August 31, 2011

New Website Coming!

Finally, most of the pages are ready and I hope to launch a new website on a new server shortly.

The web address is still the same though it comes up direct with the wwww - www.cverstraete.com and the emails will be the same once I set them up. (or use christine.verstraeteATfacebook.com).

In case of any disruption, contact me at www.facebook.com/christine.verstraete.

August 30, 2011

Miniature Fast Food in AIM Magazine



Check out my fast food article in the August (#10) Artisans in Miniature (AIM) Magazine. Love all that food - and no calories! Looks so amazingly real!

See blog link. Download or read online here.

August 29, 2011

Miniatures Monday: Home on the Range



This has to be one of the most charming miniature scenes I've come across lately. Doll maker Gina Gagnon of Lone Wolf Miniature Creations recently shared her latest work inspired by a real-life woman.

Her miniature doll is based on a Montana rancher's wife named Beth whom, Gina says, is "a very feisty 80-year-old, who still saddles her own horses, herds her and her husband's cattle, raises llamas, goats, etc., and wins ribbons at the county fair."



You can just see that spirit in Gina's creation! We can only wish we'll all be so active and independent when we get to that age.


August 24, 2011

Interview with Shobhan Bantwal, Author of Bollywood Novel, The Full Moon Bride



Today I again welcome best-selling author Shobhan Bantwal who is giving readers another glimpse into the "Desi" life via her latest book, THE FULL MOON BRIDE.

Bantwal, who has calls her type of writing "Bollywood in a book," is not afraid to tackle sometimes controversial topics and show the sometimes dark side of Indian life. In her last book, THE DOWRY BRIDE, she addressed what can happen when wives are "sold" to the prospective husband via a dowry.

In her new book, THE FULL MOON BRIDE, Bantwal introduces readers to a practice that many Americans may not understnad, but which is still common in many Indian and European families--the arranged marriage. As the interview reveals, it also is something Bantwal is personally familiar with.

About The Full Moon Bride
What makes a marriage—love or compatibility? Passion or pragmatism? THE FULL MOON BRIDE is a compelling story that explores the fascinating subject of arranged marriage, as young Indian-American attorney Soorya Giri navigates the gulf between desire and tradition.

In choosing between two very different men, Soorya must reconcile her burgeoning independence and conservative background. And she must decide what matters most to her—not just in a husband, but in a family, a culture, and a life.



Interview with Shobhan Bantwal:

1. What keeps you writing?
The need to share a story with as many people as possible is what keeps me writing. Fiction writing is still very much a hobby and does not earn much in terms of money, but the satisfaction of publishing a book, entertaining so many happy readers, and then receiving loads of positive feedback is well worth it.

2. What has changed in your life since you wrote this book?
Some major changes have taken place in my personal life: I am about to retire from my career job (the one that paid the bills until now) and move to Arizona from New Jersey (where I have spent the last 37 years - my entire adult life).

3. What inspired this story? Was it harder or easier to write than the others? Why?
The inspiration for this story is the second-generation of Indian-Americans, young folks like my daughter, whose parents emigrated to the United States to follow their dreams and make a better life for themselves and their children.

These offspring of immigrants face many challenges: straddling two diverse cultures, striving to meet the expectations of conservative parents, fitting into their more emancipated American peers' lifestyles, and fulfilling their own private career and family goals. My protagonist in The Full Moon Bride is bright and successful, but miserable about her plain looks, especially when she compares herself to her American friends. Finding a man on her own is difficult when her low self-esteem gets in the way of progress. This book was fairly easy to write since the plot and scenes come from close daily observations.

4. Was your marriage or any family member's arranged? What are your views on it in this day and age? Does it still work?
Yes, I have been happily married for 37 years and my marriage was strictly arranged. My husband and I met two days before we were engaged, then married 10 days later. All my sisters, uncle, aunts and most cousins have been married by arrangement. I believe in the custom wholeheartedly, if it is done right, that is, with the potential bride and groom agreeing to the marriage and making a sincere effort to make it work. Approximately 75 percent of marriages in India are still arranged and most seem to work very well.

5. Since your marriage was arranged, why does it work? What were your initial views about it and how do you see it now?
Arranged marriages work because the families from both sides do a lot of discreet fact gathering and research before picking someone eligible for their children. The caste system is still alive and thriving in India, therefore seeking an alliance with a family of the same caste is still a significant factor, along with similarities in social and economic circumstances. With so many elements in common, adjustment is made easier for the newlyweds.

Additionally, complete family support from both sides makes for a stronger marriage. Initially, when I was young and enamored by the idea of falling in love, I was hesitant about walking into an arranged marriage, but now, after 37 years of living in a one, I am an enthusiastic advocate of the custom.

