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If you are an author hoping for some feedback on the first 800 words of your unpublished manuscript, you can submit your work here.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


Writing is Art

I know a number of people who don’t get the power of Picasso’s work, or who mock modern art. The most common comments I hear center around the premise that Picasso couldn’t draw, which is blatantly false. Picasso himself was a remarkable artist and he didn’t embark on cubism until the later period of his life. By that time, he had the tools he needed to explore new avenues in his art.

He mastered his skills before he distorted them. He could draw, paint in oils, watercolors and a host of other media. He learned them all.

About a month ago, a post by Natasha Ahmed reminded me that one of my favorite American screenwriters was Aaron Sorkin, not just for the great stories that he comes up, but with the staggering command of language that he wields in each of his shows. He’s most famous for A Few Good Men, Moneyball and The West Wing, but I am currently waiting breathlessly for the next season of The Newsroom. He also wrote at least one other show that I know of, Sports Night. If you watch each of the shows, you can see Sorkin refining his tools, his control of language, much like Picasso’s works map his gradual mastery of his tools.

Unfortunately, I’ve found very few fellow fans of The West Wing, even fewer who recognize the sheer genius of Aaron Sorkin (I’m speaking of my own circle of friends within Pakistan—I may be completely wrong about you!). Shows like Friends, How I Met Your Mother, The Walking Dead, TBBT, Game of Thrones, Pretty Little Liars and Grey’s Anatomy are amongst everyone’s favorites lists. But not The West Wing or The Newsroom, which is a great pity because he can take the most mundane topic and turn it into a work of art. I think that if he chose to write about a rock, I’d be riveted!

One of the best examples of Sorkin’s skill with words is an episode from The West Wing called Galileo. He takes an ordinary, poorly written speech and shows us how to turn it into something magical:

BARTLET: [reads] “Good morning! I’m speaking to you live from the West Wing of the White House. Today we have a very unique opportunity to take part live in an extremely historic event which…”

Whoa, boy…

SAM: [waves and smiles] How you doing, Mr. President?

BARTLET: Who wrote this intro? 

TATE: I did, sir. I’m Scott Tate from NASA Public Affairs.

BARTLET: [gets up and shakes his hand] Scott. “Unique” means “one of a kind.” Something can’t be very unique, nor can it be extremely historic.… Sam?

SAM: Yeah.

BARTLET: [to Tate] He’s gonna make some changes.

TATE: [following Sam] You’re going to clear them with me?

SAM: I doubt it. [to a recording staffer] Write this: “Good morning. Eleven months ago a 1200 pound spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Eighteen hours ago it landed on the planet Mars. You, me, and 60,000 of your fellow students across the country along with astro-scientists and engineers from the Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California, NASA Houston, and right here, at the White House, are going to be the first to see what it sees, and to chronicle an extraordinary voyage of an unmanned ship called Galileo V.”

You have to watch this scene to appreciate the depth of these words; Rob Lowe does them justice. From ‘an extremely historic event’ to ‘chronicle an extraordinary voyage of an unmanned ship called Galileo V’, this is the kind of writing that should be taught in schools.

A writer’s tools are words. And great writing is all about wielding those words in new and unusual ways that will delight your reader. Picasso may not have delighted everyone, but he was in total control of his tools when he painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. He was enticing us to view the world through his eyes, because a two-dimensional painting is flat—perspective and depth is an illusion created by an artist equally adept at his or her art.

Words create atmosphere, they paint pictures, they reveal harsh realities and images of great beauty. Words create an illusory depth, like Rembrandt, or they can be starkly transparent like Picasso. Both require control of words and lots of practice!

Every published, established and popular around the world will give one common piece of advice to new authors: read. I’m adding to that and saying, watch great shows. Read their transcripts. Specifically, watch Aaron Sorkin’s shows. Reading other books, poetry or plays gives you new ways to approach a scene, a description, a dialogue. It doesn’t mean that you should copy them—even though everything we write has been written before—but be inspired by them.

