Friday 13 February 2015

Guest Author Mohana Rajakumar of Qatar

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer.  She has since published eight e-books, including a momoir for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me; a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies; a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories; and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace 
Her coming of age novel, An Unlikely Goddess, won the SheWrites New Novelist competition in 2011. 
Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day-to-day dynamics between housemaids and their employers. 

After she joined the e-book revolution, Mohana dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.

                              Love Comes Later


Abdulla’s mind wasn’t on Fatima, or on his uncles or cousins. Not even when he drove through the wrought iron entry gate, oblivious to the sprawl of family cars parked haphazardly in the shared courtyard, did he give them a thought. Despite the holy season, his mind was still hard at work. Mentally, he clicked through a final checklist for tomorrow’s meetings.  I can squeeze in a few more hours if Fatima is nauseous and sleeps in tomorrow, he thought, rubbing his chin. Instead of the stubble he had anticipated, his whiskers were turning soft. A trim was yet another thing he didn’t have time for these days, though longer beards were out of fashion according to his younger brother Saad, who had been trying to grow one for years. Beard length. Just another change to keep up with.
Change was all around him, Abdulla thought. The cousins getting older, he himself soon to become a father.  Abdulla felt the rise of his country’s profile most immediately in the ballooning volume of requests by foreign governments for new trade agreements. By the day, it seemed, Qatar’s international status was growing, which meant more discussions, more meetings.
He slid the car into a gap in the growing shadow between his father’s and grandfather’s houses. It would have to serve as a parking space. The Range Rover door clicked shut behind him as he walked briskly toward his father’s house, BlackBerry in hand, scrolling through his messages. Only then did the sound of wailing reach him, women in pain or grief, emanating from his Uncle Ahmed’s house across the courtyard. He jerked the hands-free device out of his ear and quickened his pace, jogging not toward the majlis where the rest of the men were gathering, but into the main living area of Uncle Ahmed’s, straight toward those unearthly sounds.
The sight of Aunt Wadha stopped him short. Disheveled, her shayla slipping as she howled, she was smacking herself on the forehead. Then came his mother, reaching her arms out to him with a tender, pitying look he hadn’t seen since his pet rabbits from the souq died. But it was Hessa, his other aunt – Fatima’s mother, his own mother-in-law – who sent him into a panic.  Ashen-faced, her lips bleeding, she was clutching the evil eye necklace he had bought Fatima on their honeymoon. At the sight of it, the delicate gold cord in Hessa’s hands and not around his wife’s neck, Abdulla felt his knees buckle and the BlackBerry slip from his hand.
“What has happened?” he said. He looked from one stricken face to another.
Numbly, he saw his female cousins were there. At the sight of him the older ones, glamorous Noor and bookish Hind, both women in their own right whom he hadn’t seen in years, jerked their shaylas from their shoulders to cover their hair and went into the adjoining room. In his haste, he hadn’t said “Darb!” to let them know he was entering the room.
“Abdulla, Abdulla...” his mother began, but was thrust aside by Aunt Hessa.
“Fatima,” Hessa screamed, staring wildly at him. “Fatima!”
Rather than fall onto the floor in front of the women, Abdulla slumped heavily into the nearest overstuffed armchair. Fatima...
They left behind gangly nine-year-old Luluwa, Fatima’s sister, who resisted when they tried to take her with them. His father, gray-faced and tired, entered. Abdulla slouched and waited, the growing dread like something chewing at his insides. His father began to talk, but on hearing “accident” and “the intersection at Al Waab” he remembered the Hukoomi traffic service SMS. Then he heard “Ahmed”, and a shiver of horror ran up his back. The driver had been Ahmed, his uncle, the father of his wife.
Later that night in the morgue, in the minutes or hours (he couldn’t keep track) while he waited to receive her body, Abdulla flicked his Zippo lighter open and struck it alight. Holding it just so, he burned a small patch on his wrist just below his watchstrap. Even this couldn’t contain his rage at the truck driver who came through without a scratch, at his uncle, or at himself.
The morgue was antiseptic, mercilessly public. The police advised against seeing her, insisting that he wouldn’t be able to erase the memory of a face marked with innumerable shards of glass.
Surrounded by family and hospital staff, he couldn’t hold her, talk to her, stroke her slightly rounding stomach, the burial site of their unborn child. Any goodbyes he had hoped to say were suppressed.
He would mourn the baby in secret. He hadn’t wanted to tell relatives about the pregnancy too soon in case of a miscarriage. Now it could never happen: the need to visibly accept God’s will in front of them would prevent him from crying it out, this woe upon woe that was almost too much to bear.
Fatima’s body was washed and wrapped, the prayers said before burial. His little wife, the round face, the knowing eyes he’d grown up next to in the family compound, and the baby he would never see crawl, sleep, or walk were hidden to him now for all eternity. The secret she was carrying was wrapped in a gauzy white kaffan, her grave cloth, when he was finally allowed to see them. The child who would have been named after Abdulla’s grandfather if a boy, his grandmother if a girl, whose gender would now remain a mystery.
At the burial site, as was customary, he fell in line behind his father and uncles. Ahmed, the father, carried his daughter’s slight form.
They placed her on her right side.
Men came to lay the concrete slabs that sealed the grave, so her frame would not rise up as it decomposed in the earth. Abdulla regretted not stroking the softness of her chin or the imperceptibly rounding curve of her belly. I am burying my wife and our unborn child, he thought, the taste of blood filling his mouth from the force with which he bit his cheek to stem the tears. Their secret would be lost within her lifeless womb. News of a double tragedy would spread with the sand under doors and into the ears of their larger circle of acquaintances. Someone would call someone to read the Qur‘an over him. Someone would search out someone else for a bottle of Zamzam water from Mecca.
None of it would stop the acid from chewing through his heart.
Loves Comes Later is available at where it has received 36 five star and 38 four star reviews. An exceptional novel of love in mixed cultures.Thank you Mohana for sharing the beginning of your novel.
Next week you will be able to read my short story, Reaching the Pinnacle. Jeb Davis and his granddaughter plan an overnight camping trip. They hike to the top of Mount Carleton. Sitting around the campfire, the young lady tells her Grampy what is on her heart.

