BEYOND SECRETS – Guest Post by Alka Dimri Saklani

Thank you for inviting me to share my views on your blog.

Coming to your question, I spent two long years to complete my last book, Beyond Secrets.

The story revolves around an orphanage and to give a realistic touch to my writing I read endless articles about how orphanages work and psychology of orphans though it forms a very small part of the story. It was heart-wrenching.

I got so involved in the story that at one-point Nidhi, Noel and Appu, the characters of my story became my best friends. I laughed with them and I cried with them. Call me crazy but that’s how I am.

“Beyond Secrets” talks about the inner turmoil of orphans, the abandonment that shatters that trust. And by the time you start hating their parents, story of a mother unfolds and you wonder, are the parents who abandon their children really that bad? It tells the story of a biased girl who fails to respect other religions and just as you start hating her, the reasons for her behaviour unfolds. And before we could hate the people who did wrong to her, we see their side too. And then comes the counsellor who counselled all these tortured souls, but when life throws some unexpected adversities his way, he fails to counsel himself. The book is written with a holistic approach. It shows the story of everyone involved. People can’t be just good or bad, there are shades of grey. The decisions people make are not always a choice, sometimes it’s the only option available. Characters of Beyond Secrets are not superheroes. They are real people with flaws, their own vulnerabilities but yes, they grow as the story progress and when the story ends, it’s not a happy ending, it’s not even sad. It’s realistic.

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Euphemizing the silent conversation

I don’t blame her.

My heart forces the word out of my mouth when I talk about my past.

Why we need a reason to understand something which is unexplainable. Yes, I was being dumped. No, I still don’t know the reason, but it hurts every time I was being questioned about it. It’s like people are judging me, waiting for me to speak and to find out some hidden truth I was hiding. The truth about my miserable mistake which ended my relationship. Why it’s always been a man’s fault? I wonder sometimes.

Of course, I can’t explain it to her, she loves me, unconditionally. She will blame everyone who hurt me without knowing the true reason. Take my side even if I am wrong. She loves me and I love her. We have a complicated relationship on unspoken rules which we never mention. We feel the same attachment to each other but never talk about it. Every loving and heartwarming conversation we had, were silent. Like someone was narrating our feeling and everyone just reading our words as a subtitle.

She always wonders about my sadness, my lonely face. Yes, I was always smiling and happy around her but she did notice me when I am alone. Dwelling in to the past, staring far away into infinity, searching for an answer which I will never get. She wishes that she could answer my every question. But little did she know, I am not looking for them.

While sleeping on my lap staring at me, she often wonders, who would have been so foolish to leave this guy? I applaud her compliment but deep inside my heart, I know that there were thousands reason to leave me. But yet I never find a single reason why she loved me.

I never let my past ruin my present; I made that mistake before now I learned it, in a hard way. What happens was supposed to happen. There must be some hidden lesson I still need to learn. Maybe I need to fall, so I can learn to pick myself up. I need be dumped so I understand the value of a person. It needs to be hard and depressing so that I value every smile. But without darkness how would I learn the significance of light. How I learn to be broken down into peace and yet reborn and be whole.

I feel blessed when you came around. my silver lining and light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how bad my mood was, you always put a smile on my face. Following my every move and mimicking my thought process. When everyone put their back at me, you were the only one who keeps running towards me. Like firefighter run towards a burning building. Yes, I was on the edge of collapsing when you enter in to my life. I was in the self-destruct mode.

It took me a while to be familiar with someone, to even talk. You directly shorten that time by your friendly nature. You were like that happy teddy bear who just hug people and absorb their pain.

Hey, I thought you were listing,

She looks back at me while walking away,

Sorry, I said, because she was listening.

Come here, whose the good girl huh come here, and she runs towards me, wagging her tail in happiness and hug me.

 

About the guest Writer: Pinakin Joshi –  Writer, blogger, entrepreneur, start up builder, chess player. He believes that a story should have multiple message and ending. His creations can be read at Marubaharvtu and Mynorthenlights and can be reached on twitter  – @@pinakin_joshi

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A Year as a Published Writer: 10 Lessons and Reflections by Leonora Meriel

“The Unity Game” is science fiction with philosophy

WHAT IF THE EARTH YOU KNEW WAS JUST THE BEGINNING?

A New York banker is descending into madness.
A being from an advanced civilization is racing to stay alive.
A dead man must unlock the secrets of an unknown dimension to save his loved ones.
From the visions of Socrates in ancient Athens, to the birth of free will aboard a spaceship headed to Earth, The Unity Game tells a story of hope and redemption in a universe more ingenious and surprising than you ever thought possible.
Metaphysical thriller and interstellar mystery, this is a ‘complex, ambitious and thought-provoking novel’ from an exciting and original new voice in fiction.

Reviews for The Unity Game
“A complex, ambitious and thought-provoking novel.” ~~ Kirkus Reviews
“Elegantly written, expertly crafted and a moving message. I found this book very hard to put down. Moving and poignant.” ~~ Lilly, Amazon US reviewer
“An engrossing, unique, and totally bizarre tale! I could not stop reading it once I started. Such a beautiful take on the afterlife, and its connection to those still living. A unity game, indeed!”~~ Brenna, Goodreads reviewer

About the Author

Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm. In 2003 she moved from New York to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA, which included a study trip around China and Taiwan, and climbing to the top of Hoverla, Ukraine’s highest peak and part of the Carpathian Mountains. She also served as President of the International Women’s Club of Kyiv, a major local charity. During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development. In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet. Leonora currently lives in Barcelona and London and has two children. She is working on her third novel.

The Guest Post

On 1 October 2016, I pressed the magical button on Amazon’s Create Space platform: Publish Book. Suddenly, my book was on sale. I was a published author.  It felt so easy pressing that button. And yet, leading up to that moment was 12 months of hard work, financial investment, intense learning and wading through masses of information on independent publishing. A year on, I can now look back at the process with some perspective, and reflect on what I did right and wrong, and what I learned along the way. For anyone considering investing in their own career as a writer and going independent, here are some thoughts and pieces of advice to make the journey as smooth as possible:

1-Author Branding

Your name is in big letters on the front of your book. And it will be on all your wildly-successful subsequent books as well. But what does that name mean? What will readers think when they see it, or search for it on Amazon or Google?

Before you put your name out into the public domain, think about what qualities you want to be associated with it– and this will be your personal brand.

For example, I write literary fiction. So important issues for me are: beautiful design; highest level writing and editing; reviews from established sources; intelligent dialogue around the books.

When you have a clear vision of what you and your name represent, then you should refer everything back to this vision. It should help you decide your marketing choices, your cover and font choices, where you list your books. You are building a business based around your name – so make sure you are building something clear, defined and that entirely resonates with who you are and how you want to be seen in the public eye.

2-Be Professional

There are lots of shortcuts you can take as an independent author. Save money on a proofreader; cut out the 4 months it would take to hire a copy editor and make all the changes they recommend; don’t bother with an author website etc. In fact, a person could write a book in a day and have it published on Amazon by the evening. However, that book is not going to have gone through the processes required to be a professional product. Traditional publishers have entire departments covering editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing strategy, distribution, and more. The key to launching any book under your own name (or pen name) is – make it the most professional product that you can. You won’t start off with all the know-how of a publishing company, but if you do your best and are unwaveringly professional, then you will get close the first time you publish, and closer the second time. And that is close enough.

There are plenty of shortcuts you can take (saving months sending your manuscript to agents and publishers is the biggest one) – but never, never take a short cut that will lead to your book being less professionally written, edited, checked, designed, typeset, or produced in any way.

You wrote it – you are putting it out into the world. Be proud of it.

3-Emulate the Best

Every genre has its heroes. Stephen King for horror. Neal Stephenson for Sci-Fi. John Grisham for legal thrillers. In the indie world, Andy Weir, Hugh Howey and Jane Davis have succeeded to the top levels in their chosen genres.

Whatever your genre is, make a close study of what the very best writers in your area are doing. Note the cover design. Note the fonts. Note the typesetting style inside the books. Note the size of text. Note the book length and how long the chapters are. Do the chapters have names or numbers? Are they uneven or are they all 10-pages long?

As the best in their field, these choices will have been made to satisfy audiences of millions of readers. And they will represent the current best practice in that genre. Possibly the most valuable thing you can do as a new author is learn how to create a book using the principles of your genre-hero. Once you have done this, your book will be instantly recognizable to that audience of readers, and you will have a chance to gain traction in that field.

4-Know your Game Plan

Do you want to sell 10 million copies of your book? Or do you want to win the Nobel Prize for Literature? Maybe both. But you should know where you are heading before you get in your small boat and set sail on the sea of publishing. And you should also have a map – even a fairly simple one – of how to get there.

There are well-documented techniques for selling large amount of books as an indie author, and if this is your main goal, then do some research, pay for some on-line courses that will teach you how to do it, and follow the instructions. The starting point for this journey is an incredible cover that will be irresistible to millions of readers.

If your goal is to see your book on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, then make a game plan of how to do this. The starting point for this journey is quality. B&N won’t stock anything that isn’t produced to the highest standards.

Along with the author branding, know who you are and what you want. Then it will be a joy to build your career in your chosen direction, step by step.

5-Give it that bit extra

Your name is about to be in print. 50 – 100,00 words of yours are about to be read. The world is going to start forming opinions and sharing them widely. Have a look at the work and the brand you are about to release – do you have a small worry that something could have been a bit better, or something needed an extra set of eyes, or the page numbers should be in the middle, rather than on the left? If yes – do it now. The small things that took one step extra are often the ones I think about late at night before going to sleep and think – ‘I’m so glad I did that.’ Your book is going out there – give it the extra love it deserves and then let those millions of readers enjoy it.

6-Make safe choices the first time

If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably already found out what an enormous amount of information there is on independent publishing. A lot of it is contradictory. A lot of it is relevant for some genres and author branding strategies and not for others. When you’re making self-publishing decisions the first time – play it safe, and protect your money and time. At the simplest end of the solution, go with Amazon’s cover and editing services to produce a decent product. At the higher end, go to Reedsy.com and find a team of professionals to guide you. Whatever you are tempted by, take the safer choice the first time, and you can always go wilder with your second book when you understand the market better.

7-Have fun

You’re going to spend hours and weeks and months on your writing career over the next few years. Marketing, promoting, connecting with other authors, writing the next book. Make sure you’re enjoying it! And figure out which bits you enjoy the most and make sure you’re doing more of them than the bits you don’t like. The more you enjoy it, the likelihood is – the more successful you will be.

8-Don’t expect to sleep

Once you’ve pressed the ‘publish’ button – that’s it. You are an entrepreneur. Or an authorpreneur, as it is now called. You are in charge of production (writing the books), distribution, marketing, design, communications and…. everything else! It’s going to be intense. It’s going to be incredibly fun. But don’t expect to get much sleep.

9-Get your family/close ones involved

Every entrepreneur knows the toll that running your own business takes on your family and friends. You are working 24 hours a day. You are obsessed with your sales and customer feedback. You are busy creating the next product. The best thing you can do is find some angles that can get your family and close friends involved. My partner loves it when I run promotions and he can see hundreds or thousands of sales roll in – so I get him involved with these and we all get excited and celebrate together. He’s less interested in the daily grind of garnering reviews and connecting with authors so I don’t talk about that too much. My mother loves to hear about book clubs and has persuaded her own book club to read my first novel. My daughter is my number one promoter on Instagram! Get everyone around you to be on your team in a way that is fun for them and beneficial for you. Then they won’t mind you spending all your time on your authorpreneur businesses – because they’re part of it.

10-Share what you have learned. Help the next writer to get it right.

By the time you hit the ‘publish’ button, you will most likely have received help and advice from a large number of published writers. One of the big surprises of my own journey was how generous independent writers were to share their hard-earned knowledge and experiences and to help out with hours of free advice and information.

Well – now it’s your turn. You might not know much yet, but you probably have some key facts that will help someone who has just finished their final draft and has googled “independent publishing”. Share those facts. Be generous. Help someone to not spend all their money on the wrong thing. Persuade a writer to use a proofreader. Point them towards Reedsy.com and the Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli). It works best together.

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The Resignation

Hi, I am Rehan, and this is my story. I’ve been working as a Marketing Manager with an e-commerce startup. Got placed right here after my MBA. Fell in love with a girl during MBA, proposed her, got our parents together and all set to get hitched. Everything as was supposed to.

During the two years of this job, I gave it all. Being a part of the founding team, I practically built the company from scratch. I wasn’t the founder of the company, but I worked just as hard.

It was all good but satisfaction was missing. I somehow never felt right about the job. From the beginning, I had strategic differences with the founder. While he chased sales and profitability, I emphasized brand visibility and customer acquisition. I believed being backed by a giant conglomerate, we could afford short-term losses to drive long-term gains.

Probably this difference undid me as during a review meeting on Aug. 10th, 2017; I was asked to drop all my current assignments and take over a new project. Strategic restructuring of the role they said. Screwed up career progression I understood.

My job sucked.  Yet I didn’t want to quit. Especially with an impending marriage, risk bearing abilities are at the lowest. But in that moment, I realized that this is a sinking ship and I do not want to go down with it. I took a decision. To Quit.

After the meeting, I went out and texted Anahita, my fiancée that I wanted to quit. She understood that this decision is solely because I feel pushed to a point of no return.

She simply asked, “What do you want to do?”

I had no answer. I told her the same, “Anahita, neither do I have a plan nor do I know what I am going to do next. But I am scared, I do not what this to jeopardize our relationship.”

Anahita, being herself replied, “It won’t. Don’t worry. We’ll figure something out. Just don’t tell this to anyone on my side of the family. We can deal with this.”

Comforted, I called up dad to seek his opinion. Now, Dad has been there done that. He understood and said, “If this is what you want, go ahead. Just ensure that this isn’t a knee-jerk reaction.”

I assured him that it wasn’t.

I walked back into the office, composed my thoughts, and drafted my resignation letter. I never thought I would do this without securing another job. I mean how could you let go of something that ensured a fixed monthly sum without having a backup. Well, I realized not all decisions are cold and calculated.

Satisfied with the letter, I walked towards the director’s cabin. It seemed like a long walk. True, I wasn’t happy with the job & didn’t see a future here. Yet this is where I got my first break & an opportunity to carve my identity. The feeling was akin to that of a breakup.

Composing myself, I knocked and walked in.

“I think we need to talk,” I said.

“Sure, tell me.” He replied.

“I want to leave.”

“But why”

“Because I don’t think this is working anymore,” I said with a firm resolve.

“We can at least talk about it.” He said, opening a window for negotiations.

“It’s futile, Sir. This isn’t going anywhere”.

Saying so I formally submitted my resignation letter.

With a hint of guilt (perhaps) and regret, “Fair enough,” he said, “if this is your final decision, I accept it. You can leave whenever you feel like.”

Soon, I completed all the formalities and bid goodbye to my job.

Since then, I am at home. I don’t have a solid plan. I haven’t yet figured out what I am going to do next. But I am enjoying this phase. I am giving my body the sleep and relaxation it deserved. It’s funny waking up on a weekday and not looking at a fixed schedule.

These days, I am freelancing, helping bootstrapped startups with their marketing and communication activities. Trust me, this is giving me a much higher sense of satisfaction than my previous job did.

I’ve always wanted to write, start a blog, do something about it. Now I got all the time in the world to do that. Letting my creative juices flow, I ensure that I write at least 3 articles per week. And boy, it’s an exhilarating fun being a writer! I’m the hero of my story and I can write my own destiny.

I do not know what lies ahead for me professionally. There’s no more fixed source of income. But I do not think that’s really a problem. Guess, I’ll figure out something good to do with my life.

By the way, once the wedding dates are out, I will let you know. You’re invited. Do come.

About the Guest writer: Niket Sinha is a marketer by profession and a storyteller at heart, he lives for three things – Food, friends, and family. When he is not busy making marketing plans and analytical reports, he can often be spotted reading a book, or sometimes, even trying to write one. Oh, by the way, he makes amazing desi Chinese! You can contact him on TwitterFacebook & Instagram. 

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Discovering Vishpala and the world’s first reference to prosthesis

Many readers have asked me how I discovered the story of Vishpala, reimagined in Avishi. Quoting one of my editors, stories find their tellers and have a unique way of manifesting. I strongly feel they choose their time and gauge the readiness of the story teller too. Back in 2012, when I was struggling with an early draft of Abhaya, I got some feedback about breathing life into the characters. I was advised to meditate upon the daily life of the characters outside the story and the plot. This is an advice I value dearly and follow even today.

Once, I was writing a scene of Abhaya where the protagonist is a 6 year old toddler demanding her father to tell her stories while he fed her. What kind of stories would a father who is a King and a warrior tell his only daughter? He would want to inspire her with stories of valor too. As Abhaya was set in the times of Mahabharata, this story had to be older. I thought of warrior women from Ramayana. Kaikeyi did not offer a positive side to be narrated to a six year old. Savitri’s story had adventure, romance and philosophy but seemed too terse. It was then that I turned to the oldest book of India, the Rig Veda. The surprises that Rig Veda threw at me would make for quite a few posts! One of them was this warrior called Vishpala (Vishapala where Visha referred to a settlement and Pala referred to the one who headed it).

Vishpala is mentioned in one of the hymns dedicated to the divine healers and miracle workers called Asvinas. The hymn extols them for granting a prosthetic leg to Vishpala when she lost her leg in a battle. (Speculated as an iron leg by the 19th Century Indologist Ralph Griffith) Modern scholars speculate that the metal could be either bronze or copper. But setting the academic debate aside, the hymn happens to be the world’s first reference to the concept of prosthesis! Something that even international medical journals mention while broaching the topic!

