5 things that can make your debut book a bestseller!

Welcome, dear first-time authors!

In this post, you’ll find the ingredients that make your soup the most sought after at the annual readers’ dinner party (ARDP); rather than land you in a soup through the dismal sales records.

Photo credits : Teleread.com

What are my credentials, you ask? Well, I am one of your targeted Indian readers, who has been starved for a good Indian soup since some decades.

If you go to any best-selling author (I’ve been to discussion panel sessions featuring the stars of Indian fiction – Amish, Ravi Subramanian), they’ll tell you that the topmost ‘thing’ that can make your book a bestseller is – marketing. Author Ashwin Sanghi swears that he has stormed ahead of many a better writers than him because of his clever marketing tactics.

While I agree with this to a certain extent, I also feel that the soup will not ‘sell’ unless it has some underlying unique OR popular taste that the feasters at the ARDP like. Sooner or later, the readers will discover that the promise of quality is a hoax, and most of them will not finish the soup. If they’ve already finished it, they won’t take the soup offered by you at the next ARDP.

So, hurry up and pick these ingredients off the proverbial book writing shelf:

  1. Story : Make the book about your story, not about your linguistic skills.See, the fact that you have undertaken the herculean task of setting out to write a book screams from the rooftops that you have a flair for expressing yourself through your writing. It also establishes that you are relatively well-versed with the rules of grammar and have a vast vocabulary.

    Because, other people who don’t have these qualities would get cold feet at the prospect of writing down what they envision in a story, biography, or auto-biography. They’d get someone else to do the ‘dirty work’ of putting thoughts on paper.

    So, you don’t have to prove your linguistic proficiency to anyone. It is a given, since you’re writing the book yourself. Desist from dragging the narrative just to show off how well you can play with words.

    The language in your book should be according to :

    1.  The time frame and the location in which it the story is set.
    2. The social status and the educational level of your characters.

      This will help you in establishing authenticity – the second ingredient.

  2. Authenticity : Believe in your story. Only then will your readers buy it.

    Let your story be as outlandish as possible. Do everything in your capacity to narrate it in a matter of fact tone.

    If you have read any of Asimov’s books, you’ll see how unassumingly he goes on setting up the Universe that is statistically heading towards annihilation. The reader has no choice but to accept what the author states to be the ‘norm’ in his world.Even if the story is based in the real world, there can be some character traits, some scenes that won’t be easily digested by the ARDP, unless the author writes them with conviction that stems from – 1) Extensive Research and 2) Huge Self-confidence.

    Picture :

    “Masakali landed swiftly on the porch. His hind legs hit the ground first.

    Mohan retrieved the letter that was carefully wedged between Masakali’s front paws, which were folded in a classic Namaste position all through his arduous flight from Mumbai to Pune.

    Masakali gave a grunt of relief and dutifully licked his Master’s cheek. In return, Mohan affectionately booped his nose, which signalled that he is dismissed.

    He was dying to see his wife, Deena. He sprinted towards the mud pool on the far side of the garden. There she was, lying contentedly in the soft gooey mud. And nuzzling against her, were four pink babies! So they had hatched!

    Masakali was overwhelmed with joy. He lost no time in hurtling his rotund self in the mud pool and embracing his family in a strong pig-hug. This was a moment of celebration. After all, these piglets would grow up into fine flyers and help him realise his dream of keeping the ‘Fastest Messenger’ title in the family.”

    Now tell me, are you in the mood to ‘tell me that pigs don’t fly’ or ‘read more about the Fastest Messenger competition’?

  3. Visualisation : Live in the world in which your story takes place.

    Continuing from above, to create an authentic narrative, you have to be able to see the setting and the characters as if you’re living with them as one of their own or as an observer.What makes Harry Potter a success? Is it only J K Rowling’s lucid writing, or the depth of her characters, or the intriguing plot? It is mainly because in her writing, the reader is shown a world that is replete with details about its physical appearance – be it the sorting hat,the Hogwarts hall, the magic wands, or anything – alive or inanimate.

