November is National Novel Writing Month

I write all year long, but November is the month I get the most accomplished because of the great fun that is NaNoWriMo.

I’m participating again and hoping to get some momentum going on my steampunk Cinderella story.

If you don’t know about NaNoWriMo, get on over there and check it out. Anyone can write a novel, and this community is supportive and a lot of fun.

The organization has a great Young Writer’s Program as well. So, if you know a kid who writes for fun, or who reads a lot, tell him or her about this.

If you decide register for NaNoWriMo, friend me so we can keep track of each other’s progress.

Happy Writing!

Interview with Waheed Rabbani

Today I’m welcoming Waheed Rabbani to my series of author interviews. Waheed is the author of Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest, the first book in a historical fiction trilogy.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us a little about Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest?

Waheed: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest is Book I of The Azadi Trilogy. This series of historical fiction novels is set during India’s struggle for freedom—Azadi—from the British Raj. The Books weave a tale of international intrigue, conflict, and poignant love between interesting characters of that era.

In 1965 an over 100-year-old sea chest, of an American doctor, Margaret, is discovered in the storage room of a hospital in Delhi. Another American doctor, Sharif, who originally hails from Delhi and is on contract at the hospital, is entrusted with the task of locating the mysterious woman’s relatives and returning her trunk.

Margaret, born in New Jersey, achieves her heart’s desire, in 1850, to become one of the first North American women doctors. She marries her Canadian cousin, Robert, and travels with him to serve in the Crimean war of 1854. There, they have to not only face hardships of battles, but also endure other conflicts. The surprise ending of Book I, leaves Margaret in a quandary, whether to seek vengeance or to continue with her journey to India.

The novel explores Christian and Missionary norms, and Victorian values. The Underground Railroad and the wars of 1812 and in the Crimea, are covered in a unique way.

Elizabeth: Have you already started writing books 2 and 3? Where do you see the story going?

Waheed: Yes, Book II: The Rani’s Doctor is nearing completion and would be published early in 2013. It continues with Margaret’s story upon her arrival in India and serving at a military hospital in Delhi and later her appointment as a physician to the Rani of Jhansi. There she is caught up in the 1857 Mutiny/Rebellion. Book III has been plotted. It covers the subsequent period up to 1947 when India finally achieves her independence. It is told through the eyes of Margaret’s descendants.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your novels?

Waheed: These being historical fiction novels, the historical events are all accurate. While in the novel there are some real life personalities, the major characters are fictional, and their story is inter woven with the historical, and fictional, happenings. This enables covering the historical period in a non-intrusive manner, such that readers would find the story not only interesting, but furthering their understanding of the history from a pleasurable reading of the novel.

Elizabeth: How do you do your research?

Waheed: Fortunately, most of the primary sources (diaries, letters, accounts, etc) written in the early nineteenth century, being out of copyright, with the advent of internet are now available on-line. Hence, I did not have to travel to the central depositories (such as the British Library in London). Although I did travel to India and visited some of the locations I’ve covered in the novel.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Waheed: I am a bit of both: a plotter and a “pantster.” While I do outline and timeline the events, invariably, I find the characters take over the acting of the scene. I am happy to let them carry on, even if it means tweaking the plot. It seems to me that this process results in a more natural (if you will) unforced narrative, which I’m sure readers would enjoy more.

Prior to retirement from engineering (in 2011), I wrote whenever I found free time. However, during the early period of my retirement I found the process of, ‘write when you feel like it,’ didn’t seem to work well. Hence, now I have forced myself into a 9 to 5 writing routine, as if I was at a full-time job. It seems to be working. But then again there are days, just like at a job, when I do not feel like writing and have to ‘call in sick.’

Elizabeth: Enough about your books, tell us about yourself.

Waheed: I was born in India, near Delhi, and was introduced to Victorian and other English novels, at a young age, in my father’s library. Most of the large number of volumes, were purchased by my father at ‘garage sales’ held, by departing British civil service officers and their families, in the last days of the British Raj.

I graduated from Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England, and received a Master’s degree from Concordia University, Montreal. While an engineer by profession, my other love is reading and writing English literature. I obtained a Certificate in Creative Writing from the McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, and with the teachings of all my lecturers there, embarked on this writing journey.

My wife Alexandra and I love to travel and have visited India and many other wonderful countries. We are now settled on the shores of Lake Ontario, in the historic town of Grimsby.

I’ve also contributed to the following Anthologies: Canadian Voices II, Indian Voices, and In the Wings: Stories of Forgotten Women.

