Monday, July 16, 2018
Since 1999, I have dabbled with my family's genealogy, and managed to stumble upon some huge discoveries - primarily with my dad's side. Thanks to the Internet, I found distant relatives whose great-great grandfather was brothers with my dad's great-great grandfather. It changed the way I looked at my family as I knew it, for we have several nationalities between us, thanks to Europeans who came to India and intermarried with the people there, thus creating what became known as the Anglo-Indian community. Others who have called themselves AI were not of Indian ancestry at all, but merely born in India - remaining a well-debated topic to this day. But, as I said, my family is of mixed heritage, so we are AI's by blood.
For the last decade, I've spent a great deal of time compiling my research into an electronic tree for my living relatives to have access to, and have "branched" out in finding out more information on my mom's side of the family, as well as my in-laws'. Because of this, my tree has well over 1,000 entries! I prefer using Geni as a free user. It is amazing how many people have since contacted me on a regular basis because of it! So many photos, stories, and names have been learned, as with the above photo of my mom's paternal grandma, my great-grandma Edna. I'd like to think I inherited something of her features. She was a spunky lady who as a nurse, was a midwife to the Nizam's wives! Her father was Scottish, but he died when she and her sister were quite young. Her mother, (who then remarried to a widower of several children), was of English heritage, and in fact even has some ties to the family of Windsor!
Overall, this hobby of mine has truly given me a deeper appreciation of what I've considered family to mean, and has paved the way for my love of reading to morph into a love for historical fiction, family recipes, and travel shows. It's a link to the past in a very personal way when I can read about what life was like for my ancestors, sample their favorite meals, or visit where they've been. It makes one realize just how small the world used to be, and how much time has marched on since then.
So when it comes to embracing culture, I'm all for it! Anything German, Indian, Irish, Scottish, English, Portuguese, or even Czech (from my inlaws) I'm in. It's not always easy to find information on missing links to your tree, or obtaining accurate records. Unfortunately, natural disasters, wars, and mishaps in record-keeping have remained obstacles. Plus, I'm not able to go to the places of my ancestors on a whim, so the Internet is my tool of choice. Preferably on the cheap (i.e. FREE). So sites where I continue to have luck with finding family include Ancestory, WikiTree, and the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Search engines can be extremely helpful. Sometimes entering family names, full names, or key bits of info can lead you to a wealth of information. I've learned a few tricks, such as with adding "obituary" to a name search - which has helped me find both living and deceased relatives - and naming geographical locations or schools, to bring up entries in society journals, maps, forums, newspaper articles, and yearbooks.
To me, one of the most meaningful things that sums up family and has captured my interest is the Tree of Life. Have you seen depictions of it before? They are absolutely stunning, especially these Pinterest projects and decor:
Tree of Life Jewelry Holder/Wall Art
Tree of Life Suncatcher
Tree of Life Pendant
If you have Tree of Life trinkets, pics, and other doo-dads, or are a genealogy buff like me, feel free to comment below! I'd love to hear from you!
Monday, February 19, 2018
So this week, I’m kicking it into overdrive...and by that, I mean to say, not just in promoting the heck out of my book, but to literally promote it for Overdrive - as in the digital library circulation platform! As of today, you can request A Place to Call Home at your local library! Believe it or not, the prospect of being available to readers worldwide who may want to check out a digital copy of my work holds more appeal to me than any number of book signings or mass sales. In fact, you can say that being included in my library’s catalogue is a bucket list item for me, as I held my very first job at the branch I still frequent today! So I hold a very special place in my heart for its services, and the memories I have of going there with my family. Now, granted, my branch ITSELF may not purchase a copy, but the system as a whole, may. And if they do, that still counts in my book (pun intended!).
So if you use Overdrive to read books, maybe you can give A Place to Call Home some love??? You don’t even HAVE to request to check it out for yourself if you don’t want to read it but know someone who would. One of the options after you select the book and request it for purchase by the library is to simply get an email notification when it’s available. And if you DO want to read it, select the option to have it checked out as soon as it’s been purchased, and you’ll get an email when that happens. The more people select the book and request it (per library), the greater the chances of influencing the staff to make the purchase!
I can’t wait to see what happens, and I hope it turns out to be a win-win situation for us all!
