Through the Mist: Excerpts from the Stories

Through the Mist, the book that showcases collaborative writing is a collection of five short stories.

Here are the excerpts from the book, one from each story.

A Middle Class Story

Pari is a young, independent girl whose parents are looking for a match for her. But things take a funny turn when she goes on a vacation with her family.

They drove back up from the valley and resumed their journey. It was dark by the time they reached the resort; a 30 km drive from the varnival. Their resort was at the peak. “Hill Top Resort,” it was called. An apt name indeed.

Rehan was driving now. The rest of them were almost asleep. Pari dreamt of her spa weekend. Shan imagined they’d go trekking.

And Rehan, well Rehan only hoped he could somehow stop staring at Pari like a hopeless dog. The group advanced merrily, unaware of the chaos they were about to fall into.

Shan had forgotten to make a reservation.

A Strange Life

Aarya has a strange dream every night-of voices and silhouettes. Where will it all lead to?

She had the vision of her dream
once again.

Dark clouds. Strange voices. Tapping of the rain. A silhouette in the dark.

The strange voice tuned to a mellifluous voice. The voice was coming from the direction
of her bedroom. It seemed to be saying… no, singing something.
Yes, she could hear it clearly now.

The silhouette in the dark became visible. An image of a woman singing the lullaby to get Aarya to fall asleep, flitted through her mind.

Languish in Love

Love and Heartbreak in this beautiful story.

Those were the days. The days of
happiness. It was the most delightful phase of my life. When each hour seemed like divinity. When love danced in the spaces between each second. When life was painted with all the scintillating shades of magic.

Rain splashed against the rusty window panes. The tapping of the rain on the roof weaved a pitter-patter symphony. Nature
lightened up with the showers. The vibrant flowers in my garden swayed and the silvery drops adorned the leaves. The garden became all the more iridescent. As the rain cast a spell on nature, my memories cast a spell a spell on me.

The Lone Man

John has lost his wife Sarah. It has been a year but his nightmares won’t stop.

I reach the edge of the cliff. I look below, and there’s water everywhere. It feels like the cliff is floating on top of the water. I get the strange sensation that I am being watched.

Suddenly, a hand shoots up from the waters below. I crouch down to take a closer look. It’s beckoning to me, as if to ask for help. Maybe it is the strange man I saw earlier. Maybe he fell down, and is asking me to help him.

No sooner do I get up to help whoever it is, the hand shoots up in the air and falls back into
the water. And right in front of my eyes, the clear water slowly turns a shade of red.

Another bloodcurdling scream. This time, my own.

Turn of the Tides

Nature is mighty but can it subdue human spirit?

I lumber forward; losing my balance; my hands clawing the mist, clutching at nothing. The cold air hurts my lungs; my breath comes in rasps. I touch the rocks, feel my way blindly through the dense fog that comes rolling out from the sea.

It is hard to be on the shore when the young ‘uns are all weaving nets and getting the boats ready for the journey yonder. I want to be the one going out to the sea, feeling the wind on me, my blood roaring in my veins like them waves all my long, sea faring life.

I cry out as I lose my footing and fall, a seagull squawking hoarsely, its voice merging with the wind. The bad leg sprawls; the red stains the sand, leaving a wet track on this dry day.

Buy the Book from Amazon.

Three Thousand Stitches by Sudha Murty: Book Review

Title: Three Thousand Stitches

Author: Sudha Murty

Genre: Non fiction, Memoir

Book Cover of Three Thousand Stitches
Three Thousand Stitches by Sudha Murty

The book, Three Thousand Stitches is a collection of non fictional pieces, snippets from the author’s own life and from other people whom she encountered.

These are 11 true stories, many of them Sudha Murty’s experiences as the chairperson of the Infosys foundation. A few talk of her childhood and early adulthood and of her educational background.

The stories have an overarching theme of empathy and service to the society.

The title story, ‘Three Thousand Stitches’ is a moving account of the Devdasis and their plight. Their rehabilitation was the first social service/impact project Sudha Murty took on and she talks of her initial failures quite candidly. However, the difference the foundation makes in the lives of this marginal group is noteworthy and Sudha is presented with a very touching memento that reflects the gratitude of the Devdasis towards her.

How to beat the boys‘ is a spell binding account of Sudha’s engineering days where she was the only woman in the entire college. It is clear that she was a trailblazer and an independent thinker from her formative years.

