Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Thinking Straight with Anita's attic

Anita's Attic

Imagine walking down a dark, strange corridor guided only by intuition. If you are very lucky, you might reach your destination unhurt. If not, you will inevitably stumble and fall.

What would happen if you are guided along the same corridor by somebody who is familiar with its every nook and corner? What if your guide switches on the lights along the path one by one? The journey suddenly turns pleasant. You become confident. There is a spring in your step.

I was walking along a dark alley and now I have light shining upon my path. The guide I have been blessed with is Anita Nair.

I started writing in 2013.I have been published in four anthologies and a novella till now. My blog has never seen a dull phase from the time it was born. Writing is the purest pleasure for me.

The paperback of my debut novel ‘Without You’ was published in June 2015 by Write India Publishers. I self-published the eBook version on Amazon Kindle in September 2015. The eBook has remained in the top 10 bestseller list in its category (Fantasy, Futuristic, and Ghost) on Amazon India and also entered the top 100 bestselling books in Romance every now and then. Strangers wrote to me telling how much they liked my book. I was getting positive reviews from many book reviewers as well. I was pumped with enthusiasm that I had chosen the right path. I wrote every day and completed the first draft of my second novel as well.

Then something happened in February 2016 that changed everything. A review that trashed my book written by a fellow blogger (whom I had considered as a friend) surfaced online. The review was shared on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads and had hence entered my newsfeed.

Many bloggers whom I knew celebrated my downfall on that blog by commenting how ridiculous the book sounded. Some lamented how it had become a bestseller, some wanted to burn my book and some blamed Indian authors for bringing down literature as a whole. I blocked all these bloggers who were on my friend list on social media. They didn’t take it lightly. They trolled me on twitter for doing it.

It was a dark phase in my life. I couldn’t write. I felt suffocated. Sadness and self-doubt flooded my being. I wanted to quit writing. My friends and family were against it. They told me that was exactly what my haters wanted. I tried writing again. But my confidence was at an all-time low. I spent time reading and writing mundane blog posts but fiction was eluding me. I didn’t like the stories I wrote. 

Then in June, a Facebook post about Anita’s attic grabbed my attention. Anita Nair is my favorite writer. To get a chance to be mentored by her seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel for me. I wrote for the entry prompt at the site and applied for a seat in the fourth season. Very next day I received a call from Anita’s Attic telling that I was selected. Though I got selection in July, I didn’t celebrate my selection publicly for fear that it would become jinxed. That was how much I cherished it. I really don’t know what would have happened to the writer in me if I was not selected.

My confidence level is up now and the goddess of fiction is eyeing me with kind eyes again. Every class at the attic brings in new ideas. The feedback I receive from Anita guides me on the right path.

I am now thinking straight. I am thankful now for that darkness which led me towards the light. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

On Writing: Ayan Pal's Confessions

After a short break, 'On Writing' is back with the interview of yet another super talented author. We have with us today Ayan Pal, who makes his solo debut with 'Confessions on an Island.'
Ayan Pal is a Kolkata-based IT professional and author who has received several accolades in his career so far. These include the honor of his book being a record holder in the Limca Book of Records, the title of ‘Distinguished Toastmaster’ from Toastmasters International for demonstrating outstanding communication and leadership skills, and a ‘Brandon Hall Award’, considered as the ‘Academy Awards’ by Learning, Talent and Business Executives worldwide.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from VTU, Karnataka and has completed a course in Education Technology from SDSU, California. 
As an author, he is known for his acclaimed short stories in the Amazon bestsellers Chronicles of Urban Nomads, 21 Tales to Tell, and When They Spoke. He has also contributed to India’s first composite novel, Crossed and Knotted, Upper Cut, Her Story, Rudraksha, Arranged To Love, Tonight’s The Night and Long Story Short. He is a columnist for lifestyle magazine ThnkMkt and blogger at South Asia’s leading literary magazine Open Road Review.
Passionate about public speaking, Ayan also loves reading, creative writing, watching and reviewing films, listening to music, and binge watching his favorite TV shows. Confessions on an Island is his debut novel.
Quite an interesting personality, isn't he? 

