Guest Blog by Penmancy

Penmancy is a coven of creative characters who are fascinated with the magic of the pen to weave new worlds with words. One of our main goals is to create a virtual space where writers and readers support each other and build a wholesome community that cherishes literature.After the massive success of our first anniversary collection of short stories, ‘a fallen leaf’, we give you our second anniversary collection as ‘SHATTERED’. We hope that you have enjoyed the stories as much as we have enjoyed putting them together for your reading pleasure.

Introduction to ‘Shattered’

Life is beautiful yet filled with pain and suffering. Many people in the world, young or old, regardless of their gender, endure excruciating experiences throughout their life. The smiles that people wear on their faces are not proof of happiness. Deep inside, they may be hurting; their hearts broken; their hopes and dreams shattered; and probably, even the life that they so treasure hangs in the balance. It is in this very premise that this anthology, titled Shattered, was born. 

Believe it or not, we do love to read stories that are sad or make us angry and shed tears; tales where vengeance is sought and justice served. And the reason for this is simple- they make us realize the fragility of our own lives and see our own shortcomings; they remind us of the flawed society that we live in and wish we could do something about it. Most often, it is a realization that wakes us up from our deep slumber, urging us to be appreciative of our advantageous situation and forcing us to evaluate how fortunate we are to have not gone through the pain and suffering that others have experienced.

As the title of this collection suggests, this anthology offers a wide range of interpretations of the word ‘shattered’–stories of broken lives, unfulfilled promises, cracked beliefs, fractured egos, crushed hopes that are weaved tugging our heartstrings. While some of these are not shattered pieces beyond repair, others are smashed to smithereens, and the only way to handle the misery is to confront it and try to heal and rise above it or face death.

Shattered contains nineteen incredible stories in varied genres from eighteen talented writers. It is a product of Penmancy’s second-year anniversary celebration and its attempt to showcase the brilliant minds behind these stories to the world.

Stories and their authors

  1. Collateral Fractures – Sanjukta Ghoshal
  2. Sundarpur Chronicles – Nilutpal Gohain
  3. Him – Pai
  4. Splintered Souls – Supriya Bansal
  5. The Road to Hell – Aradhna Shukla
  6. Scarlet Skies – Chandra Sundeep
  7. The Best Man – Fabienne Meyers
  8. Beneath the Golden Seams – Sanjukta Ghoshal
  9. 1947- an Imprecation – Sonal Singh
  10. My Journey Beyond Life – Shweta Mathur Lall
  11. Dialogues Across the Realm – Sreemati Sen
  12. The Shattered Souls – Kokila Gupta
  13. The Unheard – Rasya Krishnan
  14. The Street Without Cherries – Trixiah Ann Gumba
  15. Wings – Archie Iyer
  16. Hrishikesha – Ravi Valluri
  17. Her Place on Earth – Preethi Warrier
  18. Anastasis – Alpna Das Sharma
  19. Pietra Angolare Dell’Universo – Olinda Braganza

Note from Anna Bushi:

I am an author of medieval fiction “Heir to Malla” that is available on Kindle Unlimited.

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.

Book 2 Progress

I am making steady progress in my second book set in the Land of Magadha. It starts a few years after Heir to Malla and has several characters introduced in book 1.

Heir to Malla is available everywhere books are sold and is a historical fantasy without magic based in the fictional land of Magadha. I am running a free Instagram giveaway for Heir to Malla in the US. Please check it out.

In book 2, our protagonists are older and in power, and their challenges pit duty vs. following their heart’s desires. I am deeply interested in exploring what makes someone a good ruler, and monarchy provides a unique way to explore that.

I have written 40,000 words, so I am about half-way through my first draft. While I am not writing a happily ever after romance, love and hope are recurring themes.

In terms of writing style, I have broad chapter outlines written for the book, and then I let the characters take me where they want to go. I am sometimes pleasantly surprised or shocked by how certain events turn out. This mix of some planning and then letting nature take its course works well for me.

