Category Archives: Spotlight

Cover Reveal- You Came Like Hope by Jyoti Arora

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~ Cover Reveal ~

Title: You Came Like Hope
Author: Jyoti Arora
Word length: 53,000 words
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Contemporary Romance


Blurb:
Peehu:
“I heard them mourn my death. I lay in the
next room. Motionless, silent, and staring at the ceiling.”
Adih:
“When it comes to a broken person, some of
them are expert at blinding you. Spend an entire evening with such a person,
but you may still not know how he is crushing inside.”
Uday:
“Who would say no to him? He is smart,
intelligent, super handsome, rich, suave and sophisticated. He’s perfect!”
Pooja:
“Pooja gave no explanation. She asked no
forgiveness. She just arrived in his home, resenting him for being her
husband.”
Arunav:
“He had smiled as if nothing was wrong.
He had behaved as if he still had his
dreams and hopes.
He had pretended as if it didn’t hurt.
But it did.”
Does Destiny hold the key to our happiness?
Is it always the feeble that is the victim?
Love can be the embrace of heaven. But what
happens when it unleashes hellfire?
Lose yourself in the intense narrative of
You Came Like Hope as it unleashes a rollercoaster of emotions, uncovers some
bitter truths, challenges widespread prejudices, and forces you to reconsider
your beliefs.
Releasing on 23rd November
2017!
About
the Author:

Jyoti Arora is a novelist and
blogger from Ghaziabad. You Came Like Hope is her third novel, coming after
Dream’s Sake and Lemon Girl. She is Post Graduate in English Literature and
Applied Psychology. Besides reading and writing novels, Jyoti enjoys checking
out latest technological innovations, watching movies, and listening to old
Bollywood songs.

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Spotlight: Beyond Secrets by Alka Dimri Saklani

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BEYOND SECRETS
by
Alka Dimri Saklani



Blurb

Noel is a counsellor, risking his career for volunteering in an orphanage.

Nidhi is an engineering student on the surface, but deep down a broken girl in search of some unanswered questions.

Appu is a sweet little orphan, unaware of the cruelties of the world.

Despite being miles apart their stories interweave in “Aashiyana”, the orphanage. Their little journey together changes their lives in ways they never imagined.

One recurring nightmare, one unexpected phone call, one stolen diary, many lies and secrets, and a calling from the past are just the highlights. And when they depart, they are not the same anymore.

They didn’t hurt each other, it was a game of destiny. Will they ever be able to rediscover themselves and more importantly, will their paths ever cross again?

Beyond Secrets is a novel with layers of suspense and different nuances of relationships. And one question that can’t have just one answer – How long does it take for a scar to heal?
Read an excerpt:
10. A Different World

