Guest Post

Guest Post – The First Year as a Published Author: Dreams versus Reality – By Leonora Meriel

It feels wonderful to have a talented writer like Leonora Meriel as a guest on my blog. Here’s what she has to say about following your dream.

 

A powerful dream

My earliest memory is telling people I wanted to be writer.

All through my childhood I read avidly and wrote stories, poems, even a novel or two. I studied literature at two universities in Britain and Canada, and never for a moment doubted what I was born to do.

On October 1st 2016, my lifetime dream came true: My debut novel The Woman Behind the Waterfall was released. I was 38 years old.

 

Why had it taken me so long?

Life is never a straight line, however shiny our dreams are. And the older we get, the less straight the line becomes. By the time I finished university, I was living in New York, working for the United Nations and then a law firm, married, then pregnant, and then moving to Ukraine. For the first time in my 20 years, life was far, far more exciting than the books I loved to read. And so I forgot entirely about writing and jumped wholeheartedly into the business of living a whirlwind, stimulating life. This excitement lasted throughout my 20s, and it was only when I celebrated my 30th birthday – the perfect opportunity for reflection and evaluation of goals – that I remembered about the dream I was meant to be fulfilling.

At that point, I was living in Ukraine, speaking Russian (and Ukrainian), running a business I had founded, with two children and a very exciting life. But it was time to start doing what I had been born to do: write novels.

 

Changes

Over the next seven years, I left the business I had founded, passing on my job of CEO to a co-founder and friend, moved to Barcelona – the most creative city I know – and wrote my first novel The Woman Behind the Waterfall. It was during the process of writing that I realized how valuable the experiences I had gained over the last 10 years were to my writing dreams. I had lived a lifetime’s worth of adventures. Now I had everything I needed to spend the rest of my life developing my skills as a writer, and fulfilling my dream.

 

The First Novel

The Woman Behind the Waterfall is a literary fiction and magical realism novel. It is set in a village in Ukraine and is about 3 generations of women, and their search for happiness. It is not a commercial novel, it is intended to be something different, beautiful, strange, challenging and provocative. It is meant to appeal to readers (as I had been) who love something new and eclectic and brave and raw. Something where you can feel the emotion of the writer and the pain of creation.

So, you can imagine, not many publishers jumped at the chance to publish something strange, beautiful, and not-very-commercial by a debut author.

However, I had an agent who loved the book and valiantly tried to sell it. After a year, she hadn’t found a publisher, however I had read enough about self-publishing to decide to release my novel into the world myself.

 

The road to publishing

It was a hard journey learning about all the different aspects of independent publishing. Cover design, structural editing, copy edition, proofreading, typesetting, distribution channels, a launch strategy, a sales plan, and so much more. Luckily, my skills as an entrepreneur came in handy as I was used to having to deal with multiple issues of different kinds and finding solutions. But it was a lot of hard work.

 

Launch Day

The Woman Behind the Waterfallwas launched in October 2016 in a London bookshop. I was surrounded by friends and family who had shared my dream and who had come to celebrate the day it came true. My oldest friend wrote a Facebook post entitled “Dreams can come true – now I believe anything can happen,” and wrote about my story. It was one of the most incredible days of my life. I truly felt that every minute of my existence had been leading up to this moment – looking out at the group of people who had shared my life and believed in me. I will never forget this.

 

The childhood dream

My childhood dream took 38 years to come true.

If I could condense those 38 years in a nutshell, I would say there were 20 years of reading and scribbling, 10 years of life experience, and 8 years of learning to write a novel. I would say, with retrospect, that this is a solid formula. And now I have the next 38+ years of writing novels that (hopefully) get better and better.

 

Lessons from fulfilling a lifelong dream

Here are some things I have learned about dreams:

  • Dreams are never fulfilled in a straight line.
  • True dreams will never disappear from your heart (even though I forgot about my dream for 10 years, when I returned to it, it burned as fiercely as ever).
  • Dreams will rarely come true exactly as you imagined they would. Most often, they will be better and more suited to your particular life (when you dream as a child, you often base your dreams on what you see other people have accomplished. You do not yet know what you are capable of accomplishing).
  • Dreams coming true are the most incredible feeling you will ever experience (for this feeling goes to the very depths of your soul and your heart, which has nurtured them for year after year).
  • Dreams make you generous (the intense and deep joy of your own dream being fulfilled makes you passionately want to help other people with their own dreams).

