Travel with Mona, visit the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal–A Story of Eternal Love

Often described as one of the wonders of the world, the stunning 17th Century ivory-white marble Taj Mahal was a mausoleum built between 1632 and 1643 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth, as a proof of his eternal love. The Taj Mahal is located on the right bank of the river Yamuna in the Indian city of Agra. 

Docking in Mumbai

We boarded the Princess Cruise ship in Civitavecchia–two hours away from Rome– and cruised the Mediterranean Sea to Naples where we spent a day, and then stopped in Santorini, Greece, before entering the Suez Canal and reaching Akaba on the Red Sea. Following six days at sea, we docked in Dubai and Oman, and then crossed the Indian Ocean, and arrived in Mumbai, India, where we took a bus tour of the city.

Old Indian-architecture in Mumbai
Modern residential building in Mumbai

Our Hindu guide explained that Mumbai hosted the wealthiest billionaires and the poorest of the poor. He also described the habitants as being the most tolerant on Earth, respecting all religions and granting citizens equal rights. In 2012 when we visited India, high ranking government officials included Hindu, Muslims, Catholics,…When we saw cows ambling on the sidewalk and monkeys jumping between trees, our guide explained that no one in India would ever hurt an animal.

The top floors of this high-rise are the penthouse of the wealthiest man in Mumbai.
A typically crowded street in Mumbai

Traveling to Agra

The next day we boarded an Air India plane and flew to New Delhi. We left our five-star hotel at four in the morning and walked for twenty minutes to reach the train station. In the early morning the streets were almost as crowded as during the day, with homeless roaming around, early workers carrying piles of newspapers on their bicycles, or vegetables on their wooden carts. After a three-hour train ride we arrived in Agra and took a bus that dropped us at the entrance of the Taj Mahal. A heavy fog–which apparently is a daily occurrence–veiled the famous mausoleum, but slowly faded as the sun rose higher.

The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. The Taj Mahal is constructed with impeccable symmetry. Minarets flank the domed tomb, and a central pool reflects the main building.

Notice the different colors at different times of the day. The gardens—an earthly representation of paradise—are divided into quadrants, and twin red sandstone buildings (an east-facing mosque and a west-facing guesthouse) give the mausoleum complex a balanced harmony. 
I am standing on the terrace at the entrance of the mausoleum. Notice we had to remove our shoes. The acoustics inside the main dome cause the single note of a flute to reverberate five times.
The main chamber houses the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, as the actual graves are located at a much lower level.The sarcophagi are enclosed in an eight-sided chamber ornamented with pietra dura (an inlay with semi-precious stones) and a marble lattice screen. 

The shopping in India is amazing. Vendors boasting their merchandise– jewelry, silk scarves, incrusted boxes, and others, waited for us at the door of our buses , ready to accept any bargain.

After a fabulous day in Agra, we returned to New Delhi and visited a Maharaja castle, and then flew to Cochin, in the South of India where we caught up with our ship and continued our cruise to Thailand and Singapore–more stories for another time.

Four Corners Monument by @TaylorLeeWrites

Quiz: Where in America can you find four state governments, two semiautonomous Native American governments, and four US federal government departments. Answer: The Four Corners Monument.

Four Corners Monument

Believe it or not, this inauspicious monument marks the quadripoint in the Southwestern United States where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. It is the only point in the United States shared by four states. The monument also marks the boundary between two semi-autonomous Native American governments, the Navajo Nation, and the Ute Mountain Tribe Reservation. As if that is not enough, the US Government has a large presence in the area specifically, the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service.

Breathtaking Scenery

In addition to all these government entities, the Four Corners Monument area includes some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country. Extraordinary forest covered mountains, raging rivers, gorgeous red rock cliffs leave visitors like me speechless with wonder. If you get the chance, please visit the Four Corners Monument area.

Not surprisingly the human elements of the area are as varied as the geographic wonders. Ranchers, farmers, miners, cowboys, Qanon crazies, local and state government officials, law enforcement officials, White Supremacists, Artists, Granolas, Canabisseurs, Mormons, and Native Americans to mention a few.

Soaking Up The Scenery

I’ve now spent three summers soaking up the glorious scenery and varied cultures of this amazing area. And not surprisingly stoking my creative story-telling genes. This is me:

I’ve concluded that if ever there was a place where stories are born, it’s the Four Corners region. At least, in my imagination, it is filled with a variety of people—the good, the bad, and the seriously wicked.

Which brings me to my new release:

Rampage by Taylor Lee

Available for $0.99 for Kindle Readers.

She’s an investigative media superstar.

