J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the month “November, 2015”

Thanksgiving Traditions

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Most people equate Thanksgiving with the pilgrims and Plymouth Rock (Plimoth Plantation). Although the first Thanksgiving in 1621 was a mild celebration between Native Americans and English settlers, it would not become a national observance for nearly 200 years.

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In an effort to unify a torn Union, President Lincoln declared, on October 3, 1863, that the final Thursday of November would be a day of Thanksgiving. He wished to commemorate “a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

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The nation honored Thanksgiving by closing stores, holding parades, and sending Thanksgiving greeting cards. Although Thanksgiving was a national observance, it wasn’t designated as a true American holiday until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it up a week to spike holiday retail sales during the Great Depression. Many opposed this move, so in 1941, President Roosevelt signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November, and it has been observed on that day ever since.

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The true essence of Thanksgiving isn’t Black Friday or football or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (which I love, don’t get me wrong) or even turkey. It is to give thanks for all the blessings we have, and for being a part of this magnificent, great nation under God. May you all have a blissful,  peaceful Thanksgiving.

 

 

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New Book on Blog Tour

Shanti BT Cover

The book I am featuring today is titled Shanti and the Magic Mandala, by F.T. Camargo. This book looks like a lot of fun, so pick up a copy right away!

About the Book:

Shanti and the Magic Mandala is an adventure in which fantasy and reality are mingled. The book tells the story of six teenagers, from different religious and cultural origins and different parts of the world, who are mystically recruited to form two groups – one in the Northern Hemisphere, and one in the Southern. They eventually gather in Peru, and through a single alliance, begin a frantic chase for the sacred object that can stop the black magician’s final plan.

Buy Links:

Read an Excerpt:

Shanti was the first to smell the smoke. She paused in her frantic packing. “Do you smell something burning?”

“Yes, I do,” Lelê said, worried.

It was getting noticeably hotter in the room. “Look, there’s smoke coming in under the door!” Antônio cried. Black smoke was slowly seeping beneath the door and into the room. Lelê ran to the window.

“The door won’t open,” Shanti said, struggling with the lock.

“Neither will the window.” Lelê was close to tears.

“Let me try, Shanti.” Antônio grasped the doorknob, applying his strength to it. Even as he fought with the lock, the smoke and the heat were rising.”

“They did it. We’re stuck in here,” Helena said, coughing.

Antônio hammered on the wall. “Nasir! Itai! Tadao! Help us!”

“They want to kill us,” Lelê cried, shaking with fear.

Looking intently at Helena, her voice ringing with determination, Shanti declared, “But we’re not going to let them succeed!”

“Get away from the door,” Antônio said, kicking at it.

Hearing Antônio’s call for help, Nasir and Itai had rushed to the door, only to find it locked. Tadao tried the window. “It won’t open,” he said, fearful. “The window’s locked.”

“We can’t get out. What’s happening?” Nasir said, with an edge of panic.

“It’s black magic,” Itai said, trying to help Nasir break down the door.

Just then, an image of the book came into his mind. He ran over to his backpack, still on top of his bed and upended it shaking everything out.

Suddenly there was a loud noise, like an explosion — the door swung open. Flames and gouts of heavy, black smoke poured into the room. The whole hallway was on fire.

Tadao pushed at the window again, but it defied his efforts to open it.

Itai reached for his book. It was illuminated once again. He stood up and held the book with both hands, opening it. A bright light shone forth from the page it had opened on and he saw another name, formed with three Hebrew letters. Seitel, another of the 72 names of God. Itai knew that the Angel Seitel was able to create a protective shield. He closed his eyes, forming an urgent prayer, reaching out to connect with the angel, shutting out the mayhem around him for a few moments. Opening his eyes he gazed at the three letters from right to left for a few more precious seconds. Then he closed the book, replaced everything else in the backpack and hoisted it on his back. He picked up the book, holding it in his right hand. “Grab your backpacks and follow me.”

Nasir stared at him with an expression that clearly showed concern for his sanity “Itai?”

“Follow me,” Itai repeated with certainty.

“What? What do you mean?” Tadao almost shouted.

Nasir took his backpack and positioned himself behind Itai. “May Allah protect us!”

Watching Nasir, Tadao did the same. Itai took the closed book in both hands, pointing it towards the fire, as they approached the door. The book emitted an increasingly intense light. Gradually, a large shield began to form, surrounding the three boys.

“Wow! It’s a light vehicle, a merkaba!” Nasir said, reverently, his gaze locked on the intense white light of the forming shield.

“Incredible!” Tadao said, forming his own silent prayer, Thank you, Lord Buddha.

Steadfastly Itai moved towards the door now engulfed by large flames. He advanced out of the room, into the hallway, the light shield in front of him, and as he moved, he created a clear path, the shield pushing away the flames, heat and smoke. He stopped in front of Shanti’s bedroom door. The wood was charred and blackened and the ancient lock had popped free, leaving the door swinging brokenly. Their friends had crowded at the back of the room, near the window, trying to get away from the thick, choking smoke. “Grab your backpacks! Get behind Nasir and Tadao!” Itai shouted.

