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…

He lived my dream life!

Image“Since I have no faith in God, nor in the day of judgement, nor in reincarnation, I have to come to terms with the complete full stop.”

– Khushwant Singh (Author, journalist)

ImageIndian author and journalist Khushwant Singh breathed his last today, at 99.

He wrote several hugely successful books during his long writing career. I could easily say he was probably the most influential writer in my life. Not only was I drawn into writing a book by his perfectly scripted books, my life path itself has been much influenced by the thoughts he inadvertently popularized through his humour laden works.

I am yet to read his later works, The Good, The Bad and The Ridiculous and the Sunset Club, which I will in the coming weeks.

An editor who made popular the now defunct Illustrated Weekly of India and later the Hindustan Times, his column ‘With Malice Towards One and All’ was syndicated in many dailies.

Mr Singh was a Member of Parliament from 1980 to 1986.

Some of his popular books:

train to Pakistan

Company of women

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On birds and bees

Winter is here and so are the “seasonal” birds, who, they say, come flying all the way from Siberia (really?, this far!) to enjoy the pleasant weather in Bahrain. Here it’s cold mornings in December and first half of January, mostly.

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Photos by Mandeep Singh

From the first week of December this year, flight of birds were seen hovering over the shimmering bay. I can watch them across the glass window pane, outside my office. So many of them, in small or large groups. At times they sit put on the shallow sea bed even at dawn or dusk! Wonder if they are waiting for the sunrise or taking in the spectacular sunset, rested on the warm sand!

Suddenly they take wing and that moment is awesome, breathtaking. They fly close to the water surface, to the right, or left, sometimes right and left. It’s not an aimless flight. They sweep over the sea, peering into the water, following the school of fish, diving in to fetch a few for lunch. Image

What a life! Casual and spontaneous.

Bees have an interesting life too, sweet actually.What a deliciously purposeful life! Image

Not complaining; as of today, I have an ideal life too, as I reach midway of writing my second book. I am not working on a deadline; I work according to my mood, I enjoy the slow pace.

So am I a bird, or a bee? A bit of both I guess, but more of a bird. 🙂

Excerpt… ‘The Plunge’

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(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.

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:

http://indiehousebooks.com/chasing-the-snow-by-sindhu-s-write/