The Sanguinarian

The Sanguinarian

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Review- Brutal- Uday Satapathy

Two journalists find themselves in grave danger when they uncover links between a present day massacre and an incident which had occurred eight years ago. summary
‘you are in real, real danger’ – a school teacher gets a creepy warning in his mailbox. Seven days later, he massacres eleven of his own students. Two months later, he is gunned down in broad daylight by an obscure militant outfit.
Justice served. The nation pacified. Case closed –-- the police say. But, two crime reporters think otherwise.
Seeking redemption through this case are Prakash and Seema, ace journalists in their professional lives, but broken individuals in the darkness of their personal hells. As they dig deeper into the mystery, they are led into the ominous forests of Bandhavgarh where an eerily similar massacre had occurred eight years ago.
They never see it coming what hits them next.
One by one their leads start turning up in body bags and they are chased by assassins at every corner. Soon they would realize that they are pitted against evil powers pervading the business and political dna of the country, with an unbelievably sinister agenda.
Always one step ahead of them, there is no place to hide for the two journalists. The only way is to fight back. But, to do that, Prakash and Seema will first have to survive. 

First of all, Uday deserves a huge round of applause for going against the grain and writing a thriller. 
In a scenario where writers can't get past mushy college romances, Brutal comes as a monolith, as a rebuttal of current trends in literature in India, as a reminder that aspiring authors in India must look beyond Chetan Bhagat, Ravinder Singh and bestselling formulas. 

I have been an avid reader of crime thrillers since I was a kid- so books of this genre are my first preference over oter genres. I expect every crime novel to take me on a roller coaster ride- make me bite my nails, sit on the edge-of-my-seat and imagine the worst and feel the adrenaline rush in my blood vessels.
And Uday's debut book doesn't disappoint. It is a mad but memorable roller-coaster ride of a book- and in that madness lies Brutal's excellence. 

The book starts with an intriguing prologue which immediately draws the reader into the story. 

After that, for a few pages the story moves very slowly- there is much telling and less showing- my only grouse with the book. The main protagonists, Prakash and Seema are introduced to us in the first chapter- which, towards its end, bursts into action. That is where the book picks up pace. 

And once it picks up pace, Brutal takes you on a wild goose chase ride through India's corridors of power, the underbelly of its cities infested with crime and sleaze, psychopathic individuals like Tejeshwar Kushwaha who suffer from the God Complex and make deals with international terrorists for money, mercenaries like Raman who are also psychopathic cold-blooded murderers who love the thrill of the kill, dirty cops and RAW and IB agents, dirty agents from Mossad and other intelligence agencies, journalists who leave ethics behind to chase a story, but also put their lives on the line, unethical pharmaceutical scientists who carry out clinical trials without permission and endanger lives etc. etc.

As an incident of sudden violence transpires by the end of the first chapter, Seema and Prakash go on a goose-chase to uncover the horrible truth behind why a school teacher murdered eleven of his own students in cold blood. The truth is much more bigger than they could ever imagine. 

As Seema and Prakash travel around the country, dodging bullets and knives and bloodthirsty killers, the reader travels with them. The characters are so well-written that the reader can feel their pain, fear, courage and anguish. The reader can relate to their pain and empathize with them. 

Mrinal and Raman are also well wriiten supporting characters.

The plot is, of course, excellently formulated. The author's knowledge of how mercenaries operate and how journalists function lend an authenticity to both the story and the characters. He doesn't waste time on sub-plots or hyperbole, but comes straight to the point. The writing is of a good quality

That is another thing I like about Uday's writing- no sweeping generalizations, no creeping biases, no other jingoistic nonsense. Just a story of human beings and their humanness and inhumane sides.

The only other nitpick I have is a few typo errors and wrong usage of words/phraseology- but that is something the author can smoothen out in later books.

Uday gets 5/5 on all counts- plot, chharacterization, language, grammar and punctuation etc. 

I wish the author good luck for his future work and eagerly await his next book. 

Uday Satpathy is the one to watch out for. 

Go grab your copy of the book here: Brutal

Review- Faith of the Nine by Sachin Dev

Blurb: “The Third Yuga is slowly drawing to a close. Nam – the greatest Empire on Janani – is going to face some fierce winds of change. Seers foresee omens of death and destruction in the return of the Banished One – A God who will claim the ashes of this world as revenge. While out in the streets, rumours abound – of older forgotten powers stirring.
Caught in this maelstrom of a power struggle between Gods are three ordinary lives: General Fateh, the most celebrated soldier in Nam who starts to question his faith, Ishan – a gifted orphan who struggles to comprehend his destiny and Abhaya – a young monk in search of truths about this world. Their choices and actions will shape the destiny of this scarred world that becomes the playground for vindictive Gods. In a world where Rakshasas arise out of left-over traces of Maaya and twilight forms the portal to countless worlds around us for Daityas and Yakshis to dance through, a God is only as powerful as those who believe.And when Gods rise, faith of men will be tested…And broken.” 

It is hard to come across well-written books these days...especially from a debut author. Therefore, Sachin Dev is a breath of fresh air in this scenario. 
For a debutante in fantasy fiction, a genre still not understood by many in India or chosen by budding authors as a genre to write in, Dev has done a fantastic job. 

The world-building, starting from the Nam empire itself, is amazing in both the imagination and the detailing. Namakaal, Nam-Ehrilitaan, Nam-Ching...and all other places described in the book- capture the imagination. 