    Ironically, writing fantasy with a believable setting is relatively easier than writing fiction in the real world – where you have to describe the character’s house (say set near The Louvre, Paris). Apart from their abode, the characters have to have physical attributes and dresses that can be visualized by the reader. All this information should be conveyed subtly, rather than pointing it out in an obvious sentence.

    Picture :

    “Rani was a tall girl. All her cousins were shorter than her. So they made her get the cookies, which her mother hid on the top shelf in the kitchen.”

    And…

    “Rani could reach the top shelf of the kitchen cupboards, without as much as standing on her toes. Her cousins had often tried to jump on the kitchen platform to get to them, but they were always discovered and given the scolding of their lifetime as they hit their heads or disturbed the electronic appliances with their feet while trying to stand up from their crouched positions. The decision was unanimous – Rani would get the cookies. After all, her mother had hid them.”

  4. Rendering : Find your own chapter presentation style.Dan Brown alternates between two narratives – one, the protagonist’s and one, the antagonist’s. I have read some authors who make each characters narrate a chapter, to make the readers see their point of view. There are some who prefer the traditional third person narrative.

    Again the flow depends from author to author, book to book – flashbacks, cliffhangers, etc. are the chapter styles that I am accustomed to. Now, what works for a crime thriller won’t necessarily work or not work for a romance. Eh, all I am trying to say is – instead of aping a chapter style that has become popular of recent – here I go back to Dan Brown’s alternating narratives – try picturing a movie that is based on your book.

    How would the screenplay pan out? Try to base the chapters in that sequence, and that style.Is your chapter descriptive? Does it have more dialogues? Does it end abruptly? Do not think about all this. Avoid cliches like – leave a hook and make the reader feel incomplete after one chapter. Do it, but don’t do it consciously. When you’re writing the chapters as if they’re happening on reel, you’ll end up writing the most enticing book ever.

    It’s another matter that very few writers are happy with their book’s movie adaptations. The movie reference here is in context with point 3 where the reader should be able to visualise what’s happening – and that is only possible if the chapter style and flow are complementing the author’s narration.

  5. Revise : Fine tune your work for the finale.

    It is a known fact that most writers are big time procrastinators and don’t like revisions.It’s not because they’re lazy. It’s because they lack the motivation of going about a task that is less creatively fulfilling than creating the story and the characters in the first place.

    You can make the revision interesting by reading alternately as a diner of the ARDP and the chef who made the soup. Do you like the primary flavor of the soup? Can you find subtle underlying flavors? Yes, pat yourself on the back, and finish the garnishing. No, do the required changes/additions and then garnish it.

    Even I’ll revise this blog, and then post it. 🙂

 

Taking stock : 2017

Hey ya folks! We’re into mid-2017.

I had updated my Facebook profile for a life event ‘Made peace with time.’ in mid-May, because I wasn’t freaking out about the time that has passed or is passing and things that are pending. I am glad the life event seems to be a permanent change in my temperament, because I still ain’t freaking out while I go through my resolution list made in Jan 2017.

Here we go:

Here are the resolutions :

  1. Win a medal.

    Well, I made it to the Nationals by qualifying in the Pre-Nationals held in Mumbai, this June. The margin was appreciable. I needed 352/400 to qualify. I shot a 358/400 in a pressure situation. I am now training at Level 6 in GFG, which happens to be the highest level of training that they presently offer. So yeah, winning is on cards, the season is progressing well.

  2. Earn money blogging.

    Why do I do this to me?!

  3. Code using SWIFT and also develop an end-to-end iOS app with cloud hosting and web services.

    Have not started. Am not sure.

  4. Write a tech blog.

    Same as above.

  5. Write a shooting blog.

    This is possible. Need to start.

  6. Write actively on thedamsel.in.

    I am not sure about the blog. I have been posting on Instagram, but it is very directionless.

  7. Read 100 books.

    Like last year, I have subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. I am even more disappointed with their collection. I have read a few thrillers and a few man-eater series from Kenneth Anderson and Jim Corbett. Right now, I have finished Shashi Kapoor’s Biography and am reading Shammi Kapoor’s. If you have any Kindle Unlimited recommendations, please suggest.

