Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Welcome to a writer's world. (what writing a book involves)

Most runners speak of a 'Runners high'-- that endorphin rush you feel when you have been involved in strenuous activity, leading to a feeling of euphoria and happiness.
    Yesterday I hit a writers high. It was something I have never experienced before. I wrote 7256 words yesterday. That is the highest ever number of words I have written in a single day, in my entire writing career.

I patted myself on the back. And when a friend pinged to ask how is the writing going, I said 'Super, I hit a writer's high today. This is the highest number of words I have written in a single day in my entire life,'.

'Wow. Keep rocking!' he typed back.

But I don't think he understood why it meant a great deal to me.

Writing a book, is a lot of  work really. You have to think of a story (a completely original one which noone has done before, which by itself is a mammoth task), a plot, characters (they have to be likeable, believable, and people who you can relate to) , dialogue, what happens to them. You have to write coherently. But more than anything, you have to discipline yourself to sit at the computer all by yourself and type out word after word after word. Day after day after day.
It is a L.O.N.E.L.Y profession.

You have to be involved with people and interested in them and understand them, empathise with them, yet  be strangely detached to be able to write.

There is no-one really to check your progress and nobody you are accountable to. So that makes it that much more harder. You can take a year, two years, even five years to finish a book. It is so entirely upto you and you alone.

I have my own ways of pushing myself. Sometimes I compete with fellow authors who are working on a book. We ping each other at the end of the day and ask 'WC?' (which stands for word count. There is great joy in typing 2300 or 3200 or whatever be the number of words one has written. A sense of satisfaction of a day well spent.

Sometimes I tell a friend (whom I am dying to meet) that I will go out with them only when I hit x number of words. Then they keep checking as to how many words I have written so that we can go out.

I report my progress to my children and spouse and the house-help as well as my dog. They are the only ones who actually care about my word-count. :) Or rather, they are the only ones who will listen to me. (oh and that friend too who I promise to go out with on hitting x words)

Most full length novels have a minimum of 60,000 words.
This is how it is classified :

 500-1,000 words - Flash story
1,000-10,000 words - Short story
10,000-40,000 - Novella
40,000-60,000 - Novelette or "Novel Lite"
60,000 and up - Novel

Yesterday I crossed 60K words of the book I am working on. (which was when I hit the writers high).

'Oh, so does that mean the book will be out soon?' asked another friend.

'No! The real work starts now!' I replied.

Most people do not know that once a manuscript is complete, and a publisher is chosen, it takes a minimum of 4-6 months for the book to be out.

The manuscript goes through the first revision.The  structural changes if any are suggested to the author. The author then incorporates the changes  or convinces the editor about why the changes should not happen.
Then begins proof reading.
The first round is done and the manuscript comes back to the author. Generally it looks like a war-field with all the corrections in red looking like blood-wounds. I had winced when it first came. I kid you not.
Then the corrections are made and sent back.
Each coma, each full stop, each word, is examined over and over.
Then the second round of proof readings happen.
Then the third.
Sometimes fourth and fifth. (I have proof read till the words begin blurring and I fall asleep in front of my laptop)

We squabble about fonts. About an exclamation mark. About a word repeated.
Every single detail counts.
Then the cover.
And the book title.
And the acknowledgements.
And the chapter titles.

And how it should all appear in the final version

And finally it is a BIG moment when the book gets an okay and  goes for printing. For my last book, upto the last moment, we were making changes. It is something like a rocket-blast off--the frantic holding of breath, till it takes off.

The tension doesn't end there.
When you finally hold the book in your hand (the much coveted author's copies) it is truly a moment that makes me weep.

Every single time.
No matter how many books you have written, it is still the same.

Welcome to the Writers world.

It is a lonely place, a crazy place, a place which makes you hurtle down into depth of despair when you can't get those words out, but at the same time a place which makes you soar higher than even the heavens when things go right.

If you still don't know about my Ted talk, go watch!
If you like my blog, you might enjoy my books :) Grab them here. (You don't need a credit card. You can pay cash on delivery) or if you are an Amazon Fan, you can grab them here

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Yet another weight loss Inspiration story. You CAN lose weight with a little effort.

Yesterday, after I published the post on weight-loss, I got a really nice mail from Kavya who wanted to share her story with me.
I found her story commendable and inspiring and asked her if I could share it with everyone. She had absolutely no issues in sharing and in fact said she would be happy to, if it inspired people.

