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…

Dads don’t die

I didn’t know today was going to be father’s day until this moment! Isn’t it a strange Dad coincidence I am promoting my shortread book (Kindle book) ‘Past Life’ dedicated to my late father today, a decision I took last evening! It goes with the theme of my book though.

I should admit, I haven’t got my book edited, for I really had this terrible urge to write and publish this book in one day. Do let me know if you spot blunders, or even minor errors.

This book is a tribute to my father, my guide, guardian, philosopher.

Amazon.com link: https://www.amazon.com/Past-life-Journey-my-Soul-ebook/dp/B01H941XA0

 

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.

Enjoy.

Here’s the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/870

or try

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/610682

cover copy full

 

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. 🙂

Judge’s commentry for my book, Writer’s Digest

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Entry Title: The Plunge

Author: Sindhu S.

Category: Genre Fiction

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

Structure and Organization: 5

Grammar: 4

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot : 4

Character Development : 4

Judges Commentary*:

I found this an intriguing book that introduced me to a culture I don’t know at all. So interesting to learn more about modern India and especially the modern Indian woman! I felt so much familiarity with Anjali, because she had some of the conflicts that face so many women. But she was unique too– more than just a representative modern woman. She had her own particular reasons for needing love and also needing her freedom.

A few aspects that impressed me particularly:

The women’s friendships. They really rang true, and you showed how there can be conflicts and differences but still loyalty.

Siddharth could have come across just as a cad, but when you explained his thoughts and feelings, he became more sympathetic. The ending was quite poignant and sad.

I also want to compliment you on the cover. The cover is so well done– quite contemporary in style, and eye-catching. What a great thought to have her “upside down” above the title! That really illustrates “The Plunge” and amplifies what you meant by that, the dizzying “fall” in love. The cover model is lovely and “looks” like Anjali. Very nicely done. I think it will attract readers.

Just one suggestion. In the beginning especially I found some of the sentences confusing because for the pronouns. It’s really hard when you have two women in a scene to use “she” as that could apply to either woman. So I wasn’t sure if “she” in a given line would refer to Anjali or Swapna. I know it’s clumsy, but sometimes the only way to do this clearly is to use the names instead of “she”.

Good work on the story and the design– crisp and contemporary!”

– Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards

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.

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.

 

 

Excerpts

 ‘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.’

 

Doesn’t matter anymore.

I do not know how most authors feel about a bad review. I got very nervous initially, before the first review that is. boo reviewer

Strangely, the first reviews were kind, encouraging, some even awesome. I heard them, read them, but did not entirely believe them. I could read between the lines. I know when someone says, “read it in one go”, it means there weren’t many boring patches to make them quit midway. And when people say “a good debut novel”, I know I am not yet the “Pro”.

But I knew it anyway. I did spend years revising the story, but that doesn’t mean I had perfected it. I know I can do MUCH better, and will prove it with my “masterpiece”, soon. The first book was only a trial run.

Of late, I received a couple of really nasty reviews, written by people who were not familiar with how people in the EAST lived, in the real world and in their thoughts. One “professional” reviewer even went to say, “old-fashioned in its portrayals of gender identity”, what the heck! Hello, my story wasn’t set in the WEST; we still live the old fashioned life, love the old fashioned way, women have the same roles in society, back in Asia we still prefer organic to orgasmic, and it’s really affordable and gratifying too. And I don’t know for sure how it is in the rest of the world!

Image Another criticism that irritated me was: “The heroine’s foolishness sometimes stretches credulity.” Why? Can’t people be incredulously foolish? You just proved it’s possible to be incredibly silly, Mr./Ms CRITIC; I don’t even know the gender of the reviewer.

Anyway, I chose to ignore those sloppy attempts at reviewing.

Moving on, I have lately started getting genuine, mixed reviews. These help. I agree with some of them so totally. They have managed to get into the story and, like a hands-on parent, pull out trash-worthy items from an adolescent’s cupboard.

Thank you guys, for chipping in.

Webwrecked…

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?

Love in the Air

Among the few timeless human emotions tops love, unconditional love.

Romantic love has changimagesed its profile in recent times.

What used to be a heart connection, is now more of a WhatsApp connection. People are no longer lonely for long, neither are they together for ever.

It was quick to spot love in those days, a look in the eye and the heart raced faster than a tweet . Not anymore.

Few and far between, but true love is still alive, in some hearts.

My new book is about true love, from real life. Married, unmarried, half married, much married; all kinds of lovers; an in-depth study of “love”. Stay-tuned; I might shock you, but never will I disappoint you – A PROMISE.