Three Handfuls of Water‘ is the most vivid account of her early life, her childhood memories of her grandparents and their religious beliefs. When Sudha visits Varanasi in her adulthood, she feels as if she is fulfilling her grandparents’s wish of pilgrimage to this holy land.

Cattle Class‘ is a hard hitting reality of economic snobbery and way Sudha metes out justice in her own way.

No place like home‘ talks of expatriate women and their difficult, abuse riddled lives and highlights the freedom that we enjoy and the little liberties that we sometimes take for granted in our own country.

I Can’t, We Can‘, is the account of many individuals and their families who have been adversely affected by alcoholism and the way Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) helps them rebuild their lives.

A Day in the Infosys Foundation‘ was the account I was waiting to read, my curiousity sufficiently aroused to wonder what constitutes the day of the head honcho of the Infosys Foundation managing the Corporate Social Responsibility.

I liked the simple narration of the book. There is an honesty that shines through the telling of the stories. With an undercurrent of an emotional strength and the desire to uplift others, the writing touches the reader with its sincerity.

Diwali Stories

This week I read a charming collection of stories, meant for preteens and early teens. It is good to see that children and teens today have a wide range of books to choose from. When I was a child, I had to make do with comics, not that I complained. Then there were the Enid Blytons and adventure series for teens but nearly all of them were by foreign authors.

It is heartening to see many Indian authors writing for children. It is a good way to introduce them to the richness and diversity of our country and culture. I like to read these books along with my daughter and we talk about the different customs and viewpoints she encounters in these books. It is not only a learning experience for her but also a time for us to converse from the heart and bond.

The book that we read is called Diwali Stories. Published by Scholastic (I find their books very educational and entertaining), it is a collection of four little stories. Here is what we liked about them.

Rocket of Doom by Kaushik Vishwanath
It has the wildly funny, crazy antics of Thatha, the sort of crazy Paatti, that is reminiscent of Roald Dahl. I loved it for its impossibility. My daughter loved it for its craziness. The nostalgia of large families, plenty of cousins and mindless fun reminded me of my carefree childhood.

Dracula’s Diwali by Monideepa Sahu
This story is about special bonds between strangers and of kindness. On a visit to Kolkata, the little girl Chandana befriends the old and sick Dragomir, who lives across the street. It is an unlikely bond, one that is sweet and emotional. This story is the only one with a neat ending which my daughter liked very much. In a way, it was eye opening to me. Children like things to be definite, we adults like slices of life.

Lights against the darkness by Umakrishnaswami

This one is my personal favourite. It is because of the theme of innocent friendship. Deepa and Bani are neighbours and bff. They fall out due to a little misunderstanding. The language is lovely; the shifting moods so well described, the emotions that the young girls don’t even know they have and cannot express. This is the only story that is set outside India, talking of the Indian diaspora. My daughter liked the concept of ‘unfriend’.

Jugnu’s ‘out of the world’ firecrackers by Vivek Tandon

This story is an out and out fantastic story of 6 yr old Jugnu, with a three armed, three legged and single eyed ET like Bluebob who has crash landed his space craft on Earth. The situation and the firecrackers are fantastical. But the child gets his celebration of Diwali-in-advance. This is the only one with an overt message.

The stories are bound together by the theme of the festival of Diwali. The settings and the characters have a wide and delightful range of settings. The stories are not overly moralistic. The language is appropriate for the age group it targets. It is an entertaining and engaging book. A good read for preteens.

Next on the reading list is Eid Stories. My daughter is already excited.

Do you read books to your children or along with them? Let us talk about your experiences.

This post is part of #MyFriendAlexa. I am taking my Alexa Rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

How my Collaborative Team helped me become a Published Author

First Anniversary

This September marks one year of the publishing of my first book, Through the Mist. It’s been an unparalleled experience of working with a diverse team. The book is not just a collection of short stories; it involved working with four other authors to finish the stories. It wasn’t only writing but also switching points of view; thinking not just of the reader but also the writer who was going to complete my story.

Through the Mist, a collection of five stories, written by five authors was a unique idea to start with. The starting point of each story was a picture. Each author started a different story, a different genre, with a set of characters that she liked. Then that story was handed over to the next author for her to take the story forward. The process repeated itself till each story had been written by all five authors.

So, we got five stories born out of the rich imagination and diverse experiences of the authors. Even though we all looked at the same picture, we had very different takes. The protagonists and the settings were wildly different from each other.

Languish in Love is a love story with a twist. It is narrated by a poet who is searching for his long lost love. It meanders through bitter sweet memories till he is on the verge of finding his love.

