soniaraowrites

about writing and other such passionate matters

How To Write A Novel in 30 Days – 3

Like I promised last week, here I am with some light to throw on PHYSICAL CREATIVITIES.

Ask hundred people the definition of creativity, almost eighty would say it is about “thinking out of the box”.

All this while one would have thought that this box referred to must be some hypothetical box, which one had to jump out of if one had a wish to be creative.

But what would happen if you were actually put inside a life-sized box? A sealed box. Bet you’d try all the creativity at your disposal to get out of that box. Besides of course, hammering on the sides with your fists, hoping SOMEBODY would hear you.

Jokes aside, according to research done, those outside the physical box scored more points on creativity, than those inside it.

Here are some ways in which physical actions can jog your creativity into higher gear:

  • Write standing up:
    Ernest Hemingway did it. So did Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf. Have you tried it?
  • Write with your non-dominant hand:
    The discomfort and unusualness of using the non-dominant hand opens up untraveled pathways in the brain, giving you a piece of writing that might either be utterly worthless or a super-precious gem. At least it allows you to bypass your oft-used clichéd words, phrases and ideas.
  • Lie down under the stars:
    On a dark, starry night, go to a quiet, open space (preferably a garden) and even if you don’t lie down, atleast throw back your head and savour the unending vastness of the black night interspersed with the sparkling stars. You’ll forget all your worries and stress when you realize how microscopial they are in the face of the gorgeous beauty of the Universe. This letting go ( of control/worry/fear) is what will allow your creativity to manifest – not just in writing, but in every aspect of life.

  • Go for a walk, but CARRY a voice recorder:
    No, not that sort of a walk where you burn 300 calories per mile (or whatever the exact figures are). More like an amble. An aimless walk, gentle steps, your mind travelling all over the world, especially into the world of the stories you’ve written or even plan to write. Stopping to stare at a particularly intriguing flower, or a bush that sprouts fragrant flowers only at dusk. All the while, talking into the recorder. Allowing the words to come to you instead of trying to drag them towards you. Talk without judgment. You will soon know which words you must keep and which you can delete.

Which is your favourite creativity-inducing physical activity?

Read How To Write A Novel In 30 Days – 1 and 2

HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN 30 DAYS – 2

There are two types of people in this world:

  • Those who like a well-ordered, disciplined life and
  • Those who always crave excitement and a routine life bores them almost to death.

We will talk about the second group because the first group has everything planned out and doesn’t really need any further inputs. Mostly.

So the people who crave excitement try to find it in dangerous sporting activities such as bungee jumping, river rafting or even sky diving. The more adventurous ones even take it up as a profession. Such as bullfighting.

And if you are an Avenger or a Superpower-person, you get your thrills in kicking the a** of those mammoth antagonists that more often than advance towards you from the horizon, stomping over buildings and buses and scattering  laypersons like ants whose piece of candy has been snatched away.

Those who cannot physically access these activities try to find excitement in activities like substance abuse and other type of addictions.

These are the Excitement-Junkies (EJ).

These activities can be life-threatening (except if you are an Avenger or Super-power person) and most of us don’t want to lose our lives in pursuit of excitement. What options do most EJs have, then?

Here is where NaNoWriMo comes in.

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Photo Credit: NaNoWriMo

If you are a creative person and ever felt the call to write a novel (which is also why you are reading this article), the ‘Deadline’ is the device that will bring to you all the excitement of a battle without endangering your life.

30 days of writing, a minimum word count, not doing your daily minimum, the word-backlog piling on, the approaching deadline and the thrill of validating your novel a few minutes before 11:59pm on 30th November. Slaying a dragon couldn’t give you this kind of a high. EJs of the world, rejoice.

Conversely, writing to a deadline is also ‘being in a Zen state’ or ‘being in the moment.’

Okay, let us try an experiment.

Open a New Word doc. Or a blank page in your notebook.

Now write 500 words of a story using these words:

crash, crumpled paper, straw, gravel, ochre.

There is no time limit. Begin now.

Finished? Not yet? Why?

Okay, let that go.

Open another New doc or blank page, as the case may be.

Set the timer on your phone for 15 minutes. Ready?

Now, using these words: social worker, mop, hotel room, beeper, write a story of 500 words within 15 minutes, beginning NOW.

With a deadline looming ahead, your inner editor does not get an opportunity to barge in with its deprecating words. And with limited time at your disposal to finish the story your mind gets totally involved in the task, relegating all extraneous thoughts to the back- burner. Isn’t that what meditation is all about. And really, if after a gap of time, say a few days or months, you read what you have written, you’d be quite pleasantly surprised. “Have I written this?” is one of the most common expressions that describe what you feel.

But if words like meditation confuse or scare you, then consider deadline being the weapon that can wipeout the curse of “one day.” According to Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, the world is full of “one day novelists” – those people who proclaim to the world that ‘one day, they will write a novel.’

That day is the 1st of November. Get ready for it.

