Guest Blog Post: 10 Characters You Can Relate To by ChrissiReads

A promotional photo of Boris Karloff, as Frankenstein’s monster, using Jack Pierce’s makeup design, by Universal Studios, NBCUniversal – Dr. Macro, Public Domain

Blogger about all things books, ChrissiReads even (be still my heart!) loves banned books! Given how the novels I’m writing are written in letter form (epistolary), I’m partial to similarly presented ones. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley, is deep meditation on society, whereas Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding is a drastically fluffier contemplation. In the case of both protagonists, I can definitely relate.

Does a character from a novel remind you of yourself? Here ChrissiReads reveals her picks…

Chrissi Reads

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It’s all about love of lists, love of literature and bringing bookish people together. 

This week’s list are characters that remind us of ourselves. I had some trouble with this list! I decided to talk about characters that I think are easy to relate to in one way or another. Some of them do remind me of myself so perhaps I can get away with this topic change?

  1. Miss HoneyMatildaRoald Dahl– A lot of parents call me Miss Honey. It’s not been the first time a parent of a child in my class comes to me and either calls me it by mistake or tells me I’m like her. Not a bad thing. It could be The Trunchbull!
  2. Matilda

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Banana Blueberry Frozen Delight by Khashayar Parsi

Frozen yogurt made by my honey makes me smile!

(Hi friends, this is da-AL — Khashayar’s post follows the next photo.)

Cool, cold, freezing! Yes! All those sound absolutely refreshing now that summer’s kicked in here in Los Angeles. What does hot weather make you feel like doing?

For me, the heat makes me want to dip my toes in a whispering mossy stream. It makes me want to nap. And it makes me want to sip iced coffee by the shore. Alas, real life beckons.

Enter ice cream! Better yet, frozen yogurt, because more people can tolerate it. Moreover, yogurt’s healthy probiotics withstand freezing. Here’ my sweeter-than-frozen-yogurt husband’s version of sheer indulgence (photos and captions are by me)…

From any angle, this scoop grins for you!

* * * Banana * Blueberry * Frozen * Delight * by * Khashayar * Parsi * * * 

* European style yogurt, plain full fat, 32 oz.

* Honey, 1.5 cups

* Banana, 1 large and ripe

* Blueberries, frozen, half a bag

* Butter, half a bar

1. Use cheesecloth to line a strainer that’s the size of the type used to drain pasta, and pour yogurt into it. Insert strainer over a bowl to collect the water from yogurt. Place in the fridge for 12 hours.

Step 1: Save the resulting fabulous liquid, a.k.a. whey, to later enhance everything from drinks and smoothies to soups and bread making.

2. Cook the berries on low heat to reduce the juice out of the fruit for about thirty minutes.

Step 2: Frozen berries are picked at the height of their season.

3. In a large bowl, use a hand blender to mix the banana, honey, and butter. Add in the thick yogurt and fruit and mix.

Step 3A: Ingredients other than yogurt and berries.
Step 3b: A blend of all but berries and yogurt.
Step 3c: Super dynamite yogurt meets blended tasty fruit and stuff.
Step 3d: Everything stirred together, except the berries. Sorry, I forgot to get a photo of the last step of combining berries into everything.

4. Leave in freezer for 24 hours and serve.

Step 4: Use the yogurt container to freeze the total mix in. In my humble opinion, it tastes amazing even at room temperature!!!

Guest Blog Post: Self-Published Author Nadira Cotticollan

Traditional publishing, the kind that engages literary agents and monolithic publishing companies, has always been a challenge for writers. In my quest to find either for my soon-to-be-released novels, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat,” it feels akin to winning the lottery. Fortunately, self-publishing is rapidly becoming a mainstream empowering alternative. What’s your experience with either buying or publishing self-published novels?

A blogger from India, Nadira Cotticollan, shares her recent venture into releasing her fiction on her own…

When she’s not writing novels, Nadira Cotticollon loves being a grandmother.

“The Winnowing Waves” and Self-Publishing by Nadira Cotticollan

I belong to a  Muslim community from the coastal state of Kerala in South India. We are said to have been winnowed out from the rest of the Kerala populace by the inter-marriages that took place between the Arab traders and the local women. Most of the cultural aspects continued to be picked up from the customs prevalent in Kerala, with some changes to create a distinct identity.  But there was a marked Arab influence as well.

During the years I grew up, there were many changes that were happening which were, in fact, slowly erasing the differences in dress and lingo and the social mores of confining women indoors, etc. A female like me, therefore, got the benefit of education, which was a rare thing during my mother’s generation and almost non-existent before that.

