In conversation with Bragadeesh Prasanna: Author of ‘Waterboarding’

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Question: What inspired you to choose the title of your novel and how is it connected to the narrative of amnesia of the protagonist in the story?

Bragadeesh Prasanna: Thank you for such an insightful question. Waterboarding, as you know, is a torture technique in which the victim is subjected to water treatment with a towel or damp cloth in his face. While the body knows it is not drowning, the mind tells that they are drowning. The torture technique depends on the thin strand of time between hope and hopelessness. A space where it is dying and not. Most people’s life flash before their eyes in that time inbetween.

The protagonist and the other two main characters of the novel, metaphorically go through this in-between time where they are hopeful of their future at one point of time only to be go hopeless in others. The novel talks about such self inflicted tortures people go through their life because of the choices they make. The lead character Ved suffers from traumatic amnesia where he had no recollection of major chunk of his life. He is caught in between the hope of the future and the weight of his past which, whether he like it or not, impacts his present and possibly his future. Sara, Ved’s best friend had been waiting for so long for Ved to see her true feelings for him. When she had given up this accident and Ved’s amnesia gives her a hope to start their relationship afresh. She does all she could to reshape his past to fit her narrative she is feeding to Ved. But her conscious keeps gnawing her whether what she does is morally correct or not. Even when things are going well for her, she is afraid of an impending doom. The third character Maya, also goes through such phase where she couldn’t understand Ved’s feeling for her and his trust issues. She grew up in a Tier-2 town with nobody to care for her. She clings on to Ved as he gives her his full attention. While she gets that from him, she wonders whether if that is all she needs from Ved.

The amnesia is a metaphor to the fast moving life of our times. People are getting very comfortable to hide their feelings than tell it aloud. These hidden feelings are forgotten after a while. But the feelings they felt before has impact on their present and future selves. This story is the struggle of these three characters trying to take off the wet towel off their faces and to stop torturing themselves. Whether they succeed or not forms the crux of the story.
Hope I have given a satisfactory answer. We, writers are encouraged by such insightful thought process of the readers. We write in hope to find such minds which resonates with our thoughts and concept. Thanks for being a diligent reader. You are doing the world of literature a great good.

‘Darkness There But Something More’: Up, Close and Personal With the Two Editors Dr. Santosh Bakaya and Lopa Banerjee

In conversation with the two prolific authors and editors of the ghost story anthology ‘Darkness There But Something More’, Dr. Santosh Bakaya and Lopamudra Banerjee (yours truly). The book has recently been published by The Blue Pencil and is available in Amazon and Flipkart.
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Sharing some excerpts from the interview:

As for me, I always seemed to have a keen interest in the esoteric and the unknown, the mysterious, and my background in literature and also avid interest in films portraying the other world have only fueled this interest. The enigma of the world beneath the mundane flesh-and-blood world has intrigued me to no ends. Be it the dark, murky world of the three witches, Banquo’s ghost in Shakespeare’s Macbeth or the sombre, haunting spirit world of the Mughal times and the captivating, mysterious woman in Tagore’s Ksudhito Pashan (The Hungry Stone), the exploration of the other-worldly has filled me with an insatiable awe and wonder that has been hard to resist since my college days.
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Be it in the Veda or in the scriptures of our ancient culture, it has always been propagated that we are not only flesh and bones and our ‘Atma’, the greater consciousness, that never perishes, is a vital driving force of nature. So as a conscious exercise, I always ask myself what happens to us after we exit the physical world. Though I have known there are quite a few schools of thoughts regarding out of the body experiences, the paranormal and the supernatural, one contradicting the other, the thought that there is a realm engulfed in mystery and speculation and will remain like that for many, many years, gives me goosebumps.

It is this ongoing quest in my mind that resonated with the infectious vigour of Dr. Santosh Bakaya in narrating her own ghost story The Boulder and in curating mind-blowing stories infested with other-worldly beings, and thus, gradually, organically, our book ‘Darkness There But Something More’ took shape. While trudging the road, I also happened to pen my own story in the collection, which came to me rather unexpectedly, as it is actually my first short story written about the spirit world.

