Category Archives: paperback

Kangana: Light after dark

kanganapbcoverjp

A month ago, I was starting to pace up and down.  Book number five was lined up to go live. My fifth book in four years, there was a lot of anticipation hanging in the air. There was fear, anxiety, but also some level of excitement too.

Of all the books, Kangana makes me smile, and I am only just starting to figure out why.

Kagana is my ray of sunshine, rainbow book. A book that signals a change in me, my mind-set and subsequently my writing mojo.

It marks the end of what has felt a jumbled up, chaotic time. A time during which my life has gone through all sorts; there’s been growth, development, sadness, joy, not to mention lots of interesting adventures. The last five years have been wonderfully formative, giving rise to five very different books. Five. I still don’t know how that happened.

Previously, I have noted that writing about gardening was some of a multi-layered metaphor; this blog, has evolved and grown from the seeds of an idea and continues to do. Writing two gardening books, was much about my growth and development as much as it was about my allotment.

To this day, I cannot tell you why I made the leap into writing fiction, writing stories that couldn’t be more removed from roses, mud and raspberries. I remember the moment when; mid morning, tapping my pen-a green biro-against lined paper. I had an idea.

The genesis of Fragments came from grief, bereavement; it is not an easy, soft, all is rosy book. Fragments is a whirling tornado of emotions, humanity, tears and pain. Don’t get me wrong. In the same way that every grey cloud has a silver lining, so does Fragments.

Fragments is  a book about getting up again having fallen down; about dusting yourself off and moving on. It is a book about finding strength, even when don’t think you have any. This is a book that shook me sideways, and at a time when I was feeling broken; this was my way of finding out my depths and layers.

When Fragments went live, I remember feeling wounded. I’d written this book, eighty something thousand words, and it hurt. I had this massive great big hole, as though something had been wrenched out of me. Absolute internal pain, and it throbbed. I remember feeling as though I had been kicked in the stomach.

What the flip was a girl to do?

Well, she waited four weeks and decided to go find the Peace Novella series.

You’ve heard a lot about RTP-that’s Retreating To Peace. I feel bad writing this,  but Devan Coultrie was definitely a band-aid. A sticky plaster to fix into place what ever Fragments had done.

RTP is a romance, yes; a contemporary romance. It’s not fluffy though, Devan and I both had dents. So we both fixed them, together. I rebelled, I wasn’t willingly going to write a fluffy romance. I still couldn’t find it in my soul to do so.  I remember asking my fellow Peace writers to read it, but wincing in anticipation.

I’ve never been so scared to let anyone look at my work. (Team Farmah never get a look in, honest) I sat there, with the handwritten manuscript pressed to my chest. I didn’t want anyone to read my romance novella and then beat me with it. I struggled with the concept that all romance novellas were full of bow-chick-wow-wow that defied the laws of Physics. Full of bodice ripping country squires and doe-eyed damsels.

But I took stock, received positive feedback. I prized the manuscript from my chest, and did a really funny happy dance. The ladies of the Peace Novella series , picked me off the floor to dust me off. I stood up, held my head high.

Then I bit the bloody bullet.

Off went RTP, released into the ether and unto the masses.

There was something very nice, warm and fuzzy about having written RTP. Devan Coultrie was a lovely, faith-restoring band-aid, and I am most certainly not done with him.

The ladies of Peace, were sent to my universe for a reason.

Anyways.

I took the summer off, decided that I was I need of a break. Both Fragments and RTP had changed my head space, and now there was a scope for sunshine after the rain.

Taking a walk to Sarehole mill with my sister, I let the greenery of Middle earth talk to me. That was August. I went home, wrote three thousand words, then put my notebook away. I was not in the mood to do any more writing.

Autumn and winter passed. I got busy, and there were too many things happening for me to be creative. One Saturday, I sat with my soft pastels and decide to make rainbows. Three were created in varying configurations. Rainbows had been very much on my mind, especially with counselling therapy. I even had a set of oil paints and tried to paint one with the EMS as a reference.  In my mind, rainbows demonstrate the power of the universe. Light after dark, hopefulness. The way that light bends with water to give the different wavelengths. It makes great scientific sense, but its wonderfully magic.

