Tuesday, February 28, 2017

“Don’t focus on publishing while writing” by Sundari Venkatraman

<< Creativity VS Rules

Author-itative tips on writing, publishing, marketing

3. Don’t focus on publishing while writing

As I had mentioned in my first article, you are a fiction writer because you want to tell a story and the story is not letting you rest till you are done. 

When you begin penning this masterpiece, try to remain focussed on it. If you begin to procrastinate on who’s going to publish it, you are bound to be distracted. And believe me, you will suddenly realise that a few months have gone by and you have written barely a thousand words. 

In such a scenario, a publisher becomes redundant as you don’t have a book to publish.

A writer is a dreamer first. I am sure you all agree with me on that. 

But there is dreaming and there is procrastination. The dictionary meaning of procrastination is, “the action of delaying or postponing something”. So, you spin a story in your mind and dream of publishing it with the biggest publisher in the world, it might be just a waste of time and even worse, a waste of energy.

First write the book. Then think of publishing after your first draft is ready. Imagine the joy of having people read your work, rather than the fame of getting published. You can be published by a famous publisher and even sell a lot, but that still doesn’t guarantee that your books are actually being read. Of course, nothing can guarantee that. But wouldn’t you rather people really read and valued your book than having it just published? And for that the book needs to be written first. 

Focus on writing. Dream of your characters. Allow them to play in your mind. Let them free to deal with each other. Then write down what they have to tell you. 

This is how I breathe life into my characters. Believe me when I say that you can’t fail with your writing in such a scenario. 

If your story is good and well told, publishing is too easy nowadays with the advent of indie publishing. And if you are a success at that, big publishers will knock at your door.

All this is for those writers who are in this game for the long run. We aren’t talking about flash in the pans here.

Sundari Venkatraman is an indie author of 14 titles—12 romance novels & two short story collections, all on Top 100 Bestsellers on Amazon. 

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Coming up next week: Read what you like to write >>

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P.G. Van, author of 'The Evil Twin?' speaks to Sanchita Sen

Author P.G. Van

Author P.G. Van discusses the challenge of writing a hot romance and generously shares some tips on real life romance as well.

Romance is not all hugs and kisses, it's the funny moments that happen that makes you laugh in public when you think about it. It's the small things like, I made you coffee because I could tell you 'needed it' moments. Catch up with P.G. Van to know more:

Sanchita:  ‘The Evil Twin?’, a very intriguing name for the book! How did you happen to come up with it?

P.G. Van: Great question! After publishing my Destiny Series (Destiny Decides and Destiny Embraces) I needed a title that didn’t come off as too serious and I wanted something simple yet intriguing. I started off with a list of names and set it aside and started working on the outline of the story. When I got closer to the part where a father had to make the toughest decision of his life, the only thing that I could think of was the father giving up the evil child. It was that thought that got me to the name, but as usual the story took its own life and it was more of a question if the twin was really evil. When I knew it would be a twin story where it is believed one of the twin is the good one and the other evil, and I knew it had to be about the evil twin, I added the question mark at the end to let the reader decide if the twin was really the evil one. I hope the readers will find the title justifying the story.

Sanchita: Hot Romance is surely your forte, but this one also has an interesting mystery element to it. Tell us a little about how you got the idea for this one.

P.G. Van: I love to read hot romances and write them too and I believe books in this genre still need a strong plot. I read a lot of thrillers and mysteries, growing up with an equal amount of M&Bs, and I love pulling a little bit of both into my stories. When I first started writing I had no intention to publish it or I would say I didn't think that far, so I wanted to write something that I could read. I like my stories to have a strong story that unfolds itself and transports the reader right into the lives of the protagonists. My goal was to write a story that was focused on the main characters but with a more than usual focus on the secondary characters and what they add to the story. The secondary characters define the main characters and their actions. The drama that comes into play with the interactions is what I always try to include in my stories so it's not always about the main characters. A reader enjoys the book when they don’t expect the twist and my goal is to offer the ‘I did not see that coming’ experience for my readers. People remember a book lot longer and are more likely to go back and read it again to see if they had failed to catch the subtle hints that are sprinkled through the story. I personally as an author want to get a reaction out of my readers when they are reading it, in some form, and I hope I have done that with the evil twin.

