Thursday 31 May 2018

Author Interview: Connie Payne and Patricia Kutza

Here we are, with another interview, of authors Connie Payne and Patricia Kutza. They have co-authored "Don't Get Me Started!", which was published in August 2016.

Who are Connie and Patricia?

We are a bi-racial San Francisco Bay Area-based team (Connie is African-American and Patricia is Caucasian).  We are also related - Connie is the niece of Patricia and we have known each other for 46 years. We bring to the making of our book over thirty years of experience in the education (Connie) and telecom/journalism (Patricia) sectors.  

Tell us about your new book.
      A new model for etiquette –that goes beyond traditional etiquette –is needed to keep our public-behavior-wheels turning smoothly. Without it, daily life will continue to be a mine-field where people stumble culturally-- creating the impression that they are ‘culturally clueless’. In The Don't Get Me Started! Toolkit Strategies for a Culturally-Challenged World we offer a toolkit of skills for skillfully assessing and responding to the many challenging situations you may encounter in this rapidly changing world. 
     So whether you are playing games online, using a ‘gender-free’ restroom, sharing a picture on Facebook, conversing with friends in a café, applying in person for a new job or hosting an intergenerational event – you will be able to determine how the rules have changed and act in a manner that assures more successful outcomes. Being ‘culturally-clueless’ may not land you in jail…but it could very well make you less competitive in the job marketplace, less admired among your peers and less respected within your family.

Tell us about your other books.

Based on the feedback we received during our initial book tour we have published workbooks for 4th-5th graders, middle-schoolers  as well as adults that key off of the principles that we talk about in our original book.  These books are called:  "The Don't Get Me Started! Toolkit Jr. Workbook (for 4th and 5th graders)", "The Don't Get Me Started! Toolkit Workbook (for grades 6 through 12)" and "The Don't Get Me Started! Toolkit Adult Workbook."

What is your writing journey like, where and when did you start? Are you a writer by choice or by chance?
We wrote our original book over a period of 18 months.  Both Connie and Patricia have been writing for years - Connie wrote in her capacity as an educator and Patricia wrote for her corporate career as well as her parallel career as a freelance business, technology and lifestyle journalist. 

As a new author, what is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? Least favorite?
We both enjoy the give and take of bouncing ideas off of each other. Sometimes we challenge each other's assumptions - that's when using our toolkit comes in handy in order to make these conversations fruitful and not divisive.

 Are you an avid reader as well? What kind of books do you read? What is your frequency of reading?
Connie:  Romance novels and historical fiction     
Patricia:  Many different type of magazines, newspapers. 
Books: Favor autobiography. . 

Which is your favorite book and why?
Connie:     "The Giving Tree: (Shel Silverstein)       
Patricia:  "100 Years of Solitude" (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) - For its compelling weaving of mystery, literal exposition and magic.

Who are your favorite authors?
Connie: Terry McMillan, Connie Briscoe, California Cooper, Amy Tan, Jerome Dickey         
Patricia:  Jeffrey Toobin, Gloria Steinem, Barack Obama

Do you pursue any other profession apart from writing? How do you manage everything? How do you find family time amidst all this?
We both have very busy lives:  Connie loves to spend time with her grandchildren and keep in touch with her friends from her teaching career.  Patricia runs a monthly jazz jam and boats/fishes with her husband.  We both work hard to carve out family time.  It's very important for live/work balance. 

What does your writing space look like? 
Both Connie and Patricia have home office space. Patricia's is not as tidy as Connie's.:)

How do you overcome writer’s block?
Connie:  Tends to resolve these blocks by concentrating on other activities. 
Patricia:  Tends to 'power' through it.

What motivated you to write this book?
Through the many family gatherings, we have attended over the years as well as our individual experiences, we have noticed a growing disconnect between common sense-based behavior and clueless behavior ---this cuts across generations and nationalities.  We think that the rapid growth of technology, evolving gender identity, and shifting generational and ethic differences is making many people feel disoriented.  We passionately believe that our toolkit of skills, if practiced regularly, can help people feel more engaged and grounded due to better decision-making.  

How long did you take to finish this book? What was the process like?
18 months with many stops/starts and detours along the way! It's also been exciting in ways that we didn't anticipate starting out.  We now also market a game show based on our book and currently present it at workshops and other venues in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What are you hoping people to gain from your book?
Being ‘culturally-clueless’ may not land them in jail…but it could very well make them less competitive in the job marketplace, less admired among their peers and less respected within their family. Being clueless is not irreversible - but it takes will power and the belief that while practice may not 'make perfect' ...Practicing our toolkit of skills will produce more satisfying outcomes within a very short period of time.

