Building a Writing Practice: The Backstory

This year I wrote a book. What’s amazing is that the book is for writers and about building your writing skills and it got written in the midst of a writing drought of sorts.

I had planned to write every day this year for A2Z. Of course, life happened and though I had planned a bit and had outlines and rough drafts of a few posts, that was not enough. It wasn’t just a not-enough-time kind of thing. It was a sense of dread and even a deadening with the second wave of Covid wreaking havoc across India.

I knew of people who suffered through illness or death of their loved ones. It felt a travesty of sorts, writing about books, celebrating stories when there was so much that had to be righted in the world.

But art has a way to redeem and to heal. In difficult times, we turn to art and creative activities because it’s an outlet of our emotions. It’s subtle, can be interpreted in any way your mental state allows you to and through the power of strong imagery or association you can find healing.

I needed to get back to writing, not just talk of other books but my own beliefs. I needed the discipline and the guidance to keep writing, improve in little ways without feeling stressed or pushed to perform spectacularly. I needed to write, progress even if in little bits and have the satisfaction that I was working on my craft. I needed to go full steam when I felt better emotionally.

So I wrote the book I needed to read. I collated writing exercises that I have used and that I liked. I put them together, in no particular order. I explained them briefly and mentioned how they help.

But I was reticent still. I didn’t want to read long drawn passages so I wrote with directness and brevity, trusting that my readers, if there were any, would want the same. Lastly, I put the emotional connect that I had with the exercises, through quotes of eminent writers, people with great wisdom who knew what they were saying.

I published this short book as an e-book to reach the reader who has the time to spend on digital platforms but is still too weary or unable to pick a physical book.

It’s available for free download in Blogchatter library. There are a number of other books there, in many genres so maybe you would like to explore a bit and find a few good reads.

This post is part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.

Xanadu by Harshita Nanda: Book Review

Title: Xanadu
Author: Harshita Nanda
Format: Ebook

Xanadu is a sensitive portrayal of the harsh realities and the sweet redemption following the life arc of 3 people; lonely and struggling and finding succour in their companionship.

Book Blurb

A young girl is living a simple life surrounded by nature and the love of her parents. An earthquake destroys her home and changes her life forever.

A young boy is struggling with the loss of his mother. As a reward for honesty, he gets a step up in life but has to leave behind all that is familiar.

An old lady lives alone, surrounded by memories and whispers of the past.

What is the link between the three?

Where is their Xanadu?

About the Author

Harshita Nanda is an avid reader and a lover of the written word. A chance win at a short story competition ignited the writing spark in her. Starting from book reviews, she moved on to writing short stories and dabbling in flash fiction. Xanadu is her first time attempting a novella.

The Story

Miss Anita, a vivacious, beautiful Anglo Indian, who has everything when it comes to material possessions and love, sees a turn of tides. The partition of India changes her world and opportunities. To her lonely existence comes Bhoomi, a young girl who has been uprooted from her home in the hills because of an earthquake that destroyed their home and took away her father. The child finds a kindly and maternal figure in Miss Anita as she navigates a hostile time with her relatives. Harish is the troubled and mischievous boy, whose father has brought him to the big town for the treatment of his wife who passes away.

Emotionally scarred, the three seek out each other’s company. But fate’s twists separates them as they go their ways in search of better lives. Will they be happy? Can they ever be reunited?

Review

Right from the first page, I was engrossed in the story that felt familiar in a way, for it spoke of the people I have seen growing up. The young children, their parents, their extended families and societal reactions, the insights of the author are commendable. 

The places, the hills, the villages and the towns where much of the story is set radiated a warmth. There is a depth to the detailing of the setting, no matter which the place is. I could feel at ease whether it was the village or the gardens of large houses, an army officer’s residence or even New York.

The characters in the book are very relatable. The protagonists have been sketched out so well; one can understand their thoughts and emotions and their life choices. Their struggles are unfortunate but I could understand all the situations.

The story arc is developed in an excellent way. Even though the story spans decades, you never lose touch of the emotional turmoil of the characters.

Verdict

Xanadu is a novella of beauty and emotional depth. Spanning lifetimes, decades and places, it’s a heartwarming story of ties that may not be familial but that bind and comfort.

The book is available for free download here.

This post is part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.

Dread by Aseem Rastogi: Book Review

Title: Dread
Author: Aseem Rastogi
Genre: Horror

Fear is the background of this collection of short stories. Dread explores the dark emotions that arise out of unexpected encounters and circumstances.

The Book

This collection explores fear and dread in a range of situations. A jungle safari for a tourist couple turns a nightmare because they are adventurous enough to venture into unsafe territory.

Book cover of Dread. Dark pathway with mist
Dread by Aseem Rastogi

A flight across continents becomes an air disaster and turns the life of the lone survivor upside down.

Modern corporate offices are not the safe and secure places they are nade out to be.

The fear of the night, dark places and being in secluded buildings is a very real one for many. And so are nightmares.

