Celebrating the Little Things

The last few months have been trying ones for me and the amazing women who are my closest friends. We always try to tighten the circle when one of us needs the extra support. Recently we have been there for each other as we lost parents, worried about our aging ones and stressed about our teen and young adult children. It’s easy to forget about the many little things that bring us joy when we feel so overwhelmed by the big things that seem to come at us with a vengeance.

I don’t want us to lose sight of the little things as everything else engulfs us. I look at my friends and I am in awe of them. For taking back control of their lives, for not letting anyone diminish their accomplishments, for knowing when to be there for their families and when to stand up for themselves. I draw strength from them, knowing that they will remind me to pay attention to the little things too.

A few days ago I got an email saying that my book Realm of the Goddess  was selected as a First Place Category Award Winner in the 2015 Paranormal Awards for Supernatural Powers and Paranormal Fiction. I allowed myself a moment of feeling thrilled but then was immediately distracted by other big things going on in my day.

It wasn’t until later on in the middle of the night when I was staring at the ceiling that it hit me. My little self-published book had won something. And that reminded me that we need to acknowledge the small victories because they will give us the courage to go for the big ones.

 

Italicized Non-English Words In Fiction: Why I hate Them

I hate reading books where every word that isn’t English is italicized. I feel as if the author is assuming that I am not intelligent enough to look up an unfamiliar word or that I am so content (read arrogant) in my knowledge that I cannot be bothered to learn something new. Learning words in another language to me is akin to opening the door to a whole other world. A world with different nuances and meanings than the one I am accustomed to. Who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t want to learn more about another cultures and other traditions? It enriches my world and gives new meaning to my life when I have access to other lives, other experiences. It makes me feel connected to people in a way that is hard to describe. It’s about delving into something basic, so fundamental that it transcends words and language. But most of all it’s just so wonderful to realize that despite all the outward differences, the sounds and accents and appearances we are all ultimately connected to each other by love and joy and pain and suffering. So when I see a word italicized only because of its otherness, I feel as though a door is closing in my face. I feel as if I cannot truly connect. And that makes me sad.

My Life As A Hyphenated Person

I’ve spent my entire life with a hyphenated identity. I was born in Germany to a Pakistani mother and a Bangladeshi father. Technically Bangladesh didn’t exist when I was born. But Bengali nationalism in what was then East Pakistan was alive and kicking, strong enough to demand a country of its own until in 1971 it gained independence. And I gained a hyphenated identity. In Germany I was the “Indian”- German, then later in Bangladesh, the half-Pakistani and as an adult I am Indo-Canadian. It’s an interesting experience going through life with labels that others put on you, especially when they mean next to nothing to you. As a child growing up in Germany, I was very much aware that I was the other, simply because in small town Germany back then, ours was the only brown-skinned family. Later we moved to Bangladesh where I lived for the next seventeen years. In all that time I only knew a couple of other children whose parents were like mine, but it was not something that we talked about to each other. And although in Bangladesh my skin color was like everyone else’s, there was something intangible that separated me from them. My mother warned me not to speak Urdu in public, because Bangladesh was still nursing wounds fresh from a horrific war for independence from Pakistan. But as a child, this hatred for Pakistanis that simmered just below the surface was not within my grasp. I heard the taunts and jabs that were made at our expense, but I couldn’t understand the reasons behind them. But the feelings were the same. In Germany I was made to feel dirty because of my brown skin and in Bangladesh it was because of where my mother happened to be from. Either way it determined the way I saw myself. It took years for me to accept that none of this had anything to do with who I was. It had everything to do with the assumptions that people made about me based on my last name, my skin color, my religion. When I did realize it, I felt free. Finally, after years of carrying a burden that wasn’t mine, I was able to shed the responsibility of being acceptable. With this freedom came a brand new perspective. I realized that I didn’t necessarily embody the qualities that are automatically attributed to me.

My experiences in straddling cultures doesn’t end with me. I met and married a Hindu man from South India and as a result my children will forever be hyphenated. They will always be seen by some as half-Hindu and half-Muslim, by others as half-Bengali and half Indian, although the fact that they were born in Texas and I am not a full Bengali messes with the mathematics of their heritage. But the way I see it, the fractions add up to a whole and as long as they feel whole with themselves that’s all that matters. The rest is just semantics.

