Thursday, 19 May 2022

BOOK FEATURE: Once Upon a Mistake (Il Cuore #1) by Shilpa Suraj


There are no second chances, only missed ones...

Five years ago, an accident changed Maya's life forever. From an engaged, MBA graduate with her entire life in front of her, she'd ended up dumped, bedridden, and in enough debt to drown her and her family.
Five years ago, Yash had been looking forward to marrying the woman of his dreams. Then his father died, he lost his job and his fiancee dumped him over a text.
Neither have forgiven each other and neither has forgotten the other. When their paths cross at Il Couer, a vineyard owned by common friends, sparks fly, past hurts are stoked and present dreams are destroyed.
And that is just the beginning. As their lives get entangled, both professionally and personally, they find themselves fighting familial disapproval, professional jealousy, and a mutual attraction that threatens to burn them down.
Can Maya and Yash ever unravel their tangled past? And will the truth of their past define or destroy them? Can you build a future on a posioned past? They're about to find out...

Book Links:
Goodreads * *

Read an Excerpt from Once Upon A Mistake

The door slammed behind her and he heaved a sigh of relief. Peace and quiet at last. He put on his reading glasses, opened up the book and started to read.

And then he heard her laugh. He shouldn’t, he told himself. He really shouldn’t stand up and try to see where she was or what she was doing. Maya Patgaonkar was not someone he should be looking at or looking for or any other type of looking. 

He got to his feet and walked to the balcony railing, peering out through the dusky light of early evening. He was definitely looking.

She was walking down the endlessly sloping green lawn with the guy she’d arrived with and another guy and girl. All four of them seemed to be talking at the same time, practically talking over each other. 

Her hair was loose and hung in waves down her back. She wore a loose, floral skirt with a billowing white shirt that gave her a distinctly free, bohemian look. And she still limped. 

Not a temporary thing then, this limp. Had she gotten it in the accident that had killed Vikram? Aakash’s bitter recounting of their wild night of debauchery that had ended in his brother’s death had been both sordid and distasteful. 

It had also been deeply disturbing. That had not been the girl he’d thought he was marrying. Maybe her dumping him for being a penniless loser had been a true blessing in disguise. And yet, Yash continued to stand and watch her and her friends meander along in what was clearly an aimless walk. 

Maya. The name resonated in his head. Almost as if she heard him, she turned, her gaze drawn to the house. He saw her scanning the side of the house facing them and was about to step back and out of sight when her gaze snagged on him. 

The guy who’d arrived with her, Ved, said something to her and she responded but she didn’t look away. 

The moment between them stretched into an eternity that should never have existed. His heart was thudding, a drumbeat that he didn’t want to hear but one that thrummed through his veins nevertheless. 

She took a step toward him, a miniscule movement that nobody caught but him. It broke the spell. Yash stepped back and away from the railing, consciously turning away from her. 

The few months they’d known each other had been a lasting lesson. Maya wouldn’t get another chance to play him for a fool again. 

About the Author:

Shilpa Suraj wears many hats - corporate drone, homemaker, mother to a fabulous toddler and author.

An avid reader with an overactive imagination, Shilpa has weaved stories in her head since she was a child. Her previous stints at Google, in an ad agency and as an entrepreneur provide colour to her present day stories, both fiction and non-fiction.

Contact the Author:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Newsletter

Monday, 21 March 2022

Book Feature: NEW ERA by Tommy B. Smith


Insomnia. Headaches. Fear.

It drove Marjorie down, cost her a career, and almost destroyed her marriage. When she and her husband Terry escaped to the quiet green countryside west of the Mississippi River, their new home, it seemed too good to last.

The snake-ridden adjoining property, bordered by a row of maple trees, hosts a deadly secret. There the blood of fiends and innocents stain the crumbling ruins of an old farmhouse, a decaying testament to a web of treachery and murder stretching back to distant times.

The horror in the ruins watches in wait. Marjorie fears the end, and the end is coming.