What were some of the challenges you faced on the road to publication?
As John Lennon like to say "Life happens, when you are busy making other plans."  Both of us had to deal with family-based challenges (illness, death) that made an impact on our publishing timeline. When one of us felt overwhelmed, the other tried to keep the momentum going.

 What kind of research have you done for the book?
We used both primary and secondary resources.  We also were able to draw on two lifetimes of personal experience.

 Any story behind deciding the title of this book?
Absolutely!  When we started noticing the type of 'clueless behavior' we mention earlier in this interview, we would turn to each other and say "Don't Get Me Started!"  It became our mantra and eventually the opening words of our book title.

Why should we read your book?
For a fresh take on what we think is a critical challenge everyone faces in this world today:  How to be respectful and inclusive to each other when the forces advocating disrespect and division are so amplified.  How to sustain the belief that the use of critical thinking is not just a luxury - it is an absolutely essential part of staying engaged and 'culturally tuned-in.' 

Do you have any blog or website the readers can visit?

What advice do you have for budding writers?
Stay the course!  The process is a marathon, not a sprint.  Look for ways to keep you inspired and motivated during 'dry' spells.  They will come, but eventually so will the rain and a new period of growth and rejuvenation. 

·      Where can we buy your book?

The Don't Get Me Started! Toolkit - Strategies for a Culturally-Challenged World is available on Amazon as well as Barnes-Noble:


Wednesday 30 May 2018

Book Review: The Myth of Hastinapur

Book Title: The Myth of Hastinapur
Author: Rahul Rai
Publication Date: May 2018
Edition Language: English
Genre: Indian Mythology
Pages: 229

Firstly I thank the author for sending across a copy of the book for review. This is a debut novel from author Rahul Rai. It is based on Mahabharata. I am a fan of Indian Mythology and esp. Mahabharata. Mahabharata is a kind of epic which you can read and re-read numerous times. Still you won't feel satiated with the knowledge pearls showered on you. I am always curious to know more about it. I have read various versions of this epic from the perspective of various characters. Also, I've read a lot of online material about facts and myths of the epic. I have watched a dozen of TV shows on this greatest epic of our history. Whenever a story is told and retold, it eventually gets modified based on the perspective of the story teller. This makes it even more interesting. Mahabharata is one such story.

The feat of the great war of its time, was it justified? The whole clan gets ruined by the end of it, except for a handful of people who very lucky to survive.

How is this book different from other versions of Mahabharata?
  • Unlike other versions, the author simplifies and segregates the epic is multiple chapters.
  • The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter are very good.
  • At various points it is more of an analysis of the epic, the conclusions drawn out of various events and what could have happened instead.
  • One great thing is that it has various narrations or conversations of such characters which were never even thought of having existed. Like, conversations between soldiers fighting from separate parties but friends in personal life, maids working at Hastinapur palace, etc. 
  • You also find Bhishma and Ved Vyas pondering over their mistakes. You see Duryodhana talking about dharma.
  • I always knew about Ashwatthama but never knew about him in such detailed manner as depicted in this book.
  • Drona and Drupad's enemity is known to all those who know Mahabharata, but very few know about their friendship and how it transformed them into blood mongers for each other.
  • People know Pandavas as one entity, or know the famous ones- Yudhishitir, Bheema and Arjuna. Hardly anyone talks about Nakul and Sahadev and their story. We never talk or read about their qualities, their relationship with their step brothers and the insecurities that their maternal uncle had for them. This book talks about their testimonies too.
  • The injustice that happened with Hidimba and her clan for no fault if theirs. The sacrifice they made by being mere pawns in the war between the Hastinapur family.
  • The story of Krishna's son Samba and the doom of Yadava's kingdom was less heard of.
Remember, each character in a story has his own story too. This books succeeds in narrating stories of a lot of such characters who have been sidelined in the history.

Although, like I mentioned there are various versions of Mahabharata and that, each version narrates events in its way. Hence, the facts are often intentionally or unintentionally tampered when they reach us. They are affected by the knowledge, perspective or research of the story teller. Same is the case with this book. Since I have read various versions, I find certain deviations here, but that is what I call story telling. That is why they call it "myth" or "mythology"!

To read and understand this book, you must be having some prior knowledge of Mahabharata. This is because, the style of narration is not sequential in terms of the order of the events, which may confuse someone who does not know about it. However, the chapters are segregated in interesting and logical manner. Such way of narration also shows up the hard work that the author has put in and this does not let you put down the book throughout. 