Posted by Natasha P at 9:51 AM
Sunday, February 11, 2018
To those of you who were kind enough and willing to read the previous versions of A Place to Call Home amidst some typos, I give you my most humble thanks! That “first time” experience as a novelist with a publisher was very different than I had been told in advance, and so after getting through some difficult times and learning through it, I’m so very happy to have pushed out a more professional, cleaned up, and exciting version for having re-published it for myself this time around! As you'll see from the link, the old cover has been replaced - as much as I would have liked to have kept it, I had to consider the market's needs. Therefore, while the image is special to me as a memento of my late writing mentor, I'm going to use it as my logo for all print books in the series, and I plan on using it as the cover of an entirely different project later this year.
Buy A Place to Call Home in paperback
Buy A Place to Call Home for your Kindle
If you’ve liked the story and haven’t given it a review as yet, will you consider writing one? It can either be on Amazon (even if you didn’t purchase it there but have an account, you’re able to do that), or on BookBub or GoodReads. Your reviews don’t just help me know what you found good/bad, but they also help other potential readers, bookstores, and libraries make up their minds in wanting to invest in copies too! So far, I’ve only got reviews listed with my previous version of the book. Unfortunately, those reviews can’t be copied or transferred, so right now my new version could use some love!!!!
Are you an avid reader who wants to know how you can get your hands on an ebook version to review, or are you interested in group rates for a reading group? I’m creating a discussion guide for talking points, and am happy to work with you - because I value your readership, since it’s because of YOU that I can continue to have anything to market in the first place.
Are you a Christian entrepreneur who would like to be featured on my website/blog in exchange for mention of my book or a blog interview? I’m all ears.
Whatever your question or comment, please drop me a line today going to my website to contact me there.
Thanks for your support in helping make this new beginning off to a great start!!!!
- Natasha -
Posted by Natasha P at 12:22 PM
Thursday, January 11, 2018
It's that time of year when people typically talk about how they want to start the year off right, be different than before, or conquer old demons. Well, for me, it's a little different because I like to make a list of achievable goals of various sizes, broken into smaller ones so that practically everything I set out to do, I do. That being said, there are a few things I don't end up finishing. But I learned a long time ago that that doesn't matter - it's about trying, and still keeping at it, and not giving up that counts. So guess what? Any goals I didn't finish last year get added to this year's list of achievables, so that I continue where I left off. That's it. Surprisingly, it's alleviated so much pressure for me in doing it that way, and I have to say, I've done A LOT in just a few short years - since 2014, to be exact. Accordingly, I freed up my mind so that I went forth and:
*De-cluttered my house (albeit on an on-going basis)
*Cleaned out and organized our garage (anyone who knows us knows how much of a challenge that was!!!!)
*Developed new cooking skills (as well as new recipes our family enjoys)
*Made new friends and contacts
*Gained proficiency in a few foreign languages
*Discovered new authors to read
*Took steps to be healthier (another on-going process, but that's life, right???)
*Wrote and published my first novel
With that last and probably the most obvious achievement that you'd expect to read from my list, you'd be surprised to know that that was a long-term dream of mine. At the time I put it out there, I had tried several times to finish my manuscript for The Ellises and got frustrated over the years with my inability to do so. Honestly, it was a last-ditch effort to hold myself accountable ONE LAST TIME so that I could prove to myself that I could do it and finally put that story "to rest" (not really, but at least get it on paper) so that I could move on from there. I thought, well, if I could break down the rest of my goals into achievable ones, why not my book? Not knowing what my future would hold, I sat down and thought about it.
Life has a funny way of giving me ideas from all sides when I take the time to listen. First was to not stop doing everything else I was already doing - which was to keep writing articles, keep reading, keep in touch with my friends, and keep making new ones. One thing led to another, and I was writing for a couple of clients, making some money on the side to supplement my day job. Not too shabby, and I had a reason to dust off my writing bio. Then, a surprising thing happened: I was put in touch with an honest-to-goodness editor of a publishing company! When that happened, I also had a brainwave in approaching a dear friend about bouncing back ideas to keep me motivated in writing my novel. Thus, between promptings from the publisher, and my friend's help, I DID IT! And let me tell you, it was not as romantic or as easy as you would think. There was so many ups, downs, and inconveniences along the way that some days I questioned my sanity. I was exhausted, mentally tortured, and irritable. Even though the advice from my publisher was to write as long as it was "fun" for me, you'd think I was a sadist or something, because I was driven to still do the task even with all the pitfalls. Perhaps the even bigger struggle was in knowing that I would have to do it all over again to write another one. And...gulp...ANOTHER. Well...