Sanchita: How would you define a perfect romantic relationship?

P.G. Van: A romantic relationship is full of laughs and hugs and drama free and I don’t mean there shouldn’t be any arguments. Any healthy relationship is a perfect romantic one. A perfect one is probably hard to come by these days because the couple does not take time to be a couple. They are either super competitive with each other trying to prove each other or busy with kids or other priorities. Romance is not all hugs and kisses, it's the funny moments that happen that makes you laugh in public when you think about it. It's the small things like, I made you coffee because I could tell you 'needed it' moments. A lot of couples forget to do the small things that keeps the romance going and if they are able to sit next to each other while they are working or watching TV or even reading a book, that bond and romance will thrive. Romance is not just the physical attraction; it’s the small things you do for your loved one, the things that they do to make you smile.
P. S I sound like a therapist but I am just a romantic at heart.

Sanchita: According to you, what is the most difficult part about writing a hot romance?

P.G. Van: The most difficult part of writing a hot romance novel is striking the right balance between the depth in the story and the steamy scenes. The challenge is that with so many books out there it is hard to keep the reader engaged enough. I have tried different options with the format of the stories for introducing the hot romance piece and it is hard to say what works best. Some readers like the tease, the build up and drama while others like the steamy aggressive romance and I am constantly trying different approaches to offer the experience to the readers. In most of my books it's Insta love or attraction and some readers like that and some want the build up and the story behind why the lead characters are attracted or love each other. My personal preference is Insta love, but I tried to smooth it out and not make the characters desperate for each other, but to acknowledge they have a connection. That connection to me is a form of love at first sight that we all want from a romance novel without sounding too cheesy. A romance reader picks up a book listed as ‘hot romance’ to escape into this perfect world and keeping them engaged while they are exposed to various emotions and page burning heat is always  a challenge and I absolutely love those kind of challenges.

Sanchita: Sneak peek into your next project.

P.G. Van: My next book is ‘The Marriage Contract” and planning to release it in March of 2017. It’s a story of a young businesswoman who gets into a marriage of convenience to save her business. She swirls in a world of confusion when she comes close to breaking the rules of her own contract. I am having fun writing the story of Kareena and Blake.

Rapid fire round (first thought that comes to mind on hearing these words)
a.       Chemistry – Eyes clash, breath hisses.
b.      Passion – feel it deep inside
c.       Ocean – endlessly blue
d.      Resolve – as strong as titanium
e.      Story – Twists and Turns

P.G. Van's latest release 'The Evil Twin?' is available at:

Amazon.com                    Amazon.in                    Amazon.co.uk

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Steps on writing your manuscript by noted author Usha Narayanan

Author Usha Narayanan

From a seed of a thought to finally writing down the manuscript! How do you germinate and develop the idea and finally go about writing and completing your story? The step-by- step approach.

When you drive down a deserted mountain road, you catch fleeting glimpses of mossy paths and roughly hewn steps that lead somewhere. But where? What lies beyond? An ancient temple, a lotus pond, or perhaps the ruins of a haunted village? Writing a novel is just as exciting an exploration, where you come upon paths untraveled and characters undiscovered. Where will your destiny take you?

Here is an outline of the process I followed in writing my latest novels ― ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ and ‘The Secret of God’s Son’. Maybe you can develop your own version of it if you undertake a writing journey.

1. First, delve deep into our epics and puranas that are host to gigantic characters, mega conflicts and dizzying worlds. Pay particular attention to dramatic characters that play pivotal roles in determining fate, perhaps those that are relatively unknown. Make a shortlist and learn all you can about them.

