Tag Archives: inspiration

“My unconquerable soul” #Invictus

“I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.”

– William Henley, Invictus

The truth is that I have. I have winced and I have cried, but afterward I have dried my tears, set up my laptop, and written the words in my heart. Maybe not every day—I have certainly succumbed to the emotions and the difficulties of the process. But in aggregate, I have written more days than I have given up. I have spent more days fighting off the face of resistance than bowing down to it. Perhaps William Henley was stronger—he wrote those words. Without wincing or crying aloud. He stared down a blank scroll and wrote about his unconquerable soul.

I wish that I felt that strong every day, every moment, but I don’t believe that my soul is unconquerable. Some days the reality of a blank page or an unedited manuscript is too much to stomach with all the pressures and deadlines of life and a paying job. But I find strength in his words and their portrayal of the author, of the individual, as someone who can fight off all of life’s demons and uncertainties to emerge in triumph.

On the day Henley wrote those words, there is no doubt that he was inspired. His soul was unconquerable, his fight had been won. When I reflect on that moment rationally, I know that it cannot have been like that for him every day. There would have been days when he felt the same way that I have. There would have been days that left his soul feeling vapid and empty when the weight of the world overtook writing, the purpose of his soul. Yet I cannot thank him enough for giving me the vision behind those words. The unconquerable soul is not one that never falls short in the face of adversity, but one that rises again and again to battle against it. And finally to overcome it in aggregate, because while some battles may be lost, we can still win the war.

You can read the full poem here at: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/182194

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter to learn about new releases, contests and more! http://bitly.com/1sIlG3h

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://hyperurl.co/ahriman.

 

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Where inspiration comes from

A number of people have asked me where my inspiration as a writer comes from. Over time, I’ve given them a number of different answers: from travel, things I see, movies, other people, and random encounters. Each of these answers are true, but only tell part of the story.

I found myself reflecting on this today. Where does inspiration come from? It’s true that I get ideas from things that I hear and see, encompassing everything in the above list. What hits closer to home though is to see other people who spend their time day after day perfecting their craft. As such, my inspiration often comes from movies where the central character – whether a painter, a chef, an investor, or rarely an author – spends their time doing exactly this. In some cases this is central to the plot while other times it is just ancillary. Either way, those movies spark my interest. I love observing the character as they battle with their inner demons to tackle their chosen vocation.

A few days ago, I watched The Hundred Foot Journey. It focuses on an Indian chef who starts a restaurant in a small village in France and then continues to rise through the culinary ranks. I love cooking and so the scenes of him and other chefs in the kitchen are already fun to watch – what’s often referred to as food porn. What made the movie more engaging was to go through some of the uphill battles that he encounters as he returns to the kitchen again and again to prepare new exciting dishes. I’m not making a broader commentary on how realistic the movie is – only a real chef would be able to answer that, but were I to face those situations, I doubt I could have returned to my craft with so much zeal. Of course, cooking isn’t that sort of passion for me. I can only hope that each day I will continue to return to my writing with the same kind of passion that the lead character in this movie displays.

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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! http://bitly.com/1sIlG3h

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://hyperurl.co/ahriman.

The answer is the peer group

I spent the weekend at a reunion of the M&T program
(www.upenn.edu/fisher/) for its 35th anniversary. It was a weekend filled with inspiring and interesting speeches and opportunities to catch up with old friends and a diverse group of fellow alums.

One of the first speeches at the event stressed the importance of the peer group as a spur toward success. I’ve witnessed the importance of this in a number of different settings, not the least of which is just hanging out in a group of friends, but this weekend was a special reminder.

I got to hear some amazing stories. Garrett Reisman, an alum of the program, became an astronaut after many people told him that it would never happen. Dr. Hamilton envisioned the program and put it together piece by piece in the 1970s. Kunal Bahl built Snapdeal and landed on the Top 40 under 40 list.

The inspirational stories that I heard left me with an even larger commitment to writing as my passion and calling. I’m so excited that I have access to such a great support network. The M&T program will continue to be a network that is inspires me and I’m lucky to be a part of it and the many other groups of friends and family who’ve supported me over the years.

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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! http://bitly.com/1sIlG3h

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.

Honor the muse

Yesterday I watched the movie Chef. The basic premise is the journey of a character – a formerly inspired chef, who becomes complacent and, as a result, unhappy. He eventually finds his way back to inspiration by launching a food truck business where he is able to let his inventive juices run free and clear.

Watching that movie reminded me of how important it is that we stay true to our muse. I don’t know where the muse comes from – whether she is a product of faith or talent or some combination of the two. Whatever the answer to that is, the muse provides us inspiration for whatever our calling is, so long as we must stay true to it. That means two things. We must pursue it. If it drives us to paint, then we must, if it drives us to write then we must write. We also are bound to honor it. When inspiration strikes an author to write a love story, or a spy story, or a family drama, they do not respond by writing a fantasy novel. This is something that I try to remember when well-meaning friends or family urge me to write something that falls outside of anything that comes from inspiration. “Romance novels sell really well, why not write one of those?” “Or what about a young adult science fiction story like Divergent?”  Perhaps someday if either of those are what I am inspired to write. So far, I haven’t felt that urge.