He’s a formidable county sheriff.

She’s determined to expose the insurrectionist leaders. He’s determined to stop her.

If ever there was an iconic Western county sheriff, it was Calian Begay. Ruggedly handsome, arrogance was his middle name. But then, having been elected by seventy-plus percent of the voters was no small feat. Particularly for the grandson of a famous Ute Indian chief.

Determined to take down the insurrectionist leaders threatening his county, Cal wasn’t interested in the foot soldiers. He was after the clandestine political and financial kingpins underwriting the dangerous violence.

Scarlett knew all her blockbuster exposé needed was for her to capture the leader of the American Patriotic Front addressing the “White is Might” conspiracy crazies. She frankly didn’t care if that compromised the sheriff’s campaign to torpedo the insurrection.

Remembering Cal’s fierce warning if she refused to pull back, Scarlett admitted the formidable sheriff had done what no man had. Made her think twice before she blew him off.

Face it, which was more compelling? Winning a coveted national award or obeying the arrogant sheriff who, after warning her for the third time, had the temerity to threaten her personally if she “didn’t behave.”

If you dig brazen media stars, tough-as-nails lawmen, and scorching passion, hop aboard Taylor Lee’s sizzling new thrill ride. Discover how challenging exposés can be when sex and violence are in the mix. Grab Rampage: Book 1; Mayhem on the Mountain and prepare to be wowed!

And while you are savoring the sexy sheriff and audacious superstar, dive into these two fantastic Box Sets, my Author Billboard pals and I created to celebrate the Christmas season.

Unforgettable Christmas Promises

My book in the Box set is: Nuthin’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

FREE! Festive Christmas Nights (Fabulous Freebie Collection Book 5)

My books in the Box set is: Blue Christmas and Special Ops and Cops.

Fear of Cockroaches by @AngelaStevens13

I have a pathological fear of cockroaches. The sight of one turns me into a gibbering wreck. My heart rate goes a million miles an hour, and I forget how to breathe. A fear of cockroaches is all consuming; when catching sight of their long, streamlined bodies tiptoeing across the wall, ceiling, couch… YIKES! …my reptilian brain takes over and the normal rational one shuts down. I make for higher ground and hyperventilate from the top of the kitchen table while my husband almost wets himself laughing.

But a fear of cockroaches is no laughing matter. For the entire time those mini-nightmares are on the loose, I’m paralyzed. All I can do is watch in horror as their scurrying, disgusting bodies run.

The running terrifies me the most. They are fast; faster than anything should be. And they don’t just run.

Brace yourself… they fly, too.

Fear of Coackroaches

Why, oh, why does the cockroach fly?

I mean, seriously, what was our maker thinking when he made them?  Hmm, let’s do armor, because the humans will have to whack ‘em multiple times before they squish ‘em. Oh, and feelers that wiggle, that’d be cool and disgusting. Let’s do an instantly recognizable silhouette that will look menacing blown up against a wall lit by a single lamp. They need to be super silent, like Ninjas—no, better than Ninjas… better than stealth bombers. They should have a built-in cloaking device they deploy until they are right in front of a human. Ohhh, think I’m gonna also make them immediately bolt when a human spots them. So yeah, I hereby bequeath thee, the land speed record and… hmm, what else would be terrifying…? Flight! Yup, flight it is

Did The Architect not understand the roll of a good supervillain? They need to have a flaw, damn-it!

Cockroaches have no flaw!

My fear of cockroaches has led me to study them. It’s Catch 22, the more I do, the more petrified of them I become. But in my extensive research, the only thing I have found that they are supposed to be terrified of is…

–DRUM ROLL PLEASE–

… citrus.

Citrus Fruit
Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, are a cockroach’s kryptonite, but does it makes them turn into quivering wrecks and runaway? Or, do they instantly combust when they come into contact with a bit of orange peel? Nope, they just don’t like the smell, and they walk around it. Seriously, that is not a flaw OR a weakness. That is a cop out!

Especially when roaches have ALL of these strengths:

  • They leave tracks of bacteria
  • can live a week WITHOUT a head
  • are nocturnal and run away from light
  • can live 3 months with no food and a month with no water
  • leave chemical trails in their feces that other cockroaches follow so they can find each other and create a swarm
  • There are 5,000 species
  • like to feed on human and pet food
  • play dead. Seriously. For up to forty minutes, they hold their breath and play dead, then flip off their backs and scurry away when the coast is clear.
  • can withstand radiation and could survive humans in a nuclear blast!
  • can survive underwater. THEY DON’T DROWN, PEOPLE!
  • Female American roaches live up to 700 days and every time they lay an egg case, they have 14-36 eggs in them, and on average they lay 18 egg cases in their life time.