Putting aside the pastel creations. I went looking for my notebook. I looked at the three thousand words and knew that one character from Fragments was my next venture.

That character was Gorbind; a bit part character that had a sliver in a chapter. You could literally blink and miss him.  As with Devan Coultrie, Gorbind was borne out of a lack of Indian romance books. This continues to annoy me, so perhaps I can do something about it.

I was writing yet another romance.

Romance.

Kangana was now being forged;  I had a chapter list, a sequence of events and also a playlist.  I had  also more than once visited Birmingham’s Museum and Art gallery, where seeing the Lucifer sculpture and Rosetti’s Porsepine fueled my imagination further.

For the next ten months, my poor parents heard Dr.Zeus’ Kagna-two versions-, Hallelujah-three different versions of that-, Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla, not to mention Cyndi Lauper’s ‘At last’ on loop. This made a huge change from Jolene, two thirds of Adele’s back catalogue and all of Maroon 5’s as used in RTP and Fragments. I do have to say though; for some daft reason, halleleujah has occured for all three fiction books.

Kangana has made me laugh, it has made me smirk. It has also made me think of Gianluigi Buffon in a whole new light.

Why?

Well, most of my main characters have faces as I write them. Gorbind was the esteemed Mr. Buffon. Devan Coultrie, was Aidan turner. In Fragments, Jamie Dornan inspired Christopher and Adelphi. One day, all the rest will have faces. Albert Finney, is Grandad Albie.

Kangana is a lighter book. It does have its dark bits. All rainbows do. Kangana is a book that marks a change; it’s a book that marks a movement forward into a different direction.

No idea what that direction is. There is a stack of writing projects sat on my desk.

Two have been pulled out for development. The one, is labelled Hades. Yes, him of the underworld. The other is identified as Aurelia and involves vampires.

That is all I have for now. I have no further details as my mojo is at rest until Spring. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be planning and gleaning the universe for inspiration in the mean time.

All in all, this means a break from intense hot-housing and slowing down to regenerate. For now, I am going to bask in a rainbow and colour my soul.

Go grab your copies, try to do the same.

 

 

Petal’s books: Fragments

Fragments_Cover_for_Kindle

This was a very different book to write in comparison to the two gardening books. I wasn’t sure how to approach writing fiction, and this was an extremely experiential process. I remember writing in a fury, wanting to get emotions, images and experiences onto paper, and tell stories.

This was a book that took a year to mould together, a year to process,  I guess.

I would not call Fragments a fluffy book, not in the least. There aren’t many books that talk about death or reflect on how it impacts upon the human condition.  You’d think then, that this is a big, heavy, grey book.  I would disagree. It certainly has a challenging subject, something that we as humans don’t engage with; we choose to whisper, cloister, avoid all things death-related.

Yet it happens to us all.

There are six different but inter-related stories within Fragments that attempt to map out how bereavement, death and loss are unifying themes. How we experience them is different, we are after all, unique. The sense of loss however, does hang over us all.  On a personal level, Fragments was book-ended by two very significant, very close bereavements.

I did try to put shimmers of light in there, though. An ending, can be seen as new beginning, a change in a different direction. A loss, has the potential to grow-even killing weeds makes way for new seeds.

There is growth, renewal and regeneration in the pages of Fragments. Three concepts that whilst tending my allotment, are very much part of the immersion process.  It was only natural these would them permeate through the writing of Fragments.

Petal’s books: Sow, Grow and Eat

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April 2016 saw the publication of Sow, Grow and Eat AKA the green book. This was a book that was actually quite quick on the heels of Plant Pot tales-the yellow book.  As such, there was a similar format. The first third is about the allotment, the different lessons learned and a continuation of what was recorded in the yellow book. The rest of the book concentrated on recipes and what could be done with allotment produce.

The green book was borne out of my experimentation with a preserving pan. I had made jams, jellies, chutneys and pickles. These were shared with friends, family as well as colleagues. It was interesting to think about what could go into a preserve to make extra-ordinary, to make something that stood out from what you find in a supermarket.

