Thursday, July 7, 2016

Romancing the Rains...

What is it about the rains that makes a pluviophile's heart go a flutter?

Is it the first raindrop that lands on your head unawares till your fingers that were carelessly combing your unruly hair discover it prompting an impromptu giggle?

Is it the uncanny godliness of the fresh-earth smell that bowls you over?

Could it be the damp nose of your dog that feels drier but cooler and more lovable than usual?

Is it the shorty drizzle or the longish, plump droplets that travel faster than your shamelessly stark ogle and reach the ground?

Is it that heart-skips-a-beat feeling that brings back fond memories of your first brush with romance?

It could be a million things, or more.

I feel it is more about 'romancing the rains' rather than 'romancing in the rains'. It is like falling in love with the idea of love, not with a specific person. But then the person, even if imaginary, would be a welcome treat!

A perfect rainy day is one that allows you to laze in your den with your favorite murder-mystery, a hot cup of coffee, and your dog curled up next to you. You can listen to the sound of the rains and appreciate the magnificence from your window or balcony. And of course, you have a soulful 'raga' playing in the background. It could also be a 'ghazal' or a 'soft romantic' Arijit Singh number. Total bliss.

The perfect rainy day could also be one when you are by the sea -either at the beach or in a café, gazing at the beauty unfolding in front of your eyes. All you do is appreciate what you witness and immerse yourself in that unrestrained love.

Ah well... a perfect rainy day could also be one which brings old friends or family together - a chance encounter perhaps.

As your mind wonders and wanders, enjoy romancing the rains :)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

How hard-hitting are betrayals?

No, I am not talking about betrayals in love. How often have you been cheated by friends? Or is that also ‘cool’ these days? Regardless of how we look at it, I am sure most of us have tasted deceit in friendship at least once in life. 
Sensible people don’t waste time thinking about it. They cut off the disloyal person from their life and move on. Sensitive people sulk, write blogs, and waste a lot of time before finally accepting the fact that they have been fooled.

I don’t know if I would characterize myself as sensible or sensitive. Perhaps it depends on the person and your relationship with him/her. Some betrayals make you feel bad but you ignore them as they don’t matter. Others might leave you angry, upset, irritated, or shocked.

The worst kind of betrayal is that which comes from someone who has mastered the art of pretence. You will be ignorant of the skilful way the ‘friend’ will extract information from you and use it to suit their interests. While you trust the person in good faith, you will have no clue what they are up to behind your back!
The reveal will shock you and the puzzle will look impossible. When you see your friend enjoying the exact opposite things they swore to you they abhor, don’t be surprised. This is just the beginning. You will soon find them hanging out with the people they said were in their ‘hate’ list.
Then you need to stir your memory bank a bit so as to allow it to replay some incidents that had irked you when they had occurred. For instance, once upon a time, this person had relentlessly cajoled you to badmouth people they claimed they hated (the same people they have befriended now)! You thank God now that you had refused to utter anything negative back then.
If that is not enough, your so-called friend will try to sweet-talk you into something again, unaware that his/her true colours have been revealed to you. If you ignore, s/he will sever ties with you and make it look like you broke the bond!
Be patient. Your puzzle pieces will come together.
So, next time before you make the statement - “My friend XYZ can never do that,” think again. As the saying goes: “Never say never.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Challenges of Being 'One Book' Old!

Before my first book The Sinister Silence was published (my second isn’t out yet!), my goal was to ‘get published’. Like Arjuna who focused on the ‘bird's eye’ with single-minded resolve, my aim was to get ‘published’. It was a gruelling process and in one of my earlier blog posts, I recounted my journey from writer to author .

However like most first-time authors, I realized that once you are published, your challenge has only begun. Here's why!

