Friday, 17 July 2015

An incident

Run along then in your little box.
The one you created.
And set about lining with velvet on the inside. Iron on the outside.
That deep, un-penetrable wall. And a raindrop gets in.
Eases in.
Teases itself in.
Worms itself into your ear.
Lodges in your brain.
Grows till it fills your every waking hour.
And screams at night.
So you can't ignore it any more.
And a sudden flash of insight. A spotlight on yourself
Of what you were. What you have now become.
That cocoon you created. Comfortable. Soft.
Spun so tight, it fits you just right. Like a little black leather dress
That chokes you so hard, you can't breathe
So, you have to hold yourself up, straight, suck in your stomach, put on a face
And somewhere along the way, you've become just that. That face.
The one you saw fleeting glimpses of.
The one you swore you'd never be.
And then you wake up and you just are.
That face.
Yet, you ask. If one little drop could create such havoc
If it could dispel the story with a touch
Then, what are you now?

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

“ the detective is searching and searching and searching, and the culprit is him. ”


So by now you must have seen True Detective, season 1 and the episodes of season 2 out already. Today I read a piece about it's writer & creator - Nic Pizzolatto. I read it all in one go, this long article. And at the end of it all I could think was, boy, there was so much in this I really identified with. And I had to analyse why. So here it is. (Link to the Vanity Fair article is at the very end of the post) quotes from the story and then me doing my shrink thing on myself.


“the detective is searching and searching and searching, and the culprit is him.”

--> Don't we all search and search and the answers are all within us.

... in Nic’s conception, every character is driven by a particular engine. Well, maybe this was why. Maybe Nic himself is driven by some early trauma. 

--> Yes. This is it. This is what I have found to be true in my writing. My characters are driven by something. And normally I don't find the motivations, the reason for their actions in my first draft. No I have to go back and ask. Go back and pull aside the actions, the physicality that I fill my first draft with. Dig inside to find out why. Why did she/ he do that? What makes her/ him they way they are. Perhaps it's because in real life too, I act first on instinct. And then later have to analyse my actions to understand why I did that thing I did.

"I tend to be influenced by places as much as anything,” he said. “You look around and notice details and it starts to form a world and then you find characters to inhabit this world.”

--->Yes. Geography dictates what you are, what you become. Geography and location are characters in my writing. They influence my characters' reactions.

The [characters] inhabit a poisoned dystopia. It’s literally toxic…. These stories take place in areas where the revelation has already happened. The apocalypse has come and gone, and no one’s quite woken up to that fact.”

--> Ah! Here it is. Dystopia is here. Today. Now. I believe. Too.

Then this person wakes up in the morning, what’s the first feeling they’re having?

--> And you? What do you feel? Do I feel, you ask? 



It helped it starred Colin Farrell too



Here is the link to the original Vanity Fair piece


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

That hundred year old feeling

Over the past few weeks I have found that I am very tired.
Really tired.
Bone weary, drop dead tired. Like a meteor slammed into me. It's one of the following reasons
1) The final, final (final I hope) re-edit of Many Lives kicked me in
2) The writing of The First Life of Vikram Roy. Okay that's done. But then then the thought of starting on its edit is like totally killing me.
3) Am getting old
4) Not getting out enough
5)Too addicted to social media for all the wrong reasons
6) All of the above
Obviously all of the above. So I did the only thing a lonely, social-media friendly author with no real world friends any more would do. I took a selfie of my sorry old self. And then Instagrammed the hell out of it (below) So I looked kinda decent.



My FB friends have been kind enough to say, they have seen worse. 
Some reminded me of their own personal issues ... Many grappling with life and death situations far worse than what I am going through.
And I realized, yet again, how I've gone into my teeny-tiny shell and been too focussed on MY own problems.
So then, enough self pity. Take a break. Enjoy the flowers. Then get back to finishing the edits.
And here are the hydrangeas in full bloom in my garden. 
Life's never that bad. It really isn't.
Not even when you feel a hundred years old.


Ever felt a hundred years old too? When? Do write and tell me.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Finding one new reader a day



This is where I realise it's about-
 Staying in the race for the long run.
Finding one new reader a day
Those who get you
Who read you
Who see what you can see
Who also see what you don't see
This is my new life
Coming Soon - The FIRST LIFE of Vikram Roy, (Ruby Iyer Series, Book 3)
Subscribe to my newsletter HERE & receive a free copy of
 The RUBY IYER DIARIES (Ruby Iyer Series, Book 1)

Thanks Ritesh, Josh & Amy

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Should I keep my characters at a distance?

