Feedback Fridays

John Hartigan’s Secret Admirer

Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. However, any comments that are overly derogatory in nature will be removed. Please keep in mind that the author, while anonymous, will be reading your feedback. Submissions posted here are not edited and/or proof-read by Indireads.

If you are an author hoping for some feedback on the first 800 words of your unpublished manuscript, you can submit your work here.

Genre Crime


“Wait!” I yell, as I run inside a dark tunnel. By dark I mean absolute, pitch darkness ahead of me, which seems to consume me as I seem to run deeper and deeper into its heart. The only sound I can hear is the clacking of my boots on the ground as I run hard.

“Wait!” I yell again in vain, to the figure gliding a few feet in front of me. The figure is glowing in the dark, serving as a beacon to me. This shrouded figure, glowing fluorescent blue, is the reason I’m in this seemingly endless tunnel in the first place. While I’m already falling short of breathe from having to run probably faster than Usain Bolt to try and stop this figure, it glides effortlessly along the tunnel, not making any noise or even stopping in its tracks. Tonight, I will find out who this figure belongs to, and why it has been stalking me for the past many days.

I finally think I’m catching up with it. The florescent blue figure seems much more nearer now.

I increase my speed, and soon I’m right behind my quarry. I reach my hand out, and tug at the shroud with all the strength I can muster.

“Show yourself! Now!” I yell, trying to turn the figure around and see its face.

Suddenly, the glowing figure starts to turn around, and at the same time, the shroud starts coming off.

The glowing figure turns to me, and next moment the shroud is lifted from its face. Before I can take in all the details of the thing before me, it bursts into smithereens noiselessly. I vainly grab at minuscule, glowing particles floating around me like dust particles. The darkness is complete around me now, engulfing me in its black, infinite, sinister folds.

“Nooooooooooooooo!” I yell…and wake up, sweating and panting and puffing in my own bed, my hand grasping at thin air. I look around the room. Yes, it’s definitely my bedroom, and everything seems normal here. I look at the luminous clock on the bedside table. It’s only 2.30 a.m.

I try to go back to sleep, but my eyes refuse to shut and allow me some rest. All I can do is see images from the weird dream- a shrouded, fluorescent blue figure gliding in a dark tunnel, me running after it, trying to stop it. The rest of the details have completely disappeared from my memory.
I finally give up on sleeping and go to the kitchen, where I make myself a cup of coffee and sit down with a book. This has been happening to me quite frequently for the past few days- strange, vivid dreams, and then subsequent inability to sleep. It all started a few days back, when it started happening to me.

1. My Secret Admirer
“Your blue eyes are the tranquil seas,
Wavy, fair hair permanently ruffled by the breeze,
Your enticing, full, beautiful mouth,
Which have never uttered a word uncouth” — Your secret admirer

I stare hard at the note in my hand, willing the words to disappear into thin air. But I know they won’t. This is the tenth such note I have received in this past week. And notes are not the only thing I’ve received. Five of the notes were anonymously delivered to my office at the FBI Headquarters in Boston, with a huge bouquet of red, pink and white roses and a box of liqueur chocolates. The others, including this one, were randomly stuck in convenient places for me to find it.

I take a sip of coffee out of the mug in my hand, relishing the bitter tasting hot liquid which would soon fire up my central nervous system and prepare me for the day’s work.

On the windshield of my car, in the mail-slot, shoved beneath the front door of my apartment; this one had been shoved beneath the front door, and I found it when I went to pick up the morning newspaper. Little notes with poetry, and in the beginning indicating this person knows a lot about me- my name, my job as an FBI Special Agent and a criminologist, my home address, and my taste in flowers and chocolates. As if I haven’t already realized that as soon as it began. ‘It’ being my being courted by a clandestine admirer. They know everything about you, somehow. You’re unfortunate enough to have caught their fancy, unintentionally. Your looks, your smile, your quirks- anything can set them off on a ‘secret’ mission to turn your life upside down.

Feedback Fridays

Untitled Manuscript II

Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. However, any comments that are overly derogatory in nature will be removed. Please keep in mind that the author, while anonymous, will be reading your feedback. Submissions posted here are not edited and/or proof-read by Indireads.

If you are an author hoping for some feedback on the first 800 words of your unpublished manuscript, you can submit your work here.

Genre: Romance


Run! Priya thought as she entered the lounge club in Gurgaon. It was crowded and loud. Though she couldn’t find fault with the place but her head had started to throb.