A Middle Class Story is just that; the story of a middle class family, with typical middle class aspirations especially when it comes to marriage and looking for a life partner. It could be a commentary on social values but it is a good laugh riot.

The Lone Man portrays fear and loneliness from the loss of a partner which soon descends to chilling horror when John finds the mysterious book in the library he works at.

A Strange Life has Aarya, struggling to climb the corporate ladder and who finds herself slipping into an alternate reality when she encounters a strange dwarf who guides her to psychics.

Turn of the Tides is the story of the mightiest element of nature, the sea and of the men who are at the mercy of her power.

The five stories were overseen by the in house editor who made sure that the stories were coherent, that the expressions did not vary widely and there was a smooth flow in the narration.

It has been a labour of love, right from the putting together of the team to publishing the final product.

Collaboration: A Supportive Process

Writing can be a very lonely process. For me, the story arc gets intimidating. I spend too much time in creating the setting. My characters need a lot of space to develop. I flounder at ending stories; I just can’t seem to get to the finish line.

In this entire process of writing Through the Mist, I was supported by my team. The photo acted as a prompt. Even though it showed a mountain, my mind imagined a sea beyond that mist. This helped me create a two-protagonist story with alternating point of view, both in the first person narrative.

For the other stories, it became easier to take over the baton. The setting was there, the characters had been introduced, I only had to write the next part. This was helpful because I can get quite indecisive about which direction the story should take.

Ending another story was challenging because I had to unravel a mystery and explain the loose ends. But the hard work done by all the authors before me helped.

The editor took care of the flow of the story. I really did not have to worry about how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Gratitude

Immense Gratitude and Thanks to every person in my team. Jithin, who conceptualised the idea and gave all the five authors their first published book. Aadhira, who worked tirelessly over the months, co-ordinating, editing and smoothing out obstacles.
My four excellent co-authors, Abirami, Aadithya, Nimitha and Rupali who helped me in giving direction to stories and tying up the ends neatly.

Holding the paperback in my hands was well worth the effort of the preceding months.

If you would like to read this unique book, you can buy the paperback from the Publisher.

Kindle edition lovers, buy the book from Amazon.

You can read the book free on Kindle Unlimited.

This post is part of #MyFriendAlexa. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

Murder in the Palace and Other Stories by Priya Bajpai: Book Review

Title: Murder in the Palace and Other Stories

Author: Priya U Bajpai

Genre: Short Stories

Murder in the Palace and Other Stories is a delightful collection of stories where world building and exquisite language go hand in hand.

Review

The book has twelve stories, short, sweet and tangy. Starting from a contemporary detective story, the book moves on to other genres that explore time travel, sci fi, romance, feminism among others with a wide variety of settings. There is a story for everyone here.

The book starts with the eponymous story, Murder in the Palace and the most striking detail of the story is the detective herself. It seems a complex whodunit but the answers are found surprisingly fast and through deduction. I liked the way the story gets straight to the point from the first paragraph itself and yet there is no glossing over the backstory.

Geisha is expectedly set in Japan. It is such a lovely and poignant story. I was transported to a world of beauty, grace, elegance and love that is expressed in subtle ways.

Horrific Holocaust is set in Germany and brings into focus the Holocaust through teenage angst.

I’m II is science fiction that is chilling and is a little too real for comfort. The narrative is captivating.

The Mysterious Globe is almost magical, but it teases and seems unfinished.

I liked the Killer very much. It has an interesting twist in the tale and was so different from the stories I had read till that point.

Mia of Maya is wondrous. The narrator here is from the Mayan civilization and it is not the mere life but the wiping out of an entire people that the story addresses.

Dazzled and Banon’s Conundrum are also very striking stories, with completely unexpected endings.

Neil’s Shoe closes this collection and I was left with an other-worldly feeling, not just from this story but from the heady mix that I had just finished.

What works well

Priya has a very literary writing style and a way with world building that is very elaborate and yet succinct. All through the book, I was constantly struck by how versatile she is, through the choice of the storylines.

Each story is a different world and an experience in itself. I did not read the stories in one go. I picked them at random, savouring them.

The cover art of the book is gorgeous and is a definite plus for the book.

About the Author

Priya U Bajpai is a short story author and poet. She has also been published in mainstream newspapers. This literature scholar is a versatile story-teller. She is adept at writing fast-paced and layered tales across genres. This extremely modest writer lets her craft do the talking.

Verdict

This eclectic mix of stories show case a wide range of settings and emotions. Pick this collection if you like vivid descriptions and a literary writing style.

