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A Victim of Circumstances

Arti Chugpai Author Interview

Arti Chugpai Author Interview

Phoenix tells the story of Sonam and her trials and tribulations as she builds her life as a woman in India. What was your inspiration for this heart-felt novel?

I have been inspired by experience and observation. My family background has been similar, and I have closely observed the lives of urban well-educated women in India. Despite a progressive education and multifaceted skills, they are expected to conform to obsolete family norms and not allowed to make life choices. This is especially true for the year 1983, when the protagonist Sonam wants to extricate herself from an abusive marriage. Indian society then was full of paradoxes: on one hand was the evolution of a knowledge society and unprecedented technological advancement and on the other deeply entrenched dogmatic beliefs in gender stereotypes. Instead of sympathising with a woman who was a victim of circumstances, her family and friends blamed her for her misfortunes and ostracised her.

I felt that this novel confronted gender stereotypes in a bold way. What themes did you want to capture while writing this book?

I have always felt strongly about the unequal playing field provided to women, even in the educated elite class, and the perception that they are appendages to male family members, whether father, brother or husband. Why should women be accorded respect only if they have empathetic men to battle for them? This discrimination is especially difficult to combat since one is pushing against one’s parents and closest family members whom one loves and respects. Through this novel, I wanted to highlight the need to cherish and support daughters as individuals regardless of the presence and status of their life partners.

I felt that Sonam was a multilayered character that was judged by her failings rather than her success. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?

While her parents despair of what will happen to Sonam after she leaves her husband and judge her by her failure in relationship, she demonstrates exceptional skills and shines in her workplace as an achiever. Her personality growth from 1983 to 2017 despite all odds illustrates the triumph of the spirit over ostracism, bigotry, negativity and injustice. She is rejuvenated from the ashes, just like the mythical bird, phoenix.

What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?

My next book, tentatively titled ‘A Journey Within’ has a very different story though it also deals with women’s issues. The lives of 16 Indian women of varying age groups intersect when they go on an all-women’s trip to Spain and Portugal. As events unfold during and after the trip, each of them reaches a realization that changes her life forever.

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Phoenix by [Chugpai, Arti]

Caught in an abusive marriage, Sonam Aggarwal finds no family support when she struggles to break free. However, with unwavering grit, she makes a place for herself in the world and rises like a phoenix from the ashes of her dead marriage to discover true companionship and professional success. 

The evolution of a knowledge society in India that places a premium on human knowledge and skills regardless of gender finally bequeaths her a coveted place in the sun. The novel focuses on the core strength of a woman that asserts her value despite external trappings and women characters who go through their individual struggle with the inevitable challenges that threaten their existence. 

Phoenix, a novel, traces the life of Sonam and her upper class family in South Delhi from 1983 to 2017. It highlights the curious paradoxes in Indian society: its global leadership in digitalization contrasted with antiquated prejudices and gender stereotypes.

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Phoenix

Phoenix, written by Arti Chugpai, tells the story of Sonam Aggarwal and her trials and tribulations as she builds her life as a woman in India. Sonam is a complex character with beautiful soul, intelligence and integrity. Her presence demands authority, and as the Director of Publishing for a branch in India, she has certainly earned respect and accolades. However, there is a part of her that is broken by a moment in her life that she explicitly calls “The Betrayal”. Her family and friends judge her by her relationship failings rather than her career successes, leaving Sonam feeling lost and alone. Will Sonam be able to rise above the stereotypes and convictions of her family and friends to find true happiness?

Phoenix is a novel based on love, life and conforming to gender stereotypes. It’s the year 1998, and there’s a budding romance growing between a middle-aged business tycoon by the name of Kunal Vats and the main leading lady, Sonam Aggarwals. Set in India, Phoenix explores Sonan Aggarwal’s life through her ever-changing family, relationships, career aspirations and friendships.

The story then flits between two different eras of Sonam Aggarwal’s life, one part telling her life as it is in 2017 and the other turning back the clock to the year 1998. It’s here we learn about her life and the changing family dynamics and reoccurring expectations that seem to haunt Sonam, no matter how old her or her family members are.

