Guest Post: Discovering Vishpala and the world’s first reference to prosthesis by Saiswaroopa Iyer

Many readers have asked me how I discovered the story of Vishpala, reimagined in Avishi. Quoting one of my editors, stories find their tellers and have a unique way of manifesting. I strongly feel they choose their time and gauge the readiness of the story teller too. Back in 2012, when I was struggling with an early draft of Abhaya, I got some feedback about breathing life into the characters. I was advised to meditate upon the daily life of the characters outside the story and the plot. This is an advice I value dearly and follow even today.

Once, I was writing a scene of Abhaya where the protagonist is a 6 year old toddler demanding her father to tell her stories while he fed her. What kind of stories would a father who is a King and a warrior tell his only daughter? He would want to inspire her with stories of valor too. As Abhaya was set in the times of Mahabharata, this story had to be older. I thought of warrior women from Ramayana. Kaikeyi did not offer a positive side to be narrated to a six year old. Savitri’s story had adventure, romance and philosophy but seemed too terse. It was then that I turned to the oldest book of India, the Rig Veda. The surprises that Rig Veda threw at me would make for quite a few posts! One of them was this warrior called Vishpala (Vishapala where Visha referred to a settlement and Pala referred to the one who headed it).

Vishpala is mentioned in one of the hymns dedicated to the divine healers and miracle workers called Asvinas. The hymn extols them for granting a prosthetic leg to Vishpala when she lost her leg in a battle. (Speculated as an iron leg by the 19th Century Indologist Ralph Griffith) Modern scholars speculate that the metal could be either bronze or copper. But setting the academic debate aside, the hymn happens to be the world’s first reference to the concept of prosthesis! Something that even international medical journals mention while broaching the topic!

I could not help setting aside the draft of Abhaya for a while and marveling at the heroine who fought with a prosthetic leg and about the ancient society which made such iron willed men and women. Consider it a promise made by a story teller to the ancient character who unexpectedly graced her. I resolved to revisit and explore the story of Vishpala after publishing Abhaya (Avishi is a fictional name).

Exploring the world of Avishi posed interesting challenges. The experience was a heavy contrast to writing Abhaya where I struggled to find place for my characters in the dense plot of Mahabharata. Vishpala who was mentioned nowhere but in the precious few shlokas of Rig Veda required me to reimagine the early Vedic society in all its egalitarian glory at the dawn of human civilization. Even the name of Vishpala (which clearly referred to her position) is lost to our memory.

Imagining Santagrahis or those endowed with lightning memory who carried out oral tradition in the times where script was yet to be invented, making sense of live-in relationships as the institution of wedlock was still nascent as a concept were just some aspects in the world creation process behind Avishi.

With each story he or she writes, the story teller challenges his/her comfort zones and turns richer with experience. I hope there are more such stories from the past waiting to reveal themselves when they think the time is ripe!

ABOUT THE(1)

author

Saiswaroopa is an IITian and a former investment analyst turned author. Her keen interest in ancient Indian history, literature and culture made her take to writing. Her debut novel Abhaya, set in the times of Mahabharata was published in 2015. Avishi, her second novel set in Vedic India explores the legend of India’s first mentioned female warrior queen Vishpala.

She holds a certificate in Puranas from Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. She is also trained in Carnatic Classical music and has won a state level gold medal from Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.

 

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Avishi Final Cover

Long before the times of Draupadi and Sita

Immortalised in the hymns of the Rig Veda

But largely forgotten to the memory of India

Is the Warrior Queen with an iron leg, Vishpala

 

Brought up in the pristine forest school of Naimisha, Avishi reaches the republic of Ashtagani in search of her destiny. When Khela, the oppressive King of the neighbouring Vrishabhavati begins to overwhelm and invade Ashtagani, Avishi rises to protect her settlement. But peril pursues her everywhere.

Separated from her love, her settlement broken, with a brutal injury needing amputation of her leg, can Avishi overcome Khela?