Download the book here. It is free for a limited period.

My Blog to Book Journey

This post about my eBook is part of Blogchatter EBook Post Chain.

I take on the Baton of Blogchatter Ebook Carnival from Lavanya whose ebook ‘The Cockatiel Confessions and Other Collected Works‘ is also part of the mix.

About Lavanya’s ebook: Do you know why the moon is blue? Or why the cockatiel complains? A poor little rich girl & another girl who likes to gamble away her life credits. A tribal warrior & a time traveler. A celestial journey and a missing damsel.

My EBook Journey: When Love takes You Places

I am a compulsive list maker, in my daily life. I love writing listicles, in my blogging life.

For my readers who have been with me for some time, this wouldn’t come as a surprise. Last year I started a weekly listicles feature called Friday Listicles. I talked of how and why I loved listicles. I talked of books, of quotes that inspired me and the learnings in my writing journey. It was a busy time for me, non-blog wise and I was struggling to write regularly.

Sometimes I would wonder how to keep my inspiration strong. At other times, I struggled with being productive, having to juggle various projects. I was also editing my first draft of the previous year’s NaNoWriMo. Editing can be a frustrating and prohibitive experience.

I was sure that there were other writers out there facing the same problems as I did. Sometimes, I would settle down to think deeply about the writing itself, not just the words I was writing but the entire process of coming up with something I wanted to write about, keeping at it and making a good thing out of it. I realised that writing is not just writing the words but also the thinking, the researching, the editing, the rewriting. If I wanted to be good at the entire spectrum, I must acknowledge the stumbling blocks and know how to work around them.

My musings on writing came to the blog in the form of listicles. I was also aware that this would benefit many others who were struggling with some or the other aspect of the writing.

I wanted to put my blog posts in the form of a book.

When I joined Blogchatter this year, my dream seemed to be getting wings. Blogchatter is a community of bloggers on Twitter. It is an amazing place, a wonderful group of dedicated people who give support, provide information and opportunities for bloggers to grow better.

For Blogchatter EBook Carnival, bloggers curated content from their blogs to publish as eBooks. And that is how my own eBook came into being.

About my eBook

Finding Your Writing Flow will inspire you to pick your pen and explore your authentic voice to become the writer you want to be.

Simple and profound at the same time, the book guides you through self doubt, offering tips on recognising your passion for writing, finding inspiration when you feel stuck, staying productive in your writing projects, getting better at your craft and renewing yourself as a writer.

Experience a sense of calm, unleash the writer within and stay motivated with this book.

You can download the book from here. It is free for a limited period of time.

I pass on the Baton of Blogchatter Ebook Carnival to Mayuri whose ebook ‘26 Favourite Foods & a Little Bit of Me‘ is also part of the mix.

About Mayuri’s ebook: Food and Memories – that is what her book is all about. Food has the power to keep you connected to your past, even as it evolves to fit the future. Come walk down memory lane with her as she shares with you her favourite foods, and memories.

Do click on the links and download these excellent books and support the authors.

How I Wrote my Comic Book by Priyanka Vermani: Book Review

Title: How I Wrote My Comic Book: The Journey

Author: Priyanka Vermani

Genre: Memoir

How I Wrote My Comic Book is as bookish as can be. It is a book about the creation of a comic book- the fulfilment of a long cherished dream and the culmination of an often arduous journey.

Review

Priyanka, the new Mom, has a dream. She wants to create a book that serves as a guiding light and legacy for her one year old daughter, Samaira. And thus starts the journey of creating a graphic novel or a comic book, with limited resources but with limitless imagination and creativity.

This book is a chronicle of all the stages of creating the book, right from the conceptualisation to the finished book.

It is an exhilarating read for creative people, for designers, for artists dabbling in the visual arts and for writers. Each chapter is a gem, touching on one or the other part of the book’s creation process.

What works well

The cover art is lovely. Much work has gone into designing it to showcase what the book is all about. In fact, an entire chapter has been dedicated to how it came together.

The format is well suited to the story of a comic book. The colour scheme and the fonts were a definite change as were the two column format.

There is also a lot of learning if you are into writing. The chapters talk in detail about the conceptualisation, about the innumerable rounds of editing, about the challenges of collaboration, about the hurdles and the self doubts. There is plenty of encouragement too, from the little victories, the undying commitment and the unconventional way Priyanka sets out to achieve her dream.

On the other hand…

I did wish that more care had been taken in proofreading this book because there are many references to the A to Z challenge. Also, a couple of chapters were a little out of sync with the rest of the book like the mother in law’s illness.

