Sideffects of bad reviews…

Okay, finally, after all these years, I am ready to accept bad reviews as part of the deal for authors.

The first really bad, read harsh, review I got for my first ever attempt at writing and publishing (self) a novel – back in 2013 – was, wait a minute, maybe I didn’t get a bad review at all!

But when I decided the book was not good enough, I retired it and worked tirelessly revising over and over, till I could not do it anymore, sending it to three more copy editers , costing me (US$ 1,200). The first book had gone to four editors, one developmental editor, a line editor, a copy editor from India to recheck the facts were right and a proof reader, making me 3,000 US $ poorer. I am not even mentioning the formatting, cover and promotional expenses to spare any aspiring writer reading this a heartache. bleeding-heart-800x800

I was pretty sure I had it right this time. I had spent about six months revising and perfecting the book structurally, chopping off scenes that I thought bored the readers, basically gave it my best shot, and published it as a Kindle book, renamed it ‘Meantime Girl’ chose a more suitable cover to match the story, as a novella of 32,000 words approx (the original novel was 50,000 plus words!).

cover copy fullI sat back and hoped for some appreciation. I still didn’t think I would earn millions. But I knew I had made an honest effort to “unbore” my readers.

bad reviewsInstead, I got really merciless reviews,and mostly from readers who got free copies to read during promotional offers for which I had paid myself. (I did get some good reviews as well, one got removed by Amazon admin who suspected it was by one of my wellwisers!, my efforts to convence them failed :(, sadly).  In short I paid for those harsh reviews, again hundreds of dollars to get pelted with stones. I have been flogged in life, literally and metaphorically; but here I was doing more than what I was expected to do, and hence the hurt surpassed the bleed.

Initially, whenever I read a really bad review, it used to feel like a slit thorugh my heart. Now it is better, I mean easier to bear.

Maybe I am getting used to it; is it a good thing? Don’t know.

But each time a harsh review appears on my Amazon page or as an email, it hurts like hell and robs me a couple of weeks of productivity. I feel like a looser and am unable to write, read or live normally.

So dear readers, if you don’t like my book, please resist an urge to be mean or so harsh. Don’t ever read my books, tell all you friends what a lousy writer I am; but don’t, please don’t, put it where I can read.

Why am I writing this? Can’t waste any more time over bad reviews. Don’t know how much time is left for me on this earth, to live and write. I really want to leave behind a legacy my son can be proud of when I am gone.  No, I am not suffering from any known tricky heath condition. I just feel within this nagging urge and rush to write something brilliant. Hopefully…


I wish to thank all of you who have checked out my book ‘Past Life’ and for those genuine feed backs. I am especially moved by those touching comments (something I never got for my previous books). I know why this book was special for the reader in spite of it being a one woman show written and put together in a span of less than three hours – it is a story told from my heart. Besides, we humans know how to see real from fake instinctively, intuitively rather.


#7 in Kindle ebooks religion and spirituality…

At one point when I checked my Amazon rank I found myself in #7 in my category, qualifying me to call myself Amazon bestseller, I guess. I was not constantly checking my sales rank, so maybe I missed a point in time when I possibly could have been on the #1. I don’t know much about marketing or algorithms etc. So I won’t claim any fame.

My gratitude to one and all who downloaded and read my book, and my prayers to all those who have gone through similar feelings at some point in their lives. I didn’t mean to make you sad, recall your lost loved ones. Forgive me if I have unintentionally made you relive sad times. My intention was not it, honestly.

In gratitude, I have made the book a free download today (June 22). Those who haven’t read ‘Past Life’ yet, please do.

The links are: (and so on according to your region of purchase)


P.S. While you are there, please do check out my contemporary fiction work ‘Meantime Girl’. It is a love story and a lot of work, time and money was invested in the production of it. And honestly I think, I have done a good job with it. You might differ, but do check it out. Or, alternatively, you might love it. I hope you will.


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If you love love or hate love

For those who tried but could not buy my novella ‘Meantime Girl’ on Amazon for technical reasons, I have made it available on Smashwords for 99 cents. You can read 20% for free. Do check out.


Here’s the link:

or try

cover copy full


Excerpt… ‘The Plunge’


(Image for illustration purpose ONLY. Courtsey: Aashiqui -2)

“Here we are, thanks to your desperation,” he said, turning towards her for a reaction. It sounded like an accusation.

“You never wanted this to happen?” she asked, her large eyes wide open, chin quivering.

“Come on, you must agree that your desperation made us think up this crazy move.”

“Maybe, but…” she fell silent, and sank into an armchair placed near the window.