So here is the mail she wrote me and her story in her own words:

I am Kavya, residing in Bangalore. I am into Music and am studying  music for my graduation (B.Music). I have been following  your blog for over a year now and I have to accept have truly inspired me in so many ways! :)  I love you for that and everything that you are :) <3

And today when I saw your 

"5 not-so-hard ways to lose 2 kilos in a week" post,

I thought I must share with you some of my pictures of "then and now" :) 

My story goes something like this,

I completed my 10th std from Kendriya Vidyalaya DRDO (KVDRDO) Bangalore in 2009. I weighed about 60 kilos back then. As I started my college, I just have no idea how,but I  put on a hell lot of weight! Say about 15-18 kilos but I was not very aware of this.
 After a period of one year I got myself tested for TSH and some other functioning tests and learnt that everything was normal with my body and I was shocked about the sudden weight gain in about 5 months. ( after finishing 10th and before getting into a new college for pre university).
 I was not really aware about how being unhealthy and unfit could affect both my body and mind. I started becoming very  subdued and was really not socializing due to my weight issues. I used to feel very inferior in front of others but yet, I did not really take up any measures to lose weight in 2009 or 2010.
 But May 2011- August 2012 was that  turning point of my life where, I managed to lose about 15 kilos. :) I feel really good and happy when I say that ! :) My hard work did pay off :) All I did was walk for 40 mins a day, yoga for about 20 mins, avoided outside junk food and sweets :) 
I was determined and it worked :) 
I have attached two pictures of mine. "Then and now" :) 
I feel so young and refreshed now (I am young btw..I am 21 years and 1 month old now).and I am now addicted to being healthy and having healthy food habits and also regular workouts :) 

So just thought of sharing this with you :) 
Eagerly waiting for your reply :)
 Loads of love your way :)
And here is the other photo she shared:

I was really impressed with Kavya's efforts.

Way to go Kavya!

Applause from my side to her! :)
(and for the over-calculative ones who are wondering how she can be 21 when she finished 10th in 2009, she was admitted late to school :) )

Please do leave a comment for Kavya if her story impressed you! :)

If you still don't know about my Ted talk, go watch!
If you like my blog, you might enjoy my books :) Grab them here. (You don't need a credit card. You can pay cash on delivery) or if you are an Amazon Fan, you can grab them here

Friday, August 17, 2012

5 not-so-hard ways to lose 2 kilos in a week


The other day a friend and I were talking.
"But how in the world do you maintain your weight? You must be dieting all the time," she said.
I told her I really wasn't and I do indulge in whatever I like to eat. (Puttu Kadala from Kerala remains my all time favorite food)

But the one thing I do is that the moment my weight crosses 53.5 or 54 kilos (I am 5' 4" tall. So it's very much on the lower side of 'ideal weight') I step up the exercise and cut down on calories. I have maintained this weight for past many many years. (I did work hard to burn off all the pregnancy weight after having my two children). Many people write to me asking what is my secret. I have written posts about weight-loss in the past. You can read them here and here. (and there are more links in those two posts as well)

Recently, (last 20 days) I managed to lose three kilos (had really indulged in yummy food when I went to Kerala on a vacation)  and since  so many are asking me what I do, I thought I would once again write a post on it.

Here are five not-so-hard ways to lose  2 kilos in a week or at the most ten days.

Disclaimer: Please check with your doctor before attempting this, as I am no expert and merely telling you what worked for me!

1. Zero Sugar: Take absolutely no sugar in your coffee/tea. It will feel very weird at first. But gradually you get used to the taste. Take no sweeteners too. Just plain coffee/tea with no sugar at all.

2.Take Green tea: If you feel a strong craving to drink something, make it green tea. (Just a cup of hot water and dunk the tea-bag in). You get plenty of flavors of green tea at any super market. Green tea is said to have a lot of anti-oxidants.

3. Walk 20 minutes on treadmill:  I have invested in a  really good state- of- the- art treadmill. It travelled with me all the way to UK when I moved countries and came back with me to India when I moved base again :). I use the 'weight-loss' setting on it. It alternates between walking very fast (6.5 km/h) for four minutes and then walking slow (4km/h) for four minutes. Essentially what happens is when you walk fast, your heart rate elevates. Your heart continues to pump blood at that same pace even when you walk slow. It's a super way to 'fool your body' and burn that fat. there is no excuse for not walking every single day. Even if your body protests and groans, push yourself and do it.