Here's the thing. The stories we authors write are complete in of themselves, BUT they have elements that can be expanded on when you keep reading. And as much as I was "done" with my first novel, it wasn't the end of that dratted voice in my head that still had more 's'plaining to do for the next novel I'm currently writing for the series. Woe is me, right??? Not only do I have to continue the story, but I also have to make the new book its own. I am, and at least the writing is going faster than the first time, but I do have some different challenges to conquer with it. The biggest deal is that my publisher announced late 2017 that she is going to shut down at the end of this June! Which means I'd either have to find another publisher or become an indie author...so after much debate, I settled on the latter.
I'll soon be getting back my rights to The Ellises #1 A Place to Call Home, and when I do, I will be re-releasing it as a self-published title, along with book #2 Worth Hoping For. In the meantime, I've experimented with a series of journals I self-published (2 so far, with a final one I plan to release next month or so). They are:
Gratitude Journal: Tracking Your Prosperity and Abundance
And I Love You: Journaling for the Romantic at Heart
Not only do both of those journals have space for penning your thoughts, but I also included some poems I've written, as well as some little quips I've been known to say over the years, and some self-help thrown in thanks to my years of writing non-fiction articles, blogs, and study guides. Overall, I was pleased with the efficiency and speed of the self-publishing process. So that in of itself has given me encouragement for when I tackle publishing novels on that platform from here on out.
However, my other HUGE challenge is what's currently happening on Amazon with The Ellises #1 A Place to Call Home. If you've ordered a copy this fall, and perhaps for Christmas, you may have received a weird printed version, devoid of pagination, and other formatting mishaps. If so, I urge you to return your copy if you can and complain to Amazon for an exchange! I did revise the book one last time so that once and for all there are no typos in it, BUT somehow there was a technical glitch with the file and what Amazon has to do to print it on demand. It just so happened I ordered a copy during this time frame, as did people I know, which is how I came to know there was a problem occurring! It bothered me greatly, because that should have been caught by whoever prints the book and flagged for correction. Unfortunately, it was not - even after bringing it to Amazon's attention. Now, I don't know if it was because the company was back-logged with Christmas orders (non-book related) that they let it slide, or what, but I can tell you that once I was in touch with them, it wasn't a happy process. It was down-right brutal, and took FOREVER to resolve. Even as of now, the book has some strange thing with the text size being slightly smaller than I'd like, and the headings were slightly different in wording, and in bold font. So, I have to rely on my publisher to iron it out while she's dealing with trying to dissolve her company. But the version is still GOOD and certainly the Kindle version will be unaffected, so by all means, please don't get discouraged from ordering! Just know that in the coming months and possibly weeks, I will be eventually taking the reins and re-publishing it as a slightly different title, so its link on Amazon will change. Of course, when that occurs, I will make the necessary changes so that all mention of the title will point to the new link for ordering.
As if all that isn't enough, my other challenge is in not having the same level of writer's block help than I did for book #1 of The Ellises. Not only because of my schedule with my day job I now have, but also with the schedules for the others who are helping me. So, I'm in the middle of trying to get past a certain point, but at the same time, I'm encouraged by how much easier the plot is still flowing. It's all good.
One final thing I wanted to mention in this blog is that I also have started delving into my earlier writings, and have so many other projects planned for this year! God-willing, I will be debuting a YA novel series that's been on my heart forever, and hopefully will get to have some of my work available in local stores AND bookstores, since as an indie author with Amazon, wholesale distribution will be possible! 2018 is going to have all good things happening, but it's just all going to take a little bit of work and time. I hope you, dear reader, will come along for ride! And as always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me on my Facebook page, Twitter, here, or by dropping me a line. In fact, I hope you do share your thoughts with me, because I'd love to hear what some of you have planned for the new year, too!!!!
Here's to a great year where resolutions are within the reach of us all!