About the Author

A Content Marketer with a creative streak, Priyanka has written content for corporate films and many kids learning applications. Based on her experience of her stay in London, she has authored a comic book – ‘Samaria and the Gang in London.’

Verdict

How I Wrote My Comic Book is a behind-the-scenes book about a creative process. Read it for the vicarious pleasure of being part of this journey.

Download this book here.

Twelve Tales of Christmas by Cathleen Townsend: Book Review

Title: Twelve Tales of Christmas

Author: Cathleen Townsend

Genre: Short stories, Fiction

Synopsis

Christmas isn’t always Jingle Bells and “Ho, ho, ho.” In these Twelve Tales of Christmas, even Santa has to deal with unexpected German shepherds and reindeer who suddenly want to learn the tango. A dryad works feverishly with a teenage boy to save her tree, now in a stand in his living room, and everyone begs Death to hold off for just one more day.

And no one knows what to do with the fire-breathing dragon. He’s not going on the Christmas card list anytime soon.

Come enter worlds of beauty and dread. Join a house hob as he raises his cup of eggnog high, and enjoy yuletide yarns delicious enough to tempt even St. Nick.

Review

The stories in this collection, meant to be a Chritmas vacation read are delightful, surprising and thankfully all positive because no one wants to feel sad in this season. Every story made me smile. Some for the kindness, others for the love. These tales are magical, more than literally so. The language is lovely. The stories touch your heart in unexpected ways. You feel love, empathy, kindness, hope and joy, which is quite a lot for this short and sweet read.

The language is precise, sharp, witty and the stories present different flavours. Christmas makes up the theme and the spirit of the stories but the settings and the protagonists have a lot of variety.

Short and longer stories are mixed together judiciously. There are short bursts of positivity interspersed with longer, deeper ones. The shorter ones usually leave you with a mood and the longer ones with the feel of the characters. At places, the characterisation is surprising and refreshing like Mori and the irritable dragon in the last and the longest story. The narrative voice is very mature and I loved the language. Each story threw up lovely words at me that evoked new feelings.

I really could not decide which were my most favourite stories. Each one seemed better than the last. ‘The Gift’ portrays the mind of an elderly woman so well that the reader is as delighted as the protagonist. I wished ‘Chritmas Tango’ was longer. And ‘Snowflake’ is both poignant and beautiful. These stories tantalise and because they are short, the reader to forced to think up what happens later. ‘Department Store Santa’ shows a world that is hard up. Everyone has troubles but it is possible to forget them in little lovely moments. I loved the sensitivity of ‘The Angel in the Tree’. ‘Dragon Yule’ is a wonderful fantasy read.

This collection is easy enough for a quick read and rich enough to savour. Read it as your mood demands.

Buy this fantastic book here.

How Chris Baty saved me from going down the rabbit hole of despair

Chris Baty needs no introduction to NaNoWrimers. The founder of National Novel Writing Month, in 1999, along with 21 of his friends set out to write a complete novel of 50k words. He has been an inspiration since, both in managing the November event and in pulling writers out from the depths of despair through his pep talks.

I had the fortune to read his book, ‘No plot, No Problem’, just before last year’s writing marathon. I sped read to ensure I knew everything about NaNoWriMo before getting into it. It is a hilarious, easy-to-read and profoundly informative manual on how to tackle the writing and how to conquer the fears, insecurities, the writing blocks and the inevitably super critical Inner Editor. Chris Baty goes into the entire month, moving from week to week, explaining what to expect and what problems the writers are likely to encounter and of course how to handle them. Through sharp wit and unrelenting humour, Chris Baty holds your hand through the entire process of churning out a first draft of a nearly full length novel.

Post NaNoWriMo, it is desirable that the first draft be revised and edited and rewritten to make it a readable book. But even if that does not come about and you feel that the world is not ready for your masterpiece just yet, doing the writing marathon is an incredibly rewarding experience.

Check out the book and sharpen your pencils.

A Wonderful Quest

There are times that a book comes along which is so refreshing and different that it forces you to step out of your mental comfort zone and look for answers.

The Quest of the Sparrows by Ravi ‘Nirmal’ Sharma and Kartik Sharma, the father-son duo, is a read that has inspired me to live an authentic life and to be generous. I am grateful to the Universe for conspiring to bring this book to me which has been such a lot of joy.

The Quest of the Sparrows

Take a look at the philosophy that guided the writing of the book.

https://youtu.be/tZEPfM_z638

Read the review of the book here.