Exploration on a whim

A couple of days ago, a friend asked me about where the inspiration for my writing comes from. I have a few different answers for this, the first being travel. I’ve been very lucky to have been exposed to travel from a very young age. My family is Indian, but I grew up in Kuwait and Toronto. No matter where we were living, travel has always been a part of my family’s life, from trips to visit relatives in India to spending a weekend at a farm outside of Toronto. Each of these experiences has imprinted itself on my character.

The most exciting part of travel for me goes beyond the tourist attractions in a particular place. While I enjoy visiting these spots, what I appreciate more is walking around and getting a real feel for the place. Every city I have been to feels different, but offers its own aspects to be appreciated and admired.

I’ve spent the last two weeks in Paris and then London, so I can use these as examples. In an earlier blog post, I mentioned one of the aspects of Paris that I most admire: a wonderful appreciation of the arts that has inspired my writing. The heroine in THE AHRIMAN LEGACY, Petra Shirazi, actually spends the first part of Book 2 (currently in progress) living in Paris, of which I am exceedingly jealous.

London boasts some similarities to Paris, as a fellow old European city, but has a completely different feel. People walk down the streets at a brisker pace but the city provides a much more cosmopolitan and modern feel than Paris. Within the sea of 15 different British accents, you can also hear a wide range of other accents across every bustling street corner. Luckily, this week has been sunny (a rarity for this city) and I’ve been able to fully appreciate the size of the city and the collection of neighborhoods that make it up. I spent a few days in the Hamlet of Penge in the suburbs, which is made up of one main street and the surrounding residential area. Where I am staying now, in Little Venice, is a little bit more “happening” but yet calm and serene because of its setting on the Regent’s and Grand Union Canals. While walking around London, I’ve encountered a number of sites that have significance for writers throughout history. Next to Charing Cross Station, a friend pointed out the plaque denoting that Rudyard Kipling lived in the building next door. He also pointed out that Shakespeare and Chaucer worshiped at Southwark Cathedral which we walked by earlier in the day when we visited Burrough Market.

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Previous home of Kipling, next to Charing Cross Station

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral

I shouldn’t be surprised that my first book signing happened in this wonderful city where so many writers have paved the way forward for people like me.

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With so much inspiration in both of these cities, it isn’t surprising that I finished the first draft of AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION when I was living in between these two cities. At the same time, I do not believe that inspiration is isolated to any particular environment. Even when I am at home in Washington DC, I often notice new things that lead to new ideas that then show up in my writing. The most important part of being open to inspiration for me though is letting my thoughts explore different ideas at a whim, in much the way that we should all walk around aimlessly from time to time. Without a particular agenda, our minds can make strange connections that form the basis for our ideas going forward. By being open to exploring at a whim, I believe that we open ourselves to inspiration, regardless of the particular calling. In my case, that calling is writing, for others it is painting or entrepreneurship.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS/

A Writing Vacation

For the last few weeks, I have begun experimenting with a weekly blog post that I am planning to make into a permanent fixture. Depending on what kind of inspiration strikes, I may end up posting more often than once per week, but I’ve decided that at the minimum, every Monday, I will post a new blog entry.
This summer I am trying out a new vacation concept for myself: a writing vacation. I travel to a place, visit with friends and family in the area, but more than anything, I try to focus on my craft. Regardless of the city, I write every weekday as if the vacation was part of my regular routine, but instead of moving on to other work once I am done writing for the day, I focus on enjoying myself. I’ve been lucky that during this time, the inspiration for my writing continues to appear, or rather flourish, without the confines and necessities of making time for a regular work day. I do contract financial work with a number of organizations, so while I do tend to manage my own time, I am still required to attend to it regularly. This writing vacation has released those obligations temporarily and I am enjoying my new freedom.