There are a few recipes that are actually dedicated, are in honour of colleagues and friends. A couple, come from the physics department and an attempt to be as creative as possible.

As with the yellow book, I tried to make the recipes as simple as I could. I don’t believe in making things complicated, preventing people from accessing and then not enjoying anything. The recipes are all experiments though; all of them are open to interpretation, improvement and extension.  From time to time, I do look through the book and remind myself of the different things that I have made. It does rather encourage me to try and extend the variety, to do more experiments once I have the plot up and running again.

I do believe that I will write another cook-book type of book. It is sat on my desk, waiting for me to flesh it out.

 

Petal’s books: A retrospective review

fivecovers

As the release date for the fifth book approaches, I am in something of a reflective mood. I am trying to consider, think back upon how things have moved on since I first decided to sow seeds, to write a blog and then make the move to writing books. All of which, comes under the umbrella of this blog, of Petal’s Potted Preserve as an entity.

All of the books can trace their lineage to this blog; writing here about the allotment is what inspired me to dip into another medium. I wanted to transfer what I was doing here to another way of recording, sharing and communicating.  Sharing was the key aspect; how far could my relationship with my allotment go, who might it reach, who might it help, might they learn from it?

I am and always will be a bookworm; there is something purely magic about a book. I feel that is true for most books. Be it fiction, non-fiction, be it a textbook; there is a beauty within it.

The mere thought of a library, makes me smile. I have yet to be part of one, but a girl can dream, yes?

A lot has happened since the yellow book went public. The yellow book; playing with plant pots, turns three in two days. I’ll post about that later.

Since plant pot tales was published, my job has changed. There have been two significant bereavements, I’ve trained to be a counsellor, and there has been an epic, really close family wedding. My life has been a constantly developing, evolving process and experience. All of which has meant I’ve dipped in and out of maintaining my allotment whilst also writing.

As parallel processes, gardening and writing both involve sowing a seed, crafting and nurturing, whilst exposing your soul whilst putting your heart into something that believe in. There is a lot vulnerability too, in going out on a limb. I don’t think I have tried to follow the rules on my allotment. I didn’t write a traditional gardening book; none, of my books are traditional.

Plant pot tales, is very much an extension of the blog. I have yet to identify the voice I use in that book. Read it out aloud, and you may just hear my paved-over Birmingham accent. It is me having a chat, telling you what I have recorded in the blog. There are recipes that carry the scent from Mama F’s kitchen. The book is a living experience, organic; it quite literally is the seeds of an idea.  It is also imperfect. A baptism, of not knowing what to do, how to do it and learning as I went along. Least of all in a gardening sense. This was my entry into the world of Indie Publishing. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I took a punt writing it, putting it out there. In having a conversation with my youngest sister, declaring that I would write an e-book about my allotment, see what happens as I had nothing to lose; I took a huge leap of faith, and couldn’t tell you if it was brave or stupid. I don’t know if I had courage. I just did it, and did my best whilst in the heady, green-fingered throes of determination.

I wouldn’t have done it differently, I wouldn’t turn back the clock. Plant pot tales was the first. It was the herald, the pre-cursor to an interesting journey.

It was six months before the arrival of the next one. I simply couldn’t sit still; there was still something in the tank, and it wanted out. The allotment had been abundant, there were courgettes all over the shop. I’d also starting making jams, jellies and spirit infusions. These were documented on the blog, but still needed to travel. I’d caught the bug, I wanted to write again.

And so the green book came to life.

After which, things become a little blurry.

There was a gap of nothingness from April til December.

From January 2016, I was locked into something altogether surreal, The blue-coloured book didn’t arrive until March 2017 but I was writing over the year. This was a furious state of productivity; I had to write, get things out, get them onto paper in black and white. There been two very close bereavements, a lot of unsettled-ness and I was embarking in Counselling training. Loss, bereavement, grief, the circles of life were crashing and colliding.

That book was Fragments. Book number three, my first foray into fiction.

There’s a lot of pain in that book; there is joy too, it’s not entirely bleak. I saw smudges of hope and light when writing, that echoes in the pages of the book. This was never going to be a happy, fluffy book. This is a book that seeps with the human condition. It is my attempt, I guess, to grapple with something that we as humans avoid. We avoid talking about grief, bereavement; the end of life.