4.No to alcohol or fried food: This was super hard for me as I do really really love and enjoy my drink! I gave up totally on alcohol and any kind of fried food. (I do love potato chips and Murrukus and all the savories!). If you feel discouraged and unable to resist, tell yourself it is only for ten days. Say NO. Be determined.

5.  Drink a LOT of water.  Most of us do not take adequate water. We feel tired many a time, simply because we are not aware just how much water out body needs. Drink half a bottle of water (500 ml) as soon as you wake up. Keep drinking water through out the day. What I do is keep one 2 litre bottle filled just for me (with my name on it!) so I know how much I have consumed. I don't do this on a daily basis of course. Just when I am super focussed on losing weight.

6. Suryanamaskars--Do it! If you have never done Yoga before I recommend taking the help of a yoga instructor. I do about 15 and on some days 20, apart from other asanas. It is excellent for over-all toning of all the muscles in your body. Watch this video.

Another thing which I do to keep myself fit is using TRX, thanks to Ajay (a very  good friend) who gifted it to Satish and me.  He uses it regularly and has managed to lose some 15 odd kgs so far!(but then he is one of the most determined individuals I have ever come across).
The TRX is truly one of the best gifts we have ever got.

If you want even more inspiration to lose weight, just look at what my good friend Niall Young accomplished with just walking. He promised himself that he would gift himself a fabulous body before he turned fifty and oh how he succeeded! His success story is a MUST read. Click here to read it.

The key to any weight loss attempt is DETERMINATION and CONSISTENCY.
Just push yourself towards the goal even on the days you don't feel like doing anything.

You will be rewarded when you see a super fit body. (Reward yourself by buying some nice sexy outfits if you have accomplished your goal! :) That is what I do!)

Good lucks folks! Hope these tips help!

Any questions or any more tips(on motivation as well as on weight loss) that anyone wants to share, please do leave them in the comments section and I will be happy to update this post with an addendum of all the  tried and tested tips.

So go ahead and share!

ps: I guess the regular readers have noticed, I am trying to do a new post every day :)  This is an 'unofficial' blog marathon. (am afraid to commit to an official one as I have far too many engagements right now. But yes, I am trying hard to post every day. :) Nice? Makes you happy? Say, say!
photo credit: suanie via photo pin cc
If you still don't know about my Ted talk, go watch!
If you like my blog, you might enjoy my books :) Grab them here. (You don't need a credit card. You can pay cash on delivery) or if you are an Amazon Fan, you can grab them here

Thursday, August 16, 2012

On anonymous comments and comments with psuedonyms

An incident which happened to me today made me think about annonymous commenting and commenting using pseudonym, without revealing identities.
Photo credit: Daniel Ivan (creative common license)

In my very early blogging days (way back in 2006) when I had first started blogging, I was terrified about what I was getting into. I felt very scared to give out my real name and hence used my initials 'PS'. Gradually I began getting popular and many of the people who were commenting on my posts regularly (they all used their real names and they used pictures of themselves) wanted to 'see' me in order to connect with me better. By then, I had figured out that the Internet isn't  that dangerous a place as it is made out to be, as long as one follows some basic rules. So I started blogging under my real name as well as I put up a picture of myself. It helped immensely later, when I wrote articles for Times of India, Readers Digest etc as Editors could easily sample my writing (with my name on it) on my blog. It added value to them and a real name did help in creating a favorable impression and gave me credibility rather than a moniker or using just the initials.

It also helped me to connect with many bloggers, some of who became very good friends and I met them many times, one of them being Niall Young, who is a brilliant artist based in UK. (Go check out his blog. he is AWESOME)

Later, when my books became popular (by which time I had a page on  the wiki too) I realised that using my real name everywhere was indeed a boon, though I did not know it at that time. It gave me 'branding' so to speak. Also I realized, it did make me very vulnerable too. Suddenly I was a 'public figure' and my actions and whatever I did, said or wrote was 'open to scrutiny'. I did not mind it much, as I do stand by whatever I have written or said so far. I have been nothing but honest and forthright in my writing, as well as when it comes to expressing my opinions. Yes, over the years, whatever I feel might have changed--but I have always expressed vociferously, whatever I believe in. I know now, it takes courage to do that.(Though I hadn't even thought of it that way!)