I don’t believe there is a way to game the system. I will write the stories that the muse inspires me to write. If I did anything else in the hopes of achieving higher sales number or better publicity, I would not be respecting her gift. Besides, it isn’t that easy to write something in a different genre. Success stories always make it seem like a walk in the park, but I know that it’s a far cry from that. And if we hope to keep receiving gifts from the muse, as I certainly do, we must honor the ideas that she gives us.

For me this means working on The Ahriman Legacy, a series of spy thrillers. My second book is in progress and I expect to have the first draft completed this week. I’ve also written another novel, a family drama that is currently being edited. I have some other ideas for future work but I will pick those up when these two projects are further along.  Each day, I intend to honor the muse that has given me this inspiration as a gift.

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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://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS.

Writing of AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION

Writing my first book, AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION, has been a journey for me. The inspiration for this story is what led me to writing in the first place, and now that I have discovered it, my life has changed completely.

I spent much of my childhood and teenage years with my nose buried in books off of my father’s bookshelf. I read everything that I could get my hands on – from classics, thrillers, science fiction, and literary dramas, all the way to fantasy. Amongst all of these genres, I developed a special fondness for thrillers. I remember that I procrastinated studying for my exams in high school by reading thrillers such as Frederick Forsyth’s ICON and John Grisham’s THE PELICAN BRIEF.

I first thought of the idea for AHRIMAN when I was visiting my parents in Kuwait in late 2008. Kuwait has some interesting nuances in its political systems and I was in the midst of rereading one of my old favorite novels, when an idea occurred to me. One of the strangest features of the Kuwaiti government is the fact that democracy often stands at odds with civil liberties and women’s rights – what we generally consider to be progress. The monarch, or Emir, is generally far more progressive than the National Assembly which has a strong conservative and Islamist faction. I observed this clash firsthand as the royal family fought for women’s voting rights while Parliament stood against it for many years until the law finally passed in 2005. Recalling this standoff gave me the central idea for AHRIMAN – an assassination plot against the Kuwaiti monarchy, originating from within the government itself.

The idea for AHRIMAN came to me at a moment’s notice, without much effort. The process for writing the story required far more time and discipline. I wrote some thoughts down from time to time, but I kept putting it off. I don’t have time for it right now. I’m supposed to do XYZ. I had all kinds of excuses back then. Things started to change when a friend of mine suggested that I enroll in the National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), an organization that supports writers as they aim to write fifty thousand words of their story in thirty days during the month of November. By that time I was in graduate school in London. I looked into the organization and I thought, there is no way that I can do this. How could I possibly write that much in one month? I decided to enroll anyway. I figured that even an attempt at reaching that goal would be a valiant effort. My story was still very much unfinished and I hoped to at least move it forward a bit. So I began writing again, this time with much more discipline.

Once I enrolled in Nanowrimo, I decided to commit to the process. I wasn’t sure how I would manage to write that much, but I gave it an honest try. I wrote while traveling on the train from London to Paris. I wrote more of my story at all times of the day. I even spent time writing in many of my classes, while I hid out in the back to make sure that the professor didn’t call on me those days. At the end of the month, I had reached my goal of fifty thousand words and I was a little over half way through my story. I kept going with it, albeit at a slower pace. A few months later, I had a few weeks off of school to work on my master’s thesis and I finally finished the first draft.

After the first draft I went through a number of edits, with comments from friends, family, and anonymous beta readers, until AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION was finally published in June of this year. It still seems pretty surreal. I can’t believe that my work is out there – available for anyone to find. I am slowly learning about the marketing process and have started doing occasional events. One of the most exciting things now is how I’ve found readers and fellow writers in the strangest places. At a taxi stand in Cincinnati, I struck up a conversation with the staff person and discovered a voracious reader in the process of writing her own novel. Another day I sold a book at the Fedex office when I went to send a copy to a reviewer in Ireland. Each of these moments is a little reminder of how lucky I am to have gotten this far. I have so many ideas for stories and am committed to a disciplined process, as I put in time for my writing every day. At the moment, I am hard at work on the sequel to AHRIMAN and hope to have the first draft completed by the end of this month. I’ve also written another book – a family drama – and am going through the editing process now. Both books should be out by the end of next summer. In spite of the time I am now spending on marketing, I want to make sure that writing remains the focus. I was lucky enough to discover my calling during a chance vacation and shirking on that commitment would be the same as relinquishing part of my identity. So each day, I set time aside and write.

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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://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS.

Jealous of my novel’s heroine (Part 2)

A couple of weeks ago I posted on the breathtaking July 14th fireworks show that I watched in Paris at the Eiffel Tower. Since it was too difficult to take a video of it myself, I wanted to add the official youtube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7eYp0j01MQ.

This firework show epitomizes the deep appreciation for fine arts that characterizes every street corner in Paris. I am currently writing Book II of The Ahriman Legacy, and first part of the story takes place there amidst this vibrant atmosphere. The heroine, Petra Shirazi, is living there under a cover identity when she is drawn back into the spy world. As I am writing the scenes of Paris at the moment I remain exceedingly jealous that she is able to live in such a wonderful and beautiful city. For now I have to be content with moments left to the imagination and what I can create on the page.

My earlier post on this subject is available here: https://pujaguha.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/falling-in-love-with-paris-once-again/

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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://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS 

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.

IMG-20140728-WA005
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.

IMG-20140728-WA003 IMG-20140728-WA001

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/