Sorkin, by the way, is also the master of an understated, low-key humor that requires a double take:

TATE: Look, I don’t want to step on your toes. You don’t want to step on mine. We’re both writers.

SAM: Yes, I suppose, if you broaden the definition to those who can’t spell.


Resilient, Beautiful Butterflies

In literature and in life, the themes I connect to most strongly—perhaps because they echo the story of my life—are those of discovery and freedom, leading inevitably to disconnection, displacement and eventually to new beginnings. The themes are a familiar literary backdrop, revisited again and again in love stories, novels and movies.

Why are these commonly recurring themes? And what makes them so powerful? The answer lies, I believe, in the trajectory of life. We are perpetually pitched into the unfamiliar, jolted out of our comfort zones and asked to move, with times that are a-changing. And no matter how much we kick or scream or resist, willingly, or unwillingly, we are continually poised on the brink of letting go of something old to find something new. And so, when we read about it, we relate to the fear and sympathize with the unfairness, and inevitability of it all.

Our newest release, Butterfly Season, launched this month, touches on these themes in the life of a thirty-something Pakistani woman Rumi, who is blithely and unsuspectingly on vacation in London for the first time in ten years. The spirited side of her, squashed by family and cultural dictates, wakes up and causes Rumi to act on impulse, to let go and to fall in love—until reality catches up with her in the form of her moralistic sister, who brings her face to face with the far-reaching consequences of her actions.

What strikes me, ironically enough, is that, although Rumi believes herself to be an emancipated modern woman, how hemmed in and closely scrutinized her life actually is. Although she is independent, employed at an unconventional job and is able to invite her friends over for breakout evenings on her rooftop, beyond these small incursions, Rumi is not really free to venture out and discover what she wants in life. It is her vacation that grants her the freedom to discover, to explore and to experience the heady power of being attractive to an attractive man.

It is telling that for so many of us, the process of going away may be the only means of coming alive and coming home to oneself. For so many South Asian women the disconnect has been linked to marriage—the end of the old and the beginning of a new life. More and more young women however, are able to choose other paths. To begin offbeat careers, to work or study away from home, to travel, to break boundaries, forge new paths, to explore and discover and find ourselves, as individuals, unconnected to family, tradition, or relationships.

Ultimately however, like Rumi, each of us is challenged to choose between old and new, and at that precise moment of choice and courage, we are rebirthed—free of our cocoons, to venture forth into a new life.

Here is to all of us—beautiful, resilient butterflies.


Only in the unfamiliar are we able to distance ourselves to recognize who we have become, and what we really wanted to be.


Travelling to the Land of Butterflies

A few years earlier, a scandal ran through Karachi’s middle classes when several cyber cafés released videos of couples necking (and a lot more) in the small private booths of their establishments. The couples were unaware that they were being filmed and some of the videos were incredibly explicit. To the sensibilities of ordinary Pakistanis, the videos were more than scandalous. They were horrifying, especially since all the women in the videos were covered in burqas or hijabs (which, to most Pakistanis, is what distinguishes the pious Muslim woman from the herd). The only upside to this fact was that the women were unidentifiable and therefore safe from stampeding mullah brigades out to dispense their own brand of justice.

But it caused a small sensation in the country. Even my own mother, whom I consider to be fairly liberal (she’s a fan of Harold Robbins. If you’ve read any of his books, you’ll know what I mean), was vocal in her anger at the actions of the women in the cyber cafés. It struck me that almost all of the condemnation was for the girls—no one seemed to care that all the videos included young men, all easily identifiable, all equal participants in the clandestine affairs.

It was a hot topic of discussion for days after the media ruckus had died down. Every conversation I had, even among my own friends, was about the audacity of these burqa-clad girls meeting men in private booths at cyber cafés to have sex.

