The Abandoned Palace: Fatehpur Sikri

Painting of Akbar the Great with Jesuits at hi...
Painting of Akbar the Great with Jesuits at his court; Akbar’s vizier wrote a gazetteer on the Mughal realm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Imperial palace at Fathepur Sikri, near Agra, ...
Imperial palace at Fathepur Sikri, near Agra, India, built in 1580 Français : Palais impérial à Fatehpur-Sikrî, près d’Âgrâ en Inde, construit en 1580 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On our trip to India two years ago we visited Fatehpur Sikri. A lot of the action in my book takes place in old temples and palaces, so this was a perfect spot for some great inspiration.  The Mughal Emperor Akbar had this palace city built in the late 1570’s when he relocated the capital of his empire from Agra to Fatehpur. The architecture is a dazzling blend of Persian and Hindu styles. The design bears testament to the religious tolerance that Akbar was well known for. While the Mughals were devout Muslims, Akbar chose to educate himself on the tenets of Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, as well as Christianity. In the palace he dedicated a large hall, called the Ibadat Khana or Room of Worship. There he invited scholars and leaders of other religions to meet and discuss their faith with the goal of enlightenment and brotherhood. Surprisingly forward thinking for his time, Akbar even invited women to join these weekly gatherings. But he didn’t just stop at gatherings and discussions. Akbar tried to create a new faith which was an amalgamation of all the faiths he had encountered. He called this faith Din-i-Ilahi, Faith of the Divine. Unfortunately for him, the ministers of his court were not quite so open-minded, and prejudices got in the way of his tolerance. Those closest to him began to worry that his open acceptance of the other faiths would pose a threat and political circumstances did not allow the new religion to gain popularity. Sadly, a few years later, Akbar’s court abandoned the palace at Fatehpur Sikri due to a water shortage.Today, the city still stands, nothing more than a ghost town of courtyards and surrounding pavilions. Walking around the complex you can almost hear the echoes of children playing in the gardens while the Emperor’s wives lounged by the pond. Inside the empty palace it is easy to feel the intensity and passion that must have filled the Ibadat Khana when Akbar led the scholarly discussions on the some of the world’s major religions.

As a writer there is nothing more inspiring than a place filled with so much  history and intrigue. Every room seems filled with secrets and stories just come alive as you walk in the footsteps of so many who made and changed the circumstances of their time.

Helicopter Parenting: How much is too much?

Week 36: Helicopter Parent
Week 36: Helicopter Parent (Photo credit: WilliamsProjects)

As parents we often have to tread carefully to avoid stepping on the fine line between good parenting and over parenting. How do we know when enough is enough? Is there a magic age when we can say that we have done all that we could for our children and that the time has come to step back?

I thought I was a helicopter parent. I hovered in preschool, in elementary school and would have continued to hover in high school if I had not walked into that invisible wall as my oldest daughter went off to her first day. It wasn’t an actual wall that stopped me…it was a look of sheer horror and embarrassment on my daughter’s face as she realized that I was stepping out of the car and following her. That look stopped me in my tracks. I realized that I had gone as far as I could. I stood outside her school like an abandoned child for a few minutes, before it hit me. This was it. No more greeting the teacher as the kids walked in and hanging around the classroom if they needed parent helpers. Apparently, once your kids hit high school, parent helpers are synonymous with the plague. I realized that I needed to get a life of my own, hence the desire to start a career as a writer. Also, I had some time to transition since I had another child and her teachers to harrass for a few more years.

Which brings me to the article  about helicopter parenting. Apparently it is a real affliction. It seems that there are parents out there who haven’t heard of the invisible wall I was talking about. And if they did, they may have just crashed through it anyway. I’m not judging because I know I’m just as guilty of hovering, but I do draw the line at calling my children’s prospective employers or future university profs. But extreme hovering tactics aside, when do we let go? Do we deprive our children the benefit of our experiences and failures and allow them room to make their own mistakes? Is it hyper-parenting to want to spare your child the disappoinments that you have faced and give them an edge? I don’t have the answers, but I do know that it is a daily struggle to decide when to step in or back off. After all, it is our children’s future that’s at stake.