Do read the full interview here, friends:

https://learningandcreativity.com/santosh-bakaya-lopa-banerjee-interview-darkness-there-ghost-anthology/

Guest Post: Interview with De. B. Dubois

“Who is the brown woman? How does she live defined almost solely by her skin colour and all the history it carries? How do we carry racism deep within us even when we think we don’t? These are questions that require deep thought and reflection, and that’s what Otherness encourages us to do. In a world increasingly divided along the lines of colour, despite its apparent modernity, here’s a hard look at the realities that lurk within us, both as individuals and as a society.” Otherness

Thus goes the blurb of the recently released book ‘Othernees: Souls of Brown Women’ by author De. B. Dubois. In a brief chat via email, she explained to me the overarching theme of her book and also the social construct regarding skin color and a woman’s identity.

Lopa Banerjee: What, according to you, is ‘the woman of color’? How would you define it in terms of the societal construct, in terms of the realities we see around us? And most importantly, how did it affect you as the author of this book?

De. B. Dubois: According to me, and for the topic of the book “Otherness”, the (textbook) definition of “Women of color” (singular: woman of colour, sometimes abbreviated as WOC) is a phrase used to describe female persons of colour. The term is used to represent all women of non-white heritage, often with regard to oppression, systemic racism, or racial bias.
In the preface, I have mentioned that “Otherness” is an appropriation of William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois’: The Souls of Black Folk. This book “Otherness” is written from my perspective as a student of sociology, design culture, design research and art, during my Master thesis (research work done on “Perception of Beauty”), where I was examining Eastern and Western print advertisements and how these visuals sub-consciously constructs and constricts our perception of good and evil. For example, if you see a film – any given film – the protagonist is visually represented as someone beautiful compared to the antagonist. Often times, terms such as “ugly”, “dark”, “dirty” and “brown” are associated with either the way the antagonist looks like, or the way the antagonist behaves. Sub-consciously we are allowing visual media to tell us what is to be considered clean (white), dirty (brown), and evil (black). This colour signification is very complex and has been thrown at our sub-conscious through centuries of artwork, literature, religion et al. And the problem of colour is far more devastating in terms of iconoclasm than any other problem – to the point that it white washes any coloured existence. Shockingly, as coloured people, we tend to idolise whiteness at some point.
So, if I have to define the societal construct in terms of the realities we see around us, simply, it would be this: “They don’t like you. They don’t dislike you. You are different. Sooner or later the difference scares people.”

As an Indian Bengali, I am no white person. I might be tall, I might be “paler” than the average Indian, I might even speak three European languages – but visibly I am Brown. Therefore I stand with not just first hand experience of this:“They don’t like you. They don’t dislike you. You are different. Sooner or later the difference scares people.” but also as a witness to other brown-women around me. Especially the ones who were adopted as a baby, and only know the West as their home, and culture; when I get to hear these brown women (my friends who are perfectly integrated within these “white countries” – growing up as a western children with non-coloured parents), phrases such as: “I wish I was fair like you…” – it effects me on a level that simply cannot be expressed in words.

To find out more about author De. B. Dubois and her books, do visit her Goodreads page:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16194571.De_B_Dubois

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Interviewing Deepti Menon: Author of Shadow in the Mirror

Deepti Menon is the author of two books, Arms and the Woman and Deeparadhana. She has worked as a journalist with several publications and is now a freelance editor. Short stories with deft twists and tongue-in-cheek articles that tickle the funny bone are her forte. Deepti lives with her family in Chennai. In this heart-to-heart interview, she talks about her recently released novel, a gripping psychological thriller Shadow in the Mirror, published by Readomania.

