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…

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

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.

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.

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’

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?