“We’re coming!” Antônio said, grabbing his backpack and walking swiftly towards the door.

Lord Ganesha, please open those paths, Shanti prayed, putting all of her faith into the prayer.

Within moments, the three were in place. The light shield began to grow sideways, eventually forming a large cube of light, protecting all of them. They crossed the hall, safe from the flames. As they went down the stairs, they heard the roof collapsing behind them. The reception area had been completely destroyed by fire, but again they passed through the devastation completely shielded from the heat and flames. They reached the door leading to the outside. Itai wasted no time in pulling it open and they poured out of the burning building.

As soon as the last one of them stepped onto the street, the old pension began to collapse, turning into a huge bonfire.

About the Author:

F. T. Camargo is an Italian Brazilian living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. An award winning architect and author, he also studied Arts and Media and has a post degree in Economics and MBA in e-commerce. He is a vegetarian because of his love for all animals and has been deeply involved in causes for their protection and freedom. He is a world traveler adventurer, outdoor sports lover, speaks 4 languages and has published a travel book “Rio, Maravilha!”

For many years he has been practicing yoga and meditation and studying the Kabbalah. His exploration of spiritual teachings motivated a commitment to self-development which in turn created a new path and goal in life. Shanti and the Magic Mandala was born from his inner journey.

Contact the Author:

 

Awards & Recognition for the Book:

Winner of 2014 London Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.

2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards: Bronze Medal at “Young Adult Fiction – Spirituality”

2014 New England Book Festival in Boston:  Honorable Mention in the category “Young Adult”

Winner of 2015 Paris Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”

Winner of 2015 International Book Awards in the category “Fiction / Young Adult”

Winner of 2015 New York Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.

2015 Los Angeles Book Festival – Runner-up in the category “Young Adult”

>2015 San Francisco Book Festival – Runner-up in the category “Young Adult”

2015 DIY Book Festival in Los Angeles: Honorable Mention in the category “Young Adult”

Check out the Cover Reveal Event

 

“Four Score and Seven…”

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On this date in 1863, President Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to deliver what would become known as the “Gettysburg Address.” Although some revere Lincoln while others despise him, I think this short speech is one of the greatest American achievements. In honor of this event, here is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, A Rebel Among Us, when the main character sees Lincoln face to face.

The family arrived to find throngs of people clogging the road into Gettysburg. David drove slowly toward the center of town, past two- and three-story brick, stone, and weatherboard houses. Abolitionists lined the street, holding signs degrading the South and singing “John Brown’s Body.” Students from Pennsylvania College gathered near street corners in clusters. Union soldiers were everywhere. A group of them walked over and surrounded the landau. David’s heart raced wildly. All of his battlefield memories rushed over him. He continuously drew deep breaths in order to contain his composure and repeatedly wiped his sweaty palms against the coat Anna had provided him.

She glanced at him and noticed his wary expression. “Are you all right?” she asked.

All he could do was nod in response. He was terrified, but he couldn’t let his fears be known to the family.

Pulling Alphie to a halt, he climbed down, tied him to a post, assisted the ladies from the carriage, and escorted them toward a wooden platform that had been erected for the occasion. Someone handed him a program, so he smiled politely, being careful not to speak. The Stars and Stripes waved from atop a flagpole overlooking the gathering, its stars now totaling thirty-five, which included all of the states of the Confederacy. Behind him, he saw rows of graves, their white markers protruding from the dead earth, gleaming in the bright sunshine. Remnants of the fierce battle still remained. Scarred trees, pieces of wagons, rifle pits, scraps of clothing, broken fences, canteens, and other personal artifacts cluttered the sacred ground. Adjacent to the new Soldiers Cemetery was the old town graveyard. Ironically, a sign had been posted there before the great battle: All persons found using firearms on these grounds will be prosecuted with the utmost rigor of the law.

The Yankee dignitaries, lined in procession, finally appeared. Parading through the center of the enormous crowd, they made their way to the platform, which had a sofa and several chairs positioned on it. Four military bands began to play “Hail Columbia.” Union soldiers filed in. They stood only a few feet from David as the procession came through.

“There’s the president!” a man behind him said.

“He’s quite a Chesterfield,” remarked another.

David turned to see Mr. Lincoln atop a gray horse, riding toward the platform. Either the horse was too small or the president was too tall. His legs nearly touched the ground.

