My post on the Asian Books Blog: Indie Spotlight – Malika Gandhi

I’M REPRODUCING THE POST AS IT APPEARS IN THE Asian Books Blog

Malika Gandhi was born in Mumbai, and writes historical fiction making cross-cultural connections.

Malika Gandhi

Can you tell me something about your debut novel, Freedom of the Monsoon?

The novel is set during the struggle for independence: the British Raj needs to go and the Indians must have their country back. It lets readers re-live the determination of Indians fighting against the British, by following five individuals as they face fear, love, sacrifice and hate.  

FREEDOM OF THE MONSOON COVER

Although I was born in India, I grew up and still live in England. I regretted the way the story of India’s independence was usually discussed in Britain. Britons know about the Quit India movement, and Mahatma Gandhi; they read about politics, about the leaders, and perhaps a little bit about the thousands who became victims during Partition.  But rarely do they consider the dangers, sacrifice, hopes, and fears of the Indian people during the Independence era.Freedom of the Monsoon does exactly this; it tells the story of people, whose lives changed when Quit India was called by Gandhi. I wanted to write about Independence through the eyes of Indians, and to bring this piece of history to life to memorialise generations gone, and to inspire those to come.

You mentioned you were born in India, but grew up in England. How has your background affected your writing?

I don’t know where my roots lie, as although my parents are both Indian, they grew up on two different continents. My mother was born and brought up in a remote Indian village, my father was born and brought up in Kenya. And you already know about me.

As a young schoolgirl, I once wrote a story as instructed by my teacher. My Indian heritage showed up from then, as I chose to write about animals that lived in an Indian desert whose water hole dried up. The lead was a monkey called Manglu! That story was the beginning of my dream to become an author.

Now, as an adult, I base my stories in England and India. I believe I have the advantage of both cultures, and so I am able to write from both points of view. In my stories, I am able to capture the essence of Indian life and culture, and can replay the typical banter and beliefs of Gujarati people. Whether we are Jain or Hindu, we have many gods and festivals, and our food is very colourful! Readers have enjoyed reading about the foods I describe.

What have you written since publishing Freedom of the Monsoon?

I followed up with two other books, based in India and England:Where the Secret Lies, and Lost Soul.

Haveli Lost Soul cover

Where the Secret Lies is about a girl from the present who meets a girl from the past. Arianna is from the present time and lives in London. Anjali is from the 1940s and is running away from murderers during Partition. The two girls are related but how?

Lost Soul is about a spirit who is seeking forgiveness for a crime that wasn’t her fault. This story is also set in the past and present and we follow two stories that tell us about her life before her premature death and beyond.

What do you have in the pipeline?

I have a series called The Scattered Ashes, which is a set of five short stories based on characters taken from Freedom of the Monsoon: Rakesh, Dev, Pooja, Amit, and Sunil. In these stories, readers will find out a bit more about them and about their lives.

Scattered Ashes 3D cover

Another book which is burning slowly in my mind I’ve given the working title Road Trip – a contemporary story about an Indian girl and an English boy travelling to Scotland together. How did they meet, what will happen on the road trip, and will they fall in love?

How can readers connect with you?

I’m offering a free book of their choice to readers who subscribe to my mailing list, click here. Links to my other social media places:

The Monsoon Writer

Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

It was a pleasure for me to interview Malika for the Asian Books Blog and I wish her every success with her writing.

My Monday guest, Jo Rodrigues, and his secret to writing

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Jo Rodrigues to my blog today. According to his bio, Jo was born in 1969 and is believed to be human — although, there is no conclusive evidence! He proceeded to interpret and analyse the world around him, but never quite grew up.

He was told at an early age he could not write so he did anyway. He claims that he can follow the plot of your average dictionary but further admits that he does have an odd sense of humour.

He is an architect, amongst other things, and currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa. Toffee, the neighbour’s cat, brings him fresh kitty allergies every day!

For a longer biography please visit http://jorodrigues.com/bio/

I met Jo earlier this year on Facebook and, after several chats, now count him as a friend. Welcome! It’s great to have you here, Jo. Tell us about yourself and your secret to writing!