“What? Don’t you know how much I am risking?”

He began to pace the room.

“It would be a scandal. I can’t be seen moving around with a mystery woman in a place like Shimla, where neither my family nor work calls me.”

He continued a monologue she did not want to hear.

“Shall we talk about something pleasant?”

He looked at her and stopped pacing. He walked to her. She was still stuck in thoughts, and the chair.

“I am sorry, dear.” He tipped her chin to face him. Her stress melted away when his warm hand caressed her face and neck.

Anjali smiled at him and briefly held his hands together before getting up to move away. She stood gazing through the window. Did he mean what he said? Or did he regret it now?

He turned on the television and sat on the bed switching channels.

After a while, she walked to the bed and stretched out, hoping the pain in her lower back would subside. It had been a long journey. She closed her eyes.

She felt his hand on her shoulder. With her eyes still shut, she turned towards him.

Story behind the story, and some more

Some empathised with her, completely understood her choices, even the emotionally-drivens. Others found her foolish pursuit of love unbelievably appalling. That’s Anjali, whose love story makes my novel, ‘The Plunge’.Image

That baffled me, for I never anticipated such conflicting views from regular book lovers and professional reviewers alike.

Anjali, the protagonist of my story, is close to my heart, a character crafted out of real women, friends I have known closely and grown up with. Anjali is not exactly what one of my critics called, ‘incredibly foolish’ or ‘immature’, not the person. She is naïve in a certain subject, namely love. But lovers behave foolishly in real life too, without them being foolish, don’t they? That’s where my critics went wrong, failed to differentiate between the individual and the behaviour. One need not be stupid to behave stupidly in certain aspects of life, like matters of heart.

Siddharth, was convincing enough for everyone; strange! Did it mean men were indeed on earth for the sole purpose of procreating, when they were not fooling around with women’s emotions, pitifully hormone-driven? I don’t accept that idea. Men and women have equal rights to self-worth. But I did not write this story to promote that thought. I wrote to clear my mind of clutter, the self-talk accumulated over years that threatened to crystallise into toxic imprints; that I would have had to carry along and suffer through rebirths. I feel free now, liberated.

I hope to see a movie-adaptation of my novel someday, preferably in the Hollywood. The screenplay, location, historical mentions and characters could be effortlessly modified to fit the frames. I would want the story to remain unaltered.

Who should play the female lead? Ann Hathaway, of course (in the Les Miserables look), with Al Pacino as her lover (I know it sounds like a crazy pairing, but am convinced they would work up a striking chemistry) would do justice to my story. ImageImage

I am sure with a talented script writer like Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) and a bold woman director like Meera Nair (Kama Sutra), Anjali’s story would touch hearts, immensely.

I initially called my novel ‘The Scandal’, then changed it to ‘Sleepwalk’, then to ‘Stains of the Last Monsoon’, and kept changing many times in two years, finally settling for the simple ‘The Plunge’. Anjali’s involvement with Siddharth was a plunge into unknown depths of the ocean of life, therefore.

When my cover designer, Jennifer, came up with this face-down cover image, I liked it instantly, for it embodied Anjali in many ways. Never mind bookstores complaining that customers turned the book face-up (inadvertently inverting the title) each time they passed by the shelf that stacked ‘The Plunge’.

A journalist even published a story about my novel with the cover image flipped down. When I pointed out the error the next day, he blurted out, “Never thought a woman could be of any use when hung upside down!” I could not help laughing, ignoring the chauvinist undertone.

Girls of Riyadh – Review

Girls of Riyadh

By Rajaa Alsanea

Penguin Books

 ImageDubbed as a novel that takes on an imperious society, ‘Girls of Riyadh’ by Saudi writer Rajaa Alsanea is certainly a trendsetter, even if not swell enough “to shake up an entrenched society”, as was initially projected.

The book is an attempt to expose to the world the shacked lives of young women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In that sense it is bold. The novel was promptly banned in the Kingdom when the Arabic version was first published seven years ago by the Beirut publisher Dar Al Saqi.

‘Girls of Riyadh’ is a controversial novel, but to call it Saudi Arabian ‘Sex and the City’ would be misleading.

Rajaa wrote the book ‘Banat Al Riyadh’ in Arabic way back in 2005, and it became a sensation almost instantly in the Arab world.

The novelist narrates the story of four lovelorn girls from the velvet class society looking for and finding love. Along the way, the author also talks about issues such as absence of chivalrous suitors, casually revealing the freedom that exists within families and disconnecting the stereotype image about the country.