The classroom was in chaos when I entered. It looked like a mini battlefield of little soldiers bombarding each other with paper balls and paper planes. Before I could get a grip on the situation blackness seemed to engulf the scene before me, revealing another scene, hazy, like a dusty video film taking me to a different world where no colours existed except shades of grey; a classroom with empty first rows, far off, images of children yelling and flying airplanes… A wave of sadness crept in, a feeling of hollowness. Amid this chaos? Wasn’t it strange? Were these the same children who had forced their way into my thoughts when I was in the park? Were these known faces? Before I could become a part of the unreal the clamour faded as a strict commanding voice pierced through the din.
“Pranil!”
“Yes ma’m,” I said.
The scene dissolved and I found Simin staring at me in disbelief. “What happened?” she asked with a puzzled expression.
My head was spinning.
“Nothing, I thought you called me.” I said.
“I called Pranil. But what happened to you? You stood with your eyes shut. You ok?”
Oh, so that was her voice. Then why did I hear another voice, something from a distant, hazy corner of my mind? Or was it solely my imagination? Or a moment when imagination collided with reality?
“Yeah, am absolutely fine.” I said, looking away, not meeting her eyes.
“Pranil, I need to talk to you. Please come to my cabin after your prayers are over.” Simin said.
“Yes, ma’m.” The voice came from the last bench, from a boy with dishevelled hair, dark brown eyes and a dark complexion.
The dizziness made me uneasy and I couldn’t contribute much to the class that day. I walked to Simin’s cabin after the session.
I was not sure how I would collect the information. I wasn’t even sure what information I wanted. As soon as Simin saw me she started discussing a few things she wanted me to do.
“Noel, will you be able to go to… she paused. “You look disturbed. Are you ok?”
“Yeah.”
“You can tell me if anything is bothering you.”
“The boy you wanted to meet in the morning.” Not sure what was stopping me from speaking out his name.
“Pranil?”
“Yes.” I paused. “Pranil.” I tried hard to keep my voice steady.
“What about him?”
“Can you tell me something about him?”
“Like what?” She disconnected her phone that had just started ringing.
“Like…like…how old is he? Since when has he been here? Why did his parents leave him? Anything.”
“Anything. Hmmm.” She thought for a while. “Pranil is about 10 years old, he has been here since the last four years. His father died and his mother, who was a house maid, wanted to re-marry. The man she wanted to marry was not ready to accept responsibility of a son, therefore she left him here. But why are you asking all this?” She again silenced her beeping phone.
“I think I know him. Or someone by that name… or… or…” I didn’t know how to explain something I was still struggling to understand. I didn’t want her to disconnect her phone for the third time for my silly questions so I left the room leaving her gaping at me.
Later in the day I met Pranil. He was painting something when I reached him.
“Hello Pranil, can I sit here?”
He nodded.
“What are you doing?” I asked him.
“I am drawing a house.” He showed me the few scribbled lines in his notebook.
“Wow! This is a very good drawing.”
He smiled shyly.
I expected some connection to my foggy feelings as I talked to him. But no snapshots, no voices, no images followed. As if he was not the Pranil who played in my mind, the Pranil in my mysterious imagination was someone else, someone close to me yet far away, someone known to me yet a stranger. Something in my own self was unknown to me, an enigma and it was a terribly uncomfortable feeling. I just wanted to drag out the stranger from me but every time I tried the stranger gripped me tighter as if slowly becoming an inseparable part of me like my blood and my veins.


Grab your copy @


About the author


Alka Dimri Saklani is the author of “45 Days in a Cancer Hospital” and “Beyond Secrets”. Her debut novel “45 Days in a Cancer Hospital” was longlisted for the prestigious Crossword Books award 2013. Her poems have been published in many magazines. She holds MBA degree in HR and worked with a leading MNC before turning to a full-time writer. Born and brought up in Vadodara, a city in Gujarat, her roots hail from “Dev Bhumi” Uttarakhand. Apart from writing, she loves music, reading, traveling, and spending time with her two naughty kids.
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Book Blitz: Scorpio by Sundari Venkatraman

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Print Length: 150 pages
Publisher: Flaming Sun (Indie published) 
Publication Date: September 16, 2017
Sold by: Amazon Asia-Pacific Holdings Private Limited
Language: English
Available on Kindle Unlimited 
Genre: Romance 

Kollywood superstar Chandrakanth, also known as CK, is a true-blue Scorpio, communicating with his eyes and believing in showing more than telling.

His website and social media consultant Ranjini is a Piscean through and through, fiercely independent, believing in affirmations and declarations.

It is love at first glance for Chandrakanth when he meets Ranjini; so strong are his feelings that he proposes marriage on their second meeting. Ranjini, fascinated by his starry persona, gets swept off her feet. The two get married without much of the world knowing—including CK’s aunt and ex.

The two women set out to settle their scores on Ranjini who suddenly begins to feel a strain in what was a fairy tale wedding.

While passion reigns on the one hand, there’s trouble in paradise on the other. Although CK is by her side, the Scorpio in him expects her to trust him implicitly. But can the Pisces in Ranjini accept him at his word?

Does the tension then get to their relationship? Can love survive without affirmations? Or is declaration the only way to profess one’s love?



It would be great if you can add this book to your TBR

Sundari Venkatraman is an indie author who has 22 titles to her name, all Top 100 Bestsellers on Amazon India, Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada and Amazon Australia in both romance as well as Asian Drama categories. Her latest hot romances have all been on #1Bestseller slot in Amazon India for over a month.