Here I was, making it public.

As with it’s two predecessors, the book also has power. The power to reach readers, to be a part of their process, inform and assimilate into how they experience the world around them. I like to think, that people read my work and take something from it. One of friends and colleagues made a comment. “Punam, you must have had an interesting life to write a book like that.” I took that as a compliment, and continue to make life interesting.

With Fragments out, I must have sat still for all of two weeks. Fragments had been a year of working hard, and for it to be over; there was a loss. There was a pain, a detachment from something that I had become invested in, something that had more or less governed each and every waking moment. I had an emptiness at having spilled my guts out. It physically hurt to have Fragments out there; as though it had been hoiked out from the depths of my soul. I had made something really important.

What I needed to do at that point, was to heal. I needed to mend. I needed to stretch my writing muscles.

I needed a giggle. Something to feel me with a light, maybe switch it on, help me extend. Something that felt hopeful and carried light.

Along came the Peace Novella series. I had nothing to lose, a lot to gain.

Creating Devan Coultrie was a huge, experimental shot in the dark. I was amongst seasoned writers, well established in the world of romance. Romance, a whole genre that I really didn’t know a lot about; a whole genre, congested with stories and with it’s own rules and regulations.

I struggled with the idea of a happily ever after. Thankfully, a happy for now would work. I struggled with there being few characters of Indian-ascent in romance novellas. I struggled with colliding and combining British and Indian traits. I was throwing all sorts at this book, and not knowing where all the chips would land was beyond unnerving.  I still can’t tell you how I did it. How I managed to write a piece of romantic fiction.

So much so, I wrote another.

I wrote book five. This, is me having another go.

By the 3rd of September, I will have self-published 5 books. Each one has my name on it. I always look at the covers, a bit surprised to see my name.

To have published one, was exhilarating. Two, helped me find a sense of purpose. Three, was a call from the universe, an attempt to put myself together; see my scars, dents and appreciate what makes me who I am. Four, was an experiment.

No idea what Five is, just yet.

When I know, so will you.

New book news: Kangana

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There is no such thing as a straight forward romance.

Sometimes when you think you are falling for one person, you are really falling in love with everyone else around them too.

Gorbind’s family are his whole world, even if they are far from normal. His kid brother needs looking after and his Grandmother just wants him to find happiness.

His whole world changes when he meets Padmi. Life gets more interesting as she changes Gorbind’s universe completely. Romance with Padmi is anything but straightforward.

 

kanganateasertwo

 

 

 

Judging a book by it’s cover: use clothes

I am more than a bit fed up. Fed up of seeing half naked people on the covers of books. In the last few weeks I have seen lots of new releases with covers that have left me wondering if the cover models are a bit cold. I must add the caveat that these are covers used by Indie authors. When I go through a library, look at the shelves, nearly all of the people on cover image are dressed. Even the Mills and Boon’s/Harlequin cover people are dressed. There is a very clear line in the sand really.

So what is my bug bear?

It was a timeline full of naked blokes, that was the straw that broke the camels back. Book blogs and tours, blitzes and things, are carrying the same images. Torsos and a V. Then there were the lingerie clad women.

The latter, would fall very much in to objectification. I think the former does too. We just don’t admit it; we can ogle and objectify women, but doing that to a bloke…well, Diet Coke break makes it okay but not objectification.

On a deeper, more intellectual and academic level, what do these covers say about societal perception of the genders?

Recently, the concept of toxic masculinity has been risen as well as what does it mean to be a male in modern society? Leading to how are men represented in media and the written word, what is it it we expect from the modern man. There is some element of men being charicatured by the covers and the content of books. Arrogant, well-built millionaires who sweep a gasping, well-endowed damsel off her feet. I’m genuinely cheesed off for the male of species; we build ’em up, we break ’em down, shift the goal posts. If you don’t match the dude on the cover, inside the book, the one in our imagination then you must be a bit wrong….