The prologue details a well written fight scene, coupled with a gruesome death in Sumeria, capital of Namakaal. This draws the reader in immediately, making them want to proceed. 

From there on, the plot moves at a steady pace, and the author maintains the intrigue very well. Three stories- that of the boy Ishaan, the child prodigy, Seer Abhaya and General Fateh- move parallel to each other to come to a jaw-dropping conclusion. The central city of Nam is under an insidious threat from the old Gods, who were overthrown by the ruling empire. Anyone who worships the old Gods or follows the old ways gets hanged. 

The protagonists are very well-written. The author doesn't shy away from  putting his darlings through a lot of struggle and torture- but their ordeal and the way they fight adversity makes the character arc interesting, and the characters multi-dimensional and rich and memorable. 

What I liked most, apart from the scintillating plot, is the way the author has mixed elements from various mythologies of various faiths to formulate a unique blend of his own world, the Nam empire. He uses references from Hindu, Christian and Assyrian mythology which lend an aura of refreshing multi-culturism to the story. I also liked the sub-text of social evils and prejudice embedded in the plot and characters.

He also adds a lot of horror to the fantasy- supernatural entities bleeding from realm into realm, ancient Gods coming in the protagonists' dreams and also murdering enemies, Yakshis which look like the local version of a succubus ( and are very frightening, BTW), Rakshasaas and an Enchanted Garden which flowers on the bodies of humans and animals it consumes . The horror adds a dash of intrigue and suspense to the mystery of the plot.

On top of everything- the author writes very well. It shows how much work he put in before jumping into publication. There are a few errors in spelling and sentence structure- but otherwise, the writing is original, refreshing and inspiring. The language is excellent- readable without being pedestrian, high-quality without being flowery. 

To summarize, the great imagination, the brilliant characterization and world-building, the multicultural references, the fascinating mix of mystery, horror, supernatural and fantasy make Faith of the Nine an excellent read. 

Full marks to the author for being so good. I wish the author all the best for his future books and eagerly await his next book in the series. 

Sachin Dev is one to watch out for.

You can buy the book here: Faith of the Nine 


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Review- A Minute to Death by Ganga Bharani

Blurb: Young, vivacious and an aspiring writer, Riya wants nothing more from her longtime crush/boyfriend than to let her in on one of his exciting investigations. After all, what better source material for a book than a real life tragedy? No-nonsense veteran cop, Rohan picks a case of probable suicide to satisfy Riya’s needs. Little does he know that there is more to this case than meets the eye. What made the victim hang herself at the break of dawn? What is the secret that her group of friends is hiding? Will Riya be able to salvage a workable plot for her upcoming novel out of this case of seemingly simple suicide?

Writing a book is a tough job. One gives their sweat, blood and time to finish a manuscript, then through the rigmarole of editing, multiple drafts and beta reading, and then readying the book for publication. Finding the right publisher and getting accepted is another task altogether.
The world judges a book by its cover. I don't judge a book at all. I live it, love it and breathe it.
Ganga Bharani's second baby is good. I am not saying it's not.
But as an avid reader of crime fiction and suspense novels, there are some things I have picked up about writing a crime novel from the greats like Sir Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie and James Patterson and others.
1. Not everyone can condense a crime story into a 100 pages and still manage a credible tone throughout. One does it only after extensive practice. Some good examples of the perfect crime novella would be Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train, and Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced. In this case, the author should have stuck to writing a longer version- a novel.
2. I liked the theme of the novel- an aspiring crime novelist going to crime scenes to do some research for her book. I also liked the way the relation between Rohan and Riya has been portrayed. What I didn't find convincing, however, is the dialogue between them- it sounds phony and sketchy.
3. Also, Rohan spends more time playing Romeo than doing his job, working the case. Cops don't have that sort of time, underpaid and overworked as they are. They don't have the leisure to hang out in coffee shops with their girlfriends. In a romantic suspense, the romance should be very carefully interspersed with the main crime story-especially in a police procedural.
4. The novel should have been, ideally, a 200 plus page affair, where the psyche of the killer, the media attention the murders garnered and the impact of the killings on the cops investigating and the victims' families should have been explored. I would suggest that the author, apart from reading extensively, watch crime shows like Criminal Minds, CSI, True Detective and Castle to learn more about handling the various aspects of a crime story in a novel form.
5. I liked the idea of how Riya uses analytical software to study the social media profiles of the victims. I also like how the suspense builds up, but the ending sounds contrived. That's why, the novel should have been longer so that the climax had looked inevitable and logical rather than forced. 97 pages leave no meat of a story for a crime novel aficionado to chew. A good story, with great potential, comes to an incipient-looking ending- like when you immerse firecrackers in water.

That covered, let me now come to my biggest problem with the story- language, the big L. And, of course, grammar. It goes without saying that there are errors in grammar and punctuation- in almost every line. And the prose is languid and flaccid and uninspiring. What is inspiring prose? It's prose that not only ignites the reader's imagination, but also makes one want to write. This prose just made me want to edit and re-write the entire book- my entire reading experience was hampered.
It shows that inspite of having potential, the author didn't even self-edit. She hasn't read extensively in the crime genre, and also hasn't practiced writing enough- two VITAL instruments in any writer's toolkit. Perhaps she hasn't gone through the whetting process any writer must go through- writing  practice, getting the work critiqued by fellow writers, then finishing her first draft, rewriting, editing, and then getting feedback from beta readers, then readying the novel for submission to publishers. Having read hundreds of books, I can tell.

