Posted in Random Thoughts

The Forest Bed: The Making

After an year full of pain (and I am not even talking about the pendemic or my back injury…), our first book, the Forest Bed, was finally released worldwide in June.

Manpreet and I are still so excited, which is weird considering that we have been working on it for an year now.

Those who have followed my blog in the past one year probably know that I had been creating a short story collection for quite some time now. I had believed that since the stories already written, self-publishing them would be a breeze. As you would have already guessed, I was wrong. It was an year filled with dismayed discoveries one after another. Here is the journey and lessons learnt.

Selecting stories: Choosing the probable candidates for the book was a pain. As a mother to 400 (now 500) stories, it was impossible for me to choose the best. So, I chose around a hundred and threw them in Manpreet’s way, knowing that as my best friend, she is duty-bound to help me and she’s too loyal to back out later. She chose forty stories that she loved the best. Then she told me the loopholes and words that didnot make sense to common readers. I went through the stories again and tried to give them more character and less confusion.

Providing a flow: I read in a very informative blog that a short story compilation is successful only when one story flows into another. There should be an underlying theme and a natural flow. I created an excel sheet to find a theme based on underlying emotions, starting and finishing emotions, keywords, age of characters, the timeline/chronology…nothing made sense. So I pitted the stories against each other, reading and re-reading, moving them around in the excel sheet until they started to flow.

Creating illustrations: All this while, I was working on the side with Manpreet to create illustrations for each story. Manpreet is a freelance painter with a gift of open-mindedness, which is rather rare. Most painter try to create and stick to a certain style. Manpreet, on the other hand, experiments with various mediums, just to see where it takes her. Hence, she was my natural choice. There one glitch in the whole plan–she lives 500 miles from my home and we had no way of putting our heads together except Whatsapp…

She began with hand-drawn illustrations and, then, experimented through various means to enhance the experience. Finally, she discovered a way to digitalise handmade illustrations through applications already available on the phone. It was surprising what one can achieve with a little imagination and strong resolve to learn. As an example, the painting on the cover page was created solely on her phone–No colours, no pencil. Just stickers and effects!

We spent several months on getting the correct illustrations for the stories. It was a process of discovery and understanding how to visualise a story without giving away the content. We laughed and cried while sitting 500 miles apart, joined together through the very inadequate means of phone that allows us to hear and see, but not hold hands. It was an emotional journey, reconnecting with my best friend of twenty years on a daily basis, just like we did during our Bachelors degree.

Creating a template: When I began with creating the template for the book, I looked up my old books to see the basic courtsies required from a writer. And to think, I had never even looked at the Copyright statement and Acknowledgements pages of any book ever before. For a week, I researched how to copyright my book, only to find out it wasn’t even required since books are automatically copyrighted upon publication. It isn’t like I’ve invented a car that uses sea-salt as fuel…hey, that one has a potential for a story…

Anyway, when it came to Dedications page, I started to mention each person I wanted to thank, but I couldn’t fit them all in one page…it was a moment of realisation how lucky I am to have countless people to be thankful for…family, extended family, friends from schools, colleges, jobs, neighbours, roommates, family-by-marriage…and the many people I’ve met through them. They have all moulded me into…well, me!

And then, there were people who hurt me…who taught me that life was not all pretty and gave me the challenge of fighting back with grace. How could I fit all these people in one page?

The About Author page mystified me. What could I ever write about my mundane life that would be of interest to readers? I could, of course, blabber till eternity pointlessly but the short stories concept did not allow Author description to be pointless. It had to be short and succinct with humour to keep people engaged since it was going to be the last page of the book.

Header and Footer: I thought I knew MS Word, until I had to set up the Header and Footer. Pagination had me down on my knees praying for divine intervention, which came, eventually, through Google.

Editing: It was a herculean job and I was doing it one story at a time. Editing your own work is like searching for grey hair out of platinum-blond. You believe all’s well when actually it’s not. You read a story for the 15th time, only to realise that you had missed typing an article, conjunction or preposition while your perspective had been filling in the gaps for you all the while.

Proofreading: When it came to proofreading, I realised I could not be relied upon anymore. I needed someone who was a pro at finding loopholes. That’s when, I begged my father, an Indian taxation writer, for help. He did it overnight and, for the first time, praised my stories, which, I think, is all that I had been aiming at for all these years since I started this blog. He also helped me cut out a couple of stories that were killing the flow. In the end, I was left with 30 good stories.

Finding publishing platform: Once all was done and dusted, I thought, “Well! Now publishing a print and ebook would be a breeze…” But then, I tried finding a platform that would create an ebook out of a massive 100 MB word document…and failed…over and over. When I finally found one that would accept my file, the result was horrible. The text was all over the place. The chapters began and ended at their free will and images floated around like helium-filled baloons. There was no guarantee where the text would appear in the next page and I was losing my heart…and brain…in the process.

Finally Amazon Kindle became my hero. It accepted my superheavy manuscript and converted it into a sleek book, both ebook and printable version. It also helped me understand the problems and gave probable solutions. Most of them worked. It also created an eye-catching cover using Manpreet’s illustration.

Distribution: Finally, after I was done whooping around for the victory, I learnt that Amazon doesnot distribute prints in India, my homeland. I realised that my parents would never see my book (that is, if they want to see it again after reading the manuscript). So, I began a fresh search for a local distributer. Most of them cost more money than my three-months’ salary. While I can afford it, it is certainly not the kind of flight I would sit in wondering all the while whether it would crash.