Why all the anger towards women only? Weren’t the men equal participants? I would have understood a violent reaction to public indecency—that’s a matter of civic duty, not to disrupt public sensibilities. But these couples were seeking out cyber cafés with closed booths for privacy. They weren’t flaunting their affairs; they weren’t out in the streets encouraging other men and women to abandon their principles and espouse sexual freedom. And at the end of the day, what they do, or their morals, are none of my business, or anyone else’s for that matter. Individuals define their own morality, and while we are in our rights to try to convince someone that they may be wrong, we can’t condemn them for having a different morality (unless, of course, they believe murder, rape and crime in general is morally acceptable).

It formed the basis of my story—the anger people have towards female promiscuity, as opposed to the complete acceptance of a man’s affairs. Double standards exist in this part of the world, and it’s not based on the physical differences between a man and a woman (as most people here like to point out—men and women are physiologically different and should be judged against different criteria). If you think adultery is wrong, then your anger should equally apply to men as it is to women.

I had my conflict. Sex outside of marriage for a Pakistani woman. Rumi had to be strong enough to withstand condemnation, possible incarceration (though I decided that wouldn’t work well in a romance so I didn’t go that route at all). And the hero would have to be totally worth the uproar. I don’t know if either came across that way—I leave it to my readers to decide!

Because I knew nothing of how to put a novel together (such a massively different beast from writing a blog post or article), I needed guidance. Indireads didn’t have a formula for their books (unlike Mills & Boon and Harlequin who are very clear on what must or must not happen in their books), and all I knew was that it needed an introduction to the characters, a powerful conflict and a happy resolution. So, I searched online and found a series of articles on The Guardian’s website. It broke it down for me, segmented and boxed up into neat sections: character development, plot development, dialogue, conflict, resolution, scenes. It gave me a structure, a starting point on which I could actually plan the book.

It took me less than three weeks to write the book. It took considerably longer to edit and polish, but obviously this was a story that I wanted to tell, which is why it came pouring out. By the end of it, I had completely discarded all the worksheets and advice provided by the Guardian articles. I’m pretty sure that none of my characters came out the way I planned them, and the plot did several twists after two or three people had read the book.

That’s because I am impatient. I like to think I am organized and analytical, but the fact is, I’ve degenerated. I look at everyone and everything around me now for potential ideas. I store away mannerisms and patterns of speech. I don’t want to get up and go to a meeting when I’ve got a story to write. I don’t want to be doing boring housework or feeding the cats when I could be pounding away at my keyboard. That’s where writing one book has left me.

Short journey. Long repercussions.


Butterfly Season launched on March 20, with a special 30% discount for the launch. Get your coupons here.


She Reads, South Asia

My journey to appreciating South Asian writing was a rather circuitous one.

While growing up I read widely and eclectically, which is another way of saying that I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on. At that time, familiarity with the classics was considered essential for the well-read person, so my father enthusiastically supported my love of reading by buying me the unabridged works of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe, to name a few. The longer it had been since the author had died, the better.

By the time I went off to college, I considered myself quite well-read. Unfortunately, my knowledge of South Asian literature was next to nothing. This is something that I have tried to remedy as I have grown older and wiser, at least in terms of fiction from the sub-continent written in English. From Vikram Seth to Arundhati Roy, from Salman Rushdie to Mohsin Hamid to the wonderful Chitra Divakaruni and Kiran Desai, I discovered and fell in love with the writers and their craft. And then I branched beyond the award winners and discovered delightfully evocative fiction written by the likes of Anuja Chauhan, Advaita Kala and Rupa Gulab, who have become some of my favorite South Asian popular women writers.

As I started discussing my reading likes and dislikes with friends, I was surprised at how common my journey had been. Most of my friends had read the classics, but many of them had never even heard of enormously evocative writers like Indu Sundaresan or Anjana Appachana.