P.S. The prompts given above are from http://www.creativewritingprompts.com/ It is a very good idea to write to prompts (within a time deadline). This exercises both both your physical and mental creativities. Try it.

More about physical creativities next week.

Hopefully, you have signed up at NaNoWriMo already. If you are on Facebook, check out the Wrimo India Page too.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please feel free to share this post (Go on, share it) but only with relevant attribution and with a link to this blog. Failure to do so will invite the evil eyes and you know how tough it is to get rid of those!!!

 

HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN 30 DAYS – 1

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

If you google either NaNoWriMo or ‘How to write a novel in 30 days,’ you’ll get thousands of links, most of them helpful and many of them repetitions.

As a five-time ML (aka Volunteer and Motivational Leader) and seven-time winner of NaNoWriMo, I have observed and studied and experienced and come up with a list of things one can do to be able to write a novel this November. In the next few weeks, I shall share them with you so, come November you are fully equipped and excited to write your novel.

These tips would work for both first-time wrimos* as well as veteran wrimos. My sincere advice to first timers is: Just write that novel without getting bogged down with the technicalities. Write like how Rumi asks a lover to dance. Write as if no-one is watching (and really, that is the only way to write).

So, onto the tips for today:

  • READ a lot
    Self-explanatory. Read in the genre that you love. Romance, literary, thrillers, paranormal, horror, fantasy, YA, sci-fi and/or a combination of these.

But also read a lot of non-fiction. Especially in subjects you are passionate about. My list includes (in no particular order): creativity, love, cooking (reading about it), spirituality, nutrition and marriage.

What subjects does your list include?

  • LISTEN to people

Go out often, to crowded places (no dearth of them in our beloved country, no?). Eavesdrop on conversations, jot down interesting ones. Go to the garden, to the café, to the railway station, the airport, a deserted lane late in the evening and stand under the boughs of the bougainvillea, and write. Allow yourself to feel, allow yourself to write whatever wants to be written, don’t judge.

Heard something interesting lately? An interesting dialect/dialogue/turn of phrase?

  • ALWAYS carry a small notebook

And make it a point to write something in it, everyday. Make it a habit. And the more you write, the more interesting will your writing become. Will you ever use what you are writing? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. But the quality of your writing will improve, that is a given.

Until next week, then.

And don’t forget to sign up at nanowrimo[dot]org if you haven’t already. Camp NaNoWriMo begins in July. Time to write that novel you always wanted to, right?

False Ceilings by Amit Sharma – A Review

Hello friends *waves*

I know I’ve been terribly incommunicado in the last few months. But things are all set to change (you must have noticed one post a day happening since the last two days, hehehe) and a lot of nice, new stuff to read is going to be available in this space.

Stay with me, my dear readers. I begin with a new section that I have so far stayed away from till now. Yes, I’m talking of book reviews. I plan to post one book review a week (though you might see more than one in this week – the backlog is higher than my own height). You will be able to find them if you click on the Book Review category in the cloud on the right side of this page.

I begin with the review I did of False Ceilings, an interesting novel by Amit Sharma:

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In the ‘70s, false ceilings were all the rage for living rooms, bedrooms and even bathrooms. They were especially popular with the film fraternity and filthy-rich industrialists. Intricately carved designs on the moldings and vivid combinations of colours made for an attractive façade but behind all that lurked a certain rot. Broken and smashed in by Income tax officers, the false ceilings laid bare the putrefaction they shielded, the decadence of black money in the form of currency notes, stuffed behind them.

This duplexity of splendour and squalor finds evocative portrayal in the cover of Amit Sharma’s debut novel, “False Ceilings” even as the READ THE REST OF THE REVIEW HERE.

 

ROYAL ROMANCE, BOOK 1: THE PRINCE’S SPECIAL BRIDE – SNEAK PEEK

Cover Reveal
 
ROYAL ROMANCE, BOOK 1: 
THE PRINCE’S SPECIAL BRIDE
by
DEVIKA FERNANDO
 
Sneak Peek
 

Marie doesn’t believe in fairytales and needs no handsome prince to rescue her from misery – but everything changes when she falls in love with Crown Prince Christian of Taragonia. When his sister invites Marie to the palace, their lives collide and leave them both fighting their forbidden attraction.



Prince Christian has no place in his life for love or for a woman who doesn’t fit into the royal scheme of things. But vivacious Marie steals his heart and puts all he has lived for at stake. When the media gets wind of their affair, he has to make a difficult decision. 



Will the unlikely couple have a chance at a happy ending?