The damsel. The one that appears on the cover, half dressed with come to bed eyes. The damsel, that needs rescuing, might be up the duff and fights with her internal tension as to should she, should she not sleep with the tall, dark and brooding shipping magnate? (Yeah, how many shipping magnate, tycoons and billionaires are on the covers….with all that money, they might have posed in a suit… ) The damsel couldn’t possibly be dressed, we might not recognise her with her kit on and we don’t need to have three dimensional characters.  She must be attractive, pouting, and good for one, two, maybe three things.  What messages does this give to other women? If you are not like this, then you don’t fit, we don’t want you and neither does anyone else. You know you have to comply to a checklist and disclose your vital statistics, yes?

The representation of women on covers is equally heavy-weight.

(Another thing; I didn’t see many-if any-cover images of characters from BAME groups.  That is another aspect of debate.)

The bigger picture question remains the same.

Why do it in the first instance?

I get it, if the book in question is centred around mature/adult content, then sure it reflects what goes on between the leaves and the sheets as it were.

Can you imagine, if Dicken’s was rebranded in the same way? George Eliot for that matter. You have Madam Bovary, Lolita, and Lady Chatterley’s lover too.  The content is the crux, with a very sobre front cover. I really don’t want to see bits and pieces on the cover. I’m sure that until the print presses started steaming, most covers were plain.

You know, the answer is simple. Sex and Salaciousness sell.

Leaving nothing to the imagination, immediate rather than delayed gratification grabs and garners attention. It gets people talking, gets people writing blog posts. It get’s people saying ooh-er missis.

So far, only one out of four books has people on the cover.

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My challenge was to whether or not I wanted a human being on the cover, never mind two. Whether or not they would dressed, that never crossed my mind. When it did, the thought made me feel altogether uncomfortable. Somehow, being half naked in Montana, might give these two frost bite.

It is also, not as easy you would think, to find BAME people for covers.

I like my cover; the designer is a legend and made it exactly how I wanted it to be. I could not have imagined a half-naked Aditi or Devan on the front cover; that is left for the inside. That is the bit, in my mind at least, matters the most. In comparison then to other covers, it is modest, muted and doesn’t hit you between the eyes. I would rather the content tugged at the heart strings and fired up your imagination, to be perfectly honest.

If you do want to ‘see’ a half naked Devan, he does exist.

Inside the book.

 

 

The pages are turning

Apologies for not being around. There has been a lot going on, not bad, I assure you! This has made gardening and writing a bit more challenging. The next few months are shaping up to be both interesting and busy, but I am still around, not disappearing or dropping off the proverbial radar.

Not sure quite what gardening or when it will occur. In the mean time, the ink pens are in action and writing projects are happening.

Just wanted to remind you, of the books and there are quite a few now! If you wanted a bit of advice and guidance beyond the blog, there is the ‘yellow one’ and the ‘little green book’ that will help make things a little less confusing.

And if you fancied something completely different and not in the least bit gardening related, there is Fragments and also Retreating to Peace. Links to your right.

All of the books are available in both paperback and ebook.

Retreating to Peace is a Peace series novella and has a selection of rather lovely stable mates. Be sure to check ’em out!

peacecovers

Forays into Fiction

In 2017, I made my first foray into fiction. Having written two non-fiction books about my allotment, this was something of a challenge in being very different. In all honesty, I really enjoyed writing both of the allotment books; there was a huge learning curve that really did open my eyes. I have learned lessons with each book, and hopefully continue to do so as things progress. No one book is perfect, and there is always someone who will offer you feedback to that effect. The broad plethora of writing out there, would suggest that you are never going to please everyone. Start with pleasing yourself, see what happens.

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That said, seeing and hearing people enjoy the allotment books is a wonderful experience. It is validation, yes. That something I have produced is out there, that it is being engaged with, and there is value to it.

There is a wonderfully romantic notion, that writing is easy; that writers of any description, do nothing but lounge around navel-gazing, smoking cigarettes, drinking tea and occasionally put pen to paper. I can tell you now; that is not the case, that could not be further from the the truth. I don’t smoke, navel-gazing does my head in, but I do like back to back cups of tea.

Then there is the idea of why write?

