I was spellbound when Anthony Doerr described his childhood with a science teacher mother and how his creativity and curiosity were nurtured. Even now, he seems to approach the world with this mixture of wonder and awe. If you have read the Seymour chapter in “Cloud Cuckoo Land”, where he goes into the wilderness behind his house and discovers this peaceful land that connects him with something larger than himself, that is how I felt listening to Anthony. Afterward, a long line of readers waited to get their books signed, and he took the time to talk to each of us. Friendly, down-to-earth, and gifted. Grateful to have met him.
Inspired and empowered
Bonnie Garmus is a trailblazer. To write a debut blockbuster novel in her sixties is simply amazing. She sounded a lot like Zott, her protagonist from Lessons in Chemistry. Her no-nonsense attitude is liberating to see in a woman because society expects us to conform to its view of our role. What was also inspiring was seeing so many women in the audience who shared stories of this book affected them personally. That is every author’s dream. I hope I touch my readers’ hearts as these two authors did.
While I have always loved to read, I started writing later in life without the benefit of an education in literature. Since I began my career as an author, I have been devouring books to improve my craft.
Here are some of the books I have read and recommend to my fellow authors:
Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish, and Why You Should
By David Gaughran
For any author on the self-publishing journey, this book introduces you to the basics. It is a great starter book that simplifies the journey and highlights the most important aspects.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
By Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott welcomes you into her life and bares her mind to you in this book. This is no easy task for most of us. It is almost like shedding one’s clothes and allowing the world to see you vulnerable.
Anne shows a budding writer how to do this with humor and self-deprecation. There is nothing earth-shattering revealed in this book about writing. Most of the advice offered here would be familiar to any aspiring writer or an experienced writer wanting to improve their craft.
Still, I found it useful to read this book, if only to know my struggles as a writer are not unique to me.
Recommend: For aspiring and experienced writers who want to hone their craft.
Characters and Viewpoint
By Orson Scott Card
As an author, I like to read books that help me improve my craft. This book is written in an easy-to-read style while imparting a lot of knowledge. I enjoyed the writing samples sprinkled throughout the book that conveyed information more readily. For my Land of Magadha series, I choose first-person POV because a few fantasies I had read used it. This book discussed all the POV and its merits. I might use third-person limited POV for my next series based on what I learned here. I recommend this book for aspiring writers and current writers.
Writing the Blockbuster Novel
By Albert Zuckerman
As an author, I am constantly looking to improve my craft. This book gave me a lot to think about.
Daily Meditations: Writer Tips For 100 Days
By David Garland
This book is available for free on the author’s website. I read it slowly, about a chapter or two a day. Lots of nuggets for writers on how to become better. Highly recommend for novice writers.
How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
By Orson Scott Card
I write historical fiction currently. I plan to write a historical fantasy series soon, so I decided to read this book. While the marketing sections are outdated, the craft of writing SF/Fantasy is still very relevant and has many useful tidbits about world-building.
Recommend for new authors or new to SFF authors.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
By Stephen King
f you read one book on writing, make it this. An authentic voice is such an elusive thing. Stephen King does it so effortlessly.
To imagine him facing near-death halfway through the text and still producing such a great book speaks to his skills as an author.
I learned a lot from this book and highly recommend it to all my author friends.
Wired for Story
By Lisa Cron
Stories have been with us since we lived in caves. We crave them and know instinctively as a reader what makes a good story. But this skill does not translate so easily when we are writing.
I realized this when I wrote the first draft of Heir to Malla. I knew the story, characters, and plot very well. I could imagine each scene vividly. But when I wrote it down, I left key parts out. My mind filled the blanks. Unfortunately, since my readers cannot read my mind, they were left in the dark. Thankfully, with the help of my editor, I fixed this in subsequent drafts.
This book spells it all out for us authors—how to craft a story that resonates with our readers—along with common pitfalls to avoid—plus an insight into the human brain.
I recommend this book to all my fellow authors who want to better their craft.