2. The next step is more intuitive, at least in my experience. Some characters seem to call out to you with their enchanting, exhilarating presence. It’s like falling in love! I always liked the name ‘Pradyumna’ which has such a splendid ring to it. The hero of my first novel, ‘The Madras Mangler’, was named Vir Pradyumna. When I wrote that thriller, I had not even heard of Krishna’s son! When I came upon Pradyumna in our puranas, I was captivated by his splendour. I soon discovered that he had lived many dramatic lives. I began to connect the dots and drawing lines where none existed before. The god and goddess of love separated by destiny, a mammoth battle between good and evil, a universe spanning swarga and naraka ― there was no looking back. So look for your own special character who sets your pulse racing, for you will have to live with him or her for many long hours!

3. What next? Research your chosen characters even further. Do they have past lives, troubled relationships, flawed personalities? These are the possibilities you can explore, using your imagination to fill in the gaps. To me, the thrill lies in mixing myth and fictionin such a way that the reader is unable to discover where one ends and the other begins.

4. What is your protagonist’s quest or purpose in life? Who are those who help or hinder him? Jot down broad plot points, then come up with twists and turns, thrills and spills. Don’t forget that you need a spectacular finale that leaves your reader spellbound and breathless with excitement.

5. Start writing. Remember that the setting and the language need to be consistent. Are you going to transport your characters into the present world or transport yourself and your reader into an ancient universe? Enlarge your canvas, unleash your zest. There’s nothing impossible in your fantasy world. Intensify emotions and actions, bring the different strands together for that final catharsis, that explosive climax. Write and rewrite, plot and re-plot. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, ‘Sit at your computer and bleed.’

Are you ready now for your own quest, my friend? Good luck to you! And don’t forget to leave a few lines about my books after you read them. I’m waiting!

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

'Narichetna: Consciousness of Women' covered by Aparajita Dutta

Panelists from L to R Jerry Pinto, Supriya Chaudhuri, Bharati Ray, Malashri Lal and Esther Syiem

What got me into attending the session on women’s writings of the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2017 (AKLF2017) was this particular theme which focused on women’s writings. For the first time, I found a platform where theorists, writers and activists had come together to talk of women’s writings.
Bharati Ray introduced the history of women’s writing in Bengal which dates back to nineteenth century and reflected upon the fact that the men who promoted it never thought of producing women writers. But once the women learnt, they began to write.

Supriya Chaudhuri talked about the early women writers of Bengal like Rassundari Dasi who published her first book in 1868. She had taught herself to read and write surreptitiously hiding Bangla alphabets on palmyra leaves, expressing herself in prose and poetry. Women writers became the answer to Julia Kristeva’s question: “Women are writing and the air is heavy with expectations. What will they write?”

Bharati Ray explained that in the earlier phase, unknown house wives wrote more than the well-known Swanakumari anonymously. They wrote journals and this was the discovery. Their discussion threw light on the evolution of women’s writing in Indian literature, with special reference to Bangla literature.

Esther Syiem explained how women use memories as tool, writing historiography of sorts, revisiting the oral. Bharati Ray said that in the context where women’s sexuality is only expressed in terms of reproduction, way back in 1930s, women had already started writing about their desires. One such example is the Bangla magazine, Kallol. In Urdu, such depiction was done by Ismat Chughtai.

Malashri Lal explained that in Urdu there were many writers who were rebels with a cause. She talked about Ismat Chughtai’s famous story, Lihaf which was sued. But the court couldn’t find anything wrong with the story simply because the vocabulary was so powerful. That means that it’s not necessary for a writer to be sexually explicit to express the sexual desires in writings. She gave the example of another writer, Krishna Soti who in her writing, E Ladki presents a conversation between two women, an old woman who is justifying her life as a mother and a young woman who denies the concept of motherhood.

On male authors’ take on women’s writings, Jerry Pinto explained his position as a man writing on feminism. He has written on Helen, the famous Bollywood actress and dancer who has danced for three generations of men and thereby challenged patriarchy in Bollywood where a woman’s screen-life is around five years compared to men who keep on surviving in the industry even after 35 years of their career. Another interesting aspect was that he equated shrill as an anti-feminist octave because it is laughed at and is the highest pitch.