  8. Write short stories and creative pieces.

    A poem about my dead cat counts?

  9. Complete April A-Z Challenge and February Ramblings.

    Gee…

  10. Eat right, exercise and get a fit body. Participate in at least one marathon.

    Exercising. Not enough. Need to work.

Erm… I am happy I posted on the blog even if it is ‘taking stock’. Hope you’re having a good year too!

Dear gaslighters, I’m different.

I am different. That’s what I thought till I met people who are just like me.

These people are from various age groups – some younger than me, some older, some of my age. I was delighted. Now, I could tell those who want me to ‘fall in with the ways of the world’ that ‘see, people like me exist. I am not abnormal or worse, dumb – as you think of me.’

Alas, instead of classifying me as ‘normal’, they proceed to put my esteemed friends in the categories they hitherto reserved for me.

I have got so used to being called ‘dumb’ that I have lost my sensitivity for the epithet.

This christening happens only in household settings, where I am supposed to complete a household chore. Or deck up for a function. Or cook. Or any other house-related work that a ‘woman’ is ‘supposed to know how to do.’

Close family, close relatives – the people I care about, the people who care about me or at least think they care about me do this to me. They think they’re helping me out. They are helping a woman who doesn’t know how to be a woman survive in this big bad mean world, where women fail ‘the whole purpose of their lives’ if they do not know how to do the mundane chores ‘perfectly’ – meaning how they want the chores to be done if they were the ones doing them.

Make no mistake – these are the people who I love or whom I have come to love. They are my own. I love them to the end of the world. I’d do anything for them. Except – DOING THESE STUPID THINGS A PARTICULAR WAY THAT APPARENTLY ARE THE ONLY MEASURES THAT QUALIFY ME AS A WOMAN.

This societal gaslighting flummoxed me first. Then, I began to doubt myself. I tried to see reason in their coaxing, and then their angry outbursts. Maybe I should ignore the way they say it, and act on their points. After all, doing these things that a woman is supposed to do, makes the house a better place to live in. I desperately tried. For TWO DECADES. Almost. Since the age of 15…

I tried to be the woman that a particular section of society (which I thought to be fictional until recently – but it exists, alas!) wants me to be. I have failed. I am sorry.

Now I know what it means to be that student in the class who puts his heart and soul in trying to ‘understand’ what the teacher says, and then ‘remember’ it at the time of exam, and ‘implement’ it in practicals – but cannot do it, even if he spends the last iota of intelligence he has! I empathise with you, my friend! (the he(s) and the she(s) both)

This brings me to the conclusion. I have decided to settle this issue once and for all. I am not falling prey to any gaslighting. I see through it – on the other end, which is crystal clear – I see a confident me, wearing my own skin, not trying to please anyone whose standards differ than my own – of being a woman. I know every woman who’s tried to live life her way has paid a price.

I am a sportsperson. I am a writer. I am an enterpreneur. I am a family person. I am a woman. That’s who I am.

If that makes me a self-centered vain selfish specimen of a human being…well, that’s your perception of me. I ain’t doing nothing about it that takes me back to the gaslighting attempts.

I’ll love you to the moon and back, ALWAYS! But, my dears, I won’t even try to see things your way. We’re different. I’m different.

 

 

To my dead Cat

Chunky, my dear pet.
(Oh how you hated the vet!)

You were but a week or two,
when Mom found you,
licking the cauldron of ghee
in adorable kittenish glee…

Before you, I never had a ‘real’ pet
All came, and went away or were sent away pat * 🙁
But you were different
Oh you were so adamant!

To you, I was introduced –
when I came back from the tuition. Boy, I was so very deuced!
You were hiding in the farthest corner under the ‘computer room’s’ bed,
Oh hello, little one…I bent and said.

All squiggly and wiggly, you walked to me.
As I sat down, you purred and circled me.
You were so delicate, but boy, did your purring motor race!
For the first time in my life…a fur-ball had me scare(d)!

They let me keep you,
rather, they themselves kept you!
You were soon family,
The house’s youngest member, officially!