Let us get him aboard now.Welcome to ‘On Writing', Ayan Pal. Time for some real confessions!

Ayan Pal
Stalk him on:              Twitter: @ImAyanPal 
                                   Facebook: Author Ayan Pal
                                   Readomania: Ayan Pal 
                                   Instagram: Author Ayan Pal
                                   Linkedin: Ayan Pal 
                                   Blog: The Naked Truth

Ayan, how did writing begin for you? Was becoming an author always your dream or was it a particular event or incident that gave birth to the author in you?

Writing for me began in my school, St Joseph’s College, during its many creative writing contests. I even wanted to pursue English Literature and dreamt about becoming an author until certain situations made me take up engineering instead. But it wasn’t until I watched the movie ‘Signs’ by M. Night Shyamalan during a semester break in 2002, that I once again awakened within me the zeal to become an author. And thus maybe find a way to connect the dots in my life till then. Because I believe that there are no coincidences in life, much like the movie proclaimed. It also made me introspect and as a result, I came up with a decision to do whatever it takes to become an author, rather a novelist. After nearly 14 years, I can finally say that I am!

Wonderful! Tell me how important are the names of the characters in your books to you? Do you spend agonizing hours deciding on their names?

Names are usually extremely important for me, though I don’t usually spend agonizing hours deciding them anymore, for I have probably done that already and have a list of names I plan to use! The names, in many ways, helps me shape up the character. However, in Confessions on an Island the three leads, for the most part of the book, remain nameless. The names of the author and abductor are revealed in the end, while that of the island is never revealed for a reason. When you read the book, you will realize why, and in the process also hopefully get an idea about why names are so important!

Aha! I am intrigued. What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?

It used to be the developmental editing process, but I think it has now been replaced by proofreading. I find is very cumbersome and challenging. I hope I will get better (and more meticulous) with it in the future!

I agree to that completely. By the way, what is ‘Confessions on an Island’ all about? How long did it take to complete writing it?

Confessions on an Island is a contemporary psychological thriller narrated by an Island, a bestselling author and a seemingly heartless abductor. It begins with an abducted woman trapped on an island being given a chance to escape, provided she tells stories emerging from the stories her intriguing abductor tells her. Clueless about why she is being forced to participate in this game of Russian Matryoshka Dolls, as her abductor refers to it, the woman decides to play along. And therein begins a thrilling tale witnessed by an island. Of a man and woman consumed by the power of their imagination and truth, even as the stakes are gradually raised. Soon the only way out is in – into the past, heart and mind. 

The island is ready to confess. But are you ready for the truth?
And now for the truth! The first draft took me a month to write. I started the book in November mid and ended it in the 2nd week of December. It took me another seven months to get the book published.

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

My favorite character in the book is Aryan. You would have to read to book to fully understand why. Let’s just say shaping this character was the most emotionally draining experience for me.

Do share a snippet / Quote from your book.

So you think you can forgive?” he asks, his eyes bloodshot.
“Sometimes, that is the only way,” I reply. “Because hate is a powerful emotion. It burns within with a purpose, but it also destroys one in the process. When one has had one’s revenge, there is nothing left to live for.”
I take a deep breath before continuing. “The only thing we can, and should do is to try and move on.”
“So how long will it take for you to forgive someone?” he asks, his eyes dark emotionless pools of mystery.
“That depends.” I reply, not completely true, yet not exactly a lie. “On the amount of time since it happened, on the severity of the hurt it caused me, and on whether or not there was love. Because love can indeed make all the difference.”

Interesting snippet. Is there a certain type of scene that is harder for you to write than others? Did you face such an issue while writing ‘Confessions on an Island’?