Posted by Natasha P at 10:14 AM
Monday, October 30, 2017
Yesterday I participated in an event for local authors, held at a sweet shop known as The Quirky Feather Confectionery. Up until a month ago, I'd never even heard of the place, until my best friend shared the info about the event. Immediately intrigued, I looked into it and quickly determined it to be a great way to meet other authors and gain exposure among the public, all while practicing having discussions about The Ellises series.
Preparation wasn't lengthy - most of what I needed I already had, plus I was able to borrow a few items from my family. I ran a drawing, and prizes were from some of my friends who direct sell for some fun companies like Mary & Martha and Mary Kay. My boss even donated a bottle of yummy balsamic vinegar from Artisano's Oils and Spices! The thing was, foot traffic was slow, and as it turned out, everyone who entered the drawing won something.
There were 7 other authors alongside me, all from other genres. Paranormal, fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and drama. They were friendly, with several of them first-timers like me. I was the only Historical Inspirational Romance author.
I'm so grateful to have had this experience, and for the many wonderful conversations I had with everyone. I can't wait until my next adventure!
The Ellises, Book 1: A Place to Call Home. You can find them here.
Posted by Natasha P at 9:12 AM
Sunday, October 15, 2017
When I think about my life, how much of it did I spend wanting to be more than a stick? Tons. I wasted so much time not wanting to look back, but still found myself doing just that anyway. What if that very action of looking back was what was supposed to happen? Instead of seeing it as the curse of rumination, it's a call to not get full of myself and to live in between the "great" moments of my life, because those are the majority of my days.
There's also the connotation that a stick is dead. Truly, without Christ, that is what we all are. Thankfully, Jesus says we are branches, not sticks - while He is the vine. Only those who don't live and do in Christ are cursed to be sticks, which are fit only for the fire. It's a powerful visual that drives an even bigger point home: we can't let ourselves ever grow tired of whatever God has called us to do with our lives, as branches, but at the same time, we must die to self (embracing the stick within us) to put on Christ and have His power of restoration flowing through us. He is the Healer and Giver of Life; all we can ever do is plant seeds. Jesus is the gardener who waters, prunes, and protects.
In essence, we are all just sticks at heart. At least some days, right? We feel isolated, depressed, afraid - all human emotions, which lead to acting out. I know I do my fair share of this on a regular basis, which is why feeding my mind with the Word and spending time with other believers in Christ is vital to my regrowth, so that I can go back to being a branch.
I say all this to link my calling with my Savior. Do you know Him? Do you see Him in the pages I write? I hope so. I truly do! He is why I can write and share my thoughts with you. I write so that you can have hope, see that your experiences mirror that of others, and recognize the path you can take that leads to putting your best foot forward.
As you consider all of what I'm saying, please know that I am just me - a mere mortal with limitations I don't always want to admit. You may like what I have to share, or you may not - but at the end of the day, I'm an average person, just like YOU. I'm not above any hardship, difficulty, or loss. Today, I am who I am because of how I got through some tough times and kept going. It's why I have hope, and why I put that hope in Jesus!
Let's Meet in Person!
If you're lucky enough to live in the Indianapolis, IN area, and have read The Ellises Book 1: A Place to Call Home, and want to have your copy autographed, or if you'd like to buy a signed copy, then I have good news for you! I'll be participating in a Vendors Sunday for Local Authors event at the Quirky Feather Confectionery in Carmel, IN on Sunday, October 29th from 2-5 p.m. I'd love to meet you and hear what's on your heart - including any questions you may have about faith, the book, or even writing in general!
The Quirky Feather Confectionery is located at 890 E. 116th Street, Suite 125, Carmel, IN 46032. See you there!
Posted by Natasha P at 11:03 AM
Monday, July 31, 2017
A Place to Call Home is the first in a series of three novels set in the early 1900’s, in the sleepy little town of Laurel Heights where readers follow the lives of the Ellis family. Elaina Ellis is the oldest of six daughters who has recently fled to Philadelphia to escape a secret that she tries to keep from her family. Convinced that no man or God should dictate how she ought to live her life or what her future ought to be, she lives life on her own terms. With the sudden death of her father, however, Elaina is forced to return to Laurel Heights and face the secret she has been trying to hide and reencounters her family’s religiosity, which she mildly tolerates. It is here where she is introduced to the handsome and yet bothersome new shop keeper John Stanton. Suspicious of him, as well as every other man in town, she hurries back to the safe distance of Philadelphia, only to find that she can’t return to her life there as it was. Something is missing in her life now. Dissatisfied and disillusioned, Elaina is ultimately faced with a decision that will change the course of her life forever.