So, where the hell is the cockroach’s weakness or flaw?  There should be one. Superman has his Kryptonite, Achilles his heel. God, you made your villain too powerful, this is not how it was meant to be. Jeepers, is it any wonder why I am scared out of my wits by these abhorrent creatures? I’m British I have a stiff upper lip—except where cockroaches are concerned.

I’m not easily scared

I don’t make a habit of having irrational fears. I can deal with spiders. It doesn’t matter how big they are, I’m able to stay in the same room as them and am even happy to watch them stroll across the ceiling or capture them in a glass and release them outside. Other stuff, too. For instance, snakes. Zero problem. I have three cats that think it’s fun to bring me a snake every few days and leave it to slither across the living room. No problem, I can quickly catch them and set them free.

Most critters in fact: lizards, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, birds. The cats have tested me out numerous times, bringing me live ones as presents, and each time I have no issues putting them back outside. But cockroaches… Ugh! Even as I type the word, my palms are growing sweaty, and I feel physically sick. This is a bit of problem when writing a blog that requires me to mention the damn word as often as possible in order to satisfy the SEO.

So, why am I confessing my Achilles heel? Because I am on the edge of a mental breakdown. This week, I have had three of these beasties turn up in my house, and I am going batsh*t crazy. I just can’t even fathom why this is happening. Firstly, my home is spotless. I am over-the-top tidy, and I clean as a hobby. Secondly, I am meticulous about putting foods in sealed containers and you can use my cooktop as a mirror. Thirdly, the trash is emptied daily, and I don’t have any clutter. Fourthly, I’m a minimalist, and everything has its place.  So why in heaven’s name have they chosen to move in!!!

Fear of Cockroaches
Actual footage of me from yesterday after I spotted no. 3.

For all the years that I have lived in America, I think I only saw a cockroach once—that was up until two years ago. But when I moved to North Carolina, I have seen seven. SEVEN IN TWO YEARS! In MY HOUSE! And three, of those seven, sightings have happened this week.

Katsaridaphobia is real, people!

My hubby thinks I am losing my mind. He might be right. I know it is irrational but I can’t control the fear, and I am literally one scurrying mahogany body away from moving out permanently. I may have to go and live in the Sahara, or the North Pole, or anywhere that can guarantee me no freaking cockroaches.

Tomorrow, the exterminators are coming, and I am praying they can seal up my house because I really need a good night’s sleep, and so long as there is a chance that there may be even one roach somewhere in my home, I am not going to get any sleep.

So, if any of you have any words of wisdom, or tried and tested ways of preventing these terrifying monsters entering your home, please, please, please pass them on, because my Katsaridaphobia is holding me hostage.

If you guys would like something to take your mind off my article, I have over thirty cockroach-free books to choose from, including some excellent author’s billboard box sets at just 99c. You can find them by clicking here.

Stargazing: Beautiful Scenery that is Everywhere by @_NancyRadke

The joys of stargazing and cloud-watching are that they go with you wherever you are, as long as you can see the sky. Summer, winter, the season doesn’t matter nor does the surrounding landscape. What does affect stargazing is the amount of light on the ground, or if there is a full moon, which hides the stars around it.

Stargazing

If you are in a city with many lights, it is difficult to see more than a few stars. But get away from the city and the sky reveals that it is covered with stars everywhere. In Alaska, the stars were often joined by the Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights decorate the night sky with beauty and color. This is especially lovely during the dark winter months when we only have a few hours of sunshine.

The Joy of Stargazing

Stargazing was probably one of my greatest joys when growing up on a ranch. I used to sleep outside during harvest time so that I could look at the stars. They rotate around the North Star, so that the Big Dipper acts like the hands of a clock. I used to be able to tell time by them, since I saw them so often. When I rode my horse at night, which I often did, I would try to see how close I could come to the actual time by reading the star rotation. The same can be done with the sun during the day.

Cloud-watching is best done with cumulus clouds. The big fluffy kind that lets you imagine figures and landscapes, and that constantly change as you watch them. Teach your children the names of the different kinds of clouds, the names of some of the stars, and the constellations. No matter where they are in the world, the information will enrich their lives. If they travel to the Southern Hemisphere, the stars will rotate in the opposite direction and there will be different constellations, but the basic knowledge will get them started.

Star Rotation

I usually mention the stars in my western books. The pioneers used the stars to set their directions, placing the wagon tongue at night to point north.

Nancy Radke