What Inspired Yesterday by Mickie B. Ashling – Post + Giveaway

January 22, 2016

What Inspired Yesterday

Hi, everyone!

I’m here to celebrate the release of my latest novel, Yesterday, a period piece set in Karachi, Pakistan. You’re probably wondering how or why I chose this locale. A writer’s brain is a weird and unpredictable part of our anatomy (at least mine is). It can draw inspiration from memories buried so far back in our subconscious we don’t even realize they exist—until a prompt comes along. It can be anything from a song to a smell, but once it’s unleashed, there’s no stopping the ideas from flowing. This is the magical part of writing I love. In the case of Yesterday, my trigger was a photo I’d unearthed while cleaning out my closets in preparation for my latest move from one suburb to another.

Yesterday Front

Several decades ago, before the Middle East was a tinderbox, and the most dangerous thing about traveling to that region of the world was heatstroke, my stepfather was assigned to a business posting in Karachi, Pakistan. Much like my character, Grady Ormond, I wasn’t thrilled by the prospect. The thought of spending any amount of time (I was also on break between high school and college) in a desert climate with no friends, other than my sister, and very little understanding of the culture or language, wasn’t my idea of a good time. I’d left a boyfriend behind as well, and in those days, there was no social media to keep us in touch. We had to resort to letter writing, something I didn’t mind, but he wasn’t too keen on the idea. Separation was bad enough, but imagining worst-case scenarios (cheating etc.) was depressing. I was stuck trying to figure out positive ways to keep my overactive mind in check. There was always reading, but since romance was my favorite genre and every bodice-ripper had a jealousy arc, I ignored the paperbacks in favor of exploration.

At the time, I didn’t know Pakistan was a melting pot of faiths and cultures. Having been occupied at one time or another by different empires—India, Persia, Turkey, Arabia, Mongolia, and Great Britain—it’s ethnically and linguistically diverse. The religion is primarily Islam, but when I was there, it wasn’t uncommon to have Hindus and Christians living side by side. The political atmosphere was very different in those days and foreigners could walk the streets without worrying about suicide bombers or being kidnapped.

We played it safe the first week, joining other expats at the American Club, lazing in the sun, and sampling the different varieties of food. I ignored hot dogs and hamburgers and reached for the Chicken Tikka instead, falling in love with the new flavors from the very bland to the tongue-scorching vindaloo.

The next week our parents allowed us to explore the city (with a guide), and our first stop was the Empress Market. Hypnotized by the exotic, I tried on bangles, earrings, scarves, and necklaces. Shopkeepers showed me how to turn lovely gold-threaded fabric into a sari, and I insisted on wearing one over my shorts and T-shirt, adding to the fun by parading up and down the aisles in my new outfit. We bought hand-tooled slippers, admired the colorful pottery and metal work, tiptoed warily around the animal cages, praying none of the cobras would leap out of their baskets, and I ate more street food than was smart. It was a magical place and I tried to share some of my exploits through the voice of my character, Grady.

There was a French girl I befriended at the club. She was older than me and much more sophisticated. Her English was terrible and my French was atrocious, but we managed to communicate. She eloped with her Pakistani boyfriend while I was there, and they lived in a tiny apartment with hardly any furniture. His parents were against the marriage so they made do with very little. At the time, I thought it was romantic as hell to live on love and not much else. I was pretty clueless in those days. Her husband was tall and very good looking, made even more attractive by his Brit accent and his impeccable manners. He was always dressed in a long white tunic and flowing pants, the salwar kameez I describe in my novel. In truth, a lot of Prince Kamran’s physicality was modeled after this man who made quite an impression.

Through our new friends, we were introduced to other people our age. I went out on a few innocent lunch dates with an Iranian student who shared interesting facts about his country and culture. He was very nice and I would have probably given some serious thought to his tentative advances if not for the fact that I had a boyfriend back home. I thought of him often when Iran was going through its political turmoil.

We learned that Pakistani beaches were famous for green turtle migrations.   One such beach, Hawks Bay, was twenty kilometers from the city, and my sister and I were invited to observe this phenomenon firsthand. Here’s a short excerpt from the novel that describes Grady’s evening.

***

Excerpt:

The turtle experience was as fascinating as I’d hoped, except for the buzzing mosquitoes determined to eat me alive. What made it worse was that I was the only one who was sweet enough to be targeted by the bloodsuckers. After a certain point, I resigned myself to being a lumpy mess by the time we got back on the yacht. Hopefully one of my companions would produce some home remedy to get rid of the itch and red spots.