Then, there was a  turn towards more strict observance of the religious customs although there was no going back on the education, fortunately.  In part, this had to do with the political changes that saw an upsurge of right-wing sentiments and the political events that they ushered in, as also with the influx of the Wahabian influence brought in by those who had found a livelihood in the Gulf countries. These attempts at aggressively establishing religious, political, and cultural identities between the Hindus and the Muslims, is now gradually bringing in a subtle divide and disturbing the harmony that had existed for thousands of years.

My novel has been woven through this backdrop, but it is in no way discourse on any of those aspects. It creeps in through the different characters, of course, but not stridently so.

The story is told from a woman’s perspective for the most part.

I am sixty-two now, and I have always cherished the idea of getting something that I wrote published. After finishing this novel, I did tentatively explore the regular publishing route. I realized that it would take a very long time and that there was no certainty of any of the established publishers taking it up. So I decided to look for self-publishing platforms. My children offered to bear the cost.

Notionpress, who I approached, came across as very professional, with a good team who managed the different aspects of the publication process. I chose the minimum package which would take care of the formatting, the cover design, the copyrights, and the online listing on their online store as well as on Flipkart and Amazon India. The editing is a facility available with a higher package. So I did the editing myself. They did allow for post-publication correction of the grammatical and spelling errors and a couple of errors in the names, etc. The whole process was completed in two weeks.

They do not do any promotion with this package, nor will the books be available in the bookshops.

But I’m happy.

My friends were the ones who read the book first and gave me feedback. They have liked it and assure me that they can relate to it, that the flow is smooth, that it speaks to them of what I had wanted to convey and so on.

With the money I earned in the last two months, I decided to upgrade the package, which would make the book available outside India on Amazon.com

The pricing they suggested appeared to be almost the same as that of many well-established authors, and I expressed my doubts to them about that. I was told that my book would be printed only as per demand, which would hike up the production costs, as compared to the mass production of the books of established authors.

The royalty I get on the sale of one copy after they deduct the production costs and half of the profits (that was the agreement) is only about 2/5th of the MRP if purchased through the Notionpress store and much less (about 1/8th) if sold through Amazon and Flipkart.

But what’s more important to me is that more people get to read the book.

da-AL’s kind offer to let me put up a blog post here about it is therefore very much appreciated.

I do hope some of you will pick it up from Amazon.com and give me your feedback after you’ve read it. Go to Notionpress here. Go to Amazon here.

Thank you all very much for reading this ☺

Guest Blog Post: Writing – ways to learn the craft by M.L. Davis

Novelist/marketer/copywriter M.L. Davis blogs from South West England.

Love, practice, and persistence go far with any endeavor — including when it comes to writing. For me, it helps if I can tap into something fun about a project (like with my soon-to-be self-published novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”). What works for you?

Novelist/marketer/copywriter M.L. Davis blogs from South West England. Here’s how Davis hones her craft…

Uninspired Writers

Writing is a skill, and like all skills it cane be learned and honed. Some people have a natural talent and flare for certain things, others have to try a little harder. Wherever you stand, if you love writing you should write. And if you’d like to improve and grow there are plenty of ways to do so.

1. Write
Let’s start with the simple and most effective answer. Write. You learn as you do, and you improve as you do. As with all skills, you will get better with practice and perseverance.
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2. Read Fiction
If you’re writing fiction, you’ll learn a great deal about what you like/don’t like by reading fiction. You’ll get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. And if you’re going to tell stories, it’s important to get used to the way stories are shaped. (This can also be done by…

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Video: Great TV, an Inspiring Author, and a Humble Tango by da-AL

My husband I do a little dance for our dear cousins.

Someone said that a good story makes you both laugh and cry. To me, a remarkable story does all that while capturing the nuances of how each of us can be wonderful yet flawed. Bramwell, a TV show I only recently discovered, does it all. It’s from the 1990s, which apparently is so old that the closest to a trailer for it that I could find for you is this opening…

I’m discussing Bramwell to tell you about the inspiring screenwriter. Wikipedia notes, “Lucy Gannon once worked as a military policewoman, a residential social worker, and a nurse, and lived in a concrete council house with no central heating. She later moved to a converted barn in Derbyshire and now lives near Cardigan, in Wales.” Here she describes how she came to writing…

And here, my friends, is a tango that my husband and I danced for our dear cousins in Gold Coast, Australia…

What makes great writing for you?

Guest Blog Post: Master of Light, Joaquín Sorolla by Katheryne Gatehouse

Thanks to Facebook, I met Katheryne Gatehouse, who is passionate about fine art and nature. She first guest blog posted on HBT about bees. Here she tells us about a favorite painter…

Platinum print of impressionist artist Joaquín Sorolla by pioneering American photographer Gertrude Käsebier
Platinum print of impressionist artist Joaquín Sorolla by pioneering American photographer Gertrude Käsebier.