The language is pretty good, usage of words and grammar are very well.

Overall, I like the book and would make sure I read it once more. I recommend it for all those who have interest in Indian mythology and want to dive into various aspects and perspectives of it. I rate it 4 on 5.
(PS: the reviews expressed here are based on my personal reading experience, and do not intend to defame, derate or 
degrade the sale or vice-versa for the book.)

If you are an author and want your book to be reviewed, drop an email at

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Author Interview: Angel A

Angel A is a world traveler who shares her insights and experiences of global culture through narratives that are compelling, inspiring and insightful. Mary Poser is Angel’s first novel. Her passion is to explore our inner world as revealed to us through the challenges, triumphs and revelations experienced in our outer world. Here are some excerpts from her interview.

Tell us about your book .

Do we willingly sabotage opportunities for true love and happiness? MARY POSER is an exposé of self-inflicted suffering. On the surface MARY POSER is a fun and frolicking love story. Underneath this is a message of hope and inspiration for anyone who feels stuck in a vortex of anxiety and self-harm.
There's troubled love in Music City, USA. Despite deeply entrenched obstacles, Mary falls for a visiting Bollywood director, Simha Das. A near-fatal car crash leads to questions about who or what intervenes to save her. There's a proposal, but Mary must reveal a dangerous secret.

Tell us about your other books.
Film script: Le Saut de L'Ange (2011) Trinity Productions. See

What is your writing journey like, where and when did you start? Are you a writer by choice or by chance?
I'm a writer by choice although I feel I am more of a story teller than a writer. Writing is just a means of telling a story.

As a new author, what is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? Least favorite?
Favorite: The bubble. There's a story inside a big bubble. The bubble isn't events lined up in a story. Its all the events and ideas for the story just floating around in the bubble.
Least favorite: Trying to arrange the bubble elements into a story line.

Are you an avid reader as well? What kind of books do you read? What is your frequency of reading?
I'm more of a film watcher. I read sporadically. I love poetry and fairytales.

Which is your favorite book and why?
I don't think I have a favorite book. The books that influenced me the most were non-fiction: The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. These books shaped my understanding of how our stories and define us.

Do you pursue any other profession apart from writing? How do you manage everything? How do you find family time amidst all this?
I' often volunteer in community centres and I'm a keen outdoors person. There's plenty of family time for me as the writing is usually at some ungodly hour in the night.

What does your writing space look like?
I write a lot in cafes.

How do you overcome writer’s block?
I'm 'a gusher'. No problem with that. (Haha)

What motivated you to write this book?
I experienced relationships where self-sabotage was a leading factor. I wanted to talk about this hidden behavior.

How long did you take to finish this book? What was the process like?
It took 6 years. I wrote the script first. The book, being my first, was a laborious process to flesh out. Rewarding though!

What are you hoping people to gain from your book?
The reviews thankfully say what I was hoping for. People are genuinely moved by the internal and external struggles of Mary and the essence of relationships are claimed to be viewed differently by some readers.

What were some of the challenges you faced on the road to publication?

What kind of research have you done for the book? 
I spent a lot of time in Nashville!

Any story behind deciding the title of this book?
Mary Poser is a play on words for mariposa, which is Spanish for 'butterfly'. Additionally, in the book, I define a poser as, 'someone who seeks social approval by mastering stereotypical behaviour'. So there's a lot in this title!

Why should we read your book?
What I love about the arts is that the finished product is a gift from the artist that can be accepted or rejected by the public. I hope you and your readers accept my gift to you, but it is up to you.

Do you have any blog or website the readers can visit?
Yes, it's at

What advice do you have for budding writers?
Go for it! Don't wait for anything to be perfect. The story reveals itself as you embark on the journey. So, like life, make it about the journey and not the destination.

Thursday 17 May 2018

The Joy of Seeking

Inspired from a Quora post on the same topic. 

Just imagine you woke up one fine morning, some stranger comes to your house, celebrates their birthday, cuts a birthday cake, you and the other family members are instructed to encircle them and clap mechanically while singing the birthday jingle. The happy-go-lucky person smiles and enjoys, is being pampered and dressed up like a prince or princess. You blankly stare at them. You are bestowed with chocolates and food of their choice. Unwillingly you consume that. You are entitled to shower good wishes in return. What do you feel from inside? You get suffocated with the realization during every such celebration that you could have been in their place, but you are not. Your birthday could also be celebrated like theirs, but no, you are different, under privileged. You are supposed to be an onlooker, a part of their celebration. They bid you bye and add another scar to your little innocent heart, and you curse your being.