YA Scavenger Hunt Fall 2015

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

                Hello! I am Sabina Khan and I will be your host for this leg of the hunt.

10733772_878872508789928_2805453803771163663_oA little bit about me:

I LOVE karaoke!

And puppies. When I’m rich and famous I want to rescue puppies and cuddle them all day.

I love to learn languages: Currently I speak German, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi and of course English. I’m mastering the art of procrastination in writing by learning Spanish online.

While I was writing my first book I made two new best friends: gummy worms and vodka.

But enough about me. You are currently hunting on the Pink Team!

Team Pink

YASH PINK TEAM 2015

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PINK TEAM–but there is also a red team, a gold team, an orange team, a blue team,a teal team, a purple team and a green team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE

Directions: Below, somewhere in this post, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the pink team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Oct 4 at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

Today I’m thrilled to be hosting the fabulous Kate Karyus Quinn for the YA Scavenger Hunt.

Kate-Karyus-Quinn-225x300

Kate Karyus Quinn is an avid reader and menthol chapstick addict. She has lived in California and Tennessee, but recently made the move back to her hometown of Buffalo, New York, with her husband and two children in tow. She promised them wonderful people, amazing food, and weather that would… build character. She is the author of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, (DON’T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME, and the upcoming DOWN WITH THE SHINE (April 16th, 2016) all from HarperTeen.

Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book here! 

www.katekaryusquinn.com

Kate Quinn

Check out her book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Among-Shadows-Stories-Darkness-Light-ebook/dp/B013TOA7W4

Even the lightest hearts have shaded corners to hide the black thoughts that come at night. Experience the darker side of young adult as 13 authors explore the places that others prefer to leave among the shadows. Including stories from: Lenore Appelhans, Joelle Charbonneau, Kelly Fiore, Geoffrey Girard, Justina Ireland, Lydia Kang, RC Lewis, Demitria Lunetta, Mindy McGinnis, Gretchen McNeil, Phoebe North, Kate Karyus Quinn, and Beth Revis.

And that’s not all! Enjoy some EXCLUSIVE CONTENT from Kate:

from THE ONE TRUE MIRANDA LIEU

Everyone has their breaking point. Turns out mine is having my father return from the dead.
I come home from school and there he is standing with Mother in the middle of the living room. His arm draped along her shoulders. Hers around his waist. They can’t possibly be comfortable. It looks as if they’re posing for a picture, and I can’t help but wonder how long they’ve been waiting here. But then again they never do seem quite at ease when they’re together.
“Miranda, isn’t this a surprise?” my mother squeals, proving once again that she has mastered the art of the understatement. It’s a shame they don’t hand out trophies for that type of thing.
“I hate surprises,” I answer. Which is true and which she would know if she paid the least bit of attention to me beyond what I’m wearing and how many times I’ve frowned (“Always aim for a zero frowny face day!”).
My distrust of surprises goes all the way back to my fifth birthday party. It was on that bright and sunny day when I received a beautiful pink pony, her flowing mane braided and bowed. She was the most wonderful thing I’d ever seen and she was all mine to keep forever and always. In that first glimpse of her I imagined us having a million different adventures together. My love was instant and complete.
Still it was difficult to be gracious when my parents insisted my party guests be allowed to ride her before me. “After today she’s all yours and only yours, Miranda,” Father said with the same warm chuckle that always accompanied reprimands or admonishments to behave better. “Let the other children have a chance.”
So I waited and waited until at last it was my turn. Of course, my parents had to make it a big production. As I approached the pony, a carrot clutched in my fist, all the other kids circled around, clapping and cheering. Just as I stretched out a hand to stroke her velvety soft nose, there was a terrible rumbling sound.
And then the beautiful pink pony spontaneously combusted.
So when someone mentions a surprise, perhaps it is inevitable that it always makes me think of being spattered with pink pony guts and the feel of them dripping off my face while all around me my friends screamed and screamed and screamed.
This then is why I don’t rush to hug and kiss my long-lost father. One never knows who might blow up next.
Also, I rather hate him. I’d been told not to say such things when he was dead, but seeing as how he’s miraculously resurrected, it looks like hating him is back on the table again.
Trust me, I have my reasons for it.
A year ago I caught him getting it on with Miss Gruber. Even naked I recognized her immediately. She’d been my teacher for kindergarten and then again in third grade. I’d had fond memories of her. She was always so encouraging. “Good job, sweetie,” she’d say to everyone, even the kids who were doing a terrible job. With my father it was more of a “Yes, yes, just like that, sweetie baby,” but the chirpy tone of encouragement was grossly familiar.
Really, it wasn’t the cheating that had bothered me. I’d never believed my parents were in love or even particularly liked each other. But all that naked shaking flesh was unpleasant. Worse yet was my father announcing, “I’m sorry you walked in on me having relations with a woman who is clearly not your mother.” Sometimes my father talked like he had a robot living inside him. Maybe that’s why he’s alive again.
Anyway, after he’d gotten dressed and sent Miss Gruber home we’d had a talk. He apologized and said he’d done things he wasn’t proud of. A few tears had fallen (his, not mine; it’s been years since I’ve given anyone the satisfaction of seeing me cry) and he’d quickly wiped them away. Then he asked if I was still his “little kitten?” I’d known the correct answer was, “Yes, of course.” But honestly, had I ever been his little kitten? I had vague memories of him saying it once or twice when I was younger. Almost as if he was trying it out. But for him to bring it back after all this time . . .
“Kitten!” he exclaims now, apparently reading my mind, except not the part of it that thinks his nickname for me is gross and wrong.
“Surprise!” Mother says once more.
“I was never really dead,” Father adds, that old chuckle bubbling up. “It was all just for the insurance money.”
Mother glares at him like he’s stepped on her lines. The moment feels familiar in a way that is neither warm nor comforting. She’s always given him that same glare, as if every time he speaks he’s stealing the words out of her mouth. Now she hisses, “Wait ’til she asks the question, darling.”
I stare at my parents. These two strange slippery people that seem less knowable and more changeable the older I get. Oh I love them, of course. I suppose. But dear gods, I’d have given anything to know that I wouldn’t have to share the same small town with them for the rest of my life.
We all stare at each other as the clock loudly ticks the seconds. None of us spontaneously combust. I try not to be disappointed.
Available April 26th, 2016 from HarperTeen