Editing: Off To A Good Start

WAIITIN
WAIITIN (Photo credit: khalid Albaih)

My editor sent back the first twelve chapters of my manuscript and I must say that the feedback was very helpful. It’s as if we share a brain except he knows just how to organize the thoughts and I’m still all over the place. It was incredible reading his comments and realizing that he picked up on all the issues I was having and suggested ways to make them better. Am I lucky or what?

Now I am looking at massive rewrites, but that’s better than not knowing whether my concerns are valid or just the product of self-doubt. There was an interesting thing about his feedback when I received the second batch of chapters. I noticed that he gives compliment sandwiches. He’ll say something positive, then point out things he didn’t like and end on a positive note. Interesting…I wonder if that’s something all editors do or if my editor is just really nice.

Valentine’s Day and Romance

Dinner
Dinner (Photo credit: Paul Watson)

Valentine’s Day is upon us and it got me thinking about what romance means to us as we get older. When we’re younger, romance is all about grand gestures, jewellary and flowers. Several years of marriage, a mortgage and a couple of children later, many couples are content with dinner and a movie on Valentine’s Day, while someone watches the babies. Some might say that it sounds like they’re settling, that the spark is gone, but is it really? I think it all comes down to what romance means to each of us. Doing the dishes when your spouse has had a stressful day or getting the kids to bed early so that you can spend quality time together can be much more romantic than flowers and chocolate once a year. I think romance redefines itself as we go through different stages in our lives. It is nice that there is a special day dedicated to love, but I think that true romance is in the little kindnesses you show each other every day.

Another Award!!

I would like to thank Ionia Martin for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Please check out her awesome blog at http://readfulthingsblog.com/.  As a new blogger I really appreciate the support in the form of many likes, follows and comments on my blog. I have really enjoyed getting to know so many great bloggers and reading their posts.  I will list my nominations in a later post, along with the seven things about me.

Liebster Award

Liebster Award

Ashley Manning nominated me for this award and I would like to say a big thank you to him. You can find him at ashleymanning.com.

According to the rules I now have to state eleven random facts about me, so here goes:

1. I was born in Germany.

2. I am fluent in five languages.

3. Growing up, I had an assortment of pets: five dogs, six pairs of homing pigeons, a hamster,  two mynah birds, two rabbits, two baby ducklings and a cat that thought it owned me.

4. I love to dance.

5. I finally worked up the courage to sing in front of people, so now I am a huge fan of Karaoke.

6. I have lived in five different countries on three continents.

7. I love sushi.

8. I love watching Merlin with my family.

9. I love dogs.

10. I’ve always wanted to be tall.

11. I would love to travel back in time, but I also want to know what the future will be like.

Now for the questions from Ashley :

  • What is your favourite book?  There are so many, but my favourite one a few years ago was The Time Traveler’s Wife.
  • What is the worst book you’ve ever read? I really can’t think of one that would qualify as the worst.
  • Do you think Crash Bandicoot is awesome? Had to google this one. I don’t play video games, so I have no opinion on this one.
  • What is your favourite genre? Fantasy Romance at the moment, but I also love anything historical.
  • Do you have any hobbies? Karaoke.
  • Do you like Poetry? Not really.
  • PS3 or Xbox? Neither.
  • Do you still buy CDs? No.
  • Which is better –  A purple dog with an apple on it’s head or a cow with a giraffe’s neck? Since my favourite colour is purple, I have to go with the dog.
  • Have you, or do you want to read Uylsses and why? Haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list. Why? Because it is one of those books that should be read.
  • Do you find it as hard to write 11 random questions? I’m about to find out.