Even as a kid, Sundari absolutely loved the ‘lived happily ever after’ syndrome as she grew up reading all the fairy tales she could lay her hands on, Phantom comics, Mandrake comics and the like. It was always about good triumphing over evil and a happy end. 

Soon, into her teens, Sundari switched her attention from fairy tales to Mills & Boon. While she loved reading both of these, she kept visualising what would have happened if there were similar situations happening in India; to a local hero and heroine. Her imagination took flight and she always lived in a rosy cocoon of romance over the years. 

Then came the writing – a true bolt out of the blue! And Sundari Venkatraman has never looked back.

Click here to check out all the titles by the author…

Sundari Venkatraman is a member of the panel of the #PentoPublish #contest on #AmazonIndia #KDP


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Book Blitz: Water Boarding by Bragadeesh Prasanna

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Print Length: 292 pages
Publication Date: October 8, 2017
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B075W9WBVR

 
 

As a torture technique, Waterboarding involves the torturer to pour water over the face of the captive, over a damp towel to give a sensation of drowning. While the mind knows that he is not actually drowning, the captive’s body sends contrasting signals to the brain making it a very painful experience.

Ved, who just got out of a life-changing accident finds out that he has blank spaces in his memory. He is unsure about his past and uncertain about his future but goes through with the present with the help of his friend Sara. Sara slowly builds Ved’s past, filling him with people and instances he had forgotten.

As Ved struggles with the financial strain caused by his accident and subsequent medical bills and figuring out whom to trust, Ved is forced to live in the moment, which is dark, terrifying and maddening as his past catches up with him. Will he finally know who he was and how his past actions affect his present?

It would be great if you can add this book to your TBR

 
 

 
 
 
 
Bragadeesh Prasanna is a Chennai based writer, who blogs, writes short stories and sometimes lets his stories stretch itself to become a full fledged novel.  His romance novel, 300 days, which released in 2016, received generally positive reviews.  He had also contributed to different short story anthologies like After the Floods (Published by sixth sense publication), From Chennai, with Love (Curated by Chennai Bloggers Club)
When he is not writing or dreaming about writing, he runs a marketing agency in Chennai, which specializes in digital marketing. He loves his scotch and coffee, chicken biriyani, Rose milk and Chennai. You can just type in his full name in Google search bar to reach his blog. No, seriously, try it. 

 
 
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Book Blast : Children’s Classic Stories Volume I – Retold by Aniesha Brahma

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About the Book:

 
 
This gorgeous treasury of ten classic stories is guaranteed to delight and entertain young children, bringing the magic of traditional stories to the new generation of children. Aimed at 8-12 year olds, each favourite fairy tale or story has been sensitively retold for young readers.

The series ‘Children’s Classic Stories’ contains total 100 stories in 10 volumes. The stories in this collection show the consequences of greed, pride, and vanity, but also tell of the love that grows from a kind heart and a cheerful nature.

Volume 1 includes the following stories:

01. Little Red Riding Hood
02. Cinderella
03. Hansel and Gretel
04. Sleeping Beauty
05. Snow White and Rose Red
06. The Emperor’s New Clothes
07. Rumplestiltskin
08. The Wise Little Girl
09. Goldilocks and the Three Bears
10. Rip Van Winkle


 
 
About the Author:

Aniesha Brahma knew she wanted to be a writer since she was six years old. She was schooled in Dolna Day School and went on to pursue B.A., M.A., and M.Phil in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur Univeristy. She currently lives in Kolkata, with her family and five pet cats. She is the author of All Signs Lead Back to You, When Our Worlds Collide, The Guitar Girl and The Secret Proposal. She compiled and edited the 10 volumes series, ‘Children’s Classic Stories’ with love and great efforts.

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Spotlight: The Guardian by Anna Del Mar

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Title: The Guardian
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Author: Anna del Mar
Website: http://www.annadelmar.com
Publisher: Mermaid Press
Purchase links:

Amazon / Kobo / Nook

About The Guardian:

From the Amazon Bestseller author of The Asset and The Stranger, comes The Guardian.

