From the Writing Desk: The Chills

It’s the fag end of the year with hardly three days left to do everything I had taken on to complete in 2011. And the productivity in terms of actual writing done isn’t bad; in fact it has turned out to be better than I imagined. I’ve written about a dozen short pieces which are arguably better than my juvenile attempts from earlier years. My WIP is growing optimistically in the spheres of plot, characters, settings and all. Where is the boulder then?

Here. Now.

With hardly two days left to say good bye to this year, the eleventh year of the millenium, I can feel my hands being numbed by the cold(literally also). There’s a huge block of bricks sitting right in front of me hindering my progress. The much awaited smooth transition from this year to the next won’t materialise after all. There has to be some blobs of ink-shed now, I suppose. How else can the flow occur? I fear that something is lost. It’s certainly not a wanting for words or coherence. All the key elements remain while I’m afraid the spark of interest is wavering in the cold winds. The splinter in me suffers the danger being snuffed out.

It’s true- I have been way too hard on me. But the goal is so near me always and I don’t want to let it slip while I can help it. The harsh hours of straining, brainstorming and typing has certainly made the fountain of fuel in me go dry. When the rest of the world prepares to welcome the new year, the beginning, I sit by my desk thinking of a way to bid adieu to this eventful year in a decent manner.


(From the Writing Desk will be regular feature on theliteraryshack that will discuss and share thoughts that pop up right from my writing place)


Mixed Bag: Audiobooks, Austen, Nostalgia, Fest…

We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.  ~George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860

This is the first time I get to tell you that I heard a book. Yes, Love and Friendship taken from Jane Austen’s Juvenilia is the first audio book that I ever listened to. Firstly, the listening experience was undoubtedly different from the reading experience. And much to my surprise I wasn’t guilty of not reading the text. I could just as beautifully perceive an unfledged Austen’s world. So, I’ve actually broken the shackle at last when it comes to audio books at least.

Secondly, I have to give credit to the narrator whose voice was so sweet and enticing to listen to. I was in fact transported to my early school years as I sank deeper into the story being narrated. Back then I was a lovely story-teller or so they said. But I’m convinced about the truth of the matter a tiny bit thanks to the certificates that adorn my drawers. Well, I remember enjoying myself completely while narrating about Cinderella’s enviable glass shoes or the poor old grandma in Little Red Ridinghood to my classmates. Little did I know that I was being marked for the act but anyway it was a win-win situation for me fortunately.

As I listened to the story proceed in my player I realised how much I missed story telling and how many years have flown by without being told a bed time story. I prided in knowing every bit of detail in the mythologies and ancient stories that my grandmother so lovingly told me every night as a child. There was a certain speciality in the was she narrated. She would first get on with story in its entirety, establish the morals and allow the story to instill in my mind before telling me which God/ famous hero that tale pertained to. I remember being delighted on hearing, “And that Prince was none other than Lord Rama!” Childhood is something so precious beyond explanations and I’m not even ashamed of reiterating here. It’s just that nostalgia is so powerful and I’m just having a bout of it now.

Yes and getting back to the audio book- Emotional on one hand and ecstatic on the other I completed listening to the collection in a few hours. And then when I was a little more settled I wondered about the Jane Austen that I had just experienced. I only marvelled at that a girl of twelve could write so fluently in matters of love and friendship. Austen, the literary genius, never failed to deliver even as a child. My veneration for Austen has only increased for even those early works of hers has a lot to offer to the reader and more so for the aspiring writer. Simple though the plot and scenes are there’s much in terms of insight and voice.

Overwhelmed by the whole experience I vowed to continue with audio books and with Austen who happens to be my literary God. In continuation with this renewed Austen fervor, I planned to dedicate January 2012 to re-reading all of Austen’s works in one shot; something like an extravaganza. Reminds you of  a certain movie? Of course.

And it’s no fun doing these things alone. So, I request you to join in and make it an event/blogfest. We could have a lot of fun, you know. Who’s to predict where this might lead us all to? Pemberly? Mansfield park? Please let me know, in the comments section if you’re hopping aboard. Add your name, your blog(if you have one) and your reason for participation. I would really appreciate it if you spread word on twitter, FB, etc. and brought along more lovely Austen fans.

Update: Our twitter hashtag will be #JAJ for Jane Austen January.

Rule of Three: Evanescence Part III

Rule of Three

Hello! Here’s Part 3 of the story.


Fear flowed through their veins and their hearts reverberated at an inconceivable pace. For a minute, Elaina regretted her impulsive decision of following the footprints. Sometimes the facts of life present themselves only at the very end of the road and one wonders if such knowledge would be useful at all in future. This started to dawn at the split second she impulsively turned around to behold the image of the man.