Young writer Rajaa grew up in Riyadh, and was educated in Chicago. Two years later, the novel was published in English, translated by her with Marilyn Booth. Within the region, however, everyone seems to know about the “hidden lives” of women in the upper crust of Saudi society, but shocked that it could be publicized as a novel.

The book opens quite promisingly. An anonymous girl writes the first e-mail in a series: “To all of you out there who are over the age of eighteen, and in some countries that’ll mean twenty-one, though among us Saudis it means over six for guys …”

The story is unfolded as “scandalous” emails send to subscribers to a Yahoo group as ‘Memoirs Disclosed’ from a rebellious Saudi girl who goes by the identity ‘seerehwenfadha7et’.

The girls in the novel, Gamrah, Michelle, Sadeem and Lamees, whose trysts with men starts off in Riyadh and make headway during their travels outside the country, when they shed their abayas (traditional garbs). The story details their emotional mutinies, big and small, but generally focuses on their disappointments with the men they love.

Yet, along the way, the story loses steam and the last few chapters of the fifty-chapter book (each chapter, an e-mail) become tedious.

The letters begin on February 13, 2004 to February 18, 2005, over a year. Each chapter carries a brief introduction (which is interesting at times and boring other times) before a significant incident from one of the girls’ life is shared. Since the girls are thick friends, their stories overlap. The introduction also carries some poem or holy verse, mostly hints to the tone of the chapter that follows.

The most striking difference in the life of Saudi women is the law that makes it compulsory for women, including non-Arabs to wear abaya in public. Another cultural prohibition is for unrelated men and women to move around together in public. These are tough laws for those new to the Kingdom; but the rest are universal problems women face in some degree anywhere in the world.

In her author’s note Rajaa writes:

“I did not think the Western world would actually be interested. It seemed to me, and to many other Saudis, that the Western world still perceives us either romantically, as the land of Arabian Nights and the land where bearded shaikhs sit in their tents surrounded by their beautiful harem women, or politically, as the land where women are dressed in black from head to toe and where every house has its own oil well in the backyard!”

She adds, “Being the proud Saudi I am, I felt it is my duty to reveal another side of Saudi life to the Western world. The task was not easy, however.”

She says she hopes through the book to make the outside world understand that Saudi Arabia is a very conservative and male-dominated Islamic society. But the women there dream and have determination. More importantly, they fall deeply in and out of love just like women elsewhere in the world.”

Overall, the story is interesting, till about the most part of the book.




 ‘The divorce document was not particularly gruesome-looking, but its contents were indeed pretty horrifying. When her brother handed it to her, Gamrah read the lines of script and collapsed onto the nearest chair, screaming, “Yummah! yummah mama, he divorced me! Yumma, Rashid divorced me. It’s all over, he divorced me!” Her mother took Gamrah into her arms, weeping and cursing the wrongdoer…’


‘Sadeem packed away her wound along with her clothes and carried it all from the Dust Capital of the World to the Fog Capital of the world. London was not new to her. In fact, spending the last month of summer there had become a familiar yearly ritual.’


Chasing the Snow

Long before I accidentally became a writer, when I was only a fiction-obsessed young woman in her 20s, I was infatuated by the settings in novels.

Reading was my only passion, other than day dreaming. I loved getting into the story, identifying myself with the protagonist and living that life. That made our connection “real”.

I went hungry on purpose, walked miles in the sun, sweat streaming down my neck in the hot and humid Indian summer at the risk of being thought “crazy” by friends. That was the Thomas Hardy phase, whose female leads were forever sad, lonely, lost and eternally suffered when their physical and emotional worlds clashed and collapsed at the whims of fate or men they loved.

When I was into the Franz Kafka and Gabriel Garzia Marquez phase, I had an altogether out of the world existence; making folks at home suspect I had indeed lost it.

When I was into Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I imagined myself to be suffering from revengeful natural and unnatural forces, both people and situations. I became difficult to loved ones, and my employers; lost jobs in quick succession, but found new ones as easily.

I know it’s insane; but how else can one enjoy a story to the ‘y’?author

It was only natural for the writer me, while I was scripting my novel (The Plunge), to go beyond reason to get it perfect.

But some things were beyond my imagination, like when I decided to have Shimla as the setting for the latter half of my novel. I travelled to the hills several times, the mission involved four days in travel alone (to and fro) each time, dragging my family along to Shimla, for it was not safe even then (eight years ago) for a woman to make such expeditions alone in India.

My final round to Shimla was in the hope of catching the so far evasive snowfall. At that point, my son, then about 13 years old, whined, “Oh mamma, no…, not again!” He was by now bored stiff by those endless journeys to the Queen of Hills. Once I promised him this would be the last trip, he agreed reluctantly.