Lives can change in the blink of an eye. The author looks at how tragedies like an airplane crash or a bomb blast in a train can affect an ordinary person. The fear of being thrown in jail or being mistaken for a terrorist are all fears that we have had a brush with at sometime or the other.

Review

It’s a short book but packed with punch. The thing that leapt out of the pages was the original viewpoint which made it a good read.

The stories explore many scenarios of fear. The narration and pacing of the stories is good.

The characters are well developed in 3 of the stories. The Night That Was has the snapshot of an entire family. The flashbacks of memorable moments interspersed with the protagonist’s dark reality makes a very good contrast. It reads like the memory roll of a person about to die.

Dark Places and Into the Night are similar in tone and concept. However the modern reader can connect the story sequence and circumstances with his own life. Without using too much description, the author manages to induce fear. Empty office buildings at night are never going to feel the same again.

The Dark Secret of the Grasslands conveys the spirit of adventure adequately. The author has sketched the couple well, presenting the typical scenario in third world countries of a first world couple. This story has the potential to be developed further. Clues, action and what-happened-next can be extrapolated.

Flight or Fright shows how life can change in the blink of an eye.

What works well

The characters and backdrop are well etched in the stories. The reader can connect with the characters well. The language is good and the treatment of the subject feels very original.

The point of view of the characters is clear and the stories do not meander developing other threads or possible happenings.

What could be better

Some of the stories could be longer and the situations be better explored. The Dark Secret of the Grasslands can have more detail of the crime and the subsequent chase to get the criminals for a well rounded story. Into the Night and The Dark Places can also be developed further.

Verdict

A well written collection that chills without being macabre or overly fearsome.

The book is published for Blogchatter Ebook Carnival and is available for free download for a limited time. Read it here.

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.

Deal of Death by Sonia Chatterjee: Book Review

Title: Deal of Death

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Detective

Deal of Death is an exciting mystery with a an intricate plot and an unconventional detective solving this whodunit.

Review

Raya Ray resigns from her hi flying marketing job when she encounters a personal tragedy. Moving cities and changing occupations, she starts her own detective agency. Battling the ennui of mundane cases of cheating spouses and missing pets, she decides to step out of Kolkata to help her housemaid’s sister who lives in faraway Munshiganj.

For Raya, it starts as a case to trace a missing newborn from a hospital but leads to being a labyrinth of lies and deceit that goes back generations. Evil thrives in this seemingly simple town and by the time Raya is close to solving the case, she discovers that things are not as they seem and people are not who they pretend to be.

What works well

This is exciting detective fiction, fast paced and well plotted with a refreshingly different setting and a well etched out protagonist.

Raya Ray, the corporate hi flier turned detective, battling her grief, concerned with body issues, helpful, trusting, deducing, relying on observation and instinct, is the well sketched protagonist that gets the reader attention and loyalty.

The setting is the quaint Munshiganj on the banks of the river Annapurna and a twin ghat of Diwanganj. It looks like a peaceful, sleepy town but there is plenty of royal intrigue woven into the town’s history. There is also the curious temple and the mosque flanking the sides of the Nawab’s tomb. The photos included in the book bring alive the place for the reader.

The plot is intricate. Like any mystery, there is a crime and there are unexpected perpetrators, yet the backstory and how events came to pass is novel.

This is an impressive debut book and the author, Sonia Chatterjee finished writing it in a record six days.

On the other hand

The protagonist is well etched out but sometimes she is plain lucky. She gets a lot of information too easily and too fast. Also, Raya seems to know too many things without a real knowledge of the events themselves.

The plot is well built but the execution seems rushed. Towards the end there is a lot of information, which also keeps shifting because of the different povs.

There are too many characters towards the end of the book. It would help if these characters are introduced early on.

Some things need to be figured out clearly in the plot. The events and incidents are sometimes not believable.

A few characters are sketchy. Adding physical characteristics would help a little bit of context and relatability.

Chapter length does not seen uniform, which is a little jarring. Some chapters are very short, just a few paragraphs and they seem hurriedly done just to give information to the reader. The formatting needs to be looked into. Some chapters don’t even start from a different page. The chapter names too seem a little random. There are days 1-4 and then we move on to day 8.

Some scenes would flow better if there is more of description and ‘showing’ the reader rather than ‘telling’.

Also, giving meanings of words, like jhalmuri, tonga in brackets affects the flow of the story. It would help if they are put as footnotes.

About the Author

An ex-banker and a self- confessed bibliophile, Sonia inherited her love of the written word from her Professor father. As a tribute to her late mother and a gift to her son on his second birthday, Sonia started blogging from September 2017. Married to a Doctor, Sonia is crazy about four things in life – books, food, travel and her uber-cute toddler. She currently works hard to realize her dream of becoming a best-selling author while secretly wishing harder for twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Her work can be found at soniasmusings.com. She blogs about food, travel, movies, parenting, personal journeys and social issues.

Verdict

A fast paced detective story with an endearing MC and an intriguing setting. This debut book hits the right notes in the crime fiction.

Download the book here.