After the morning episode, she just wanted to curl-up and sleep. She was already regretting telling Aditi and Komal about the phone call. She felt as if she had betrayed Sameer.

‘Bad idea’ she muttered.

‘Did you say something?’ Komal asked. Priya shook her head. There was no escape. Komal and Aditi flanked her on both sides, as if she would run away. They were determined to keep her occupied and busy. ‘You both grab a table. I will take care of drinks’. Komal said.

Abhimanyu took his drink from the bar, turned…and stared. For the first time in his life he understood meaning of heart missing a beat. The girl, in yellow, was looking completely out of place with her lost and deserted look. Her long black hair cascaded down on one side. The most arresting features were her eyes with long black eyelashes. They almost touched her cheek when she checked her cell phone time and again.

‘Abhi! We are starting a new one.’ Rahul, called him from the table they had for themselves. He kept her in his line of sight and moved towards his friends. They were exchanging exaggerated stories of their tryst with girls in their respective offices. Though he pretended to listen to them, but his eyes tracked movement of the girl across the hall. She was with another tall girl in red and black. They seem to be waiting for someone at a cocktail table. The need to look into her eyes kept growing like an alien insidious weed.

Someone tapped his shoulder, he looked up with an annoyed scowl at the interruption.

‘Chal…’ Rahul was standing beside him.


‘Someone got your attention after a long time. Must be pretty special, let’s go and introduce.’ Rahul said.

‘I don’t think it’s a good idea. They seem to be waiting for someone. She might be with a partner.’

‘Well…for you my friend, I am willing to take the risk.’

Abhimanyu chuckled, ‘Leave it. You will get bashed up unnecessarily on your birthday.’ He glanced at the cocktail table again. ‘Oh that’s Komal!’ He spotted his cousin with miss-beautiful-eyes and smiled. Now things were looking up. ‘Ok let’s go…’ He stood up, ‘Wait a minute, why do you want to tag along?’

‘Why not? May be she will like me, moreover today is my lucky day!’ Rahul said and followed him.

‘Hey Komal!’ Abhimanyu said reaching their table, all along keeping his gaze on miss-doe-eyes.

He willed her to look at him. To his annoyance she dropped her cell phone and ducked under the table.

‘Rahul, Abhi bhaiya, fancy seeing you here’ Komal said and smiled. ‘I thought you were too mature for this kind of place.’ He grinned and followed the girl putting her phone together, battery, cover and all.

‘His highness has come at my insistence to grace my birthday party today.’ Rahul said. ‘You ladies can introduce yourself and wish me ‘happy birthday’ with a kiss, I don’t do presents.’
Komal introduced Priya and Aditi, and promptly pressed a kiss on Rahul’s cheek.

The girl just threw a fleeting glance at Rahul and him and continued to fiddle with the phone. This was a new experience. He was not used to females ignoring him. Priya…nice name.

Rahul invited them to join their table. They shifted to the alcove where two of Rahul’s friends were sitting. Rahul somehow managed to maneuver their seating arrangements so that Priya ended up sitting adjacent to him, while Rahul sat with Aditi. Abhimanyu noticed Komal wiggling her eyebrows at Rahul’s ploy. Rahul winked.

Priya was getting more and more miserable with every passing second. She was unable to delink her mind from that heart sinking phone call today morning, which indicated that Sameer was with some other women.

She couldn’t digest the explanation that it could be platonic. The husky bedroom voice was still echoing in her ears. Her call on Sameer’s phone was picked up immediately by the woman. But this only indicated that his phone was with the woman not Sameer. May be the woman hasn’t passed her message to him. But her call was dismissed so carelessly it seemed Sameer was with HER – Priya’s mind was having conversation on these lines since morning with different inferences and combinations. If it was innocent, then why was his phone switched off and why hadn’t he called? This couldn’t be happening to me, she thought. The whole incident had taken dream like proportion.


Helping Others In Order to Help Ourselves

indiwriteWriting is an art and a craft. A thought wafts through your head, inspiration strikes and you feel words beginning to align themselves in order to give shape to your runaway imagination. You write, re-write, strike-out, write some more, put it away to get some distance and then come back. It’s the writer’s dance; the need to practice and perfect.

Rising South Asia today, among other things, also has a rash of rising writers. Some are brilliantly original storytellers, some have mastered language and can charm words into doing anything for them and yet others bring to life culture and traditions both old and new. A large majority however, are writers. Just that. They have a story in mind and have decided to write it down. Faithfully and linearly, just as it came to them; in the Queen’s English, however they learned it.