As a writer myself, I wrote, got my work critiqued, then wrote more and got more feedback from other writers for three years before my books got accepted. And today, I find myself a much better writer than what I was 3 years back.
The author's work is still in the preliminary stage, where it needs extensive whetting to mature.

Because a writer's work DOESN'T start and end at publication.

It starts with extensive reading, grows with extensive writing and critique, spreads through publication and never ends.

You can buy the book here: A Minute to Death

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Review- Just You, Me and a Secret by Ganga Bharani

Blurb: Just You, Me And A Secret is a story of an amnesiac, Meera, who battles between her past and present. 

Meera Prabhu wakes up after a terrible accident with absolutely no memory of herself. She sees a stranger in the mirror and seems to be living with another stranger, Ashruth, a doctor by profession and a clown by appearance. He claims that he is her fiancé. They were engaged to be married and would have been married already if not for the accident. He keeps on emphasizing on how much she loved him and yet, he keeps her apart from her family for her 'mental state'. Armed with what seems to be her personal diary, Meera tries to grasp her identity and her reality. But no matter how hard she tries, she just seems to be unable to connect. 
In the present she develops a strange liking for Santhosh, a childhood friend. Does he love her the same way she does? Will the marriage be called off? 
Will Meera break through the hurdles in front of her and be able to connect to her friends and family again? Most importantly, will she ever regain her identity again? 
Disclaimer: I downloaded this book from Amazon while it was Free for a day.

Ever since I was a child, I have been a voracious reader of crime and mystery novels. Starting from Enid Blyton to Sherlock Holmes, to Agatha Chrsitie to modern writers like James Patterson, Michael Connolly, Mary Higgins Clark, Thomas Harris and others, I have internalized crime and suspense stories as if they are an evolutionary adaptation mechanism, a basic need. I live, breathe and even write mysteries.

Therefore, I cannot take a badly written mystery novel. And I've read one or two of them too.

Problem is, Bharani's novel is NOT one of the bad ones.

Story-wise, the book is quite good.

I like the intriguing note on which it starts- a girl, waking up, in a hospital, with absolutely no idea of where she is, or who she is. Sure, it's not a new trope in suspense. But the author handles it quite well.

The story develops well. I like the way Meera's story has been narrated, and her ordeal shown, being caged inside a house with a man she doesn't remember, and whom she instinctively shies away from. I also liked the way Meera and Santosh's characters have been developed- even Ashruth's character is mildly interesting.

But I found some parts very odd- like the abrupt, unrealistic way in which Meera gets her first boyfriend. On the other hand, the way she falls for the wrong man, after her break-up, has been handled quite well.

That brings me to my first grouse with this book: Language and Grammar.

There are many, many language problems in this book- basic problems. There are typos, wrong or awkward use of words, odd sentences and turns of phrases, purple prose and even wrong grammar, like over or under use of articles etc. I have a language fetish, therefore I like a well-written book, which is clean of the aforementioned errors. Bad language hampers my reading experience, and puts me off the book faster than I can blink. The prose is languid, jarring and distinctly uninspiring.

I wish the book was better written. It is not sufficient to have a good story- language and grammar IS important. If the language used to communicate the story is bad, how will the story connect with the reader?

Did the author or the publisher not realize, or bother to correct those mistakes during proofing or editing?

My second grouse is the way the author has handled the climax of the novel.

For us suspense lovers, the denouement of a mystery is the highest point of our reading experience. A well-written suspense novel builds up the mystery in a manner that sets readers' hearts pumping- and then gives us a climax to the story, a climax befitting of our admiration and that makes us go 'Wowie! X was the killer! Or- Oh! So Y is actually Z! And Z is actually A!'

Here, the author rushes through the climax, robbing it of a necessary dramatic flair that one sees in novels by the great Sir Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie. Every suspense novelist must know how to incorporate this dramatic flair in the structure and prose of their story, or the flawed execution just kills the joy of reading the book.

Had the author shown us the explanation at the end, rather than making the culprit narrate it, it would have been a much more hard-hitting story.

Verdict: I would suggest the author practice writing to improve her language, style and prose. Here, her writing is precocious and needs refinement- which will come from reading plenty of books- and I mean PLENTY- and writing practice every day. The author must write short stories to hone her craft, and get her work critiqued by more experienced authors. I would also suggest she critically read more thrillers to see how the climax is executed.
The book also needs extensive editing and rewrites. I have been critical and harsh in this review because I expect better from the author. She is a friend, and I would love to see her grow as a writer and produce better literature.

Just You, Me and a Secret is a badly written good story, to sum up.

As a side note, let me point out that there is no need to say 'Suspense Romance Thriller'- redundant wording and odd phrasing. Just saying 'Romantic Suspense' or Romantic Thriller' would suffice.

But if you're not to hung up on language and grammar, and want to read a good mystery to kill time, you can buy the book here: Just You, Me and a Secret

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Picture prompt #2: Shrine of the Morosaurs

The Shrine of the Morosaurs stood in the distance, looming over the barren landscape, silhouetted against the dank blue skies. Anneliese closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, trying to absorb the experience, as she sat astride Johannes, her faithful horse, a gift from her father.

This was the tipping point of Anneliese's life, the pivot around which her destiny revolved. This was the answer to her life, the secret behind her birth.

 Finding this Shrine, built centuries ago, which no one in her family had been able to locate in the bowels of the Tundras before Anneliese had.