More information is available on my website noted below.

Elizabeth: Are you a member of any writing and social media groups?

Waheed: Yes, I’m a member of a historical fiction on-line critique group, and a local readers’ club. I am also on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and others. I am a member of the Historical Novel Society and am as well on their book review team, helping to review (and post in their magazine) the numerous new books received by them every month.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Waheed: Coffee as the ‘eyes opener’ in the mornings. But in the afternoons I yield to tea and with dinner, red wine.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Waheed: Both really. During winter holidays on the beaches, and vacations in the summer at cottages in the mountains.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Waheed: Both, as per above, depending on where I am.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Waheed: I once did sign up, at a local college, for piano lessons, and purchased one too! But, it is more of a novelty piece in our drawing room.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Waheed: Mystery, definitely. I suppose I am more of an engineer (left brained) to hardly ever read a fantasy novel.

Elizabeth: Hester Prynne or Scarlet O’Hara?

Waheed: Scarlet, absolutely, for her gutsy ways. Loved her saying: “Tomorrow is another day,” (or something like that).

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Waheed: Love scene, being a romantic at heart!

To learn more about Waheed Rabbani and his Doctor Margaret stories, visit his website,

Waheed’ s book is available on Amazon:

Elizabeth: Waheed, thanks for agreeing to this interview.

Waheed: And thank you very much for having me on this interview. It was a pleasure to tell you all a bit about myself and my writing. I’ll be happy to respond to any questions from the readers. My email address is: wrabbani at


The Next Big Thing: The Stepsister

The latest game for authors in the blogosphere is to tag each other for The Next Big Thing. Once tagged, an author answers a few questions, then tags other writers, with their permission.

Historical novelist Kim Rendfeld, author of The Cross and the Dragon , a retelling of two medieval legends, tagged me. Kim and I attended Indiana University at the same time, although we didn’t cross paths until recently.

What is the working title of your book?

The Stepsister

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I teach a children’s literature class to elementary education majors, and so I read a lot of children’s and young adult books. Right now, modern versions of fairy tales are very popular. I especially like the variations to the Cinderella story, and I wondered what I could do to make that tale different. I decided that having one of the stepsisters narrate the story would give the story an interesting twist.

What genre does your book fall under?

Gosh, it falls into a lot! Fantasy, historical fiction, children’s/young adult, and I’m giving this story a bit of a steampunk flavor as well.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Most of the characters are teenagers, and I don’t know Hollywood well enough to pick out actresses for the parts. I liked Drew Barrymore in Ever After and Hugh Dancy in Ella Enchanted, but they are both too old now. I guess this is a great chance for some new talent to get discovered.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Cinderella’s stepsister Dru, an inventor like her father, narrates this steampunk version of the classic fairy tale.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m looking for an agency—if you’re an agent and find my story interesting, please let me know!
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Not finished yet! My three adult novels each took about three years a piece. The only other children’s novel I’ve written took one month (I wrote it as part of NaNoWriMo). I’m guessing the first draft of The Stepsister will take about a year to finish—I’m hoping to be done by June 2013, so I can take it to the Historical Novels Society Conference.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Ella Enchanted is another retelling of the Cinderella story. Girl Genius has the same steampunk elements and a heroine a little like my own.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?

For the past few years, I’ve been writing historical fiction, reading fantasy, and teaching children’s literature. I think it’s no surprise that my latest work combines all of this.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Although readers probably think they know Cinderella and her stepsisters, when they read my version, they will discover that they didn’t know them at all. I’m aiming for a depth of character missing from most fairy tales.

Also, in The Stepsister, I use steampunk technology as a pseudo-scientific explanation for the magic that occurs in the Cinderella fairy tale.

I was tagged by:

Kim Rendfeld’s blog is Outtakes from a Historical Novelist . Her novel The Cross and the Dragon was published by Fireship Press this year.

I tag:

Beth Elliott  writes tales of adventure and romance set in the wider Regency period, including The Wild Card, shortlisted for the 2009 Romance Prize and recently released on Kindle. Beth’s blog is Regency Tales.

Tina Boscha is the author of River in the Sea, a haunting story of life on the North Sea coast during German occupation, based in part on the real-life experiences of Tina’s mother.

Tinney Heath is a fellow Wisconsin author who writes about the 13th Century. Her blog is Historical Fiction Research.  Her novel A Thing Done  will be published by Fireship Press this spring.