Then you unleashed your childhood.
You were a fussy eater – miss puss-in-boots.
Milk, you drank.
From bread, you shrank.
Buttermilk, sometimes.
The shake incidence, we still narrate at family story times!****

In the living room, you had your own cat-home.
A large metal cage, with a pretty dome.
By the day, the grounds you’d roam,
at night, you had no choice, but to stay home.

Then the hunter in you showed up.
At your sight, the birds would warily chirrup.
You chased insects, who did not heed you at all
One bit your nose. Since then, you ran at the sight of all!

You left behind your childhood garb goofy,
and after teenage, you turned into a celebrated beauty.
You made me an insecure Mom,
when you went out with that tall-dark-handsome Tom!

I soon realized there’s more than food in your tummy,
My God! My li’l Chunky was now a soon-to-be Mummy!
You rested in my lap,
And I watched you nap…

Days went by, and that summer, we had new babies,
I am thankful, you didn’t make me change their nappies 😛
What a joy it was, to see you transform –
from a helpless kitten, to a hands-on cat-Mom.

The rest, my dear, is history.
Far and wide, you and your clan spread your glory.
One day, just like you had appeared,
you disappeared.

I never had a chance,
to give you another glance.
Our meetings had become so rare,
after I was off to College, I had little home-time to spare.

I knew you were gone,
but my heart would have of that none.
You met me in my dreams,
leaving clues, muffled screams…

Of where you’d be,
Of where I should see…
Were you in your old spots where you’d hide
as a kitten, when you didn’t want to be grounded at night?
Speak to me,
I want to rescue you, my child…

And then I woke up,
all shaken up.
I was positive you were in danger,
and I could do nothing but hanker.

One day, you met me in dreams again,
we were at home, and you came hopping in like a mad man.
I screamed. This time with joy,
Come ‘ere, that’s my dear boy!

You played with me, to both our heart’s content,
that’s when I realised, you still seemed distant.
Almost heavenly.
That’s when it hit me.
The way you looked at me,
Even in my dreams, I knew, this is the last I’d see.
Of you, my dear Chunky,
you dear dear cat spunky.

You bid me adieu,
didn’t you?
‘Cos since then,
I haven’t seen you.

Not even in my dreams…
And now, there are no silent screams.
Looks like you’ve found your peace.
Although you were never the one for it, you tease!

Last week, I saw a movie,**
in which there was a playful doggie.
He came back to meet his human friend,
After 50+ years end…

Somehow I know you, you dead cat.
You are planning something…tell me what you’re at!
Are you gonna come back to me, when I am tired and old,
to meet ‘him’ too? He was there, back then too you know – why, that’d be gold!***

If you’d only say, and oh if you’d said it sooner,
I’d have spared that emotional shower,
when I cried my heart out, a year after you did disappear…
Yeah, I took my time until you told me that you’re dead, you heart-breaker 🙂

Now be a gem, and say you’ll be back, even if it’s for the rat(s)!
You nut, you crazy crazy whippersnapper, you smug li’l brat!

* We had a lot of rescue kittens, dogs and birds. We nursed them and set them free wherever they were found. So we had a lot of animals over, but they never stayed as pets.
** A dog’s purpose
*** Reference from A Dog’s Purpose : Ethan’s girlfriend had met Bailey, his Red Retriever dog. After reincarnation, the trio meet again. When Chunky came to live with us, Abhijeet was in town too! He hasn’t met her though. Till now that is… 😛 Ok, I am not crazy, I am just trying to make this poem as good a tearjerker as the movie.
**** Quite a story…saving it for other times…
So this is how 2 week old kittens look. Chunky was found exactly at this age –

Why Everest Base Camp Trek should be on your travel wishlist in 2017!

I have the soul of an adventurer. The sea beckons me and mountains allure me.

As I am not a swimmer yet, mountains interest me more. I come alive on treks. I know basic rock climbing and rappeling.

In routine life, I may come across as apprehensive – doubting my skills, decisions, and efforts that I put in a particular field. Not in mountaineering.

In my negligible experience, I have found myself to be the most agile and fearless in the group.