Helena could hardly believe the name as she let go of the rod she clutched. And still as she looked at Richard, her mind could hardly take in intensity of the shock. The room was still as a picture except for the moving eyes that rather intensified the eeriness of the situation.

“Helena, it was you? You were by the river this noon. My dear! What a fearful thing to think about. What are you all about?” Richard said moving inside clearing all the ambiguity about his presence.

Helena was still blown out of the water and couldn’t get herself to speak. “Well, we were out on a picnic” Helena paused looking at Richard’s expression, “It was our little dream to come down to Espadon and do some paintings” Elaina struggled to make things clear.

“But what are you doing here, at Erichton Freus’s dwelling?”

“We were attacked” Helena could say no more. On hearing these faint words, Richard’s angry brow came low as he approached her and took her in
his arms. “Helena, say no more. You’re safe”

“Richard where are we? Are you acquainted with this place?”

Richard let go off Helena slowly and walked up to the picture at the end of the room. “This place belongs to the Freus’s. It has remained here quietly among the trees for over a century. You must have heard about the anserine couple who went away into Assart to never return. This is the very house that they created and lived in”

“Why did they do that?” Elaina interrupted.

“The Great Battle of Sora. The murkiest time witnessed by Renaissance forced men to lose their sanity. The civil war led by the aggressive warrior Sora took turmoil to the peak. Men, women, children in large numbers were brutally injured, made invalid and some even murdered conveniently in the forests of Assart while the political camps in little towns plundered and looted. It was a little time after the period when ruthlessness had withdrawn its regal wings that young
Frues and his wife went into Assart- to help cure the scattered groups of ailing people. They consecrated their lives to service. And young Frues happened to be
an artist of high calibre and what you behold all around you are some of his very hand strokes”

“How do you know?” Elaina blurted.

“While on my frequent journeys to our town on business, I was acquainted with this mystical place and its occupant, the great-grandson Erichton Frues”


“Yes, dear sister. Come with me” he led the trio to the picture of the woman sitting by a door. “Observe her eyes. Every time I see it, I can certainly perceive a marked change in its bearing. It’s a curious mix of character that I see. Either the artist was brilliant or Lady Frues was indeed a curious personality. Sometimes I sense subtle braveness. At other times it’s a deluge of compassion and mildness that shows up. I haven’t been able to describe that quality at all” Richard quietened into thought.

“Evanescent” murmured Helena. Richards’s eyes were aglow upon hearing the word.

But who attacked us here? Elaina wondered silently.



Word count : 600

Main Character: Richard Greaves

Prompts used: A long-kept secret is revealed.

Read Part I and Part II.










Rule of three: Evanescence Part I

The Rule of Three!

The Rule of Three blogfest begins today and it’s nothing less than a party for word lovers. What more can any fan of the written word ask for than this? October is going to be all about hopping from blog to blog, in an effort to read all the wonderful REN3 entries. Happy REN3 y’all!

Here’s the first installment of the story. Hope you enjoy 🙂

Helena Bond rose from the rock restless to carry on with the journey. Her two companions, a younger sister Elaina Bond and a dear
friend Maria Wood were inclined to sit there awhile to take in the cool forest wind. The three had been on foot braving the forests of Assart with their
hearts set on capturing the Espadon in all her beauty on their easels. Helena, the eldest of six Bond sister’s was the prettiest and had blown away the
ambitious little heart of Richard Greaves, the only boy of the well-to-do traders’ family of the Greaves. The threesome considered this their last outing together before the union of Helena with Richard.

They set out to do something that not many other women, in their early twenties, dared to do- hiking all the way through the tough
forests of Assart to the river Espadon just to satisfy their youthful aspirations. The fear of the people to tread these forests was based from many
a folklore about evil spirits that dwelt on certain ancient trees. There had been mass executions in the heart of Assart a few hundred years ago when the
great battle of Sora was fought and after which the beautiful town of Renaissance had dwindled into ruins. Eventually the virtuous town recouped and
rose back from its ashes healthy and prosperous. But as all thrilling things that feed the glands of humans, the stories about the spirits retained their
solidity despite the intellectual advancements.

“Elaina Bond, you don’t want to rile your sister” said Maria, “come on now”

“Oh I don’t care a rush for her temper. Besides did you notice her eyes, they are set upon some distant horizon. She’s been gaze-walking all along!”

“Helena! What has that wizard of a man done to you?” Maria cried.

