Book review – The Zoya Factor

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There are many good books out there but often we don’t know which book to buy or to read. So, over the next few months, I will be reviewing different books from Indian and International authors. I will rate them based on story line, language and author.

The first book on the list is Zoya Factor.

Zoya Factor was released in 2008 and is one of the first Indian books with the print run of 20,000. It is written by Anuja Chauhan, one of my favorite Indian fiction authors. I found this book when I was looking for something light to read.

Zoya Factor revolves around the glamour of celebrities like Shahrukh Khan, the pulse of our nation – Indian cricket team, the hardships of advertising agencies and Zoya, an average girl hailing from Delhi Karol Bagh.

The author impressively uses a combination of English and Hinglish to weave a Cinderella love story in Karol Bagh Delhi. She ingeniously combines the sweetness of love with the harshness of advertising, politics, superstition and cricket. She effortlessly embroils you in the painfully drama of match fixing which nearly ruined our love of cricket and the reputation of our country. It is an emotional rollercoaster of cricket, politics and love. The only drawback was the repetition when meeting the Indian cricket team, which made the storyline a bit obvious at times.

All in all, it is a good read with a great ending. It’s a solid 8 out of 10. I definitely recommend reading the book.

P.S. I was so impressed with Anuja’s style of writing that I borrowed her concept of giving my novel DARK WHITE a local essence with typical young Bhopali to connect to the readers and add a local flavor.

Thanks Anuja! I hope we meet one day so I can talk to you and memorialize the occasion with your Autograph on my copy of ‘Zoya Factor’.

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Season of love

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February is the season of expression, the season of togetherness and the season of romance. In February, we pay tribute to the ones we love as we celebrate St. Valentine’s day.

Valentine’s day is not a traditional Indian festival. It was introduced to the country during the 80s and 90s. It’s introduction was met with two very opposing reactions. The younger generation embraced it with enthusiasm while the older generations disapproved with equal fervour. This chasm was caused due to the hyped up commercial interpretation – a day for lovers. So, celebrating it brought disapproval. I still remember how my parent’s used to react – raised eyebrows and frowns.

Thankfully, over the decades the true meaning of the day has been revealed. Valentine’s day is not only a day to express your love to your spouse or a special friend of the opposing gender. It is a day to express your love and appreciation to all those you love. I am not sure precisely when the older generations began to accept Valentine’s Day as a day of love. I only became aware that perceptions had changed when my previously disapproving parents wished me Happy Valentine’s day. Either way, I am happy this change occurred. What is more delightful and fun is watching senior couples participating in spirit of the day.

India as a whole is changing and growing due exposure to different cultures. We have begun celebrating international festivals like Halloween while they celebrate Indian festivals like Holi. This respect of other cultures will hopefully breakdown barriers and bring about a more peaceful future.

May St.Valentine shower love on each one of you. Have a love filled life.

Happy Valentines Day

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How to market your book

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In the past few weeks, we have been discussing the process of becoming an author. We have touched upon the steps involved in writing a book from concept to editing. We have talked about the process of publication from sending excerpts to a publishing house to the fine lines of signing a contract. This week will discuss the final step of becoming a successful author ‘How to market your book’.

The marketing aspect is typically handled by the Publishing House but you should have some knowledge to ensure your book is marketed successfully. There are 3 basic principles of marketing a book:

1. Target readers: Who is the books’ audience? Each genre, each book has a different audience. Know to whom your book will appeal. Knowing your target reader profile – gender, age group, profession and interest level. This will make marketing the book easier.

2. Target market: Ask where is the target market? It is important to know where your book will be marketed and distributed – metro, a particular geographical location or online. This will give you an idea of where you can self promote your book to build a brand and increase book sales.

3. How marketable is the book in terms of content and interactive level. This knowledge will give you an idea of which mediums you can use to self promote your book.

On the basis of the above points devise a marketing strategy for your Book. This strategy covers all the following platforms:

1. Your presence online
2. Your presence in the market
3. Your presence using other print mediums
4. At ground level events
5. Strategy on the next book

This work begins the day you sign the contract with your publisher. While they edit take the opportunity to start your work as an Author-Marketer.

Develop a presence online
Use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to help you connect with the world, your audience. Also, create a website to promote yourself and your future books. You can also blog posts to develop an online audience. This will give you a large and ready audience to share your creativity.

Develop a market presence
Once the book is in the market, arrange for meets-greets with store managers to understand how to reach your readers.

Develop a presence using print mediums
Use the print medium to build a presence for yourself and your book. By building a print presence you can connect to people, your target audience in your target market.

Develop a presence using ground level events
Be ready to shed your shy personality as readers want to know you and understand your thoughts. Interactive sessions about the book, about topics other than books are extremely important as they help connect author to audience.

Strategy for the next book
Once an Author, always an Author. Once the first book is complete you should be thinking about the next book. For example, Dark White my first book has been published and marketed for a year now. Soon you will see my next creative efforts.

How to publish a book

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Becoming a published author is a dream many strive for but not everyone achieves.
In the past month, I have written about the different steps involved in crafting a spellbinding book.
Today, I will introduce you to the next step to becoming a published author ‘Publishing’.