Wasn’t that awesome? Check out all the authors on the 8 teams in the Scavenger Hunt and discover your new favorites!

To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is…8. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the pink team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

Bonus Draw

Thank you so much for visiting my website! While you’re here, don’t forget to enter the bonus draw I am running exclusively during the YA Scavenger Hunt.

For the BONUS draw, do the following (see the Rafflecopter link below):

-Tweet about #YASH

-Comment on this blog: Who is your favourite goddess from any mythology and why?

Check out other ways to earn points in:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For the bonus contest  I will be giving away Ebook copies of my book REALM OF THE GODDESS.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog!

CONTINUE THE HUNT

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author:

Kai McCarthy by visiting her website here:

http://kaimccarthy.blogspot.com/

Cover Reveal: Dutch by Madhuri Blaylock

My most awesome writerly friend Madhuri Blaylock  of the amazing Sanctum Series has done it again. Feast your eyes on the cover of Dutch, the first in her Keeper Series.
Dutch cover (2)

                                                               

Book: Dutch (The Keeper Series #1)

Author: Madhuri Blaylock

Genre: Erotic Romance

A dark raunchy romance 

Releases 12th October

Dutch Teaser 1 (2)

Synopsis:

Arrogant, handsome, and detached, deadly assassin Dutch Mathew has an insatiable appetite for bourbon, cigarettes, and women. A Keeper for The Gate, the shadowy organization designed to control Death and her Poochas, those reclaimers helping the dead cross back to life, he has three simple rules for anyone sharing his bed: no talking, no kissing, no touching.

Juma Landry is all about talking and kissing and touching. The more talking and kissing and touching, the better.

And as one of Death’s Poochas, the best in fact, she is Dutch’s next assignment. He is tasked with ending each and every one of her nine lives but with her sharp banter, beautiful smile, and hips made for all kinds of wickedness, she isn’t going to make that easy.

Set in New York City and Trivandrum, Dutch, The Keeper Series Book One, is a unique and sexy urban fairytale – a must read for anyone who likes their raunch with a twist of romance and a hint of magic. 