 

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cover of Shadow in the Mirror

Me: Deepti, a very intriguing book it seems from the cover. What would you say is the significance of the title of your book, ‘Shadow in the Mirror’?
DM: Thank you, Lopa! My book, Shadow in the Mirror, talks about the chasm between real life and fantasy. The mirror always tells you the truth, never the fiction, and hence, it can either be your truest friend or your greatest enemy.
Me: Would you say the woman protagonist of the novel is rather vulnerable, a victim of her destiny or does she try to fight back against her trauma/obstacles?
DM: I have a number of women protagonists in my novel. Each one lives her own life, as do we all, facing obstacles and rising above them. My main protagonist is very much a victim of her destiny, and trapped in a web. The others strive to rise above and fight back, and actually succeed in their attempts.
Me: From the blurb, it seems there are some interconnected stories of women tied to the main story of the protagonist Nita. Does that make the novel more heavy and complex or do all these strands of the narrative work together to bring out some elemental truth of human nature?
DM: I have striven not to make my novel heavy through my style of writing, and through the genre that I have chosen. I believe that all the strands of the narrative have been woven together to create a complex tapestry that is thrilling, and yet, an easy read.
Me: Since this novel falls into the category of mystery/thriller, who would you say has been your inspiration in writing a thriller? Is it more influenced by Agatha Christie’s style of writing or more contemporary in its feel and tone?
DM: Agatha Christie has been a great influence in my growing years, and the one lesson that I have imbibed from her books is to keep my narrative and dialogues light enough to sustain the interest of the readers. This does not take away from the gravity of the theme, in any way. The book is a blend of the traditional and the modern, both in its feeling and tone. deepti_author
Me: I have read in one of your interviews that this book took 12 years in its making. How have these 12 years prepared you to eventually publish this thriller novel? Has it been a slow, organic journey or a roller-coaster ride for you? What have been the epiphanies for you?
DM: This book did take twelve years in the making. Over the years, even as I rewrote and honed my manuscript, I was doing many other creative things as well. So you could call it a slow, organic journey, in a way.
The rollercoaster began once Readomania accepted the book for publication, and the actual work of publication began. Epiphanies were aplenty… the first time I visualized my book in its complete avatar, that moment when Dipankar Mukherjee accepted my manuscript, and finally, when I realized that all the changes that I had made with the help of my editor, Vaijyanti Ghosh, had helped to streamline and embellish the story that I had always wanted to write.
Thank you so much for your wonderful questions, Lopa. I enjoyed answering them.
Me: You are most welcome, Deepti! Wish you all success with this book and all your future projects.

Interview with Usha Narayanan, Author Of ‘The Secret of God’s Son’

Usha Narayanan had a successful career in advertising, radio and corporate communications before becoming a full-time writer. She is the author of several books including The Madras Mangler, a suspense thriller and Love, Lies and Layoffs, a lighthearted office romance. The Secret of God’s Son is the sequel to her bestselling book Pradyumna: Son of Krishna which was published in 2015.

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The cover of ‘The Secret Of God’s Sun’

In this heart-to-heart conversation with the author, we talk about the protagonist Pradyumna, the son of Lord Krishna in her novels, ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ and ‘The Secret of God’s Son’, and other fascinating details about the theme, characterization and juxtaposition of the human and the divine that characterizes her literary work.

Lopa Banerjee: The title of the novel itself appears very intriguing to me. I would love to know what compelled you to make Pradyumna the protagonist of both your novels ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ and ‘The Secret of God’s Son’ and what came to your mind when you took up the task of writing this entire series based on his life choices?

Usha Narayanan: What inspired me was the thrill of discovering an unknown hero and the excitement of unearthing colourful tales woven around a son of Krishna. While the Mahabharata and the Harivamsa both have Krishna as the focal point, there is a wide difference in their tone and manner. The first focuses almost entirely on the human story, specifically the war between the Kurus and the Pandavas. But the puranas roam unhindered through heaven, earth and the netherworld, bringing us vivid stories of gods and demons, asuras and gandharvas. Pradyumna and his wife Maya are depicted as belonging more to this fantastical world and their lives provide more vibrant material for a fantasy. The paradox of his being both human and divine engaged my attention, as well as the possibility of exploring whether these two levels can ever meet.
Lopa Banerjee:  Your novel ‘Pradyumna’ is the mythic tale of the protagonist who endured much pain in love, which is not highlighted or mentioned much in the epic Mahabharata. When you wrote the sequel, did this same pursuit of delving into the mystery of a minor character of the epic haunt you? Can you share some of your feelings regarding this?