 

Conclusion

Since the publication of The Woman Behind the Waterfall, I have launched my second novel and am busy writing my 3rd, 4th and 5th. I have received wonderful reviews for both my books, I am stocked in dozens of bookshops, I have made friends with writers, editors, publishers and many more people from the book world, and learned an enormous amount about independent publishing and the publishing industry.

While fulfilling my dream was incredible, it was also merely the first step on the path of a brand-new career – one that will challenge and amaze me for the rest of my life. From now, I can truly say that I am happy, and that I have done what I was born to do.

If any of you have a dream – especially if it is a dream to create – then know that it is possible. Keep believing. Keep working. It will come true.

 

“The Woman Behind the Waterfall” is literary fiction and magical realism

 The Woman Behind The Waterfall_Cover

Heartbreak and transformation in the beauty of a Ukrainian village.

For seven-year old Angela, happiness is exploring the lush countryside around her home in western Ukraine. Her wild imagination takes her into birds and flowers, and into the waters of the river.

All that changes when, one morning, she sees her mother crying. As she tries to find out why, she is drawn on an extraordinary journey into the secrets of her family, and her mother’s fateful choices.

Can Angela lead her mother back to happiness before her innocence is destroyed by the shadows of a dark past?

Beautiful, poetic and richly sensory, this is a tale that will haunt and lift its readers.

Goodreads * Amazon * Barnes & Noble

 

Reviews for The Woman Behind the Waterfall

“Readers looking for a classic tale of love and loss will be rewarded with an intoxicating world” ~~ Kirkus Reviews

“The language is lyrical and poetic and, in places, begs to be read repeatedly for the sheer joy of it… A literary work of art.” ~~ Fiona Adams, The Richmond Magazine

“Rich and poetic in detail, it is an often dreamy, oneiric narrative rooted in an exaltation of nature… A lovely novel.” ~~ IndieReader

 

About the Author

Leonora Meriel_Pic

Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm.

In 2003 she moved from New York to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA, which included a study trip around China and Taiwan, and climbing to the top of Hoverla, Ukraine’s highest peak and part of the Carpathian Mountains. She also served as President of the International Women’s Club of Kyiv, a major local charity.

During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development.

In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet.

Leonora currently lives in Barcelona and London and has two children. She is working on her third novel.

 

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Book Promo

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100 reviews Amazon

Today, my #inspirational fiction #novel #TheFragileThreadOfHope crossed 100 reviews on Amazon. It had already crossed the 100 mark on Goodreads a couple of weeks back. It is a huge landmark for me, and I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to all my readers for reading and reviewing my book. Means a lot to me. And most of the reviews are positive and/or constructive, encouraging me and helping me improve. 

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Book Review

Book Review – Curious Tales from the Himalayas by Shaguna and Prarthana Gahilote

curioustalescover

I attended the launch of this book recently at our popular, critically-acclaimed bookstore, Rachna Books. It was a pleasant surprise to know that Prarthana Gahilote (one of the co-authors) was not only a senior special correspondent with Outlook magazine but also renowned Indian singer Mohit Chauhan’s wife. In fact, Mohit Chauhan sir himself came to the book launch and not only read an excerpt from the book but even sang a few lines from his popular song ‘Dooba Dooba’.

mewithmohitchauhan

I also managed to get a copy of the book signed by both Prarthana ma’am and Mohit sir. A few weeks ago, I began reading the book and finished it today.

Curious Tales from the Himalayas is a lovely collection of folk tales from the Himalayan region. All stories are diverse yet unified by a common thread of knowledge and mystical beauty. As told by Prarthana ma’am in her illuminating talk at the book launch, this book was an attempt to revive the dying flame of storytelling and folklore in this modern, smartphone-dominated world. If we are not aware of our roots, slowly we will lose our sense of identity and uniqueness. After reading the book, I felt a sense of satisfaction. Not only did I learn several aspects of the culture of our surrounding regions, I also found inspiration and knowledge. I believe this book is a must-read at least for everyone residing in the Himalayan region—if not for people all over the world—as it reintroduces us to these beautiful folktales touching upon various themes like human values, morality, and spirituality that define our heritage and tradition. I especially loved reading a  Sikkimese folktale about our very own Rangeet and Teesta rivers and the story behind their union.

The writing is simple, lucid, and error-free. As I learnt during the book launch, a lot of travel and research has gone into producing this book, and I applaud the authors for their sincere effort. After every story, the other versions of the story are also highlighted for reference so that readers don’t get offended that the story is different from what they have heard. This book should be made available in schools and homes throughout our region so that children can learn about these beautiful folk tales.

I loved this wonderful little book. Every story was nice and carried a subtle lesson in it. A must-read for all.

4 stars from my side.