The soldiers saluted, and the president returned the gesture. David almost did, too, but caught himself in time. He gazed at the tall, slender, dark-bearded man who wore a long black suitcoat and stovepipe hat. President Lincoln’s expression was somber. His large eyes glanced over the crowd, and a faint, sad smile crossed his lips. Awestruck, David took in the sight of the man he’d heard so much about. The president’s weathered face, both homely and attractive at once, showed sensitivity and remorse. David felt overwhelmed to be in his presence. He continued to stare while the president rode past him. Mr. Lincoln turned his head and looked directly at him, apparently sensing his gaze. Their eyes met. David’s heart leaped into his throat. The president dismounted and stepped up onto the platform. His kind, gentle expression showed compassion. David wondered how he could intentionally proceed with the war, set the slaves free, and pass laws to cripple the South.

Just before noon, the program commenced with the Birgfield’s Band of Philadelphia playing “Homage d’un Heros.” Called to prayer, the audience was reminded of how so many young men had departed from their loved ones to die for their cause. The Reverend T.H. Stockton spoke with such soulful entreaty his listeners were overcome with emotion. When he was finished, the United States Marine Band played “Old Hundred.”

David glanced around; relieved no one could detect his secret. His eyes met Maggie’s. She mouthed the word “Rebel” at him, and glared so harshly he felt compelled to look away.

Edward Everett of Massachusetts began with an oration. He went on endlessly in an eloquent speech, referring to Athens, the occasion for which they all assembled, the significant victory, and the history of the war. Giving an elaborate account of the battle, he said nothing about the cavalry fight and predictably proceeded to castigate the South. In his opinion, the Confederacy had committed treason, comparable to the Bible’s “Infernal Serpent” by perpetuating wrong and injustice. He referred to the Rebels as Eversores Imperiorum, or destroyers of States.

David continuously scanned the crowd, half-expecting the soldiers to surround him at any moment. He noticed how some of the spectators yawned and wandered off to observe unfinished gravesites. After nearly two hours, Mr. Everett’s harangue finally ended. The Musical Association of Baltimore, accompanied by a band, sang “Consecration Hymn,” but the lyrics were so traumatic many people began to sob.

“Here, where they fell, oft shall the widow’s tear be shed.

Oft shall fond parents mourn their dead; the orphan here shall kneel and weep.”

David felt his throat tighten. He stared down at his boots, waited for the hymn to end, and remembered his comrades, his best friend, and his father.

At last, the President of the United States was introduced. The crowd applauded. Mr. Lincoln made his way to the front of the platform. Keeping his eyes downcast, he withdrew his steel-rimmed spectacles from a vest pocket. His visage remained staid and melancholy. Slowly, clearly, deliberately, he began to speak. David hung on every word. In spite of how he felt about the man, his heart began to swell.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

David thought it ironic the Northern President spoke with a hint of a Southern drawl, but then recalled Mr. Lincoln had been born in Kentucky. The president returned to his seat. A sprinkling of applause followed him. David thought he heard the President say, “Well, that fell on them like a wet blanket,” but he wasn’t close enough to be sure. Everyone around seemed surprised the president’s speech was so short, but David found himself overcome by the Yankee president’s words. Although they didn’t necessarily apply to his Southern beliefs, they were heartfelt and poignant.

A dirge was sung, a benediction given, and the soldiers completed the program with a cannon salute, which startled him and jolted his heart for a moment. The spectators filed out of the square. He glanced over at Maggie. The time was ripe for her to confess his true identity, but she merely stared at him with a smirk on her face.

 