When we are dealing with women’s writing in India, we can never ignore caste. This issue of caste was raised by Bharati Ray and Supriya Chaudhuri was asked about Telegu literature. She referred to Jerry Pinto’s translation of Ramdeo’s wife who was battered and marginalized. She agreed to the political angle of Jerry Pinto and gave examples from communist writings where there was a woman who stood up in a meeting and said “Why should my comrade beat me?” referring to her husband as a comrade. She also expressed the significant role of translation in bringing up these histories.
Talking about writings by Dalit women, Jerry Pinto explained that for Dalit women, power relation is sensitive to the man’s powerlessness outside and powerfulness inside. Dalit women are the earning members but they are oppressed. That is the point from where they have begun to write. Madam Power’s words reflect this notion: “I am not in his book. So I wrote my own book.”

This event organized at Oxford Book Store, Kolkata, on January 10, enlightened the audience about the history of women’s writings, true to its name, ‘Narichetna’, meaning consciousness of women.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Schedule: 1857 Dust of Ages by Vandana Shanker

Your NameType of post Date of Post
Rubina RameshSpotlight2/24/2017
Jasleen KaurSpotlight2/25/2017
Surbhi SareenSpotlight2/26/2017
Chittajit MitraSpotlight2/26/2017
Ruchi SinghSpotlight2/26/2017
Aparna NayakSpotlight2/27/2017
Devika FernandoSpotlight2/27/2017
Sundari VenkatramanSpotlight2/27/2017
Madhuri MaitraReview2/27/2017
Paulami Dutta GuptaReview2/27/2017
Jasleen KaurInterview2/27/2017
SummeritaGuest Post2/27/2017
Mahesh SowaniReview2/28/2017
Rubina RameshReview2/28/2017
Khushboo ShahInterview2/28/2017
Avantika SinghalSpotlight3/1/2017
Lopa BanerjeeSpotlight3/1/2017
Geeta NairReview3/1/2017
Maria Perry MohanReview3/1/2017
Reet singhInterview3/1/2017
Nilima MohiteSpotlight3/2/2017
Aparajita DuttaReview3/2/2017
Nilima MohiteReview3/2/2017
Surbhi SareenInterview3/2/2017
Khushboo ShahReview3/3/2017
Zeb FatimaReview3/3/2017
Jasleen KaurGuest Post3/3/2017

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Spotlight: Her Secret Husband by Sundari Venkatraman

(Marriages Made in Heaven Book #3)
Sundari Venkatraman


The Maheshwaris are back, a little secretly this time!

What do you do if you find a man who looks like chocolate, speaks like warm syrup, looks at you like you were the most precious cake ever created, and he can bake too? You marry him, even if in secret.

Ruma Malhotra falls head over heels and a little more in love with Lakshman Maheshwari, but her parents insist that she marry a rich businessman of their choice. When Ruma's only option is to marry Lakshman in secret, she is left torn between her love for her parents and her passion for Lakshman. Is a secret marriage the solution or will it lead the way to a public disappointment?

Lakshman Maheshwari falls in love with Ruma Malhotra the first time he sets his eyes on her in Ranveer's office. Will he agree to marry Ruma in secret even if it means betraying his parents?

Psst... Those who have read THE MALHOTRA BRIDE might be happy to reconnect with Sunita & Akshay Malhotra in this one. 

*MARRIAGES MADE IN INDIA is a five-novella series that revolves around the characters you have met in The Runaway Bridegroom.