When I write more blog posts than prose for my next novel, I know it's my way of taking a breather before plunging into the guts of my next book. It also normally means this is the time I question a lot of fundamental things.
Like why I write and lay my soul out bare and then cringe when people trample over it.
It's your fault little girl for trusting the world with your innermost feelings.
But have I?
Have I really shared everything? Have I really let my characters feel, and exposed their inner life? Have I allowed them to hurt, and feel the joys and the sorrows? Have I let the world in enough to trample over their feelings?
I admire Hollywood stars and characters in soap operas because they don't hesitate to experiment with their own lives. They fall in and out of love, have children, get divorced, travel, live in a trailer if they want, work out, lose weight and then put it all back on. They seem to live life with a zest that I can only marvel at.
I know, because I am not that way.
A friend told me I always wait for the other person to approach me before I make a friendly overture. I realise it's true. I am cautious, closed. I don't let people in. I don't trust easily.
And now I wonder if my characters too are the same. They go through plots filled with actions and thrills ... An easy distraction from the inner turmoil.
As they go through their outer hero's journey, I must lay bare their inner one too. Cut into them and pull out their guts. Then, share that.
Maybe I don't need to feel them or for them anymore. Perhaps what I need to do is actually take a step back. Look at them dispassionately. So I can let them fall, and hurt and commit the same mistakes over and over again. Maintain my distance, as they bleed inside and finally whisper their secrets.  Maybe I need to share more of their emotions so I can spare my own from being trampled on.

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Sunday, 24 May 2015

Stay

I don't often post this often or like this. But this, I write, more as a reminder to myself than anything else.

Don't get discouraged.
Don't compare yourself to the rest.
Don't look back or forward.
Be. Yourself.
Stay the course.
Believe.
Life finds its own level.
You will too.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Writer with a Thousand Faces


 THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES by Joseph Campbell,  struck a chord with me. In his study of world hero myths Campbell discovered that they are all basically the same story – retold endlessly in infinite variations.  He found that all story telling, consciously or not, follows the ancient patterns of myth, and that all stories, from the crudest jokes to the highest flights of literature, can be understood in terms of the hero myth; the “monomyth” whose principles he lays out in the book.


Stories built on the model of the hero myth have an appeal that can be felt by everyone, because they spring from a universal source in the collective unconscious, and because they reflect  universal concerns, the universal questions:  Who am I?  Where did I come from?  Where will I go when I die?  What is good and what is evil?  What must I do about it?  What will tomorrow be like?  Where did yesterday go?  Is there anybody else out there?
In The Writer & The Hero's Journey, Rob Parnell looks at  the importance of the hero’s journey in the context of writing.

The hero’s journey outlined:  
The hero is introduced in his ORDINARY WORLD where he receives the CALL TO ADVENTURE. 
She is RELUCTANT at first to CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD where he eventually encounters TESTS, ALLIES and ENEMIES. 
She reaches the INNERMOST CAVE where he endures the SUPREME ORDEAL. 
She SEIZES THE SWORD or the treasure and is pursued on the ROAD BACK to his world. She is RESURRECTED and transformed by his experience.  
She RETURNS to his ordinary world with a treasure, boon, or ELIXIR to benefit his world.

He puts into words the answer to one of the questions I often ask myself. "Why do I write?" 

As an over-analytical person, I often wonder about it. Why do I write after all? Put myself through this torturous process of continuously looking inside myself, dragging out those pieces that hurt, then put it out there for others to read. I die with each book. And am reborn a slightly better model. Laxmi 2.0, Laxmi 3.0, get it? Reading Rob's book, I realized, I write to find myself. To understand the connection between the different parts of me. To hold on to the string that links me to the world. It's my way of finding my own little place in this universe, within which I often feel lost.

Rob Parnell lays it out more eloquently. Here are some excerpts from the foreword of his book, which I often revisit

 " ... we're engaged in our own personal hero's journey - writers, perhaps more than most... If we are not tested by life we must often resort to testing ourselves, through intention, through ambition. But not in some idle way, It is our duty to push ourselves, to change who we are on a regular basis,...

The courage to say "I am a writer" is fraught with self-doubt and hesitancy, 

The hero's journey is a metaphor for the artist's life: the journey from neophyte to master, from newbie to professional writer.

Human beings are surely not designed to be content to merely work for  a living?

We must not fear independence of thought nor the loss of structured income generation. Because true self-determination is not just about being uncompromising, it's about taking responsibility for one's own life, one's actions and thereby one's destiny...."