Game Warden Matthias Hawking is a decorated ex-SEAL engaged in a grueling fight against ruthless poachers in Africa. He’s short on resources and long on enemies. There’s a price on his head. The last thing he needs is the unexpected arrival of a beautiful but stubborn journalist threatening to uncover his secrets, an alpha female challenging his alpha male and getting into trouble, a hurricane wearing boots.

Jade Romo is a veteran of several different kinds of war. She’s survived her heroin-addicted mother, the foster care system, and the conflict in Afghanistan. Jade’s tough, confident, cynical, and self-reliant, a woman who doesn’t believe in forevers. But when she defies the poachers and lands at the top of the warlord’s kill list, she’s forced to rely on the skilled, attractive but supremely infuriating game warden who has captivated her body’s undivided attention.

Haunted by his past but driven by his courage, her mysterious guardian will do anything in his power to protect the woman who has captured his heart.

About the Author:

Amazon Bestselling author Anna del Mar writes hot, smart romances that soothe the soul, challenge the mind, and satisfy the heart. Her stories focus on strong heroines struggling to find their place in the world and the brave, sexy, kickass heroes who defy their limits to protect the women they love.

A Georgetown University graduate, Anna enjoys traveling, hiking, skiing, and the sea. Writing is her addiction, her drug of choice, and what she wants to do all the time. The extraordinary men and women she met during her years as a Navy wife inspire the fabulous heroes and heroines at the center of her stories.

When she stays put—which doesn’t happen very often—she splits her time between Colorado and Florida, where she lives with her indulgent husband and a very opinionated cat.

Anna loves to hear from her readers. Connect at:

Annadelmar.com
Anna on Facebook
Anna on Twitter
Anna@annadelmar.com
Subscribe to Anna’s newsletter

Book Blast : Lean into Relationships

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About the Book:

Doubt has pivoted many a relationship across the centuries. Whether it is Othello suspicious of Desdemona or through the rise of paranoia as a trope in twentieth century writings. While paranoia naturally suggests the vulnerability of individual mind to social rhetoric, it is also the space for deep interrogation of the individual that renders him/her to paranoia. This novel presents that
doubt has the potential to be a space of liberation.
 
Madeeha works in Jordan to rehabilitate Syrian refugees. Zehen, a political analyst from India, meets her in the US during their social impact program. He is intrigued and charmed by her, and falls deeply in love. But the world political climate, with its accompanying cultural narratives about terror and pain, infects Zehen’s mind. Zehen begins to suspect Madeeha as a possible mujahid. Will he
find his truth?
 
Fear doesn’t devastate; it stirs the inner pot. It is a tender love story that triumphs heartbreaks and sets the foundation of deep lasting future relationships – a delightful emancipation from social intrigues and cultural constraints.


Read an Excerpt:

Zehen was experiencing sweet joy in his heart. Memories bustled in the head.
 
When did he first see her? Zehen searched his head madly. Orientation session? Corridor to the classroom? However, he tried, he couldn’t pinpoint the moment. A whirr of images, of moments, yet-to-be collaged. And a heart that already had a narrative, waiting to be inset.
 
We imagine that all romantic stories will have a sigh-worthy romantic beginning. But beginnings are when the heart awakens, when the soul remembers. A presence stills and emerges from the shadows of time.
 
His first memory was when she introduced herself in the class. They had gathered at Presidium University for a one-year course on Social Impact Leadership. Outside, the white fringe tree was laden with its grape-like fruits. The pine, oak and spruce waited for winter to tell the world how unchangeable they were. And the
old Redwood stood proud like the institution itself. Inside, in the warm
classroom, students from various cultures across the world had gathered.
Icebreaker session was on and the usual round of introductions.
 
Introduction is a ritual. A cumbersome ritual. How does one reduce the tapestry of one’s entire existence, the colors, and the many weaves into a single palatable thread?