About the Author
Almost as soon as Devika Fernando could write, she imagined stories and poems. After finishing her education in Germany and returning to her roots in Sri Lanka, she got a chance to turn her passion into her profession. Having lived in Germany and in Sri Lanka with her husband has made her experience the best (and the worst) of two totally different worlds – something that influences her writing. Her trademark are sweet, yet deeply emotional romance stories where the characters actually fall in love instead of merely falling in lust. She draws inspiration from everyone and everything in life. Besides being a romance novel author, she works as a self-employed German web content writer, as a translator, and as a faithful servant to all the cats, dogs, fish and birds in her home. What she loves most about being an author is the chance to create new worlds and send her protagonists on a journey full of ups and downs that will leave them changed. When she’s not writing, she’s reading or thinking about writing.

You can follow the author here:

Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads



Excerpt from the book

 
Marie blinked some more, her feet automatically carrying her close. “What…what are you doing here?” Belatedly, she curtsied and added a weak “Your Highness”, remembering that they were not alone. 



His smile widened. For a moment, he seemed to be drinking her in, his gaze roving appreciatively over her body clad turquoise capris and a white polo shirt. She felt his gaze like a physical caress, driving her out of her mind, increasing the heat.


 

 

“This is my family’s property. Surely I have a right to be here,” he joked mildly. For a moment, it looked like he wanted to touch her, but his hand fell back down to his side, clenching into a fist once.
“Yes,” she replied, still dazed. “But you’re a crown prince, not a winemaker.”
He laughed, and the sound traveled straight to her heart. “That is correct, but I do know a thing or two about wine. My duties encompass everything concerned with my kingdom.”
She nodded. Of course. And wasn’t that what made him the perfect regent? His interest in anything and everything, his willingness to learn and his readiness to get his hands dirty?
He ushered her into the building, her entourage trailing behind and exchanging looks.
“I came here this morning with the dignitaries from England and Germany to give them a private tour.” Christian raked his hands through his hair, as if the time spent with them hadn’t exactly been fun. “My sister told me you’d end up here sooner or later, otherwise I’d have traveled through the region, visiting some other vineyards and villages.”
Marie swallowed. So he’d stayed behind because of her. She felt thrilled and anxious at the same time. As keen as she was on every minute spent with him, this would lead nowhere and should not even get a chance to bloom. Why nurture something that was doomed to be cut off at the stem before it could blossom?

Are you ready?????
 
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This Tour is Hosted by 

We Promote So That You Can Write 

 

 

DIG THE WELL BEFORE YOU’RE THIRSTY – Making your money work hard and smart

Some years ago, a well-known, award-winning screenplay writer visited our writers’ group for a tête-à-tête on writing. At the end of it, I asked him if it was possible to make a living through writing. He just shook his head-full shock of white hair and said, “I also work in advertising.”

In recent times, best-selling author, Ravi Subramanian, continues in his banking career even while producing best-selling novels year after year.

Lately, there has been a spate of articles about the husband’s hefty salary making the wife’s writerly life possible and even easier.

THE ONLY CONSTANT IN LIFE IS CHANGE

If one has a well-paying job or a flourishing business, it is only a matter of harnessing whatever time one has and utilizing it for attaining the writerly dream. But what if you fantasize about throwing up your job (that sucks out your soul, daily) so that you can devote your time and energy to bringing to life all those stories gestating within you? Also, down-sizing and salary reductions are more the norm than the exception these days.

DIG YOUR WELL BEFORE YOU’RE THIRSTY

Wealth generation becomes important in such a scenario. Passive income, the money that comes in from investments, is the key to the freedom of time.

But there can be leaks in the well that could harm the return on your investments.

If you’re a High Net-worth Individual or a Financial Institution, you might not need to worry about it as your hordes of legal counsels would do it for you.

THREE MISTAKES RETAIL INVESTORS MAKE:

  • paying too much and often unknowingly for their investments in the form of commissions
  • not diversifying the investment optimally and
  • a portfolio that does not support their risk preferences/goals.

Smart investing advice, then becomes the decider between creating wealth or just making money, from one’s investments.

Yes, yes, I know. We are writers and all that financial jargon can make some of us go all glaze-eyed.

I was lucky, a few years ago, to meet a financial advisor who suggested some amazing  mutual funds to invest in which gave me good returns  but sadly he left the company he was working for and joined another  industry. I could have made the same investing decisions if I had studied the mutual funds and their performance, etc. But then, I’d rather be doing what I do best and love most: yes, writing.

TRUST-WORTHY INVESTMENT ADVICE

I’d leave these decisions to trust-worthy professionals:

ORO Wealth is an online investment platform which is pioneering a new, honest approach to wealth management for retail investors.

ORO Wealth

ORO Wealth aims to provide an enhanced investing experience to retail investors.

According to ORO Wealth, most people invest in the Regular Plans of Mutual Funds. These regular plans have inbuilt expenses in the form of commissions for distributors and in the long run, they provide lower returns to the investor (the leaks in the well I mentioned above).  Buying Direct Plans of the same funds give you greater returns and this is what HNIs and financial institutions do.