Naturally, I am guarded about who I am dealing with, on the Internet. I am also wary of people who do not identify themselves when they leave a comment. I like to know who I am 'talking to'. I simply do not have the time (nor the inclination)  to follow-up or find out identities of commenters who choose to reveal only initials or nick-names or even scrambled versions of their names or initials. I like it when  commenters have a profile pic and reveal something about themselves. To me, it seems only fair, as I am opening up myself quite a lot and it is only natural I want to know a bit more about you. Else I feel I am speaking to someone standing behind a one-way wall, where they can see me, but I cannot see them at all! Not a very nice feeling, especially when one is as forthright as I am.

Because of my honesty, I have been accused of many things (by even supposedly close friends who have known me for years) some of them being vanity (perhaps because of all the smiling pics I post?), thinking too much of myself, not being humble even though I am a writer (where did that come from?!), not being able to tolerate a difference of opinion (ha ha--if that was the case I would have stopped writing a long time back!) and many such things.

I have always maintained that my blog is a 'happy place'. There is no room in my blog for negativity. You, of course do not have to agree with me. You are definitely entitled to your opinion about me--but on your blog and your space and your time please! Not on mine! Thank you :)

Therefore I am happy that the Internet is slowly becoming a less anonymous place. Most sites do not allow anonymous comments and they require you to sign in with your FB profile or any other verified online identity.
To read an interesting case, which may change the face of Internet for good, click hereFact is, like the article points out, when you say something which has your name attached to it, you are that much more careful in what you say. One only has to look at the Youtube comments to see how much of utter trash and vile poison is spewed out, under the guise of 'free speech' afforded by the fact that most commenters are unidentifiable.
Personally I like it.

I truly do not believe that saying something anonymously or under twisted monikers or initials, adds any extra 'value' to whatever is being said.  If you strongly feel about something, don't be scared. Speak out. (but be careful about libel!)

Long live the Internet.
Long live free speech.

And yes, don't be afraid of using your real names. It does more good than harm. :)
Trust me, I speak from experience.

photo credit: <a href="">Daniel Iván</a> via <a href="">photo pin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

If you still don't know about my Ted talk, go watch!
If you like my blog, you might enjoy my books :) Grab them here. (You don't need a credit card. You can pay cash on delivery) or if you are an Amazon Fan, you can grab them here

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How to transform your balcony into a lovely garden

The last few days, I have been doing some interesting stuff apart from writing my fourth book. What started as a small idea soon grew into a project and I started reading up and watching videos on Balcony gardens.

Even though I am very fortunate to have  a fairly large garden with a lush green lovely lawn, hibiscus bushes , creepers, jasmine and even a pomegranate tree, I still wanted to make a Balcony garden, because the idea of transforming a neglected space and converting it into something beautiful fascinates me.

I was so pleased with what I managed to do  that I thought I'd share it with you. If you have even a small little space, an unused balcony cluttered with junk, you can still transform it into a small haven, where you can retreat and relax with a nice cup of tea at the end of a hard day.

Let me show you how I did it.

This is what my balcony corner looked like, before the makeover.

It was bare and slightly muddy. I gave it a good sweep and washed it with water and cleaned it up. My balcony gets a lot of sunlight and so the next step was to go to the nursery and buy plants which love sunlight.
I went to Lalbagh  and the lady there pointed out all the plants which would thrive in direct sunlight.
I bought a lot of plants.
The next step was to plan the garden.

I arranged the taller plants at the back. Like this:

But of course three plants dont make a cozy nook.
So I went shopping for some garden pebbles. I bought white garden pebbles  which cost me Rs.25/- a kilo. I bought about 10 kilos.

Next I wanted some lovely accessories for my garden. I searched online and found some nice garden stores in Bangalore. I spent a day shopping.

Then I arranged them together and spread out the pebbles.
And Voila!

 I had a lovely little garden.

Here is another picture where my doggie decided to inspect the pebbles and came into the frame :)

Can you see the wine bottles in the back ground? You can easily grow money plants in your empty wine bottles. All you need to do is rinse them thoroughly and top them up with water. Now place cuttings of money plants (take care to remove the leaves from the bottom of the stem that goes into the water) into the bottles and keep the water topped up every three or four days. (Hold it under running water till the water flows out and gets filled with fresh water. Also wash the leaves).