Jo Rodrigues Portrait

Jo Rodrigues Portrait

I lead a quiet life. I really do, and most often, my car’s battery is flat. When I do venture out of my cave and I am amongst polite company, I’m often asked what I do for a living. The answer is simple: I write full-time, and I help other authors with their covers, editing, and formatting to pay the bills.

Inevitably, I get the wide-eyed, awe-inspired look. For a split second, I am that person’s rock star. I must confess that I do feel both uncomfortable and a sense of wellbeing. Very soon, conversation weaves around to the topics that I write about, and how many books I have completed. This is important to people, of course, as it leads to credibility. Yes, I know, it is silly, but it is so nevertheless.

I don’t like to talk about my books to be honest. In some respects, the conversation bores me, but I know that the interest is genuine, and if I hope to gain a new fan, I must be enthusiastic. I write, live, and edit my books for a lengthy period of time. You can say that I’ve overdosed on my latest book. You must understand that I’m not bored with writing — I’m just tired of selling.

Invariably, the conversation takes a new direction and the person may tell me that he or she has a book to write — when they get the time, of course. I’m often asked for advice, as it makes sense to ask a person about a subject that he or she is au fait with, not so? It would make little sense to ask a baker how to weld a refrigerator together.

My answer is always the same: write! Naturally, I always get a rather disappointed look, and there is a part of me that gets a certain perverse pleasure in these moments. It cannot be! It cannot possibly be that simple! It can be, and it is indeed, that simple. It is not easy, but it is that simple.

Many people expect me to expound on the mysteries that make a great author successful, but honestly, no one really knows. What I do know is that you must write. Write regularly, and write prolifically. The more you write, the more is written, and the better a writer you become. The latter is not a given, of course. To become a better writer, you must learn and grow. Some writers merely continue writing the same old drivel without variation or pause.

So why must you write? The most obvious reason is so that there is something for people to read. You may have a book in your head, but unless you commit it to the written word, no one else can read it. There is no better time to write than right now, today, this minute, and in this very inspiration. As soon as you finish reading this article, go write something. That is how you become a writer, and eventually an author.

Another fundamental reason to write is so you can ‘learn’ to write. Understandably, we all know our ABCs, and that we should make correct use of punctuation, but we only know how effectively we convey our stories once we write them down. Any writer who takes his or her craft seriously must ask this basic question: Does this make any sense to someone else? If not, how can I rewrite it so that it does?

Your writing is not something venerable to be put on a pedestal. As a writer, you are intellectually and emotionally entangled in your own work. The most important lesson to be learnt is that we do not actually read our own writing. We ‘know’ what we have written and therefore we tend to gloss over the words. After all, we wrote them, didn’t we? The mind tends to get bored with this tedious task because it’s like watching the same television episode repeatedly for months on end.

Since we are not impartial, or capable of reading with a fresh eye, we need to get someone else to read it. Human beings do have their uses, after all. You don’t need an editor to tell you that a sentence or section makes no sense. Perhaps you forgot some punctuation, or even entire sentences that still feature in your brain, but that you failed to write down at the time. When someone reads what you have written for the first time, he or she is trying to make sense of what is being presented. If it’s incoherent, the person is going to tell you precisely where it falls apart. Now, you can rewrite your sentences from a new perspective.

If you live isolated in a cave like me, you may not have many people on hand to test your prose. In this case, I strongly urge you to get a telephone cable connected. You will discover the whole World Wide Web out there. Make friends and bounce ideas around. Failing that, simply leave what you have written for long enough until it reads afresh.

As with any other discipline, practice makes you nuts, but it brings you one step closer to perfection. You may never achieve perfection, but it’s in the striving that you grow, and develop your mastery. A concert pianist does not become thus by lying on the couch dreaming of treble clefts. He excels by spending untold hours tickling, pounding, and caressing the ivories of a keyboard.

What else will help a motivated writer on his or her path? Read copiously because it will lead to the evolution of your penmanship, especially if you read works on the art of prose and grammar. Abusing creative licence and breaking basic rules are the ignorant tools of a lazy writer. When you comprehend the basics of the English language, you will understand that there is nothing creative in breaking the rules with little effect. You merely look illiterate.

In closing, let me leave you with a final word of advice: write! 

Jo 1Jo 2Jo 3Jo 5Thumb-6-BermudaPhoenix

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Thanks for your contribution, Jo. It’s been a pleasure to host you on my blog and I wish you every success with your writing.