BATTLEGROUND MISSISSIPPI GETS EVEN NASTIER

The Enemies of Southern Heritage ship in PAID YANKEE activists!
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(From The New York Times)
LOUISVILLE, Miss. – In single strokes after the massacre of nine black churchgoers in Charleston in June, Confederate battle flags were taken from statehouse grounds in South Carolina and Alabama, pulled from shelves at major retailers like Walmart and declared unwelcome, if to limited effect, at Nascar races.
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What happened so swiftly elsewhere is not so simple in Mississippi. The Confederate battle flag is not simply flying in one hotly disputed spot at the State Capitol but occupying the upper left corner of the state flag, which has been flying since 1894. And as recently as 2001, Mississippians voted by a nearly two-to-one ratio to keep it. Recent polling suggests the majority have not changed their minds.
“My flag’s been flying for 33 years, and I’m not about to take it down,” said Nancy Jenkins, 58, a postal worker who is white and who flies the Mississippi flag and the United States flag at her house a block south of Louisville City Hall. “It doesn’t stand for hate. It means a lot of people fought and died.”
Over the past few months, there have been scattered outbreaks of municipal defiance by those who find the Confederate flag offensive, as mayors and city councils from the Delta to the Pine Belt have decided to no longer fly the state flag.
But beyond these sporadic gestures, any organized effort was always going to wait until politicians were on the safe side of this year’s election. With the closing of the polls on Tuesday night, what could turn out to be the last battle over the Confederate flag in Mississippi has begun in earnest.
“It’s all about momentum,” said Dane Waters, the head of Tipping Point strategies, a communications and advocacy firm. “If you take a pocket here and pocket there of things happening, I don’t think anything is going to change.”
This week, Mr. Waters, a self-described conservative who has been retained by a group of people he declined to name, will arrive in Mississippi to pick up a difficult task: forming an unlikely and perhaps unmanageable alliance of preachers, business executives, state boosters and civil rights advocates to remove forever the Confederate battle flag from the state flag.
He is working with the Flag for All Mississippians Coalition, which was started by Sharon Brown, an activist in Jackson, who is black. The campaign has already been organizing supporters and held a hundreds-strong rally at the State Capitol. But Mr. Waters spoke of other tools that will be brought to bear outside the public eye, such as pressure on political donors and lobbying in the Legislature.
The coalition that he and others are trying to put together would need to unite groups almost never politically aligned, testing the depth of what Mr. Waters called the state’s “tremendous social, economic and racial divide.”
In the immediate aftermath of Charleston, it seemed that such a coalition might be possible here. Several conservative political leaders called for a change, including the state’s two United States senators and the speaker of the Mississippi House (inspiring critics to print “Keep the Flag, Change the Speaker” yard signs). Down came flags at city buildings in Grenada, Magnolia, Starkville, Clarksdale and Yazoo City. In October, even the University of Mississippi lowered the flag at the circle where segregationists once clashed with federal troops over the admission of James Meredith.
But the move to change the flag, which, in the words of the daughter of the state senator who designed it, was intended to “perpetuate in a legal and lasting way that dear battle flag under which so many of our people had so gloriously fought,” is not widely popular. It takes no time at all in any Mississippi downtown to find that out.
“This is what we stand for – this is our pride,” Trey Jefcoat, a 26-year-old construction worker in Hattiesburg, said on the October day that the nearby University of Southern Mississippi took down the state flag on campus. “We don’t think it’s offensive, and most of the black folks I know don’t think it’s offensive.”
Partisanship in Mississippi has become ever more racially polarized, and there are few topics on which racial division has been more explicit. In the 2001 referendum, according to the book “Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2008,” 90 percent of whites voted to keep the flag as it is. Among blacks, 95 percent voted for a new design, which replaced the cross with a circle of white stars.
“Don’t try to force me as a black man who knows his history to honor something that goes against my heritage,” said Robert Brown, a 42-year-old barber in Louisville, a small town in the central Mississippi pines with a population that is about 60 percent black.
Over the summer, Mr. Brown began using his post at Eiland’s Straight Line Barbershop to expound upon the causes of the Civil War, lecturing to the men who had come in for a trim or a shave about slavery, the meaning of the battle flag and the offense of its lingering in the state flag. One evening in September, he went to City Hall to ask that officials follow the example of the other scattered towns and cities and vote on whether to fly the state flag.
He was met, he said, with mannerly talk of pressing budgets and correct protocol, and ultimately told that this was really an issue best left to the Legislature. The state flag still flies.
If a new flag is to be adopted, the simple math of a 60 percent white majority statewide dictates that it will come down to whether enough whites support it, either in the Legislature or at the polls. Feelings about the flag run so deep – as evident from the recent arrest of a man in Tupelo who was accused of firebombing a Walmart for not selling Confederate merchandise – that a widespread change of heart seems hard to fathom.
At a Hardee’s a few blocks north of Louisville City Hall, older men talked over coffee of how “the blacks” tried to get the flag taken down at City Hall and the cemetery – one man drives by daily to make sure they are still flying – and how such crusades would be as doomed across the state as they were here.
The minority who want the flag changed should not be allowed to dictate to the majority who want it kept, Carl Higginbotham, 63, said.
“Funds need to be cut off for that school,” he added of Ole Miss.
With sentiments like these widespread, many advocates of a change in the flag, Democrat and Republican alike, believe their only hope lies in the Legislature. They speak bluntly of the odds against them in a statewide vote and of the kind of international attention Mississippi would attract. But they also acknowledge that legislators and state officials, beyond those who staunchly defend the flag, would probably be quite happy to turn over such an incendiary topic to a referendum.
Derrick Johnson, the president of the state conference of the N.A.A.C.P., said he would actively oppose a referendum, insisting that economic pressure was the only answer. “There’s never been a change in Mississippi when it comes to racial relations without pressure,” he said.
State Representative Scott DeLano, a Republican, also said a legislative solution was the preferred way to bring about a change, but he insisted that too much provocation could jeopardize the good will required for a successful vote.
“Within Republican circles there have been discussions about this,” he said, “about how we start the discussion and how we work towards unifying the state, and what that discussion would look like.”
“I think it’s going to take some more time,” he added.
Time appears to be somewhat short. Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican who won an overwhelming victory over token opposition on Tuesday, recently came out in support of putting the question on next year’s ballot.
“I trust the people of the state of Mississippi as they are the sovereigns of this state,” he said recently. “They should be empowered as to the decision of what their flag should look like.”
There is no making everyone happy on this, said Charlie Box of Columbus, a small city near the Alabama line that claims to have been the site of the first Confederate Memorial Day.
Mr. Box is one of two whites on the six-member City Council, which voted in July to take down state flags at city buildings. He was not a fan of this approach, believing the city should defer to the state, and found the whole issue unnecessarily divisive, he said. When he polled his mostly white district, he found many dead set against taking the flag down; one woman put his photograph up in her beauty salon afterward, identifying him as persona non grata.
But about half of those he polled told him what eventually formed the basis of his decision: that it was time to take the flag down and move on.
“I just think people are tired of hearing about this,” Mr. Box said.
The vote, in the end, was unanimous.
(Courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter)