And in one go then he laid bare constant story I am spinning in my head. That I am not good enough to write.  That if I spend more time writing than in other more sanctioned-by-the-world pursuits that promise immediate commercial gratification, then I will suffer in some form. And perhaps this maybe true ... But, which raises the question what level of having money is good or not good enough. Who set that level. Was it me, or the conditioning within me?  

At a very simple level what I know is each time I write, and with each chapter I get out, there is this feeling in me. Something unlike I have experienced before. It's not happiness, or joy or excitement. Just this silvery sense of something ... When I am going in the right direction, in my story and in my life that feeling grows stronger. When I back away from it, it gets weaker, a bit like one of Spock's tool to detect life forms on an alien planet.

And that's it. It's this feeling I pursue now. I go back to it to write my way out of a plot loophole. I check in with it, when I am trying to decide if I should go out tonight or if I should stay in and write. It's all I have really, when I am writing a book, and when I am writing my life, because there is no-one to tell me if I am going in the right direction or not.

It's why I know that the more I write, the more I also need up to store up new experiences. The kind that feeds my imagination.  So I can stay fresh and join the dots in different ways to come up with unexpected results, that surprise my readers. You know, that old saying of output = input. And, which I know means at some point I have to leave the comfortable cave I am in now and get out to parts of the world I haven't explored yet.

And Susan Quinn in her newly updated edition of Indie Author Survival Guide talks about it in a refreshing fashion. She speaks about the self-imposed barriers many of us have, which prevents us from jumping ahead, going boldly where we haven't gone before. And, which you can as an Indie author you know? Claim your power, so to speak. What you do and can't do is all in your head.

It's something I am learning. Technology has set me free. It's given me the tools and enabled me to get three books out. And now is the real test. Can I keep at it, keep pushing ahead breaking new ground every day, write what I fear the most? 

Stay tuned to find out. 

With thanks to Joseph Campbell, Rob Parnell & Susan Kaye Quinn

The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer (Ruby Iyer #1) is available here

The Ruby Iyer Diaries (Ruby Iyer prequel) is now free on Amazon here
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Sunday, 10 May 2015

Sophie & the Black Box




I can hear the sound of the doorbell clang through the apartment inside. It seems to bounce against the walls, only to be thrown back at my face. I give it a few minutes, and when there is no response, I ring the chimes again, this time impatiently. A few more minutes pass. Then, just as I am about to knock on the door, it is flung open.
I look into a pair of blue-brown eyes, positioned a foot above me, and set in a face, which is nut-brown and filled with a rough, light brown beard at the edges.
"What?" The man barks.
"K... Krish... Krishna?" My voice emerges all shaky and I clear my throat trying again. "I am here to see Krishna."