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Guest Post: Mature Love Vs. Young Love In Romance by Sandra Ely

In a foreward written by Stephen King, he said that it’s easier for him to write about mature love than it is to write about young love. Not because of the content, mind you, but because he is experienced with the former moreso than the latter. So what’s the difference you may be asking yourself.

Young love is the beginning of a romantic relationship when there are butterflies and courting. It’s the process of wooing, of falling, of being so infatuated the other person’s faults are over-looked. While this is not exclusive to romance reads, it is definitely the most prominent genre to explore the subject.

Mature love is the romantic relationship between a couple who have been together for some time. They know each other, see the faults in the other party and accept them, flaws and all. It’s not about the hearts and flowers as the couple have already found their relationship footing. This is not normally found in romance novels, but if done correctly it can be.

The difference between young love and mature love has never been about the inclusion of sex, but about where a couple is on the road of their relationship.

Why choose this topic?

It’s an issue I have been exploring as I start a new contemporary romance titled, “Returning to Us.” In a nutshell, it’s about a man and woman who have been married, who have started a family, and who come to a point in their relationship where they will move forward stronger than ever, or break completely apart.

While there are hints of the relationship that lead the couple to the point where they are currently at in the novel, the memories of their courtship and the early stages of their relationship are not the driving force between their dynamic. The focus is on the flaws in their relationship, how those flaws have effected their present, and how they can overcome them, either together or apart.

I can honestly say this is a project that isn’t as easy for me as building a relationship up from scratch where the reader gets to see early development as it occurs. It’s a battle of how much to tell to ensure the reader knows how these two people came together, but to keep the story focused on what has become of them. Having an established pair, with a complete history in your head is one thing. To try to put the same established pair into the midst of troubled waters with the reader having no idea of their history is quite another.

Mature love is found more often in genres outside of romance, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be found within the genre. It’s a fine line to work around, but next time you hear the phrases “young love” or “mature love” you will have a better understanding of it’s literary meaning.

ABOUT THE(1)

41ARgO8k6GL._UX250_A stay at home wife and mother of two incredible boys, Sandra enjoys writing fiction dealing with supernatural aspects. She lives in Missouri, although she has lived in several other states including: Arizona (where she was born), Colorado, Florida, South Dakota, Kansas, Montana, Iowa, California, Ohio and Michigan.

 

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Guest Post: Writing is not for the weak…

by Annabelle Anders

From the moment I learned to read I knew I wanted to be a writer. I wrote short stories throughout elementary school and once I reached high school, I dedicated myself to journalism. I loved writing for the paper in College but before graduating, I met my true love and swept the notion of becoming an author aside. Later… I told myself.

And for years, people asked me: “Why don’t you write a book?”

Why don’t I? Like so many aspiring writers, I began book after book and never quite finished any of them. I’d write 3 or 4 chapters and then set it aside. On one occasion I wrote over a hundred pages before stopping. Was I in a corner? I’m not sure, but something paralyzed me and eventually my computer would break down and everything I’d written would be lost forever.

So I would begin again, never finishing any of them. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile I got married, had children, bought a house, lost a business, lost a house, nearly got divorced and then somehow managed to pull my life back together again.

Oh, and my dog died.

Perhaps the earth tilted on it’s access, perhaps the moon and the stars aligned perfectly, I’m not sure how it happened. I do know that a few weeks after my dog died, it was as though a switch flipped inside of me and I realized that to be a writer, I had to write.

Every day. As though my life depended on it.

I finally wrote a book. And then another. And another and another… I’ve written six books now. But that is only the beginning. I will write and write and write… Cause I am a writer.

As writers, we dedicate ourselves to this craft with no guarantee. When we begin putting words to paper, we never know if anybody’s eyes but our own will ever read them. We must ignore the doubt and uncertainty, ignore the critics and the naysayers. We must write as though the world can’t wait to hear what we have to say.

We must jump on inspiration and then plow through the muddy parts.