We reached the hills in mid-January. As the taxi driver was storing our luggage in the car trunk, I asked him what chance we had to witness a snowfall. “No chance,” he said, which hit me like an absent-minded hailstorm. Firstly, the winter was mild that year, and secondly, the weather at that moment didn’t show a hint of snowiness, he backed up his opinion with logic. I felt dejected. Did that mean this visit too was a total waste, snow-wise? I wanted my story to end in the snowfall. How do I write my concluding chapter? Real fix.shim

Just then, when we were about to slide into the car to reach our hotel, the clouds hurriedly rearranged on the sky. In a magical suddenness, it became overcast, the air chilly and a sharp drizzle broke onto us. This followed a short sleet and as I stood in awe, snowflakes magically floated down on us. I caught them on my open palms, grinning endlessly at my son, who stood beside me stunned. This followed a steady snowfall, as if the Almighty had torn open a bean bag, spilling the pearly pith on me. It was an awesome moment and an overwhelming experience. The next few minutes were among the best in my life. I saw God that instant and a sign to complete my story; I had the divine consent.Shimla_snowfall

To all non-believers and radicals, I know for sure the Divine is a force beyond our intellect, controls our destinies, influences decisions and nudges us along life. I know this from my encounters with the Almighty, which I am at the moment compiling into a small autobiographical 100-odd-pages book, to be published by the end of 2013.

To those chronic sceptics, kindly explain the design of the leopard skin or the peacock feather, or your first crush. If you are thinking of quoting from Charles Darwin or Sigmund Freud, demystify the shifty nature of mind.

Or, simply wait for your moment of insight; if you aren’t lucky during your lifetime, you surely will be on your deathbed.

Original article:


Lean In, don’t be Blown Away

 Brilliant achievement by Sheryl Sandberg; to have pinned her book ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’ as No 1 bestseller for weeks since its mid-March launch,which is currently the Amazon No. 1, and tops New York Times bestseller in Non-fiction (Hardbound) category.
‘Lean In’ is an original take on the male dominated “corporate jungle”, offering practical tips to women.
Sheryl questions why a powerful man is regarded as a “great guy” when a powerful woman is judged “political”. This book takes forward her popular talking point: “Why we have too few women leaders?”
She states that the real obstacles women still face in their professional life are sexism and discrimination. She talks about the challenges she faced right from her Harvard Business School days and admits of being a target at every step of her career. “About to ruin Facebook forever,” was one of the reactions she got when she newly took up the top position.
The book is a career guide for women professionals, but calling it a feminist manifesto would be a blinkered view.
She says that while men still run the world, women internalize negative messages throughout their lives, sabotaging themselves.
Lean InThe author asks women to be fearless during salary negotiations, and points out that men almost always and women almost never negotiate an offer. However, she advises women to seek help without foisting themselves on mentors.
While admitting she did not like to be seen or portrayed as “bossy”, she wonders why the term is only used about little girls, not boys. The author admits that she still finds herself spoken over and discounted at meetings, while male colleagues are not.
Sheryl admits that her position had often given her the confidence to speak out. And that discounts much of the optimism the book projects. Get inspired, but don’t get carried away, could be a reasonable advice to readers.
Some interesting advice from Sheryl:
“So, when looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands.”
“Anyone who is lucky enough to have options should keep them open for as long as possible. Don’t enter the workforce already looking for the exit.”
“Don’t go for the better job, go for the faster-growing company”
The best advice in the book is perhaps: Ask yourself what you would do if you weren’t afraid? Then go ahead and do it.
(Reviewed for ‘The Financial World’)

Seriously funny – Wife 22

Wife 22 by Melanie GideonImage

The title gives the impression that it’s going to be an intense and emotionally taxing story of a woman who shares a husband with 21 others. But, you are pleasantly surprised with a humorous story that scores on the universal issue of midlife crisis in married couples, mainly women, with rib-tickling ease.

Despite her husband William Buckle, two teenaged children and straight-talking best friend (lesbian) Nedra, Alice feels lost in her theatrical self talk most of the time. Her chief worry, one of them next only to her children’s growing independence, is the fact that the couple had run out of things to say to each other.

Alice ends up with the malady of the century: Unburdening to a complete stranger online. Freed by the anonymity of an online survey ‘Marriage in the 21st Century’, where she is Wife 22, Alice recalls all the reasons she fell in love with her husband 20 years ago. In the course of baring all, she also comes to face her reality.

