Excerpt from Burden of the Crown

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. 

Continue reading here.

Happy Mother’s Day

Mothers and mother figures play a prominent role in my Land of Magadha trilogy.

Stepmother

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.

Princess Meera

Grandmother

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.

Even my beloved Padi may not be worthy of my beautiful and brave granddaughter.

Queen Mother Priya

Sister

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.”

Jay

Aunt

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.

Jay

A mother’s love is complex, and I enjoyed exploring the different layers of it in my story.

Anger surged in me like a fire that was fed new wood. I needed to protect my child.

Meera

What is your favorite portrayal of mother in fiction?

Cover Reveal

Burden of the Crown

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.

Book Three – Title Reveal

What a journey this has been. Meera and Jay have been with me for over five years, and they feel like my friends. Friends who rule kingdoms and fight in battles. I am blessed to be able to share this story with you. 

In this trilogy set in medieval India, I have mostly explored the conflict of the heart. There are plenty of enemies for my protagonists, but the ones that need to be slain are the ones within.

Meera has always done what is right for her kingdom and family. Can she do something that is right for her?

Jay thought ruling a kingdom was a colossal burden to bear. But being a father proves to be more arduous.

I cannot wait to share this conclusion with you in 2022. Wish you a very happy and meaningful New Year.

Writing the finale

I am writing the conclusion to my Land of Magadha trilogy. Though it is hard to say goodbye to these beloved characters, the story is approaching the ending I had envisioned from the beginning.

This is when I have the most fun. Writing my story. Making my characters fall in love, despair, or rage. I have a rough outline for the tale, but I have already taken some detours. Sometimes, my characters surprise me with their fear, jealousy, or tenderness.

My mother, a wild spirit, did not tame me. Her death did.

Book Three (Land of Magadha trilogy)

One book a year

How many books do you write a year? That is a question many authors get. Or a variation of it, like, when is your next book coming out?

It took me five years to write my first book, Heir to Malla. I had stories running in my head. But it took time to take the images in my head and translate them to words on a page. I stumbled, made mistakes, changed my beginning.

My second book, War of the Three Kings, took a year to write and publish. I have learned how to plot a book chapter by chapter. With an outline, my task became easier. Words flowed naturally, and there were fewer revisions.

Along the way, I found my pace. One book a year is one I can consistently meet without sacrificing my family time or other commitments.

Some authors publish one book a month. Hats off to them. Others take three years to write their masterpiece. There is no right or wrong answer here.

As writers, it is vital to find a schedule that works for us without impacting our mental or physical health. And still, produce great books that bring joy or excitement or passion to our reader’s hearts.

How many books do you write in a year?

Character spotlight – Queen Charu

Evil stepmothers abound in fairy tales and mythology. Most of us grew up with stories about Cinderella’s stepmother who jeopardized Cinderalla’s chance for happiness. A common trope has been to pit a stepmother against her stepdaughter. When viewed through a modern lens, we realize that these stories depict the lack of female power and how their livelihood depends on the men in their lives. It is no wonder these women are typically battling for a man’s attention.

In Indian mythology, Queen Kaikeyi in Ramayana is the catalyst for the epic. She banishes her stepson, Rama, to the forest for fourteen years and sets in motion the quest for Sita. Her crime is wanting the throne for her birth son. Her desire paints her in a dark light compared to the sacrifice of noble Rama.

For a good stepmother, you need to turn to Mrs.Dashwood in Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Here, the stepson wrongs the stepmother by his greed.

Coming to my books, you catch a glimpse of Queen Charu in the prequel Novella. She is not an evil stepmother. Nor is she a saint. She is misguided, complex, and human.

Her chapter Queen of Malla in Heir to Malla is one of my favorite. It is a quiet chapter of a mother sharing her story with her daughter. Her words reveal so much about the place and agency of women in those times.

Who is your favorite fictional stepmother?

Free book is here

Prince in Shadow introduces the readers to the Land of Magadha. This novella is available to my Newsletter subscribers for free.

A prequel novella to Heir to Malla, this tale opens a window into the Malla dynasty. Royal siblings, Princess Meera and Prince Jay had led a sheltered life. That was about to change. Grab a hot chai and plunge into a tale of royal intrigue laced with love. 

I typically send a monthly newsletter about my upcoming book, new releases, cover reveal, and sales. On rare occasions, you might get two emails from me in a month. So there is no worry about me flooding your inbox.

Happy summer reading.

Guest Blog by Kathleen Marple Kalb

NOT YOUR GRANDMA’S DIVA

(Well, depends on your grandma!)

Your mental picture of an opera singer probably isn’t a slim woman in breeches fencing a bad guy…and that’s just the first expectation Ella Shane shatters on any given day.