Once the last word is written and edited, you cannot just sit at home and wait for a publisher to approach you. You need to start approaching publishing houses to get your book published.
The first step to publishing your book is research. You need to gain a good understanding of these three areas – good publication houses, the genre they focus on and how to approach them will increase your chances of getting published.
Good Publishing Houses
Go online and find the names of Publishing Houses. List them out, I created an excel sheet to make comparing them easier. This will help you decide to which Publishing Houses to send your book.
Also, find out the strength of their distribution network. A Publishing House with a strong network will ensure a wider audience which can bring more sales. This research will also help you understand how book stores work from where your book will be displayed to how it will be promoted.
Genre’s and Publishing Houses
Find out which authors reside under the Publishing House brand.You can learn author names from the company’s website or by spending time at book stores. This will give you a fair idea of which genres the house usually publishes.
Approaching a Publishing House
A good time to approach Publishing Houses is after you complete the First Draft. Send your list of shortlisted publishers –
1. Synopsis of the Book
2. First two chapters
3. A short Author introduction
Once you have sent the email, you have to have patience. Publishers take time to revert on your work. This period varies from publication house to publication house. Typically, they take one to six month. Check their website to verify the duration.
If a Publishing House shortlists your book, they contact you to view the entire book. Do not worry, good publishers respect your work as much as you do, the information is kept extremely confidential.
If they like the entire story, they will revert with a positive response and a soft copy of contract with terms and conditions.You can choose to contact or negotiate with other publishers. Or you can get the work started by signing the contract. The ball is now in your court.
So, if the draft of your first book is complete, then what are you waiting for?
Wish you all the Best!

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How to Write a Book

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There is a writer in everyone. If you are a buddy writer, my next three blogs are dedicated to you. I will take you through the process from how to write a book to how to publish the book.

The process of writing a book begins with an idea but this process is often clouded by uncertainties – will I be able to write a good book, will people like my book, will I be able to publish the book, etc.

Stop!

Repeat this mantra to give yourself confidence

I want to write a book

I can write a book

I will write and publish a book

Now get started!

When you begin writing, don’t bind yourself to logic or logistics, writing is a creative process.Free think and free write until your book or screen is full and you can’t write anymore.

If after writing a few pages, you get stuck and begin to struggle, don’t panic. Take a break, relax, observe the world around you for new ideas, pamper yourself until thoughts flow freely once more and begin writing again.

This free write forms your first draft. This draft may not be very long, it will not be very good, it will have grammar and structural issues but it will form the concept of your book. So don’t be upset if it does not live up to expectations. Instead, celebrate achieving the first milestone of writing a book.

Now the real work begins.

The second draft is longer process. You have to read through the first draft to understand your vision. It might be upsetting because the initial draft may not live up to your expectations. Don’t be discouraged. The second draft is a fine tuning process. You need to connect the dots, define the plot, build the characters, smoothen the story flow and break down your long free write into smaller, more palette-able chapters.

Once this process is complete, your confidence level will shoot up and fill you with pride.However, you will be plagued by uncertainties in the back of your mind that is still something missing. This is normal. Don’t worry. Relax and celebrate. Take a break before entering the next round of editing.

During this round, you get rid of uncertainties created by the previous round of editing. You will need to spend time bring your characters to life.Transform them into real people with personalities rather than stick figures with names. Use your own life as inspiration. After all, our lives are a story, full of emotion, drama, adventure and suspense. Also, look and fill plot holes that can detail your storyline.

After this you have two to three rounds of editing left before you can send it to a publishing house. During these rounds,  you will have to be more practical. You will have to start thinking and writing with your mind not your heart. You will have to focus on taking your story to the next level based on the following prescribed steps that publishing houses will demand:

Define a plot

Define the genre

Define the characters

Define the flow of the story, including chapters

This editing may be more tedious but it polishes your writing from scribbles on a paper to a book. This stage may not be as enjoyable as the previous rounds but take pride in it as it is a sign of maturing as a first time Author.

Once this editing is complete, comes the hardest part, sharing your book with others. You need to share your book with a few close people to gain feedback.  Listen to opinions. Observe their reactions. Use this information to do a final edit.

Once you are satisfied, shortlist and prepare a synopsis and send it to the chosen Publication Houses.

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Insights of writing a thriller

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All of us love drama; it adds a bit of thrill to dull routines of life.

Thrillers are one of the most popular genres. These books are full of mental games and suspense, which keeps your mind engaged and your imagination charged. You cannot put down a thriller because of the eager anticipation of what comes next.

Writing a thriller is different from reading a thriller. It is not a simple poem nor is it an informative essay. Thrillers are a work of imagination that intrigue the mind and assuage our curiosities.

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Thrillers are of two types – Suspense Thrillers and Experience-based Thrillers. In ‘Suspense Thrillers’, the reader is kept guessing, the suspense is maintained. You travel with the lead character, through the ups and downs to figure out who did it. An ‘Experience based thriller’ is typically subjective. You are more involved in the flow of the story. The story is a journey to be experienced.