A Sexy Saturday Spotlight with Siobhan Daiko!

Today, I’m delighted to be the guest of the Write Romantics. Thanks for having me, ladies!

thewriteromantics

We are delighted to welcome good friend of the Write Romantics, Siobhan Daiko back on the blog today, to tell us what has been Siobhan 3happening since the release of her first fantastic five-star novella in the Fragrant Courtesans series, which we’ve been thrilled to see hit some of the Amazon bestseller charts. Over to you, Siobhan.

It’s a real pleasure to be a guest of the Write Romantics this Saturday. Thanks for having me back again!

Teaser #5I’d like to introduce you to Veronica, a high-class sex worker in 16th Century Venice. Known as courtesans, these gifted ladies of the night were well-educated and highly sought-after. They were trained, usually by their mothers, not just to have sex but also to entertain their patrons by singing, playing music, dancing, and witty conversation. I came across them when I was researching my romantic historical novel Lady of Asolo. My fantastic…

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My Monday guest – Jan Ruth, author of “Wild, Dark and Silent” books.

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Jan Ruth back to my blog today. Jan was my guest last December, when we talked about her Christmas short stories and she announced her publishing contract with Accent Press. You can read all about her on her Amazon Author Page. Welcome, Jan. Lovely to chat with you again. Please tell us about your latest Accent release!

The close of July heralds the re-release of WILD WATER. 

wild-water

Although this is the second title Accent Press have released, it’s actually my first novel, a book which has endured the longest journey of all to arrive fully polished and published. It began as a humble paper copy – remember those? – and went through several transformations before arriving in a much less frazzled state.

This is the story of Jack Redman, the wronged alpha male who’s trying to make the best decisions for his family but more often than not, gets kicked in the teeth. How often we read novels in the contemporary genres which consistently root for the female character – nothing wrong with a strong woman of course – but no one seemed to be telling these stories from the male viewpoint, at least not twenty years ago when I began my quest. Divorce still seems heavily weighted towards the partner with the children, and the mother is usually awarded custody unless there are extenuating circumstances which can be proved. Most of the time this is all well and good, but there are a great number of cases where our ancient system is fully exploited. Sadly, a lot of the initial storyline was prompted by real-life experience but there’s no better starting point than this for fiction in the family-saga genre. Jack Redman is a victim not only of the court system injustices but of its inability to deal with the speed and complications of contemporary family life.

The Wild Water series is strongly rooted in Conwy, a medieval town in North Wales. In the main I’ve used real places, and I do love the mix of historical buildings as a backdrop to a modern tale. Jan Ruth 4

Links to Welsh history and heritage are unavoidable in Wales and it’s the visible remains of quarries, castles and farmsteads which give the area a strong sense of the past. And there’s richness in the landscape here which has certainly inspired my writing. St. Celynin’s seventh century church in the hills for example, is an evocative piece of living history and a landmark which is included throughout the series. It’s exactly the sort of place Anna, with her natural spiritualism, might seek sanctuary. Nestled in the hills 927 feet above the sea, its pretty inaccessible and best approached on foot, but this is no hardship.Jan Ruth 2

Some of the area is chocolate-box pretty, a lot of it isn’t. The struggle to make a living in this community is mostly based on farming or tourism, although the mussel industry is alive and well. Since I know little about these subjects, Jack Redman emerged as an estate-agent. I like to be slightly unconventional with my characters because another great killer of readability is sameness, and cliche.

It was both daunting, and a pleasure to write the follow-up, Dark Water; to be republished by Accent Press on October 8th.

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The story picks up three years after the end of Wild Water and Jack is in for another bumpy ride. Dark Water is, as the title might suggest, a darker story partly because my writing style has changed over twenty years, but also because I introduced an element of crime. It’s too easy to become lazy with a sequel and repeat much of what has gone before. The resurgence of Simon Banks created plenty of tension, and a fresh challenge for me to write some of the story from his perspective. New characters such as Clarissa Harrison-Smith and Peter Claymore, breathed new life into the original cast. When I brought Claymore into the story, he had to have a purpose and a passion, and his persona took root in one of the most fascinating buildings in Conwy – sadly in a state of disrepair – but the real life situation fitted perfectly with what I had in mind for the plot.