These people have certainly penned a story, but are they writers? I am afraid, in my opinion, they are not. To me, a writer is someone who burns from within, who approaches writing as art, yes, but also as a sacred craft. It is someone for whom writing is a labor of love, who agonizes over the right word, who lovingly crafts sentences. Above all, to me a writer is someone who constantly strives to be better.

Last year we started Indireads, South Asia’s first digital publishing agency, with a vision. Passionate about stories and good writing, we aim to publish quality popular fiction—well-written and carefully edited. To nurture and guide new writing talent and inspire young writers to set higher standards for themselves. Whether we get there or not, we do think we’re on the right path.

Staying true to our vision, we’re launching Indiwrite, our way of offering support and feedback to all the aspiring writers out there. Through our Indiwrite blogs, we will be sharing all that we know about writing, editing and marketing and our Indiwrite Facebook group is envisioned an open group for writers to interact with us and to support each other.

Feedback Fridays, yet another new initiative of ours, however, needs your support, and at the same time is an opportunity to help the writers among us—the faithful servants of the old practice of writing and rewriting. This is how it works. We will post, on our website, an anonymous submission of 600-800 words by an aspiring writer. We call upon you—authors, writers, bloggers and critical readers—to give back by posting your constructive feedback. The exercise will take you less than five minutes; it will help you develop a critical eye for your own writing, just as much as it will help the person whose submission you will critique.

We are committed and passionate about our cause—helping to bring about great stories and writing. And now we ask you—writers, artists and craftsmen—to go back to the beginning, to help others in order to help ourselves and to be true to your chosen paths. See you all online this Friday. Let the good work begin!

Feedback Fridays


Our second submission is the first part of a short story, not a full manuscript, so judge it accordingly! Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. However, any comments that are overly derogatory in nature will be removed. Please keep in mind that the author, while anonymous, will be reading your feedback. Submissions posted here are not edited and/or proof-read by Indireads.

If you are an author hoping for some feedback on the first 800 words of your unpublished manuscript, you can submit your work here.


Genre: Romance

‘Ha ha ha ha…her guffaws rang out in waves across the quiet green expanse and the laughing river flowing beside them.

He smacked her leg playfully, the look in his eyes more eloquent than a dozen words.

She was piggy-backing, her legs wrapped around his waist, arms around him. He staggered, stabilised and then walked on the narrow raised strip between the rice fields

They weighed almost the same. Their height almost the same, pointy nosed and voluptuous mouthed, they both had dusky-bronze skin. They could well have been siblings. They were not.

Nitin and Barkha

There’s so much to do. Barkha pulled herself out of her easy chair, tucking a silvery grey wisp of hair behind her ear. The morning Sun, no longer soft, had begun to scorch her skin.

She had begun to lie down in the old easy chair very often.

Nitin’s grandfather had a few of the chairs carved from the best rosewood and they lay in the veranda that overlooked the back yard. Old and black, the wooden chair still gleamed. There were scratch marks all over made by the scores of children that had sat on it. Namely Barkha and her siblings; her brood: two daughters and a son.

On weekends Barkha and Nitin had sat there, just like they did now, though not ‘just’ like now, she thought. Back then, their children ran amuck in the green yard playing and screaming, stopping to snack from any one of the many fruit trees that they fancied. Things were different then.

She had kept back one chair for herself and one for Nitin. The rest had been given away to admiring relatives.

She glanced at Nitin.

He smiled at her. Vacant faced.

Like someone trying to recognise her.

Nowadays every time he looked at her, he was like that.

Like a child looking for something.

Or even a dithering idiot trying to figure out something remotely intelligent.

She smiled back.

He was a shell of his former self.

“I am going indoors now. Will you stay here”?

“Yes,” he smiled again, his eyes crinkling against the glare of the Sun, numerous fine lines on his once smooth face. He didn’t mind the Sun.

“Getting my dose of vitamin D,” he said.

She shook out her salt and pepper hair from the knot which had come lose, tied them up into a tight knot that made a certain statement and marched in through the back door.

She found that the maid, had sneaked in and was now at the kitchen sink, washing spinach in quick, sharp swishes, trying to get the cumbersome task out of the way before Barkha descended on her.

On hearing her footsteps, the maid changed her modus-operandi with lightening speed. She took the colander which she was meant to use and started to go slow, washing a few leaves at a time, under running water.

Barkha smiled at the little deception and filled the electric kettle. Another cuppa wouldn’t hurt.