Watch for it to hit shelves 12th October

Pre-order links

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Dutch Teaser 2 (2)

Meet the Author:

Madhuri is that Indian girl everyone thinks is Black, or Spanish, or Black and Spanish. She’s from down South, has lived in the New York City area for more than twenty years, and is proof that you can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the girl.

She loves Old Scout bourbon, tattoos, french fries, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, her mom’s Indian food, all kinds of naughty, filthy things, Friday Night Lights, coffee, and Martha’s Vineyard. She can wiggle her ears, flare her nostrils, and curl her tongue.

She is an introvert who can fool people into thinking she’s an extrovert, all the while wishing she was home alone, not having to speak to a soul, lost in a fantastical world of her own creation.

As the great Charles Bukowski said, she writes because it comes bursting out of her. She cannot stop it, nor does she want to.

She’s the author of the paranormal romance trilogy, The Sanctum, and the upcoming erotic romance, The Keeper Series. In a past life, when she was much sweeter and kind of shy, she developed and published the middle reader series, Ayesha’s Teenage Survival Files.

She does other things to pay the bills.

Social Links:

Website: https://madhuriblaylock.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thesanctumtrilogy?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@madhuriblaylock/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7323620.Madhuri_Blaylock

My Stories… Not My People

The other day I was thinking back to the stories I wrote as a child. I was about 7 years old and had moved from Germany to Bangladesh around that time. I had switched from reading my favorite Enid Blyton books in German to reading them in English. Although learning to speak and read in English changed many things for me, what didn’t change were the characters in those books. They were all still white. Every single one of them. I remember being fascinated with everything they did, the interesting food they ate, their traditions and lifestyles. I loved reading about their (mis)adventures and the trouble they got into. As a voracious reader I always enjoyed a wide variety of books, but still…all the characters were white. So it was not surprising that when I wrote my first stories the characters in all of them were also white. They all had names like Nancy or Tom, even though in real life I was surrounded by people with names like Hassan or Seema. It never occurred to me that my characters could be something other than white. They didn’t eat sumptuous Bengali sweets or biryani. They ate fine chocolates and fish and chips. They didn’t wear kurtas or shalwar-kameez. They wore jeans and t-shirts. None of these things by themselves constitute anything untoward at all, but when I look at children’s fiction today and what is available in terms of diverse characters, it saddens me to think that there are still thousands of children around the world who may never see themselves reflected in the stories they love to read. Or even worse, they may never think it possible that they could be super heroes who fight evil. Or that they may be the ones to save the world. It’s depressing. And it’s time for change.

On School Visits, Diversity and YA Books

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited by  Walnut Road, a local elementary school here in Surrey, BC to talk to students in Grades 6 and 7 about my book and the writing process. Since this was my first visit to a school I wasn’t quite sure what to expect so I thought I’d share my experience and how I prepared for it.

First of all let me say what an amazing experience it was. The staff and students were extremely welcoming and I couldn’t have asked for a better audience. The students were polite and attentive but best of all they were very interested in reading and writing which made all the difference in the world. They had a lot of pertinent and thought-provoking questions and most of them liked the YA Paranormal genre. Many of them pulled out books they were reading and it was great to see that they carried these books around with them. Since they had recently finished their creative writing unit they also had a lot of questions about the writing process including editing and publishing.

Afterwards I mulled over why I had enjoyed my visit and what had made it successful. Here’s what I came up with.

Engage the students

If they get bored, then you’re pretty much just talking to an empty room. I started by asking them what kind of books they liked and by mentioning some book series similar to mine. They immediately perked up and began to call out books they loved. I knew a lot of them and so I asked them about specific characters and shared what I liked about them. There is nothing better than watching a roomful of 12-13 year olds with eyes sparkling as they talk about books. Really…it’s priceless.

Tell them your story

I gave them a brief idea of what my book was about and that got the conversation flowing. They wanted to know how I came up with the idea, how long it took to write the book and if there were going to be more. I also loved that they talked so enthusiastically about their own writing projects.

Ask them what kind of books they wish they could read

They were thrilled to read a story with diverse characters and we discussed the importance of reading diversely and exactly what that meant. I was blown away by their insightful comments on why we need to broaden our selection of books.

Tell them about writing programs and festivals that are available to them

The students were surprised to hear about the many opportunities there were to learn the craft and how many fun events were taking place close to home.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to talk to such a diverse and talented group of students. They showed me their creative writing projects and I was very impressed by the talent. It was gratifying to see that many of them pursue this in their spare time and are excited to learn more.