A few years ago, when I started on the Indireads journey, I was equally surprised to see how many in my reading circles had favorite Western romance writers—Georgette Heyer, Mary Balogh, Sophie Kinsella and Judith McNaught et al, but when it came to South Asian romance, most of my women reader friends were just not interested. Slowly I came to realize that, by design, accident or choice, we know very little about the amazing writing talent that lives and thrives within our own region. It is hard to be an author anywhere in the world, but to be an author in South Asia, and that too a writer of ‘women’s fiction’, can be quite a challenge.

SheReads South Asia was conceived as an initiative to allow ourselves to be inspired by these writers and to celebrate their words. Motivated by 2014 being celebrated as the Year of Reading Women and building on the success of the #ReadWomen2014 campaign, SheReads South Asia will reach out to women readers, encouraging them to support, discover and engage with our very own South Asian women writers and their works.

Through SheReads, Sabahat and I hope to make the journey of discovery easier for many readers.

Over the years, I have also been drawn towards spirituality, and there, the masters point out how the discovery of oneself is a long, winding road. Maybe the path to discovering yourself, your roots and your stories, was never meant to be straight either. The journey may be long and circuitous but we hope SheReads South Asia will take out at least a few bends on the road, allowing you and us to get ‘home’ faster. May the journey begin!


Haunted by Rains

mazhayil maaril cherum kanam pole, ennum njan
I will be like a raindrop that falls on your breasts, always

It is raining here in Canberra, but this is not rain. The good Lord gave the people of Kerala the real deal. The south-west coast of India, is perhaps the most romantic place on earth, where people still die for love. Instead of pub crawls and O weeks and toga parties, university students in Kerala protest and write love poems in the rain. It is the kind of place where people would much rather lay on a train track than part with their beloved.

We were always drunk on love in Kerala. I clearly remember how a classmate of mine wrote a series of love poems in the university magazine titled ‘Her’. The whole Social Sciences department speculated the subject was either the resident poet (me) , the musician (a semi successful music director now) or the artist (he works for a newspaper now, I think) in her classroom. New issues of the magazine flew off the shelves as soon as it was printed. We used to sit under the almond trees in the campus dissecting the lines.

All that effort went to waste, because she left a few months later. She was married off to someone hastily, because her hypochondriac mother had a revelation from the good Lord that she was going to die before her daughter’s marriage.

Years later, I asked a common friend who knew the truth of the matter, and she admitted that the object of desire in those poems was the artist.

Truth be told, I was a bit disappointed. But then it rained and my big fat ego and I gazed at it through the open door, and the rain fell through the green leaves and the scent of the earth rose and intoxicated ruby-red hibiscus flowers. And it reminded me of coconut oil and jasmine flowers and mascara and lips that never dared to speak the truth.

When it is about to rain in Kerala, a cold breeze blows through the classrooms and homes and offices, letting everyone know that somewhere, someone is biting into soft flesh and digging their nails into bed sheets and moaning in the shadows of muted light. And responding to the invite, everyone gravitates towards the open windows and doors, waiting with bated breath for the first drop, the many drops, the deluge of desire.

Norman Mailer ends his novella ‘A River Runs Through It’ with the sentence – “I am haunted by waters.”

I am haunted by rains.



A Special Subset (Part I)

In the spirit of the upcoming International Women’s Day, my publisher thought it would be a great idea to focus my next few blog posts on women, specifically women writers from South Asia. I was reluctant to do so. It sounded like a cliché, the obligatory post that every female writer feels compelled to do at some point in her career. “Hey, women of the world, look at me, I’m also a woman!’ I have often thought that making that distinction, women writers vs. male writers, is what puts us in second place. Which reminded me of Ainsley Hayes from The West Wing, who didn’t believe that her country needed an equal rights amendment for women:


– Aaron SorkinThe West Wing, S02, Ep 18

When I first heard this, I thought, she’s so right! Why do we make it a point to separate ourselves as an independent entity when all we want is the opportunity to be judged equally? After all, even in a country like mine, which has a reputation for being an oppressive society for us, women are well entrenched in positions of power and as leaders of industry.