Then, while going through site reviews, I came across Pothi.com that publishes and distributes in India free. It works on a zero-inventory, print-on-demand basis. For a minor fee of Rs.1500 (around 20 US dollars), they provide expanded distribution through Amazon India and Flipkart. So, now I am publishing our book through Pothi, Amazon.com, Amazon.uk and Amazon Kindle.

I hope that would suffice. I am thoroughly exhausted and wish that I could simply lie down and leave the headache to others.

But now, I have a marketing campaign to deal with. Manpreet is dealing with Instagram while I am with Facebook and WordPress. I don’t understand Twitter at all, so I will leave that to fate and you. So, help me dear reader to spread the message and get my dream across that bridge where earth meets the sky.

In case you are wondering where the book is, click this link for details.

Posted in Blogging, Published, Random Thoughts

The Forest Bed: Free ebook

It is finally here! My very own short stories collection: The Forest Bed and other short stories. After long delays for ‘technical’ reasons, my book is finally available worldwide as an ebook. What’s even better?

The ebook is free.

The Forest Bed ebook is available to readers worldwide for free on Amazon Kindle

Offer valid from June 22, 2021, 12:00 AM PDT till June 26, 2021, 11:59 PM PDT.

  1. Open your Kindle app.
  2. Type The Forest Bed in your Search bar.
  3. Select the book.
  4. Download and read.
  5. Provide an honest review.

Or depending on where you live, you can find it on Amazon. Just click the relevant link below:

Amazon.com

Amazon.in

Amazon.co.uk

Just type in the comment box if you can’t find it. I’ll provide the link.

Book in Print: If you are more of a love-the-smell-of-books person like me, you can order the printed book from Amazon or Pothi and they will deliever it at your doorstep. Just click the link of your favoured distributor.

Site name
Amazon.co.ukBlack and White Coloured
Amazon.comBlack and WhiteColoured
Pothi.comBlack and WhiteColoured

Free sample: If you are wondering why you should spend your money on the book, here is a free sample with five representative stories from the book. Please click DOWNLOAD to take a sneak peak and provide reviews that would help me raise the sale.

Spread the word!

Share the post, if you will. Please, pretty please! 😇

Posted in Random Thoughts

Published Our First Book!

“After an year of toil and tears, it is finally here! Our very own short stories collection…”

-Manpreet and Shaily

The Forest Bed and other short stories

Our book is now available in India in print on Pothi.com. 😊 😃 They deliver across India through courier.

Soon, it will be available worldwide as ebook and in print.

Spread the word!

Share the post, if you will. Please, pretty please! 🥺

Posted in My life

Missed opportunity of being a sloth

An excerpt from Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome (1889):

…I had the symptoms, beyond all mistake, the chief among them being a general disinclination to work of any kind.
What I suffer in that way no tongue can tell. From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. They did not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness.
Why, you skulking little devil, you, they would say, get up and do something for your living, cant you? not knowing, of course, that I was ill.
And they didn’t give me pills; they gave me clumps on the side of the head. And, strange as
it may appear, those clumps on the head often cured me for the time being. I have known one clump on the head have more effect upon my liver, and make me feel more anxious to go straight away then and there, and do what was wanted to be done, without further loss of time, than a whole box of pills does now.”

A friend had gifted me this book 10 years back. I’ve read it end number of times and often go back to it to ponder over the things in life that remain unchanged even after 130 years. This excerpt from the book clearly calls out my present state of mind.

I’ve been a sloth for most of my life. For those of you who are unaware who a sloth is, it is the slowest mammal ever. It spends its life hanging on the tree and eating leaves from the same branch forever, digesting one leaf in 30 days. It’s life is so slow that it grows algae on its coat.

I sometimes feel, while being programmed, my chip got swapped with that of a sloth, the same as Jerome. I could stay in the same spot undetected for hours, reading or painting quietly. I read around 50-100 storybooks/novels in an year, depending on the thickness of the book. Often, my parents didn’t know I was home. Unlike my brother, I wasn’t into sports, didn’t party, didn’t have a social life outside school, and moved my ass only when absolutely required, like when it came to clumps on the head. I didn’t grow algae, but only because my mother forced me into the bath once a day.

Now as a mother, I always have the company of my child who hasn’t started school, and the duties of a mother and homemaker. I enjoy her company, but often miss the opportunity of being a sloth.

Posted in Life and After

Spell-Check

clark-young-QdRnZlzYJPA-unsplash (2)

I’m sure, the quill had lost its potency, or may be it’s the fancy ink I had purchased at the Witch’s Supplies store. They had guaranteed that anything written with the quill and ink will be accepted for publication without fail. But I should have known better–these readymade spells wear off after a few readings, and I, myself, had reread the manuscript at least four times.

Was that why it had felt rather bland in the last reading?

Now the entire thing has returned from the publisher and I had to pay for the return Owl as well. And to think, I had spent three months writing the entire thing with hands.

Once Paa hears of it, I’ll never hear the end of it. Over and over, he had offered me his spell-operated typewriter with the secret homemade Publication ink–the one he had used for all of his 18 published books. But I had been too proud to accept the favour. And now he’s busy writing his 19th, so typewriter is busy.

May be I’ll beg him for his secret ink recipe…anything for the elusive Booker Prize…


Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash