Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

28 October 2013

Introducing Celatu, hero of ICE MAGIC, FIRE MAGIC

As I've mentioned before, Hadley Rille Books will be publishing my fantasy novel Ice Magic, Fire Magic later this fall.

As a teaser,  DelSheree Gladden will be posting a letter from the hero, Celatu, to his aunt today at

This letter is not in the novel itself, but is a bonus for interested people. It will give you an idea of what Celatu values as well as a hint of the troubles facing the land of Veridia.


23 October 2013

Interview with novelist Vasant Davé

Today my guest is Vasant Davé, whose first novel, Trade Winds to Meluhha, is set in Bronze Age Mesopotamia and India.

Welcome, Vasant! I am so glad to meet someone else who is interested in writing about the world's most ancient civilizations in a historically accurate way.

Thank you for providing me this opportunity, Shauna. I am delighted to communicate with the readers of your blog.

How did you first hear of Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq)? Of Meluhha (ancient Indus River Valley)? What attracted you to these ancient civilizations?

Shauna, I'm embarrassed to admit that I was ignorant of Indus Valley civilization till I came to India for higher education. You see, my parents had migrated from India to East Africa before World War II. I was born and schooled in Kenya, where the focus of History was on the British Empire.

For a long time, I was under the impression that Indus Valley civilization had flourished only around the archaeological sites named Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, both of which are in Pakistan. Once, while on a holiday with my family, I visited the Government Museum at Chennai. As we came out, my attention was drawn by a booklet carrying black and white photographs. Entitled Lothal, it was written by S. R. Rao, a renowned Indian archaeologist. I was amazed to learn that Lothal was an Indus Valley civilization site located in India. However, more shocking was the fact that it was in Gujarat, the state in which I had been living for almost two decades.

The booklet mentioned that during the Bronze Age, ships from Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf called at Lothal. That's what triggered my interest in these two ancient civilizations.

Why did you choose to write accurately about Mesopotamia and Meluhha, when most novelists writing about these places have just made things up?

An author's approach depends on the type of readers s/he wishes to address. Some authors have connected the Indus Valley with the occult because they target an audience similar to the readers of Harry Potter. Others have connected it with Hindu mythology. They cater to the tastes of young IT-savvy Indians who have gleaned knowledge of the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata from commercial TV rather than from their grandparents as my generation did.

I wished to address those readers who enjoyed a feeling of travelling back in time while reading fiction based on Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Since Indus Valley culture existed during the same period in history, I thought I would succeed in catering to their taste.   

Did your training as an engineer have any influence on your novel or your approach to writing it?

Yes, I was naturally attracted to the Bronze Age “engineers” who did town planning, built ports (and forts), harvested rain water, built underground drainage, and used micro-tools to manufacture jewelry.

My training also motivated me to base the narrative on archaeological evidence. Once the manuscript was ready, I requested several professionals in the field for their opinion. Dr. Shereen Ratnagar, an expert on both of the ancient cultures, agreed to read it with a clear understanding that she would comment only on the veracity and plausibility of the past situation as constructed in it. Her suggestions made it necessary to rewrite substantial portions, but they helped tremendously to make Trade Winds to Meluhha believable.

Did growing up in Kenya or living as an adult in various places in Asia influence your perspective on the ancient world?

My birthplace, Mombasa, had two ports, old and new. Wooden lateen-sailed ships called dhows anchored at the Old Port. Utilizing the monsoon winds, they travelled between East Africa and Arabia. They held special attraction to me when I was a schoolboy.

During WWII, all expatriates in British East Africa sent their families to the countries of their origin. After the War, it was very difficult to book a ticket on the only steamship that plied between India and East Africa. In her hurry to get back home, my mother boarded a lateen-sailed dhow with my two elder sisters who were just kids at the time. Somewhere in the Indian Ocean, they faced a storm, and then the wind stopped blowing for several days, thus bringing the dhow to a standstill. My mother used to narrate the harrowing experience quite vividly.

When I related that incident with the reed ships travelling between Indus Valley and Mesopotamia, my respect grew for those ancient mariners.

What was your favorite part of writing Trade Winds to Meluhha?

It was the field research, during which I visited archaeological sites and museums. As I did so, many questions popped up in my mind. When I tried to find answers, I visualized new turns and twists that could be included in the plot.

Are there certain themes or topics you're drawn to as a writer?