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Read an excerpt from #HSH

“What’s up?” he asked, trying to keep the situation light.
She winked at him. “Shouldn’t I be asking that question?” she asked, looking pointedly down at his lower body.
Reacting to her flirtation, his manhood immediately sprang to action, making Lakshman swear. “Cut that out, Ruma,” he growled, sidestepping her as she would’ve wrapped her arms around him. “I need a shower,” he insisted, not meeting her eyes. He went into the bathroom and locked himself in. The place smelled of Ruma. Cursing, Lakshman stood under the cold shower to tame his libido. She looked like she meant business. How could he convince her to wait till they got married? He dried himself with the towel that was on a rack, glaring at the mirror. He needed a shave. But no, they weren’t going to make love, so it didn’t really matter. Just then he realised that he would have to step out in the towel as his clothes were in the wardrobe. Swearing again, Lakshman walked into the bedroom.
“Laki,” called out Ruma, eyeing him avidly. Fascinated, she got up from the bed and walked up to him. He appeared like a Greek God with his chiselled body that was still damp from the shower. 
She stood close to him and raised her left hand to caress his rough cheek. Her right hand was hooked into his towel as if she was going to pull it off him any second. Lakshman clamped his hand on hers, his fingers holding the towel firmly. “No!”
“Huh?!” She looked deeply into his eyes, her brown gaze like melted cocoa, inviting him to make love to her. Her mouth was pouted deliciously, glistening wetly, begging for a kiss. Lakshman groaned deep in his throat, letting go of her hand to wrap his arms around her. He placed his lips on hers, sucking her upper lip. She tasted as sweet as honey, driving him crazy. His right hand moved down the curve of her hip to touch a thigh. He traced the curve, working his way under her nightshirt to encounter her bare bottom.
“Ruma.” He deliberately removed his hands off her and raised his head to look at her.
She stared back at him with slumberous eyes. “What?” A small frown puckered her forehead.
“We’ll make love after we get married,” he declared.
“What if I don’t agree?”
“I’ll have to beg, right?” he grinned weakly. “Please, my love. You know your parents won’t agree to a marriage between us. Doesn’t it make sense to wait until after the event?”
“What if I want you desperately?” She nuzzled his neck, her teeth taking a sharp nip.
Lakshman groaned again, his arms crushing her to his chest. “Do you love me or just lust after my body?”
“Can’t I do both?” 

Grab your copy @

About the author

Her Secret Husband is the tenth book authored by Sundari Venkatraman. This is a hot romance and is Book #3 of the 5-novella series titled Marriages Made in India. Book #1 of the series is The Smitten Husband & Book #2 is His Drunken Wife. Other published novels by the author are The Malhotra Bride, Meghna, The Runaway Bridegroom, The Madras Affair and An Autograph for Anjali—all romances. She also has a collection of romantic shorts called Matches Made in Heaven; and a collection of human interest stories called Tales of Sunshine. All of Sundari Venkatraman’s books are on Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers in India, USA, UK, Canada & Australia under both #romance & #drama categories.

Books by the author

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Book Blitz: Heart of the Matter by Mahesh Sowani

HEART OF THE MATTER: Stories published in the Hindustan Times
Mahesh Sowani



Happiness is all around you. You just need to open your eyes, and tune your mind to perceive it. This collection of short stories demonstrates how a random stranger, a grumpy boss and even a beggar can make you happy. One thing is assured, after reading these stories there will be a smile on your face, warmth in your heart and you will feel good.

Order your copy @

Amazon.com               Amazon.in              Amazon.co.uk

About the Author

Mahesh Sowani is a writer, poet, book reviewer, speaker and a legal professional. He holds masters degrees in Law and Management. He was a faculty member for Master of Laws course at University of Mumbai. He has keen interest in yoga, meditation, English literature and financial management. He has worked as an editor with Blue Rose Publications.

Many of his writings have been published in leading English and Marathi publications like Hindustan Times, Outlook Traveller, Maharashtra Times, Yuva Sakaal, Kalnirnay etc. He writes on his blog http://maheshsowani.blogspot.in/ He is contributing author of the books Defiant Dreams, Winged Hearts, Love Stories Around Us, Friendship Bonds Beyond Time and Unbound trajectories that changed course of life

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I’m Not a Betrayer by Sonam Gupta

Name of the Book: I'm Not A Betrayer
Author: Sonam Gupta
Star Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads: Read the Blurb here.

If Sonam Gupta would not have contacted me to give her my honest opinion, I might not have picked up this book.