Writing continues to be my refuge in a chaotic world, especially with the pandemic upending so many normal activities.

Until next time.

Guest Blog by Wendy Waters

Wendy Waters is an author, composer, lyricist and librettist. Born in Australia, she grew up in Sydney, lived in the USA for six years and now divides her time between London, Sydney and Paris. In 2011 Waters volunteered to work with OASIS Salvation Army Crisis Centre in Sydney, helping musically gifted young people. Waters has written three musicals: FRED, ALEXANDER and THE LAST TALE (with composer Shanon Whitelock) and two books, Catch the Moon, Mary and Fields of Grace. Music is a constant theme in Waters’ work.

Set against a backdrop of war in 30s Europe, Grace Fieldergill, a starry-eyed young actress from Devon moves to London to pursue her dream of becoming a star. The lovable boarders of Wyncote House, a ladies-only establishment, take her under their collective wing and share her triumph when she is accepted into the brilliant young John Gielgud’s Company as Peggy Ashcroft’s understudy. When Peggy misses a show one night Grace gets her chance. Watching her performance that evening are two people who will change her life forever, London’s most famous actress, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, and a man whose love she never thought she could win. 

Fields of Grace is a searingly beautiful love letter to the performing arts, based loosely on my grandmother’s life as a virtuoso violinist whose stellar career in London was cut short by the burgeoning war in 1936. Even though I have made my leading lady a theatrical ingenue her rise and fall echo my grandmother’s experiences, which she told to me in the last few months of her life. She loved passionately – her music, her family, my grandfather and the mysterious man who rocked her world in Europe in the 30s. 

Excerpt from review by Sarah Sansom @theBookWhiskers: Fields of Grace is a story about every kind of love silhouetted against the evils of persecution and envy.  The narrative carries the reader from the flirtatious bright lights of 1930s London, to the grand romance of Paris, before mercilessly setting down in the hostile streets of Hitler’s Berlin where life takes an ugly twist. Grace is the story’s leading lady, and its main narrator.  We first meet her in Sydney in the autumn of 2009, the winter of her life.  An ethereal tawny fog has settled over the city, and its portentous arrival lets Grace know that this will be her last earthbound day; the day when she can finally set herself free from the secrets of her past, and heal old wounds. “Time has a way of sorting out most things, but I have no more time, so today I will unlock the trunk pass John’s legacy on to Sam [Grace’s granddaughter], and tell my son the truth about his father.  Then the amberglow may claim my soul.” Standing in the corner of Grace’s bedroom is an old trunk that has remained locked for over seventy-four years. It holds little of monetary value, but its contents are the precious mementoes of an unparalleled life.  A faded program from a production of Hamlet staged in Berlin in 1936 still holds the bloom of a lilac rose frozen in time between the pages.  A scroll of handwritten notes remains tied with a lilac ribbon. The intoxicating scent of fresh roses. With the tenderest of prompts the scenery changes, and Grace is recounting her breathtaking story of theatre, friends, love and war…Overall, this is a breathtaking story about every kind of love:  the uplifting love of friends, the anchoring love of family, the romantic love of partners.  It’s about true love, passionate love, unrequited love, forbidden love, illicit love, failed love, infatuation and forgiveness. By Sarah Sansom @theBookWhiskers 

When I was fifteen, I moved in with my grandmother, ostensibly to help her during the period of her mourning after my grandfather passed away. During that time, she told me stories about her early life that even my father had never heard. She spoke of her music and the years of training that turned her into a virtuoso performer. I was studying drama at the time and my love for the theatre chimed with her passion for music and that acceptance of the yoke we all bow to when we aspire to artistic excellence. She recounted an extraordinary life playing for the famous and infamous in London and Europe. Such was her reception that she fully expected a stellar career culminating in an appearance at Covent Garden and one day, Carnegie Hall. Her talent merited such an arrival. But alas, her family summoned her home in 1936, fearing she would get caught up in the war that was looming. She returned and as the war dragged on and there seemed to be no end in sight, she accepted a marriage proposal from my grandfather who had loved her for over a decade. He had fallen in love with her when he was fourteen and she was twenty-two. They were neighbours. My grandmother was the love of his life and she adored him but during the revelations I was privy to in her final months I realised there had been another great unfulfilled love for her – the career she had left behind in Europe and London. Australia was far from welcoming in 1936 – the most she was offered was second fiddle in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, hugely insulting for a consummate musician who had studied with Ysayë, a master violinist in Belgium and played in some of the most salubrious salons in London and Paris. 