It was refreshing to read a novel based on someone who is aged between their 40’s-60’s. Most modern love stories center around young adults in their twenties and Phoenix was a gentle reminder that age is no barrier when it comes to pursuing love and happiness. I enjoyed the sense of realism as the characters experienced a love that did not always result in happy endings. Instead, Phoenix dove deep into a raw and personal kind of love, where abuse, betrayal and forgiveness are all prominent players in the relationship game.

Phoenix also explores the events of Sonam’s life so thoroughly that at times you feel as though you are almost reading a biography of a real person. The novel also went into depth to showcase some of India’s culture, including foods, family life and working conditions. Arti Chugpai’s style of writing is confident and expressive, using strong descriptive words and phrases to demonstrate their points within the plot line. Fitting, considering the main character Sonam is a publisher herself.

Phoenix also brings to light the society changes and gender differences in India, and how things change over a period of time. It shows the difference in expectations between men and women, especially when it comes to love and relationships. Women are considered to be successful if they maintain a healthy, happy family, with their career aspirations and achievements often shadowed by the relationship, falls they have had in their life.

I would recommend this for anyone looking for a novel about budding romance, rising above the gender stereotypes and Indian culture.

Pages: 232 | ISBN: 1543701043

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The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight

The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight: The "Nown" World Chronicles: Book One.

The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight, written by Donald Allen Kirch, tells the tale of Ka-Ron- the bravest of all knights, a strong and charming man who has adoring women wherever he travels. He is famous, feared, handsome, heroic and destined for great things within his kingdom. However, a lustful night with a childhood friend changes his life when her mother seeks revenge and justice. Destined to live out his days now as a woman, Ka-Ron will now learn about life and love as a female.

Prepare to be launched into a weird and wonderful world of knights, Wiccan power, passion and magic when you read the story of The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight.

The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight has a taste of all genres, from fantasy to romance and action to comedy. The various themes keep the plot line exciting and enthralling, as you delve into a world of knights and magic. The book is easy to read but once you have concluded the book you realize the actual plot line was quite complex. As each character (who range from dwarfs to dragons, to elves and Xows, covens of vampires and more) enters the story, it adds a layer and element of truth and understanding to the complexity of the situation.

I enjoyed the banter between Echoheart the horse and Ka-Ron, as they ventured together throughout the kingdom, but my favorite duo was Jatel and Ka-Ron as the explored their new found “friendship”. At times their story could be a little confronting, however, the desires and encounters the duo felt were also comedic at times. Their dysfunctional but co-operative relationship develops over the story, portraying the epitome of character progression. One line sums up the new experiences when Ka-Ron realizes that “On the battlefield of desire, women were the better warriors”. It explores some interesting ideas about gender roles and how each gender is seen in the eyes of others in society. At times you really felt for Ka-Ron as he became a puppet to witchcraft, overcome with desire and seduction- and this time as a woman.

Donald Allen Kirch was able to weave the story together in a fun and engaging way. At no point was I bored with the story line, as there was always a lingering sense of adventure and excitement on every page. As a fair warning, there are sexual scenes throughout the novel which could sometimes be a little intense (graphical and sometimes non-consensual) and felt a little unnecessary at times. However, the story line moves forward from these scenes and instills a sense of adventure as they continue their quest. What I enjoyed most about The Misadventures of Ka-Ron is that the story was unpredictable- the characters made decisions you would least expect. With magic thrown into the mix, be prepared for a thickened plot line that is precarious, to say the least.

I would would recommend this to anyone looking for an easy to read knights and magic style story with a dash of humor, romance and adventure.