Usha Narayanan: The greatest love stories are tragic, often ending with the death of the protagonist and his beloved. Their path is strewn with obstacles that defy every attempt to surmount them. In the case of Pradyumna and Maya too, I could perceive many hurdles and decided to write their story using my own imagination. Maya, who is Rati reborn, awaits the rebirth of her beloved Kama, burned to ashes by Shiva for executing his duty. Rati prays ceaselessly to the gods and finally wrests a promise that Kama will be reborn as the son of Rukmini and Krishna. When Pradyumna is born, he is snatched by an asura and brought up by the asura’s wife Maya who plays the role of his foster mother. He is unaware of his original form or that he is the son of the Blue God. She frets and fumes as she tries to mould the dissolute prince into a warrior. When the truth is revealed, Pradyumna refuses to accept her as he still looks upon her as his mother. She is older than him too and the wife of the asura emperor. How this love story would develop was something that intrigued me and set my creative juices flowing.

As for the sequel, much of it is fictionalized. I followed what seemed to me the natural trajectory of their lives and their love. Now, when I read the initial reviews coming in, I am happy to see that my readers are just as thrilled with their story as I was.

Lopa Banerjee: What role did the epic Mahabharata play when you embarked on the journey of this novel? How much of the depiction is sourced from the epic and how much of it is fictionalized?

Usha Narayanan: As far as I know, Pradyumna is mentioned only a couple of times in the Mahabharata and Maya not at all. So there was not much that I could take from the epic, except for using the Kurukshetra War as a backdrop. ‘The Secret of God’s Son’ has a little more from the Mahabharata, specifically Draupadi’s vastraharan and the story of Duryodhana’s noble brother Vikarna. Of course Gandhari, the Kuru queen, plays a major role in my book as it is her curse that goads Pradyumna to undertake his  journey to Kailasa and Yamaloka. My challenge was to make the fictional sections appear to be a natural extension of our epics.

Lopa Banerjee: Does the novel also focus on the father-son dynamics between Lord Krishna and Pradyumna and their collective journey in the terrifying realm where the protagonist Pradyumna finds himself? What would you say is the foundation of this epic depiction?

Usha Narayanan: Imagine the delight and the terror you would experience if you suddenly discovered that you were the son of Vishnu’s avatar! When Pradyumna finds out this truth, he defeats and kills the tyrannical asura in whose kingdom he lives and makes his way to Dwaraka to meet his godly parents. He strives to make himself worthy of Krishna, spending every moment that he can at his feet, partaking of his wisdom. Even when he is elsewhere or in later years when Krishna leaves the earth, his father still remains his focus and his inspiration. We see Krishna too sharing deep truths with his son, knowing well that his son must continue his mission after him. The avatar shapes Pradyumna into the ultimate warrior in the cause of righteousness and an ideal purusha. We see the human side of Krishna in his interactions with his sons, his grandsons Aniruddha and Ajaya and his great grandson Vajra.

There is no foundation as such for my depiction of these relationships. I have merely followed the tradition of bards handing down stories to the next generation, along with their own flourishes!
Lopa Banerjee: The mythology sub-genre in Indian Writing in English is making major headway in the fiction publishing world. What do you think makes a mythological fiction enduring and remarkable to readers?

Usha Narayanan: Myths have a universal appeal that is not limited to India. Rick Riordan says, ‘They’ve got everything you could possibly want…mystery, treachery, murder, loyalty, romance, magic, monsters.’ The gods experience the same emotions that we do. They are jealous or greedy and do foolish things due to lust and anger. We see ourselves in them and wonder how we can attain their lofty world. Myths also bring us eternal truths wrapped up in exciting tales brimming with action, romance and divinity.

In India, we have a rich treasury of puranas that we have lost touch with, as we can no longer read them in the original Sanskrit. The old system of joint families where grandmothers told children tales of devas and asuras over dinner has become rare. When we extol superheroes like Batman or Superman, why not discover our own heroes ― be it Krishna or Pradyumna, Rama or Hanuman, Draupadi or Maya? As long as the telling is fresh and interesting, the characters are unfamiliar or looked at from a different angle, these stories will continue to charm readers aged eight to eighty.
Lopa: Wish you all success with the book, Usha Narayanan jee!