It was her destiny to find and enter the Shrine built by her ancestors- the long dead Morosaurs. The alien race of Marauders, from the planet Woho, in the galaxy Andromeda, who arrived on Earth centuries ago and cross- bred with Dinosaurs. It was Anneliese's destiny, as the last surviving part-Morosaur to open the prophecy they had left behind. Before their near complete extinction with the Dinosaurs, and the establishment of New Earth. And before the few surviving Morosaurs cross-bred with humans to survive.

Arius, the last Chief of the Morosaurs, had come into her dreams repeatedly, to show her the purpose of her life. "You have to save humanity from annihilating itself, Anneliese. You have to broadcast the prophecy, unlock its power, and spread our genes in the population. You have to keep New Earth alive. We cannot let the bloodthirsty Nessyrians take over this beautiful planet and violate it," he had said.

 "Come on Johannes," she spurred her horse on, as they proceeded to climb the hillock, towards the Shrine. To tell the story of the Morosaurs again. To fulfill her destiny, and to preserve New Earth from being conquered by the most bloodthirsty race of beings in the Universe.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Blog spotlight- Devika Fernando and Mike Wells- Tornado Giveaway

Name of the Book : FORBIDDEN Books 1, 2 & 3
Author: Mike Wells & Devika Fernando

Read some reviews:

The Story :

When Lady Eleanor Sotheby unexpectedly enters the life of Jayne Clark, a 23-year old waitress from Wichita, Kansas, Jayne's world is turned upside down. Not only is she welcomed into a family that she never knew, but she is thrust headlong into the highest strata of European society. Nothing is too grand in the fairy tale lives of the uber-rich--the spectacular seaside villas, the sleek, chauffeured limousines, the outrageously expensive designer clothes. When Jayne plays her part and learns to fit into this new world, she meets Robert Astor, the man of her dreams. But her feelings for Robert are forbidden. Jayne's heady new life begins to unravel into a dark web of deceit, domination and greed...and she ultimately finds herself confronting an evil that truly has no limits.

You can also buy @

About The Authors

Mike Wells 

About Mike Wells in his own words: I'm American bestselling author of the Lust, Money & Murder series and over 20 other thriller and suspense books. I also have taught in the Creative Writing program at Oxford. I'm known for my super fast-paced, 'unputdownable' novels.
Stalk him @
Website | Twitter | Facebook

Devika Fernando

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.

Stalk her @
Website | Twitter | Facebook

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Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Why banning porn is excessively asinine

My own views on pornography don't matter here.

Here, the thing we must focus on here is personal liberty, plus how we must approach topics like these.

Recently, the Government of India 'banned' 857 websites because they had 'pornographic content'. Why? The reason was some vague nonsense about 'their concerns over child pornography' and, as some accounts go, to 'also reduce sex crimes'.

How asinine. How incredibly stupid. How myopic and ill-informed.

It reveals the short-sightedness of the people who control policy-making at the highest levels of the administration.

Now, I'm not opposing the ban because I support porn. I don't- I think it demeans women and reduces them to sex objects and humiliates them. And porn which promotes bestiality and sexual violence against women is especially disturbing.

And of course, child porn is disgusting, vile and a punishable offence.

But the question here first is- will a forceful ban on porn work as a deterrent to sex offenders? Then the question comes- How do we approach a slippery slope like whether to ban or not to ban porn?

Yes, it is true that many, many sex criminals- rapists, molesters, child sex abusers and child rapists-, all over the world, have confessed to watching porn before they committed their heinous acts. And why not? Porn encourages a very misguided, perverted, view of both women and children, hypersexualizing them, reducing them to mere sex objects, to be raped, and then killed or left for dead.


But, not all people who watch porn are sex offenders. Also, we need to ask ourselves- will banning porn bring down sex offences and child sex abuse? How? Why?

By forcefully banning porn in a society where sexuality is repressed,sex is a 'dirty thing' and not talked about openly, and men and women cannot easily mingle, fall in love and live together happily, DOES THIS GOVERNMENT REALIZE WHAT A COLOSSAL BLUNDER IT IS COMMITTING?

No, it doesn't. Because it seems to have thrown all sense out the window.

In a sexually repressed society, a lot of people find their only succor in porn, because of many reasons. Whether porn is wrong or right, it is what keeps them sated. Take that away and one day, they will turn on real women and rape them brutally.

Let's not talk about pedophiles here-they need a shrink anyway. And child porn involves child sex abuse- so it's a crime. Adult porn, at least to some extent, is filmed by consent.

We must be careful to see the gap porn is filling. Porn is illegal, porn is taboo, and yet, people across the world watch it- in secret. No one wants to announce they watch porn- it has been known to destroy relationships too. And yet, the porn industry thrives. Why? There is some need it is exploiting by filling it, some gap it is addressing.

So how do you find that gap and find another way to fill it?

By having a scientific, open discussion. On sex, sexuality, psychosexual aberrations and sexual violence, and the psychosocial implications of pornography. Because all these things are related to pornography- very deeply related. We need to involve men, women, even parents, sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists, criminologists and behavioral scientists. Even writers, academicians and other such intellectuals should be involved. We need to have an open, healthy debate on these topics. We need to establish the link between porn as a cause of sexual violence and child abuse too perhaps- develop a scientific correlation, present empirical evidence. THAT is the right way to do it. Informed, scientific, ratiocinated debate, and an educated consensus reached.

And then, the consensus to ban porn, or at least, not watch it, must come from the public themselves. Because the gap that had to be addressed has now found a way to be alternatively addressed. No need to watch porn any longer, perhaps.