 
The Book is Free on Amazon on 29th & 30th September. Grab it here: Amazon
Anecdote
 
I published my first book in 2015 and my second book in early 2016. I was single at the time and using dating apps to meet other single people. I met a girl in mid-2016 who took fancy to my dating profile, especially that I am an author. After a couple of meetings, She demanded that I write about her. I jokingly told her that I am a Phoenix writer, i.e., I fall in love, get dumped, and write about my failed relationship. She broke-up with me, and still invariably pings
whether I am including ‘her and our relationship’ in my upcoming book(s).
———————-
 
The genesis of this book came about while I was on a cross-country train ride in the US. I met Mark who had been a successful marketing professional with considerable international marketing experience. He had travelled to all of Asia and understood the regional peculiarities.
 
He was later diagnosed with lung cancer. By the time, it was detected, it was stage 3. He was put under radiation and intensive chemotherapy. He went in for three other opinions. All of them agreed that the cancer was aggressive and spreading fast. He searched for the latest treatments and sought to enter clinical trials. The process lasted for two years.
 
In the meantime, the cancer advanced. The doctors said the cancer was incurable and he didn’t have long to live. It took him weeks of denial to come around to the truth – he didn’t have long to live.
 
He returned home from a long walk one evening and asked himself a crucial question: “If I am going to die, then I might as well die straight away. What is point of waiting for death to show up?”
 
That evening he ate well, watched a movie with his girlfriend, poured himself a rare scotch and sat at his study. It was time. He wrote out his letter – love and wishes to his family, loved ones and friends, his last wishes about funeral,information on his will, and a general note thanking all. He placed it in an envelope. He planned to kill himself early morning. He finished his scotch, brushed and went to bed.
 
In the middle of night, he woke up to a noise. The light was on in the study and he could hear sniffles. He walked cautiously up and there in the study, his girlfriend was holding his suicide letter and crying. He watched her as her body crumpled and sink into chair. Her face contorted in agony. In her face, he saw what was the consequence of his action. The penny dropped.
 
I paled and listened in horror. Mark continued, “I realized that our life is never ours. We are nothing but a bundle of emotions for the people who love us and the people we love. The meaning of life is to optimize for the happiness of such people. There’s nothing more to living.
 
That day on, I have been living for maximizing the happiness of my loved ones”
 
That’s how I stumbled on lean in to relationships; it has become my life philosophy.
About
the Author
 

 
I was born into poverty. At the time of my birth, my parents shared a one -room hut with six other family members in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Delhi.
 
It was a hot day in the month of March 1995. I was in standard 4th and had an examination the following day. As was regular in that locality, we didn’t have electricity that day. I couldn’t study or sleep properly. One of the watershed moments happened when I came back from school the next day. We had an inverter installed at home. I knew we couldn’t afford an inverter. But my dad was always convinced that the way out of poverty for our family is through education. 
 
Despite an interest in creative writing, I chose to study a subject that society values more – Finance.  Later, I got into one of the top colleges for finance in the country. My first salary out of college (in 2007, when I was 20 years old) was higher than that of my dad’s salary at the time.
 
When I was 24 years old, I had everything that makes one happy – loving parents, great partner, close-knit group of friends, and career path that exceeded every goal. Yet, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sad either; but it never felt like my life. I had carefully and meticulously built that life though. Contextually, it was
the safe thing to do.
 
Following year though, I had to deal with the loss of my 7 year old relationship and of my 5 year old job. My identity was crushed. My biggest lesson was that you can fail at what you don’t want, and what you consider safe; you might as well take a chance at what you truly want.
 
Next year, I got my ‘ideal’ job but walked away from it. Failure had taught me to be more ambitious and audacious. I had reached a point in my life where I wanted my work to have more meaning; and to stand for something more important than myself.
 
I started a political consulting company to maneuver social ascendance of marginalized communities by equalizing access to political capital.  I primarily did topical research for MPs for their debates in the parliament and on TV shows.  Partial project list includes:
1.  
Providing 108 rape survivors with medical,
legal, financial, and social support over six months through one of my client’s
NGO
2.  
Getting amendments passed in the communal
violence bill that tackle systemic bias towards Muslims
3.  
Helping three social entrepreneurs raise a
combined total of INR 43 lakhs from their MP for community initiatives
 
Along with running my own company, I focused on my passion for writing and traveling as well.  I solo travelled to all seven wonders of the world, and did two-cross country trips by train in India and in the US.  I have also written and
published three fiction novels.