A wise author friend of mine mentioned to me that we writers experience very few truly great moments. They must be savored. Number one on that list, for all of us, is the first time we type “The End.”

Naive creatures that we are, that is in truth, just the beginning.

🙂

ABOUT THE(1)

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Married to the same man for over 25 years, I am a mother to
three children and two Miniature Wiener dogs

After owning a business and experiencing considerable success, my husband and I got caught in the financial crisis and lost everything; our business, our home, even our car.

At this point, I put my B.A. in Poly Sci to use and took work as a waitress and bartender.

Unwilling to give up on a professional life, I simultaneously went back to college and obtained a degree in Energy Management.

And then the energy market dropped off.

And then my dog died.

I can only be grateful for this series of unfortunate events, for, with nothing to lose and completely demoralized, I sat down and began to write the romance novels which had until then, existed only my imagination.

I am happy to have found my place in life.

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Guest Post: Judging a Book by its Cover

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Judging a Book by its Cover

by Alex Martin

As in every industry, when we look at the yearly information about self-publishing, there is always good news and bad news.

In several surveys applied across Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, the Smashwords online store, Oyster, Scribd, and Kobo, a few common trends are evident.

Bad news first?

Many authors quit after their first book. The why was not included, but an educated guess would lead to think that low sales and results that are below expectations would play a large role in making writers abandon their dreams, or at the least put them on an indefinite hold.

On the bright side, there is much good news to consider.

As of 2015 onwards, self-published books are representing more than 30% of e-book sales and authors are earning nearly 40% of total earnings. This is a clear indication that the market is still solid and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. This is all in spite of the data that also indicates that authors in general are earning less, but many are making a very healthy yearly profit. As an example, if you look up Mark Dawson, you will see that he is earning around $450.000 yearly as a self-published author.

Now, for a few points to consider, as we haven’t touched the topic related to the title of this article yet.

As a self-published author, you have several tools at your disposal to capture a reader’s attention. You can do a small test first, placing yourself in the position of a potential buyer. Let’s say you go to Amazon and type in a book genre, for example “romance”. As the list of related books appear, what is the first thing that you see?

That’s right, the book’s cover. And then if it captures your attention, the book’s title and only then will you probably click on it to read what it’s about.

With the romance genre example above, as you browse down the list, you will also probably notice how many of these covers have a man’s muscular torso on it, with the title written in some fancy cursive font. Now ask yourself, if you have a self-published romance book and you want customers to buy it, what makes it stand out from all the other covers with muscular torsos?

On the other hand, if the cover is not attractive, readers will also think that they will find the same quality inside the book, thus reducing drastically your chances of them buying your book.

This said, even if you are on a low budget, which you perhaps prefer to spend more on marketing your book, there are many very low cost options for good semi-professional book covers:

  • Canva

Canva is a free design tool that you can use both online or download as an app with which you can create great cover designs. It includes all the tools for text formatting, as well as a few free images that you can use. There are also paid images available at $1 each.

  • Public domain photos

If you do an internet search on public domain photos, you will find several sites that have a large database of photos and other types of images that are free to use. Just make sure that it specifies that it is free for commercial use. After choosing, all you need to do is perhaps add some photoshop filter and place the book’s title and author name, which you can do yourself with some basic design skills, or hire someone for as low as $5 to do it for you.

  • Low Cost Royalty Free Photos

There are also several sites offering royalty free images (no license attached), starting at $1 upwards.

  • Low Cost Designer

If you want to avoid all the hassle, you can go straight to a designer to have a cover made for you. Make sure, however, that you have a specific idea of what you want for your cover first, as any changes you may want to make once you receive the finished design may imply further costs.

With all these options, there are many ways of making your cover stand out among the rest. So, each time you take a break from writing, think of what type of cover you want for your book. A cover that would make you buy it without hesitation if you saw it.

 

ABOUT THE(1)

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Born 16275 days ago, books, music and film have always been an inspiration and an escape, fueling a desire to be a part of such noble professions. This is the beginning of the journey.

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