Buy links: AMAZON

Add to your to-read list and leave a review: GOODREADS

Behind the Story:

In early 2019, I made a trip into the heart of Louisiana, photographing the urban art prevalent in downtown Alexandria, as well as various angles of the Red River, assorted historic locations, and cemeteries. My course stretched eastward from there, through Monterey and surrounding areas to the destination of Natchez, overlooking the Mississippi River.

New Era is an unincorporated community deep in rural eastern Louisiana. This lends the book its title, in part. The Black River is a prominent fixture of the area, once serving as a landing for steamboats in the early nineteenth century.

With New Era, history was an influence, objects and locations linking past to present in a substantial way. The region of central-eastern Louisiana provided an immersive experience conducive to the story’s authenticity—its relics, stories, and the conversations I had with some of those who consider it home. Amusing little details found their way into their story at times. Fact and fiction blend to create New Era, a tale of two time periods and the dark secrets that bind them.

For the book’s characters, the course of events presents a new era of sorts. Fighting to salvage their marriage in the aftermath of an unfortunate and traumatic event, Terry and Marjorie seek a new beginning here. The book marks the first entry in the Black Carmenia series.

What is the black carmenia, you might ask? It’s a flower. And my advice to you, if you should stumble upon this rare specimen, is to never, ever touch the black carmenia.

That caution aside, I hope you’ll join me for a new journey, readers, a brand-new tale of murder, treachery, and horrors which transcend time—a New Era.

About the author

Tommy B. Smith is a writer of dark fiction, award-winning author of The Mourner’s Cradle, Poisonous, the short story collection Pieces of Chaos, and the coming of age novel, Anybody Want to Play WAR?

His presence currently infests Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he resides with his wife and cats.

Author Website



Friday, 17 December 2021

Cost effective storage solution #1: Oil pastels and Gelatos

 One thing I love about my journey as an artist is experimenting with new materials. Good quality art materials are expensive, so I usually start with a small set and then expand if I like the medium. This means that keeping the materials in their original packaging becomes a pain.

Every time I am in the mood to play with the medium, I have to take them out, “unbox” them, sort the colours, and only then will they be ready to play with. Trust me by this time, I am either bored, frustrated, or found something else to draw or paint with instead.

I am also of the opinion that I would rather spend my money on the materials, and not the means to store them to make it more easily accessible.

So finding a supplier (actually the manufacturer) of these wooden boxes made my life much easier.

I didn't buy all the boxes at the same time, so I can safely say that their quality is consistent and that is good thing of you need to expand your storage space.

Wooden box with Faber-Castell Gelatos
Wooden box with Faber-Castell Gelatos
As you can see my Faber-Castell Gelatos found a prefect home outside their original packaging. I have two of these boxes for my Gelatos. Since each box is sub-divided into four sections, it works well for storing the colours. You can comfortably fit 12 Gelato sticks in each section (3 layers of 4).

I sort my colours into 8 groups: 1) blue, 2) green, 3) yellow, 4) orange, 5) red and pink, 6) purple, 7) brown, and 8) the neutrals (white, grey, black), so two boxes do the job.

Wooden box with oil pastels
Wooden box with oil pastels from 3 brands

Since the oil pastels are a bit shorter than the Gelatos, they fit the box's sections the other way.

A few months after I bought the boxes for the Gelatos, I started an oil pastel project and the struggle happened all over again. This time it was worse because I have many more oil pastel sticks that I had to sort in separate containers before I could work on the painting.

The Gelato boxes were close at hand, and I decided to see if they could also be used for the oil pastels.

To my happy surprise the oil pastels fit perfectly too, so I ordered some more.

I have oil pastels from 3 different brands: Faber-Castell, Mungyo, and Mont Marte. They are all the same length although differ slightly in width.

I used the same colour grouping mentioned above, and could fit 24 oil pastel sticks in each section. (3 layers of 8 sticks)

If you need more space, the dividers inside the boxes can be removed to make halves in either direction.