Pages: 572 | ASIN: B071JQJ2LP

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Blooded

Blooded (Lisen of Solsta, #3)4 Stars

In the final installment of the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, Blooded by D. Hart St. Martin takes us on a gruesome journey as we learn how Lisen as Empir of Garla will affect the future of the Garlan people. After ascending to the throne, Lisen must make major decisions while facing her own physical and mental battles alone, especially when she’s captured by rebel Thristans for a period of time. On the verge of a devastating war, Lisen and the holders of Garla face the bloodthirsty Thristans in a battle that reveals the truth of the hermit’s prophecy and whether peace can ever truly arise between the two nations.

In Blooded, the concluding piece of the Lisen of Solsta series, Lisen becomes Empir Ariannas—without Korin at her side, though, she struggles with this new sense of authority. As a result, Nalin becomes a vital figure who assists Lisen with developing the knowledge and skills needed to rule over Garla, and he becomes even more important when Lisen is captured by rebel Thristans. Blooded also follows Korin’s return to his homeland, Thristas, and he experiences his own dilemmas, as he realizes his connection to Lisen is much deeper than he originally thought—in this world, where gender norms are shattered, men or women can carry a child, and Korin is carrying his and Lisen’s baby (unknown to Lisen).

Hart St. Martin’s impressive fantasy world construction throughout the entire Lisen of Solsta series kept me so absorbed in the story that I couldn’t put this last book down—I had to know how the series ended because I felt genuinely invested in these carefully-constructed characters. For example, along with everyone else in Garla and Thrista, Lisen resembles a human, but she has a flat chest, a furry belly, and a marsupial-like pouch. In Blooded, we learn more about the “unpouching” or birthing process in this world by witnessing two important “outcomings” or births. St. Martin makes these moments suspenseful and full of emotion by showing two birthing events from different perspectives.

While Korin is raising his and Lisen’s child in Thristas, Lisen faces her own mental struggles when she realizes that the Thristans are planning to go to war with Garla. This climactic moment in the plot, where Lisen and her Council devise a plan for war, showcases the dynamic development of both Nalin’s and Lisen’s characters throughout the series.

During Lisen’s abduction by the rebels, Nalin becomes a strong-minded, confident leader, commanding Lisen’s Council to make major decisions in Lisen’s absence. On the other hand, Lisen sets aside her typical sarcastic, sassy attitude and at times she reveals her emotional turmoil a bit more, as she feels overwhelmed by death piling up around her and the possibility of war. Bala, a significant character from Tainted, becomes instrumental to the plot of Blooded once she’s granted a spot on Lisen’s private Council—when the Garlans go to war, Bala shows her true colors as an assertive leader for her troops.

It’s rare to find a series of books that keeps your interest until the very end, and the end of Blooded and the Lisen of Solsta series left me feeling a great sense of closure. With characters that felt so real within a uniquely constructed fantasy world, this series captures the best aspects of the fantasy genre while also pushing the genre’s boundaries through constructing a gender non-conforming world.

Pages: 420 | ASIN: B00R8K8XXQ

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Gray Girl

Susan I. Spieth Author Interview

Susan I. Spieth Author Interview

Witch Heart follows Jan as she returns to West Point under a cloud of suspicion when several people are killed in unlucky accidents. What was the inspiration for this 3rd book in the Gray Girl Series?

The Gray Girl series (Gray Girl, Area Bird and Witch Heart) is mostly inspired by my experiences as a cadet at West Point from 1981-1985. Jan Wishart’s adventures are embellished, of course, but many of the events are authentic or realistic to what we experienced at that time. Being labeled a “witch,” for instance, certainly happened to some women then. Recently, we have seen examples of derogatory “labeling” used on outspoken and/or ambitious women.

The novel starts out at Army Airborne School in Fort Benning, GA. What experience do you have with the military. Anyone in your family serve?

Well, as stated above, I attended West Point in the early 1980’s. After that, I served five years as a missile maintenance officer in the Army. As part of our training, I attended Airborne School during the summer before cow (junior) year, which follows the storyline in Witch Heart. I wrote most of the Airborne School chapters based on memory. However, I cheated a little and looked at Youtube videos. I also consulted a few friends who went through Airborne training. One of my beta readers was stationed with the 82nd Airborne for a few years.

