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Published and In Stores Now!

Chant of a Million Women is now available in stores worldwide.

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Launching tomorrow – Chant of a Million Women

Come join me for the virtual worldwide launch of my poetry book Chant of a Million Women. All you need is a device with an internet connection and a Facebook account. Check the times for your area. See you tomorrow. Image may contain: text

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Co host for the Launch: Audrey Barber

The fourth amazing woman joining me as co host at my launch of Chant of a Million Women.

Audrey Barber

Image may contain: 1 person, smilingAudrey Barber is the founder member of Silent Women Saving Women (SWSW) and an hotelier based in the Middle East. In January 2000 her life changed when she and her fiancée were attacked by a group of six men. Her fiancée fought off the men and her life was saved. But his wasn’t, and he died in her arms at the hospital. That experience left her shattered but she didn’t give up the fight for justice. Five years later the attackers were sentenced to death. Audrey made up her mind to fight for others who didn’t have a voice.

Volunteering at various charities and centres for women and children she came across many young girls who were abused, raped and molested and some even committing suicide as a result of the trauma they faced. Joining with women in the Middle East who had experienced similar tragedies and atrocities she formed SWSW, a group of women from the Middle East actively working towards uplifting the lives of women and young girls who have been abused and exploited, turning her tragic story into one of hope for many other women.

After seeing a 14 year old Yemeni girl who had been sold off to a 41 year old man brought to the child welfare center brutally raped with acid thrown on her private parts, she decided to act. The girl didn’t survive but Audrey vowed she would do whatever she could to help such girls to get an education and live the life they rightfully deserved.

She visited Yemen to meet other women who are “doers” and strengthened SWSW. When SWSW becomes aware of any child about to be sold, or sold as a child bride it intervenes making contact with the Man or his counter-parts/family and negotiate a reasonable price for the child to be given to SWSW. The child is taken out of the country and brought to the specific location where she is treated/checked by a doctor within the group. The child is provided shelter and counselling as well as placed in a local school. This is for children who have not been raped or sexually assaulted. For those who have been molested, raped, sexually abused the process is more intense because apart from medical attention they also require assistance in dealing with trauma, as these girls are physically and emotionally destroyed.

SWSW has now extended its work beyond Yemen and work in Egypt, Afghanistan and several other mid-eastern countries. SWSW is not affiliated to any organization or human rights group. It is merely a group of women who have endured atrocity and trauma who have come together to help other women and save girls. The work it does is self funded.

Audrey has two wards – two Afghan sisters she rescued. The elder was raped by her uncle and the other is just 5 years old. Both girls are orphans but are now leading a happy life. They will be handed over to the state since she is a single female and a non Muslim and therefore cannot adopt, according to the law of the land.

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Co host for the Launch: Celine Leduc

Meet another amazing woman. My third co-host at the launch of Chant of a Million Women.

Celine Leduc

Image may contain: 1 person Celine Leduc is a poet, artist and activist for women’s rights. She is the founder of “Waking Up Women” a Facebook group that brings news and the story of all women and offers alternative news and perspectives.

Celine’s M.A. in religion history and philosophy specialty is Women in Judaism and Islam. Her thesis was about Jewish women from Egypt who live in Montreal between 1947 and 1967, a look at their struggles as immigrants.

She is currently working on Decolonizing the Euro-mind and mindset that is based on the Romanizing of the mind. Rome is the first colonizer who wanted control of the whole world in the name of god. They took away the rights of women and most laws or legal systems that come out of Roman Law. Napoleon and British Law (English Law) destroyed legal systems and created religious wars as it took away right of women.

She is also writing a book on the We-story and introspection of non-inclusive European history. Because, we have His story, Her story that is a copy of history which is a We-story as it does not include the contribution of all women and men from around the world. Inspired by Professor Bello who wrote the story of Ayiti and called it OURstory which is an introspection on the story of Ayiti.

 

 

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Co host for the Launch: Sarah Lamar King

Another amazing woman and poet. My second co-host at the launch of Chant of a Million Women.

 

Sarah Lamar King

Sarah Lamar King is California made, moving to Washington early in life, where she currently resides. Born to a musician and a free spirit who weren’t ready to be parents, she was adopted when she was 6 months old. She met her biological father for the first time when she was 23. They remained close until his death on Valentines day 2003. She met her biological mother a handful of times throughout her life, few and far between, as her mother went where the wind and the alcohol took her. These events as well as raising a disabled child, dealing with loss and hopelessness, domestic violence, and walking in others shoes, have all contributed to the pieces she writes.

Sarah has been writing elegiac poetry for most of her life. With adversity and melancholy as a constant companion, she pours real, raw, dark emotion into every piece she writes.

Her first published book of dark poetry, published by Creative Talents Unleashed, titled ‘My North Star Misled Me’, has received numerous, profound 5 star reviews since its release in January of 2016.

Her 2nd collection ‘Melancholy’s Autograph ‘ delves into the darker side of the human condition and turmoils so many of us face. Summarized as “Deep and raw, Sarah’s words are soul food, providing sustenance for those hungry for real art.” ~ OD

 

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Co host for my book launch: Madeleine Black

Four amazing women will join me at the launch of Chant of a Million Women. I’ll post something about each of them so you too will get to know them.