This is a trend these days that to inculcate the joy of giving in the new generation, parents take them to the orphanage to celebrate their birthdays. Definitely it is a good way to induce morals and philanthropy in them. Already, the kids these days are brought up in a nuclear family structure and that too most likely as a single child. This means they are segregated from the joy of  caring and sharing. They are so much pampered that they get everything they ask for. This way they do not understand what being deprived of something means.

Apparently, taking them to orphanage for birthday celebration incorporates a sense satisfaction by sharing their happiness with the less privileged ones.

Unfortunately, it has become a fashion wherein we overlook the other side of the coin. 

How great it is to feel glad assuming that you are spreading happiness, to choke someone's conscience on the pretence of charity! Should we celebrate our birthday with them or their birthdays with us?

Happiness is a relative concept. What satisfies you might suffocate someone. 

"No one becomes poor by giving." - Anne Frank

I have seen people doing acts of charity and then posting pictures of the deed on social media. In doing so their prime focus is to accumulate publicity and enduring unfair "profit by giving". Do noble cause such that even your left hand mustn't know that right hand has done it.

If we merely think about using our earnings for our family, we are no different than an animal. Even an animal protects and provides for its family. I assume that if you have got resources enough to read this post, you surely have enough to help the underprivileged. If not money, share knowledge, contribute towards their education or like. Knowledge multiplies on sharing, unlike wealth! And as they say, "Give a man a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime"

Remember, the hand that gives is the one that receives. It's a saying in Hindi "देने वाले का हाथ हमेशा ऊपर होता है, और लेने वाले का नीचे " ( The giver's hand is always above the receiver's hand).

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Book Review: And So Can You

"And So Can You" is authored by Dr. Roopleen and this is her debut novel. Being a doctor, writing in itself is unusual. She is a rare combination of being a doctor, writer, prolific reader and a motivational speaker.

I am sure the doctor hadn't "written" but typed the book :) Otherwise, the handwriting would have been a challenge! Jokes apart, this book is a collection of 17 inspirational stories of doctors, their struggles and how they emerged victorious.

Since its an accumulation of various stories, it always keeps you holding. The difficult profession of being a doctor and surviving through day to day struggles is something which we who belong to other professions can never understand. Like the author wrote in the introduction, if you want to read a book which is never written, write it yourself. You rarely get to read "stories" about medical profession. This book is not only for doctors but for everyone to get inspired from. The book is not for a one time read but one that we can go back again and again to draw motivation, stories which remind how very ordinary people can reach great heights of success with focus, hard work, and determination.

I liked the writing skills of the author, meticulous narrations and apt choice of words.

The cover of the book says- "A book every doctor and medical student must read". But after reading this book I believe that everyone must read this book. The reason being not only the amount of motivation it brings, but also depicts the hardships of medicos. They study for a decade to become doctors and they start earning very late in life. Moreover, the life they choose does not comprise of too much comfort. They have to leave behind their pleasures and much of their social life to be in the nobel profession.

All the stories are different from the others, unique in every sense. The best thing is that after every story their are takeaways and advice, like a crux or "moral of the story". This mode of writing is very interesting.

I strongly recommend this book for all the short story lovers, self help book lovers, and those who are ambitious to go via the road seldom taken by others. This book alters the general opinion of people and media about the doctors, that they live a lavish life and charge high fees. Their income brings along a lot of hardships too.

I rate this book 4 on 5. The writing skills and content are highly appreciable.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

(PS: the reviews expressed here are based on my personal reading experience, and do not intend to defame, derate or 
degrade the sale or vice-versa for the book.)

If you are an author and want your book to be reviewed, drop an email at

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Our New Youtube Channel: MPKooktales

Hello fellas. They say "Happiness is to be able to eat what you please."

We, Piyush and Mansi have started our Youtube channel, featuring our cooking experiments. We love to eat, and eventually love to cook. Our newly found passion for cooking had to be captured in camera and hence, to be shared with all. This led to the idea behind starting this channel. With this channel we bring to you mouth watering food as easy recipes, with taste of MP and of course, India. Hope you like our cooking tales at MPKooktales :)

On this channel, we have featured variety of food recipes, particularly Indian food. The variety includes Indian curries, milkshakes, tea time snacks, breakfast recipes, desserts, healthy food and a lot more.

I've received so much of appreciation for my writing by far. Hoping to receive the same for our new youtube channel- MPKooktales. Please subscribe to our channel and press the bell icon to receive notifications of any new videos being posted. Don't forget to like the videos, share them with friends and family. Your feedback is precious to us, do add in your comments to the videos. We'd love to hear from you!