Here’s a write-up for Alaska or Bust and Other Stories in the Mississauga News by Chris Clay.

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My interview with a very awesome, amazing, wonderful teenager, upcoming author and blogger extraordinaire, Prapti Panda.

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BIO

Prapti Panda is a fifteen-year-old blogger and upcoming author who lives in India. Apart from being a voracious reader and a history buff, she is also a staunch animal rights activist. There are only two things in this world that rival her love for writing – archaeology, and her parakeet. When not typing away on her laptop, you can find her hanging out with the numerous animals she has adopted over the years.

Her blog – www.praptipanda.wordpress.com


 

How old are you? Why and when did you start blogging?

I’m fifteen years old now, but I set up my first blog when I was eleven. I have always been obsessed with wildlife and my first blog documented my experience with animal rights activism and wildlife photography. I think I started blogging because it satisfied an innate need in me to be heard.
 

On your blog you interview authors. How do you go about choosing them?

I scour Amazon a lot and check out random books. You’d be surprised to see how many books are out there that have wonderful literary merit and a gripping storyline, but are sadly not in the spotlight. Hence, I fish out those books that are extraordinary and bring them to light through documenting the authors’ journeys of their creations.
 

You like to read the classics. Who are your favorite authors?

Oh, the list is endless! I love Hardy, the Bronte sisters, Chekov, Dostoevsky, Goethe, Dickens, Hawthorne, Wilkie Collins… But I think the authors who influenced me the most are definitely Goethe and Miguel de Cervantes. Although their books are not originally in English, I found that their words and their representation of life struck a chord within my heart.
 

You have an archeological thriller coming out. That’s impressive! Tell us about that.

It’s a book basically about some people who are trying to track down the lost city of El Dorado. Most people know about the Spanish conquest of South America and the conquistadors’ greed for gold, which gave rise to the myth of a city built entirely of gold existing somewhere in the Andes. After the Spaniards, the English, the French, and even the Germans sought the elusive city of gold, but perished in the act. So if one supposed for a minute that it was not a myth, wouldn’t it be interesting to know where the city might actually be?

As I’ve been studying the history of Latin America for many years and am an expert on pre-Columbian civilizations, I decided to mix history, facts, and imagination together and come out with this adventure book that will take the readers on a journey that they will never be able to forget. For updates and exclusive tidbits, you can check out this page – http://www.facebook.com/authorprapti

 

You won a literary prize for India. Can you tell us about that?

“Write India” was an 11-month-long writing campaign by The Times of India, one of the leading newspapers in India, involving short story writing on the basis of prompts. I’m glad to say that my story was selected as one of the winning entries, and I was graced with the title of “Write India’s Youngest Winner”.
 

What are your three favorite foods?

Buttered scones, enchiladas and chocolate mousse. Not in that order!
 

How many languages do you speak? Which are you most comfortable with?

Apart from English, I can speak Hindi, Sanskrit, Spanish, German, a little French, some Italian, and I’m also trying to learn Russian right now. I’m most comfortable with English, but my Spanish is also very good.
 

What are your favorite subjects in school?

Truth be told, the subjects that are not taught in school are my favourites! Still, I love my literature class and I always look forward to history lessons.
 

What is in the future for Prapti Panda?

Hmm… This is a tough question. First, I have to get my book completed and get it published as soon as I can. After that, my whole attention would be on my studies, as I hope to become an engineer some day. Or maybe I will change my mind and go over to archaeology as it’s one of my favourite subjects. Still, one thing’s for sure – my need for writing will never ever go away.

Thank you so much for dropping by Bank Street! It was a great pleasure. Best of luck with your future endeavors. We will be seeing great things.

 

 

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My Amazon review of Sick, a Novella by Christa Wojciechowski

Sick, as the title suggests, is a disturbing read

A great suspense-thriller! Highly recommended By EO on May 24, 2016

Sick, a Novella, as the title suggests, is a disturbing book. Suze is a long-suffering wife who cares for her mysteriously ailing husband, John. The reader can only feel sorry for Suze when she says, “I entered the dark cell of our bedroom, a messy den where we were forced to share our matrimonial bedroom with illness and pain.” But the reader also feels sorry for John because he is the one in constant pain, so much so that Suze is forced to steal Demerol for him from the clinic where she works.