1. Managing expectations – If people have liked your book, your next book must be even better. It is a writer’s responsibility to challenge herself to come up with a better second book. So, keep writing, come what may!
2. Managing distractions – Authors are tempted to google their names, check Amazon rankings every now and then, stay ‘social’ and connect with readers. This may get tiring after a while. Remember: A writer’s mind needs to be fresh so that new ideas can reside there.
3. Keeping up the momentum – A book launch or reading is not enough! You have to keep at it, generate interest among readers in multiple ways all the time!
4. Online visibility – Thanks to technology, people don’t just buy books from physical bookstores anymore. The online community is overflowing with activity – people buy online all the time. So staying visible online – real-time – becomes important. But a writer can’t always do that. You need to write - remember?
5. Book reviews – Getting a professional to review your book is another challenge. The number of authors getting published is increasing every day. Ditto with the number of reviewers. There is also the option of subscribing to 'review packages'. I am not comfortable paying money to get my book reviewed. But then, it works well for some authors, which is good. So those who don’t opt for ‘paid reviews’, don’t get XX number of reviews to showcase on social media. So, you have lost a certain percentage of audience there too!
6. Review on Goodreads – Unlike Amazon or Flipkart, the reviews listed at Goodreads are not necessarily from people who have purchased a book through an online store. Anyone with a Goodreads account can randomly rate/review a book. Someone may just dismiss your labour-of-love with a 'one rating' even if they haven't read it! So new authors - please don't lose sleep over reader ratings :). However, Goodreads is a nice place to be for those who love reading and enjoy maintaining reading lists.
7. Building your brand – Attending book-readings, talks, events etc. and interacting with people to increase your reader-base is important, especially if you are only a-book-old. If events are not possible offline, authors can also organize such events online. The challenge is that you will need to invest a lot of time from your daily schedule for such activities. Rome was not built in a day, you see!
8. Active blogging – is important to stay 'alive' in your reader’s mind. The curiosity around the book will die down a few months after the book release. To stay connected with your readers, you need to stay in touch through your writing.
9. Time management – This is crucial, especially if you already have a day job. To market your book, schedule promotions, and interact with readers while at your full-time job is no mean feat. Plan your time and time your plan. Set goals with deadlines. 
10. Writing your next book – This is THE most important thing to do if you want to live the life of an author. To seclude yourself and continue writing amid all the distractions, temptations, and book promotions is a tough call. Nevertheless, like Arjuna again – the focus should be unwavering. A writer needs to write - that's the core requirement. That is your true calling.

Good luck to all new, old, and aspiring writers! Cheers to your writing journey!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fictional Detectives of the 21st Century

When we think 'fictional detectives', we usually have legends like Sherlock Holmes or Byomkesh Bakshi in mind. Needless to say, we will continue to revere them for centuries to come. 

However, in this digital age, is there a new fictional detective who makes your crime-thriller unputdownable? 
Quite a few names have been gaining popularity in the world of crime fiction since the late 20th century.  

1. Cormoran Strike: Private detective Strike made his debut in Robert Galbraith aka J.K Rowling's ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ in 2013 and soon became a popular name among mystery lovers across the world. 'The Silkworm’, where Strike was called upon to investigate the mysterious murder of a novelist was a runaway hit too. His third case - 'A Career of Evil' is slated for an October 2015 release.

2. Galileo:  A Physics Professor with an uncanny ability to crack impossible cases, Detective Galileo was introduced in the brilliant suspense thriller – ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ (English version published in 2011). Brainchild of the Japanese author Keigo Higashino, the Galileo novels are racy, gripping, and unputdownable.

3.   Kay Scarpetta: The keenly observant Scarpetta debuted with Patricia Cornwell’s ‘Postmortem’ in 1990. This Italian sleuth started her career as a chief medical examiner and later became a private forensic consultant. 
‘The Depraved Heart’ (2015) is the latest Scarpetta novel with cutting-edge forensic investigations.

4. Alex Cross – Like Scarpetta, psychologist and Police Detective, Afro-American Alex Cross is also not a new name in the detective world. Introduced in James Patterson’s ‘Along Came a Spider’ in 1993, Cross is highly intelligent, compassionate, and known for his ill luck with women. Watch out for his latest book ‘Hope to Die’ (2015)

5. John Rebus: Detective Inspector John Rebus is Ian Ranklin’s creation, first seen in ‘Knots and Crosses’ (1987). The unconventional lifestyle and pessimistic attitude added to Rebus’ charm. 
Though Ranklin announced Rebus’ retirement in ‘Saints of the Shadow Bible’ (2013), the Scottish Inspector continues to be hugely popular.

6. Thomas Lynley: Created by the American author Elizabeth George, British detective Inspector Lynley first appeared in 1988 in a novel titled ‘A Great Deliverance’. Several of Lynley’s mysteries were adapted into a TV series. 
‘A Banquet of Consequences’ (2015) is the latest addition to the Lynley mystery series.

7. Mitin Mashi: Created by the versatile Suchitra Bhattacharya, Indian detective Pragya Paromita, better known as Mitin Mashi made her debut in the Bengali novel ‘Palabar Path Nei’. Mitin is a 21st century young, inquisitive detective, who solves complex mysteries along with Tupur, her niece. Some of her super-hit stories like ‘Arakiel Diamond’ have been translated into English. With Bhattacharya’s untimely demise, it is unfortunate that we won’t get to read any new books on Mitin Mashi.

8. Vish Puri: In 2009, English writer Tarquin Hall created Vish Puri, the most private investigator in India. Set in India, ‘The Case of the Missing Servant’ is the first book in the Vish Puri series and establishes our protagonist as an old-fashioned, methodical, and quick-witted Punjabi detective. The other books in the Vish Puri series are equally engaging and have earned critical acclaim.

9. Avraham: Crime writer Dror. A Mishani's ‘The Missing File’ (first published in Hebrew in 2011) introduced Israeli Police Inspector Avraham to readers. Exceptional attention to detail and compelling characterization resulted in the growing popularity of the Avraham crime series. ‘The Man Who Wanted to Know’ is Mishani's latest Avraham novel. (The English version will only be available in 2016).

10. Niki Marwah: Indian author Swati Kaushal created the character of Niki Marwah in her crime thriller titled ‘Drop Dead’ (2012). 
Police Detective Marwah is daring, rebellious, and has featured in two fast-paced murder mysteries until now.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Writer to Author - A Continuous Journey!

Baby Steps
When I started writing my book The Sinister Silence, I had titled it Silenced. I had intended to write a love story. However, I do not remember exactly when I started to kill some of my characters. At the risk of sounding sadistic, I admit that I enjoyed the process. Soon after, I was writing a murder mystery. 

Plot and Characterization
I was happy with my writing – it transported me to a world of my own. I could set my own rules or decide against any, my characters conducted themselves the way I wanted. If they acted up, I let them. As I explored them more, especially my protagonists, I had a better understanding of their expectations from me. I did not need to put everything I knew about them in my book. Nevertheless, getting to know them was a refreshingly novel experience.

Edit, Edit, Edit
When I finally completed writing, I was thrilled. I started editing my book and in the process, there were several cuts and omissions. I requested my family and a couple of close friends to read the book too. Receiving different perspectives on the same book was a HUGE learning experience. I loved the fact that my characters had behaved differently with different readers J.

Get Published
I knew what the next logical step was - to get published. All that I needed to do was to send my manuscript to publishers. Once selected, I would see my name in print in the following two or three months.
Ah - wake up, my inner voice nudged.

Just the Beginning
As I initiated the process, I realized that writing is one thing. But getting published is a different ballgame altogether. Simply writing your book is not enough. You need to familiarise yourself with writing impactful query letters, taut book synopses, and engaging sample chapters – and neatly stitch them together in a book proposal. Some publishers will only accept submissions via literary agents – so factor that in too. All in all, if you are a greenhorn in the publishing industry, you have to invest time in research, learning, and unlearning. Gradually, you will evolve through trial and error. There is no shortcut to getting your book published.

Never Stop Writing
Once you set the ball rolling, do not put your life on pause. Meet friends, interact with people, and if possible – get started with your next book. If not, at least write 250-500 words every day. You do not need to share with anyone – but just write for yourself. When writers are in the process of becoming authors, sometimes, they give up writing… because they are waiting to get published. I did that too and it is a horrible thing to do!

The more time you spend away from writing, the double the time and effort you will need to get back to it. If the writer’s block is real bad, at least stick to reading.

Be Patient
The getting-the-right-publisher process may take months…sometimes years. It is tedious and sometimes heart-breaking. But never give up and never lose faith in your ability to write. Even though this sounds clichéd – when there is a will, there is always a way. Just stay calm and keep writing.

My book The Sinister Silence will be published in November 2015.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Some not-so-good days!

I would have liked my first post of 2015 to have been happier and livelier. But I guess writers have their bad days too, which may not be related to writing. The ideal thing to do during those times is to lie low and sharpen your claws. Hibernating is important when you want to bounce back all energized and positive. When you are spending time with yourself, one or more of the following work wonders.

1. A good book: Always have a good book by your side, for all days...good and bad. On good days, they will make you happier. On bad days, they will uplift your spirits. Some people prefer reading the same book over and over, especially on days they don't feel sunny. That works! For me, a Paulo Coelho book should be within reach, whether I am at home or travelling. Currently, I also have a very interesting 'The Constant Art of Being a Writer' by N.M Kelby with me. It lists some simple, yet detailed steps to becoming the writer you want to be. These kind of books discipline you when bad days distract you.

2. A soulful song: Whether you can sing well or not is irrelevant. In school, we used to sing a lovely song in Class I. The lines go like this:
Every body has a song
Every body can sing
All you have to do is try
Even rusty bells ring
Then further referring to the throat are the lines: Set it free now, let it be now, sing a song to me.
A good song often spoils a bad day and I just love that.

3. A notepad and pen: Doesn't matter what you write but when you let your thoughts flow freely, it is liberating and often helps you accept the situation you are in and plan 'what next'. You can stay distracted for a bit by surfing the Internet, but the bugs will be back to bite you when you are offline. As opposed to that, the notepad and pen will eagerly await your story, whenever you are ready.

4. A gooey chocolate: It has an immediate effect on the mind, the heart, the soul. It boosts your sugar levels. So unless you are diabetic, a chocolate or a chocolateyy pastry or icecream is highly recommended. Even people who don't like chocolates have felt good after eating one during their bad/sad day.

5. A brisk walk: Even better if you are able to run. Just enjoy the beauty of the nature. Once in a while blink when you appreciate the sunset, a unique leaf or flower, a happy bird...anything. Closing your eyes for a fraction of a second will help you capture the moment in your mind's camera. Don't try this if your mood is sour due to high fever or any physical ailment.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

PK Disappoints

Film Review: PK
Cast: Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Boman Irani
Directed By: Rajkumar Hirani
Music: Shantanu Moitra and others
Most people who appreciate meaningful cinema were looking forward to PK. But PK falls flat. Aamir Khan disappoints. Raju Hirani disappoints.
The movie started on an innovative note and I liked the concept that Aamir Khan was playing the role of an alien. But then… what happened to the script after that?
Those who have watched ‘Oh My God’ will find PK rather dull. PK makes a mockery of some religious leaders, which I must admit is quite hilarious. We enjoy a laugh or two. But that’s not all. PK goes a step further and starts a subtle attack on select religions. That is upsetting because the movie stars a sensibly sensitive creative genius like Aamir Khan.
India is a tolerant nation. We Indians tolerate ludicrous religious extremism, ghastly terrorist attacks, violence against children, and more. So, we tolerate this nonsensical movie too! Incidentally, there was no reference to terrorist attacks in the name of religion! But the last thing we needed was the glorification of the Pakistan embassy!
I wonder why the reference to ‘the letter’ was traced back to the failure of the fraud swami (I cannot remember his very forgettable name…sorry!). After all, it was just a misunderstanding between two adults in love. No? Why did we need to attach a religious tinge to it?
For someone who keeps the country together with the powerful Satyameva Jayate, what was PK? A boring, biased, and mindless saga of a confused alien?
Next time, just the names Aamir Khan or Raju Hirani on the posters may not motivate me to buy movie tickets. Kya pata, PK banaya hoga!