My mountaineering Coach asked me if I was afraid when I was getting ready for the first ‘real’ rappelling experience off a cliff in Nainital. A 16-year old me looked into his eyes and answered, “Sir, humaari dictionary me darr shabd hi nahi hai.” (My dictionary does not have the word fear.)

While the other girls cried, some bailed out, I was calm as a cucumber – having full faith in my harness and the wall training that we did the day before. There was a flicker of apprehension when I fixed myself in the 45-degree position at the start, but it vanished as I took my first leap. I still remember the adrenaline rush I felt.

Rappelling at Nainital (2002). Click to enlarge.

 

My mountaineering ambitions did not come to fruition. However, then onwards I tried to climb any creviced wall or rocks that came in my way. I still do 🙂

Last year, we went to Manali in May. Our guide took us to a place called Gulaba to see the remains of the meager snow that the valley had seen in 2016. I and the better half trekked for 10000 foot-steps vertically and back (so my iPhone says), exploring the trickling glacier streams, the stray ice patches and marveling at the distant snow covered peaks.

The husband caught on my mountaineering vibe and strode ahead decisively up the rocky track that a very few people were taking. I had no option, but to follow him and delicately stop him in his tracks. There, we shot my first attempt at video blogging :

Caution : If you are not experienced with snow, do not wander alone on snow covered mountains. Snow is extremely slippery and it will take you no time to tumble down the same ‘un-snow covered’ slope that you spent hours climbing! We learned this when we abandoned our trek just after the video, and went back to a small ice patch along the road shown in the video.

In case you were wondering if we found snow, this is what we found…

 

 

In any activity that you take up, your efforts are always towards the highest goal that you can achieve in the field. In case of mountaineering, taming the Mt.Everest is the dream culmination of every mountain climber’s aspirations.

The Everest Base Camp prepares you just for that. Even if you are not as serious as a professional mountain climber, at 17,950 Ft. the Everest Base Camp gives you a measurable high (no pun intended).

What is the Everest Base Camp?

In the beautiful land of Nepal, stands the highest mountain in the world – The Mount Everest. (I will not mention that the Chinese share the border across its summit.) Named after the Welsh Surveyor General of India, Sir George Everest, the mountain has several local names; the most prominent being – Sagarmatha (Nepal) and Chomolungma (China/Tibet).

You can climb the gigantic girth from either China occupied Tibet or Nepal. The most popular approach is from South-East Nepal – which I am going to talk about.

The whole trip takes anywhere from 13-17 days, detailed packages for which are available on Mojhi.com.


The rough itinerary provided by every trip vendors looks like this

      1. Land at Kathmandu
      2. Travel to Lukla
      3. Walk to Phakding
        4. Trek to Namche Bazaar (Enter the Sagarmatha National Park)
        5. Begin the actual leg of trekking towards the

Everest Base Camp

        6. Reach the

Everest Base Camp

       and begin downwards trek towards Lukla.
      7. Lukla to Kathmandu

Each travel operator takes different times for stay at each of these places, according to the needs of the travelers to explore the local culture, get acclimatized to the weather and pressure, and their stamina to trek at a stretch.

Things to look out for when choosing a trip operator (vendor) 

        1. Nepal Government Certified Guides (Sherpas)
        2. Number of porters per client
        3. Is food included in the package?
        4. Does the tour operator take care of all the necessary permits required?

Generally, the group size of 2-15 is taken at a time, with the average group size being 5. It is advisable to ask for group discounts while booking.

If you do not want to go through the hassle of finding the right tour operator for your Everest Base Camp Trek, you can take help of Mojhi.com. For the first time traveler and even experienced ones, Mojhi.com offers a plethora of tried and tested tour operators, whose itineraries you can check, contact them and even get feedback from an experienced traveler community which is an integral part of the website.

What’s more? You can even become a member and share your own experiences about a place or tour operator.

Not only for the Everest Base Camp, for other adventure and leisure travels too, Mojhi.com is the place to find the most sound travel advice.

I have started saving for my Everest Base Camp trek. I hope my thrilling accounts of trekking and what awaits you at the Everest Base Camp have motivated you enough to take on the ‘quest’ too in 2017!

Please let me know what your travel plans are for this year, in the comments.