But so far, retail investors have not been able to take advantage of Direct Plans for two reasons:

  •  Lack of information
  • Hassles in buying Direct Plans as compared to Regular Plans

ORO Wealth comes into the picture, here:

  • They are India’s first platform for transacting in Direct Plans of mutual funds from multiple AMCs in one place.
  • They are investor-friendly portfolio tracking etc.
  • They provide investors access to valuable data on Direct plans and on commissions in different Regular plans through the user-friendly ORO fund screener (https://orowealth.com/#/screener)

Investors can enjoy these services by paying a small convenience fee (Rs. 50 for transactions below Rs. 1 lakh and 0.1% (one time) of the transaction amount for transactions above Rs. 1 lakh).

ORO WEALTH PREMIUM ACCOUNT

Like how an editor/writing coach can make your writing shine if you are a writer with advanced skills, in the same way, retail investors with a portfolio greater than 1 lakh can avail of ORO’s Premium Account. This account is a handholding of sorts, with specialized advice on making your portfolio provide you greater returns commensurate with your goals and risk-preferences (find out more about the Premium Account by signing up here)

Go on, check out ORO Wealth: ” Invest with ORO and experience the difference that truly low-cost investing and good, unbiased advice can make to returns.”

The only thing that can happen is that you become wealthier, with more time to write.

 

 

HOW BOLLYWOOD, POLITICS AND CRICKET CAN HELP YOU WRITE A BETTER NOVEL THIS NOVEMBER

As 1st November comes upon us in a few hours from now, the excitement escalates. Whether it is the first attempt at NaNoWriMo, or the 7th (as in my case), the enthusiasm and a little something happening in the lower back and somewhere near the heart region (some say these are the signs of hyperventilation – same as what happened to Bella everytime she saw Edward Cullen) is present each and everytime.

As the ML (Municipal Liaison, aka Main Cheerleader and Motivator) for India, my greatest joy comes from motivating wrimos to fulfill their authorial goals. I, then, feel like a godparent to those novels which were born or brought up in NaNoWriMo.

NaNo-2015-ML-Badge-Large-Square

Many blogposts have already been written about how to tackle NaNoWriMo (do check out the Wrimo India – NaNoWriMo Category on the right of this page).

Today I’m sharing with you a post which I wrote last year for the NaNoWriMo blog. Sharing it once again because the elements of  a novel haven’t really changed, even if the style of doing it might have, in a case or two.

Happy Writing and Reading, then 🙂

NaNoWriMo is an international event, and the stories being written every year reflect our hundreds of participating regions. We’re taking a Road Trip to NaNo to hear from our amazing volunteers and writers all around the world. Today, Sonia, our Municipal Liaison in the India region shares how to unite the diversity of description, plot, and motivation to write a great novel in November:

India is a land of diversities: physical features that range from the Himalayas to the oceans, weather that traverses the extremities; and cultural differences that encompass dress, food and language. These dissimilarities aside, there are three topics that make most Indians’ hearts beat faster: Bollywood, politics and cricket.

Bollywood, or How to Fill Your Novel with Song and Dance

Bollywood, as the Hindi film industry is known, is located in the city of Mumbai which is the financial capital of India. It is also the capital of beauty and emotions, which form the base of Bollywood. Hordes of starry-eyed youngsters throng the film studios with the hope of making their debuts in films whose earnings are inching closer and closer to what the Indian Mission to Mars cost. Emotions rule us Indians, and Bollywood turns those emotions into things we sing and dance about, no matter the genre.

Your NaNoWriMo novel, too, needs … Read more here.

BOOKMARK THE WORLD with TATA LITERATURE LIVE! – Mumbai’s favemost litfest

Because the Constitution of India confers on its citizens the Freedom of Speech and Expression does it mean that:

  • You can abuse anyone whose opinions are different from yours?
  • Ask for books/plays/movies/other events to be banned just because you consider the content to be objectionable?
  • The media can sensationalize certain news items to grab eyeballs while downplaying the others?

And so it was that on the 20th of this month, bestselling author Ravi Subramanian, cultural curator Deepa Gahlot and Literature Live! founder Anil Dharker interacted with a bunch of bloggers on “Is Freedom of Speech Threatening Democracy Itself” in which the above questions and more were dissected and discussed.

This event, held on a sultry evening, at Café Zoe, was a run-up to THE SIXTH EDITION of TATA Literature Live! Mumbai’s fave literary fest.

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Ravi Subramanian was for complete personal freedom, be it religious or sexual and for strong punishment to be meted out to the key perps involved in curbing others’ freedoms. Deepa Gahlot gave the example of “Agnes of God,” a play that had to be held under police protection because a person objected to its content.

Many bloggers too shared their opinions and experiences. The interactions were exciting and thought-provoking and after a thorough discussion on trolling, the session came to a close with Mr. Anil Dharker pronouncing that too much freedom is as difficult to tackle as too little freedom.

Ravi Subramanian signs books for his fans.

Ravi Subramanian signs books for his fans.

After the talk: Nidhi and I pose on either side of Ravi Subramanian

After the talk:
Fans pose with Ravi Subramanian

But for lovers of literature there can never be such a thing as too many books or too much talk about books.