The boxes are made from MDF, so if you are concerned about water exposure, I suggest that you varnish them inside and out before stocking your materials. They can also be decorated if you prefer a more colourful look to a plain wooden box.

The boxes are available from or directly from the manufacturer's website, - I don't know if they ship internationally, but I suggest you contact them to ask. Right now they are closed for the festive season so no orders will ship until next year.

Keep an eye out for more useful product reviews and suggestions from this supplier in future blog posts.

Friday, 10 December 2021

Book Release Day! 🖤 SARAH KILLIAN: THE MARCHING TIDES by Mark Sheldon 🖤


Book 3 in a trilogy of dark humor novels, this hilarious series follows the bloody journey of Sarah Killian, a strong female…serial killer for hire.

Hi there! Sarah Killian, your friendly neighbourhood serial killer, back again for more bloody, violent fun.

For my final mission, I (begrudgingly) team up with my good for nothing, S.O.B. assassin ex, Jason. Why would I do such a crazy thing? Well, aside from the obvious answer that I am crazy, we are fleeing from the mysterious organization known only as the Marching Tides—a collective hell-bent on bringing down the Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers (T.H.E.M.) and exposing their shady dealings to the world at large.

As Jason and I try—often unsuccessfully—to stay one step ahead of the Marching Tides and their nefarious associates, we draw ever closer to the shocking truth of who the mastermind behind the Marching Tides really is.

Something tells me I’ll regret learning the answers at the end of my journey.


Excerpt from Chapter 1

My name is Sarah, and I work for a super-secret organization called the Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers (T.H.E.M.) that employs Professional Serial Killers (P.S.K.’s), and assassins. I hate, hate, hate assassins – so I find it particularly appropriate that their title starts with two asses.

T.H.E.M. is contracted by various entities—a few wealthy private citizens and corporations who can afford us, but most of our work comes from the government. Completely off the books, of course.

Assassins’ work is pretty boring and straightforward, so I won’t waste my time on them. The P.S.K.’s is where T.H.E.M. gets innovative. As a P.S.K., when on a project I get sent to a location, usually for several months—if not years—at a time, where I integrate myself into the community under a pseudonymous ‘Dupe’ personality. My Dupe personality is the everyday person who just goes to work and lives their life and is my cover for being in the area of the murders.

Meanwhile, I also have to create the persona of the killer—the ‘Herring.’ The Herring for each project has to have a unique M.O. and set of characteristics that distinguish itself from other projects I may have worked on, to avoid anyone being able to connect the dots from one project to another. I also have to make sure no one connects the dots between my Dupe personality and my Herring personality.

Fortunately, seeing as I mentioned the government is one of our biggest contractors, we have a certain amount of immunity from the F.B.I., but there are enough Private Dicks in the world that it’s not a bad idea to take the extra precaution.

As you can imagine, the fact that many serial killers suffer from multiple personality disorders lends itself well to developing these dual personas when on a project.


Mark Sheldon is the author of The Noricin Chronicles and the Sarah Killian: The Joy of Killing series. He lives in Southern California with his wife Betsy.

Follow Mark on FACEBOOK and AMAZON

Monday, 29 November 2021

Celebrating my birthday with a discount 😂

💜 🖤 Celebrate my birthday with me this week. 🖤 💜

Get 53% off for two of my ebooks.
Yup, my age is the discount!
🤣 🤣

Links to the right --->

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Book feature: DAWN'S DESIRE by Shilpa Suraj

One night of passion, a stolen moment of joy and six years of pain...