***

Whenever I asked my grandmother why she was dark skinned, she would say it was because of the hours spent running wild through the moors when she was growing up.  It wasn’t until I inherited her little black box—upon her death that I discovered there was a little more to it than that. Here, I have to confess that, I was more than a little surprised to find she had left me something in her will.
 Perhaps it was because I was the darkest skinned in my family... and resembled her the most.
Or because it was because I had been named after her.
Either way I should have felt some affinity with Sophie. But I didn’t.  She and I did not have much to say to each other during the time she lived.
She didn't say much to anyone, actually, least of all to us, her grandkids. No, she existed in a parallel world, a reality far removed from my everyday life.
She refused to be admitted to a care-home, instead spending her last decade on her own, in her little cottage on Dartmouth moors. The same house where she had been born almost eighty years ago.
I marvelled that it was possible for someone so old to live this long. Was it even possible for her skin to hold the sea of wrinkles, which marred the placid surface of her forehead? Looking at her was like peering into long black tunnel, one that had no beginning. In comparison, I felt like a little spark of light - my life as short as the length of a matchstick.
Yet looking at the black box, which she had bequeathed to me, distant echoes from my childhood trickled down my spine. Scenes from a long time ago; when she had smiled at me, told me bed-time stories of what it had been to grow up in the city of her birth... a place too far away for me to comprehend. A city I had never been to. A country, which felt too alien, too exotic for me to be part of any way. Those memories had been wiped away in the haze of the electronica of my youth. Clubbing, boys and the allure of social media had long ago deleted the leftovers of any recollections.
My last memory was our family at the obligatory Christmas lunch, at her place. In my introverted teenage years I much preferred having Christmas lunch with Nana Sophie. I remember one particular Christmas—when I had just turned thirteen—I sneaked away to the cold draughty attic, and had picked up a book to read. A murder mystery written by Agatha Christie as it had turned out to be. Soon I was engrossed in the adventures of Miss Marple. Somehow it seemed apt that I should be reading about an energetic granny traipsing around the countryside, trying to solve murder cases, in my Nana's home. Nana had been agile enough then to walk up the stairs, and come in search of me. "Have you read all these books Nana?" I remember asking her.
To which, she had smiled, and walking to the bookcase had run her fingers lovingly over the spines of the, dust covered jackets of some of them.
"Yes, of course." She said to me over her shoulder. Picking out a book she flipped it open to a page and walked over to me. "This... This one is my favourite Sophie." She handed it over to me, and ruffling my hair gently, walked away. It was a compilation of comic books. The chronicles of the Legion of Superheroes- a fictional team of superhero characters set in the 30th and 31st centuries
 No, I didn't know Nana too well. Which I why, I cannot explain why I burst into tears at her wake. 
Perhaps, it was the sight of seeing someone dead in an open casket. Well, to be fair it was the first time I was seeing anyone dead. Or perhaps it was just that she was wrapped in her blood red, bridal saree. Rather incongruous on a freezing Tuesday afternoon with the rays of the setting sun pouring in through the stained glass window of the primarily middle-class, white neighbourhood area of Tavistock on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. Seeing her in those bright colours—a contrast to the greys and brown standard dresses, which is what she had normally worn— was like a piece of puzzle falling into place. She had never belonged here, had she? Somehow in death she had managed to do what she couldn't in all those years she had been alive... Send out the message clearly, that she had fought against her identity, fought to not belong to where she came from.
Now, here I am sitting in her little cottage; the one she has left to me along with this black box. Somehow I am sure she has something to hide. Perhaps I have known it all along. She had never so much as hinted so; as content as she had been to live within the bubble she had created for herself. And yet, she had been so transparent. Trapped below the surface, the rainbow colours had meshed into a tempest. One, which I am about to unlock.
Having coerced the parents to let me stay a night on my own in her cottage, while I can still feel her presence in the room, I reach for the box cradled on my lap. My toes dig into the carpet, as if holding onto the earth for support and I turn the tiny key in the lock, flipping open the lid of the box.
And am almost disappointed by the anti-climax. Nothing shatters. A pile of letters gaze back at me, paper frayed with age, the handwriting is a firm slash across it. Even without reading who they are from, I know they are love letters.

***

It's 38 degrees. I know because the temperature on my iPhone screen says so. It seems I am going to be spending my gap year in India. In Bombay, to be precise.
All I have to go on is that the person sending the letter is a Krishna.  I had known Nana Sophie grew up in Bombay, but she had left the city when she was thirteen, moving with her parents to Dartmoor. She had met and married my grandfather at eighteen and had proceeded to have a series of miscarriages before finally giving birth to my father at twenty-six. Grandpa had died shortly afterwards leaving a young widowed Sophie to bring up her son. On the only trip she made back to Bombay in her later forties—around which time my father would have just already been married—she met her childhood friend, with whom she re-established a friendship. She had proceeded to come every year over the next ten years and then had abruptly broken it off. Refusing to write to him. And yet the letters were there. They kept coming, pleading with her to write back, worried about her, the helplessness from the letters pouring out of the pages, the barely contained passion leaping out at me, surrounding me, forcing me to open the window of that overheated little living room of the cottage and taking deep breaths to clear my head.
I didn't sleep that night.
The next morning my mind was made up. I was going to Bombay. To find my roots. Or at the very least to track down the only living embodiment of what had been a very important part of Nana's life. Enough for her to keep it a secret from all of us. The very fact that she did not mention the letters to any of us before she died intrigued me. And yet in death had left me with enough clues to follow the trail. It was reason enough to find out what had been eating away at her in her final years. Besides I did need destination for my gap year.
She had left me a small cash inheritance too; enough for me to book my tickets to Bombay would blinking an eyelid.
Now, seated in what passed for air-conditioning within the confines of the cab I had hired at the airport, I look out of the window... At the four-lane-wide traffic of cars and beyond that, to the blue-green of the Arabian Sea. The wall separating the traffic from the waves seems fragile. Like it's too weak to hold back the whites of the choppy sea, which even as I watch splash over the side onto the pavement. It drenches the couples that sit with their back to the world. They seem lost in each other, oblivious to the sun, the heat and the water anointing them with sweat and tears.
All I have to go on is an address, and I can't wait. I take the cab straight to Krishna's flat. The phone number scrawled below the address has not responded despite my having called it a few times. But, then, I haven’t come to India, only to meet Krishna after all. I can do what any respectable person on a gap year would. Go clubbing, meet the locals, have a one-night stand. As my mind wanders over the possibilities, the car turns off onto a side road, and suddenly we have left the traffic behind to enter a different dimension.
Here, it's quieter, the trees overhead providing an umbrella from the elements. The car drives smoothly now, and it is almost as if a carpet of leaves has covered the vehicle, muffling the street sounds. We draw up outside a tall building. Coming to a stop the driver turns around indicating I should pay him the amount showing on the meter reading. It's a big number, with many zeroes. Certainly more than what I have paid for any taxi ride in London. Yet, my hasty calculations indicate it's just short of £20. All too soon, I am standing in front of the door on the eleventh floor of the building, pressing the door bell, which rings through the interiors.