Guest Blog Post: Master of Light, Joaquín Sorolla by Katheryne Gatehouse…

When you think of the greatest Impressionist painters, you might think that because the movement was founded in Paris, all the best were French, right? If that’s the case, you’ll have missed one of the forgotten giants, Spain’s Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863–1923). It was Claude Monet who named him, “The Master of Light.” Growing up in the harsh bright sunlight of Valencia, he mastered the play of light on buildings, on gardens, on flesh, and on the sea. No other artist depicts shadows and dappled sunlight better!

Sewing the Sail, by Sorolla.

I first came across Sorolla as part of a large exhibition on impressionist gardens. Many of the paintings were charming or beautiful, yet entering the gallery from a cool misty grey London day outdoors, and then standing in front of a luminous Sorolla painting, I felt as if I was on holiday. Some weeks later, I visited Giverny, where I was delighted to find an exhibition of his works. It was love at first sight. I have been besotted with him ever since!

Fisherwomen On the Beach, 1903, by Sorolla.

As a young man, he studied in Paris and won a 4-year term to study painting in Rome.  He returned to Valencia in 1888 to marry Clotilde Garcia del Castillo, whom he met in 1879 while working in her father’s studio. She is the subject of many of his portraits, including one in the style of Diego Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus lying naked on silk sheets and is as sensual as his painting of Clotilde lying next to their newborn daughter is tender. All of the Clotilde portraits clearly show his undying love and admiration for her.  Later still, he painted her in a traditional black Spanish dress, looking every inch the supermodel with an impossibly tiny waist, though a photograph of this sitting shows that it was indeed a true likeness.  The couple went on to have 3 children Joaquin, Mary, & Elena who feature in many of his works, including  “My family” also in the style of  Velasquez’s Las Meninas.  Despite his talent and recognition above all he was a devoted husband and family man.

Photo of Sorolla painting “Clotilde in a Black Dress”, 1905.

Although he was based in Madrid, each year he returned to Valencia. There he painted glorious beach scenes of children playing in the water and running along the shoreline, as well as proud working class people that included fishermen and women.

Running Along the Beach by Sorolla.

An exceptional portraitist, his repertoire includes Spain’s King Alphonso XIII, artist/designer Louis Comfort Tiffany, and U.S. 27th President William Howard Taft. Social themes were important to Sorolla. “Another Marguerite” (1892), which depicts a woman who was arrested for murdering her young child, was awarded the gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid. “Sad Inheritance” (1899) portrays children with polio bathing in the sea while supervised by a monk. The title refers to how the youngsters were innocent victims of hereditary syphilis.

Sad Inheritance by Sorolla.

Despite great acclaim elsewhere in Europe, a 1908 London exhibition was not a great success. However, it led to important introductions. A wealthy American friend of the arts, Archer Milton Huntington, made Sorolla a member of the Hispanic Society of America. In addition, he invited Sorolla to exhibit, with great success (195 of 365 paintings being sold) and subsequently commissioned Sorolla for a series of monumental paintings to be installed in their building in Manhattan. The murals total 227’ wide by about 14′ high. “Visions of Spain” depicts regions of the Iberian peninsula. All but one was painted en plein air with life-sized figures, some in traditional regional dress.

Child Eating Watermelon by Sorolla.

In 1920, Sorolla was painting a portrait of Mrs. Ramon Perez de Ayala when he suffered a major stroke that left him paralyzed. He died three years later and is buried in the Cementeri de Valencia. The last house he and Clotilde shared in Madrid is now the Museo Sorolla. It is a must-see for all fans of impressionist art. If you are visiting London, there is currently an excellent collection of sixty Sorolla paintings at The National Gallery until 7th July 2019.

My Wife and Daughters in the Garden, 1910, by Sorolla.

What do you think of impressionism?

Argentine Tango Elegante: Video of Newest Step by da-AL

Khashayar and da-AL learning a new step. Khashayar and da-AL learning a new step.

It’s no coincidence that my soon-to-be self-published novels have to do with dance! Here are my husband and me practicing a step we just learned at the end of class (and here’s more and some more and more and a quick clip and the first time I posted a video of our dancing about the style of Argentine tango that we dance that’s taught by these outstanding teachers)…

Here’s a masterfully fun tango clip of “Lost in Paris,” a marvelous film I recently discovered by French film burlesque style due Canadian Fiona Gordon and Belgian Dominique Abel…

And another from the same movie — that’s choreographed by them (and danced?)…

What’s your favorite dance film?…