She starts revealing her innermost feelings with ridiculous ease to a complete stranger, Researcher 101 and continues to remain enamored, in spite of two of her best friends’ efforts to dissuade her, one even threatening to abandon her for good.

The story unfolds a witty narrative, and deals with parenting and layoffs, and everything in between.

Before the study, the life of the protagonist “was an endless blur of school lunches and doctor’s appointments, family dinners, budgets, and trying to discern the fastest-moving line at the grocery store. Alice Buckle: spouse of William and mother to Zoe and Peter, drama teacher and Facebook chatter, downloader of memories and Googler of solutions,” according to the author.

Acidic Humour and hilarious rendition of serious situations make it a joyful reading experience. All the fears and paranoia of a mother of adolescent children are so realistically and humorously portrayed, nothing profound though.

Particularly interesting were dialogues such as:

“I like your sagging eyelid.   It makes you look like a dog,” where the 12-year old son makes an innocent attempt to ease his mother’s worry about her signs of ageing.

Alice is also worried about Zoe’s (her daughter) uneasy relationship with her boyfriend, who also happens to be Nedra’s son.

Among the many worries she has, Alice also conveniently suspects her son Peter (who constantly changes his name to escape peer ridicule) is a gay, so as to avoid accepting the prospect of losing his undivided attention to a girlfriend. And when she finds he indeed has a girlfriend, she would rather believe she is only his “beard”, not the real one.

An amusing episode is the Bikini-line grooming, when Alice braves herself to get a Brazilian waxing done, sponsored by her friend. One cannot help chuckle while reading:

She lifts the paper thong and tsks. “Someone hasn’t been keeping up with their waxing.”

“It’s been a while,” I say.

“How long?”

“Forty-four years.”

“Wow, a waxing virgin.”

The best line however is the one describing Alice’s mind as she walks back from a solo swim during a family camping feeling: “good exhausted, the kind that comes from submersing yourself in a glacial river on a July afternoon. I walk slowly, not wanting to break the spell. Occasionally I have this sort of out-of-body experience where I feel all my previous incarnations simultaneously: the ten-year-olds, the twenty-year-old, thirty-year-old, and the forty-something-year-old, they’re all breathing and looking out of my eyes simultaneously.”

Briefly, Wife 22 is a funny story that proves how an online fling can be aphrodisiac.

With this novel Melanie Gideon has taken another step forward but sticking to her favorite topic: The exigencies of domesticity explored in her first book, a nonfiction titled ‘The Slippery Year’.

The only serious irritant: The social networking jargons and postings, which at times run into a few pages at a stretch; whether Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other. Online postings are so viral that at times they become tiresome and the irrelevance annoying like spam messages, serving only to hinder the flow.

Overall, a good pick for light reading, as in while travelling or for mothers to fall asleep with on the sofa, while waiting for youngsters to get back home safely after a meet up with friends on a weekend.

Reviewed for ‘The Financial World’


Lost. Yes, that’s what I am at the moment.

Having published my novel, I thought I could relax. How foolish a thought! I now know; the work has just begun.

black bookshelvesI need to market my work, and online is the best bet for a writer with no fancy agent or hands-on publisher to negotiate the book to the best seller league, on Amazon or New York Times or elsewhere. So I say a little prayer and set out to beam my book into the cyberspace,  a web journey or sorts.

And then I realise to my horror, it is all so complicated. There is a really huge bundle of virtual jargon I need to get familiar with before I can use some of the online marketing tools. And each step confuses me and I am compelled to slow down, at times QUIT, only to return after a few days and be lost again!

I would like to use the virtual blog tour, I would want to set up my own WordPress website, blog and tweet spontaneously, and interconnect all my online social networking tools, I would want to give away books for traditional reviews and reader reviews, I would want to interact with live audience, but all this can be possible only if I have a friendly and reasonably, genuine, ethical and affordable marketing service that I could hire! A one-point online marketing resource to do it for me. I know if people read my novel they would love it because whoever read it so far have love it, and it’s not just family or friends.

But ‘The Plunge’ being my debut novel I can only make prospective readers SEE it and buy it if I make it to the top seller league, and I can reach there only if I get some charitable marketing HELP since I am in no financial state to BUY the expensive but guaranteed top spot.

The other option is DIVINE INTERVENTION. I hope God follows blogs and tweets. I hope God reads this. I hope for a MIRACLE… I know they happen even these days of hopelessness. I know they happen to non-celebs such as me. I know you are listening God, and sorry and am sounding desperate, but you know I can’t hide my emotions… hurry please, ok?