The book tackles the social issue of women serving in the military. How do you see women in the military and what is a common misconception you’ve come across?

Women have only added value to the military, as they have in all areas where they have been allowed to compete. One common misconception that seems prevalent is that standards had to be lowered for women to enter the military academies. What is surprising, however, is that ALL standards have gone up since women have been admitted. There’s probably a social-gender dynamic that might explain this reality, but physical and academic standards began to rise considerably with the admission of women cadets.

Jan is a well developed character. What were some obstacles that you felt were important for the characters development?

I wanted Jan to be a good person, but flawed. In other words, I wanted her to be authentic. I think hearing her internal dialogue (which is more prevalent in the first two books) is both an obstacle and an opportunity to bring a character to life. The reader sees her inner self, knowing her mixed emotions and the biases that she carries with her. You don’t really hear the inner voices of the other characters, but hopefully, using dialogue and actions, you get a feeling of the well-developed relationships and personalities.

Where does the story go in the next book and where do you see it going in the future?

Jan has to finish West Point. So, the final book in the Gray Girl series will be about her firstie (senior) year. She will encounter another major problem at West Point which can only be solved with the help of her friends and collaborators. This one, if I can pull it off, will involve international espionage—or something like that. I hate to say too much until it’s written because often times the book takes on a life of its own—and I never really know what’s going to happen until it does. It’s called writing.

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Witch Heart: Leadership always requires sacrifice (Gray Girl Book 3) by [Spieth, Susan I., Spieth, Susan]Jan Wishart starts cow (junior) year at West Point in Airborne School. Terrified of heights, she narrowly escapes an accident that later turns deadly for another jumper. With a third death in as many years associated with her, Jan returns to West Point under a cloud of suspicion. Ominous signs left for her to find cause Jan to lose a precious and necessary requirement for survival at West Point: sleep. With her mental state in question, a masked intruder makes nocturnal visits to her room. Or is she imagining that? Events escalate to the point of no return for Jan and her two best friends. When they swear an oath of loyalty to each other, they have no idea how much it will cost to fulfill that vow. Leadership always requires sacrifice. So does loyalty. And sometimes, one virtue must yield to the other.”

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Irrational Behavior Of My Fellow Species

Author Interview w n o o n e

Author Interview with n o o n e

When an alien species detects the dissolution of a planet in a neighboring solar system, they send out a group of skilled teenagers to save what they can of the planet. This is an intriguing setup to a novel that is high in social commentary. What was your moral goal when writing this novel and do you feel you’ve achieved it?

My goal in writing this novel was to attempt to describe this world from the point of view of outsiders – people who had not been born and raised on Earth; people not conditioned and tainted by the absurdities of everyday life on this planet. Aliens. As a vegan, an atheist and an anarchist, I am dismayed on an, almost, hourly basis by the irrational behavior of my fellow species. We call ourselves ‘civilised’ and ‘highly evolved’ yet we participate in practices so horrific that, when committed against humans, are, quite rightly, thought of as shocking and unlawful yet, when perpetrated against non-human animals, are considered perfectly acceptable – or, usually, not considered at all. We call ourselves ‘intelligent’ yet we homo sapiens, we self-proclaimed ‘wise men’, are, not only, allowing the very environment we totally rely on for our own lives to be destroyed to slake the greed of a tiny number of other human animals but we are blissfully helping them to do so by believing their lies and consuming their unnecessary and harmful products. Some would call us ‘enlightened’ but up to 95% of all humans truly, truly believe that they will be transported to some kind of paradise after they die! Why should they care if life on the physical world were to be destroyed? I suppose that could explain why we do not care about the destruction of the rain forests, the desertification of vast swathes of the land, the befouling of the atmosphere and the creation of massive dead zones in the ocean. Also, how civilised or evolved or intelligent or enlightened can we be if we are killing and being killed by each other for nonsensical reasons such as the ancient writings of those ‘Religions of Love and Peace’ or the greed-based ideologies of power-hungry politicians? There are countless other stupidities I could mention here but the divisions based on race, colour, gender, sexuality, ability, age and, yes, even nonsensical superstitious belief, spring to mind – all of which I do discuss in the novel. Obviously, I cannot mention all of those forms of discrimination without also mentioning speciesism which plays a huge role in informing the aliens and, naturally, the book. Did I achieve my goal? From a practical angle – that is, putting myself in the minds of total outsiders and viewing the world afresh – I like to think that I did pretty well. However, in other aspects of the work, I am not so sure.

the hell world is full of detailed characters and places. How long did it take you to imagine, draft, and write this world?