Heritage Violation at CSA Memorial Chapel

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The Confederate Memorial Chapel near VMFA was built in 1887 by Confederate veterans.

The annual InLight Richmond will transform the grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts next weekend. But perhaps the most electrifying reveal will be the wholesale transformation of the Confederate Memorial Chapel.

The light and sound installation, happening Nov. 13 and 14, promises to put a twist on one of Richmond’s most divisive public-relations problems.

The artists behind the exhibit, John Dombroski and Ander Mikalson, say they were inspired to probe the chapel’s socio-political significance.

The contentious building, which has a side adjacent to Grove Avenue, has been a magnet for people devoted to waving the Confederate flag — which no longer is allowed to fly at the chapel. In June, the museum took control of the chapel’s lease from the Lee-Jackson Camp No. 1, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

It will become a focal point of InLight, with the artists planning to turn the memorial into a trippy funhouse full of disorienting light, sound and shadow.

“By illuminating and amplifying the building and visitors’ presence within it,” Dombroski tells Style, “we will create a heightened sensory experience that invites investigation and introspection.”

The artists plan to install several cinema-grade lights on tall stands to illuminate the exterior of the chapel. The interior will be illuminated solely by the light cast through the stained-glass windows. An array of shadows will form on the ceiling, walls and floor.

There’s a sound component, too. The movements of visitors will be captured by a network of microphones installed on the floorboards, pews, doorways and walls — sounds the artists will amplify and reverberate throughout the space using delays and panning.

Dombroski says the sound of a visitor’s step will be emitted seconds later by a speaker behind the pulpit. Visitors’ shadows will dance around the pews.

“All art work has the potential to be political, even if it’s Disney-like,” says InLight juror Alex Baker, director of Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia.

“It’s more than just spectacle, it’s something to engage with,” says Emily Smith, executive director of 1708 Gallery, which organizes the event.

Some readers leaving comments weren’t about to embrace the idea. “How sad. This is a chapel and not a theater,” one wrote. “Where is the reverence that is befitting the place where Confederate veterans worshiped?”

Another commenter, saying they were no fan of the Confederate flag, wrote: “I assume that next on the agenda is doing something similar to a Muslim house of worship?”
(Courtesy of Southern Heritage News and Views, Nov. 9, 2015 edition)

New Book Featured on Blog Tour

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Today, as part of the b00k r3vi3w Tours blog tour, I am featuring a new book titled When Our Worlds Collide by Aniesha Brahma. Here is more information about the book:

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What inspired When Our Worlds Collide?

(Background of how I came up with the plot.)

I guess the thing that I intrigued me was the fact that it’s not always about the happy ending. Sometimes, it just the story that is more important. Because if every girl who fell in love with a guy, got her feelings reciprocated and rode off into the sunset, it wouldn’t be real life. It would be a fairy tale. I did not want to write a fairy tale. I wanted to write a story that seems real, that people could relate to.

So I thought about this girl called Akriti who develops a crazy crush on a guy she meets quite by accident. She realizes later on that she would never act on those feelings because he has a girlfriend. A girlfriend that I did not put in the story as an obstacle, but as something that is very much a part of our lives. How often have you heard the joke, “everyone I like is either gay or taken?”

When I first began to paint Zayn with words, he was not called Zayn. He was called Piyush. In a short story called, “The Walk” (which is up on my blog), Akriti and Piyush take an evening stroll through Gariahat, talking nineteen-to-the-dozen. But once I concluded that short story, I felt as though there was more to their story. They could not just be friends who met up, walked and talked.

I began to piece together their histories, how their lives would intertwine with each other, how they would be drawn to each other’s lives like magnets against all odds. I wrote out the entire plot outline, added the secondary characters of Ayoub, Suzanna and Surbhi. (Each of them scheduled to appear for an interview of their own on my blog.)

Akriti and Zayn’s story basically tests the limits of their friendship. I am sure people can relate to it. They would be able to relate to the drama, the fun and the heartbreak that accompanies crushing on your friend.

After fleshing out the story a little, I decided to do something that I had never done in my earlier works. I decided to introduce characters from another work of fiction of mine in this story. The other novella would then act as a companion to this novella. So, that was a lot of fun. We will let you guess who those characters might be because we want readers to tell us who they want to read about next!