This house was built in 1589 by the vicar of Conwy . Since then it’s been a pub, a tearoom and an antique shop. It’s full of spooky atmosphere with cellars, trap doors and secret passages, and apparently there used to be an escape tunnel which led to the quay. Haunted? Most certainly!

It’s exactly the sort of place someone like Claymore would want to renovate and bring to life, and the perfect setting for Anna to develop in her own right as a serious artist. Her portrait of Llewellyn the Great is the centrepiece of her launch but of course, this is fiction and nothing goes to plan! The comedy and tragedy of Jack’s life rumbles on. In his own words: ‘Raping and pillaging is still rife, even in the modern world.’

Jan Ruth 3

Wow, Jan. It sounds like a fab read. I used to live in Wales and love the settings for your novels, not to mention the engaging characters and story-lines. Good luck with the launch, my lovely, and thanks for being my guest today! 

Jan Ruth 1

Dear reader, If you’d like to connect with Jan, why not visit her website and blog, follow her on Twitter, or like her Facebook page? 

Wild, Dark and Silent: A testimony to the Welsh Hills.

My Monday guest – Alex Martin

My guest for today is the lovely Alex Martin. She and I met a couple of years ago on the writers’ peer review site YouWriteOn and have kept in touch ever since. I’m hugely proud of Alex and of her success as an indie author. Welcome!

“Hi! Firstly, thanks to Siobhan Daiko for letting me chat to all her followers. Nice to meet everybody!

My name is Alex Martin and I’m happy to call myself an indie writer. I’ve written three novels to date, something I’d never thought I’d achieve. Writing books has been a life-long dream and self-publishing has given me the opportunity to get my work out there and even be paid for it. I’m wrapping up my fourth book at the moment, which should be out soon. I write in my ‘Plotting Shed’ at the bottom of my garden on the Gower Peninsula  in South Wales, UK.

Alex shed

My other half and I built my beautiful den from a kit. It’s fully insulated, so it’s cosy in winter and cool in summer (not that it gets THAT hot in Wales – unlike Siobhan’s idyllic house in Italy).

Alex shed 2The double-glazing – which nearly broke our backs when we carried it up the garden – is a welcome level of sophistication. If I’m on a roll and need to write into the night, lights are provided by solar panels. The lack of electricity doesn’t bother me, I quite like it, unless I’m on a marathon run and my laptop battery runs out. Neither do I mind not having internet  access. For such an easily distracted writer, it’s a boon to have nothing but work to focus on. I can see the Brecon Beacon mountains from the back window and the distant view is perfect for wool gathering when figuring out a plot twist or searching for that elusive word.herbal pathway

I’ve learned that writing isn’t about playing God, standing back and orchestrating the characters. No, it’s about living the story, being there submersed in that world and becoming those fictitious people. So, believe me, I feel their pain, their anger, and their hopes and dreams become very real. To achieve this surreal state, I need a few rituals. I trudge up the garden path, laptop in hand, dog at my heels, and unlock my den. Inside smells creative. I light the gas fire if I need to, and a candle always, and do a little meditation. I get rid of any personal angst in my journal and clear my mind. Then, comes the moment of truth, the delicious few seconds of the blank page, willing me to cover it in potential. Hours can fly by without me noticing from this point onwards, until my canine muse gets bored, or we both get hungry and mundane matters puncture the bubble.

Here’s a picture of the finished article, complete with dog bed for my four legged muse, Sky.

Alex shed 3

My first book, The Twisted Vine Amazon UK  and  Amazon USA is set deep in rural France and is based on my own adventure of picking grapes back in the 1980s, before mobile phones and the internet were even invented, hard to imagine now! 

The Twisted VineLike the narrator of the story, Roxanne Rudge, I was escaping a relationship that had gone disastrously wrong. Like her, I was trying to rediscover who I was while getting a suntan and deepening my love of this beautiful country. I too drove all over the French countryside, often lost (in more ways than one), bruised my knees and grazed my hands toiling away on steeply sloping vineyards. Luckily for me, I did not meet a sinister man like Armand le Clair or uncover the dark secret within the elegant walls of a Burgundian Chateau, though I did drink plenty of the resulting wine!