Yes, I am drawn to the cultural heritage of the entire South Asian region, which has many useful things to give to the world. Take, for instance, the phonetic script. Each of the languages spoken in this region is written in a script that standardizes the representation of oral sounds.

Just imagine that if English were a phonetic script, words like “schedule” would be pronounced in the same way by the English and the Americans. How simple it would have been for Microsoft to convert e-books to audio books! It was comparatively recently that the International Phonetic Alphabet, the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, and the Americanist Phonetic Notation have addressed the issue.

The ancient South Asians who developed phonetic scripts ought to have been superintelligent. Therefore, I think it worth studying the archaeological remnants of their culture to create absorbing historical fiction.  

Do you have any advice for people who are working on their first novels?

Having written just one novel, I don't consider myself eligible to advise others working on their first novels. However, I'd share with them my experience and hope that it helps.

Having a clear idea about how I wanted my novel to end saved me a lot of time and effort. Initially I outlined the storyline in just fifty words or so. Then I went building upon it for several pages till I could split the contents under several chapter headings. Thereafter, each chapter started evolving, sometimes on its own momentum.

Your readers might like my e-booklet entitled How I Wrote a Pre-Historic Novel. It can be downloaded free from  

Do you have plans for another novel?

Yes, I wish to write another novel in which the action takes place in the Indus Valley and Ancient Egypt. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find adequate evidence of direct links between those two cultures.

Thank you, Vasant, for your time, and best wishes on your writing endeavors.

It's my pleasure, Shauna. I'd love to receive feedback from the esteemed readers of your blog.

You can learn more about Vasant Davé and Trade Winds to Meluhha by visiting his Website at His ebook is available online for Kindle at and for Nook at Barnes and Noble. For other options, visit

Vasant is having a blog tour this week. Please consider visiting his other stops and entering his contest, which is below his blog tour schedule.

Monday, 21 October

1.   Book Review at Momma Says Read A blog providing nontraditional book reviews.

2.   Book Review by Kalyan Panja at Paper Tree, a book blog from India. Kalyan is a working professional, an amateur photographer and an ardent traveler. His love for books is such that he treasures even those he read as a kid.

Tuesday, 22 October

1.   Book Review by author Nicua Shamira at Terraverum, a book blog from Australia. Shamira has one YA fantasy published as well as a collection of short stories, and two more novels in the works. Besides reading and writing, she loves archery, horse riding, travelling, and painting.

2.   Book Review & Promo at Books, Food and Me!, a blog that is a quirky take on books and food.

Wednesday, 23 October

1.   Interview here at

2.   Book Review by author Martin Lake from France. A prolific writer of Historical and YA Fiction and short stories, Martin is the author of The Lost King series. Winner of first prize in the Kenneth Grahame Society short story competition.

Thursday, 24 October

1.   Book Review by Raka Majumdar at Illuminati, a book blog from India. Raka wears two hats: advertising professional during the day and book reviewer at night.

2.   Interview by author J.D.R. Hawkins  Hawkins is one of the few women authors on the American Civil War, and her Renegade Series has won three awards, including the 2013 John Esten Cooke Fiction Award and the 2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion.

Friday, 25 October

1.   Book Review by Kavya Srinivasan at Crazy world, Crazy mind, a blog from India.

2.   Author Interview by Ashok Kumar at Sundry Rhymes, another blog from India.

Saturday, 26 October

1.   Promo by Kristin Plausky at Second Book to the Right Besides being an avid reader of fiction of all genres, Kristin is a lab technician and a Girl Scout leader.

2.   Book Review on Kitaab, a book blog from Singapore that focuses on Asian writing in English.

3.   Author Interview by Vinny at Books are my Best Friends, a book blog from India that reviews English and Bengali books. Vinny also moderates a YA readers' group on Goodreads.

Sunday, 27 October

1.   Author Interview by Sheri at Making Connections, a blog and Goodreads group of the same name run by eight readers and bloggers who are dedicated to helping new authors. They hail from the United States, Canada, and Pakistan.

2.   Book Review by Tanya Aneja, a book lover, on Books and Amazing Facts I have Read Tanya is a grade 8 student from New Delhi, India.

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20 October 2013

Why Walgreens now hassles you when you fill prescriptions (chronic illness series)

Some of the medicines I take are controlled substances, and the Rite-Aid near my house could not reliably obtain one of them. Two years ago, the pharmacist suggested taking that prescription to a different pharmacy so I wouldn't risk running out of needed medicine. So I started filling that prescription at a Walgreens several miles farther away. Things worked out well at first.