With John it’s always something, a bacterial infection, a ruptured spleen, bruises in various stages – black, purple, blue, green, and yellow and more. There is no break in the story from all his troubles, it’s one thing after another and no doctor can figure it out.

But the novel is not just about sickness, its focus is on an exploration of the psychology between two people and how their lives become inter-dependent. John is very ill but he is also manipulative and uses his illness to control Suze, who will do anything to soothe his aches and pains. And there is no end to her grief, “I broke down and wept all the way to the hospital, emotionally replete and beyond self-consciousness.” The more Suze worries, the more control John has over her.

However, things start to unravel when Suze finds a hammer beneath the bed, auto coolant with a broken seal, and a syringe filled with a strange substance. It is at this point that everything comes to a dramatic end. As Suze finally figures things out, John confesses, and gleefully at that, “Yes! Yes. You got it… You’ve finally figured it out.”

But their journey doesn’t end there or does it? Will Suze feel compelled to continue looking after John now that he is maybe even sicker than before? Will we find out in a sequel? Looking forward to it!

Christa Wojciechowski’s prose is compelling and unadorned, and she effortlessly breaths life into her characters. A great suspense-thriller! Highly recommended.

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IS FICTION REALLY FICTION?

Most authors, though they may be writing fiction, more often than not, base their content on places they’ve been, people they’ve met, and experiences they’ve had. Let’s briefly take a look at my book, Alaska or Bust and Other Stories. Though it is fiction and there’s even a disclaimer at the front of the book to prove it – any resemblance to actual persons or events, living or dead, is entirely coincidental – is this really true of any book? In my book, for example, I’ll admit almost all the pieces are drawn from real events and real people, some more than others. Where characters are concerned names have been changed to “protect the innocent”. And it doesn’t stop there – maybe the hair/eye color has become different, characters have gone from being tall to short, young to old, and personalities have undergone a revamping, all to make the identifiable unidentifiable. Though characters in fiction are for the most part ‘fictional’, at the core of almost each and every one there is to some degree a real person.

Back to Alaska or Bust. Let’s first take a look at the story “Luke’s Libido”. Is Luke truly a fictional character? Well, truth be told, there was this actual guy in Fairbanks with gossip surrounding his private life, that he had a high-running, out-of-control libido. He worked in one of the shops in town, and his libido apparently was so outstanding sales in the shop were skyrocketing. One day I popped in to see for myself what all the fuss was about. Though I never picked up on anything extraordinary, with the gossip continuing around him, and even hearing unbelievable first-hand accounts, I was inspired to write the story “Luke’s Libido”. But I changed his hair from blond to black, got him to drive a pick-up truck instead of a Volvo, and made his personality aloof, when in reality he was most approachable. If the real Luke were to read my story, do you think he would recognize himself? I think it just might ring a bell.

Excerpt: Suddenly it was as if his libido started talking to him. It said: “This is terrific! I pledge to fight on!”

Fairbanks Main Street

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Now let’s take a look at “Portrait of a Draft Dodger”. JJ was a made up ‘initial’ name of a draft dodger living in the Yukon bush (his actual ‘initial’ name had different letters). I’m not really sure if JJ really was a draft dodger from the Viet Nam War, but he had a bushy gray beard and always wore a prospector’s hat he found in a junk store (that was true). One day he had his portrait painted by a local artist (not true – it was a photograph instead), and the portrait became so popular it landed on a postcard and his face became a symbol of the Yukon – rugged, wild, tough (that was true, and I even found a copy of the card online). And there’s more. One day when I was out in the bush, I spotted a strange woman in the trees – in heels and a flowered dress. When I got closer, I came not face to face with a woman but JJ in drag (that was true). His cabin was not too far away so he invited me in for tea and we chatted (that was true). Again, if JJ were to read the story, I do believe he would put two and two together.