From 29th October to 1st November, Mumbaikars will be treated to a plethora of cultural offerings. 120 celebrated writers and thinkers from 14 countries across the world will converge on NCPA, Nariman Point and Prithvi Theatre, Juhu with panel discussions and book readings and conversations and debates and book launches, and performances and workshops which make Lit Live a truly international event.

Some not to be missed events:

DISCUSSIONS AND DEBATES:
Can we please agree to disagree?

If the discussion on freedom of expression interests you, catch this debate happening at Lit Live on the 29th of October:

Topic : Freedom of Expression Is In Imminent Danger
For the Motion: Shobhaa De and Sudheendra Kulkarni. Against the Motion: Nalin Kohli and Anupam Kher. Chair: Nik Gowing Sponsored by: Kalpvriksha

But how important are writers to a society? Can books change the world? If you ever pondered these questions then join Germaine Greer and Vikram Seth in the opening ceremony, as they too ponder and discuss these weighty matters.

And how important is it for your voice to be heard?

Topic: No time for silence
Highlights: Why writers feel the need to speak up
Nayantara Sahgal, TM Krishna Chair: Anuradha Sengupta

In this age of ‘Sansani Khez Khabrein’ how much of what we read in the media is true and how much is fabricated?

Topic: The Genuine Article
Highlights: Uncovering the truth in an ocean of headlines
Avirook Sen, Lorraine Adams, Rajdeep Sardesai Chair: Sidharth Bhatia

A writer is foremost a documenter of the time she lives in and love is the most documented emotion. Engage in this discussion about the depiction of love:

Topic: From Chughtai to Chick Lit
Highlights: The depiction of love through the ages
Anuja Chauhan, Poonam Saxena, Sandip Ro Chair: Paromita Vohra

Check out other interesting discussions too: about the position of women in Indian society, whether fiction is the best way to tell the truth, what makes one authentically an Indian.

PERFORMANCES:
Making a song and dance of stories

Check out: Comedy of Horrors
An interval-free hour of hair-raising stories of Ambrose Bierce and Edgar Allan Poe.

And: The River Runs Deep: Rhythm Divine II (Manipur, India)
Astad Deboo’s delicate and lyrical reimagination of Saratchand Thiyam’s poetry.

And, even this: Schlock, (UK)
Performance poet Hannah Silva rips up Fifty Shades of Grey, followed by short talk-back. 

A not-to-miss, especially for poetry lovers: Blank Page (India)
A celebration of contemporary Indian poetry through theatre, music & movement directed by Sunil Shanbag

And this: When it Rains (Canada)
A blackly funny social satire told in the form of a live-action existential graphic novel

And many, many more (Do check the link to the schedule, given below).

WORKSHOPS
Learning is so much fun

A confession: I am a glutton for learning. Last year, the workshops at Lit Live conducted by international writers and performance artists provided some absolutely crazy learning.

This year, too, the lineup of workshops is as amazing.

Robert Sullivan will help us cross the threshold of a poem.

Lorraine Adams will take you through the different aspects of war that a writer might want to write about, even if he has never been in a war-like situation.

Jon Turney will introduce us to the difference between science writing and non-fiction writing.

S J Laidlaw will demonstrate how to create a compelling YA Narrative.

Exciting workshops for children include a Harry Potter Workshop by Arunima Roy while in an interactive workshop for children Karishma Attari will help to harness the imagination and urgency with which they tell stories and introduces them in a formal way to the elements of storytelling, respectively.

To register for the workshops, call on 9769145101 or send an email at workshops@litlive.in

AWARDS, AWARDS, AWARDS
Yes, Seven of them

One of the most significant writers of postcolonial India, Kiran Nagarkar’s invaluable contribution to writing ranges from a riveting trilogy to landmark works in Marathi literature. The Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award 2015 will be presented to Kiran Nagarkar at a glittering ceremony on the 1st of November.

“Kiran Nagarkar said, “I have spent half my adult life doing what I enjoy: writing. But it can just as often drive me round the bend. Laughter is the most serious weapon I have. But I would also hope that I can provoke my readers to question received wisdom and reject the dogmas that fuel violence and deadly intolerance. The Lifetime Achievement Award from Tata Literature Live! means a lot to me. It’s also a big responsibility.”

Besides this, there are six other awards which will be presented at the LitFest: Tata Literature Live! First Book Award for Fiction and Non-Fiction, Tata Literature Live! Book of the Year Award for Fiction and Non-Fiction, Tata Literature Live! Business Book Award and Tata Literature Live! Poet Laureate Award.

So, what are you waiting for? Get ready to dig into this exciting annual feast for the mind and the soul, from Thursday 29th October to Sunday, 1st November, at the NCPA and Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai.

