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

Publish Posts Through WP App on Mobile

This is a basic publishing aid meant to help people create posts while using WP app on their phone. I am sure, most of you have already figured out the process, but in case you haven’t just follow these steps to publish the post.

(Note: The screenshots were taken randomly from two different sites I own over a period of three months. So, you may find some inconsistencies. Please bear with me.) 😁

Your main WP App main screen will look something like below. I have covered the logo, site name and WordPress address here since the site is not ready to go live yet.

1. Click Posts (highlighted in orange).

2. Click the red + sign to add a new post.

(The tabs on the top contain the following items:

  • Published: List of your published posts in order of Chronology
  • Drafts: Drafts that you haven’t published, including anything you wrote and forgot to save before closing the application
  • Scheduled: Drafts you have scheduled to post in the future
  • Binned: Posts/Drafts you have deleted)

3. Type the Title of the post (you can change it later, if needed), and add content. If you have a block editor, which is now the default editor in WP, every time you click enter, you will get a new block.

4. To add various items to the post, like heading, quotes, images, videos, space and separators, click the highlighted + sign at the bottom of the screen. Then, select one.

5. Once you believe that post is ready to be published, click the three dots at the top right, and select Post settings.

6. Select Categories. It is not mandatory, but it helps your audience later when you have, say 30+ posts. You can simply add some major category names to your top menu and the audience can find your posts easily by clicking them. You can add/change category even years after publishing, if (God forbid 😁) you feel like it.

7. Select the category.

If you are new, the page is probably blank, or does not have the required category. 😎 To add a new category:

  1. Click the + sign at the top right.
  2. Add a category name. Keep it generic, short and easy to understand.
  3. If you wish to place them under one of your existing categories, click the down arrow next to Top level.
  4. Select the parent category from the existing list.

Once you have selected the category, click the back button at the top left.

8. Select Tags.

9. Select the tag. If you need a news one, type a new tag. You can separate two tags with a comma. Do not add space. (Feel free to disregard the advice of your editor for a change, as I have. 😎)

Once done, click the back button at the top left.

10. To select the publishing time:

  1. Click Publish.
  2. Click Time and Date.
  3. Either select Immediately; or select appropriate date, and click OK; then, select appropriate time, and click OK.

11. Click PUBLISH, and then, PUBLISH NOW.


Note: If at any point of time, you feel the need to stop writing and close the post, click the three dots on the top-right, and select Save. It will save your work on WP site online.

If you reopen the WP App and see Local changes message below a post, it is because you closed the application without saving it. Just open the post settings and click Save.

If you see the Version Conflict message below the draft/post, think of the last time you worked on the post.

  • If you worked via the mobile, click Remove Web Version.
  • If you worked directly on the website, click Remove Device Version.

Thank you! I am such a genius! 😎

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