Excerpt: JJ brooded, he even felt vexed. He cursed under his breath, “What an arrogant son-of-a-bitch. He doesn’t know a fake drag queen from a real one! He just wants to nab me.”

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Lastly, now, let’s take a look at “Chuck Goes to Haines, Alaska on the Fourth of July.” Of all the stories this one is pretty much all non-fiction though it is part of a book of fiction. It’s about a mongrel I adopted from the Toronto pound and then took up to Alaska/Yukon with me. He was always up to no good – he stole sausages from the butcher in Whitehorse; he impregnated a husky three times his size in the middle of Main Street; he jumped out of the back of a pick-up truck and became lost in the wilds of Alaska. All the antics he pulled were true and I did no altering of his scraggy appearance or of his feisty personality. But with Chuck being a dog there was no need to protect his identity – no disguises needed there. Had he been human? Totally different story.

Excerpt: “…he walked and walked but he tried to forget how tired he was. He was in terrible pain and his legs were aching. Would he survive?”

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So, does fiction really exist in its purest form, or is life always getting in the way? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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Here are a few top-selling novels based on actual people and/or events, some leading to legal battles of appropriation: The Cellist of Sarajevo, Steven Galloway; Intimacy, Hanif Kureishi; The Help, Kathryn Stockett.

 

Bank Street

cropped-houses_large.pngWelcome to Bank Street Blog. Bank Street is not just virtual but a real place in the heart of one of the biggest cities in North America – Toronto. It’s a small residential street, rather nondescript, with neatly trimmed lawns, spacious flowerbeds, and has about fifty houses on it. The houses are all eclectic, ranging from late Victorian, to Edwardian, to one built in the 1950s. There’s a small store on one corner selling last-minute items such as eggs, milk, junk food, cold cuts, and cheese (mostly of the Portuguese variety), and on the other a little park with a playground and a baseball field. The street runs east-west, and for cars it is one way going east. Here’s a pic of a few of the houses to give you an idea.

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It’s easy to pass Bank Street by without even noticing it. There never seems to be much going on there, but, let me tell you, looks can be deceiving. If one were to take a closer look, one would see there’s a whole lot more than meets the eye. Over the years, people have moved in and people have moved out, and almost all of them were up to something, often in oddball ways. I’m not into categorizing neighborhoods but if I had to, I would say Bank Street was a street of immigrants, of the working class, of writers, of poets, and of artists, but today well on its way to gentrification.

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Lemon Bucket Orkestra

     Why did I call my blog Bank Street? Well, because I’m writing a book about Bank Street, about the houses, the gardens, and the people who live(d) there. Though they were ordinary, they were also extraordinary: a bootlegger, an armless painter, a peeper, the Lemon Bucket Orkestra and more! Allow me to introduce them to you, but I will do so one at a time. First meet Mamma Mia as she appears in the beginning of her own chapter of the same name.

Mamma Mia – excerpt:

A beautiful August sun was shining warmly over Bank Street. As Reginald made his way down the sidewalk he saw Mamma Mia sitting on her veranda peeling garlic. With her head bent over a bucket, she had already filled it half way. The pungent smell permeated the air and she was drenched in it. Later she would take the garlic, grind it up, put it in jars, and freeze it. Her cotton flowered blouse, half open, showed an ample bosom, and the zipper on her skirt was undone as if to give her breathing space. She was sweating profusely. Could it be she was pregnant – again?

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Mamma Mia was a very fat woman, the fattest on the street, and it seemed she just got fatter all the time. She got pregnant a lot too but when she was pregnant no one could tell if she was really pregnant or just getting fatter again. When a baby appeared then everyone knew that she had indeed been pregnant. But pregnancies made her hungry and after each one (so far there were six of them) she gained more weight. She would eat everything in sight – chicken, spaghetti, scaloppini, tortellini, and she even went for deserts such as tiramisu, biscotti, ricotta cheesecake, and gelato… (to be continued).