            Ella, the main character in my Gilded Age mystery series, is used to being different. She grew up poor on the Lower East Side as Ellen O’Shaughnessy, the daughter of an Irish father and Jewish mother at a time when interfaith marriages were a ticket to the social abyss. She sings “trouser roles,” male parts like Romeo played by women because of the vocal range. And she insists – sometimes at the point of her sword — upon being treated as a respectable lady in a time when singers were still often considered women of questionable virtue.

            All pretty different from a standard diva.

            Not to mention an absolutely unique character.

            She’s a lot of fun to write, because I grew up watching those old movies with the swashbuckling heroes and wondering why the women always had to just stand there. Years later, I read a book on young singers at the Met, and a mezzo-soprano who sings “witches and britches.” Trouser roles. 

            It all clicked.

A woman whose job requires her to dress like a man and fence will be able to credibly do all kinds of exciting things. It’s a great plot device. But Ella is far more than a plot device. She’s a woman who takes male prerogatives, pushing boundaries in a very sexist time. Plus, because she challenges limits onstage, she behaves with iron propriety offstage, which sets up a lot of interesting dynamics. 

            Equally interesting, Ella is a woman in her thirties who’s slowly deciding that she might want to have a child. But that child would come at price of her freedom; a woman legally becomes a man’s property when they marry. As the owner of her own opera company, and an independent woman, she isn’t willing or able to make that sacrifice. Which sounds a lot like a modern woman’s work-life balance battle…from a whole different angle.

Ella’s not my only unusual character. At her side is her cousin Tommy Hurley, former boxing champ and co-owner and manager of the opera company. Described obliquely as “not the marrying kind,” he’s as out and proud as it’s possible to be in 1899, and has a happy and fulfilling life with his friends and family. It works because nobody suspects it from The Champ, and nobody asks too many questions of a good standup guy…with a hefty right cross.

            They’re surrounded by a fun and interesting cast, including several more trailblazing women: a doctor, a reporter and a fellow opera singer who’s curtailed her career just enough to fit in a family. More, we see all of them, male and female, doing their jobs. This is not one of those series where characters have fabulous careers on paper but nobody ever seems to work.

            Of course, I can’t leave out the love interest. If very respectable Ella’s thinking of having a child, she must be thinking of marrying…and until now, there’s been no remotely suitable contender. That all changes when Gilbert Saint Aubyn, Duke of Leith, walks into her rehearsal studio. He assumes “theatre people” aren’t respectable, and our veryrespectable Ella schools him on that — over crossed swords. He’s hooked. She’s interested, but it’s going to take him a long time to earn her trust.

Their first adventure, A FATAL FINALE, features our cast looking into the death of Ella’s most recent Juliet, who drank real poison and died onstage. Turns out she’s the Duke’s cousin, and he’s come to New York to find out what happened to her. The mystery builds slowly, with Ella helping at first only because of her ethical obligation to her late employee, and her kind hope to ease the Duke’s grief. But as we get to know our cast, and they dig deeper into the girl’s life, it becomes clear that this was no accident…and focus their efforts on tracking a killer. 

            It all culminates in a classic Errol Flynn-style catwalk duel, with Ella handling the swordplay and the Duke waiting in the wings. After it’s all sorted out, it’s clear that Ella will be seeing more of the Duke…and we’ll be seeing more of Ella and the crew.

            Speaking of which, book two comes next April. A FATAL FIRST NIGHT features the same loveable characters, backstage drama and slow-burn romance, with a fast-paced interlocking mystery plot – starting with a dressing-room death. More duels – and murders – ahead!

Buy A FATAL FINALEhttps://www.kensingtonbooks.com/9781496727237/

Kathleen Marple Kalb grew up in front of a microphone, and a keyboard. She’s now a weekend morning anchor at 1010 WINS New York, capping a career begun as a teenage DJ in Brookville, Pennsylvania. She worked her way up through newsrooms in Pittsburgh, Vermont and Connecticut, developing her skills and a deep and abiding distaste for snowstorms. While she wrote her first (thankfully unpublished) historical novel at age sixteen, fiction was firmly in the past until her son started school. She, her husband and son live in a Connecticut house owned by their cat.

SOCIAL LINKS: 

Website: https://kathleenmarplekalb.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kathleen-Marple-Kalb-1082949845220373/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KalbMarple

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kathleenmarplekalb/


Note from Anna Bushi:

I am an author of medieval fiction “Heir to Malla”, a story of a princess fighting her battles without wielding a sword or a wand.

I am currently writing my second book “War of the Three Kings“.

I feature authors in my blog regularly. You can view all the authors I have featured here. If you are an author and you would like to be featured in my blog, please contact me.