Friday 6 February 2015

Guest Author Vashti Quiroz-Vega Of South Florida

Vashti is a published author and an award winning blogger. Since she was a child, writing has always been a passion. She is a writer of fantasy, thriller/suspense and horror. Please visit her website to discover more about this very keen author.

A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance
by Vashti Quiroz-Vega
Who falls in love with a ghost?
I recall when I first laid eyes on Abigail. She wasn’t attractive in my eyes. Her skin was pallid like an ivory mist. Her limp, pale hair reflected just a glint of sun. Her lips, barely blushed beige, were thin and ill-defined, but when she looked my way with her heavy-lidded green eyes, she captured me. I couldn’t look away. I should have looked away.
I had a task to do––so I watched. She had a sweet way about her that lured me into her world. Was it possible to take part in her world? I observed her. She did caring things for those around her and had a generous heart. Oddly, she never seemed to expect anything in return. She was kind to animals and nature. She enjoyed singing, although she wasn’t very good at staying in tune. I spent hours, days, and then weeks observing her––trying to find something that would make my errand easier. I could not. What about this creature held me captive?
Abigail was virtuous, but also an odd and clumsy creature. I lost count of how many times I had to swiftly cover my mouth, fearing that my laughter would betray my presence. Once, she picked up a tarantula spider. It appeared to prance happily in place on her palm. She gazed at it wide-eyed and giggled with glee. Then she dropped it. The spider shattered when it hit the ground. She wailed for hours.
Another time she witnessed a small boy feeding bread to a swan. She ran to them and picked up a piece of bread lying by the boy’s feet. She attempted to feed the swan at the same time the boy did, but instead she clumsily struck the swan’s beak, making it irate. She gasped as the angry bird took the boy’s arm in its beak and pounded the small limb with one of its massive wings. Abigail screamed for help and managed to pull the boy away, but not before the swan had broken his arm. The boy ran away to his parents, red-faced and howling, his arm dangling by his side. She dropped to the ground and created a puddle with her guilt and sorrow. She did not eat for days. That’s when I finally approached her.
“Why do you starve yourself?” She jumped and stared at me. “Do you wish to die?”
“No, I wish to live.” Her eyes were wide and her pale lips trembled. “I hurt a small boy and deserve to suffer.”
“You did no such thing. The bird hurt the boy, but his arm is healing well. He plays happily as we speak, regardless of the cast he wears. You have no need to go on grieving.”
“How do you know this?” She looked at me askance.
Thinking quickly I responded, “I was told about what had happened to the boy, and I just saw him minutes before I ran into you.”
She stared at me, brows crumbled and eyes squinted, and then she smiled. “I’m glad to know this, thank you. My name is Abigail.”
“Then you must nourish yourself, Abigail.”
I looked around. A red fruit hanging happily from a nearby tree caught my eye. I picked it and handed it to her. She extended her hand slowly and took it. She bit into it quickly, repeatedly holding the ripened, sweet fruit with both hands. She devoured it in no time. As she swallowed the last morsel, I wiped a bit of dribble off her chin. She giggled and her cheeks turned the color of an orchid rose.
I laughed. “My name is Azrael,” I’m not sure why I told her. I reveal my name to few.
“It’s nice to meet you, Azrael. Would you like to take a walk?” She wore a large grin on her face. I nodded. “Oh, good! This forest is quite beautiful. I enjoy hiking here. The smells, the sounds––fascinate me!”
I smiled at her, and we began our stroll. “This beautiful place can also be quite dangerous. Doesn’t that scare you?”
“No.” Her face was as innocent and pure as a daisy.

