Prism Tour: An Incurable Insanity

In Rao’s debut novel an arranged marriage sets the stage for an intimate look at the exasperating madness of love….An often intoxicating…will-they-won’t-they tale.”- KIRKUS REVIEWS

An Incurable InsanityAn Incurable Insanity

by Simi K Rao

Paperback, eBook, 376 pages

Published October 8, 2013 by Tate Publishing
Shaan Ahuja found himself bowing to tradition and agreeing to an arranged marriage to the beautiful Ruhi Sharma. He went through the motions but had no intention of carrying through on his vows. His last foray into matters of the heart with an American girl had left him scarred and unwilling to try again. Thoroughly disillusioned and disgruntled he wasted no time in making his intentions clear to Ruhi on their wedding night. But, he was completely unprepared for what his new wife had in mind.

“By placing this Sindoor on your forehead, I make you mine. I take you as my wife.”

Sindoor सिन्दूर : Hindi pronounced Sin-Dur is the red vermilion powder worn by married Hindu women along the Maang (parting) of their hair. Being in use since the Vedic era, it is also called ‘Kumkum’ when mixed with turmeric.

Why Sindoor or Kumkum?

Considered scientifically and spiritually beneficial, it absorbs the ‘bad’ influences and enhances the power of concentration through the 3rd chakra which is centered on the forehead in between the eyebrows. It also enhances feminine grace and beauty. RED is the color of love and passion and hence is worn by women to win the hearts of their husbands.

It signifies that the woman who wears it is married and under the protection of her husband, therefore no one dare make the mistake of casting the evil eye on her.

Red is also the color of fire and strength. By wearing it, even the slight unassuming Indian woman can assume the role of Shakti (the divine feminine power) not only to protect herself but also for the security of her children.


An Incurable Insanity-Excerpt

You’re Mine

Ruhi saw Debo examining her curiously and realized that the sari had slipped off her shoulder while tending to Anu.

“What is up, dear? Where is your sindoor? I noticed earlier but didn’t bring it up.”

“Umm…the chain broke. I have given it for fixing.”

“Then what about the sindoor?”

“I…The whole thing fell on the carpet yesterday and made a mess. I have to go get some more.”

“Ruhi look at me.” Debo gently propped her face up by the chin. “You consider me like your elder sister, right?”

She answered with an apprehensive nod.

“Then there are certain things, which are essential for a married Indian woman. It doesn’t matter what your husband may say, but you should not take them lightly. You should never go without your sindoor because it is an auspicious symbol of your marriage and also a sign that indicates your love will prosper. Therefore, even if you don’t have your wedding necklace, you should at least wear your sindoor.”

“Yes, di, I will try to get some as soon as possible.”

“Soon? Why not now?”

Ruhi felt trapped as Debo dragged her to a tiny shrine and picked up a small silver receptacle full of the vermillion powder.

“I can put it on, di, give it to me.”

“No, I have a better idea. Shaan!” Debo called out.

Ruhi felt upset; her body began to tremble.

“What is it, bhabhi? Time for food?” Shaan appeared, smiling along with Sujoy.

“Shaan, I didn’t expect this from you. I know you love your wife dearly, but letting her go about bareheaded. It is not right.”

“Let them be, Debo, they are a modern couple. It’s their life. You don’t have to interfere.” Sujoy chimed in acutely embarrassed; his wife was quite the traditionalist.

“You keep out of it, Sujoy, I know my sister. She will listen to me.”

She handed Shaan the receptacle and urged him, “Take this and put it back where it belongs with God as your witness and don’t ever let her go unadorned again.”

Then as he hesitated, she asked, frowning, ”Is there something wrong between you two?”

“No, of course not.” He looked at Ruhi who had grown completely silent.

“Go ahead, Shaan,” Bee said softly, giving him permission.

He pinched a small amount of the red powder and placed it firmly in the parting on her forehead. Not entirely certain why, but this makeshift ceremony appeared more meaningful to him than the one on his wedding day.

“Perfect! Now my mishti bon looks like a bride, a very beautiful bride.”

Simi K. Rao was born in India and has been living in the United States for several years. The inspiration for An Incurable Insanity came from what she has seen transpire among and within the immigrant community. Some of the experiences included are her own; some have been garnered from friends and casual conversations with acquaintances…


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5 eCopies of An Incurable Insanity

October 18 – November 11, 2013. International giveaway. Must be able to download winnings. Must be 18 to enter. See Rafflecopter for additional restrictions.