Usha Narayanan: Thank you so much, Lopa, for your original and imaginative questions. It was a delightful experience answering them. I look forward to more such interactions with you and with readers of your blog.

The ‘The Secret of God’s Son’ is available on Amazon.com:

https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Gods-Son-Usha-Narayanan/dp/0143424173/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473379617&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Secret+of+god%27s+son

Interviewing Varsha Dixit: author of ‘Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right’

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Varsha Dixit is the bestselling author of contemporary romance. ‘Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right’ her latest book released in August 2016. To find out more about Varsha and her books visit her website http://www.varshadixit.com.

Twitter: @Varsha20

It was a pleasure and honor to interview her as a new member of The Book Club, hosted by the prolific blogger and author Rubina Ramesh. To know more about TBC, log on to: http://www.tbcblogtours.com/

Lopa Banerjee: Hello Varsha, very nice to know about your upcoming book ‘Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right’. It would be my pleasure to ask you a few questions regarding the theme, title and other aspects of this novel.

The title of the book “Rightfully Wrong, Wrongfully Right” appears to be very intriguing and smells of quite a bit of suspense too. What made you choose this one, and what can the readers expect from the novel?
Varsha Dixit: Thank you Lopa for asking an interesting question. The title is apt for the protagonists, Gayatri Dutta and Viraj Dheer.  They both sometimes have right reasons for committing wrong acts but somehow their wrongs make them so right for each other. The book is a love story but this time the love is steamy, bold and manipulative.
Lopa Banerjee: How would you define the two protagonists of the novel, Viraj and Gayatri? Is this book a journey of their exploration of each other, and the conflicting realities they face on the way?

Varsha Dixit: Gayatri Dutta and Viraj Dheer, are feisty, strong headed and very determined. Gayatri Dutta, a rich, spoiled diva, is fighting to establish herself even as her tyrant father pushes her into a life not of her choice. Viraj is a genius and a con who shuns society and its hypocrisies. Gayatri sees Viraj only as a means to an end. For Viraj, Gayatri is the epitome of all that he despises. So when their paths cross, it is a battle of wills, desire and sparks shoot off.
Lopa Banerjee: What do you think about contemporary romance novels, romantic thrillers, and the sexy, haunting variety of romantic tales? Do you think your book RWWR conveys a strong tale, pertaining to these categories of fiction? If yes, what would you say is the USP of the book?

Varsha Dixit: My stories probably vary from others books in the romance genre for my stories are not only about romance. They are about friendships, about families and about society. My stories are a genuine effort, on my part, to provide the milieu of readers, young and old, with a humorous read, without overlooking the intelligence and thinking quotient of our personalities. The USP of Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right are the protagonists. They are not sweet, simpering or wholly good. Often they come on the wrong side of right. J
Lopa Banerjee: How is the story/the narrative journey in your latest book different from your two earlier bestsellers, Right Fit Wrong Shoe and Wrong Means Right End? How do you think you have evolved in your storytelling, post the publications of these two books, and how would you describe your writing journey keeping in mind these bestsellers?

Varsha Dixit: Friendships have always played a very important role in my life and continue to do so. Friends are the family we choose and I have to say I chose well. My ‘Right and Wrong’ series is about three friends, three different women in three different phases of their lives. ‘Right Fit Wrong Shoe’ was about a small town simple girl, ‘Wrong Means Right End’ was about a divorced young mom and ‘Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right’ is about Gayatri Dutta, the woman who has gone out of her way to mess up other people’s life. Now it is the reader’s turn to know the ‘how’ and ‘why’ about Gayatri and the mad scientist, Viraj Dheer.
Lopa Banerjee: Do you believe in happy endings when you pen romance novels, or would you be ready to experiment with a more shady, somber finale for your novels? Why do you think happy endings work most with the audience, and are you comfortable with the trend?