My second book, Daffodils, Amazon UK and Amazon USA is quite a different tale. When my two children were born, we lived in a tiny village in Wiltshire which retained an almost feudal link to the past. This fascinated me and I decided to write a story about it. What I hadn’t reckoned on was that setting it just at the time when the old order was disintegrating meant that I was dragged into researching and writing about the First World War, which took ten years, off and on. I hadn’t set out to write about this era but, like the naive inhabitants of those villages, I was drawn into its all-encompassing conflict. The research humbled and saddened me and I was appalled at some of the facts I discovered.

DaffodilsFor fans of historical fiction, Daffodils is part one of a soon to be trilogy. It starts slowly. Life changes little in Cheadle. Petty scandals, gossip and the huge gap between the haves and those who serve them continue to dominate their small world. Daffodils drags Katy and Jem out of their narrow lives and catapults them into the wider arena of a global conflict. Most books follow what happened to the soldiers and so does Daffodils, in part. It also follows the gallant women who provided the backbone for the army, not just the nurses, but the gender defying mechanics and drivers who managed the vehicles and ambulances. It was fascinating to discover just how much women took on and how it shook up the world they returned to, once the world-wide fight was over. But in essence, Daffodils is a love story, whose tender heart is almost torn apart through this tumultuous time. Daffodils now has 51 reviews in the UK and 46 in the US averaging 4.7*s overall. 

Peace LilyI found I couldn’t leave the characters where I had left them and Peace Lily Amazon UK and Amazon USA takes up their story in 1919, in the aftermath of the war, when they return to their lives to find that peace is elusive and presents new challenges they had never expected. They even cross the Atlantic to try and resolve them. A third book will complete the trilogy, for now…called Speedwell, which follows the thread into the 1920s and into the rapid changes of the modern age.

Finally, I have a little collection of 3 short stories, as a taster of my work. It’s called Trio and is also available from Amazon UK and Amazon USA. 

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I have many more stories and projects stacked up begging to be given life in the back of my clogged up head and I can’t wait to start each and every one. Hopefully I’ll keep writing until the marbles stop rolling. You can keep up to date with my work on my blog at Alex Martin, Author@The Plotting Shed wIhere I chat about what I’m up to and post about upcoming new stories and ideas. Comments and reviews always welcome.

Thank you so much, Alex, for being my guest today. It’s been great to learn more about you and your writing. Your “plotting shed” looks like the ideal place to hide away from the world and immerse yourself in creativity. I’m envious of the gorgeous location. And your book covers are absolutely stunning. (Dear reader, Alex and I share a cover designer, Jane Dixon Smith.) I wish you continued success with your writing, Alex. I read Daffodils and loved it. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series. 

My Monday Guest – Jo Bartlett

Today, I’d like to welcome the lovely Jo Bartlett to my blog. Jo and I met online a couple of years ago, and we’ve been encouraging each other ever since. She’s a founder member of the The Write Romantics, and Jo regularly blogs with the other nine members about love, life and writing. Her novel, Among a Thousand Stars has just been released, and it’s a fab read. Over to you, Jo!

Jo Bartlett

 

“Thanks so much, Siobhan, for allowing me to guest on your blog. Whenever I visit your site it’s like being transported to Italy and I can only hope to maintain the usual quality of posts.

Writing is something I can’t seem to help doing, even at times when I wish my passion was for something else – like gardening or interior design, something that you don’t necessarily have to share with the world to be deemed a success.  When you tell people you are writing a novel, you set yourself up for having lots of questions and comments directed your way.  Trust me when I say that people calling you JK Rowling, when you are struggling to even finish a first draft, never mind find a publisher and try to sell copies to someone other than your mum, is neither helpful or amusing!

I do love writing, though, and it was after a brush with cancer that I decided I was going to settle down to finish a novel and see if I could write something worthy of publication.  Around the same time, I saw an article from a writer whose novels I’d always loved, Jill Mansell, talking about how invaluable the RNA New Writers’ Scheme had been to her.  I managed to get in at my first attempt and had feedback which gave me real hope that I wasn’t completely deluded.