I felt her heartache so keenly and her story stayed with me for years, long after she had gone. Every so often I would examine aspects of it and wonder if there was a turn she missed along the way.

In writing Fields of Grace, I am both reconciling myself to the loss of my grandmother and her dream and also hoping to inspire others to follow their dreams no matter how steep the climb, how inhospitable the terrain.


Note from Anna Bushi:

I am an author of medieval fiction “Heir to Malla” that is available on Kindle Unlimited.

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.

My writing journey

Many writers come from backgrounds you typically expect: English majors, journalists, English teachers, history, or literature students. Then some writers like me have no background in literature or writing except for a deep love of books.

A few years ago, I along with thousands of others, waited for the next book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. This book series was made famous by the television show “Game of Thrones”. I had read every theory on the dark corners of the web about what would happen in books six and seven. As a reader, I was eager to find out what happened to my favorite characters. After waiting many years, a seed got planted, and I wondered what it would mean to write my own royal saga loosely based on Indian culture.

Without any training apart from having read many books, I started writing. Princess Meera, Prince Jay, the many supporting characters, and the land of Magadha took life on-page.

I only had a vague idea of the story I wanted to tell when I started. With no outline, my plot grew organically. Over 100k words later, I finished my first draft. In my edits, I chopped characters, rearranged plots and scenes but the core story of love, family, and duty remained.

Then I worked with a wonderful editor who helped me polish the story. As an engineer by training and trade, my writing before this book primarily focused on writing facts, charts, and technical specifications. A story needs settings, characters, scenes, conflict, and emotions. Each edit added depth to my tale. I am still honing my storytelling craft and having fun doing it, as I write book 2.

This year, Heir to Malla was published. Releasing a book is like raising a child and letting them go. My book is now in the hands of readers.

My hope is readers have as much fun reading the book as I had fun writing it.

My advice to writers is to write your story first. Pour your heart out. You can fix things later in the edits. And it is never late to start learning the craft.

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

I read all three hunger games books when they came out and saw the movies. While the trilogy was dark, the theme overall was uplifting.

In the prequel, Suzanne Collins takes a risk in using a POV character whose thoughts are cold and calculating. She is a talented writer and pulls off the challenge. But there were moments in the book when I wished I heard Lucy or Sejanus’s views rather than Snow’s.

Few parts of the book reminded me of reading Lord of the Flies. My outlook on humanity is hopeful, so reading Lord of the Flies depressed me, and reality is dismal enough that I prefer my reading to be inspiring.

I liked reading about the early hunger game structure and how it evolved. I loved getting the back story for the song “Are you…”.

Good to see katniss the plant, make an appearance.

Lucy Gray (Original by Wordsworth and modified by Suzanne) song featured in the book was beautiful, though Snow’s interpretation grated me. That is the challenge of being in such a mind. Lucy Gray’s character is haunting.

Overall, a dark grim book that is splendidly written to portray humanity and its flaws. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are intrigued by how the mind of an aloof, distant character works and what influences such a person, this book does a good showcase of it.

Book 2 Progress

Photo by Kim van Vuuren on Pexels.com

In Heir to Malla, set in fictional Land of Magadha, you were introduced to Princess Meera, Prince Jay, Rish Vindhya, and many other characters. If their stories captivated you, you would enjoy returning to this world in book 2.