Varsha Dixit: I like happy endings for my characters. If I were to describe myself, I would say I have a pretty sunny disposition so that makes it even harder for me to write bleak plots. In my second book, Xcess Baggage , I kept the ending a cliffhanger – the gal and the guy did not meet. To this day, six years later, my readers write to me extremely upset and sad that Meghna and Byron did not meet. How could I leave them separated? It was cruel on my part etec. So I think post that I just find it easier to sleep if my characters have a HEA (happily every after).

Also, for romance genre happy endings usually work for they bring a positive closure to the readers. They are like comfort food, they make the readers feel good from inside.

Thank you Lopa for hosting me on your blog and for asking such interesting questions.

 

 

Featuring Nebraska-based award winning author Lisa Knopp and her latest book ‘What the River Carries’

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The cover page of Lisa Knopp’s latest book ‘What the River Carries’. Pic courtesy: Amazon.com

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates

Since my early initiation into the world of books and writers, I have believed that both writing a book and unfolding its myriad mysteries by reading it are solitary pursuits. At the same time, I have to acknowledge that as I went on with this pursuit, this journey myself, I came to discover that while reading every new book, I somehow became one with the psychological, spiritual journey of the author himself. As a young reader fresh out of college, I still remember how passionately I used to read the classic English as well as regional novels, short stories and other works in prose, while the fictional world created by the authors used to sweep me away in so much charm and stupor that it became an alternate world where I could see myself inhabiting easily, effortlessly. I guess what resonated with me in that charmed state, like billions of other readers, was that the work was a projected reality born out of the writer’s faith, conviction and vision of life.

I had been initiated into the world of nonfiction, memoirs and autobiography a little later in life. While exploring the world of nonfiction writing, I had been more compelled to understand or grasp the spiritual journey of the authors, the challenges and the incentives of crafting moments, experiences of their own lives that mattered to them and the readers. The nonfiction works that I found most appealing during this period were quite vast and varied in their content and scope. My readings included the wide gamut of autobiographical nonfiction writing, memoir writing and creative or literary nonfiction writing like ‘The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass’, the seething document of Douglass’ life and struggles in a white-dominated America or ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ and other memoirs by Maya Angelou, chronicling her own life’s journey. At the same time, I have been intrigued by the experimental narratives and the unmatched prowess of storytelling by modern essayists including Joe Ann Beard, Joan Didion, Anne Lamott, among others.

For quite some time, while being a graduate student engaged in reading and writing creative nonfiction, the thought of writing book reviews and conducting author interviews was pressing me. I was intrigued by the idea of unraveling some of the great, unknown moments of epiphany which transpired in the mind of an author while in the process of creating a particular nonfiction work. I did previously interview award-winning fiction writer Patricia McCormick about her two acclaimed novels, which were written as works of fiction, but were based out of some real-life experiences the writer was part of. While starting to talk to Nebraska-based award winning author and essayist Dr. Lisa Knopp, who also happens to be my thesis adviser, about her latest collection of personal essays, ‘What the River Carries: Encounters with Mississippi, Missouri and Platte’, I discovered that her spiritual journey with the book has been as much enriching, awe-inspiring and gratifying as that of a writer of fiction. What I was looking for while trying to understand her journey with the book was, how much did the subject matter of the three rivers appeal to her metaphorically, and how did her personal narrative and the greater truths of the Midwestern American landscape and its ecology fit into that metaphor.

While working with Dr. Knopp step-by-step into knowing the answers to these and much more, it was an enriching learning experience for me as a reader as I attempted to understand her own creative process, her unique, innovative way of exploring truths about her physical surroundings and how they merged with the truths of her own life.

You can read the full review of the book here:

http://www.prairiefirenewspaper.com/2013/08/book-review-what-the-river-carries-encounters-with-the-mississippi-missouri-and-platte-by-lisa-knopp

Read on here to find out what Dr. Lisa Knopp herself has to say about my review in her website:

http://www.lisaknopp.com/home/2013/8/7/reviews-in-prairie-fire-and-nebraskaland.html

In near future, I wish to be part of more spiritual journeys of authors in the same way, while discussing their rich, multi-layered experiences that have been instrumental in shaping the books, being one with them in treasured moments in time.