Madeleine Black

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup After many years of keeping quiet, Madeleine Black decided in September 2014, to share her story on The Forgiveness Project’s website and she completely underestimated what the response would be.
Many women and men got in contact and explained how reading her story gave them strength, hope, and a different perspective of what’s possible in their lives. The founder of The Forgiveness Project, Marina, often refers to the various people on her website as “story healers” rather than “storytellers” and now she completely understood why.
In March 2015, Jessica Kingsley Publishers released a book called The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age, by Marina Cantacuzino. It’s a collection of 40 stories from the TFP website, including hers and has forewords by Desmond Tutu and Alexander McCall Smith.
The sharing of her story also opened many doors for her in ways she never imagined and after that the invitations started to pour in.
She has taken part in a film interview for a documentary about rape and the anonymity laws, which will be shown on Dispatches, Channel 4 and has been interviewed for STV News.
In December 2015 she gave her first public talk at a Festival of Light at the University of Keele. The theme was “Making Peace with the Enemy”. From that night she was asked to give three more talks on the same theme and has spoken at many other events too.
She has been interviewed by Dan Walker on BBC Radio 5 Live and talked about Forgiveness and Health, which led to interviews with Stephen Jardine on BBC Radio Scotland sharing her story and most recently with Sir Trevor McDonald on BBC Radio 4 talking about Redemption.
Her voice has been weaved into a performance called Foreign Body Play by Imogen Butler-Cole and has taken part in questions and answers after the show which will be taken to Edinburgh Festival next year.
She has been invited to share her stories with younger audiences too and recently spoke with 150 5th year pupils at a High school in Cork and hopes to do more of this work.
She recognises that she was a victim of a crime that left her silent for many years, but has now found her voice and intends to use it. Not just for her, but for so many who can’t find theirs yet. Sexual violence is so deeply entrenched in our culture and she hopes that by simply speaking out and writing about it, she can help to combat it by reducing the stigma while promoting a cultural change.
She has certainly felt the power and healing effects in sharing her story and hopes that her book will help other victims of sexual violence, crime, PTSD, and anyone who has struggled with forgiveness. She wants to spread her message: It’s not what happens to us that is important, but what we do with what happens to us and if we choose to, we can get past anything that happens to us in life.
She is 51 years old, married, work as a psychotherapist, and live in Glasgow with her husband, three daughters, her cat, Suki, and dog, Alfie.

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Getting Ready to Launch

Image may contain: textThe launch of my poetry book Chant of a Million Women will take place on August 22, 2017 on Facebook. Drop in to find out about the book, learn about why I wrote some of the poems, read excerpts of poems and talk poetry. Post questions and join in the discussion about issues raised in my poems and also in the work of my co-writers who will take over for short spells. There will be giveaways of cool stuff including copies of the ebook.

Joining me in hosting the launch are,
Madeleine Black (Unbroken: One Woman’s Journey to Rebuild a Life Shattered by Violence. A True Story of Survival and Hope, John Blake 2017),
Sarah Lamar King (My North Star Misled Me, CTU 2015; Melancholy’s Autograph, CTU, 2017),
Celine Leduc (poet, artist and women’s rights activist), and
Audrey Barber (poet, survivor and women & children’s rights activist).

The launch will be for one and a half hours. Wherever you are around the world log in at this time from your time zone.

0330 hrs Pacific Standard Time
0630 hrs Eastern Standard Time
1030 hrs GMT
1600 hrs Sri Lankan Time
2030 hrs Melbourne, Australia Time

See you there and bring your friends.

Chant of a Million Women is available for pre-order. For print copies go to either Lulu or Amazon. For all ebooks go to the universal link to find your favorite store.

 

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Invitation. Book Launch.

I’m launching “Chant of a Million Women” on August 21 at 2100 hrs Sri Lankan Time. Drop in at my Facebook Event page wherever you are in the world. Bring a friend. Lots of friends. Spread the word. Let’s talk poetry and about the book, and issues faced by half the world’s population.

 

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Review of Chant of a Million Women

On Basso Profundo, August 11, 2017.

 

Toward the end of Shirani Rajapakse’s plaintive and eloquent book of poetry, she has a piece called “The Poetess.” In its final lines she writes:

She walked with a spring in her step.
Her expression serious. They turned around
as they saw her pass.
She felt such pride. At last to be known.
Even if to just a few.
They did not know she had
nothing to show.

The last line surprised me, and moved me to immediate disagreement. Chant of a Million Women is certainly a notable achievement: it chronicles so many moods, in so many stories, from ancient Indian epic legends to the insurmountable challenges of every day. It consolidates and focuses our attention on the myriad ways men subjugate and objectify women, and the paltry few effective means women have to fight back. This applies particularly to cultures bound by tradition, such as one finds in India and the Middle East.

And women’s situations are so hopeless in this collection that fighting back isn’t really what it’s about. It’s about maintaining something so basic as one’s identity. So often used as a simple ornament, a status symbol, or property to be hidden away, the women in these poems lose their onetime promising selves to a male society, be it as some idealized – but definitely owned – prize, or a simple, reviled piece of furniture, or worse, a victim of violent crime.

Ms. Rajapakse places her poems in a number of milieux: traditional sexist households, dangerous, sometimes murderous, public thoroughfares, urban settings and rural. Often, no setting is specified, except the consciousness of the dispossessed woman.

A million women would indeed raise this chant. They would be fortunate were they to make it this resoundingly, with such force. The poetess distills their suffering to a specific litany, as though a bell were ringing to toll the offenses, forming a high-relief frieze of the hundreds of thousands of wives, daughters, and princesses whose stunted lives impoverish us all.