The Schedule: http://tatalitlive.in/schedule/
The Participants: http://tatalitlive.in/participants/
TATA Literature Live! On Facebook, Twitter and Youtube

HERE’S A BLAST FROM THE PAST: SOME GLIMPSES OF TATA Literature Live! 2014

(Acknowledgements:
1) To WritersMelon for a wonderful evening of tasty food, both for the body and soul, and with return gifts too.
2) To Ravi Subramanian for the personally signed copy of ‘The Bestseller, She Wrote.”
3) TATA Literature Live! for the pics used in this post).

The First Life of Vikram Roy The Ruby Iyer Series—by Laxmi Hariharan: An exclusive excerpt

I FREEZE, AND so does the man in front of me. Awareness comes into the Hulk aka Neil’s eyes the same time as mine. The silence around us is eerie … and deafening at the same time. The TV from the recreational room spews forth the endless, high pitched monotone of the news reader. It’s the only sound we can hear, other than the cawing of the ever-present crows outside. Then another shot has both of us dropping to the ground.

Neil crawls across to me, and mirroring my posture sits with his back to the wall. In a few seconds we’ve gone from adversaries to comrades in arms. I am realising there’s more to being part of the force than meets the eye. Perhaps being united for a common cause, for the larger good, really does give you a feel-good high. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with your team-mates, it makes you feel as if the power of your self is amplified many times.

“What can it be?” He whispers.

I shake my head and put a finger to my lips. Around me the other recruits have dropped to the floor, all in various stages of undress, but with eyes wary, most hugging the wall or the floor.

I hear the staccato of shots being fired, followed by yells and howls of pain. Then, the sound of something being smashed and everything goes quiet. The TV no longer chatters. I look to the open door. The recreation room is down at the end of the corridor. The sounds of shots get closer. Without giving myself a chance to think I make a run for the door slam it shut, lock it and it’s as if that’s a signal to the rest of the men to jump to their feet. Without a word, the ten of us scram to our bunks, pull on trousers and shoes.We get our hands on whatever weapon we can find. No guns, none of us have guns. So I grab my cricket bat. (As if that’s going to make a difference?)

Around me the others too are grabbing cricket bats and hockey sticks. Neil grabs an iron rod. An iron rod? Where did he get that from?  We drop to the floor, crouch and wait.

Should I hide under the bed? Nope, no way. Like, that is going to help.

And then a crash as the door is broken down, hacked by what looks like an axe till it’s in pieces on the floor and through it step through two men. One holding a machine gun, the other wielding an axe which he drops to the floor and instead grabs the the gun slung over his back. They are both wearing balaclavas, so we can’t see their features. Of medium height, they are muscular and dressed all in black: Black jeans and sweatshirts, their hair covered by the hoods. Their backs are to the door. They point their guns at us, signalling to us to put our hands up. I hesitate, not looking around but sense that the others too are not sure what to do. The first gunman points his gun at the nearest recruit … a boy just out of his teens and shoots him in the head.

There is a collective gasp from the room. A chill runs through me. Who are they? How did they break through the security measures of the force base? And then they are foolish enough to barge right into the heart of the training facilities of the force and shoot its cadets? Why? Why would they do that? The gunmen gesture to us and this time we follow their orders. We walk to the wall at the back of the bunkhouse and line up, hands on our heads, staring ahead.

An alarm rings out then. Finally! It’s been almost ten minutes since the shooting started. Still, the reinforcements should be here soon. Now all we need to do is keep these gun men distracted enough so they don’t kill us. As if reading my mind, the guy who’d shot the young recruit moves forward, his gun trained on us. I draw in a breath and hold it. The sweat trickles down my back. My heart is racing so fast I am sure if I look down I can see it leaping out of my chest. The gunman passes me, walks to the end of the line; then back to the middle where I am.

“You have no idea what this is about do you?” He asks.

He sounds young, as if he is barely a man himself. And something in his voice … muffled as it is, it sounds familiar. A faint recollection  grabs the edge of my mind, And then I forget everything because he leans close to Neil who is next to me, and smashes the butt of his gun into his stomach. Neil falls to the ground, moaning, holding his middle. I firm up my stomach muscles. I know I am next, I must be. I want to squeeze my eyes shut, but don’t. The gunman leans to the other side, and shoots another man in the head.

This chap collapses without a cry. What the fuck? I want to jump him right then, but that would be really stupid of me. I am not going to help anyone if I get killed will I? There are six of us left in the room now. One of the younger recruits lets out a sob, at which gunman no 2 holds his gun at him, so he shuts up immediately.

The gunman asks me, “Where are the plans?’

“What are you talking about?” I reply, trying to stay calm, struggling not to show how scared I am inside.

He only grins and in response, and without taking his eyes off me, holds his gun up and I know what what he is going to do and I scream. “No!” But it’s too late. This time he’s shot two more guys in succession. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. These guys are desperate, or crazy or both.

Besides me Neil stirs on the ground.