We continued walking. She stopped to smell wildflowers, drink water from a small waterfall that emptied into a noisy river, to point at birds she recognized and insects. I thought today would be the day, but torrents of crystalline water gushed, white fluffy clouds whipped across intense cerulean skies, daffodils vibrant as stars quivered and danced. It was much too lively a day for death to intrude.
“I must leave now.”
“So soon, Azrael?” She sighed heavily and her body slumped.
“The sun will set soon. Perhaps you should go home before it becomes dark and you can’t find your way back.”
She nodded with a frown. “Goodbye. It was very nice exploring the forest with you. Thank you for a lovely time.” She departed.
I rushed in the opposite direction. When I was sure to be far enough away, I crumbled to the ground.
“Why? Why must I end the life of such a creature?” I cried to the heavens. “There is no malice in her. She is a lamb!” I felt a deep burning ache in my chest. Large drops fell from my eyes. I touched my cheek and looked with amazement at my wet fingers. A voice in my head reassured me that my task had good purpose. I rose from the ground and left the forest. *
The next day I visited the small forest outside Abigail’s home again. It was alive with her presence. She moved rhythmically to the sounds of the birds chirping, ducks quacking, water flowing, and the whistling of leaves caressed by the wind. I hid behind a large tree and watched her sway, twirl, and pirouette. She moved gracefully––until she stumbled, plopped to the ground in a seated position, and then began to laugh wholeheartedly.
“Are you alright?” I walked toward her trying to conceal my own laughter.
 She whisked her head toward me and grinned. She jumped to her feet and pranced to me. “I knew you would come!”
Her enthusiasm filled me with joy. “I couldn’t stay away.”
She giggled at my words. “Come, I want to show you something.” She grabbed my hand and pulled me along a different path from the one we had walked the day before.
“Where are you taking me?”
“You’ll see . . . ”
We arrived at an open area. “All right, stop right here,” she said. I gathered my brow. She paced forward and stopped in front of something, then waved me over. “Come, but be careful.” I took apprehensive steps toward her and after a few steps, I saw it. The hole.
“What is this?” I asked.
“This is a natural sinkhole,” she said in a matter-of-fact voice. “Isn’t it magnificent? It’s almost perfectly round. It’s beautiful, surrounded by vegetation and––”
“Enough!” I yelled. She jumped and recoiled. I didn’t see beauty in this hole, hidden away in the middle of the forest. I only saw peril and fatality. “Many have lost their lives here in the depths of despair.” I pointed at the hole. She stared at me, her green eyes wide and questioning. “Who do you think I am?” I asked in a thunderous voice. She trembled. Her mouth hung open. “You don’t even know me, but yet you venture to bring me here? To this evil place?”
“Evil?” she said.
“Yes, evil!” She gasped and flinched. She shook her head and covered her opened mouth with both hands. “I didn’t know,” she whispered through her fingers.
I sensed the pain and horror of the victims whose bones lay broken, discarded and forgotten at the bottom of the hole. A veil of blackness enshrouded me. I couldn’t see past her death. I stomped toward her. I grabbed her by the throat and lifted her off the ground. The thick odor of corpses long dead exposed my psyche to influences that led me to do what I was created to do––kill.
I released her neck. She coughed and wheezed. She collapsed to one knee. I picked her up by the shoulders and dangled her over the hole.
Her eyes opened wide. She glanced down into the pit and screamed. “Please don’t hurt me! I don’t want to die!” She gazed at me with imploring eyes.
Her words touched my heart once more. She wanted to live. I swung her over my shoulder and hurried from that awful site. I placed her down gently on lush green grass near the edge of the forest. I looked at her. Her hair was a sunburst on a blooming honey locust; her skin, opal cream; her verdant eyes, glistening jewels. I wiped the moisture from them, and her luscious cherry lips quivered. Had my vision been so impaired that I had thought this creature less than perfect?
“You are a good man,” she said hoarsely, no doubt from damage inflicted by my tight grip. She tried to smile, but couldn’t quite make the expression.
“Go home now. Do not return to that hole. It is an evil place.” I helped her to her feet.
She stepped away, then hesitated and turned toward me. The look of gratitude on her face surprised me. She ran to me and kissed me on the cheek. “Thank you,” she said and walked away.
Abigail’s kiss on my cheek lingered and set me ablaze. I stood there like a statue, fearful that any sudden movement would end the moment too soon.
We continued to meet every day at the small forest near her house. We took long walks. Abigail danced, talked, sang and was excited by every small creature she ran across––from a butterfly to a snake. I enjoyed our walks. I relished her company. No creature has ever been so exquisite. I never wanted to leave her side. I had forgotten, if only for a brief moment, who––or what––I was. I was the opposite of her.