They make a lovely garden accessory. Here is a close up.

Next I plan to add seating to my balcony (its a fairly big one) and I also plan to add a water body. The sound of falling water is one of the most soothing sounds. I shall keep you posted on how my project develops.

Meanwhile, try transforming your space. This balcony makeover is really not that hard to do. If you are a man with no green thumb you can still do it and impress the woman in your life :) Or do it just for yourself too!

And if you are a woman looking to transform your space--just go ahead and indulge.

Your space and you, both deserve it.

And if you liked this post and my ideas dont forget to leave me a comment :)
I too need some  incentives to share, right? :)


If you like my blog, you might enjoy my books :) Grab them here. (You don't need a credit card. You can pay cash on delivery) or if you are an Amazon Fan, you can grab them here

Monday, August 13, 2012

(In)human behaviour

Heartwarming Photo of a Dog Sleeping in Its Owners Arms Goes Viral

  In case any of you aren't on the Social Media and do not know about the above story, then please do read it in the link above. I cried when I read it.

The dog's name is Schoep  and his owner is John. They have been together  for 19 years. Schoep now suffers from Arthritis and the condition is terribly painful. The pain was so intense that the dog couldn't sleep. John discovered that water soothes the pain. The water in Lake superior is quite warm at this time of the year and John started taking Schoep into the water and holding him there, so that Schoep could have pain free sleep.

The compassion, the kindness and the pure love moved me to tears. I cried when I read the post and saw the photo. John says that he had rescued Schoep when he was an 8 month old puppy and Schoep had saved him from commiting suicide many years ago.

Do read the link for the whole story. (It has got more than 3 lakh shares!)
It is a shining example of selfless love. This is as pure as it gets.  John is truly a beacon of kindness and people like John make this world a better place.

And then there are folks like these who abandon their pets when they reach middle age (which is when they need the maximum amount of care). I cannot imagine the cruelty involved here. They just leave them on the roads and abandon them totally. It is a case of supreme selfishness. Deplorable really, human nature shocks me, makes me want to weep.

Keeping a dog isn't an easy task. It is exactly like deciding to have a child. It is a LOT of work. Unless you are prepared for the work, do not bring a dog (or any other pet) home. Abandoning a pet because one is fed up  is one of the cruellest things you can do to a voiceless, helpless animal, which loves you with all its heart. (If you live with animals you will know what I am talking about)

 I am so glad there are organisations like Freindicoes who are doing a splendid job for the voiceless.

And I am so glad there are still people like John, in this world.
May their tribe increase.

If you still don't know about my Ted talk, go watch!
If you like my blog, you might enjoy my books :) Grab them here. (You don't need a credit card. You can pay cash on delivery) or if you are an Amazon Fan, you can grab them here

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Tea with me?

To celebrate the fantastic success  as well as the six month anniversary of my third book 'Tea for two and a piece of cake', my publishers Random House India have come up with a unique contest where 5 people get to have tea with me at a lovely location.

Here is the  link to their post which gives all details. While the contest is open to everyone, do note that the travel expenses to the venue will have to be borne by the contestants..Therefore it is actually a treat if you are Bangalore based. :) Living in the same city as me, has to have some small advantages right? :)

In another exciting thing which happened to me, Zee Business (Zee TV's business channel) interviewed me as a part of a story they are doing on the popular authors in India today.
Here are some still-pictures from the TV shoot.

 They  asked me interesting questions and they even shot some footage of me with my doggie who decided to co-operate and she was camera happy and enjoyed every bit, unlike her owner who found it all strange :) I have no idea though how much of it would be lost in editing.

You can catch the episode on Saturday 11th August, at 8.00 PM  and there is a repeat telecast on Sunday at 11.00 am and 5.00 pm. The name of the show is 'Weekend edition'.

Youth ki Awaaz (which reaches out to 4.5 million people every month)  published an interview with me, yesterday. This is the link, if you want to read.

I am slowly replying to the tonnes of mails which I have been getting regarding my books and cards. I thank you all for the patience. If you haven't got a reply from me after 20 days, please do resend. I might  have over-looked.

Will post again soon.

Till then, stay positive and happy!


If you still don't know about my Ted talk, go watch!
If you like my blog, you might enjoy my books :) Grab them here. (You don't need a credit card. You can pay cash on delivery) or if you are an Amazon Fan, you can grab them here