Rishi Khatri cannot forget the beautiful woman who swept into his life for one incredible night and then disappeared...with the contents of his wallet and large chunks of his heart.
Until the day, he meets Sehar again and he realises that he cannot forgive her. For, Rishi has made a cardinal mistake. He's fallen in love with his one night stand.
Sehar Mirza's one night of rebellion destroyed any chance of a normal future. But her heart cannot regret her choice. For in that one night, she laughed, she loved and she lost. She lived an entire lifetime.
When their paths cross again, Sehar and Rishi find their feelings for each other haven't dimmed. All they want in life is another chance, a second chance.
But Sehar has a secret. One that will destroy their tentative happiness.
Can they learn to look beyond their past mistakes and hope for a shared future? Can Rishi forgive a betrayal so large that it leaves his already battered heart in pieces at Sehar's feet? Can love win? Or will loss claim their destiny for its own again?

Book Links:

Read an Excerpt from Dawn's Desire

His home looked exactly as I’d expected it to. Meticulously curated, tastefully furnished and anally maintained. 

“You live alone?” I asked, as he handed me fresh towels and herded me towards the guest bedroom.

“Did you think I had a secret wife stashed away in my cupboard or something?” 

I shrugged. “Stranger things have happened.” 

He came to an abrupt halt in front of me. “Really? Like what?”

I gave him what I hoped was an enigmatic smile but what was, in reality, probably more constipated. 

With one last weirded-out look, he pushed the door of a room open and stepped back. “This is the guest bedroom. It has an attached toilet. If you need anything, let me know.” 

With that, he was gone before I could thank him or say any of the hundred other things bubbling through me. I dropped the duffel bag I’d carried along on the beautifully made bed and took in my surroundings. 

The entire room was done in shades of pastel green and cream and had a soothing effect on my otherwise frazzled nerves. My finger trailed over a summery yellow porcelain bowl on the bedside table with potpourri in it. 

Who kept his home so immaculate for him? Jealousy speared through me as I took in the many feminine touches to the room. I shook it off and marched into the bathroom to wash the day’s dirt and grief off of me. 

The hot spray of water from the shower boiled my skin and cleansed my soul. I took a deep breath as I wrapped my hair in a towel, changed into a comfortable pair of shorts and a t-shirt and followed my nose to the drawing room. 

Rishi held out a bowl of steaming hot deliciousness. “Chicken Pad Thai okay?” he asked. 

I nodded, taking the bowl from him. “Thank you.” 

He gave me a brief smile before picking up his own bowl and digging in. He had a copy of the latest book by Lee Child beside him.

“How are you enjoying that?” I asked, pointing with my fork to the book. 

He moved his hand in a so-so gesture saying, “Not sure if it is the book or my mood though.”

I bit my tongue. I really did. But it wagged anyway. 

“Is there something wrong with your mood?” I asked. 

His fork froze on the way to his mouth. “Nothing that concerns you,” he answered, quietly. 

It stung but I forced myself to look serene as I dug into my dinner. 

“You haven’t asked me yet,” I pushed my food around. “Why my parents threw me out of the house? Don’t you want to know?” 

“I haven’t asked you about many things, Sehar.” He reached casually for the television remote and turned it on. “Why would I start now?” 

This time it hurt to breathe. I sucked in a harsh gasp but it did nothing but burn its way through me. 

“I tried to explain my behaviour that night to you in Goa.” 

“And I told you I wasn’t interested in your explanation.” He kept his gaze on the television even as he increased the volume to drown me out. 

“Rishi, I never meant to-“ 

The television clicked off, the silence that fell in the room as abrupt as it was complete. 

He turned towards me, finally, fury burning in his gaze, his knuckles turning white from his grip on his bowl. 

“Is it so hard for you to understand that I am not interested in discussing that night with you? Ever? You lied to me, you slept with me, you used me and you stole from me…whatever your so-called justifications are, Sehar…I don’t care!” 

My throat locked, my apology crumbling and dying inside me. 

“Are we clear?” he asked, softly. 

“Crystal,” I forced out. 

“Good.” He turned the television on again, letting the sound wash over us. 

Silently, I ate every last bite in my bowl before walking to the kitchen to wash and stack it on the drying tray. 

I stopped at the entrance to the living room and watched him eat and stare at the television as if my presence in his home made no difference to him. 