A few things that go against this book:
1.       The cover suggests a sensuality which I was not sure of. It did not suggest erotica but rather an underdeveloped cover created for sensationalism.

2.       The word count. Just 19 pages.

Still, I took a long time to read this book for the simple matter, I didn't know how to review it. As a woman or as a reader. Many times, a story connects with you yet there are loopholes that stay a long time with you.

Ms. Gupta’s work is more like a conversation. One of those coffee table convos one has with friends. The topic is something which is very much in vogue – marital rape.  Let’s first decide what is marital rape?

“Marital Rape Law and Legal Definition. Marital rape means any unwanted sexual acts by a spouse or ex-spouse that is committed without the other person's consent. Such illegal sexual activity are done using force, threat of force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent.”

In the 19 pages, the silent no of Sonam started playing with my mind. Every time I read such stories, I blame the parents. Forcing a girl child to marry just because they want to do their duties. And as parents, why are we so shy about speaking of sex to our children? When will we realize that it is one of the most vital points of a marriage? A girl who is always told to shy away from sex is asked to sleep with a stranger every night without knowing what sex and love are all about. How can we be such hypocrites?

Every time I read these stories, I want to shout out at our so called society that portrays marriage as an achievement. How can marriage be an achievement? It's a phase of life. One that we should transcend to only if our heart and body want it. I chose my marriage. I choose to be married to my husband and I am damn proud that I am a daughter of such parents who never thought I was ‘supposed’ to be married. But when girls like Sonam are ‘provoked’ I hope they know what they are doing and not resort to criminal acts. Here she has been lucky her husband did not rush to the nearest police station. Though I am glad she found her solution to the problem, I also feel as a writer she has not been able to tell her whole story properly. I wish she had taken the help of someone to bring out her story to its full potential.

When did she first say her no? How did her husband react for the first time when she said no? DID SHE EVEN SAY NO? These were the questions that came to my mind every time.

As a topic of the day, I can give this story a 5 star. But since I am a reviewer of books, I can only give this 3 stars. But girls who are ready for marriage in India, please read this book. Learn when to say No and definitely Sex is NOT a taboo topic. Speak up, Girls.

Grab a copy of the book here. 
Also Available on  Kindle Unlimited

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Blog Tour: THE PRINCESS OF A WHOREHOUSE by Mayank Sharma

Mayank Sharma


Aparajita is a tenacious go-getter. Her name means unconquerable in Sanskrit, and she lives up to its meaning. 

Just like any other ambitious girl, she desires to fulfil her dreams and become an independent individual. Far and wide, the shadow of her melancholy past chases her passage. The fact that her widowed mother is a former sex worker irks the community. Nonetheless, she is not ashamed to reveal her mother's past. 

Will she lose hope, or will she defy an enigma that is centuries-old? Will she ever conquer the hearts of a prestige-obsessed community? 

See the world through Aparajita's prism in a tale stirred by some real life events.

Grab your copy @

About the author

Mayank Sharma is a computer engineering graduate with post-graduation in business management. He works with a leading technology multinational in Delhi. He has authored a number of articles and white papers on software technology and processes. For the first time in April 2014, his article was featured in Better Software magazine published in Florida, USA. Writing has become Mayank's greatest passion when he observed how it can trigger the winds of change. He is gradually transforming from a “left-brained” writer to a “right-brained” writer. Besides writing, he is passionate about sketching, painting, and making sculptures since childhood.

India is the fifth-largest economy in the world with the Gross Domestic Product growth at 7.1 percent. Contrary, India ranks 118 out of 157 countries in the happiness index. The fact seized Mayank’s attention towards social problems affecting social support, freedom of choices, and generosity, to name a few. Having travelled across continents and associated with people with diverse beliefs and values, he became more curious about the social riddles curtailing liberties across societies. He penned his debut novel, The Princess of a Whorehouse, when he came across some real life incidents that quivered his soul.