This is a distinctive, consistent collection in which the milk of human kindness has no place. Nowhere are the kind whispers of a lover or even the support of a life partner. Ms Rajapakse has consistently chosen her pieces with a eye to the plaints and sorrows of women. I salute the courage with which she lends her voice for the forgotten and uncared-for women suffering in so many places in the world. Take up Chant of a Million Women and experience its elegant phrases and its moral force.

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Children’s Fantasy Series by Trisha now for free

A while back I did a promo for the first book Discovering Witchetty Waters on The Writer’s Space. Quite a few people who saw the promo liked the excerpt there went on to buy the book. Now Trisha is giving all 5 books for free.

For five days starting today, you can download the books for free. The books are, Discovering Witchetty Waters, In the Wrong Lifetime, The Rise of Sorcha, When Some Were Missing and The Great Storm of 1397.

Grab your copy before the offer runs out on August 15, 2017 and find out what Scarlett and Mason are up to in this children’s fantasy series. Share the news with friends and don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon.

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Cover Reveal

After many days of working on it, my cover is now ready.

What are your thoughts?

Cover Image by Shirani Rajapakse

Cover Design by FayeFayeDesigns

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On the road to self publishing – ebook formatting

I finished formatting my ebook. Yes, it’s now officially ready for release.

I thought it would be hell since poems have a different way of formatting even if they are all left aligned. I also had several poems running all over the page.

I contacted several book formatters and they gave me all kinds of responses when I sent a list of things I needed done.  They all were skeptical, telling me it won’t look like it does on print. One formatter though, assured me he could do it. He even did a sample of one of the poems that has a different look with the lines all over the page. He agreed, but the funny thing was when I uploaded the book he suddenly raised his price from USD 10 to USD 200 giving me reasons that didn’t make sense for that huge price difference.

So there I was stressing out about what to do for two weeks, going up and down with formatters. Should I pay so much to get something done or should I take a chance on someone who was offering much less but cautioned me saying it might not look exactly as I want it to look?

Then a a couple of friends on Facebook assured me that,

a). it was ok if the poems in the ebook didn’t look the same as the print. Because the ereader takes on the frames and needs of the readers including font size and type that can be changed, it will never look exactly the way I want it to, and

b).book formatting was easy and there were several places offering it for free.

That made me decide to do it myself. After all, I did format the book for print and had it on PDF. What could possibly go wrong with the ePUB? I got rid of the unusual formatting for the few poems that had words crisscrossing the pages and made them all left aligned (it would have all become left aligned even if I didn’t change it).

They were right. It wasn’t hard.

I uploaded the book on D2D and after a few changes, it came out looking just the way I wanted. Wasn’t expecting that, but I’m thrilled. I’ve been playing around with the draft, making changes, but it’s done. What a relief.

Next step, uploading the PDF for POD and sending for a sample to check before pressing the publish button.

 

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For the Survivors

Yesterday, July 27 was #WorldHeadandNeckCancerDay. This note is from a #writer and #friend who is battling #cancer. It’s hard to see people go through so much suffering, and I hope those of you fighting your way will find the strength to believe in yourself.      #writerslife #inspiration #amazon#fightcancer

Tommy v Cancer: One Man's Battle Against The Big C by [Donbavand, Tommy] “In March 2016, I was diagnosed with stage 4 inoperable throat cancer and underwent intensive courses of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Shortly afterwards, I contracted both double pneumonia and sepsis, and was rushed into intensive care just hours from death.

I decided to journal my battle against cancer from diagnosis, through treatment, to the life-changing after effects of the disease. I did this on a new blog, promising to be open and honest about my journey at all times. Not only did this help me to make sense of what I was going through, I also hoped my posts might help anyone who was just starting out along a similar path – and their loved ones – but didn’t know what to expect.

I’ve now turned that blog into a book: Tommy V Cancer, adding lots of extra content and bringing my story right up to date. It can be a tough read in places, especially when I posted in the early hours, unable to sleep, and scared of leaving my wife and two sons to cope without me. However, I made sure to include plenty of humour to balance those posts out. 😉

Tomorrow – 27th July – is World Head and Neck Cancer Day, so I’ve dropped the price of the book to 99p/99c for the week in an effort to help raise awareness. If you are a sufferer, or you know someone who is (or just if you want to know more), please take a look and tell your friends and family. If you can share this on your own timeline, I would be extremely grateful.

Plus, if you work in healthcare (such as the NHS here in the UK), please get in touch and I would be delighted to send you a free copy.

Pardon my language, but cancer is a bastard! It affects more than just the sufferer, and leaves utter chaos in its wake. We MUST find a cure, and that will only happen when everyone is aware of just how destructive cancer can be.

Many thanks for your time. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Tommy Donbavand”

If you are interested in getting a copy of the book go here.

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Launch of City, in Colombo

I’m going to be at the ICES Colombo next week, July 11 at 4 30 pm, for the launch of City:  A Journal of South Asian Literature in English.

The launch is for the special edition of City which features Sri Lankan literature in English and in translation from Sinhala and Tamil.

If you are in this neck of the woods, join us at the ICES and meet the editor, Ajmal Kamal and the other contributors.

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Does size matter?

Here’s an interesting blog post about Kindle Book covers that I stumbled upon today.  It’s old, from a few years ago, but it’s helpful for newbies, like me going it on our own, to try and figure out what works best.  Read it here.

 

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What’s in a Pen Name?

Some writers are confident writing under their own name while some opt for a pen name, like Mary Anne Evans who became George Eliot. There are many reasons for using pen names. Do you feel comfortable writing under your own name? Or do you think a different name would sound more exotic, more in keeping with the type of stories you tell?

I’ve never felt a need to write under a different name, mostly because my name is my identity. Although I tend to write from different perspectives and view points both fiction and poetry I wouldn’t feel comfortable using a different name. It would feel like being someone else, or like being in character. But that’s just me.

Other writers may have various considerations. It could also be quite exciting. Getting a pen name is like reinventing yourself.

Would you write under a pen name and where would you go to look for a name? What  would you consider when looking for a pen name? How do you select a pen name and where can you find names? Read this interesting article here about selecting pen names.

 

There are both artistic and practical considerations in choosing a pen name. (Image via Bigstock/Vima)

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Gatecrashing the Book Charts

Amazon has a Fake Book Problem

Have you ever come across strange books at the top 20 with no reviews or sales and wondered how they got there?  Or who wrote them? Well, maybe no one wrote them? Here’s an interesting article about how they got there. Read it here.

 

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Tell Amazon to stop taking down reviews

Amazon has started taking down reviews because they believe the reviews are done by people known to the writers. As if that’s something wrong.

Now we all know that self published writers rely a lot on reviews to get their books out there.  It’s part of the marketing strategy for most indies.

But do we know all the people who review our books? I don’t think so.

I don’t review books by people I know. I review them because I find a book interesting, or I follow an author and I like her/his style of writing and want to read more, and once I’ve read the book, if I like it, I leave a review. It’s my way of saying thanks for writing a great book.

I have ‘met’ a lot of writers on Facebook and Twitter. I’m a member of an unimaginably large number of writer groups. We discuss writing, share experiences and help each out out, not necessarily in that order. We also  have loads of fun hanging out in the community. Sometimes, if we find we click, we include those new writers in our friends list. But do we personally know all of them – no.

So when someone reads and reviews our books, it mean s/he is doing it because s/he likes our book and is appreciative of it and wants to let us know in the nicest possible way – by leaving a review.

But Amazon has started to take down reviews because in some strange logic that they only seem to understand, they assume that we have asked, or personally know all the people on our Facebook or Twitter lists.

Maria Lazarou has just started a petition to get Amazon to reconsider their decision. If you are an indie author, or if you support indies, or if you love reading, please consider signing the petition. You can also leave a comment to let Amazon know why you think their move is not a good one. To sign and leave a message, go here.

 

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The Front Matters

You’ve probably skipped through the first few pages of any book, or, if you may have merely glanced through them before getting to the story. Have you ever wondered what it all means and why the front matter is there for?  Susan Oleksiw has an interesting post about formatting where she discusses what should go into the front matter of a book.   Or read it below.

Front Matter

Recently I’ve come across a number of self-published books that all have the same flaw. The writers have hired editors and proofreaders, book designers and formatters, and cover designers. But they have still failed to get one part of the book right. And this is the arrangement of the front matter.

The extent of the front matter may vary; not every book needs a preface or an introduction. But the order in which the required items appear has been well established, and serves a purpose. The front matter leads us into the work by offering important clarifying detail. Arranged correctly, the front matter orients distributors, booksellers, and librarians, and provides necessary information in the expected place. They know where this information is located. Only, now it isn’t.

The front matter on too many self-published books has me flipping back and forth among the first few pages looking for the critical details (copyright, publisher, ISBN, etc.). The experience is disorienting. But learning the correct arrangement of the front matter is simple—just examine a book published by a traditional publishing house. All of them use the same setup, the one prescribed by manuals such as The Chicago Manual of Style. My copy dates from 1982. Another option is Words into Type, from Prentice-Hall.

The front matter consists of everything before the main text, which begins with Chapter 1, opening on the right-hand page. Traditionally, everything begins on the right hand page—opening chapter, section title (and following first chapter in the section), division title. After the first chapter, each chapter can begin on the recto (right-hand page), or verso (left-hand page), but the writer should be consistent about this throughout the book. Here is the standard list of front matter for a print book and its arrangement.

Half title (recto)

blank (verso) or series title or list of previous publications

Title page (recto) with title and author and occasionally the title of the foreword, along with the name and location of the publisher and date.

Copyright page (verso) with copyright notice, foreword or preface copyright notice, publisher and additional publisher’s information (if a special imprint), ISBN, Library of Congress Control Number (if known), jacket or book designer’s name, place of manufacture, edition. This is also a permissions page if the list of permissions is short enough to be placed here. If not, place a note here referring the reader to the end of the book for the list of permissions. This will also be indicated in the Contents. Some publishers put the list of previous publications here.

Dedication (recto)

blank (verso)

Contents (recto)

blank (verso)

Preface (recto)

Foreword (recto if the first page of text; if not, either recto or verso).

Introduction (recto)

Section title (recto)

Blank (verso)

Chapter 1 (recto)

Pagination doesn’t usually begin until the first page of text, be that a preface or foreword or introduction or chapter 1. But some publishers begin pagination on the Contents page. If the front matter is paginated, the choice is roman numerals. Arabic numerals begin on the first page of chapter 1. But some publishers begin the Arabic numerals on the title page.