The gunman takes a deep breathe, as if trying to calm himself and says, “Don’t pretend to be dumb. If you don’t get me the blue prints of the security arrangements being planned by the force for Bombay; the one that you and your team mates are being trained for, then all the rest of you die too.”

Only six of us left now. Four young lives, gone just like that. I feel sick. What the fuck are these guys upto? And … and how do they know about the plans? This is top secret. The only reason I know about it, is because I’ve overheard the training officer speaking with the ACP about it on the phone last week. And only because I happened to be waiting outside his room then. And how does this gunman even know that I know the details?

My head begins to whirl trying to piece this together.

If they want to know about the new security arrangements, then likely they want to intercept it. But if they do that, it will be clear that there is a security breach and all that we’d do is change the arrangements. Unless… unless they plan to kill us all, once they get the information. It’s all the impetus I need. Without waiting a second I hurl myself at the man, using the surprise to slam his gun up, grab it from him and smash the butt in his face. Behind him the other guy raises his gun, but Neil pushes back from the floor like a human catapult and head butts him in the stomach. The man goes down firing shots in the air, one of which bounces off the wall and hits the remaining cadets on the far end. One of the other recruits takes a flying leap towards me trying to help me hold the gunman down. I scream out in fear, in pain, in warning; but already the gun is firing and this cadet too is hit.

I struggle with the gunman and am aware of Neil being hit in the face again and again, by the balaclava clad guy he’s jumped. My phone hidden below my pillow rings out.  It cuts through the sounds of the struggle. Then, suddenly the two gunmen jump up, let us go and we are free. The first gunman nods to my phone. I walk toward it pick it up and my instinct warns me about what is going to happen. No. No. No. It can’t be her. There is a missed call from an unknown number … and a message. Don’t open it, don’t.  I read the message which says,

<Well done. You passed your test. Are you ready for the next??>

What the fuck? I slam my phone on the ground and look up in time to see both gunmen flee. Chest heaving, the sweat pours down my forehead, down my shoulders, over my back; blood thudding in my ears I look to Neil, who is sprawled on the floor. Around me some of the wounded stir. The first boy who was shot moans, then pushes himself up and blinks.

“Wha-what happened?”

I run to him, drop down and rip apart his shirt to see the wound. Air bullets.Fake bullets. They hurt like a bitch but don’t kill. What was this? A hoax?A joke?Her kind of joke?

Behind me Neil’s voice rings out in surprise. “What the fuck was that all about?”

I sit back on my heels. I know who’s behind this. She’s putting me through the paces, that’s clear. Making me a soldier. She’s toughening me up, preparing me. But for what?

It will be many months before the full extent of her plan becomes clear. But only when it’s too late do I get the full picture. Timing. Yes it’s always going to be my problem.

About The First Life of Vikram Roy (Ruby Iyer Series)

The First Life of Vikram Roy

His family is being held to ransom by a deadly mastermind.

Vikram never should have left his family, but when Vikram’s father brings his half-brother Vishal home, life will never be the same.

Vikram thinks things will be better now that he’s gone. He’s met the love of his life, his future looks bright and then everything is shattered.

Now, his family’s life is hanging in the balance, and only Vikram can do what needs to be done to save them.

From the bestselling dystopian fiction author with over 200 reviews and ratings of her dystopia books across Goodreads, Amazon and other retailers.

“A killer ending and the pacing of the story and the build-up is really good. I related to Vikram, really liked it.” Richard Sheehan, Author and editor 

“I raced through the book… And the killer ending! Oh my God! It left me with a hangover, and makes me want to physically push the author to write the next book in the series faster.” Ritesh Kala, Book reviewer & blogger

If you’re looking for books like Hunger Games, then this dystopia romance series, The Ruby Iyer Series is it. 

About the origins of Ruby Iyer:

Ruby1

Growing up in Bombay, my daily commute to university was inevitably nightmarish. It’s just how public transport is here. The man behind you on the bus will brush up against you. You know you are going to be felt up on a crowded train platform. All you can do is accept it and get on. Or so you think. I did too, until, a young photojournalist was raped in the centre of Bombay in broad daylight.  It made me furious. Nothing had changed in this city in all these years. But what could I do about it? Then, I had a vision of this young girl who would not back down; who would follow her instincts, stand up for herself regardless of consequences.  Thus Ruby Iyer was born. Make no mistake, Ruby’s her own person. She leads. I follow. When I first started writing Ruby Iyer’s story, I didn’t think it would build into a series, that she would have a following on wattpad and that many teens would reach out to me on connecting with her. Many wrote in to tell me how much they loved Vikram Roy, Ruby’s super cool, sexy cop. And so I had to write Vik’s story too in The First Life of Vikram Roy. You can download the RUBY IYER DIARIES, the prequel novelette in the series free HERE

 About The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer

Ruby 2

2015 Readers’ Favorite (Bronze) YA Action

 YA Finalist 2015 IAN Book of the Year Award

Finalist 9th Annual Indie Excellence Awards

When her best friend is kidnapped, Ruby will stop at nothing to rescue him. 