I am actually not at my best when it comes to describing and detailing action sequences or epic battles. But since Confessions on an Island isn’t from that genre, I did not see it hampering my writing. I did, however, find it very difficult to write certain scenes, and at times was overwhelmed by the vulnerability I felt as a consequence of putting myself in the shoes of the characters. At times I was emotionally drained and while re-reading the portions broke down a few times as well. So yes, it has been an emotional ride for me as a reader as well as a writer as far as Confessions on an Island is concerned!

What is your method of writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I do plot the outline, but usually, let characters follow their own course. So yes, I would call myself more of a pantser!

Great! What is next in the offing?

 I plan to start writing the second book in the ‘Trapped’ trilogy, of which Confessions on an Island is the first part. Whether it will be a sequel to this book, or a different story altogether with a similar premise, I hope the readers won’t mind waiting to find out for themselves!

What are the three tips you have for readers who are aspiring writers?

1) Continue reading, especially books from the genre you wish to try your hand at writing. Because reading is truly the best way to learn! But do try and pick up contemporary books, preferably those published within the last 5 years.
2) Start with something achievable, like short stories, before plunging headlong into a serious project like a novel or even a novella. And be ready and willing to edit unemotionally.
3) Seek feedback for your work to try to determine your strengths and weaknesses. But don’t follow any advice blindly unless of course, it’s about grammar, punctuation, or plot holes, but even then, be absolutely sure. Rely on your gut feeling and instinct to come up with the book you care to write, and even more importantly, a book you would probably not be able to stop reading yourself!

Thank you, Ayan! It was wonderful having you here on 'On Writing'. Wishing the very best for your book. Looking forward to reading it.

So readers, intrigued? I am.

Get the book here:
·         Amazon Link to buy the book:
Watch the trailer here:
·         YouTube Trailer 1:
·         YouTube Trailer 2:
Follow the book here:

That is all for now, folks!
Much love,

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Lady Who Loved Silkworms

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The weight of its wetness stretched across the skin of her face. She bit her inner cheeks to suppress a scream as she moved it to her chin. The moment it started crawling, goosebumps sprouted in millions across her skin. She silently addressed fervent prayers to the creator.

She cursed the moment she had agreed to this insane act. She cursed her poverty. She cursed the fate which made her leave the sanctum of her father’s house in the village after being married to the dullard that was her husband. She could not say no to the money, could she? A thousand rupees would buy her enough groceries to last a month. All she had to do was to sit still and smile. It didn’t matter that she was scared of any creature which had more than two legs. It didn’t matter that tears were stinging at the back of her eyes. All that mattered was the smile on the face of her kid when she would feed him a few square meals. That thought was her solace, her energy.

The white silkworm traversed the dark brown landscape of her face and lingered on her cheeks as though contemplating about the onward journey. A lone tear drop rolled out from her lashes as she hastily closed her eyes to shut out the view and the sense of disgust.

She had been made to wear a ridiculous headdress created with mulberry leaves. They had provided her a saree which she had draped in the best way she knew. The girl in the group had protested and made her wear it the ‘proper way’ by pinning it in many places with shiny safety pins.
She heard their murmur of satisfaction as the shoot ended. The girl came and lifted the hat from her head.

“This is going to be a viral video, I tell you,” said the dorky kid wielding the camera. The silkworm was now perched on the top-most mulberry leaf and was eating away at leisure.

“'The lady who loved Silkworms’. How is that for the title?” The nerdy looking kid in glasses asked. The rest of the seven-member gang cheered.

As they handed her the money, she flashed her best smile. She hailed what they called the social-media which had made these kids her constant source of income. What would be her role next time?

 P.S: This was a written assignment as part of the selection criteria at Anita's Attic. We had to write a story beginning with 'The weight of its wetness stretched across the skin of her face' not exceeding 400 words.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

If given a chance, would you change your past?