This book starts a few years later and includes many of the familiar characters you met in book 1. Because I have spent many years in these characters’ heads, the story has been flowing more naturally. The human heart in conflict is what I enjoy writing about, and there is plenty of drama to enthrall the readers.

I recently wrote Chapter 12 of the book, so I am about 40% done with my first draft. We see a main character’s chambers for the first time in this book, and I was surprised by it. And had fun envisioning how it looked.

A chapter that simmered in my head for many months was finally penned. I will go back a few weeks later to read it. I hope you like it as much as I did when I wrote it.

The next set of chapters planned essentially completes the first half and will be an emotional rollercoaster to put in words. I will probably read light romances to balance it out.

Until next time.

Writing as therapy

When the world around us is unpredictable and chaotic, we all need an outlet to escape reality.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

I can pick a book to read and get lost in its pages for hours. I can be following a Scotland Yard Inspector solve a murder mystery in gloomy grey London. I can be shapeshifting in a magical realm, chasing a dark lord bent on destructing the world.

I started writing five years ago, and quickly, Heir to Malla became more than a novel. Writing became a way for me to relax. The creative outlet allowed me to meditate about characters and plot, rather than worry about everyday struggles.

Writing my second book in the Land of Magadha series has kept me sane during this pandemic. I may not be able to travel anywhere in the real world, but my characters have been riding elephants and horses and sailing the seas.

These characters that have been with me for over five years feel very real to me, and I can forget about the virus for some time every day and write about Meera and Rish.

Imagining a dark corridor, hearing the sounds in a battlefield, or describing a palace feast let my mind savor these things. Instead of obsessing about things I cannot control, I can chart a course for my story.

What are you doing to keep your sanity in these times?

Foreword for Guest Blog

Readers and Writers, I published my medieval fiction Heir to Malla in 2020. The story unfolds as Princess Meera learns her brother Crown Prince Jay is missing. She sends the man she is in love with, Rish Vindhya, to search for him. Prince Amar of Padi, known for his penchant for violence, harbors desires for Malla and Meera. Suddenly, Meera is catapulted into the battle for her kingdom. If Jay is not found, the price she needs to pay is steep, her love and happiness.

As a 2020 Debut author, I wanted to showcase a fellow author’s book in my blog this week.

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Holland

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories follows Prue Clemonte as she returns home for her grandmother’s funeral. Settling back into village life isn’t easy, especially when Prue becomes the victim of village gossip. As she re-arranges her life Prue stumbles upon a web of secrets that is about to turn her life upside down. To complicate matters even further she’s beginning to fall for Elliot Harrington, however his father is intent on splitting them up.

Prue won’t let a village full of people who hate her stop her from living her life and being happy. With the help of Elliot, Prue is determined to win the village over and make herself a life back home in Ivy Hatch. However, she soon begins to realise that she’s lost herself in her quest for the truth. As Prue battles to find herself can she save the bookshop, whilst also stopping the village from ruining her life?

The story behind The Vintage Bookshop of Memories 

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories was created from my desire to write a book that felt comforting. I wanted it to encompass everything that I enjoy, from an idyllic village life to vintage fashion. This book is everything that I would want to read. Essentially the story is about a woman’s quest for happiness. 

Ivy Hatch is based on a quintessential English village and every village needs an old-fashioned bookshop. The description of the bookshop has an almost magical edge to it, drawing the reading in and making them fell as though they are standing in the middle of the shop. 

‘A gasp escaped Prue as she stepped inside the shop. The smell of mustiness hit her senses as she blinked to adjust to the dim lighting. It was beautiful, a hidden treasure trove of books. If Prue could have designed her dream shop, this would be it. She stepped into the shop, leaving the door open slightly to allow some light in. A switch was to the left of the door but as she flicked it nothing happened. She would have to make do with the little natural light that the door was letting in. Books lined the walls from the floor to the ceiling. On the back wall stood a balcony, overlooking the entire shop with an old-fashioned ladder leading to it. Prue tiptoed around the room, running her fingers along the spines of all the books, they were thick with dust but they’d be fine after a good clean. There had to be thousands of books in here. She had always known her mother was a keen reader but she hadn’t known the true extent of her mother’s love for books. To the right of the shop was a counter in the same dark wood as the bookshelves, perched on the top was an old fashioned till. It was beautiful. Prue had come across a few of these during her time working in auction houses but never had she found one in such pristine condition, at least it would be pristine if it wasn’t covered in a layer of dust.’ – Chapter 4, The Vintage Bookshop of Memories.