By Lisa Cron
Nothing in this book is earth-shattering. As readers, we instinctively recognize a great story. But that same instinct does not serve us well while writing our first (or fourth) novel. Writing seems to require a different set of thinking neurons.
Author Lisa Cron gives readers a step-by-step blueprint to write a layered, nuanced, and engaging novel.
As we write more books, we will develop our own shortcuts. In the meantime, the techniques mentioned in this book, especially asking Why, will serve authors well.
Recommend for aspiring authors and for ones interested in improving their craft.
By Tammi Labrecque
Recommend this book to all authors who want to start a newsletter and to authors struggling to engage readers in their current newsletter.
In easy-to-understand terms, Tammi shows us how to engage and keep our fans happy. And unlike other social media, newsletters use one of our existing talents as writers, our ability to create magic with words.
This book is a keeper on my bookshelves.
How To Market A Book
By Joanna Penn
While several of the tactics mentioned in the book are outdated, the overall strategies are still very valid for marketing fiction and non-fiction books. The other neat thing is this book highlights the other books, websites, podcasts, and blogs so an author like me can continue improving our craft.
I have written over 50,000 words in my new tale of love. The series is based on an ancient Indian custom called svayamvara. In a svayamvara, a princess chooses a suitable groom from among the gathered suitors. Here is a sneak peek:
Princess Lalitha searches for her father, who fought in a battle against King Dushyant. When Lalitha is injured, a metalsmith rescues her. He accompanies her on the journey back to her kingdom, and there is nothing convenient about the feelings Lalitha develops for him. Her father had promised to hold a svayamvara, a groom-choosing ceremony, for her. With no male heirs, Lalitha cannot succumb to temptations if she wants to rule her kingdom.
King Dushyant was fighting to avenge his father’s death. He did not anticipate saving Princess Lalitha or escorting her to her kingdom. While he had hidden his identity from the spirited princess, his icy resolve to keep his heart untouched began to melt.
Neither can afford to surrender to the current of attraction sweeping them. But the author has different ideas for them.
If you are interested in reading my other historical fiction books, start here.
I love reading books with happily ever after endings. The ten romance novels I have read this year pay testimony to that. Reading a well-written romance novel can feel like drinking a cup of hot coffee while watching the sunrise. No one does it better than Jane Austen. Capital L love her books. Who is your favorite romance author?
However, writing a happily ever after story requires a different mastery. Unlike the Land of Magadha series, where death came without an announcement, the protagonists in my historical romance novel have to survive to the end to declare their passion. I have written over 50,000 words in this tale of love without killing my star characters, though I came close a few times.
The series is based on an ancient Indian custom called svayamvara. In a svayamvara, a princess chooses a suitable groom from among the gathered suitors. Sometimes, there might be a contest, and the prize for the winner is a wedding. In Ramayana, Rama strings a bow to win Sita’s hands.
The slender maiden glanced at him; she glanced And uttered not a word, nor heeded how The grass-twined blossoms of her garland danced When she dismissed him with a formal bow.
The Dynasty of Raghu, by Kalidasa
Looking forward to sharing updates about my work in progress in the coming weeks.
I did for a contest and was humbled to win first place.
I am immensely grateful for local organizations that support artists, including writers. Oceanside Cultural Arts Foundation is one such local organization that hosts the Write On Oceanside event.
They conducted a six-word story contest. I have never participated in a contest before, and I write 80k to 90k words novels. There is always a first time for everything, and I decided to craft a story in six words.
Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway bet his literary friends that he could write an entire story in six words. The group put $10.00 each into the pot, then Hemingway wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
(Source: Write On Oceanside website)
I am in awe of his talent. I have years of practice ahead of me to reach his level. As the first step in that journey, my short won first place at the contest.
Well, what do you think? I would love to hear from you. One day, I hope to write his backstory. While not short, my complete trilogy is available in Kindle Unlimited for binge reading.