Where is your novel set and why did you make this specific choice?
Laurel Heights is a fictitious town near Columbia, Pennsylvania and Lancaster County. Growing up on the East Coast, I had traveled all over New England, and when I moved to the Midwest as a teen, the forested landscapes I passed stuck with me as reminders of where I’d been, and I knew that when I wrote this series, I wanted to incorporate the sights of the East Coast, just not all the cities and towns which had already been written about countless times. I spent a great deal of time researching which State would be the most likely choice that would not only fit my story line, but also make sense with the historical setting. I placed Laurel Heights in its vicinity based on climate conditions and the proximity to places the characters would frequent such as the Pennsylvania Railroad lines and the Millersville Normal School (known today as Millersville University of Pennsylvania).
How did you come to write this particular book?
Originally, the story line for this book was completely different than it is now, and was at the time I had first envisioned it (when I was a teen), a whimsical tale of nine orphaned sisters who banded together to overcome the odds and be successful with the life they were given as is. But over the years, I was influenced by a plethora of experiences, particularly as I became a Christian writer. Before then, I’d written fiction, poetry, and articles, never anything religious, until my youth group leader challenged me to write about my experience about being a Christian in a public high school – which resulted in my first published article in a Christian magazine. Even so, for years I kept my Christian devotional content completely separate from my fiction, until I started reading inspirational fiction for the first time. That’s when something clicked for me in turning my story line into something redemptive, yet entertaining, and true-to-life. I love that I can relate to a little of each of the characters in myself, and even some of the things that happened to them were because of things I had happen, too. Writing A Place to Call Home was, at times, both torturous and cathartic for me.
What are your writing habits?
I’ve always been told I’m a very inquisitive person, bent on asking the deeper questions of “why?” things are the way they are, rather than settling for the norm. My love for research, culture, human behavior, and abstract reasoning comes out in my writing, and I find it fun to portray experiences I’ve had or have observed in others as I weave tales about issues to which readers can relate. I also live for learning new facts everywhere I go, because you just never know when that information can be useful! In childhood, I did a lot of traveling to other U.S. States and countries, all of which made an impression on my faith and how I viewed the world at large, and in my teens I spent a lot of my time babysitting and mentoring peers. In adulthood, I found that customer service is where I excelled, because I loved helping people. So for a lot of years, the writing I did in my spare time consisted of self-help articles and how-to’s based on what people wanted. Writing fiction took a backseat, so that when the opportunity for my current book came to light, I had to relearn how to practice the craft! It’s so different from writing articles, because those you can write last-minute, following a hard set of facts to produce content. I’d become accustomed to cranking out handfuls of articles on a daily and weekly basis. But with writing fiction, I have to become my characters in order to write about them – which sometimes can take me a while. Some days I can write several pages, and on others I can write only a few pages but spend hours writing them. Then there’s the constant struggle of trying to fit the rest of life in while I write. I’ve had to become creative in how I beat things like writer’s block, interruptions from my family, and meeting deadlines. Since then, not only have I honed my skills, but I’ve even learned new ones, all of which have found their way into my fiction and non-fiction works.
Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc…)
I’m married to my high school sweetheart whom I met and started dating over 20 years ago, and our most recent wedding anniversary was our “baker’s dozen.” We have one daughter who will be turning the big 1-3 later this year, at the same time our loveable cat will be 10. While I was still in high school, I took a correspondence course to obtain certification in freelance writing, and then one to become a teacher’s aide. Instead of college, I threw convention to the wind and worked whatever jobs I could find, obtained another correspondence course certification in desktop publishing and design, and wrote articles based on the industries from which I gained my experiences. Then, thanks to marriage, motherhood, and two health crises, I added those topics to my repertoire. In my down time, I love to make memories with my family, conduct genealogy research for my diverse work-in-progress family tree, read, knit, cook, binge-watch shows on Netflix, surf the Internet, attend church online with Life.Church, play various interactive and puzzle games, and listen to music for fun or while exercising. I play guitar, with my biggest inspiration being Sir Paul McCartney and other legends from his era, I’m an advocate for Breast Cancer health and awareness, and I enjoy looking for ways to help my local community through an initiative I call The Barbie Girls Project.
Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?
From day one, my mom has been my biggest supporter. She has read just about everything I’ve ever written, while the rest of my family – my husband and daughter included – remain supportive in that they encourage me, and provide me with tools I’ve needed along the way, but they don’t necessarily read what I produce. But that’s ok, because I also have some really great friends who have been my former teachers, colleagues, classmates, and friends from church who do. Some of them are also writers themselves, who’ve been able to be my sounding board, and they rein me in when I get too wordy.
What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels, do you find them difficult to write?
I tend to think of love and romance as two separate things, with the kind of content I like to write about being where two people have more of an emotional connection for readers to experience, rather than anything overtly physical. Because I prefer to write Christian fiction and romance, you won’t find me writing sex scenes, but that’s not to say my characters don’t have passionate moments that elude to intimacy left unsaid.
Who are some of your other favorite authors and genres to read?
The authors I read today are a result of the strong heroines found in my childhood favorites from Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, LM Montgomery, Janette Oke, Ann M. Martin, Mary Downing Hahn, Carolyn Keene, and Joan Aiken – so that’s everything from historical and general fiction, to supernatural, suspense, autobiographies, and even mystery! These days you’ll find me reading Colleen Coble, Melody Carlson, Hannah Alexander, Kristin Billerbeck, Tracey Bateman, Julie Carobini, Denise Hunter, Tracie Peterson, or Kacy Barnett Gramckow, and an ongoing list of whoever else strikes my fancy within the realm of inspirational fiction, historical fiction, suspense, Amish fiction, and chic lit genres.
Among your own books, have you a favorite? A favorite hero or heroine?
Between stories I’ve written but never published, my current book, and those yet to be completed, I have to say that the character of Elaina Ellis has grown on me. We share some similar traits – we both have black hair, are the firstborn child, and we have lost a sibling – but she also possesses many more differences – such as her taller stature! When I first wrote about her, she was not exactly the same sort of personality I envisioned, so to see her evolve into who she is now and will eventually become has been a real thrill for me to write so far.
Which of your books has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun?
Hands-down, the second book is already so much easier to write, because a lot of my struggles came from kicking off the series. Once I got the proverbial monkey off my back, ideas have been so much easier to come by. I do have fun with planning out what will happen down the road in other books for the series, so I will have to say that the most fun book to write will have to be determined at a later date!
Which comes first, the story, the characters, or the setting?
The characters definitely come to mind for me first, with their stories following close behind. Once I determine what they are up against, then I can start to place them in the most appropriate setting. Coming up with new names always somehow triggers me to establish a plot.
Are you in control of the characters or do they control you?
They definitely have a way of getting under my skin! Their mannerisms can also rub off on me, which is why I think I’ve come to develop new hobbies and interests thanks to them!
What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
Being able to provide a voice of validation to my readers, where they can identify with something I’ve described or provided for information that helps them in some way, is why I write. Where there’s a need, I look to fill it. I feel rewarded when someone shares how what I wrote was useful or enlightening to them. Of course, being a Christian also means that when I write anything spiritual, I do want to give God glory, but I try hard to avoid being preachy. Additionally, anything I’ve ever written – be it mainstream or spiritual – often comes in a burst of sudden inspiration, sometimes as ideas and phrases I wouldn’t have thought to say, but feel burdened to jot down. The only way I can explain it is to say that it in itself is a spiritual experience for me, directed by God, who gives me the words to write. So many times I don’t have a clue in advance for what I will write, and then suddenly next thing I know – I’ve written an entire paragraph, thought, or page that isn’t just a bunch of babblings or unfinished musings.
Fill in the blank favorites – Dessert. City. Season. Type of hero. Type of heroine.
Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. Anywhere with a good view of nature or water. Summer. Physically and mentally strong, with a compassionate side. Physically and mentally strong, with a heart for following her dreams.
Posted by Natasha P at 5:42 PM