But what does this government do?

Look at the hypocrisy. The government will shy away from sex education, saying it's against 'Indian culture' and that 'adolescents will want to have sex if we teach them about it'. What bullshit! Adolescents and young adults indulge in risky sexual behavior because of the LACK of knowledge. They are not so dumb that a sex education class will spur them to try sex in real life. Instead, it will encourage them to be open and frankly talk about sex, and not have to turn to porn to fulfill their curiosity and assuage their libidos.  Their curiosity is being fed not with trashy porn sites and Fifty Shades of Grey, but with proper, interesting knowledge about sex, sexuality, sexual behavior and how to live with one's partner.

But they won't listen.

They won't make the streets safer for women and kids. They won't maintain a registry of sex offenders and child abusers, and keep a watch on them. They won't build rape crisis centers for rape survivors, they won't sensitize and train doctors to deal with, and provide care to survivors of sex crimes. They won't sensitize society towards gender violence and respecting and supporting women, acknowledging their rights and freedom, and kicking patriarchy and misogyny in the butt. They won't sensitize the police to register FIRs and be sensitive and helpful to sex crime survivors and abused children. NO. Because this takes REAL effort. Besides, how will they sensitize the public when MPs and MLAs are famous for making sexist comments, without shame, and they won't even apologize? MPs watch porn during running Parliament sessions. How the hell can they tell the lay citizen to not watch it?

So what do you do when you don't want to put any real effort to change the ground situation?

You ban porn. As if that is the sole cause of sexual violence against women and children, and banning porn will make the rape and child abuse rates go to ZERO.

This is one of those half-baked, ill-informed, asinine, irrational methods one adopts when they don't want to take any real action, or make a real, concerted effort to being about positive change.

This ban, and then revoking it two days later, holding the ISPs responsible for 'filtering child porn' show how much judgmentally impaired this government is. It does not make its decisions based on scientific data and educated opinions, but instead, on whimsy and its changing moods. Is this a responsible government? Is this the 'Acche Din' bullshit that was being bandied about in May 2014? Can this government be trusted to make proper decisions to bring about progress and development?


And thus, we sit and watch as this government makes an ever greater fool of itself in the future.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Why I write- A Short Essay

Because Chuck’s finally asked a very basic question- why we writers write- let me attempt to summarize the answer in a few bullet points. I write because:
Ø  I believe I was born as a human sponge- destined to absorb, in heart and in mind, the essence and the truth behind everything that was going on around me. Love, loss, grief, evil, longing, joy, sex, art, books, births, deaths…you name it. To drink eat, and lap up the universe around me, so that the gist of everything resides in me, a microcosm, to be more aware of my surroundings than others.
Ø  Since I could read the alphabet, my mother put a book in my hand. Not just picture books, but children’s story books.
Ø  I’ve faced things in life. Rejection, antagonism and lack of understanding from near ones, ridicule for being different, for being overweight and awkward, for being real and not a faked version of someone else, for not caring what people think of me. I’ve been through many dark phases- so writing helps me come to terms with that darkness and realize that I’ve found the light, finally.
Ø  I think the genres I write also define me as a writer. I write crime, psychological suspense, horror and erotica. All four genres are inter-related and help me explore the darkness, the negativity that underlies everything, and how people come out of it. How everything is covered in shades of grey, and how we must have the insight to recognize that not everything’s black and white.
Ø  Writing helps me bust the stress of everyday life. I write every day, and I write a fairly lot. I work on two to three manuscripts at the same time. So my mind is always busy plotting murders, intrigues and who will fall in love with whom, who will take whom to bed, who will lecture whom on what, who will cuss whom and who will kill whom etc…you get the drift. Writing a lot helps me put things in perspective, and helps me take failure and success in stride.
Ø  Writing has helped me improve my memory, logistic and analytical skills. Since it helps me get everything into perspective, writing has made me more rational, more pragmatic and more intelligent. It has helped me greatly as a student and researcher. I never take anything at face value, but try to look deeper to find out the truth. As a writer, I observe people and events around me, and it helps me understand the world better. Therefore, I believe that writers don’t look at the world- they see through it.
Ø  Writing helps me find my voice, what I stand for, what I believe in, what I despise. That’s why no two writers are the same- a good writer writes in their own distinctive voice and creates beautiful prose.
Ø  Writing makes me feel better about myself. I’m not wasting time over stupid social gatherings (except book launches, write-ins and chat with close friends- those are not a waste of time), dumbass parties, or bitching about people to other people, wallowing in frivolity and mediocrity, or worse. I’m utilizing my time to create something hopefully of good redeeming value, something which will connect with other people on a profound, personal level, and perhaps make them happy, and let them know that they’re not alone. When I sum up what I’ve done in my life, creating something valuable and beautiful will give me an indication of a life well lived, and well spent.
Ø  Writing gives me a great excuse to eat chocolate, savor good food and drink lots of coffee ( I call it The Writers’ Nutrition).
Ø  If I don’t write, I will not be able to vomit the thousands of worlds, experiences, people, and other things residing in my neurons. My experiences, the things I observe and learn, the stories I absorb from books and which morph into other books in my fertile imagination, the untold feelings- all of these are constantly knocking on the inside of my head. Write us down now, they always say. If I don’t write, the knocking grows insistent till I’m forced to open the laptop and type down my thoughts.
Ø  Writing has helped me navigate through the dark, the negative and turn myself into a positive, confident, outspoken, self-assured person, and made me unafraid of my naysayers and detractors.
Ø  Writing is part of my identity. It gives meaning to my life, and helps me relate to other writers- sentient beings who live for almost the same ideals as I do.