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Welcome to The Exotic Tour…
We offer flowers in traditional welcome.
You are our honored guest…
10/20: Launch

10/21: #Dawat-Recipe Intriguing Reviews

10/22: #Desi-Indian Culture vvb32 reads

10/22: #Vivaah-Marriage Ritual The Wonderings of One Person
10/23: #Dawat-Recipe Deal Sharing Aunt
10/24: #Vivaah-Marriage Ritual Giveaway Breaking News for Indonesia
10/25: #Desi-Indian Culture Christy’s Cozy Corners
10/26: #Dawat-Recipe Book Babe
10/27: #Dawat-Recipe Brooke Blogs
10/28: #Dawat-Recipe Living a Goddess Life
10/29: #Desi-Indian Culture Sun Mountain Reviews
10/30: #Vivaah-Marriage Ritual Mel’s Shelves
10/31: #Desi-Indian Culture Shannon McDermott

11/1 – 11/5: Grand Finale

CSFF Blog Tour: Romans and Druids

In Sigmund Brouwer’s speculative series Merlin’s Immortals, Druids are the villains – lying, thieving, manipulative, murdering villains. This, of course, is only fiction. The real Druids were much worse.

The Druids regarded it as unlawful to commit their teachings to writing. The oldest accounts of them come to us through a third party – a culture with a written language, with historians and learned men, with absolutely no compunction about writing down Druid doctrines, a culture that came into contact with the Gauls and their Druids.

In other words, the Romans.

Julius Caesar waged the Gallic Wars for eight years, finally subduing Gaul and its Celtic tribes. He wrote what is the oldest description of the Druids on record, about fifty years before the birth of Christ. To quote his Gallic Wars:

[The Druids] are engaged in things sacred, conduct the public and the private sacrifices, and interpret all matters of religion. … [T]hey determine respecting almost all controversies, public and private; and if any crime has been perpetrated, if murder has been committed, if there be any dispute about an inheritance, if any about boundaries, these same persons decide it; they decree rewards and punishments; if any one, either in a private or public capacity, has not submitted to their decision, they interdict him from the sacrifices. This among them is the most heavy punishment. Those who have been thus interdicted are esteemed in the number of the impious and the criminal: all shun them, and avoid their society and conversation, lest they receive some evil from their contact; nor is justice administered to them when seeking it, nor is any dignity bestowed on them. …

The Druids do not go to war, nor pay tribute together with the rest; they have an exemption from military service and a dispensation in all matters. … They wish to inculcate this as one of their leading tenets, that souls do not become extinct, but pass after death from one body to another … They likewise discuss and impart to the youth many things respecting the stars and their motion, respecting the extent of the world and of our earth, respecting the nature of things, respecting the power and the majesty of the immortal gods.

Later Caesar got into their “superstitious rites”, writing that the Gauls would employ the Druids to “sacrifice men” to the gods – usually criminals, but when necessary, the innocent, too.

Other Romans rendered similar accounts of human sacrifice. Tacitus called the Druids’ sacrifices “inhuman rites” that involved spilling the blood of captives; Lucan, describing a sacred site of the Druids encountered by Julius Caesar, wrote: “Interlacing boughs enclosed a space of darkness and cold shade, and banished the sunlight from above. … Gods were worshipped there with savage rites, the altars were heaped with hideous offerings … On these boughs [of the trees in the sacred grove] birds feared to perch; in those coverts wild beasts would not lie down.”

The Romans – who, for all their evils, were clean at least of the evil of human sacrifice – were probably truly appalled by the rites of the Druids. But it was also, no doubt, their own self-interest that led them to attack Anglesey, an island off the coast of Wales long known as the center of the Druidic religion. After winning the battle of Anglesey, the Romans – showing the thoroughness that built the Roman Empire – destroyed the sacred groves on the island.

It was the Gospel, preached in Europe, that finally ended the influence and unceasing cruelty of the Druids. But it was the Romans who struck the first blow. And so, in such mysterious ways, does God work His will, judging righteously.

CSFF Blog Tour: Martyr’s Fire

When a lord’s city is filled with secrets he can sense but not see; when the enemies he once beat seem determined to win again, and when they are strangely adept at disappearing, and strangely adept at reappearing; when frauds come with lying blessings and lying relics, and win the hearts of a lord’s subjects – when all this happens, what is a lord to do?

Flee, I guess.

Martyr’s Fire is the third book in the Merlin’s Immortals series. Written by Sigmund Brouwer, Merlin’s Immortals takes readers back to the fourteenth century, and to things even older yet – the Druids, and Merlin.

In Martyr’s Fire, Brouwer maintains the historical mien of the earlier books, along with the carefully woven web of hidden truths, conspiracies, and mistrust. Certain things are different in this outing. In some ways the scope of the novel is wider here – Brouwer took his readers to a more diverse array of settings, and made greater use of England’s legends.

In other ways, though, the scope of the book is more limited. Few new characters were introduced, and none of them became principal characters. While the plots of the earlier books revolved around taking a city and going to war, Martyr’s Fire has more the air of a personal quest, a few people on an adventure.

And I enjoyed it. Of all three books in the series, I like this third one most; to be honest, I liked it more than I expected to based on the first books. Not that The Orphan King and Fortress of Mist were bad, but somehow I reached a new level of enjoyment with Martyr’s Fire. I even enjoyed the writing style more.

Two other things I appreciated about this book: I appreciated the heroine, full of intelligence and spark, and every inch the hero’s equal; and I appreciated that though Brouwer portrays the darkness that existed in the Catholic Church, he does provide glimmers of the light.