Well, why not?

There is just something about a pen, a notebook, a day dream and marrying it all together. All that day dreaming is of no use in the depths of my cerebellum; if released from there, it might actually have some use, some one might benefit from it in some shape or form.

I’ve been writing since I was fourteen, and on anything I could get my hands on with rather curly handwriting. Nineteen years later I still have the loose leaves somewhere, and I look back them with lovely, rose tinted glasses. Some of the stuff is in my opinion, altogether strange; however, I wouldn’t change it, I wrote it and for reasons only known to the universe. I still write Star Trek fan fiction; it was and is an wonderful immersion experience. Anyone who tells you that fan fiction doesn’t count as literature, could do with a broader scope on their bookshelf.

 

fragments

In previous posts, I have explored why I wrote ‘Fragments’. I wrote it because of family bereavements, because loss(in  many different forms, not just death) had become a big part of my world and I was trying to make sense of it. Compared to the allotment books, it is bigger, beefier and quite literally not so rosey. Don’t get me wrong, there are happy endings in there; I couldn’t bring myself to write abject, bleak, misery. What I wrote about was being human, or in the very least, trying to understand being a human and the relationships that we form. I’ll be honest with you. There are some parts of ‘Fragments’  that actually make me cry, and I wrote those bits! I can’t read them-I did, when crafting it, I had to force myself to do so-there are others, which make me smile, and I’m glad to have written as not many others might have.

With 2018, I am making my second foray into fiction. I have also broken my own self-imposed rule of not having human beings on the cover; so far, we’ve had insects and pastel art. This next foray, is continued diversification and into contemporary romance. It is actually rosy, unlike ‘Fragments’ so it does have some sunshine like the allotment books. Again, there has been learning; there has been further, very instrumental development and growth.

Over the last three months, I have posted bits and pieces about ‘Retreating to Peace’. I wanted to share the excitement that has been a big part of this project and how much that means to me.  Hopefully, you will have seen the teasers and things.

Yes, this is different. To gardening, to grief. Proper diversification, and then some.

Yes, you read it correctly; contemporary romance.

Romance as a whole, is huge! It is a big slice of the literature pie, the indie publishing pie as well.

Here I am, a minnow-a gardening one-in a big pond, with lots of established fishes.

I couldn’t tell you why I took this plunge. Only, that I wanted to keep writing after having finished ‘Fragments’. I must have taken one week, perhaps two, before stumbling across the Peace Novella Series.  This felt the right thing to do, the universe was sending me signals of some kind.

Plus, as with the other three books, what could I possibly have to lose?

There are some things, that as I was writing ‘Retreating to Peace’ were a big part of my awareness. Things, that have most likely shaped the production of it, and I haven’t really put them out there before.

First, I chose to write a male main character. He’s not that much older than me, he is taller though. Most people are to be honest. Plus, I didn’t want to write a swaggering Alpha Male who saves the universe whilst having a fragile ego broken by a heaving bosom.

Second, he’s of mixed heritage. I would not, do not wish to, label Devan Coultrie as a Person of Colour. That label sets my teeth on edge for a whole armada of reasons that I won’t go into here. I managed to shoe-horn Anglo, Indian and Scottish into development.

Third, not all romance is about rainbows and butterflies. I know, that seems an oxymoron, Thank goodness for Happy For Now.

Fourth, I spent my whole childhood watching Bollywood Movies. There are lots and lots of Bollywood/Indian cultural things mentioned in RTP. This is why, I took great pleasure in writing Devan’s Diwal story. Oh, and I have yet to find a would be Indian inspired romance. Trust me, I know who Meera Syal is as well as Anita Desai and Arundhati Roy. I may never scale their great heights, but a girl can dream, eh?

 

Fragments competition!

 

I am currently running a competition to give away two copies of the Fragments paperback. Each one will also come with a Petal’s Potted Preserve mug.

You can find the competition at the Petal Orticultural Obbit Facebook page.

If however, Facebook, twitter, instagram  are not your thing, then please comment on this post! Maybe even follow and share.

The competition closes at 10pm UK time on the 22nd September 2017. Both national and international entries are welcome!