New year, new beginnings

This was the most beautiful rainbow I saw in the parking lot, the day I turned in my manuscript for Flame Tree Road
The incredible rainbow I saw in the parking lot, the day I turned in my final revisions for Flame Tree Road

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I am shocked to realize it’s been a whole year since I posted anything. 2014 was a crazy year! I turned in my final manuscript for Flame Tree Road (my second book) in mid-December – just before my editor went on maternity leave. That same evening I saw the most glorious full-arc rainbow in a parking lot. Being an incorrigible optimist, I take that to be a good sign.

Now to clear up some confusion: there has been a name change for book #2 from Song of the Flame Tree to Flame Tree RoadThere’s also a new cover in the works which I will share soon. The pub date for Flame Tree Road (as of now) is 30th June, 2015. These are very exciting times but more updates in separate post. Right now, I am trying to ease myself back into blogging as it feels like I’ve just returned from a long expedition to the North Pole.

Beautiful tea party setting for my author event put together by the West Side Stories and CELC Book Clubs of Goodyear.
Beautiful tea party setting for my author event put together by the West Side Stories and CELC Book Clubs of Goodyear.

Added to my writing deadlines  were a string of author events last year. Teatime for the Firefly has drummed up some serious interest in Assam tea. Readers want to drink the same tea I drink, even though I insist it’s no fancy tea– just good, strong Assam CTC. Several events I attended  this year served Assam Tea. Some groups went to extraordinary lengths to plan elaborate tea parties complete with exquisite table settings, fine bone china and dainty treats. Seeing all the excitement and appreciation over Assam Tea, I am convinced the days of the frufru herby teas are numbered.  America now wants earthy and good, strong Assam tea is right up there with the mud-clumped beetroot, goat cheese, pork belly and crusty bread.

If you want to try Assam Tea try this Assam Tea Sampler from Upton Tea
If you want to try Assam Tea, check out this excellent Assam  Sampler from Upton Tea. There are some nice varieties here. The CTC is the kind I drink because it brews stronger and takes milk well.

There’s breaking news on the caffeine front as well. New medical research shows Caffeine is good for you and a regular caffeine intake can prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimers. If you consider the copious amounts of high-octane Assam Tea I drink, I should be sharp as a stiletto, yet I can never remember where I last set down my tea-cup! There are half-drunk cups of tea all over the house, and possibly a dead one trapped in the microwave.

But nothing brings more cheer to a winter’s afternoon than the old cuppa, don’t you think? I will need plenty of cheer, I tell you, as I roll up my sleeves to tackle Book#3 this year. The electric kettle has just come to a rolling boil, as I write, and here comes the welcome “ting” as it shuts off. So join me dear friends to welcome this beautiful new year and thank you for your continued love and support. You keep me bushy-tailed and wanting to tell stories. Cheers!

The soul-connect of books

Pressed leaf in a page of my book
My Empire Falls that got left out in the rain!

A paper book is not a dead tree: it’s a living thing. Each page whispers as it turns. Books absorb smells. The Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth I bought in India still smells of the mango pickle that came in the same suitcase. The Bhagawad Gita I picked up at the ashram smells of incense. Book have long memories. A dog-earned page will open willingly to your touch. Set a book open on its belly and the page will remember your forgetfulness. My copy of Empire Falls still chides me with its curled up pages from the time I left it out in the rain.

Found objects inside used books. Imagine my joy (followed by crashing disappointment!) when I found this fake million dollar bill!

I love used books. They carry the territorial markings of a previous owner. A coffee spill. A pressed autumn leaf. A single blond hair. Often I find slips with scribbled phone numbers, boarding passes, business cards, grocery lists (why is it predictable for someone who reads Jhumpa Lahiri to have Hummus and Pita bread on her shopping list?) Sometime a person will leave an actual bookmark inside. Once I found a commemorative bookmark for a two-year old baby girl who had died. It just broke my heart to see her little face. I used that bookmark to read Map of the World which is about a child who drowns. Later, when I donated the book to our local library I left the bookmark inside, thinking maybe it would touch another as it had touched me.

A page from an old copy of the I-Ching. The previous owner had made notes which intrigue me. The I-Ching is used by many for fortune telling. I use it as a spiritual guide.

I hate mindless highlighting and copious notes but tiny sribbles inside book pages intrigue me. I have a very old copy of the I-CHING with Heikki Nylund, Kalkata 1964 written in black fountain pen. The name sounds Finnish. I also bought an Amazon  “like new” copy of The Great Gatsby. with the inscription “Marla, I look in Gatsby’s heart and see mine. Ever yours, EM.” Evidentally Marla did not care because the book is brand new. Or maybe Marla died. Maybe they both died. Romeo and Juliet. Such useless imaginings tend to eat up my day but I can’t seem to help myself.

Ah and covers….I pause in my reading to turn back to look at them. I love the cover of Angela’s Ashes. The wee boy in his threadbare clothes– so poor but with such a cheeky attitude. It warms the cockles of my heart (If you want to know what “cockles” mean – here is your trivia for the day. Go on, get sidetracked and waste more time than you are doing so already).

Book publishing is in fast-food mode. Novels are now cheaply processed and readily available. Readers are snackers and nibblers: a taste of this and a wiff of that. There is lots of unhealthy consumption, poor digestion and tons of waste. I am not sure this is doing us a whole lot of good. In an excellent article The Slow Books Manifesto on The Atlantic, writer Maura Kelly says, “In our leisure moments, whenever we have down time, we should turn to literature—to works that took some time to write and will take some time to read, but will also stay with us longer than anything else. “

My favorite book of Rumi poems. The cover has a satiny feel and the pages a rough deckle edge. Just to hold this book in my hand and turn the pages pages good.

So what happens in the era of Kindle? Will bookshelves become redundant furniture like the old roll-top writing desk. Will bookmarks become quaint collectibles? How will we  hand-inscribe our favorite book to someone we love?  What about those exquisite books – the kind you want to run your fingers over and kiss, simply because they are so beautiful. Books are tactile: some covers have a bumpy emboss while others feel like satin. What about rough deckle-edged pages, stylish French flaps and pages with a real papery smell? Am I the only one still craving beautiful paper books? I leave you with this excellent TED TALK by Knopf book designer Chip Kidd. He echoes my thoughts. Won’t you share your thoughts, please?

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Teatime for the Firefly is my debut novel. It is a love story set in a remote tea plantation in Assam, India. You can read the SYNOPSIS and the FIRST CHAPTER by clicking on the red links. I am represented by April Eberhardt Literary.