One day I returned to our usual meeting place and found her sitting still on a rock. It was not like her to be so subdued.
“Hello,” I said.
She lifted her eyes and looked at me inquisitively. “I thought I would not see you today.”
“Really? Why?”
She shrugged. Her body was slumped and her face slackened. She seemed strange, unfamiliar. *
“What is the matter?” My heart pounded.
“I feel weary, that’s all,” she said, but I knew it was more than that.
“Are we going for a walk today?”
“No, I don’t feel up to it.”
“Have you lost your will to live?” I asked.
She looked at me sideways and then scowled. “I do not want to walk. I do want to live!”
Sparks of life flew out of her eyes. I grinned at her. She tried to stay serious, but burst out laughing instead. I sat by her side. She leaned her body toward me and rested her head on my chest. She closed her eyes and fell asleep.
I was overcome with emotions new to me. How did I get here? Why has this strange girl grown so fond of me? What does she see when she looks at me? Does she not see the blackness in my eyes? Does my long, sable, tangled hair not look suspect? I am large in stature and powerfully built––does this not seem menacing?
It would be so simple to place my hand over her small nose and mouth while she slept until she could draw breath no more, or break her neck with a quick flick of my wrist. She would never know death had come for her. But she slept the sleep of an infant over my beating heart. Surely death could wait for another moment, one that would be less filled with upright virtue and pure faith. She believed in me, and she saw goodness in me that no one had ever seen. Most people knew me instinctually and tried to flee from me in fright. She welcomed me into her heart. Yes, death could wait.
She awoke. As she opened her eyes, the day seemed brighter.
“How long have I been asleep?”
“Not very long. Did you sleep well?”
She grinned. “I never slept more soundly.”
“Now that you’ve had your rest, would you like to go for a walk?”
She extended her hand toward me, and I reacted. She caressed my face. I closed my eyes to isolate the gentle stroking. No one had ever shown me such kindness. I opened my eyes and saw the most beautiful creature I had ever seen, and she was touching my face in a way that made my heart beat faster.
“I must leave now. I promised my mother I would not stay out late today.”
She stood up slowly, and I watched her walk away. She looked over her shoulder once and smiled. That’s when I decided to disable the communication with above. I knew I could not complete this task. Not now––perhaps not ever.
I returned to the forest several times after that, but she never showed. After a few days, I decided I could not wait any longer. I missed her. So I went to knock on her door. A burly man opened the door, and I got the expected wary look.
“Yes, who are you looking for, son?” He looked at me sideways.
“I’m looking for Abigail.”
The man’s face turned solemn. “What do you want with her?”
“She is a friend. I haven’t seen her in a while. I worry for her.”
“There is reason for worry. She is very sick. The cancer has come back with a vengeance. Her life is only about pain and anguish now.” His voice was hoarse, and wells formed in his eyes. “She was always such a sweet, happy girl. She does not deserve to suffer so.” Shaking his head, he turned to go back inside the house.
“Wait! Where is she?” My pulse raced.
“Oh, you don’t want to see her like this. It is an awful sight.”
“I do want to see her. I need to see her. Please tell me where to find her.”
“She’s at the hospital,” he said.
The hospital was not far. I was there in no time. I watched her briefly from her hospital room door. She squirmed and groaned on the bed. I locked the door and approached her––my heart was breaking. I waited too long. It is because of me she suffers so. I could have spared her this agony. When I reached her bedside, she saw me and smiled despite the anguish she endured.
“I knew you’d come.” She tried to remain still but at times she could not, and a moan escaped her lips. I passed my hand over her head and caressed her face. She held my hand with both of hers.
“Abigail, do you want to live?” My voice quavered.
She shook her head slowly and whispered, “No.” Streams of sorrow meandered down her face.
For the first time I expanded my large, black wings and allowed her to see them. “Don’t be frightened.”
“You never frightened me. I knew all along you were an angel.” She winced and whimpered.
“I am the angel of death.”
She gazed lovingly at me. “Give me peace.”
I reached for her and held her in my arms. I leaned my head forward, and she caressed my face. I kissed her on the lips. The sweetest kiss I’ve ever known. And she breathed her last breath.
Copyright © 2014 by Vashti Quiroz-Vega. All rights reserved. Used by permission

Thank you Vashti for sharing this entertaining story. Her novel, The Basement, is a suspense/thriller aimed at preteen-teen readers. Find out more at


Please visit the Scribbler next week to read my latest short story, Reaching the Pinnacle. Grandfather and granddaughter hike to the top of Mount Carleton. Sitting around the campfire, the young lady shares what is on her heart.