But recently I decided to stop going there. Even though I had been a regular customer, the pharmacist and his helpers began to look at me suspiciously and tell me to come back  in a couple days to pick the prescription up if the doctor approved it.

If? Why wouldn't the doctor approve a prescription he himself wrote? Why did I have to take another half hour plus out of my writing time to go back?

Then I noticed it wasn't just me arousing Walgreens' suspicions. As I waited in line one time, they grilled an elderly lady for several minutes and then refused outright to help her. Another time, they refused to fill a veteran's pain meds after giving him the third degree. The reason? He lived in the next town over.

Then I discovered that my friend, also named Shauna, had blogged about her own experiences with Walgreens' refusing to fill her prescriptions. (Read how Walgreens treated her here.) She switched pharmacies too.

The new hassles, it turns out, are part of Walgreens' new "Good Faith Dispensing" policy. The policy requires the pharmacist to contact your doctor when you bring in an Rx for a controlled substance or certain other meds and quiz you doctor to decide whether he or she made the right decision in prescribing the medicine for you.

Psychology Today recently posted an article on the new Walgreens policy called "Backlash Against Walgreens' Painkiller Crackdown" at  

The American Medical Association's House of Delegates adopted a resolution about drug store intrusion into medical practice. (Look for resolution 218 (A-13) at

Indiana television station WTHR investigated and discovered the secret rules governing whether Walgreens will hassle you and your doctor. Their report is here.

In short, if you have chronic pain or certain other chronic conditions, Walgreens intends to give you a hard time when you fill related prescriptions.

No other chain follows such policies, so if you have trouble with Walgreens, you can go to any other chain and expect to receive polite treatment and no delays in filling your prescription.

The American Academy of Pain Management is collecting reports from patients of problems they've had filling prescriptions at Walgreens. You can file a report at

The National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association is also collecting reports from people with chronic pain conditions including fibromyalgia. You can participate at


AUTHOR INTERVIEW: I interview Vasant Davé, author of Trade Winds to Meluhha, here Wednesday 23 October 2013. Come back then to learn about him and his novel set in ancient Mesopotamia and India.

10 October 2013

Ten important functions of sleep (part of the chronic illness series)

My fantasy novel Ice Magic, Fire Magic will be coming out late this fall. Read a brief bio of one of the characters, Kassia, today at Thank you, DelSheree!

Sleep is important for everyone, but good sleep and rest are especially important for people with chronic illnesses if they want to feel the best they can. Ironically, many people with chronic illnesses have trouble sleeping well.

I'm going to be writing several posts on sleep. I'm starting today with the basics, listing some of the important functions sleep serves. 

Researchers have much to learn about sleep, but experiments have shown that sleep is essential for survival. Animals deprived of sleep long enough die. Although scientists debate the functions of sleep, they do know that the body behaves differently when asleep:
  • It releases some important hormones mostly or only when you are asleep.
  • Most muscle growth and tissue repair happen during sleep.
  • The brain may consolidate new memories.
  • The brain may discard the useless information it accumulated during the day.

Compared with sleep-deprived animals and/or people, well-rested ones:
have immune systems that work better.
heal wounds faster.
have a better working memory.
solve problems more creatively.
are less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases.
have a lower risk of stroke.
may have a lower risk of some cancers.
may be less likely to develop osteoporosis.
may have fewer mood disorders.
have a long life expectancy on average.
look more healthy and attractive on average.
feel less hungry and so may be less likely to gain weight.
are less likely to crave junk food instead of healthy food.
feel less stressed on average.
have better judgement.
are more hopeful and friendly.
are less likely to be injured on the job.

In future blog posts, I'll cover why chronic illnesses interfere with sleeping, why the body needs both sleep and rest, prescription medications that interfere with sleep, foods and medicines that may help people fall asleep, sleep disorders, and behavioral changes that can help you sleep better.


02 October 2013

Coming soon, a contest for this month

More author interviews! In October, I'll be posting interviews with:
  • Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, who writes science fiction
  • Vasant Davé, who writes historical fiction set in the Bronze Age
In October, I'm also taking part in the "Meet the Characters Blogfest" along with many other authors. Instead of profiling authors, as is so often the case in blog events, this one profiles the authors' characters.

Throughout the month, DelSheree Gladden will be posting at her blog contributions from authors of young adult, new adult, romance, horror, and paranormal novels.