The whole process took about 2 years from conception to pre-publish and then about 9 months to get the novel out. There was a lot of research involved – all of the figures I cite as being facts, to the best of my knowledge, are actual facts – the sixty-billion non-human land animals slaughtered for food every year, as just one example. I did, perhaps, use some poetic licence when detailing some of the projections of the aliens – on predicted human population levels, where, I think, I suggested that the numbers of humans alive in 2050 would far exceed the predicted eleven-billion – but I do not believe I took too many liberties on their behalf.

Their are many animals on this hell world. Were these animals allegories for humans on Earth? What was your favorite animal to create and write for?

This is an area where I obviously failed in my writing because the portrayal of the dominant animals, the Kaahu, on the hell world was not allegorical – they are humans and the hell world is Earth. There were no metaphors, no cryptic clues; the novel was set here and now on this planet with you and I as players in the story – there are many, many pointers to this fact in the book! My favourite character is Hentanayre – she’s a bubbly, intelligent young female alien (an ap Vandan) who loves all animals (except, maybe, the Kaahu) and, just like me, is terrified of heights – we have a lot in common!

What is the next book that you are working on and when is that book due out?

I am in the planning stage of a new novel – again, written from the viewpoint of aliens… mainly. I do intend to intersperse the narrative with a human voice here and there. It will also be written, again, from a vegan, atheist and anarchist perspective – so plenty of anti-carnist, anti-god and anti-hierarchical stuff. My working title is ‘It’ but I have no idea when it may be finished or published – I am in no hurry.

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the hell world is a work of fiction that seeks to highlight the absurdity of the human condition as seen from the vantage point of outsiders – an alien view. It is a critique of the now in the genre of science fiction; an attack on all of the ridiculous ideologies that have retarded, and continue to retard, the evolution of those, self-proclaimed, wise men (homo sapiens) of the planet. These nonsensical philosophies, be they socio-political, economic, military or religious, have all crippled human animal evolutionary development for millennia. But not just that. Of much more importance is the impact that just this one species of animal has had, is having and will continue to have on all other lifeforms of this beautiful world and on the planet itself – though, I fear, not for too much longer. An unthinkable, unmentionable, unconscionable number of individual, sentient beings are slaughtered for human consumption in their multiple-billion every single year. Habitats essential to other lifeforms have been, and continue to be, destroyed on a regular basis, affecting the very existence of thousands of species of animal and vegetable life – in itself an act of mass suicide for human animals as all of those other lifeforms are part of the cycle of life. All are interdependent – taking away one leads to a domino-effect and, albeit at first slowly, the whole structure starts to collapses. We have passed that initial, gradual degradation stage – it has long since gone. Also an environmentalist, n o o n e cannot comprehend the idea that human animals are nonchalantly destroying the planet – an action which can be likened to people steadfastly hacking away at the foundations of a borrowed house and constantly defecating in every room whilst kidding themselves that they can pass that house on to their children. Couple those atrocities to the insane befouling of all of the water and the entire atmosphere of the planet by this species, the unconscionable weapons of mass murder they possess, then add-in the sheer number of these human animals and their determination to increase that total without limit points to just one, inevitable conclusion: The total annihilation of, not only themselves, but of life itself on this one world in a million or billion or trillion or, perhaps, the only planet like it in the entire, vastness of the universe. We will never know because, the sad truth is, it is much too late for the human animal, much too late for other species of life and much too late for the planet.

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