I floated on a high for a while, worried how I’d decide if more than one publisher or agent wanted the rights to the story.  Perhaps they’d fight over it and I’d be one of those debut authors who triggers an auction… Of course real life doesn’t ever quite turn out like that.  Part of being an author is putting yourself out there for criticism and rejection – both of which I had my fair share of.  I also had my share of positive feedback, though, and made a decision in the end to go with a UK publisher, So Vain Books, and pull out of the submission process with two US publisher who had also expressed an interest.

 

AATS Cover

 

‘Among A Thousand Stars’ was a story that sort of happened by accident. At my son’s primary school, one of his best friends was the son of celebrity and fashion photographer, Perou.  One day, he’d be heading off to New York to photograph Dita Von Teese but, by the next week, he’d be back in the thick of it, with the rest of us parents, trying to elbow his way to the front of the school hall to get a good seat for the nativity play. Actually he’s much cooler than that, but I’m sure you know what I’m trying to say. It made me wonder about how someone can inhabit two such different worlds and was part of the inspiration for the novel.

My heroine, Ashleigh Hayes is a freelance photographer who finds herself in a professional life filled with glamour but with plenty of the more ordinary along for the ride – including a mother who’s only too happy to strip off in front of her friends and an alarming ability to put her foot in it. It’s a story about the insecurities we all carry, the ups and downs of a less than perfect family life and how the right person can suddenly help it all make sense.

My stories often seem to feature certain themes which are replicated in my own life, from quirky family members, through to sadly departed father figures, seaside settings and errant hounds with more than a passing passion for bacon rind. I can’t seem to stay away from the sea and wrote a Christmas novella last year, set in the fictional bay where Charles Dickens was alleged to have penned A Christmas Carol, and have since had two pocket novels picked up by DC Thomson – both of which were set a stone’s throw from the Kent coast where I live.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Being published has been a rollercoaster ride of highs and unexpectedly bumpy twists and turns. I’ve held a paperback of my novel in my hands, had fantastic reviews from strangers telling me that my stories have made them laugh or cry, and even seen my pocket novel on the shelves of WHSmiths and a host of other shops. There have been less enthusiastic reviews from one or two, as is the way with anything you publish, the pressure of watching Amazon rankings rise and fall and even attracting my very own stalker – which is way less Hollywood than it sounds!

 

People's friend pocket novel banner

 

All that said, I know I can’t stop writing any more than I want to. Inspiration is all around me. Sadly, I went to a family funeral this week and heard anecdotes about my aunts, who were twins, both of whom led lives filled with a mixture of tragedy and triumph. I’m already itching to tell their stories – but first I have two full length completed manuscripts to edit and a second Christmas novella to write. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep the voices of the characters in my head down to a dull roar, whilst they wait for their stories to be told.”

Thank you so much, Jo. It’s been an absolute pleasure to learn about your writing journey. I’ve just read “Among a Thousand Stars” and this is the review I left on Amazon:

I adored everything about this book. From the rolling on the floor laughing moments to the will he/won’t she? falling in love moments. The secondary characters, Stevie, Zac and Carol are larger than life. Ashleigh is an extremely likeable heroine and Tom a complex hero with issues to solve. I don’t give spoilers in my reviews, so I’ll just say there are times when I felt my heart-strings pulled so hard I had tears in my eyes. That said, Jo Bartlett’s novel is a light, entertaining read which would be ideal to take away on holiday and read on the beach. Highly recommended.

I wish you every success with your future career, my lovely. And I look forward to welcoming you back to my blog when your next book is published.

RELEASE BLITZ: Veronica by Siobhan Daiko

Today is the release blitz for Veronica COURTESAN.

MJ Book Blog

 

Title: Veronica COURTESAN

Author: Siobhan Daiko

Genre : Historic / Erotica 

 

 

 

 

I watch him watching us, imagining how he would take me.

 

I send him the message with my eyes.

 

This is who I am. 

 

I am Veronica Franco. 

 

I am a COURTESAN.

 

I court the cultural elite for fame and fortune, giving my body to many. 

 

And I’m good. So very good. After all, I was taught by my mother, and mother always knows best. 

 

How else to please the future King of France than with the imaginative use of Murano glass? How else to fulfil the desires of all yet keep my sense of self-worth?

 

But when disaster strikes and my life begins to unravel, I’ll have to ask myself one question:

 

Is it too late to give my heart…

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