The sounds of the boiling water sucked her mind into a whirlpool of thoughts which usually boiled below the surface of her cool exterior.

One cold morning in Coonoor, five years ago, the tea kettle screamed for attention, gave up and had burnt itself beyond repair.

Nitin wouldn’t recognise her.

Her Nitin. The one she knew right from college.

“Nitin, wake up.  Let’s go for a walk,” she had curled up next to him in an effort at drawing him out of his warm quilt.

A month ago he had given up his position as Manager of the tea plantations he worked for, since the last ten years. They had saved up a tidy sum so she wasn’t worried on that front.

Feedback Fridays

Untitled Manuscript I

Our first anonymous selection for Feedback Fridays. Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. However, any comments that are overly derogatory in nature will be removed. Please keep in mind that the author, while anonymous, will be reading your feedback. Submissions posted here are not edited and/or proof-read by Indireads.

If you are an author hoping for some feedback on the first 800 words of your unpublished manuscript, you can submit your work here.


Genre: Romance

FROM somewhere in the room my phone buzzed to the riff of Metallica’s ‘Master of puppets. I squirmed in my sleep, and ignored Hetfield’s intense guitar playing. However, as it began to get louder I couldn’t take it anymore and gave in.

In semi-drowsy state I rose to my feet and started locating the boom-box.

It wasn’t on the work-table, it wasn’t anywhere around the pile of clothes, or my Java and other android books, or the pile of clothes in the shelves of the open cupboard.

“Stop you frigging monster!” I shouted in frustration.

Finally I found it hiding from me behind my laptop. I wasted not a second pressing the cancel button, and put an end to the crazy mayhem.

Rubbing the corner of my eye with a finger I looked at the time. The screen showed 10:30. 10:30!

I almost panicked. But soon realized that I didn’t even have the time to panic – I was already too late. I rushed to the basin, washed face, and brushed teeth. After changing into formals I put a sandwich from last night into the microwave. While it heated up, sitting on the sofa I put on my shoes.

With the sandwich clutched in hand, and the backpack slung on shoulder I made way to the main street as fast as possible. An auto from there and I was soon onboard metro train.

I worked through all of it so fast that I seriously considered timing myself next time.

Yes, indeed there would be a ‘next time’. It was the typical routine. Life as an android-app developer could be really frazzling and demanding, contrary to what many people imagine.

The moment I stepped on the road I started pacing to the office. I considered boarding a bus – even though the office was barely two km away it would still save me plenty of time – but no bus passed by me that day.

When I was still halfway to the office, then as if being late, and with no bus coming my way was not bad enough already, the grey sky exploded. And it didn’t rain water, but cats and dogs!

I took shelter under the nearest tree and waited for the rain to stop. But apparently, there was no stopping to it. If anything, it seemed to be getting intense.

Finally I gave up, and holding the backpack above my head I started running towards my office. I didn’t have a choice after all. Reaching the office doused in rain was still better than getting reprimanded for reaching late. That especially on the day when one of the biggest projects Mobisoft had received was to be completed and sent to the client.

As I stepped inside the office I immediately felt relieved – it was so cozy and warm there. Luckily, and surprisingly, I didn’t get too wet and just swabbing of handkerchief on the neck and hands did the trick.

I stood in front of the fingerprint scanner and pressed my index finger on the red slide to mark my attendance.

“Please wait for a few seconds” the female pre-recorded voice from the device said.

“Sorry! Please try again.” came the response. I rubbed my finger on my trousers and tried again. But again the response was the same. “Please try again”. Once more. “Please try again” And once more. “Please try again.”

“Damn it!”

“Hey, you better get a new finger. Your current one is not working.” Dushyant said as he passed by me and sniggered. A few others also joined him from their desks.

Ignoring the remark, as well as my attendance, I walked to my desk and slumped into the chair.
About Dushyant’s behavior, it was not that I had any choice. He was the project manager, team leader, whatever. You can call it anything you want. The thing is – he was a douche.

“Rough day, eh?” Ashish said.

“Just another normal day in my life.” I said as I placed my laptop on the table.

Other than Manav sir, the company head, Ashish was the only likeable and trustworthy person I found in the office. He was dark (in a good way), had good dressing sense, and was audacious. He could have easily mingled with any other guy in the office, even the influential ones. But instead he chose me to stick with, working from the desk right next to mine.