After spending the last week basking in the wonders of Paris, I arrived in London this morning, another one of my favorite European cities. For the first time in years, I visited my old haunts from when I studied here – wandering around campus, checking out the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House, and lazing on the grass in a park until it started to rain. It was a wonderful walk down memory lane, especially considering how far I have come since I started the first draft of my first book on an ordinary November morning in this city. Back then I set a writing goal for myself and I scrambled toward it with maximum efficiency so that I would be able to move on to reading or assignments for class. Now my day revolves around my writing and is structured as such. I still set myself a goal for how many words I want to write that day and work toward it, but I no longer engage in conscious word padding or meaningless monologues in my writing simply to reach the word count goal. On my “normal” schedule, writing is the first task that I work on in the day, and whether reaching that goal means anywhere from one to three hours staring at the page, I commit to it. Standing here in London reminds me of the time, iterations, and effort that it has taken me to figure out what the best writing process is for me. I am sure that it is something that I will continue to refine over the course of my life, because, as my husband says, “You’re going to be writing until the day you die, kiddo.” Sometimes I like to celebrate the small victories though as I look back at my own evolution. More than anything, when I walk around this city, I am able to pay homage to the inspiration that helped me to start along my path as a writer.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS

Jealous of my novel’s heroine: Falling in love with Paris once again

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I’ve recently started working on the sequel to my first book, Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction (http://amzn.to/1rJjjb0). In the first part of this as yet unnamed sequel, my main character Petra Shirazi spends a great deal of time in Paris. After returning here for the first time since moving away in 2011, I am reminded again and again of how jealous I am of her for being able to live in and spend her time in this amazing city.

Lots of people have different experiences associated with Paris. Almost everyone is entranced by its beauty; every street corner is like walking through a postcard. Travelers that haven’t enjoyed it as much have a range of complaints that I won’t go into here. What the city does offer though is a wonderful appreciation of art in all its forms. Earlier tonight, I watched the July 14th (Bastille Day) celebrations at the Eiffel Tower. I’ve seen a number of different firework shows in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, and Toronto, but without question, I can say that I have never seen anything like this. The show cannot be called anything but the finest form of art, with the fireworks choreographed to a combination of music from Mozart, Beethoven, John Lennon, and other prominent musicians. I felt like I was back on the ice rink choreographing my own figure skating routine with all of the emotion the fireworks brought to each piece of music. What’s even more amazing is that I felt this level of emotion in spite of jostling with other people in the crowd and constantly craning my neck to see. I’ve attached one picture I managed to get from before the fireworks started and will add others that I can get from friends of the later festivities, along with a youtube link eventually. To sum it up in a word though – the event was breathtaking, as is most everything in this city. Maybe I can move back here someday, but until then, I will be living vicariously through Petra.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

Why I had to become a writer: I knew it in my bones

A couple of weeks ago, I published my first book, Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction, Book 1 of The Ahriman Legacy (http://amzn.to/1rJjjb0). Since then, a number of people who I’ve met have asked me the same question: How did you know that writing was something that you wanted to do?
The answer to that is simple, as my husband put it a couple of days ago. I knew it in my bones.
Writing is more than a hobby to me, more than just a pastime. When the idea for Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction struck me, I had all these plans to write the story within six months. Of course, that didn’t happen, but over time, on the days that I didn’t write, I started to grow more and more unhappy.
I had all kinds of good excuses as to why I wasn’t writing. I was traveling a lot. I had more than enough coursework to fill my time in graduate school. I said things to myself like, “I can’t write tomorrow, because I have plans to spend time with BLANK.” The BLANK there can be replaced with the name of a friend, an event, or an outing in Paris or London, where I was living at the time. Or frankly just with whatever scheme for procrastination stood out at that particular moment such as an addictive television show or a new book. When it all came down to it though, I knew what I should be doing with my time. I knew that I should be writing.
Developing a regular practice took some time and work. Even now, I would say that it’s a work in progress. I write every weekday a minimum of 1700 words. Sometimes that takes five hours, and sometimes it takes two. Sometimes the ideas that I’m putting down on the paper have been in my mind for days, and others they just appear as I’m writing, without rhyme or reason. No matter what though, I put in that many words, and move my stories forward. At the moment I’m working on the sequel to Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction and hoping to have it done by the end of the summer. Then the editing and the revising will begin.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://amzn.to/1rJjjb0.