As a whole, this series has a low level of violence, for which I salute the author. Too many writers fall prey to the idea that nothing is exciting until somebody dies.

Martyr’s Fire is an interesting novel, with a wealth of intriguing historical details and a clever fusing of mythic elements into the actual world. The cast of characters is also interesting, and occasionally fun. Recommended – Martyr’s Fire, and Merlin’s Immortals.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour: Fantasizing History

One would naturally assume that a series called Merlin’s Immortals would be a straight-up, magic-and-swords fantasy series. But one would naturally be wrong.

In Merlin’s Immortals, Sigmund Brouwer slowly lifts the veil on two secret circles, long at war with each other – the Druids, and Merlin’s Immortals. You would think that Druids – those terrible pagan priests, with their terrible pagan rites – would show the darkest kind of magic. They were usually – in that period between the rise of Christianity in the west and its decline – portrayed as sorcerers.

But in this series, their tricks are simply science acutely applied, though confessedly with devilish purposes. I can’t remember any instance of magic in any of the three books I read. The story is also firmly rooted in our own world and even our own history; the precise year is given. The medieval setting – so cherished in fantasy – is a thoroughly historical setting here.

Still, there are two distinct ways in which Merlin’s Immortals lays claim to the title speculative fiction. In the first, it plays at the fringes of Arthurian legends; second, in putting forth the continuing existence of the Druids and their secret war well into the fourteenth century, Brouwer writes an alternative history of England.

Perhaps the use of the Arthurian legends merits the fantasy label. But whatever else these books are, they are probably not the fantasy novels you were expecting.

To see Martyr’s Fire (Book 3 of Merlin’s Immortals) on Amazon, go here; to see Sigmund Brouwer’s website, go here.

To see reviews and commentary on Martyr’s Fire, visit the CSFF blog tour:

Red Bissell
Beckie Burnham

Theresa Dunlap
Emma or Audrey Engel
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Amber McCallister
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Deborah Wilson
Rachel Wyant

“Beauty of the Lilies” Release and Giveaway

Almost two weeks ago, I published my novella Beauty of the Lilies to Kindle Amazon. Beauty of the Lilies is set in the same universe as The Last Heir, starring one of Emperor Alexander’s predecessors – Jediah, the painting emperor.

Of all the stories I have written, this is the only one whose nucleus was a character. In The Last Heir, Elymas Vonran – the Premier of the Assembly – asserts, “A passive emperor is still the emperor.” In the first drafts of that scene, Vonran then cited a historical example: Emperor Jediah, “who devoted himself to his family and his painting”.

Eventually I cut this, moving the Premier directly from his assertion to his point. But I never forgot about the painting emperor. I wanted to write a story about him, and when I finally set myself to the task, I had two thoughts. The first was: This could be funny. The second was: This could be sad. From this, the whole story came.

The whole foundation I laid down for the story – the plots, the other characters – was measured according to Jediah. I wanted to paint, as it were, the painting emperor. Beauty of the Lilies is the portrait I ended up creating. A companion piece, Summer Leaves, is to be released next month.

This weekend, October 12 and 13, Beauty of the Lilies will be available for free download. If you read and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review on its Amazon page or a rating on its Goodreads page.

Another description of the novella, along with the prologue, may be found here; I also published an Author’s Commentary in Part I, Part II, and Part III.

From the Office of Cooking Experiments

We at the Office of Cooking Experiments (motto: “We make mistakes so you don’t have to”) have compiled a helpful cooking guide for all of you who always wanted to cook but never could find the spatula. These are some insider hints, some tips to get you started:

Stir in the flour gradually – yes, gradually; it really does make a difference.

What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder? Whether or not your cookies get eaten, sometimes.

Red pepper is lethal.

Everything your mother ever told you about separating egg whites is true.

Read the labels of everything you put in, before you put it in. Cinnamon and cummin bottles look remarkably similar, but if you put cummin on the frosted cinnamon breakfast rolls, someone is going to notice.

The bottom of the pan is always hot.

Bacon goes from “nearly done” to “done” in exactly seven seconds.

Deliciously seasoned, tenderly cooked meats can be easily had by calling your local deli. For home-cooked meals, salt the meat and stick it in the oven or the crockpot, which is our personal favorite. We forget for hours running that we are cooking anything.

When boiling vegetables, do not let the water boil all away, or your vegetables will burn.

If you read the labels on spice bottles – put there by the manufacturers, we note – they will tell you that the spice you are holding in your hand is good for everything, except maybe ice cream. Do not believe this. In reality, spices are color-coded. Green spices, such as basil and oregano, go with red foods, like spaghetti and lasagna. Paler spices, like ground mustard and garlic powder, go with lighter foods, such as noodles and macaroni and cheese. Brown spices – cinnamon, cloves, and allspice – go with sweet foods, such as pie, cakes, and the breakfast rolls we mentioned before.

“Cream of tartar” is not good for fish. We don’t know what it is good for, but it’s not fish.

Nothing is as easy as the cooking books make out.