For instance, we’ve had a female prime minister twice—something that the US has yet to do. Women have been a part of our political leadership for decades, from Fatima Jinnah (a political player as far back as 1965) to Benazir Bhutto to Hina Rabbani Khar. In the last government, the Speaker of the National Assembly was a woman and for many, many years, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US (a coveted position) was female. One of our most famous architects, and the one getting very high-profile projects, is Yasmeen Lari. The top and most respected names in the fashion industry include Sonya Battla and Sana Safinaz. Noorjehan Bilgrami is a founder and the first dean of Pakistan’s second-largest art school. Until recently, the chairperson of the largest multinational corporation in the country, Unilever Pakistan, was Musharraf Hai, a woman. The most vociferous and vocal human rights activist in the country is a woman. Razia Bhatti, founder of the prestigious Newsline magazine, was a recipient of the Courage in Journalism award. Ameena Sayyid runs one of the largest publishing houses in the country, the Oxford University Press and is a founding member of the Karachi Literature Festival. The first Pakistani author I had heard of, who published in English, was Kamila Shamsie. Our first national (and international) pop icon was Nazia Hassan and our most celebrated singer is Madam Noorjehan. The first Oscar Pakistan won was awarded to Shireen Obaid Chinoy, and within Pakistan, women like Sahira Kazmi laid the groundwork for female directors thirty years ago. And, you’ve probably all heard of Malala Yusufzai, who survived being shot at, but not Perween Rehman, a tireless activist against Karachi’s notorious land mafia who was murdered for her efforts.

I’ve forgotten more women who belong on this list than I can count. But that’s not all.

Pakistan’s air force boasts nineteen female pilots, one of whom has just graduated to becoming our first fighter pilot, and the ranks are rapidly filling up with more. By a large margin, women dominate admissions to (and graduations from) top colleges and universities. They generally have the better grades and work very hard.

I know that in many instances I have special privileges because of my gender. When I go to the bank to pay a bill, I’m moved to the head of the line because I’m a woman and they don’t expect me to stand in line (something I’m in no hurry to change). This goes for almost all public-dealing and bureaucratic organizations. We routinely have security checkpoints around the city and if the police see a woman in the car, they wave you on (stupid, I know, considering the recent discovery of female suicide bombers and the Lal Masjid incident.*).

I can’t escape the fact that, due to religious convictions and cultural traditions, women are disadvantaged, sidelined and oppressed. But women in Pakistan are breaking glass ceilings and barriers despite these obstacles. They have a significant, if largely unmentioned, presence in almost every field and every industry, except perhaps sports (though that omission is also rapidly being redressed).

So, why would we need an International Women’s Day?

If organizations like the Taliban didn’t exist, I would probably agree with Ainsley Hayes. And if women weren’t joining their ranks (unbelievable as that is, they are), I would have told my publisher that we didn’t need to be seen as ‘a special subset’ of writers, artists, businesswomen, politicians and leaders.

And we don’t. But we do need to shout our accomplishments from the rooftops. Not to tell men that we’re valuable members of society, but to tell women that we are. To inspire other women to reach for the stars. We should celebrate our achievements not because we want to be judged as a separate entity, but because other women, young girls who are dreamers, future leaders and thinkers, need to be aware that it is possible, that they have choices in life beyond marriage and children. And that we’re here to support you, whatever you decide to do.


*For those who don’t know the story, Lal Masjid is a historically significant madressah created as a training ground for the mujahideen in the Afghan war. In 2007, the imam of the mosque and his students, both male and female, challenged the writ of the State by declaring war on immorality. They kidnapped a woman they suspected of running a brothel in Islamabad, vandalized music and video stores and barricaded themselves into their mosque, guarded by a phalanx of female students wielding sticks and batons. In a dramatic showdown with the government, the imam of the mosque tried to escape amongst a group of women, dressed in a burqa. They found a hefty cache of weapons when they finally cleared out the mosque.