***

"Krishna?" The man looks at me, brow furrowed.
I nod, and fishing around in my bag, remove one of the letters I have bought with me to give to the guy. As he reads it I try to see past him into the darkened interiors of the house. A sudden tiredness overwhelms me and I sway slightly, dropping the bottle of water clutched in my hand. I bend down to pick it up and straighten to see, that his face has gone carefully blank. He steps aside and indicates I should follow him.
 I walk behind him, dragging my suitcase.
"Leave it here," he points to a space next to the overstuffed sofa in the living room. Thankful to be rid of my load I deposit both, my wheelie and my backpack, before following him through a corridor. I peer into the kitchen and the three bedrooms we pass, before reaching a room at the end of the passage. He knocks, and listens at the door before opening it and indicating I should go in. I walk in to see someone standing at the window. I blink at the silhouette, which turns to me.
"Krishna?"
She nods, looking at me. Her face is expressionless, grey and pockmarked. Just like Nana's beloved moors.

—End


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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Never trust a writer who smiles

One of the sessions I attended at the London Book Fair featured Mexican author Valeria Luiselli. She spoke about here new book Story of My Teeth

In this the protagonist Gustavo 'Highway' Sanchez is a man with a mission: he is planning to replace every last one of his unsightly teeth. He has a few skills that might help him on his way: he can imitate Janis Joplin after two rums, he can interpret Chinese fortune cookies, he can stand an egg upright on a table, and he can float on his back. And, of course, he is the world's best auction caller - although other people might not realise this, because he is, by nature, very discreet. Studying auctioneering under Grandmaster Oklahoma and the famous country singer Leroy Van Dyke. 
Highway travels the world, amassing his collection of 'Collectibles' and perfecting his own specialty: the allegoric auction. In his quest for a perfect set of pearly whites, he finds unusual ways to raise the funds, culminating in the sale of the jewels of his collection: the teeth of the 'notorious infamous' - Plato, Petrarch, Chesterton, Virginia Woolf et al.  I was hooked. What a cool and very different story. 

I also came away with some very interesting one-liners: "How the teeth are a window to the soul."
"How one should not trust a writer who smiles." And that was only the beginning.

I was also fortunate to hear from the electrifying Carmen Boullousa, a leading Mexican poet, novelist and playwright. Carmen writes about feminism and gender roles within a Latin American context. 
She spoke and the audience listened, enthralled.  Her passion for life—for living shone through. She talked about her love for cooking, and how for a long time she denied herself that pleasure, for she associated cooking with female subservience. 

Coming from a traditional Indian family where my mum spent the better part of my teenage years in the kitchen, whipping up freshly cooked breakfasts, lunches and dinners for her family... I totally got it.  And then she delivered this stunning one liner: "If I talk about my current project it just gets putrid." That's my most basic fear right there.


Listening to these authors was like being afforded a peek into their soul, a teensy-weensy view of what inspires them, what they obsess about; about why they write on the themes they do. I am hungry for more. I want to know what they are thinking, how they feel, how they react to situations. About life and death, loving and hating, about lost loves, our fears, our secret obsessions. Just the many emotions we face on a daily basis and which we reflect in our books... Know what I mean?

It's why I write - to understand myself better. To find out more about my connection with the universe, to unravel the mysteries of time and space and why people do the things they do.

I acknowledge the importance of and indeed pursue my mastery of the every-changing Amazon algorithm for it is important to sales of my book. But I'd also rather spend a lot more of my time obsessing about the algorithm of life.

You may also like to read How I became an Author Entreprenuer

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