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I have often fantasised stumbling upon a time machine or a gadget like the time turner mentioned in the Harry Potter series that would allow me to visit my past.  I wanted to  rewrite my past. Maybe I could erase that particular incident from my life which gave me unimaginable trauma. Maybe I could avoid meeting that particular person who later on became my biggest foe. Maybe I could change my career. Maybe I could say 'yes' where I had said 'No'. Maybe I could warn someone about how their choice was going to alter all our lives. So many possibilities...

Looking back, however,  I realise I don't want to change anything that has happened in my past. Every single event, person in my past is responsible who I am now. We manifest our realities. Our choices create our experiences. The way we react to the challenges at the various points in our life, carve out our future. 
 More than that, altering a particular event changes the outcome of our life. Imagine we went back and changed a particular event which was traumatic. We might have met our soulmate immediately after that.His/her presence was the reason why you transformed into a strong person. You can't imagine your current life without the presence of him/her. Would you want to change that traumatic incident then? 

I believe, all the changes that happen in our life happen for a reason. If you stop and analyse, you became stronger after every storm that you faced. What didn't kill you, made you stronger.You acquired the courage to face the challenges head on. Nothing can stop you now.

If you have read the latest offering from JK Rowling, you would have read about the effect of choices in one's life. A single event can change our present/future. As we are all connected beings, a change in my life might automatically effect yours. 
All in all,  I feel our past should be left unblemished. It is better off where it belongs, firmly in the past. Let us not allow it to cast shadows in our present or future.

You are the writer of your own story. You can visit your past. Would you change your past?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Social Media and Relationships

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I am a social media addict. My social life is often limited to hitting likes on the posts of my friends and snooping on intriguing people on Facebook and Twitter. I don't travel much because of  travel sickness. I hence follow websites on social media which would take me on a virtual tour to different parts of the world. I also find happiness going through vacation photos posted by my friends.

The debate on Indispire this week is whether social media is killing relationships. In my honest opinion, it isn't because it can't. Social media is a powerful social tool. It is the individual who indulge themselves mindlessly on social media neglecting family life who is to be blamed for the problems he/she brings into the relationships. 

When scientists invented nuclear fission, their dream was to use its immense energy for constructive purposes. But like always, we have found out that the same energy can be used to kill and erase entire cities in a flash. Likewise, every good invention is misused. On one side we find social media being used for creating awareness about disasters, diseases, terrorism, new inventions, crowdfunding and also actively reconnecting individuals. On the other side, we also find it being used to troll individuals, public shaming, porn, and terrorism. The world has become a smaller place thanks to the social media and the internet.

Like every interesting tool, it is becoming an addiction. I remember the years when cable television was first introduced. I used to spend hours before it. My parents were worried that my grades would go down. They thought I might be getting all the wrong ideas from the foreign serials and programs I was being exposed to. Luckily, I had the common sense to cut down on what might harm me. I guess the same applies to social media. 

We have family WhatsApp groups which allow us to stay in touch with the family members living away from us. College and School groups bring in tides from ex-classmates. I connect with my readers and other writers through Facebook and Twitter. My first publishing opportunity came via Facebook.

I know it is not all rosy on Social media. I have faced public shaming and trolling from people whom I considered as friends. But like in life, we recognise the real nature of these individuals through such happenings . It is often at the time of crisis that real friends appear. Jerks on the internet are often jerks in real life. They rightly deserve that special slot on your blocked list. Purge them and protect your sanity. For the sociopaths and psychopaths, we have the cyber police.

Another common complaint these days is that infidelity is on the rise after old campus flames are getting reconnected via social media. Again the individuals are to be blamed. If everything was fine in their relationships, the flame would have failed to rekindle in the first place. 

What is to be strictly monitored is the time we spend on social media. It eats away at our family time if we do not monitor it. We can become its master instead of its slave if we are aware of the impact it has on our time and relationships. Rekindle the spark in a dying relationship by visiting a counsellor.

Do you think social media is to be blamed for the failure of many relationships?

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