6. What is your goal in writing this story? What do you want your readers to know or learn?
My goal in writing this book was to bring awareness to some of the challenges faced by second-generation immigrants. Also, American society places so much emphasis on beauty and youth that many who are labeled as plain, or overweight or unattractive grow up with easily-shattered egos and lack of self-respect. Writing The Full Moon Bride was my way of highlighting this subject and the immigrant experience in America. I want my readers to know that despite the outward appearance of having realized the American dream, many immigrants privately face other challenges, some expected and others unexpected.

7. What's next? You have another book coming out?
Yes, there is another book, scheduled for release next summer. There is no title yet but it will also be about a young Indian-American woman navigating the gulf between desire and tradition, her family's expectations and her own dreams.

8. What advice would you give to authors starting out?
My advice to aspiring authors is to write the book of your heart, even if it does not fit into a "box." I did that myself when I started to write stories that are a mix of different genres. In essence I created a new sub-genre of women's fiction, which I call "Bollywood in a Book" — ethnic fiction with colorful characters, strong romantic elements, action and adventure.

Thanks, Shobhan for stopping by again. We've enjoyed your visit!
Thank you once again for hosting me on your popular blog. It has been a pleasure to talk about my books and share my experiences as an author.



About Shobhan Bantwal
Award-winning author Shobhan Bantwal calls her writing “Bollywood in a Book” —romantic, colorful, action-packed tales, rich with elements of Indian culture —stories that entertain and educate. Shobhan has five published novels by Kensington Publishing, with a sixth slated for 2012. Check out her
website or visit her on Facebook.

* Review: Let me say that I am hooked! This is the third book I've read by Shobhan and I can't wait to read more. I love the way she brings the culture and her characters to life. You can't help but root for the "underdog" beau-in-waiting, and almost want to give her main character a shove to open her eyes! The romance ends as you hope, with a little sizzle and a lot of emotion. While she wanted to focus on self-doubt, I almost felt like her main character was too down on herself. Finally, she does feel more confident and starts to look at herself as others see her, especially as this good-looking suitor (as he's described) clearly sees her differently than she's seeing herself at first. The details of the culture and family life make the novel even more interesting.

* Read my other interview with Shobhan about her novel, The Sari Shop Widow here.

August 19, 2011

Dogs Sniff Out Cancer?

The anecdotes abound about people sharing how their dog sniffed and pawed at them until the person checked out what seemed to be a problem - and found that they had cancer.

Now a new study is suggesting that there is something to the stories. Preliminary tests have shown that dogs indeed do detect a certain scent and can pinpoint molecules contained in tubes that sick patients have breathed into.

Will dogs be part of a new cancer detection force and a better tool to catching often "invisible" cancers in earlier, more treatable stages?

Read rest of the story here.

August 15, 2011

Miniatures Monday: Updated Preview, In Miniature Style II

The preview for In Miniature Style II has been updated at Amazon if you want to take a peek! Click cover for preview!


August 08, 2011

Miniatures Monday: Woman Uses Miniatures to Teach Black History

While miniatures and dollhouses can be a fun way to recreate a piece of your personal past or capture a moment in time, they also can be used to document history.

Karen Collins began by making roomboxes with ice cream shops and other fun scenes, but after her son went to prison she found new purpose by recreating scenes showing the various aspects of African American history.

Fifteen years and 50 roomboxes later, she has created a collection that is as enlightening as it can be thought-provoking and disturbing: scenes showing a lively gospel choir and churchgoers, men sitting at a diner and Hattie McDaniel from Gone with the Wind as the first black Academy award winner, to the Klan in Black history, and more.

The exhibit, which often mixes scales and uses actual newspapers or photos for the backgrounds, includes many dolls she made herself. The rooms were used as educational tools in Los Angeles schools and will now become part of a permanent museum exhibit.

* Read the full story here. * See the roombox Photo Gallery

August 06, 2011

Happy Birthday Lucy!

Happy Birthday Lucy! Lucille Ball would've been 100 today. She's still one of the funniest actresses around and was one of the prettiest women of her era. Here's that iconic chocolate scene in her memory....



August 04, 2011

Flood, Fire... Blame it on the dollhouse....

Floods and fire ravaged an apartment building, but sources say it all started with the dollhouse... See story.

Darn those little people for not putting in smoke detectors...

August 01, 2011

New AIM Magazine for August

The new AIM Magazine (Aug. #36) is out.

I have an article on fast food and a how to for a fast food fish sandwich in it. See download page. (You may have to sign in to Scribd.)


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