We both knew better. We were both experts at pretending differently though. 

“I’ll be gone in the morning,” I told the back of his head. 

“You always are.” He increased the volume again until I thought the windows would shatter. 

Or maybe I would. 

About the Author:

Shilpa Suraj wears many hats - corporate drone, homemaker, mother to a fabulous toddler and author.

An avid reader with an overactive imagination, Shilpa has weaved stories in her head since she was a child. Her previous stints at Google, in an ad agency and as an entrepreneur provide colour to her present day stories, both fiction and non-fiction.

Contact the Author:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Newsletter

Sunday, 24 October 2021

Personal blog: #StoicWeek2021 - Saturday and Sunday

Sunday evening, 20h13, last day of Stoic Week 2021.

I said in my Friday post that I would post yesterday, but I did not. Unlike the previous time I did not post, this time it was a decision not to do so. My Stoic practice was not neglected, but I was working on the project I mentioned before. I decided to rather give it as a birthday gift instead of waiting until Christmas, and needed to work to get it done urgently - her birthday is this coming week. The basic construction of the book is completed - I finished it about two hours ago - but there is still some work to be done before it is ready as a gift.

It also means that I spent most of today working on it. Aside from the time I had to draw today's Inktober prompt (you can see it here) and preparing for the prompt for tomorrow, and a few chores, most of my day was spent on the book. Still no new bone folder, but I managed. It can be frustrating to wait for glue to dry (boring, right?) especially since the deadline moved from weeks to days. Unfortunately, I cannot use a hairdryer like I can for a watercolour painting. Patience is the only option. LOL!

Source: Stoic Week 2021

I have read that some people believe that Stoicism cannot be practiced by creatives because it dampens the creative spirit (it is after all a rational philosophy) but from personal experience I found it to be the opposite. Even though I am not a professional artist or writer (meaning that I don't earn my primary income from the sale of my art or books), Stoicism has also helped me in my creative endeavours.

Here is how it works for me:

1. Self-control: Procrastination is the universal enemy for many creatives, myself included. I have not won this battle (yet), but I find that the discipline of "getting out of bed, and doing my duty" (a creative reference to Marcus Aurelius's Meditations 5.1) is the essence to getting things done. Inspiration is a thing, but the muse works when you do - by showing up and doing the work. (You can learn more about getting things done in this YouTube video. I can definitely recommend the book discussed in the video.)

Practice makes better. I have been writing since 2000, and doing art since 2012 (Stoicism since 2018) and only by showing up and doing the work can you improve.

2. Wisdom: I found it interesting that the VIA Institute questionnaire results indicated that Wisdom is my number one character strength. I wish I could say it came with age, but I know it is not the case: age has very little to do with wisdom. I am far from being wise, but I have learned over the years that learning something from a book, or video, or other means, can only benefit oneself with actual practice. Learn, practice, and adjust where necessary. The same applies for Stoicism and any creative skill: learn a technique, practice it, adjust where you didn't get it right, or go back and study it again. Only with this iterative process can one improve - whether it is learning to draw, write a novel, or become better at being a Stoic.

It is for this reason that the words from Epictetus resonate with me from the moment I read it the first time, to right now when I can see on the wall of my office: First say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do. 

Whether I am doing my daily job (business owner, and consulting engineer), studying and practicing Stoicism, being an artist, art teacher, or writer - I have to show up and do the work.

If Stoicism is something that resonates with you, then be patient with yourself. Becoming a better human being is a lifelong endeavour.

A last note from me before I conclude my comments on Stoic Week 2021: I am a Christian (Calvinist) and I practice Stoicism within that belief system.

All the best with your Stoicism study and practice - until next time!

🙋‍♀️💜 Linzé

BOOK FEATURE: Once Upon a Mistake (Il Cuore #1) by Shilpa Suraj

  There are no second chances, only missed ones... Five years ago, an accident changed Maya's life forever. From an engaged, MBA graduat...