A question that I am sure will be asked of me is if this story was based on real life. Well, I am always inspired by real life. In fact, sometimes I put people I know into my stories. One such example for this particular tale is Suzanna was inspired by Diptee di, and she picked out the name herself. Although she named her character after the Suzanna from Ruskin Bond’s short story and novella, Susanna’s Seven Husbands. I just insisted on using a different spelling.

As for who Akriti, Zayn and Ayoub are based on: well, some elements for Akriti were borrowed from some pretty women I know. Ayoub was a figment of my imagination, and Zayn had been based in part on someone that I used to know. But my imagination made him into someone I wanted him to be. Not the person that he really was.

Coming back to When Our Worlds Collide, I was determined to tell the story of a mad crush and how it ends realistically in the story. Do they get their fairy tale happy ending or don’t they? You will just have to read the novella yourself to find out.

The book should be available by November 2015.

9788180320828

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Hallowed Ground Retained

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Recently, two separate Civil War battlefields received more protected ground due to the efforts of the Civil War Trust. One is the area known as Fleetwood Hill at Brandy Station, Virginia. During the course of the war, Brandy Station changed hands several times between Union and Confederate troops. It is also the site of the largest cavalry battle to ever happen in North America. This battle took place on June 9, 1863. Prior to the preservation, Fleetwood Hill was privately owned, and houses were built on it. But now, this 56-acre hill crest has been converted back to its original state, and appears the way it did 150 years ago.

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The second battlefield to attain protection is a plot of land known as the North Woods Tract at Antietam National Military Park. The Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg) took place on September 17, 1862. Although the battle was a draw, President Lincoln declared it a Union victory, and used it as a catapult to launch his Emancipation Proclamation. The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single day of battle that this country has ever seen. The Civil War Trust raised $300,000 in 45 days to acquire 1.2 acres of the North Woods Tract.

These two victories are part of an ongoing process. Sadly, many battlefields and significant places are being destroyed. The Civil War Trust strives to preserve these national treasures. For more information, visit civilwar.org.

http://www.civilwar.org/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email_update&utm_campaign=NorthWoods2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cwpt/sets/72157660370326701

New b00k r3vi3w Tours Book on Blog Tour

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Today’s featured book is titled Soul Warrior by Falguni Kothari. This book looks like a fascinating read!

About the Book:

Twisted myths. Discretion advised.

Fight fate, or succumb to destiny?

In the dark Age of Kali, the Soul Warrior alone stands guard over the Human Realm, protecting its denizens from evil-willed asuras or demons. When a trick of fate appoints him guru to a motley crew of godlings, he agrees to train them as demon hunters against his better judgment. Suddenly, Lord Karna is not only battling the usual asuras with sinister agendas, but also rebellious students and a fault-ridden past.

Spanning the cosmic realms of mythic India, here is a tale of a band of supernatural warriors who come together over a singular purpose: the salvation of Karna’s secret child.

Book Links:

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/soul-warrior-1 http://apple.co/1N1uKbE  http://amzn.to/1O9ZQRJ  http://amzn.to/1RvEBbk  http://amzn.to/1OnG2sr

CHAPTER ZERO

DWANDA-YUDDHA: THE DUEL

The Himalayan Mountains.

Five thousand years ago.

Absolute darkness shrouded the Human Realm, and had for three days and three nights. Some believed the occurrence was prophetic, like the prolonged amavasya or new moon night that had heralded the Great Kuru War two thousand years ago. The war had given birth to the dark Age of Kali, the age of asura. In contrast, hope was ripe that this event would trigger the Age of Light. But the Bard wasn’t here to succumb to superstition.

The first day without the sun’s light had spread confusion and chaos across the realm. The second day had brought desperation in the breasts of humans and fear in the belly of Celestials. The third day—today—was a feast for the asuras. Death lay everywhere.

The human world burned without its sun. How soon before the Heavens went up in flames?

The Bard’s troubled eyes reread the last line. Then he deliberately scratched it off, lifting his long, pointed talon from the parchment made of dry palm leaf. With a sigh, he rested his aching hand on his trembling thigh. He would spare a moment to ease his body, and his mind from the strain of observation and due recordkeeping. If he didn’t, he’d forget his duty as Witness of the Cosmos, and begin to question fate.

Despite the fire that crackled close to his right knee, and the feathered form of his upper body, he was cold. An icy wind had settled around the Pinnacle of Pinnacles, where he sat cross-legged on a seat made of rock and snow. He’d chosen this perch because it gave him an impartial view of the events happening in the world. He was the Bard, entrusted with keeping the Canons of the Age of Kali, just as the Soul Warrior was entrusted with keeping the Human Realm safe from asuras. Would they both fail in their duty today?