Gus stayed on the yacht, but Jon came along to navigate the dingy, which was parked on the sand where we could see it but not in the pathway of the turtles. It was quite a hike from sand to sea, and I could understand how a lot of the hatchlings would fall into the mouths of predators before reaching their goal. It looked like a marathon crawl from where we were hiding, but they’d been doing this for centuries, and when they started to move, they came out in droves. One minute the sand was smooth and bare and the next covered with moving amniotes raring to go home. The moon was doing its job that night, shining brightly on the water to guide the little critters to the deep. I was pretty stoked with the idea of capturing something like this on film. Kam watched for a while but got bored midway and fell asleep. It was past midnight, and we’d had a long and emotional day. Jon was beside me, though, handing me whatever I needed to make sure I got it all on film.

Several hours later, everything stopped. The sand looked like a blanket of silk again, and the whole experience felt like a dream. The moon was starting to wane, and soon the sun would be rising, which was probably what put everything to a grinding halt. We shook Kam awake and made it back to the yacht without any problems. Back on board, I stripped and stood under the shower for as long as possible, trying to find some relief. My arms and legs were covered in red splotches. My torso was fine, thank the Lord, but the rest of me looked like I had a bad case of hives or measles. I popped a couple of aspirin when I got out of the shower and went up to the galley hoping Gus could recommend something to make it go away.

He took one look at me, mumbled a few choice words in Italian, removed a big bottle of vinegar from the pantry, and poured it on my skin. I howled like a banshee, but after a few minutes the pain subsided and so did the itch.

***

As it turned out, my summer in Karachi gave me a new appreciation and awareness of a previously unknown section of the world. The knowledge I gained at that time has stayed with me through the years, and the savory cuisine from that part of the world remains on my list of favorites.

The world has changed a lot since then. Good people who fall into a certain demographic are automatically shunned or condemned because of the radicals in their faith whose sole purpose is to stir up hate and dissent. As a writer, I’ve never shied away from including characters and situations as diverse and interesting as the people I’ve met in my life.  I hope you have an opportunity to pick up a copy of Yesterday, a love story between two very different men who dare to take a chance.

Answer any of the questions I’ve posed in italics, and your name will go into the drawing for a $15.00 DSP Gift Certificate. The winner will be chosen in three days.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation totally out of your control?

Do you like food from the Middle East? What’s your favorite dish?

Ever see a live cobra outside of a cage?  

Have you ever been attracted to someone you can’t have?

Would you travel to an exotic locale if given a chance? If so, where?

Do you enjoy stories with diverse characters?

Blurb

In June of 1978 Grady Ormond, eighteen-year-old son of diplomat Peter Ormond, accompanies his father to his new posting as US Ambassador to Pakistan. Neighboring Iran is on the brink of a civil war, with the monarchy in danger of being overthrown.

Grady will be leaving for New York City in late August to study cinematography and has been warned to keep his homosexual orientation tightly under wraps while on vacation. Repercussions in the predominantly Islamic region could be severe.

On their first night in Karachi, his father hosts a cocktail party to meet the local dignitaries. Grady is introduced to His Highness Prince Kamran Izadi, nephew of the shah of Iran. Twenty-three-year-old Kamran has recently returned from the UK, where he spent eleven years, first as a student, and then as a financial analyst.

The attraction is immediate—unforeseen and dangerously powerful—but neither one dares to make a move. Odds are so stacked against them it’s futile to even entertain a friendship, but they do, and their world tilts precariously.

With his country in turmoil and Grady about to leave for college, Kamran makes a decision that will change their lives forever.

 

Bio

Mickie B. Ashling is the pseudonym of a multifaceted woman who is a product of her upbringing in multiple cultures, having lived in Japan, the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East. Fluent in three languages, she’s a citizen of the world and an interesting mixture of East and West. A little bit of this and a lot of that have brought a unique touch to her literary voice she could never learn from textbooks.

By the time Mickie discovered her talent for writing, real life got in the way, and the business of raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing–and the inevitable emptying nest–dreams of becoming a published writer were resurrected and she’s never looked back.

She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings. Mickie currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.

Contact Info

E-MAIL: http://mickie.ashling@gmail.com

BLOG: http://mickiebashling.blogspot.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/mickie.ashling

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/MickieAshling

Get your copy of Yesterday now!

Dreamspinner Press

Amazon

Adobe Photoshop PDF

13 Responses to “What Inspired Yesterday by Mickie B. Ashling – Post + Giveaway”

  1. Sara says:

    The story sounds very interesting, and it’s such an interesting period not seen very often in modern romance; I have put it on my wishlist for when I finish the book I’m reading now.

    Your post makes me wonder how we and the world at large ended up where we are today. It’s as if the world on a whole is suffering a severe backlash on so many levels; so many ongoing violent conflicts, so much growing hatred, what appears to be growing violence and restrictions of women’s and girls’ rights, increasing gap between the worlds richest people and its poorest, and the list could continue.