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories uses creative and imaginative language to make the reader feel as though they are within the pages of the book. 

The Character’s in The Vintage Bookshop of Memories 

When creating my characters I want them to be fierce and inspiring and yet I don’t want them to lose that human edge. Therefore I immediately knew that whilst Prue had to be strong and independent she still had to have flaws. She makes bad decisions, drinks too much gin and all too often allows her decisions to be swayed by her emotions. 

‘With a sickening realisation Prue saw a delivery driver stood on the driveway surrounded by boxes. She had forgotten that she had spent a small fortune (actually, there was nothing small about it) on clothes last night. With some reluctance she opened the door and signed on the dotted line…

With a growing sense of excitement Prue pulled out the first garment. A crop top. What had she been thinking? As Prue pulled more items out she noticed a few that she liked the look of and so she put them to one side, the rest she could return. She would have donated some of the items to a charity shop but she couldn’t see the women of Ivy Hatch wearing a spangly diamanté handkerchief top.’ – Chapter 29, The Vintage Bookshop of Memories

Prue is the kind of woman that I aspire to be. Strong, resilient, focused on her own happiness and occasionally ordering too many clothes. 

A final word…

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories will transport you to Ivy Hatch and you’ll find yourself not wanting to leave. 

Book 2 Progress

Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

William Faulkner: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/1949/faulkner/speech/

I recently finished chapter 8 of my yet untitled book 2. Since I scrapped the first few chapters of my book 1 during my edits, I have anywhere from 0 to 20% of my first draft completed.

I left plenty of hanging threads in book 1, and I am having fun pulling them to see what unravels and what tightens into a knot.

My protagonist Meera and my other POV character, who will remain nameless (Book 1 Spoilers), have plenty of conflicts – love, duty, and desires pulling them in different directions. What the self wants to do is not what is best for society. Love, that strong overpowering feeling, leading them down perilous paths with no return. And why is it so hard to do one’s duty? All happening in the backdrop of war for Magadha itself.

My next chapter is one I have envisioned happening in my head for a few months now, but sometimes these characters surprise me and take me down a road less traveled. I am excited to see how the images in my head translate into words on paper.

Inspiration for writing

My first inspiration was my grandmother. As a young child, I spent several summers with her. Mealtimes were storytimes, and I remember prolonging it, so I can hear one more story. Her stories based on Indian mythology would bring characters to life. She had excellent delivery for comedy and would have my brother and I laughing at the funny stories.

As I grew older, I read practically anything I could get my hands on. My mother would buy used books for me to read. And I used all my allowance at the local lending library borrowing books for one rupee each. I have read Tamil novels by Kalki, like someone dying of thirst gulps water. Greedily.

I have read all Jane Austen novels. Who says romance is easy to write? To write a book that appeals to someone 200 years later is monumental. Her female characters are witty, headstrong, make mistakes, and very human.

I have read several Charles Dickens novels, and my favorite is A Tale of Two Cities.

Epic fantasies with complex plots, alternate universes, and a myriad of characters are a delight to read. I have read Lord of the rings, Mistborn series, A Song of Ice and Fire, among others. Magic, when weaved carefully into a tale, can be a powerful tool in the writer’s tool kit.

Science fiction opens our mind to possibilities, and Neal Stephenson books tackle some contemporary issues, and the Dune series takes you into space.

You can find more of the recent books I have read on Goodreads.

Curl up with a good book this weekend.