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Discussion- The antagonist as the protagonist in a novel

I have been grappling with the concept, as of late, of the Antagonist of a story being the Protagonist.
Usually, the protagonist is the good guy/gal- their thoughts and actions steeped in shades of grey but ultimately they prove their mettle.
But I'm developing the concept for these three erotic suspense novellas which I'll write as an armada.
All three protagonists are women. No, it's not a feminist things- it's just centered around three woman characters, all different and disparate from each other.
Now, my characters are rebellious, independent minded, the my-life-my-rules kind.
And as I still remember a line from Chuck Wendig's brilliant article on strong female characters in books- the character choices must push on the plot mostly- the plot must not push on the character's actions all that much.
I have tried to make the situations such that my character's actions push on the plot- motivation, action, consequence.
Thing is, these actions are not always good. In this case, some of them are outright reprehensible. But the thing is, these women make choices- even if bad ones- and that's how the story moves forward. But the nature of these actions make my characters the antagonists too, and not very likeable.
No one likes people who cheat on their spouses, bitch about others, cuss excessively or, in extreme cases, kill. But that's how I'm shaping the protagonist-cum-antagonist in these novellas. 
My aim is not to glorify these things- in fact, I believe some of the things done by my MCs are condemn-able, but it's for the audience to decide, not for me. I'll not impose my view-points on them.
My question, can these characters be considered 'strong'? Strong as in not the kind who beats up goons, but the kind who makes their own choices- no matter how bad those choices are.
If strong protagonists are the cornerstone of compelling stories, so are strong antagonist-protagonists for some stories, right?

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Book Review- The Scion of Ikshvaku by Amish

Blurb: Ram Rajya. The Perfect Land. But perfection has a price. He paid that price.


Ayodhya is weakened by divisions. A terrible war has taken its toll. The damage runs deep. The demon King of Lanka, Raavan, does not impose his rule on the defeated. He, instead, imposes his trade. Money is sucked out of the empire. The Sapt Sindhu people descend into poverty, despondency and corruption. They cry for a leader to lead them out of the morass. Little do they appreciate that the leader is among them. One whom they know. A tortured and ostracised prince. A prince they tried to break. A prince called Ram.

He loves his country, even when his countrymen torment him. He stands alone for the law. His band of brothers, his Sita, and he, against the darkness of chaos.

Will Ram rise above the taint that others heap on him? Will his love for Sita sustain him through his struggle? Will he defeat the demon Lord Raavan who destroyed his childhood? Will he fulfill the destiny of the Vishnu?

Begin an epic journey with Amishs latest- the Ram Chandra Series.

Sometimes someone like me must read someone like Amish. And sometimes, I must risk giving a review on his books because I consider myself a serious purveyor of literature, and a keen observer of publishing trends. Of course, I will be very unpopular among a few of my writer friends who wouldn't like my approach very much. But I must speak out, air my opinion, because that's what I'm like.
I'll be brief in this review, because I have nothing much to say here. Sadly, Amish's latest book doesn't deserve a lengthy review at all. I have written lengthy reviews in the past for books which were examples of serious literature, or at least worth a review. But this book is...the reason I'm writing a review is NOT just a comment on the book, but a commentary on the quality of 'popular literature' in India as well.
So like the Shiva trilogy, Amish has once again done a retelling of ancient Hindu epics- through the Ram Chandra series. He has attempted a new spin on the Ramayana- albeit with a contemporary feel to it. Raavan the demon king's juggernaut looks suspiciously akin to a modern day helicopter, for example. Ram rolls his eyes at his half-brother Bharat, who, before he falls in love, is sort of a Casanova, liaising with many girls- Ram is simply stunned at the number of girlfriends around Bharat, a babe magnet. The four brothers are shown to be loving and caring of each other; Manthara is a cunning but savvy businesswoman, Kaikeyi is a through-and-through bitch who wants to keeps both her husband and her son under her thumb; Kaushalya and Sumitra are demure queens who constantly ingratiate themselves to the misogynist, pig-headed, unreasonable, and borderline psychotic Emperor Dashrath. Ram was born on the same day as his father was defeated by Raavan, so Dashrath hates him for years with a vengeance and wrongly accuses him of being the reason the Sapt Sindhu lost to Lanka. Political intrigue is attempted through the wily, scheming Guru Vishwamitra and the rational, kind Vashishta, who backs Ram and Lakshman, and who trust him too.
Amish tries to inject a mythological fantasy with contemporary issues plaguing society, and he does this well- to an extent. He does it MUCH better than Chetan Bhagat, who CLAIMS to handle such issues in his 'books' but SHORTCHANGES the reader every time. Amish doesn't- he does touch upon plenty of relevant issues.
There is a gang-rape (aka Delhi 2012), and a brutal retaliation, there is debate on the Juvenile Justice Law- which was recently amended so that minors can be tried as adults in crimes like rape, and murder. There is a raging debate on 'masculine' and 'feminine' societies. Masculine as in patriarchal, feminine as in matriarchal? Most of the debate went over my head- and there arises my first problem with the book. Too much debate! The characters, at times look more like competing professional debate teams than characters in a mytho-fantasy. I actually rolled my eyes on having to read a debate in every chapter- I don't want a debate when I'm not in the mood, Amish. There is a time and place for that. You can, instead, write blog posts where your characters talk, or hold online webinars. If your characters must air their opinions, let it be through scenes, or incidents where the characters act upon this belief. Don't impose debates on me when I expect you to tell a story. It sounds preachy. You're telling a story, not doling out advice.
The other problems like cleanliness, city-planning, law and order, how to follow rules, blah blah blah have also been touched upon (PHEW!).
Ram's emphasis on following the law is an issue that pervades throughout the book- and the author has used this quality of his as a motivation to tell a different story than the one in popular Hindutva discourse, which I read as a kid.
Somehow, everyone in the book seems either tall and muscular or dark and muscular or fair and muscular. Do people in mytho-fantasies look all the same- are their looks all in the same damn three categories? People in real life don't look so same, BTW. Please try and imagine different-looking characters in your next, Amish. 
That brings me to my biggest grouse with the book- the plot. Amish has seriously lost the plot in this book of his, sadly. I thought the Shiva trilogy was fairly good, because Amish told a good story, and did his research well. The Shiva series had the plot as its redeeming USP. Something which this new novel doesn't have. If I explain why, I'll seriously give away the plot, so I'll just say that certain events, which are kind of important according to me, have been glossed over. It's like the author was hurrying through this book so he can, perhaps, provide a steady plot in the next one.
Didn't work for me. Although my knowledge of Hindu mythology is sketchy, at best, I still have a good idea about what makes a story good, what plot points deserve a big mention and what don't. What points should be stretched in detail to contribute to the plot, and what should be left alone. Retelling of a popular epic does not mean that you can just trail-blaze through the events like you're doing a running commentary. For eg- in the Shiva books, the one thing I like the most is the way Shiva and Parvati's relationship has been depicted. Here, although Ram does fall in love, at first sight, with Sita in a nicely written scene ( one of the very few that dot the book), there is no passion, no love intrigues, no silly games, no emotionally loaded lovemaking. I don't want sex scenes, no. I just want to feel their love and rejoice in it, I want to empathize with Ram when Raavan kidnaps his wife, I want to feel the depth of his anger, his indignation, his rage when his brave and beloved wife is targeted in this manner.
That brings me to reiterate the well-known fact that Amish is, at best, an average writer. What makes his book tick is the plot, and the good research. His prose is dull, uninspiring, and horrifyingly pedestrian. Now, Westland is a prestigious publisher- one which would have made lots of money from the sales of Amish's books. Why couldn't they hire a better editor? I found the SAME GLARING FLAW in the Shiva books- pedestrian, languid prose and horrible editing. Can't they find someone who can even marginally make Amish's writing better? But then, if the writer is average, how much can the editor do?
People who are first time readers will think Amish's writing is top-quality. But readers like me, who have been reading for more than two decades, and have read some of the stalwarts like Agatha Christie, Sir Conan Doyle, Dostoevsky and all Russian authors, Enid Blyton, VS Naipaul, Toni Morrison, Gabriel Marquez, Steinbeck etc. etc. etc. will make out the flaws in Amish's writing easily.
Just knowing English and English words and grammar and punctuation doesn't make you a good author. Knowing how to weave these words into beautiful prose is.
Since I'm reviewing this book, let me give you some examples from India itself. Recently I read Anees Salim and Cyrus Mistry, and then I read Amish. And I realized something. Salim, Mistry and his brother Rohinton, who is also a great author, Jeet Thayil, Vikram Seth etc. etc- these are quality authors. I, and people who read lit-fic, relate to them better. And yes, literary fiction is not the only serious literature, but it is serious. But these authors never get their due, never get the publicity, the merit and the public adulation they deserve for respecting the venerated craft of writing.
Film director Shekhar Kapur commented that Amish is 'India's first literary pop-star'.
Problem is, Mr. Kapur, we discerning readers don't need pop-stars in literature. We need serious writers who practice diligently to hone their skills to the zenith, and give us excellent stories which are also well-written, which appeal to readers like me. We readers need more Cyrus Mistry-s, more Naipauls, more Salims. Who write something serious and lasting. Time-pass writers who write time-pass stories for the masses are fine...but only to a certain limit.
Literature, if besieged with pop-stars, will wither and die. Good literature, I mean. And if one wants to be a punk, the literary equivalent of a leather-jacket wearing, funky-song singing pop-star, will receive the treatment most modern pop-stars receive. No one will take them seriously. They will be a trend, a temporary craze, a fleeting madness that will disappear when someone else comes along.
Writers improve as they write more books- Amish does the exact opposite. The quality of his prose has not improved...and his novel has gone from okay to bad- this is the opposite of improvement.
This 'pop-star' analogy seriously worries me about the quality of upcoming literature in society. Hopefully Amish will improve a bit in his next book- this one's not really worth all the hype, hoopla and star-studded launches it's getting ( public's love for Amish notwithstanding).
But I don't know if I will read Amish's next. This one has put me off in a big way.

But if you still like literary pop-stars, please go ahead and read this book. But except for a few good paragraphs and scenes, it is completely insipid and lack-luster.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Why We Writers Must Never Give Up- A Discussion

This article is for you, Debashish, and for you, Kuheli.

I, like you, am an aspiring author, still learning the ropes of a craft as challenging and as interesting as Writing, and taking my baby steps in the tough, cruel, schizophrenic world of publishing. I am no one to tell you 'how to be a good writer' or anything. In fact, anyone who tries to tell you the 'rules', even if they're a bestselling author- is a BIG fraud and presumptuous fool.

No one can tell you how to be a good writer. You know what your writer personality is- your instincts will tell you how to be a good writer.

But as someone in the same boat with you, I will share my experience with you, and perhaps discuss how not to lose hope. This article is not an attempt to dole out advice-I am no one to deliver sermons- but just a discussion.

Writing is a self-perpetuating craft. What I mean is, a writer, a real writer, keeps producing stuff- this is one thing I know about a true writer. They don't stop at one story, or one novel. They keep writing, they keep creating. Words beget words. Then comes a story. Story begets a story, and then come novels, novellas, short story collections, poetry collections and whatnot. Then come some of our masterpieces- works which carry a part of us within them, to the world. We create because we imagine worlds in our brain- and our imagination comes from the many books, newspapers and magazines we read, from movies and serials we watch, and most importantly, from the people we meet and the situations and happenings we observe around us.

Now both of you are working health professionals. So am I. The hospital has plenty of stories waiting to be absorbed and written in its corridors, in the people which inhabit it, and those that run it. Just an example. You guys also read voraciously- Debashish, like me, is an ardent admirer of literary fiction. Kuheli, I'm not really aware of your reading choices. But my point is, we three live and work and interact in environments highly fertile for breeding stories and conducive to writers, we're literate, motivated and well aware of the environment around us.

Believe me, there're stories waiting inside of you. Stories waiting, crying to be written. Stories which have formed from the experience and instinctive knowledge of years we have spent in our lives- the people, the feelings, the happenings, the ups and downs, the happiness, the sorrows, the love and the resentment, friends, relationships, loved ones, patients, colleagues, operations, exams etc.etc.etc. It's time these stories start knocking on the inside of your skull, badgering you to vomit them out, on paper or on your laptop.

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Your story, waiting to be written.

From your own statements, I've been able to gather the gist of your problem- you're blocked, stuck. You have been working on your stories for months, then suddenly reached an impasse.

You seem to have lost all hope. You doubt if your work is readable enough. You doubt if you're ever write a story you're actually satisfied with. You wonder about all the hours you put in, if what you produced is worthy enough, whether your stories will ever see the light of day.

No problem.

Self-doubt is a part of EVERY writer's process/journey to literary success. Even the best of writers have been faced with and tackled self-doubt at some point. The good thing about a little self-doubt is, it can keep us grounded and prevent us from feeling too sure of ourselves, thereby helping us produce something good. The problem with self-doubt: extremes of it can lead to mental paralysis- it can leave us drained and depressed, it can make us think our stories are shit and we can never write again, that we're hopeless and we were deluding ourselves all this time.


Think about why you became writers in the first place. Why you became part of Wrimo India and NaNo, and why you interact with other writers. It is because, somewhere, inside that thinking, working brain of yours, you KNOW that you're a writer. That writing is an indispensable part of your life. That you have stories to tell the world. That writing is not an easy task. That it will take you months, or maybe several years, of writing daily, reading like crazy and getting your work critiqued, then edit and revise and polish and submit etc. etc. to become confident enough. That you will be assailed by self-doubt at times.

What is the solution?

In my view, I would say this: Writing begets Writing.

If you stay stuck on one manuscript, you may feel bored, or unmotivated, or depressed, or all three. Like I said at the beginning of this article, keep writing, keep producing stories. Read more books in your genre, and watch more serials in your area of authorly interest. A lot of your material comes from the magazines and newspapers you read, the news you watch, the colleagues you work with, the patients you interact with and treat, the conversations you have with your friends and family. Each of them contributes a little to building that world of knowledge inside you, the world which then spouts reams and reams of stories.

Keep reading. Keep writing. Write anything- essays, blogs, poems, FB posts. Scribble your random ideas in a diary or your journal. Your minds will, of its own accord, start connecting the dots and making up stories. Write an outline of a plot if you have one. Not necessary to bother with lengthy outlines and extensive plotting even BEFORE you begin plotting your story, like Sonia says.
As a pantser, I think, where's the fun in that?

Your story will work itself out in your head while you cook, see patients, talk to friends or family members or do whatever else you do in your daily routine. Write your story as it comes to you. Write everyday. And don't be stuck on the same story- keep one or two other ideas alongside to work on when you feel blocked on your pet project. Don't stop on one project. After you finish one book, start another. While you polish the first one, work on the second. By the time you will revise, edit, get critiques and then revise and re-edit till you're satisfied, you will have reached the crux of your second book. By then, your imaginations will have fired enough to get you started on your third novel by the time you wrap up your second one.

Don't stay stuck on novels. Work on short stories too- keep abreast of writing competitions for short stories and work on them too. Follow authors like Chuck Wending who do a flash fiction competition every week, on their blog. Think of contributing to literary magazines in your area of interest.

Writing short stories is the BEST practice to hone your craft and make you skilled at writing bigger stories. They are like lubricants, which will smooth out your writing process, such that you become better at writing long ones. This is my personal experience.

Write so much and produce like crazy, so that you don't have time to mope on a single story on which you're stuck- and to keep your writing machinery- the imagination- in great shape, read, read book after book after book to keep your neural network alive and working full time.

So, in a gist, here. what I do to overcome self-doubt, and maybe you can too:







I will wrap up my essay here. I'd meant to write a blog post but it inadvertently became an essay. Hopefully this will enable a discussion on our forum and help us grow as writers.

PS: If your CSF isn't already leaking from your skulls after my lengthy essay, you can refer to these articles by an author friend of mine, and one by author Chuck Wendig. They may also help.



Happy writing, and take care! :-)