The Bard shook off the heavy despair the darkness had brought into the world. He mustn’t judge. He shouldn’t question. He would sharpen the talon on his forefinger, dip it into the vessel of ink kept warm by the fire, and write this tale. That was all he could do. Be the witness to history.

So he raised his feathered hand and began to write again while his eyes, sparked with power, knowledge and magic, saw clearly events unfolding from great distances. A thousand kilometers to his right, Indra, the God of War and Thunder, fought the Dragon. Indra did not fare well. But that didn’t concern the Bard as much as the clash between the Soul Warrior and the Stone Demon. Over and over, his eagle eyes were drawn to the duel taking place in the heart of the world, not only because it was a magnificent battle to behold, for it was, but because its outcome would decide mankind’s destiny.

The Soul Warrior was more than a great warrior. Karna was a great soul. Fair, honorable, brave and resilient, he was the perfect protector of the Human Realm. Of course, there were other reasons he’d been chosen to fill the office of Soul Warrior—there always were when Gods and demons were involved. But Karna’s existence was a testament to righteous action and if anyone could bring back the day, it would be him.

But how did one vanquish stone, the Bard wondered?

Avarice and cruelty, two nefarious desires, had made Vrtra and Vala attack the Human Realm. Three days ago the Dragon had swallowed the Seven Rivers in the north, and the Stone Demon had imprisoned the Sun God, his daughter, and all the cattle of the region in his cave.

The Bard paused his writing as a thin vein of lightning winked across the skies, but without the accompanying roar. Indra’s strength waned. His thunderbolt hadn’t left Vrtra screaming in pain this time. The Bard spared a moment’s attention on the duel, just enough to note that the Maruts, the Celestial Storm-gods, waited in the clouds to rescue their god-king in case of a calamity. Indra would survive even in defeat. Of that, the Bard was sure.

But Karna had no one at his back. His might and god-powers had depleted without the sun’s healing warmth and light. His divine astras, weapons, had not slowed the Stone Demon down, at all. Only the conviction that he could not fail his godsire, his sister, and the innocents under his protection drove him now. His birth family had once abandoned him to his fate, but he would not abandon them to theirs—such was the greatness of Karna.

The Bard crossed out the last observation. No questions. No judgment. No praise, either. The canons would be free of all emotion. He wasn’t here to embellish history or glorify the history-makers, as some bards were wont to do.

It wasn’t embellishment to write that the foothills of Cedi were drenched in the Soul Warrior’s blood. Or observe the gushing wounds on his body, despite his armor, that would make the hardiest of warriors bellow in agony, but not him. It wasn’t embellishment to write that the Heavens were empty for the Celestials had come to Earth to watch the battle, firelight cupped in their palms to light the warrior’s way.

The Naga, the Serpent People, also looked on, hissing from the mouth of the portal that led to their underground realm beneath the hills. The Serpent King will not choose a side. Vrtra and Vala were half Naga, after all. All across the Human Realm, demons roamed free, taking advantage of the darkness and preying on human flesh and human souls. It was a terrible moment in history. The asuras had the upper hand in the eponymous age of Demon Kali.

Vala did not have arms and half a leg, but still he came at Karna. He had an ace up his sleeve. There were plenty of creatures about, an entire mountain close at hand. He began to chant the spell of soul transference. It was the darkest of all magic, the possession of another’s soul. Soon, he would be whole again and stronger than before.

Battered and bleeding, the Soul Warrior veered away from the Stone Demon. He leapt over boulders and charred vegetation. The onlookers called him a coward. Had he forfeit the duel? Has he forsaken mankind?

Karna dove for Manav-astra, the spear of mankind, he’d thrown aside yesterday after his bow, Vijaya, had shattered under repeated use. In one smooth motion, he rolled, picked up the astra, coming up in the spear-thrower’s stretch. His tattered lower garment billowed about him as a gust of wind shot through the air. His muscled torso glistened with blood and sweat, tightened as he pulled the arm holding the spear back.

He meant to throw Manav-astra at Vala. A futile attempt, to be sure? As long as Vala was made of stone, broken or not, his body was impregnable. Karna should have waited for Vala to transfer his soul to an onlooker. Then Karna should have vanquished the possessed creature.

Taunting laughter reverberated through the foothills of Cedi. Vala had reached the same conclusion. The Celestials looked at each other in angry silence, unable to interfere. A dwanda-yuddha duel was fought between two opponents of equal size and strength alone. The humans hadn’t stopped screaming in three days, the din simply background noise now.

The Bard scribbled the observations onto the parchment in no particular order. He wished he was a painter, for surely this was a picture worth a thousand words.

The demon hobbled toward the warrior, who stood still as stone with his arm drawn taught behind him. Then finally, with a roaring chant the Soul Warrior shifted his weight from his back leg to his front and let fly Manav-astra at the Stone Demon with all his remaining might.