    As for your questions, I experienced a situation completely out of my control a couple of years back when I was diagnosed with acute leukemia at the age of 38. Also I love hummus and gladly eat Middle Eastern flavored food but I’ve never even seen a cobra in a cage,much less out of one. And I try to look for stories with diverse characters, but I can’t remember when or even if I’ve ever read one with middle Eastern or Muslim character.

  2. mickie b. ashling says:

    Hi Sara,
    Thank you so much for stopping by today and answering several of my questions. I do hope you get a chance to read my novel. I was fortunate to be raised in a multi-cultural environment and try to incorporate my beliefs in my characters. I think the world would be a far better place if more people embraced our differences instead of fearing them. In the end we’re all human and want the same things, even if we pray to a different God and speak another language.

    I’m sorry to hear about your health crisis, but I hope you’re in remission at the moment, and have many wonderful years ahead of you.

    It’s good to know that you share my love for Middle Eastern food. In fact, I’ll eat anything spicy. Snakes scare me to death:)

    All my best,
    Mickie

  3. Andrea M says:

    I love your writing and look forward to reading this book. My Dad worked in Iran for several years during the Shah’s rule and brought back a lot of trinkets that fascinated us. I never thought about where he bought them but now I can see him strolling through outdoor markets.

    Cobra outside of a cage? No, no and again no. Scared to death of snakes. Exotic locale – I’d love to see Istanbul because of the architecture, same for Greece but don’t think it qualifies as exotic. Middle Eastern food would be stuffed grape leaves and kebabs of any type. Diverse characters gets a big yes! Situation totally out of my control? Too many times to count.

  4. mickie b. ashling says:

    Hi Andrea,
    I remember the Karachi Empress Market very vividly. My mother loved to shop and we’d follow her up and down the aisles. We ended up bringing back carpets and colorful saris as souvenirs from that region.

    I like curry, tandoori chicken and also kebabs. Actually, I don’t think there’s anything from that part of the world I don’t like:)

    Here’s hoping you enjoy the book once you get a chance to read it. Thank you so much for stopping by today.

    Best,
    Mickie

  5. Trix says:

    I do love Middle Eastern food, though I don’t get to have it as often as I’d like. I generally like the lamb and eggplant dishes best, though I also enjoy boranee (especially the butternut squash one) and manti/aushak (the meat and/or leek dumplings in yogurt sauce).

  6. mickie b. ashling says:

    Hi Trix,

    I’m hungry reading your list of favorites. There are some great restaurants here in Chicago where you can get some of the dishes you mentioned. Gaylords has great Indian food and Shaz serves Iranian dishes.

    Thank you for stopping by!

    Mickie

  7. Laetitia says:

    The blurb, characters and all your inspirations are so interesting ! I add this book in my wishlist immediately !
    Your questions are sharp! I have to answer no to most of them, except two.
    Let’s begin with food!
    I have tested a new Pakistani restaurant last month, their Kofta curry was delicious. Regrettably my mouth is just to sensitive to spices to be able to appreciate all their dishes.
    I like diversity, in my life, in my books… For me the biggest mystère in the universe is how we could NOT manage to live together in peace with all the beauty that we can find in all the cultures ? We could share so much, be enriched in so many way if everyone just open their mind… I’m naïve, i know… but i have hope… we have made some progress through the centuries, don’t we ?

  8. mickie b. ashling says:

    Hi Laetitia,

    It took a while for me to build up my tolerance for spicy food but now I find myself reaching for the pepper sauce more often than not.

    I do feel we’ve made much progress through the centuries but, sadly, we have a long way to go.

    Thank you so much for stopping by today. I hope you enjoy the novel when you get a chance to read it.

    Best,
    Mickie

  9. JJ says:

    I enjoy Middle Eastern food with the falafel, kebobs, stews and baklava. My favorite dish would be the beef kebobs.

  10. mickie b. ashling says:

    Hi JJ,
    Everything you’ve mentioned is also on my list of favorite dishes. Baklava is so rich I can only have one piece, but I savor every bite.

    Thanks for stopping!

    Mickie

  11. waxapplelover says:

    Great questions! I love falafel, though I’m not sure if that is considered Middle Eastern food or Mediterranean. I also would love to travel somewhere “exotic”, though my definition of that is probably different than others. The travel destinations that are on my bucket list are Singapore and Australia/New Zealand.

  12. mickie b. ashling says:

    Hi there! I’d love to travel to Australia and New Zealand as well. I have several friends who live on that side of the world but the getting there is the problem. Such a long flight! On of these days I’ll do it.

    I think falafel definitely counts.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Mickie

  13. H.B. says:

    I’ve actually never really tasted authentic middle eastern fair. I’ve had hummus and pita both store bought and I do love it. But I’ll like to try shawarma, goulash, doner kebabs and homemade flatbread.

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