Criminals run the streets of Bombay. Jam-packed with the worst degenerates. The city is a shell of the pride and joy it used to be.

Ruby knows something must be done, but it isn’t until her best friend is kidnapped by the despotic Dr Braganza that she knows that she and she alone must save city, save her best friend, save the world from total destruction. Armed only with Vikram, a cop-turned-rogue they are about to embark on a road they may never return from.

If you’re looking for fast-paced books like Hunger Games or dystopia fiction like Angelfall, the Ruby Iyer series is perfect for you.

From the bestselling dystopian fiction author with over 200 reviews and ratings of her dystopia books across Goodreads, Amazon and other retailers. If you love books like Divergent, this is for you.

“Laxmi is a storyteller who knows how to build worlds populated with endearingly down to earth bravehearts.” – Inma Martinez, world leading digital media strategist. 

“…A dystopian young adult novel that presents so much more than a singular, easy path.” – D. Donovan, (Midwest Book Reviews)

 GIVEAWAY

The First Life of Vikram Roy, The THIRD book in the RUBY IYER Series, launches this month. To celebrate the launch of the FIRST LIFE OF VIKRAM ROY I am giving away a $30 gift card/ paypal cash. Enter HERE. Winner will be drawn, Oct 1, 2015, and announced in my next newsletter.
DOING MY BIT
I have often wanted to set up a channel to donate a portion of the lifelong earnings from the RUBY IYER series to the cause of the girl child in India. The fate of the Syrian child refugees have spurred me on to do something, NOW. So, all SEPTEMBER earnings from the RUBY IYER SERIES will be donated to SAVE THE CHILDREN: SUPPORT CHILD REFUGEES OF SYRIA. All the RUBY IYER books with their brand new covers, are on SALE all this month at 99p/c &Rs 69/49. Click HERE to buy them.

YOU can also donate to SAVE THE CHILDREN directly HERE 

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Romancing The City

For someone who could get lost inside even a tiny, cramped office typical of Mumbai and need directions to the exit, it was foolhardy to venture alone towards the Metro Station after a memorable meet-up with friends.

But adventure beckoned and the road thronged with Sunday revelers added to the thrill of walking alone on a beautiful Delhi road. Till I realized that I was lost. A wrong turn, perhaps? Not a problem, I thought, taking out my phone to call the friend whom I was staying with, to ask for directions.

My Blackberry was dead. Completely discharged. It had been acting like a diva ever since I landed in Delhi. Dropped calls. Texts that could not be replied to because Madam BB decided to get ‘hanged’ at that particular moment and rendering futile all efforts at re-booting. I shook the phone, willing it to start. Nada. Suddenly, the revelers began to look loutish and the road looked like the path to hell.

Where the hell was the Metro Station? It did not seem such a great idea to ask the people around for directions. In front of me loomed a large maidan which I was sure I had never seen before in my three or four trips to this side of Connaught Place.

I did not remember my friend’s phone number. I was supposed to call her from Saket station and she’d come pick me up. I did not know the way to her house.

I was stranded.

I wanted to cry.

It would be smarter to think of options rather than cry, I decided. Nothing came to mind, though. The landscape seemed like a vast blanket that seemed to come closer and closer as if to smother me. I took a deep breath. I am not sure I prayed but at that moment, I spied a portly Sikh gentleman, who, dressed in shorts and t-shirt, seemed to be out on his evening walk (which now I recollect, is quite strange because CP didn’t seem to be a residential area). With his salt-and-pepper bearded face and the saropa* tied around his head, he appeared to be a god-send.

Even then, not wanting to take a risk, I approached the gentleman casually, and summoning forth my most authentic Punjabi dialect, asked him directions to the Rajiv Chowk Metro station. He pointed to my left. I turned my head and hardly a few metres away, was the entrance to the station.

All the while I had been searching for the station on my right. Panic had made me blind to what was in front of me.

The station was crowded. I stood in the queue for the Yellow Line. At Saket, I’d search for a plug point, perhaps at one of the stores near the station, so I could charge my phone and retrieve my friend’s number.

As the train halted, I entered the compartment and right across, on the other side I saw PLUG POINTS. Two of them. I love you, Delhi Metro. I love you, Delhi.

Yes, I called my friend from the train and she was at the station by the time I reached.

Yes, this is a love story. The story of falling in love with a city.

(When I published an excerpt I’d written at a travel workshop, every reader wanted to know what happened next. They insisted I tell them how the story ended. For a long time, I desisted. But when Author Kiran Manral announced the All Aboard Contest, I decided it was time to come clean about my romance, about how I romanced the city, with all the thrills and the chills of a true love story – which perhaps might not be recognizable as one.

So here it is, above, in its entirety).

*Saropa: A gift of honour presented by the Sikh community. Usually a length of cloth, usually saffron in colour, for tying a turban or draped over the shoulders.

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