Karna didn’t wait to see the ramifications of his action. And there were plenty to come. He ran into the mountain cave to free Vala’s hostages. Within moments the rock face rent in half, and bright streams of light speared through the terrible darkness. A new day had dawned on the Human Realm after three days of perpetual night.

The sun’s power was too bright, too full of hope. Yet, the Bard looked on pensively, wondering if the Soul Warrior knew this wasn’t a victory. It was merely a reprieve.

Falguni Kothari is a New York-based South Asian author and an amateur Latin and Ballroom dance silver medalist with a semi-professional background in Indian Classical dance. She’s published in India in contemporary romance with global e-book availability; Bootie and the Beast (Harlequin Mills and Boon) and It’s Your Move, Wordfreak! (Rupa & Co.), and launches a mythic fantasy series with Soul Warrior (The Age of Kali, #1)

I’m embarrassed to admit how many social media accounts I own:

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New Books on Blog Tour

I’d like to introduce everyone to two new books by fellow author Leta Hawk. These books are great reads in the spirit of Halloween, so check them out! Information about them is as follows:

Synopsis
Leta hawk the newbie
The Newbie Book 1
Kyrie Carter can’t believe her luck when she wins a spot on a paranormal investigation with celebrity ghost hunter Drac Petery and his heartthrob brother Gabe. As the investigation begins, her main obstacles are her unsupportive teammates and her lack of ghost hunting experience. Her biggest critic is the ruggedly handsome but enigmatic Spook Steele, who takes an instant and intense dislike to the newbie and seems determined to see her fail.
However, Kyr soon realizes that her flesh-and-blood rivals are the least of her worries. The investigation takes a dark turn when the team finds evidence of a decades-old murder mystery, and Kyr becomes the victim of the resident spirit’s violent attacks. The discovery of a family connection to the Berkeleys explains the spirit’s malevolence.
Will Kyr be able to help the Peterys unravel the mystery and put the Berkeley mansion spirits to rest, or will she become another victim of the house’s tragic history? And will she be able to sort out her romantic feelings for the off-limits Gabe and her growing but unwelcome attraction to Spook Steele?
Leta Hawk School Spirits
SCHOOL SPIRITS Book 2
In Book 2 of Leta Hawk’s Kyrie Carter Paranormal Mystery series, a paranormal investigation on the campus of Willow Lake College leads to the discovery of a decades-old murder mystery.
Kyrie Carter is thrilled to accompany her best friend JoEllyn to their alma mater, Willow Lake College, for a ghost hunt with the campus Paranormal Club. She is pleasantly surprised when celebrity ghost hunters Drac and Gabe Petery show up with their team. She is not so pleasantly surprised when her critical former teammate Spook Steele shows up with them.
What begins as a routine investigation into campus ghost stories soon turns dangerous as Kyr encounters a malicious spirit in the bell tower of Appleton Hall. Upon further investigation, the team learns that a suspicious fire had claimed the life of a female student in 1958. After Spook becomes a victim of a similar fire in the bell tower while investigating, he and Kyr begin to suspect they are dealing with more than a simple haunting.
Kyr and Spook put aside their differences and team up to piece together what happened in the bell tower. The mystery deepens as they discover that everyone—townspeople and campus administrators alike—seem determined to keep the truth hidden about the events of that night.
Purchase Links
The Newbie
Amazon
School Spirits
Amazon

What’s Wrong With Ole Miss?

USA, Mississippi State flag against sky

USA, Mississippi State flag against sky

It seems that Ole Miss has committed a serious infraction against their Code of Ethics by removing the state of Mississippi flag from university property. Here is the code as it was written two years ago:

2013 Mississippi Code
Title 37 – EDUCATION
Chapter 13 – CURRICULUM; SCHOOL YEAR AND ATTENDANCE
IN GENERAL
§ 37-13-5 –

Display of Mississippi and United States flags; course of study

Universal CitationMS Code § 37-13-5 (2013)

(1) The flag of the State of Mississippi and the flag of the United States shall be displayed in close proximity to the school building at all times during the hours of daylight when the school is in session when the weather will permit without damage to the flag. It shall be the duty of the board of trustees of the school district to provide for the flags and their display.

(2) Whenever the flag of the United States is to be flown at half-staff by order or instructions of the President or pursuant to federal law, all public schools shall lower the United States flag in accordance with the executive order or instructions or federal law. The school shall announce the reason that the flag is being flown at half-staff to all students in assembly or by teachers in the various classrooms or by prominently displaying written notice throughout the school stating the reason that the flag has been lowered.

(3) In all public schools there shall be given a course of study concerning the flag of the United States and the flag of the State of Mississippi. The course of study shall include the history of each flag and what they represent and the proper respect therefor. There also shall be taught in the public schools the duties and obligations of citizenship, patriotism, Americanism and respect for and obedience to law.

Although there might have been minor changes made, the code is basically the same.

(Thanks to The Southern Comfort, Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452, Sons of Confederates newsletter, volume 39, issue 11, November 2015.)

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