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Blog Tour: 1857 DUST OF AGES by Vandana Shanker

Vandana Shanker


1857. The rebellion erupts in India. Despite its attempts to stay aloof, NAVGARH, a small town near Delhi, is drawn into the conflagration. And at its heart are Princess Meera and Captain Richard Smith, with their strange alliance made for the throne of Navgarh.

2016, Shiv Sahai, a young Indian art historian and Ruth Aiken, a British scholar discover an excerpt from the journal of an anonymous British soldier, searching for his wife in the chaos of 1857 Delhi. As they begin investigating the scandal, they become aware of the vague rumours that are told in the bylanes of Navgarh – about a princess who married a British soldier to save her kingdom.

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Read an excerpt from the book...

Camp, Delhi Cantonment, 16 August, 1857.
Things have changed forever. A day spent in the company of my old friend Knox made it clear. These distances can never be bridged.
The pole of his tent snapped in the storm yesterday; and for the sake of old friendship, I offered Knox my humble abode. But his rancour was jarring. His determination to teach the enemy a lesson, the unshaken belief in the rightness of our mission– such bitterness asks too much of friendship and duty.
Earlier we went over the battlefield. One of our regiments was destroying the village near the bridge to prevent the enemy from getting cover in it. Elephants were pulling down the walls. The villagers stood by as their houses turned into mud while the monsoon clouds gathered on the horizon. Unfortunately, they were the Jats, who, for the most part, are our friends. We decided that the destruction of their homes and fields was necessary. Twenty-three men – their countrymen – were lying together in the ditch at the back of the village; we weren’t sure if they were the rebels. A party of Rifles killed then en masse, just to be sure.
We left the village with our bags swollen like raisins in water. And who can blame our light-fingered gentry? Armies are said to travel on their stomach.
At some distance from our camp, I can see the sun setting over the fort of Delhi. It isn’t much different from the first sunset I witnessed here years ago. How things have changed! We came with a mission – to know this exotic land, to bring the light of knowledge and civilization to its darkness. Now the memory leaves me embarrassed. These massive red walls made me uneasy even then. Today they mock our camp again. Whatever be the outcome of this devil’s wind, it has revealed the banality of our mission.
Knox’s bitterness is an expression of the anger in the camp. When the cannons are quiet, the silence resounds with confusion, with terror, with rage, but most of all with the question ‘Why?’ As we sit around a small fire every night, the question rages in every mind. ‘Why the mutiny? Haven’t we brought the glory of civilization to this land of superstition?’ These thoughts simmer as we deal with hunger, heat and rain.
But soon these questions will be forgotten. The winners will annihilate the other side. Already I see the madness in the eyes as rumours reach us from other places – Cawnpur, Jhansi, Lucknow. Madness will soon be let loose.
I often feel that the answers that elude me today were within my grasp a short while ago. They are somewhere near, yet unreachable, like the time gone by.
I promise to look for them once I have found her again. For she, I feel, holds a part of it.
So every evening, I try to escape this madness by thinking about her, Princess Meera of Navgarh, a rebel soldier and my wife. It is the third year of our marriage. Three years of tenuous links and fragile understanding. It was only a matter of time before an explosion happened. And it happened that eventful week when Navgarh too burnt in the fire raging all across India. The news that the sepoys in Meerut had rebelled spurred both of us. Did I expect Meera to be a dutiful wife when all her beliefs, her convictions pulled her in the opposite direction? Was I surprised on knowing that she was in Delhi, amongst the rebels? Would she be surprised on knowing that I have followed her as an enemy… a British officer? And as I follow her, I stand here once again, after five years, outside the walls of the Red Fort in Delhi.

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About the author

Delhi-born Vandana Shanker is the author of the series 1857 Dust of Ages, a historical fiction set in the year of the great uprising in India. A PhD from IIT Delhi, Vandana is passionate about history, storytelling and art. Apart from writing, she teaches literature and creative writing in Malaysia. She has also taught in Universities in India and Vietnam. She currently lives in Kuala Lumpur with her family and wants to travel the world. 

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