Writer’s Block: Are You a Victim?

Caution: Those looking for quick fix remedies will be disappointed

Curing writer’s block is tough. Have you had insomnia? No, it’s not a trick question. For those who suffer from both or either of them, it’s the same.

I have always slept like a well fed baby. Always, without exaggeration. Uninterrupted by my copious caffeine consumption.  Sleep came readily and easily to me everywhere: in buses, cabs, parties, lectures, coffee shops; you name it and I have slept there. Effortlessly.

Then one wretched night it happened. It was time to sleep. I lay on the bed, cuddled up to my pillow, and closed my eyes. A while later, I opened my eyes and found myself staring at the big, wooden cupboard in my bedroom. I was not dreaming. Nobody dreams of massive, battered cupboards that are falling to bits. So I tried again. I even moved the cupboard, but it didn’t work. I sighed and put my mild irritation to productive use that night—I read a book. And the next night and the night after. Unfortunately, my irritation ceased to remain mild. It turned malevolent. I couldn’t read or write. Nor could I watch TV (this was before my Game of Thrones fervor). Unsurprisingly, I was at the remedies counter. And to my joy and misery there were many to be tried and tested. Dousing myself in lavender oil; taking long, luxurious baths before going to sleep; milk and honey, chamomile tea; reading (yawn) boring books; even counting sheep that kept bumping into each other—it was endless and I did it all. No sleep. Splat.

It was agonizing, debilitating. Not the insomnia. The wait. The wait to sleep; the wait to feel the body turn spongy and warm and soak up sleep. Sweet sleep. Tender sleep. Effortless sleep. I never wanted anything more that week.

Then when the week ended, my mind was a blur. On an hour’s sleep every day, my energy had ebbed.

And I gave up waiting.

As I lay in bed that night (the eighth night) I prepared myself to be a version of Christian Bale’s character, Trevor Reznik, in The Machinist. For the first time that possibility seemed like a reality, and I closed my eyes. I don’t remember much of what happened later except that when I opened my eyes, the mynahs were chirping and the sunlight was streaming through the flimsy white curtains. I had slept for nine hours at a stretch and my mind was wide-eyed with clarity.

Still looking for a cure for your writer’s block? Try this:

“I don’t believe in writer’s block. If I can’t write, I go out and live. Then, if I’m a writer, I’ll find something to write.” ― Peter Arpesella

News & Events

The Launch & The Reviews

The big news this week has been the launch of our romantic comedy, Done With Men. The book has received rave reviews and celebrity endorsements. Faraaz Kazi, the best-selling author of Truly, Madly, Deeply had this to say about the book. “Perfectly summarises the life of a modern day working woman with an easy-going style of writing that will go down well with all readers. Good job, Shuchi Kalra!

We have launched the book with an innovative and fun social media campaign; please use the Indireads page on Facebook and follow us on twitter (@indireads) to stay on top of the conversation, and get a chance to win merchandise and books. If you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to check out this fun video about what women and men are saying about Done With Men. Intrigued? Do remember to check out the video trailer.

The buzz continues today, with more Valentine’s Day fun. You can now send your loved ones a virtual rose; you and the recipient will also get a free gift from us. Alone this Valentine’s Day? No worries. Come celebrate Singletine–because Single is the new Awesome–and flaunt your Singletine badge to say it with style!


This week, we have exciting feedback from reviewers and readers to share. Take a look at what reviewers have been saying about our books by clicking on the links below:

Julie Valerie reviews Done With Men by Shuchi Kalra

Contemporary Romance Reviews reviews Done With Men by Shuchi Kalra

The Lemon Review reviews Haveli by Zeenat Mahal


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.