Just a Little Love

One of the biggest challenges to large software corporations has been the open source community—a massive population of coders that provide free code to the world; that share, improve and evolve their software every day in ways that a corporate structure can’t emulate. In many ways, these coders have redefined the internet, and our lives. When Steve Jobs set up the iOS Developer Program at Apple, he did it because he recognized the power of open source—numbers. The sheer number of open source and freelance developers far outweigh the resources large corporations have.

Independent and open-source coders changed the landscape of software development. Independent and self-published authors are doing the same for publishing.

Newly published indie and self-published authors are often unaware of the huge amount of support available to them. From bloggers to fellow authors, there are sites dedicated to editorial, marketing, distribution and PR specifically for indie and self-published authors. More importantly, there are bloggers who will review and promote indie and self-published authors exclusively.

Sites like The Indie View, Indies Unlimited, Pixel of Ink and Indie Book Reviewer, to name a few, are excellent resources for the independent author who has to do more to promote his or her own book than a traditionally published author would. Small independent publishers like Indireads don’t have the resources, the distribution networks or the marketing engines of traditional publishers.

But they have the support of the people. And it’s important to connect with them. For instance, if you’re on Goodreads, there are at least 5 things you should be doing to raise your own profile.

  1. Join Groups & Comment
    This may sound obvious, but I’m surprised that so few people actually do this. There are groups segmented by genre, keyword or by geography.  There are review swap groups, reader groups, author groups—it really is a huge resource. But you can’t step into a social environment and expect an immediate response to your query. You need to make friends first, hence, comment, respond, ask, give as much as you want to take.
  2. Add your book to lists
    Find lists that represent your book—South Asian reads, great cover art, funny books, easy-reads—there are so many to choose from. They call it ‘Listopia’ for a reason. Ask your friends to add your book to these lists, to vote on books you’ve added.
  3. Recommend!
    You may not have large followers, but if you recommend your book to one friend who reads it and recommends it to five…well you get where I’m going with this, right?
  4. Use your own friends
    Not to leave reviews, but to share quotes from your book. Ask friends and readers to share their favorite quotes from your book (don’t do it yourself, that’s just self-aggrandizement!). They could take this a step further and share the quotes on Facebook, though that’s up to them.
  5. Fill out your profile
    If you have a blog, add your feed to Goodreads. Add a picture, an author bio, and read the Author Program page on Goodreads for more ideas.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice is RECIPROCATE. If an author likes your Facebook page, like them back, send them a respectful and friendly message, comment on their posts. If they follow you on Twitter, follow them back, favorite their tweets, retweet them, join in or start conversations.

If you’re expecting the indie community to promote you in return for nothing, you may as well take your book off the shelves right now. The indie community is a friendly group, and they’re willing to help out everyone, without prejudice, airs, or discrimination. But if you decide you’re too good for them, you’ll be relegated in a heartbeat.

They don’t ask for financial return—just a little love.


Jauntily Snarky, or Merrily Suave?

When it comes to falling in love with a character in a book, I am very particular about that character’s words and actions. It’s more than just physical appearances; there are the words an author chooses to put into his or her character’s mouth, his/her interaction with other characters and his/her actions in any particular situation. It might be a little obsessive to think this way, but the adjectives and adverbs used to describe them, or their actions throughout the story, make a huge difference in how I picture the character in my mind.

For instance, a sophisticated and somber personality is unlikely to be doing anything ‘jauntily’, or ‘merrily’ (especially not dialogue), just as a light-hearted interaction would not be conducted ‘fiercely’ or with any kind of melodrama. The debonair hero of a romance novel should not, I believe, be attributed with actions or words that are stuttered or stammered, stumbling or diffident. I would prefer ‘hesitant’, or ‘reluctant’, neither of which bring up images of chastised little boys in front of a stern schoolmaster. Though, I may be wrong about the romantic hero part—it really depends upon the character you’ve created—but a hero who is supposed to be self-assured and commanding loses his charm when he’s responding in a ‘small voice’, or saying something ‘jerkily’.

And it’s not just adverbs and adjectives that this applies to. An older woman may ‘chide’ a child, but it’s unlikely that she’ll be chiding an adult—setting them straight, or remonstrating, perhaps. The quirky young college student won’t be ‘stern’, or ‘somber’, though she may be ‘passionate’ and ‘eccentric’. The octogenarian won’t be ‘skipping’ along the sidewalk, and rarely ‘snarky’ (unless he’s very, very cool).

Just like you’d rarely describe the heights of passion as ‘cheerful’, or the depths of despair as merely ‘sad’, selecting the right word for the right character and the right situation is what writing is all about.