If you’re putting together an eBook, you have more flexibility. You can omit the half title and blank pages, and combine some of the others. The Title page can include the dedication, followed by a copyright page with list of permissions. A series title can also go below the title on the first page.

The back matter in a book of fiction is the place for links to websites, other books, and teaser chapters for your next book.

The front matter is important for providing a lot of technical information, and the point is to make sure anyone looking for it can find it. This may sound confusing at first, but putting things in their expected order makes the entire publication appear more professional.

To find my books (with front matter), go to:

https://www.amazon.com/Susan-Oleksiw/e/B001JS3P7C

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SusanOleksiw

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/susan+oleksiw?_requestid=1017995

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Iowa Online Writing Summer – Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and plays

Two courses coming up this summer.

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On May 15, 2017, the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa will open Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Nonfiction, a free massive open online course. This creative writing MOOC will focus on writing about identities, communities, and social issues in fiction and nonfiction. There is no cost to enroll; registration is completely free for all participants. No writing experience is required. This MOOC welcomes writers of all communities and identities.  

COURSE OVERVIEW

This MOOC will:

  • Encourage you to write both fiction and nonfiction
  • Encourage you to explore the intersections between these two genres
  • Encourage you to explore the intersections of individual, community, and global identities
  • Encourage you to examine the effect of current social issues on individual, community, and global identities
  • Foreground the principles of short and long-form fiction
  • Foreground the principles of three forms of nonfiction: literary journalism, memoir essay, and personal essay
  • Support your experience of creative and cultural exchange with writers around the world!
COURSE PROFESSORS

Professors Christopher Merrill and Venise Berry will lead you through this course. Christopher Merrill is Director of the International Writing Program and University of Iowa Professor of English; he has published six collections of poetry, five works of nonfiction, and many works of translation. His new work Still Life with Dogwood has just been published. Venise Berry is Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa; she is the author of four novels as well as four books on African-American representation in film.

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On July 17, 2017, the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa will open Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Poetry and Plays, a free massive open online course. This creative writing MOOC will focus on writing about identities, communities, and social issues in poetry and plays. There is no cost to enroll; registration is completely free for all participants. No writing experience is required. This MOOC welcomes writers of all communities and identities.

COURSE OVERVIEW

This MOOC will:

  • Encourage you to experiment in both poetry writing and playwriting
  • Encourage you to explore the intersections between these two genres
  • Encourage you to explore the intersections of individual, community, and global identities
  • Encourage you to examine the effect of current social issues on individual, community, and global identities
  • Foreground the principles of writing poetry and plays
  • Support your experience of creative and cultural exchange with writers around the world!
COURSE PROFESSORS

Professors Christopher Merrill and Lisa Schlesinger will lead you through this course. Christopher Merrill is Director of the International Writing Program and University of Iowa Professor of English; he has published six collections of poetry, five works of nonfiction, and many works of translation. His new work Still Life with Dogwood has just been published. Lisa Schlesinger is Associate Professor at the Playwrights Workshop at the University of Iowa; her plays include Celestial Bodies, Wal-martyrs, Same Egg, Manny and Chicken, Rock Ends Ahead, The Bones of Danny Winston, and Twenty-One Positions.

 

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Beneath the Masks – Kari Holloway

My review of Beneath the Masks is up at Goodreads. You can also read this delightful short story at Amazon here.

Beneath the Masks by [Holloway, Kari]

“I wasn’t too sure what to expect as I’m not into fantasy but I was pleasantly surprised and glad I read Beneath the Masks. I liked the start, how the scene is set with the three moons glowing in the sky and then moves to the ball inside. It felt a little like reading a historical romance but with the touches of fantasy. The story ended at just the right place, keeping readers wondering if there is more. Loved it.”

 

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Women Rise – Making Movie Poems

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I launched my crowdfunding campaign to make movie poems today on indiegogo. The poems selected are from my soon to be released poetry collection about women. The 5 poems selected are diverse in theme and are representative of the poetry in the collection.

Join me in bringing these poems to life by funding the campaign. There great perks on offer. Also share the information with anyone interested in funding the campaign.

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of Warna Hettiarachchi)

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The Writer’s Space

What runs through an editor’s mind as she reads a piece of work for the first time? Does she let herself relax into the story like a reader would, or does the editor’s mind take over, hawk eyed, looking for flaws that need to be perfected?

Karen R. Sanderson, my first guest to drop in for a chat is an editor and a published writer. Her debut collection of poems No Boundaries was released last year on CreateSpace and she has plans of publishing short stories too.

Here’s your opportunity to ask everything you want to know from Karen about editing, her book of poems, and anything else about writing.

You have 48 hrs to post your questions. At the end of two days I will stop notifications and hand over to Karen. She will pick a select number of questions and reply to you in the comments. So what are you waiting for? Come on over to my page and get started https://www.facebook.com/shiranirajapakseauthor/

You can view Karen’s profile at https://karenrsanderson.wordpress.com/. or follow her on twitter https://twitter.com/KRS_WordShark . Check out her book here https://www.amazon.com/No-Boundaries-Karen-R-…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

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New Ceylon Writing

“Colombo” is published in issue 6 of New Ceylon Writing. You can find it on page 27 here or read it below.

 

Colombo – by Shirani Rajapakse

 

Prescription walkers

huff and puff their way to good health,

proud of the city’s walkways,

the affluent thrusting their

jelly bellies ahead

as they valiantly attempt to compete

with young trendsetters

their ears blocked to reality,

sweating it out by

lakes and parks dressed

in designer clothes stretched taut

across wobbly frames.

They do their thing,

walking, strutting on legs

that can barely hold so much weight,

serious looks on smug faces,

while community dogs stare in amusement,

calling out to friends to come

observe the show.

 

There’s a whole generation grown up

on an unhealthy lifestyle, unable to cope,

a last bid to get their act together or

face the consequences,

sprawled on a bed with tubes sticking out

from every corner

while they gasp out in agony and plead

to every God known to man

for a second chance.

 

Yet hospitals are overcrowded.

 

They are as popular as

restaurants and watering holes.

Every minute someone’s sick, every minute

someone needs medical attention, and

every minute someone dies in

a lonely old home unable to cope, away

from families that have

no use for old flesh anymore.

 

 

 
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No Boundaries – Karen R. Sanderson

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I had the pleasure of getting a pre-release copy of Karen’s book, No Boundaries a few months ago. This is what I wrote about it.

“Sanderson’s book No Boundaries evokes a place in time we can only revisit in words. It’s like being on a long journey. The images and ideas described remain long after we have stepped off the pages. Beautifully crafted, they speak to the heart, from the heart. Sanderson is at her best when writing about love and loss as evinced in ‘Mom and Bocelli’ and ‘I wish I had known you’.”

For those of you interested in poetry, No Boundaries contains an interesting mix of poems. People and places are immortalized on the pages. The images and ideas blend in seamlessly and remain long after you close the book. There is something for everyone.

Here’s one about the military.

The Trade

Inspired by Kristi P-L, USAF, Iraq 2009-2010

She packed up her comfy jeans and laying-around T-shirts

She shrugged into a heavy canvas uniform,

now her second skin

Boxed up her peep-toe high heels and sandals

and stacked them away

Now all she’s got are dusty high-top boots with heavy tread

No delicate black eyeliner around lovely hazel eyes

Just smudges of purple, her badges of fatigue

No long showers here

Just unshaved legs so she looks like the rest of the troops

Forget salon haircuts with mousse or gel

In marches a permanent helmet-head hairdo

She strains to remember how lovely that last manicure felt

Handling weapons with broken, scraggy fingernails,

unpolished and blunt

Velvety cosmetic powder abandoned at home

She wears the Iraqi desert upon her face

Late night chat-fest nights with friends of her choosing,

no more

Now, it’s early morning wake-up and drill

No delicate sparkling pendants around her neck

Just a dull metal chain with tags that identify

her blood type

While mother’s comforting shoulder and soothing touch

wait at home

She learns combat strategies and

how to react to roadside bombs

Instead of cradling a tiny baby

She crawls into a burdened flak jacket

that hides her girlish figure

She rolls out with a loaded M4 and a 9mm Beretta.

Image result for karen r sandersonAbout

Karen R. Sanderson was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!”

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, poet, writer, and a fabulous grandma. She completed writing coursework through UCLA and the University of New Mexico. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com.

Karen is currently pursuing a degree at Minot State University and Lake Region State College in Interpreting and Sign Language Studies.

Connect with Karen on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Contact at karenrsanderson@midco.net.

www.karenrsanderson.wordpress.com

 

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Windy City Sinners -Melanie Villines

My review of Melanie Villines very interesting book Windy City Sinners is up at Goodreads. Check it out, along with other reviews at the link, or read it below.

Everyone’s a sinner and a saint.

I didn’t know what to expect from a book described as “A Magic Realism Crime Novel”, but the more I read the more involved I became in the lives of the residents in that little neighborhood on the Far Northwest Side of Chicago. As my eyes ran over the words, I was pulled in. I found myself cruising down the road looking for a house to move into and observe everyone I met within the pages. I wanted to take my laundry to Redemption Dry Cleaners to know what Virginia had to say about my level of sin.

Everyone sins but in Windy City Sinners, you can get your sins washed away at Redemption Dry Cleaners at a price, and that price keeps rising as the fame and success of the dry cleaning business grows. People go into debt just to get their sins washed away little realizing that money cannot pay for sins committed. Yet the owner and originator of this unique business, Virginia, is least bothered where the money comes from, as long as it keeps coming.

“Does the State of Illinois ask where people get the money to buy lottery tickets? Do the riverboats ask where people get the money they spend in the slot machines and at the gaming tables? Does the Catholic Church ask where each dime comes from that goes into the collection plate?”

Every character has his/her spot in the limelight and readers are given a front row seat to their lives to view their sins. Everyone is a saint and sinner rolled into one. What’s interesting is that while they commit the most unbelievably bizarre crimes one can’t feel negatively about any of the characters. Even Grazyna who steals from the dead without remorse, is quite likable. We find ourselves sympathizing with her views, and even accepting that there is nothing wrong with taking from the dead since what use are all those decorations placed on their graves since they are no more.

“Grazyna doesn’t see this as robbery. Silk flowers are expensive, after all. And what good are they to the dead? The flowers look much better in her yard. The departed souls have told her as much. She confers with them, asking for their consent before she takes the flowers. Grazyna considers herself fortunate –life is so much simpler when you receive permission for an act that most people would deem as a sin.”

Everyone wants to lead a good life and they are trying to find ways to do so, legally or illegally. They are also trying hard to be good people in the eyes of God, and are always making excuses for their sins or trying to find ways of redeeming their sins.

Marek impersonates a black man to rob because he thinks no one would suspect a white man of holding up dry cleaners. A recent immigrant, he needs the money to make his dream come true, and he reasons with himself that,

“outright robbery is more honest than corporate deceit.”

Father Spinelli the frustrated and angry pastor is not interested in tending to his flock. Being in the Church is merely a means of employment. He yearns to become as famous as Father Antonio Vivaldi and the inability to realize his ambitions has made him into a bitter man who has no choice but to listen to the problems of his congregation while all he wants is to make music, get a record deal and become famous.

The author succeeds in keeping the reader waiting to turn the page and discover more. This was one book I found hard to stop reading, and was quite disappointed that it had to end. It’s entertaining and hilarious and you feel for the characters, all of them. There’s good and bad in all of us and the characters of Windy City Sinners are proof of that. Everyone’s faults and weaknesses are brought out into the open and analyzed. We see kindness lurking in almost everyone coupled with greed and avarice. We also see the sheer determination and effort the characters put into what they do to deceive everyone around them, like Officer Jerry Valentino, who tries to hide the stash of drugs in the statue of the Virgin Mary and the crimes Sammy the mafia man is willing to commit in order to quit his line of work.

Money and fame are the guiding forces behind every action of the characters. When Virginia’s dry cleaning business becomes almost like a religious cult, Grazyna also decides to get in on the sin redemption business and starts the Spotless Souls Housekleaning Service selling a line of sin-removing sponges and other do-it- yourself products.

“She realizes there’s no end to ways you can make money – once you get started with a good, solid business concept.”

Everything is business and everyone wants to make it big. Yet there is a price to pay as everyone finds out. But do they learn from their mistakes? Or from the clairvoyant cat?

 

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The Way It Is

We can’t sing certain songs
that speak of our glorious past or our
identity. We are shamed. Tunes
hummed softly to walls that sometimes listen but
don’t record words barely coherent they
brush cheeks against hard surfaces
and sigh to winds passing outside. We
can’t be proud of our
history, the long winding road
of deeds that made us who we
are, those many, many years of development,
innovation, education,
love for humanity and the land we
live in, the great strides we
took into the future that brought us
here where we are, right now. We
are ridiculed, made to feel stupid, those years
slowly erased from memory one word at a time,
dissected, analyzed and thrown away as
not being worth a cent. Our
history. My history that sleeps crammed tight
inside cupboards, imprisoned behind glass
walls in a white man’s home, forgotten, yearning to
return but held back by words agreed with
forced signatures while mothers watched
their infants balanced on swords. We
aren’t allowed to practice our beliefs, our
religion of non-violence. We
are looked down as being inferior practicing an
ancient wisdom they claim has no place
in this new world order rolling in. Everything is being
re-written to suit the white man
somewhere. We
are forced to accept the white man’s ways
and beliefs, his lifestyle, his food filled with things
that harm our bodies. We
are persuaded to sell our values, our businesses,
infrastructure, money making properties that are
made to look as disasters, failures in our
incapable hands, handed over to foreigners with
no idea of their true worth, to appease
buffoons in political power. We watch helpless as our
lands, those many tufts of earth that make up
this place we call home, nurtured with the blood of
warriors that died to save it for a future,
are torn up, lines drawn for
ownership claimed from foreign shores.
Slowly, slowly we
change, turn once again to become slaves to
whiteness this time not controlled with
guns held against us
but through agreements signed in cold climes
behind hushed doors. We
are compelled to obey the rules
follow the oil man’s religion. Shroud our
women in darkness. Our
words are twisted like vines, tied up,
strangled. Simple meanings deconstructed, what we
meant is portrayed as something negative, ugly,
best left unsaid thrown into the gutter. We
become nothing. Beaten up our
backs curved in surrender aged beyond our
years. Coerced
into submission to the white master
oil master coming in different clothes, speaking
through different tongues sliced in two, sugar
coated to please
controlling through regional bullies,
political prophets and
religious puppets, money exercising utmost
authority while debauchery reigns,
reigns, reigns and thugs party with not a care in
the world and the police cheer and the public
cry foul and no one listens for ears
hide inside potholes and words roll in the dirt
desperately waiting for the rains.

© 2016 Shirani Rajapakse

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Litro

This is Home is a short story I wrote last year about a Palestinian woman stuck in the middle of the conflict. Check it out here.

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Dove Tales – Family and Cultural Identity

Two poems “Dilemma” and “A Forced Silence” are included in Dove Tales Family and Cultural Identity released on the first of this month.

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Poetry on VerseWrights

Four of my poems are featured on VerseWrights today. They are “Dream of the Housemaid”, “Questions Left Unanswered”, Driving Down Galle Road” and “The Violinist.”

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Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts

Earth Song is featured in LIJLA Vol 4 No1 February 2016. Go here or read it below.

 

Earth Song

 

I am the weeping earth cringing

in pain when you dig me up, pulling out

 

limbs, entrails leaving me to hemorrhage.

Shocked, in excruciating pain, no one hears my

 

silent cries. Children orphaned, lives torn apart,

fracking my veins drinking me dry. Parched

 

I crumble into pieces. I am the silent sky watching

anger whizz by to explode in places you don’t like.