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Spotlight: If you never try, you will never know

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IF YOU NEVER TRY, YOU WILL NEVER KNOW
by
Sahil Mehta



Blurb



Robin, who gets inspired by his mother to become a musician, is forced by his father to pursue the education needed to join their family business. This compels him to leave home at the age of eighteen to follow his dreams. In few months of independent living, his over-ambitious dreams turn into an obsession, which gets even more intense when he falls into a drug addiction, and mysteriously unleashes a new side to his life.

During this journey, he meets Aisha. They talk, play and fall in love. Her exquisite beauty defines the melody of his musical journey as they both fall deep in love with each other. But Robin’s obsession with his dream and a struggling career become an obstacle in their relationship. Is their love strong enough to overcome complexities?

During these tumultuous times, Robin’s flat mate Jordan begins to motivate him to follow his heart. Jordan becomes his philosopher and guru but not for very long-what makes Robin lose trust in him? Discover how he finds a spiritual path after being disheartened during his struggle to achieve success.
Amidst the ups and downs in his career, love and life, find out what destiny holds for Robin. Will he find success in music industry or will he end up joining his father’s business? Experience a thrilling story that will inspire you to believe in your love and dreams.

Grab your copy @
About the author


Sahil Mehta was born and raised in India, and is currently living in the beautiful city of Seattle. Inspired by the power of words, emotions and various life experiences, he naturally gravitated towards writing. If You Never Try, You Will Never Know is his first book, and its story-line is influenced by his childhood dreams. Currently, he is working on a story, based on the characters and places he came across during his stay in the USA. Apart from writing, Sahil enjoys fitness-related activities and listening to music.

                    

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Book Blitz: Snowbound by Olivier Lafont

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Print Length: 339 pages
Publication Date: May 18, 2017
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Language: English
Genre: Young Adult Adventure/Fantasy 


Christmas is dying.

The last Santa Claus had triplets who each inherited a portion of his father’s power, and that split is now tearing apart the soul of Christmas.

Niccolo Vecchio, the eldest, has fortified the North Pole into a citadel of ice and metal.

Santini, the middle brother, is in hiding somewhere in the Mediterranean.

The youngest brother, Niccolo Piccolo, is raising legions to reclaim his inheritance.

Two of the triplets will have to renounce their claim in the next forty-eight hours, or this Christmas will be the last one ever.

And it’s up to Adam, underachieving teenager sub-ordinaire, and his brand new jock bully Zach to make that happen…

It would be great if you can add this book to your TBR

Olivier Lafont is a French author, screenplay writer, and actor. His novel ‘Warrior’ was published by Penguin Random House, and was shortlisted for the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize. He has just released his new contemporary romance novel ‘Sweet Revenge’ exclusively on Kindle. ‘Purgatory: The Gun of God’ is a fantasy novelette published in South Africa. 
Lafont has written a number of feature film scripts before. The first film he wrote opened at the Toronto Film Festival and went on to win seven awards at film festivals worldwide. 
As an actor Lafont has acted in Hollywood and Indian films, in TV serials, and in over 80 television commercials. He acted in ‘3 Idiots’, one of India’s all-time blockbuster hits, the critically-acclaimed ‘Guzaarish’, and the Lifetime film ‘Baby Sellers’, amongst other films. 
Lafont graduated with two degrees in acting and writing from Colgate University, USA, with academic distinction.

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Avishi by Saiswaroopa Iyer

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~ Release Day Blitz ~

 
 
 

Avishi by Saiswaroopa Iyer

 

12th August, 2017

 
 

 
 

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?

 

 

Read an Excerpt

 


“I am the Queen! This will be my throne!” The seven-year-old chirped leaping from the middle of the porch towards the broken mortar which served as a mock throne. “You will be my guard!”

“Guard?” the man pondered scratching his unkempt beard. 

“No.” He shook his head and smiled seeing her indignant eyes. “I will be the Queen’s elephant.” He beamed.