Book Promo, Book Review

Book Review – #TheFragileThreadOfHope

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Book Review

Book Review – The Boy by Nrupal Das

The author of this book offered me a free copy in exchange for an honest review. The blurb seemed intriguing, and I discovered that the book was an Amazon.in Best Seller & Amazon KDP Wordworthy Short Story Finalist. All these factors urged me to accept his offer.

I began reading his short story day before yesterday with a lot of expectations, but after a few pages, I was left disappointed. The language is all over the place, riddled with grammatical and punctuation errors. The concept behind the story is actually not bad—a mystery based on a boy who disappears unexpectedly—but the execution is not at all satisfactory. The narration abruptly alternates between past and present tense (sometimes even in a single sentence, there is a mixture of past and present tense), the characterization is average, most of the descriptions are unnecessary, and the dialogues are immature. Too many characters are introduced with halfhearted one-line descriptions, and half of them seem unnecessary. The only thing I really liked about the book was the innocent reason that the boy gives for disappearing without warning. That touched my heart, I must say. The religious part at the end, though, seemed forced and artificial.

Overall, I didn’t like the short story, but the author does possess talent, which appears in flashes in the narrative, especially the way he portrays emotions. I would urge him to take my criticism in a positive way and work very hard on his writing skills because he might be getting some short-term success right now, but sugar-coated reviews will misguide him at this phase of his writing career. On the other hand, honest reviews will throw light on his definite shortcomings and help him improve.

2.7 stars from my side.

Book Review

Book Review – For a Girl in a Star by Ratna Chandu

I generally think twice before accepting book review requests, but when a reader whom I value asked me to review this book, I couldn’t say no. Also, the blurb seemed intriguing enough to support my decision.

I finished reading it today, and I have mixed feelings about this book. 20% into the book, I remember setting the book aside, seriously considering continuing any further. The story didn’t seem to be going anywhere, but the main reasons for my indecision were the innumerable grammatical and punctuation errors.

However, I continued, and I think I made a good decision. The story improved and captured me in a web of intrigue. Grammatical mistakes kept snapping some threads every now and then, but the plot kept me moving. The characters, I must say, are well-etched. A variety of complex relationships between the characters—mother and son, father and son, friendship between the protagonists, the triangular love story—have been written well. The author has also managed to portray emotions very well. Although I never cried in this book, the author did manage to push me on the verge of crying a couple of times. The narration, especially in the middle—which I believe is the strongest part of the book—is really good with just the right amount of emotions conveyed in proper, lucid sentences.

Having said that, the language is below-par almost throughout the narrative. The dialogues are quite lousy sometimes too. I could even find one or two spelling mistakes in the book, which is almost unforgivable for an author of a published book. Even Microsoft Word can identify spelling errors! Being an author myself, I know how hard I try to avoid spelling and grammatical and basic punctuation errors and to see the author’s evident neglect left me disappointed. Also, repeatedly using words like ‘Coz’ in a literary work is certainly not recommended, so I suggest that she refrains from using such colloquial words from now onward. Also, in the middle of simple, ordinary sentences, out of nowhere, big words are used, which are either inappropriate or incorrectly used. That gives an amateurish vibe, which new authors should try to avoid. The only good part about the language were the occasional innovative metaphors that were cleverly employed in the narrative.

Another minor issue I found in the book is the use of the third-person omniscient approach. I personally don’t like that approach. I used to employ the same in my earlier writings, but nowadays I refrain from it because although it is easy to write, it is very easy to make mistakes too. The author puts in thoughts of all the characters in a single scene. One line it is Sahas thinking, and the other line it is Avinash. It is so easy to get confused as to whose thoughts are being conveyed, which spoils the flow. The third person limited approach, in which only the protagonist’s thoughts are conveyed and the other character’s actions or dialogue express his/her feelings is a much cleaner method of writing, although it is difficult to implement. However, it is just my opinion, and there are readers who don’t mind head hopping too much.

Despite all these consistent issues, the plot did manage to grip me pretty well until the ending. However, the ending seemed forced and difficult to believe and unsatisfactory, especially the goons part. I think the author tried to add too many twists and turns and paid the price because the ending felt bland and hurried and certainly not as emotionally satisfying as the middle portion of the book.

Despite the unsatisfactory ending, the perennial grammatical errors and other flaws, this is definitely a readable book. The author seems to be quite talented, especially the very good narration in the middle portion of the book. If she works a bit hard on her language, I think she can write a much better book next time.

3.2 stars from my side.

Book Promo

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Final Promo Day (3)

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Link: mybook.to/tftoh