Now the questions for my nominations:

1. Why did you start blogging?

2. If you could come back as anyone else, who would it be and why?

3. Who did you most want to be like as a child?

4. Who is your favourite character from a book?

5. What do you like to write about?

6. What country would you most like to visit?

7. What kind of music do you enjoy the most?

8. Do you like the feeling of holding a book in your hands or do you prefer e-readers?

9. During which part of the day are you most productive?

10. If you could have any superpower, which would it be?

11. How did you feel when you were nominated for this award?

And here are my nominations:

http://readfulthingsblog.com/

http://wordsformwindows.com/

http://elizabethblackbourne.wordpress.com/

http://nolanparker.wordpress.com

http://onthegofreelancer.wordpress.com/

http://moolta.wordpress.com/

http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/

http://sophiebowns.wordpress.com/

http://blue88book.wordpress.com/

http://cruisingthroughmylife.wordpress.com/

http://www.happybeinghealthy.com/

http://www.happybeinghealthy.com/

Thank you so much for reading.

Authors and Editors

Edit Ruthlessly
Edit Ruthlessly (Photo credit: Dan Patterson)

I recently decided to hire a freelance editor for my manuscript, so that I could get started on my revisions. The process was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I simply went to the Canadian Editors Association website and looked for listings that mentioned YA fiction and sent off requests for estimates. A few days later I found someone that seemed to be a good fit and we got started immediately. I was mostly worried whether the editor would understand exactly where I was coming from. In the numerous emails we exchanged, I tried to explain what it was that I most needed his help on. When I first started looking online, I learned quite a few things. There is quite a confusing array of editing services available and some of them overlap. In addition, they can be quite expensive. So if you don’t do your research and fail to ask the right questions, you may end up paying for a service you didn’t really need. In the end you have to be clear about what it is that you need from the editor and make sure that they know it as well, so that there is no room for misunderstanding. If you’re lucky you will find somebody who gets your writing and will help make it the best it can be.

Emotional Baggage: Carrying the Weight into Adulthood

I read an article today and it made me think about this: how much of our experiences as teenagers do we drag around with us through our adult lives? People who are bullied, emotionally and physically, often carry their scars well into adulthood. Some build a social network as adults so they feel supported, while others shy away from people they perceive to be part of a clique. How many of the choices we make as grown-ups are the result of emotional baggage from our high school years?We experience some of the most crucial turning points in our lives only after high school. Marriage, childbirth and career choice all play a major role in the kind of person we become. So, the big question is: are we doomed to be haunted by our teen angst forever or can we reinvent ourselves?

Girl Power

When I decided to write a book, I knew that the protagonist had to be a girl. She would be a strong, kick-ass sort of a girl. No standing on the sidelines and watching with big eyes as her man saved the world. No, she was going to save the world herself.I wanted to base my story on the mythology of India, because it is so rich and fascinating. And I knew that I wanted to write for young adults, because they are  at an important juncture in their lives. Not that my book is going to impart any great pearls of wisdom. On the contrary, it is pure fantasy. But I happen to believe that when you allow yourself to indulge in fantasy, you can discover a lot about who you truly are and what will make you happy. Plus it’s just really cool to write about a girl who has the powers of a goddess and can kick a demon’s ass.

Reincarnation

I have always been fascinated by the concept of reincarnation. The idea that you can be born over and over again is intriguing. Imagine being alive at different times in the history of our civilization. Would we have memories from all those lives buried deep in the recesses of our minds? Or would we start each new life with a clean slate, perhaps a chance for a do-over? And if we are not aware of it, would we do anything differently, or are we doomed to repeat our mistakes in one life after another? In my novel, Realm of the Goddess, reincarnation is a central theme. Here is a quote from the Prologue:

“Wherever evil rears its head, there I shall be reborn

to crush greed and corruption in its womb

I shall arise again and again.”

I like the idea of second chances, maybe even third and fourth ones. It gives us hope that we can ultimately overcome our failings, some of our wrongdoings and have another go at being better versions of ourselves.