Sukratu stepped out of the house to see his daughter in action, perching herself on the tramp Loha’s back, pretending in all earnestness that he was her elephant. He smiled and was about to set out for his duty as the night guard of the King. A sudden lightning appeared in the eastern skies. Sukratu had barely walked a few paces when a deafening thunder made him instinctively turn towards home. He heaved a sigh, finding Loha shielding the girl as if he would, his own child. 

“Father, don’t go.” The girl pleaded. 

Sukratu smiled and shifted his gaze towards the sky. He saw dark clouds loom over the city. The monsoon winds had started to make their presence felt. He had to reach the palace soon. “Isn’t my little Queen brave?” He called out. 

The girl nodded. He saw the fear fade. From her eyes. From her heart. She knew she was the queen! Pride filled his heart. His mind ached to stay home but duty beckoned. Tearing his gaze away from the one he treasured the most in his life, braving the drizzle that would soon turn into a storm, he unwillingly walked towards the King’s residence. Sukratu’s house was in the third ring of the concentric structure of Vrishabhavati. In the centre, was the structure, that served as the residence of the king and as the centre of all trade activity of the city. Here no wealth or goods could change hands without the king’s knowledge and approval. The residences of the noblemen formed the two rings around it. The guards and soldiers forming the outermost circle with the citizens living around them. 

As per the protocol, Sukratu approached General Ugra’s residence quite ahead of his reporting time— an hour before the moonrise. He walked into the empty courtyard. But the rain made it impossible for him to stand there any longer. He knocked at the giant wooden door fervently. The doors creaked as a strange woman clad in a dark indigo garment opened them and glared at him with a frown on her forehead. 

General Ugra, Sukratu knew was never faithful to one woman. His superior’s romantic exploits were not his concern either. But something about the woman at the door disconcerted him. “Please let General Ugra know that…”

“He has already left for the palace!” The woman frowned before attempting to shut the door. 

“What? How ca…” Sukratu’s words hung in air as the door slammed on his face and the woman disappeared from his line of vision all of a sudden. Something did not feel right. He knocked at the door again. Firmly this time, as though seeking answers. Any change in the reporting time would have been announced the day before and he remembered that nothing of the sort had happened. His knocks went unanswered. Frowning and muttering under his breath, Sukratu hurried towards an empty cowshed three houses away from Ugra’s place hoping to catch his companions who he knew would be equally surprised. 

The first to arrive was Khela, the eighteen-year-old guard, holding a metal shield above his head. The newest addition to the King’s guard, Khela was related to General Ugra and Sukratu felt that his position in the King’s guard was largely a result of undue favours that Ugra showered upon an otherwise impudent boy. 

“Sukratu! By the great Varuna, I should have come to you earlier!” Khela hurried towards him. Pausing for breath, he added. “Our platoon has been given a relief tonight! It was a sudden decision and I personally informed all the others.”

“Relief for tonight? That happens only when…”

“Our guarding hours change from night to day!” Khela completed in a hurry. “Now, come with me.” He turned towards the western direction and the javelin he held started to sway dangerously and came close to grazing Sukratu’s arm. 

The older guard’s instincts made him dodge the cut. “Where?” Sukratu hissed, visibly annoyed, first with the fact that he was kept in dark about the change in guarding hours and then about Khela’s irreverent behaviour. “And watch who your weapon hurts, boy.”

Khela shrugged and changed the position of his weapon. “We are now going to the place.” He winked, stretching his hand in the direction. “Follow me, this is the only night we get to have some fun.”

Sukratu did not move. The place he knew implied the tavern where wine was served. “We cannot drink tonight, Khela. When do we have to report tomorrow? By sunrise?”

“You ask too many questions. The rest of us are there too!”

“That does not answer my question.” 

“Well, I don’t know, and I don’t care to. The palace is paying for the wine. Are you coming or not?” 