This series of historical romances will center on the ancient Indian Svayamvara traditions. Svayamvara offered the bride a chance to choose her mate. I have sprinkled references to this ceremony in the Land of Magadha trilogy. Some svayamvara’s involved a challenge, and the bride would garland the winner. In Ramayana, Rama strung the bow to win the hand of Sita.
Each book would tell the story of a royal couple. Romance with a healthy dose of royal court intrigue is what you will find in the pages.
These novels will feature a happily ever after ending, but the road traveled will be bumpy.
How is my writing coming along? I am writing the first book in the series and falling in love with my characters. I have written ten thousand words, and they are starting to feel real to me. I will share their names soon.
While waiting for this book, read my free novella to get a taste of medieval India.
You saw him as a sixteen-year-old crown prince in Heir to Malla. In Burden of the Crown, King Jay is a father. The character growth over thirty years was a fascinating story for me to write. Yes, there is heartbreak involved. And hope. And lots of love. I am excited to share an excerpt from this book with you.
Chapter 1 – Jay
Salty air wafted in through the tiny window and touched my skin like a coarse fabric. The sea crashed against the ship, drowning the faint noise of sailors shouting on the deck above me. Picking up a scroll, I noticed the swirls in the honey-colored table revealed by the morning light. I traced the markings on the wood with my finger, marveling at the craftsmanship of Malla carpenters. From outside my door came a thud of footsteps and a knock. I glanced up as my son strode in with my nephew on his heels. My son, Vikram, resembled my younger self, captured in a portrait in Akash.
“Father, there are beautiful coral reefs around here, and Atul and I want to take a boat to explore,” he said. The waves rocked the vessel gently like I had rocked these boys when they fit in my palm. Vikram swayed on his feet, brimming with energy. He exuded easy confidence that I had not possessed at sixteen.
In Heir to Malla, you meet Queen Charu, stepmother of Meera and Jay. Is she an evil queen? Not quite. I featured her in a blog post.
Tears welled in my eyes anyway for the mother I lost, and my stepmother who got her wish to wear the crown but knew no real happiness.
Grandmothers and the tales they spin can be magical. Meera’s grandmother plants seeds in her mind of what her life will be like as a queen. I wrote about how my grandmother inspired my writing journey.
The wonderful sibling relationship between Meera and Jay features prominently in my trilogy.
“The one our mother taught us?”
“I don’t remember her, let alone her voice. I only remember you singing to me.”
Of course, many aunts act as mother figures in the story.
He cried out for his mother last night. I watched as Aranya comforted him tenderly and calmed his demons.
A mother’s love is complex, and I enjoyed exploring the different layers of it in my story.
What is your favorite portrayal of mother in fiction?
This book concludes the story of Meera and Jay and is a culmination of my eight years writing journey.
We first meet 19-year-old Meera and her 16-year-old brother, Jay, in Heir to Malla. In the first chapter, our protagonist dreams about marriage and love. The chapter ends with her learning that her brother has gone missing in enemy land.
What follows is a tale of love, adventure, and royal intrigue set in medieval India. From the gods worshipped to the food served at the feast, the book offers a taste of 9th to 11th century India. I enjoyed writing this coming-of-age story, especially Meera’s. At the start of the book, Meera is a traditional princess, content to let her father and brother manage the affairs of the court. Then things change for the worse, and she is forced to take charge of her destiny.
Meera and Jay return to face the consequences of their actions in War of the Three Kings, set a decade after book one. This book starts with another Meera chapter, showcasing her domestic bliss, with a peek at her heart in conflict, and plunges into chaos with a death of a beloved monarch. I loved the many storylines in this book, some happy, others tragic. One, in particular, tore my heart. My characters are not playing with blunt swords anymore. So the outcomes are unpredictable.
Burden of the Crown will wrap up Meera and Jay’s tales. This series has been a magical ride for me. Some of the arcs started in book one conclude in this book. It has been an absolute joy writing about this land, where I could let my imagination run wild. I will share an excerpt soon.