unmoving

Clinging to the membrane

Steadfast.

An ovum unfertilised

A life that denies the acceptance of existence

Dodging the all-seeking little worms of spermatozoa

Remaining a single-celled

Non-creation.

Still I will be moved

In the bloody menses that she will discard.

And so I will have made a step

Whether I travel

Towards life

Or death.

AND HERE IT IS AS A MINI STORY

Genesis

It’s all supposed to begin with the first step. The thousand miles or kilometres or whatever: Life. But what if I refuse to take it? And stay here unmoving. Clinging to the membrane.

“Stay away from me you worm! Serpent!”

“Allow me entry and you will enjoy experience.”

“No! I don’t want it.” I scream turning away from his seductive dance.

“You will learn about love. A mother’s caress. You will smell flowers as sweet as heaven. Experience the wonders of a world beyond this red-darkness and loud throbbing. You will taste delicacies more exquisite than the insipid chyme that filters into your being just now. You will hear music so fine you will dance free from this static limpet life.”

“Go away. I am afraid.” I am a life that defies existence. I coagulate my shell to prevent penetration. I remain an ovum unfertilised. The spermatozoon dies.

I have survived. I am the star. I dodged the all-seeking little worms and have remained a single-celled non-creation. I have saved her from the pain of birth, the agonies of raising a child and of death.

My triumph is short-lived. Forces I cannot fight are shedding me, tossing me out in her bloody menses. She discards it with disdain and anger, wrapping her tampon carefully in toilet paper.

There are no medals for death if you haven’t lived a life.

A poem presented at the Colours of Life, Bahrain

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Two of the poems I presented at Colours of Life are already on FictionPals. I guess the third one should join them here.

Apologies to Maya Angelou

I will not go down in history

And no one will write lies

About my daily mystery

Or if, like dust, I’ll rise.

 

Am I sassy or even sexy

Do I upset you in any way?

The chances are you haven’t noticed

I’m wallpaper plain today.

 

But like the aged dying tree

I once was young and green

I’m not like the moon or sun or tides

And yet I shall be seen

 

Though my hair is white as hoar frost

Though my limbs hang loose with flab

Though my voice is hoarse and rough

You know, I have the strength of words

 

And if you will, or won’t or can’t

Hear what I have to say

Above the noise, the static chant

I know I shall be heard

 

For I speak of your tomorrows

Your coming ills and ails

Your aches and pains and hollow

Moans, just as your daylight fails.

 

So listen to me young ones

Hear what I have to say

No matter what you dream and hope

Just do it right away.

 

When you think that you have lots of time

The sun sets on another day

The hundred little things of life

Keep getting in your way

 

You think this will not happen

Who me? Oh, no! No way!

Your tomorrow it is coming

And that is me…Today!

The problem with my character

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By now I’ve indulged the fiction (and poetry) part of my writing bug for several years. Along the way I’ve attended workshops and talks by other writers. Among the pet peeves that many writers share is the character, or sometimes more than one character, that decides he or she has a different story to tell. One friend had a minor character in one story demand that he have a bigger role to play ‘next time’. The poor author had to create another whole new book before the character would shut up.

Here we are as authors, going through checklists that include the character’s name, where he or she lives, their loves, phobias and hates. Hitting Google, like one possessed to ensure that the ‘time’ in which we frame our story and character are properly represented. We consider issues like, “What would destroy your character?” And after agonising over this, reducing ourselves to tears, (because said character has now taken residence in our hearts), we need to think about, “How does your character feel about his or her father/ mother, does he/she need friends, defining strengths, whether a team player or a loner…” A plethora of other considerations come into play.

Just when we think we have the character kind of settled in a general sort of way, they look at us, (for me it’s usually in the dead of night, when I think okay it’s time for bed), or nudge us.

“Not now, dear,” Character whispers, “I don’t like my reaction to that incident.”

“I’ll fix it tomorrow,” I say heaving a sigh and hitting the power button on the computer.

“No. You’ll forget.”

“I won’t,” I declare aloud and hope my husband doesn’t get up and ask me whom I’m talking to.

So I’m brushing my teeth and doing other pre-bed do-dahs, when it sneaks up behind me and looks at me in the mirror. “It won’t take long, just a little tweak, you can’t do this to me, that’s not me, please…”

I sigh. “Okay, okay…”

It’s back to the computer. Re-read the paragraph, re-read the chapter, go back to the beginning of the story… Fix. Change. Juggle. “Hmmm, Character was right, it is better this way.”

Now the character is quiet. He’s gone to sleep, but I need to quieten my mind. So I go off to this website I’m trying to manage and see if something else can be changed. In the process I send an email to the friend who’s helping me get the website together. By now it’s 2:30a.m. I manage to wake up at 8:30am six hours’ sleep is good enough.

What does my friend say when he emails me back, “Don’t you ever sleep?”

3-Citrus Marmalade

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IMG_0279“Do it by the book,” she muttered as she stirred the three-citrus marmalade. Determined that today, this time, for once, she was going to follow the recipe exactly. Well, almost exactly.

She never did things by the book and was still disgruntled with that silly question she’d asked some friends, the one about the alarm clock in the opening lines. The writers’ remarks were all sensible and supportive, especially the one about “screaming in the face of the editors,” that brought a smile to her face as she stirred. Read the rest of this entry

An honourable mention

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Every now and then I wonder if my writing really cuts it. I know I’m not alone. From what I understand, all writers go through these self-doubts. They wonder, doubt, throw in the towel, pace the floor, read another writer’s words and say, “wow I wish I could write like that!”

To try and reassure myself I try and enter writing competitions. For the most part these are an expensive proposition as there are entry fees, waiting times, the nerves… and so I can’t and don’t enter that many.

For a long time now, I’ve been meaning to enter one or more of Morgen Bailey’s writing competitions. Last month I finally did. I didn’t win. The story that did, is one of those that elicit that response, “I wish I could…”

But, I am pleased to say, that the two entries I submitted received an ‘honourable mention’. For the moment that’s encouraging. I shall soon take one of Morgen’s online courses appropriately on Entering Writing Competitions.

Let’s hope I fare better next time.

The theme was ‘Fireworks’

Story 1: Dinnertime

Ma’s hand outstretched, indicating a dish. So busy talking, scolding, she can’t stop the stream of consciousness flowing from her mouth.

Meals at our home were like that. Ma at the ‘boss’ end of the table, Papa at the head. It must have been the head; guests sat next to him, when they visited or dropped in and were asked to ‘stay, there’s plenty,’ while we were told FHB (Family Hold Back).

Pa, eyes twinkling mischief, reaches across, shakes her hand, says, “Pleased to meet you.”

Ma, dumbstruck, silent.

We laugh, we laugh, until the lights are sparklers, gilding memories.

Story 2: Adamantine Anger

A tiny diamond in a silver ring, it caught the light, like a thousand twinkling stars, or snatched rays of sunlight shattering them into a kaleidoscope, the aching carbon screaming in silent agony at the exquisite pain of its creation. Its fury was a thing distilled – a jinn in a jewel prepared to battle humankind.

She entered the store. The diamond slung its lasso of light; caught her eye. “This one,” she whispered, slipping it on her finger. A facet slashed her thumb, and poison shot into her heart.

“One down” the jinn sniggered; laughter exploding into a myriad lights.