The authors will provide interviews with one or more characters in their books, biographies of characters, artwork, and other fun stuff. My own posts will feature characters from Ice Magic, Fire Magic, my forthcoming fantasy novel from Hadley Rille Books. On 10 October, there will be a biography of Kassia, one of the antagonists. I'll also be contributing a surprise post for 28 October that will feature IMFM's hero, Celatu.

The complete list of authors and dates is below.

If you scroll past the schedule of blog posts, you'll find a Rafflecopter contest that you can enter to win books. One grand prize winner will receive 40 books. Runners-up will receive books or other prizes.

Schedule of blog posts

10/2 -- Character interviews

Zadie Stonebrook (My Sister's Reaper - Dorothy Dreyer)
Tizzy Donovan (Laid Out and Candle Lit - Ann Everett)
Kristi Becker (A Plain Wish - Cyndi Lord)
Zander Roth (Wicked Hunger - DelSheree Gladden)

10/3 -- Character bios

Kristi Becker (A Plain Wish - Cyndi Lord)
Bryan Sullivan (Arcadia's Gift - Jesi Lea Ryan)
Brandon James (Love and Other Games - Aria Kane)

10/4 -- Hottest Guy Contest 

Stop by and vote for your favorite.

10/7 -- Character surprise posts from authors 
RH Ramsey
DelSheree Gladden

10/8 -- Character artwork
The Other F Word (Susan Stec)
Wicked Hunger (DelSheree Gladden) 

10/9 -- Character interviews

Kate Everett (A Slight Change of Plan - Dee Ernst)
Jean (In Polyester Pajamas - Catherine Dougherty)
Ben (Twenty-Five - Rachel Hamm)
Vanessa Roth (Wicked Hunger - DelSheree Gladden)

10/10 -- Character bios 

Kassia (Ice Magic, Fire Magic - Shauna Roberts)
Maze (The Ballerina and the Fighter - Ursula Sinclair)
Lucien (Smoke, Wings, and Stone - Marijon Braden)

10/11 -- Feistiest Girl Contest 
Stop by and vote for your favorite.

10/14 -- Character surprise posts from authors 
Kara Leigh Miller
Sharon Kleve
Linda Budzinski 

10/15 -- Character artwork

On a Wing and a Dare (Linda Ulleseit)
Invisible (DelSheree Gladden)

10/16 -- Character interviews
David Corbin and Jon Reyes (Sign of the Throne - Melissa Eskue Ousley)
Rosie (In Polyester Pajamas - Catherine Dougherty)
Ketchup (Wicked Hunger - DelSheree Gladden)

10/17 -- Character bios
Nadia (Love and Other Games - Melinda Dozier)
(Karen Rita Gastreich) 
(HL Carpenter)

10/18 -- Cutest Couple Contest 
Stop by and vote for your favorite.

10/21 -- Character surprise posts from authors 
Stephanie Wardrop
Lucy Crowe
Ana Blaze

10/22 -- Character artwork
Haunting Joy (Lena Goldfinch)
"The Destroyer Trilogy" (DelSheree Gladden)

10/23 -- Character interviews
Rachel Blackstone (The Reluctant Medium - G G Collins)
Nell (The King Series - Tawdra Kandle)
Arcadia ( Arcadia's Gift - Jesi Lea Ryan)
Olivia and Mason (Invisible - DelSheree Gladden)

10/24 -- Character bios

(Karin Rita Gastreich)
Sam and Cole (Fate War Alliance - E.M. Havens)

10/25 -- Steamiest Couple Contest 
Stop by and vote for your favorite.

10/28 -- Character surprise posts from authors 
Susan Stec
Shauna Roberts
Lisa Cresswell

10/29 -- Character artwork
My Sister's Reaper (Dorothy Dreyer)
Twin Souls (DelSheree Gladden)

10/30 -- Character interviews
Nathan Shaw (Reflection - Kim Cresswell)
Nia (In the Winds of Danger - Linda Ulleseit)
Jayden or Merch (Dark Night of the Soul - E.M. Havens)

10/31 -- Announcement of winners

a Rafflecopter giveaway

01 October 2013

Obamacare (part of my chronic illness series)

You can start signing up for Obamacare today at Despite the government shutdown, this site is active, at least for now.

If you are opposed to Obamacare for some reason, please read this blogpost by writer Kameron Hurley: Before Obamacare, and without Obamacare, something similar could happen to you or someone in your family or one of your friends.