Author Interview: Nicolas Kublicki


Today I’m welcoming Nicolas Kublicki to my series of author interviews. Nicolas is the author of The Diamond Conspiracy, in which Justice Department prosecutor Patrick Carlton discovers a decades-old conspiracy to control the world’s production of diamonds. His most recent Patrick Carlton novel is The Tesla Formula, published last winter in e-book and releasing in November of this year in print.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us a little about The Tesla Formula?

Nicolas: The Tesla Formula is an international thriller about economic and energy terror.

When genius inventor Nikola Tesla died in the midst of World War II, the FBI combed through his secret research – and discovered an invention so extraordinary that the agent could only reveal it to President Franklin Roosevelt in person. He didn’t make it. The government never found what he discovered – but a Hollywood star murdered by the Nazis left a clue.

When a cabal of rogue Saudi princes conspires with a global energy giant, power-hungry EU officials, and a corrupt Washington law firm to devastate the United States’ economy without shutting off a single oil tap, it is up to Justice Department prosecutor Patrick Carlton to track down Tesla’s lost formula before it is too late. But others want it first.

From the haunts of old Hollywood to the deserts of Saudi Arabia, through the wilds of Alaska to European capitals, Carlton will need the help of a beautiful Hollywood tour guide, a competitive FBI agent, a billionaire reformed mafia don, a scientist from a deep-black government agency, and a Polish secret agent to save the global economy from ruin and bring the plotters to justice.

But first, Carlton must stay alive.

Q: What inspired you to write The Tesla Formula?

A: 9-11. I was on the island of Capri in Italy editing The Diamond Conspiracy during the tragic events of 9-11. My girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, was a flight attendant and often worked on one of the hijacked flights. It took me some time to discover that she was safe. All Americans have had to work through the powerful, roiling emotions that the terrorist attacks triggered. As a writer, I did it through writing. The Tesla Formula is about many things, including a lost formula of Nikola Tesla, the global economy, alternative energy, and the oil industry, but at its heart lies a terror plot against the United States. Unlike the violence sown during (and since) 9-11, the plot involves a global terror plot that will devastate the United States without violence, which sadly is a very real possibility.

Elizabeth: In what ways is main character Patrick Carlton like you?

Nicolas: An excellent question, since authors so often write about themselves. In my case, I am a blend of Carlton and his best friend, billionaire reformed mafia don Max MacLean (minus the billionaire and mafia parts). Like Patrick Carlton, I am a lawyer, worked at the US Justice Department, lived in Washington, DC, have a law degree from George Washington University, love vintage automobiles, cigars, and Frank Sinatra’s music (he was my neighbor when I was a child), am both a patriot and a romantic, like to confront things head-on, and do things by the book. Unlike Carlton, I neither grew up on a farm nor wear cowboy boots (nor have as much hair left as Carlton).

Perhaps my greatest difference with Carlton is that I am not in the Navy Reserve, although I almost was. I had filled out my Navy Reserve application at the same time I had received my admission to law school. My mother expressed concern that it might be difficult to study law and serve in the Reserve at the same time. I decided that she had a good point and shelved my application, which I ended up never submitting. My mother was trying to be the voice of reason and she might indeed have been, but I regret my decision to this very day. In that sense, Carlton’s Navy Reserve service constitutes an unfulfilled longing.

Elizabeth: What do you see happening to Patrick Carlton next?

Nicolas: Patrick Carlton is facing all sorts of adversity in his third adventure – which I am currently writing – as he uncovers, then fights to stop another global conspiracy.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Nicolas: Tortured. I collect sparks of ideas whenever they hit me, then choose one I like best and begin with a general plot, then perform a great deal of research about its constituent parts before creating an outline. I write until I have a completed a first draft. Following the common adage that writing is mostly rewriting, most of my effort and time are spent editing and rewriting my draft. I wish that I could be more precise and detailed in my outlining so I could avoid the incredibly long and tedious process of editing and rewriting, but I find that once I begin writing, the story reveals itself organically, far better than if I simply wrote a top-down, detailed outline. In a sense, I discover the story as I write it, which is a far more magical experience – and for me produces better writing – than outlining, although it takes so much longer.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact and other research are woven into your novels?