 

Not yours to care while I listen

to the cries of the weak

 

trying to make sense of it all

amidst terror raining down from

 

above. I am the roaring waves, the deep

darkness under heaving waters, flowing rivers

 

gurgling streams and silent lakes that stand still as

mirrors for clouds to comb their hairs. You

 

damn me everywhere but I lift my

head straining to rise, course through the

 

way I want and not how you think

I should. I am the raging fire that burns, taking

 

the trees with me chasing the birds away,

the deer, rabbits and wild beasts

 

that hide within my voluminous cloaks. Trees, how

I love to sway to birds tunes, the beat of squirrels feet,

 

weave my magic through the land, burrowing in deep,

standing up tall reaching high to the skies waving

 

my many arms in the breeze holding onto life. I am

woman I am life I am earth and I bleed.

 

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International Times

Originally published in “Writers for Calais Refugees” A Place to Call Home was published today in International Times.

 

A Place to Call Home

 Stichting-Vluchteling-The-Dutch-Refugee-Foundation-1

When what you flee from is
not what you want to remember, blood

washing streets, bodies decomposing,
sisters forced to strip down, gorged on like

the entrails of cattle by a dozen or so men
wanting things they have no

right to, but expect you, your mother or daughter to
pay, when what you run towards is

not what you expect, ephemeral like sad clouds
passing overhead or translucent lines of

steam rising from coffee whose taste lingers
only in your memory, when what you witness is

not what you had hoped, for yourself and the others
with you, unwashed bodies, smells of fear, loss,

helplessness, hunger that not even the dog on the
street experiences, huddling in the darkness as

you rise and fall on waves pounding through, praying
to any god that listens to let you stay afloat

balancing precariously on her many sighs
and heaves and not embrace you into her octopus

arms like she did so many times gathering others into her,
the dark skirts smothering only to vomit them up on

beaches, worn out, unresponsive, of no
significance, when what you look forward to is

not what you get on arrival, the snaking lines, the wait,
the taunts, the beating, razor sharp wires that brand

your attempts to scramble out, the sneers and most of all the
looks of contempt, you wonder if what you left behind,

however terrible it was, however cruel the sun shone, was
better than this, a living death – who can say if there

is better than here, but can you retrace
your steps to here that doesn’t want you anymore?

SHIRANI RAJAPAKSE

https://writersforcalaisrefugees.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/shirani-rajapakse/

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New Verse News

Posted today a poem about the elections in Saudi Arabia.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2015

SAUDI ARABIA

by Shirani Rajapakse


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — In elections that allowed Saudi women to vote and run for office for the first time, more than a dozen women won seats on local councils in different parts of the country, officials said on Sunday. While the move was hailed by some as a new step into the public sphere by women in this religious and conservative monarchy, the local councils have limited powers and the new female members will make up less than 1 percent of the elected council members nationwide. —NY Times, Dec. 13, 2015. Photo credit: Ahmed Yosri/European Pressphoto Agency.




What use a vote
when they are all shrouded

in darkness? An
image at the periphery of the horizon

crying to be acknowledged,
a shadow fluttering past, a sad cloud

shielding its eyes from
a dust storm,

a puppet in the house
dancing to someone’s idea of a

tune. None of these are of much use,
except to entertain

and you don’t
need a vote for that.

Shirani Rajapakse writes poetry and fiction. Winner of the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013, finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013, and shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award 2010 her work appears in Flash Fiction International (Norton 2015), Silver Birch, Asian Signature, Moving Worlds, Berfrois, Counterpunch, Earthen Lamp Journal, Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry Review, TheNewVerse.News, About Place Journal, Ballads (Dagda 2014), Poems for Freedom (River Books 2013), Voices Israel Poetry Anthology 2012 and many others.

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Cities + Secrets

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Issue 5 of Cities + is all about secrets. Here is what to expect in the issue.

“We send you on a hunt to find answers written in urban landscapes and whisper (or maybe shout) to you about Rankopolis, the most ‘city’ of all cities. There is a polemic on the parasitic nature of the urban-rural divide. There is a series of conjurations based on Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’ (if you don’t think you can see the invisible, think again)(actually always, always think again). And there is a most impressive contributor who literally unearthed the secrets of her garden. That’s not even an exhaustive list. ”

Check out The Old Road on page 58.

 

 

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Flash Fiction International

A review of Flash Fiction International at Kitaab. To read it go here.

“Right on the trail of Kafka and coincidentally just a few pages after him, we have the story “Shattered” by Shirani Rajapakse from Sri Lanka. The title hits the reader like the single-worded and sometimes monosyllabic title of a horror movie. Now this is not the case at all in terms of genre but the events described are nothing short of horrifying. The writer speaks about war, like many other Lankan writers do, but Shattered puts a unique spin on the theme.”

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Getting it Write!

The annual creative writing seminar organised by the English Writers’ Cooperative (EWC) Sri Lanka will be held on August 29, 2015 from 9.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. at the auditorium of the Sri Lanka Federation of University Women.
There will be two sessions on poetry and short story followed by a panel discussion in the afternoon.

For more info check it out on Facebook.

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Flash Fiction International – a review

“As much as I love and admire full-length fiction, these little marvels have had such a salutary effect on me. I highly recommend them for you, too. Take and enjoy. The doses might be small but they are always  bracing!”

Check out the review of Flash Fiction International by Luke Sherwood in Basso Profundo.

 

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National Flash Fiction Day at The Write – In

The Editors at The Write -In have created an event for today, June 27, National Flash Fiction Day. Write flash stories based on any of their prompts and if the the stories are interesting they get published. It’s all happening right now. Check out my story Things that Happen in the Night.