I could not help setting aside the draft of Abhaya for a while and marveling at the heroine who fought with a prosthetic leg and about the ancient society which made such iron willed men and women. Consider it a promise made by a story teller to the ancient character who unexpectedly graced her. I resolved to revisit and explore the story of Vishpala after publishing Abhaya (Avishi is a fictional name).

Exploring the world of Avishi posed interesting challenges. The experience was a heavy contrast to writing Abhaya where I struggled to find place for my characters in the dense plot of Mahabharata. Vishpala who was mentioned nowhere but in the precious few shlokas of Rig Veda required me to reimagine the early Vedic society in all its egalitarian glory at the dawn of human civilization. Even the name of Vishpala (which clearly referred to her position) is lost to our memory.

Imagining Santagrahis or those endowed with lightning memory who carried out oral tradition in the times where script was yet to be invented, making sense of live-in relationships as the institution of wedlock was still nascent as a concept were just some aspects in the world creation process behind Avishi.

With each story he or she writes, the story teller challenges his/her comfort zones and turns richer with experience. I hope there are more such stories from the past waiting to reveal themselves when they think the time is ripe!

About the Guest writer: Saiswaroopa is an IITian and a former investment analyst turned author. Her keen interest in ancient Indian history, literature and culture made her take to writing. Her debut novel Abhaya, set in the times of Mahabharata was published in 2015. Avishi, her second novel set in Vedic India explores the legend of India’s first mentioned female warrior queen Vishpala. She holds a certificate in Puranas from Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. She is also trained in Carnatic Classical music and has won a state level gold medal from Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. Website * Facebook * Twitter

 

 

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Ashvamedha – Book Review

Like the recent times, Twitter again helped me discover a new Indian author – Aparna Sinha. Ashvamedha is her debut novel and it didn’t take me long to order it.

First up, I am guilty of judging this book by its cover; actually, the blurb is more like it. It hints at a plot that perhaps revolves around a kingmaker and the game spread out to make the king. I almost bracketed it as another Chanakya based story, but I was wrong. Terribly wrong.

And I’m glad, for grabbing this book is one of the better investments I’ve made in recent times. This book is 214 pages of sheer fervor and adrenaline rush.

The storyline revolves around Ashwin Jamwal, a young IAS officer who wants to change the system, but when he fights and fails, he joins politics and goes on to eventually become the most successful prime minister the nation ever had. However, he owes a great deal of his success to one master puppeteer, Hades, who is running the show and calling all the shots. Ashwin, obviously, does not know this.

It’s entirely intriguing that despite being the most powerful character in the story, Hades is mentioned only once as a passing reference in the first half of the book – that’s a masterstroke by the author! Now what is the kind of game that Hades has laid, what is his grand plan, who all are a part of his scheme of things, what is the sheer scale of his plan, the dauntlessness with which he executes his moves and where & how does Ashwin fit into all this, in a nutshell, is the summary of this fascinating and convoluted story. Any extra bit of information that I give you might ruin your experience so I would rather abstain.

It is an extremely brilliant plot, pretty much like a magician’s trick – the buildup, the actual act, and the grand reveal. To some, the initial part might appear a bit stretched, but given how the story advances and what it eventually culminates into, the length is legitimized.

Overall, this is a quick paced, enrapturing political thriller. The language is simple, the narrative is lucid, and almost every character is a shade of gray. This book has more twists and turns than an Abbas Mastaan movie and I mean this in a very positive way.

The book deals with issues ranging from friendship, comradery, unrequited love, politics, corruption, global powerhouses, and terrorism. Prima facie, too much to be dealt with in a single book. By the time you’ve finished it, you realize they were all pieces of one mega plot ultimately fitting in, to finish the perplex.

Conclusion:

This definitely is one of the better stories I’ve come across in recent times. DO NOT give this a miss. Place this on your bookshelf and make room for more because Aparna Sinha is here to stay. Looking ahead to more stories from her.

Click here to buy: http://amzn.to/2hhPAyd

About the Guest writer: Niket Sinha is a marketer by profession and a storyteller at heart, he lives for three things – Food, friends, and family. When he is not busy making marketing plans and analytical reports, he can often be spotted reading a book, or sometimes, even trying to write one. Oh, by the way, he makes amazing desi Chinese! You can contact him on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. 

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