Nicolas: History is very important to me, most likely because my parents are immigrants who lived through World War II and because I attended a French school in LA from kindergarten through 12th grade, where history holds a special place within the academic pantheon. My father was 19 living in Poland when World War II began. He hid a Jewish woman during the Nazi occupation of Poland, for which he received Israel’s Yad Vashem Righteous Gentile award in 1998 (she passed away two years ago and my father turned 93 in September). My mother was a teenager living in Nazi-occupied France during the war. My maternal grandfather was a French soldier who spent the duration of World War I in the trenches and survived the Battle of Verdun. I proudly display his medals (including the Croix de Guerre (war cross) and Medaille Militaire (akin to our Purple Heart, for being wounded in battle three times), dog tags, and WWII French Resistance armband in my office. I also travel to Europe regularly, where it is impossible not to see history everywhere (I visit my maternal uncle who turned 98 in September. He was a French soldier captured by the Nazis and sent to perform labor in Germany. He escaped and walked all the way back to Bordeaux, walking 30 kilometers each night, sleeping during the day). Many of us ignore history and focus on the here and now, which I find not only unfortunate, but a recipe for disaster. For me, history constitutes part of the present because it is how we got to our present. We owe so much to so many who made life in our country today possible. So history always finds its way into my novels, although they are present-day thrillers and not historical fiction.

In addition to history, I include many other researched facts in my books that I think readers will enjoy and that I believe lends more realism to the stories. Many editors and agents assert almost as a mantra that a thriller must deliver entertainment not knowledge. They say that because information delivery tends to slow down the high-speed, white-knuckle character of a thriller. Yet there are methods to deliver information without such a decelerating effect. I believe that if my readers are willing to pay for my books and invest the time reading them when there are so many competing demands on their time and money, I owe them more than simply a good yarn. I want my readers to finish my books having learned something of interest and of value. In The Diamond Conspiracy, that includes the history and processes of the diamond trade, Russia, South Africa, the Vatican, antitrust law, and the military. In The Tesla Formula, that includes Nikola Tesla, Old Hollywood, the international economy, the oil industry, astrophysics, alternative energy, terrorism, Saudi Arabia, Poland, France, and the European Union.

Elizabeth: Enough about your books, tell us about yourself.

Nicolas: I like to say that I am half French (mother), half Polish (father), and all American (born and live in the US). My father escaped Poland to get away from the Soviets at the end of World War II. That and his wartime experiences marked him for life. Many of his and my mother’s wartime experiences left indelible impressions on me. During college at UCLA, I studied political science with an emphasis on Soviet Studies. My goal was to fight the Cold War. I worked on Capitol Hill on national security issues before going to law school. During law school, the Berlin Wall fell and Soviet communism was defeated. The Cold War was over. I focused on real estate and environmental law and worked at the Justice Department before practicing law in my native Los Angeles for ten years, then shifted to the business side of real estate. Between the two, I wrote full time, but soon found that having to write on deadline, publish or perish, was detrimental to my writing and far less enjoyable than having to steal away time to write as I had while practicing law. As a result, I write part time, which clearly poses its share of frustrations, but I like to be involved in many things. In addition to running a real estate company, I teach as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine Law School, serve on the advisory board of an LA municipal park, and am involved in charity work. I am married, with two young daughters. I particularly enjoy driving my restored 1959 MGA roadster on weekends. I hope to have a vintage Cadillac like Carlton one day.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Nicolas: Coffee. Lots of it. Mostly in espresso form that I brew myself. The name ‘quadruple espresso’ is not unknown in my office.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Nicolas: I love both, but am more partial to the ocean. In a perfect world, my family and I would hop from place to place chasing a never-ending summer by the beach.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Nicolas: Hiking. More accurately, walking. I fell in love with walking as a child during summer camp. Now I walk about 45 minutes daily (although the scenery is not as alluring as the French Alps of my youth). In addition to the exercise benefits, walking sets my mind free and allows it to wander. I often get my best ideas and solve many of my plot and character issues while walking.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Nicolas: Neither. My parents forced me to play the piano for years. I was good at it and even gave recitals, but I chafed at being forced to pursue that instrument. It was my first rebellion. The organ is my favorite instrument.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Nicolas: Mystery. Although thrillers would be more precise. Thrillers are often lumped in with mysteries, yet they constitute a distinct, separate genre, which the International Thriller Writers organization of which I am a member is working hard to rectify. To me, the main difference between the two is that in a mystery, someone is killed and the protagonist attempts to find out who killed the victim. In a thriller, the protagonist is being hunted while uncovering a mystery.

Elizabeth: Joan of Arc or Eleanor Roosevelt?

Nicolas: Joan of Arc.

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Nicolas: Love. Although in thrillers, death scenes are more prevalent.

To learn more about Nicolas Kublicki and his novels, visit his website at and The Tesla Formula page on Facebook at

Thanks for visiting today, Nicolas!