Best part of the visit? A week later I was asked to pick up something  from the school office. When I brought it home I was completely choked up. The student had hand written individual letters telling me what they thought about the visit. I couldn’t even get through half of it without getting all teary eyed.

So, if any of you are thinking about visiting a local school and talking to the students about writing and about your book, don’t hesitate. Make that call, set up an date and I am positive it will be one of the best experiences in your life as a writer.

What I Learned From My First Author Signing

This past Saturday I was invited to do an author signing at the Strawberry Hills Chapters in Surrey, BC. Of course I was thrilled because as a very recently self-published author this sort of thing is just awesome. So here are some things I learned:

1. Have realistic expectations. Unless you are an established author with an existing fan base, it is not likely that you will be greeted by a crowd of people waiting with bated breath for your appearance. It will be more like a small trickle, mostly consisting of a few people who unsuspectingly wandered into the store and happened to stop at your table to check out what you’re selling. That’s when you pounce. Well metaphorically at least. You wow them with your pitch and overwhelming enthusiasm and before they know it they are buying a copy of your book, because it is the genre they read or they think it will make a great gift for someone else. Either way it’s a win for you. Then there will be those people who avoid making eye contact with you because they really just want to browse. After you’ve scared away the first couple of them with your fervent smile you’ll figure it out.

2. It is important to smile. Smile as though your life depends on it, even if your face begins to hurt after the first half hour. Pace yourself by exercising your facial muscles every now and then. Just don’t forget that people behind you at the Starbucks can see you. I didn’t realize it at first until I noticed a couple of kids staring at me in horror as I grimaced in an attempt to get some sensation back in my face. I hope they’re not scarred for life.

3. Be very,very appreciative of the people who work at the bookstore. I was blown away by how supportive they were. They came and checked on me constantly, made sure I was comfortable and that I stayed positive when things were slow. I cannot emphasize enough how much that meant to me as a first time author. Needless to say, having the support of your local bookstore is priceless.

4. Know where the washrooms are…and the music section…and the greetings cards. A fellow local author I met recently warned me of this and sure enough, at least five people asked me about this at various times.

5. Celebrate the small victories. I may not have sold more than a few copies of my book, but I got a lot of exposure which is what my main goal really was. After all, I am a newly self published author that nobody has heard of yet. If I want to change that I have to spread the word. This takes time and hard work. It does not happen overnight, so it’s important to stay positive and good things will happen. I am fortunate enough to have very supportive people in my life and I am extremely grateful to Chapters for giving me this opportunity.

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The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Cheryle Baker

Kate M. Colby

Cheryle Baker

Hello, I am Cheryle Baker.  I use C.Lightwalker for my virtual escapades thus the name of my Blog “Lightwalkers Blog”.

Cheryle Bill Hill Springs 2011I may not qualify for this tour.  I am not a published writer, in fact I recently enrolled in WordPress Blogging U 101, as a way to discipline myself to write on a regular basis, be accountable to doing the writing and to have some sort of structure.   I write sporadically, mostly for myself.  My main focus has been on poetry.  I attended courses Intermediate, Advanced and Form Poetry taught by Micheline Maylor at Alexandra’s Writers Society Centre in Calgary a number of years ago.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

When my great grandfather passed way, I received the phone call. I about 15 at the time.  My Mother and Father were out, probably at a Friday night dinner.  My…

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By sabina khan Posted in writing

The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Kimberly DuBoise

Scarborough Mysteries

Featured Image -- 454Our interviewee for this Monday is – Kimberly DuBoise.

I live in the Midwest with my husband, cat and dog. I have taught preschool in the public school system for ten years. I have written and published a book of poetry and a non-fiction book on faith. If I am not reading or writing I am probably cooking or walking. My blog is called the tinypoet because I am tiny – 4’6 to be exact. I have Turner Syndrome, which impacts my daily life and thus my writing.

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

kim bookI wrote a book titled “The Hidden Castle” when I was nine and still have it. I remember choosing the cover. It was fun to illustrate, too. It is a mystery, action story that reflected my love of Nancy Drew back then! I got an A+ on it, still…

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By sabina khan Posted in writing