The last sentence sounded more like a threat than an invite. Sukratu had all the mind to give the youth a piece of his mind and storm back home. His daughter would be overjoyed to see him before she went to sleep. It gnawed at Sukratu’s heart every day to leave her under the care of Loha— the tramp who had begged him for shelter about six months ago and then became a part of his life. The girl liked him instantly and had begged Sukratu to let Loha live with them and he, despite his misgivings about the tramp’s origins and his unkempt appearance, could not refuse his only daughter. Over time, Sukratu felt grateful for Loha’s company. Now his daughter did not have to be all by herself every night. The guard’s home would have been unguarded if not for that stranger. Sukratu brushed aside these thoughts and had almost decided to go home when the thought of meeting other senior guards and clarifying the confusion struck him. He followed Khela’s lead, making no attempt to hide his displeasure. 

When they reached the tavern, Sukratu to his dismay, found many of his brothers in arms deeply drunk. “When did they reach here and when did they…”

“Quite some time before. I just forgot to tell you in advance!”

Sukratu’s eyes scrutinized the men and women of the tavern who were serving wine to the guards. There were no other citizens or travellers in the tavern. 

“Just for us, the whole night!” Khela said as if reading his thoughts, bringing him an earthen goblet. 

The older guard accepted the goblet taking his first sip with a sense of foreboding. 

“Where were you all the time, old friend?” The voice belonged to Tunga one of the senior guards in the platoon. 

The grin on his friend’s face brought a smile to Sukratu’s lips. “Tunga, what is this about the sudden change in our guarding hours?” 

“The King… that imbecile, has finally remembered that we are human too!” Tunga guffawed, emptying his goblet, waving vigorously at a woman of the tavern who obliged with a seductive wink. 

She approached them, skilfully distributing her attention between both the men, winking at Tunga and pouting her lips at Sukratu. Her brows rose at Sukratu’s filled cup. “Don’t keep the Sura nor this Sundari waiting, my love…” Serving Tunga his wine, she placed her fingers upon Sukratu’s shoulders, digging her nails into his skin for a moment locking her gaze with his and turned around swiftly, letting her light upper garment rest on his face for a fleeting moment. 

It was a wilful invitation and Sukratu knew it. His attention though was caught by the colour of the garment. The Indigo hued garment! All the women of the tavern wore clothes of the same colour. So did the woman he saw in General Ugra’s house! Was Ugra at home while the woman lied that he was at the palace? If the General and the whole platoon of the night guard were lying down drunk, who was minding the security of the King? Sukratu looked at the rest of the guards. No one seemed sober enough to talk. The only sober man Khela had disappeared!

“By the great Varuna!” Sukratu exclaimed aloud and rushed out, pushing the woman who tried to stop him away. 

He raced to the King’s residence, as fast as his legs could carry him. The huge wooden gates of the structure were closed and secured from inside. The rain lashed drowning his cries. Misgivings regarding the King’s welfare made him shudder. He had to meet General Ugra. Something told him that the General had his own reasons to send the whole platoon of guards to enjoy a drunk night. He was a guard who had sworn to protect the King with his life. The general owed him an answer. Sukratu rushed to General Ugra’s house determined to confront him. 

That, Sukratu realized was the biggest mistake of his life. 

At the gates of the general’s residence he saw a familiar figure hurrying out of his house, a heavy bundle on his shoulders. “General Ugra!” he called out, feeling relieved. 

The figure started, and the bundle fell to the ground. Sukratu came to a sudden halt as he realized it wasn’t a bundle after all, but a blood-drenched corpse. A stroke of lightning from the sky revealed the face and the very familiar greying curls. Sukratu froze for a long moment before he could speak.

 “K… King…”

Something hit him on the head even before he could utter the name. Sukratu staggered, reeling at the impact, clutching at his long sword in a vain attempt to defend the next move. 

“Finish him!” The General shout behind him. 

Before he turned around, Sukratu felt the cold metal tear into his back. Lightning struck revealing the contours of the person. Khela! The javelin stabbed him again. Thunder drowned his screams. Falling to the ground with the weapon still stuck to his back, Sukratu lifted his sword and managed to slash Khela’s palm though the latter, unlike him was vigilant and alert. Crawling away from the menacing duo, knowing very well that he could not last more than a few moments, Sukratu’s thoughts, went to his innocent daughter. She would now languish as an orphan remaining in dark about the monsters who killed her father. Or would they kill her too?

Sukratu would never know. 


About the 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.