When writing ‘DARK WHITE’ the book and the characters consumed me. The suspense and drama affected my state of mind. I was absorbed by the subject and it was as if the story was leading me instead of me leading the story. I often ended up feeling like I wasn’t doing justice to the story or the characters for the drama of the situations far exceeded the basic level of drama we experience in life.

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What I did realize is that when you write, you need to find your own space and let the story flow without worrying about structure or grammar. When you do, you will find yourself surprised by the end result.

So, to all people who write – enjoy the power of writing, because you can create beyond imagination!

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A new year, A new beginning

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A new year has arrived and it brings with it new hope. Hope because it is a chance to fulfill the dreams and tasks that remained unaccomplished as a whole calendar year slipped by.

As I change the calendar on the wall, I do not have any grand plans to drive a brand new car but I resolve to do something new, something fresh that will impact the next twelve months.

The main goal for the new year is to appreciate life. We often forget that time is fleeting and every second and every minute wasted is life.

A new book is also on cards. A new story, new characters and a journey full of laughter.

On my 34th New Year, I wish to thank the almighty for all the happiness he bestowed on me. For all the joy, the laughter and the people he has brought into my life.

Goodbye 2014, you were a wonderful year. I look forward to an eventful year, a year full of new experiences and a year full of joy. I hope to bring happiness in as many lives as possible. After all, in one lifetime I will get to experience 2015 once.

Wish you all a very very happy new year. May all your wishes come true!

God Bless.

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Review of the movie PK

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Movies have always fascinated me. Hindi movies in particular fascinate me because they balance the over drama of South Indian movies with an Indian version of English movie philosophy. This unusual combination successfully captures the attention of the world’s second highest populated country, despite barriers such as language, tradition, caste and geography.

A fine example of Hindi Cinema is PK. I recently watched PK and I was thrilled, the movie more than lived up to the pre-views.

Raj Kumar Hirani interestingly weaves a story of a traveler (Amir Khan) who has to deal with the quirkiness of another culture. Like the colloquial Hindi word PK (peekay), the character often seems simple minded or PK. This simple tale has been turned it into a masterpiece through the narration, the drama and the beautifully portrayed social message. It is a movie worth watching.

I would like to congratulate the whole team on their brilliant creation and performance. Only good team can produce such a brilliant movie.

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Santa Time

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As a child, Christmas used to mean a ten day break from school, a time to welcome in the New Year and an opportunity to prepare for the second terminal exams. It also meant the arrival of a special guest ‘Santa’ who brought us many wonderful gifts.

Times have changed since I was a child. This time of year may not be as enchanting as it was but it is still magical. Santa is no longer that mythical traveler from the North Pole who brings us gifts. It is our near and dear ones who make our lives wonderful during this time of year.

Despite of these changes in perception many of my childhood traditions still continue.

I still spend time with the important people in my live – my parents, my brothers, my sisters and my friends.

I still create a wish list, though the types of gifts I ask for has changed. As a child, I asked for toys, dresses, colorful pencils and sweets. As a teenager, I asked for expensive clothes and accessories and even a two wheeler. As an adult, I ask for good jobs, salary hikes, promotions, cars etc. But most of all, throughout the years, I have asked for happiness and good health for my real life Santa’ my parents, my teachers and my friends.

This Christmas I would like to take the opportunity to thank each and every one in my life. The time that I have spent with you cannot be replaced by any expensive gift in the world. I hope we continue to celebrated life together for many more years.

Stay Happy, Enjoy the celebrations and Good health and happiness for all.

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Words of Inspiration: Gulzaar Sahab

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Great people become great not only through their work but also by their thoughts, their words and their action.
I recently went the Times Lit Festival to attend Gulzaar Sahab’s reading session.
He read a chapter from the famous Urdu writer – Manto. Listening to him speak was awe inspiring. He took Manto’s story, translated into the local dialect and drew us in. As he spoke, all we could do is surrender and listen.
I grew up reading works of Gulzaar Sahab and appreciated his writing but the reading session made me appreciate the man. Gulzaar Sahab is an established writer, a master of words, but he does not have an air of superiority. He is a humble man, who speaks simple language and has a down to earth attitude. At the reading session, he erased the distance between the audience and himself when he said, ‘main mike ko apne kad par le aaoun’. He created a connection and made him one of us.
During the session, Gulzaar Sahab spoke about the complication of language and how our own perspectives color how we perceive words – spoken and written. He explained this complex thought using a very simple example. He asked a member of the audience to describe the first drawing they ever drew. The reply was a picture with mountains, hut, tree, grass, sun rise, flying birds and a river. Then he asked him how you would color it?
He said he would paint the sun in grades of yellow, shade the grass with light and dark green, the river yellowish blue and the house in shades of brown and red.
Gulzaar Sahab smiled and asked, ‘Would all of you make the same color choices?’
With one simple question, he got across the message that we as individuals change the shape, size, and meaning based on our knowledge, skill and understanding. He taught me that your choice of words, your way of expression can compel a person to believe in them and build a connection.
Thank you Gulzaar Sahab for your inspiring words!
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