“Maria dear, have you brought along the raw sienna mix?” Helena said, half-blushing. Just wait until you find someone, she thought. The other two exchanged glances and walked along in silence until they came to a clearing.

“Mama said long time ago a couple went into Assart and they never returned” naughty Elaina intonated.

“Mama’s always talking too much with that tell tale Mrs. Rugs” Helena joined, “And Hannah says it’s just some old story”.

“Well, Hannah’s the most sensible woman I have ever known” said Maria who always had a liking for Hannah, the governess.

“What if the ghoulish couple show up to welcome the three cronies?” Elaina hissed. The shrill laughter of the girls pierced the forest air.

The trio now walked a faster pace as Nora barked a little more than usual. That meant they were very close to Espadon, the sight of which they had been yearning to behold anxiously for years. The girls twisted and broke the lean branches eager to make way. The sparkling river glittered through the gaps.

 Helena looked entranced and her heart beat so fast and her fingers twitched to stroke that white roll of paper she held. Drawing huge breaths of air Helena said, “There she is”.

The sight of the vivacious group of girls on the banks of the glorious Espadon was so resplendent a picture in itself that the onlooker might be tempted to think that some supernatural artist was behind it after all. Nothing should have disturbed this beauteous event.


Word count : 554

Prompts used: There is fear of impending misfortune, Someone might fall in love.

(P.S – Please leave your honest opinions on the piece in the comments section)

On Publishing: Interview with writer Karen McQuestion

Meet the beautiful and talented writer!

I’m really happy to announce that I had a great opportunity to interview writer Karen McQuestion, the author of excellent books like A Shattered Life which was recently optioned for  film, Easily Amused and many more. She is a one of a kind writer who took a brave step when all else failed. While a considerable part of the world remained prejudiced to self-publishing, Karen braved it and won it too. You can get to know more about her at

Now, let’s get to know in detail about the publishing journey of this talented and beautiful writer.

From your bio, we get to know that you tried to get your books published for nearly a decade. That’s a pretty long time and how did those years feel like? How did it affect your writing?

During those years I was able to keep hope alive by thinking that whatever I was currently working on would be the one that would get published. I managed to convince myself of this every single time by coming up with good reasons: one had a better marketing hook,  the next was in a popular genre, the one after that had more mainstream appeal etc. and so on. I felt like someone with a big key ring, not knowing which key would open the lock, but sure that one of them would.

As to how it affected my writing—I think it affected it in a negative way. As time went on, I found myself thinking way too much about what would please publishers and agents, and less about stories I was excited to write.

Finally when and how did it occur to you that there was some other way to getting published?

In 2009, I read about another author, Boyd Morrison, who’d uploaded his unpublished novels to Kindle, quickly sold thousands of them, and got a big deal with Simon & Schuster. I was immediately intrigued because I hadn’t known you could upload manuscripts to be available as ebooks. I felt strongly about wanting to do this, but I wasn’t thinking in terms of snaring a big publisher. I just wanted to find readers for my books and (hopefully) to make some money too.

In July of 2009 I uploaded two of my books. By the end of the year I’d made all six available as Kindle books.

Did you feel even at that time that taking this path would lead you to where you are today?

I hoped for success, in the same way one might dream of winning the lottery, but I never expected it, and I’ve been floored by all that’s happened in the past two years. My books took off in a big way, one of them, A Scattered Life, was optioned for film, and I now have two different publishers: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and AmazonEncore.

My story was featured in the Wall Street Journal and I was interviewed for a segment on ABC that aired on World News and America This
. Really, who could have anticipated this?

Do you think getting recognized as a writer does not have much to do with the way you get published?

Writers today have more ways of getting their work out in the world than ever before.   As more self-published authors are being “discovered,” the negative connotation associated with self-publishing is fading away.  I would encourage writers to be open-minded. There’s more than one way to get from here to there.

Were there any threats, as in piracy issues while you used the kindle platform to get published?

I didn’t have any problems with piracy. Maybe I was naïve that way, but it wasn’t a concern of mine. So many publishers had turned down my books that I couldn’t conceive of anyone trying to steal them!

What was the greatest lesson that the process of getting published teach you? Since your later books have been published in
traditional ways, you must know the best of both ways. Do you think one is better than the other?

Even though I’m now traditionally published, I wouldn’t rule out self-publishing in the future. I loved the whole process, especially having creative control. A writer can put out a book in such a short period of time and can publish things traditional publishers wouldn’t typically be interested in—collections of essays, novellas, short stories. I loved being able to design the covers (with a lot of help from my daughter, Maria, who has a talent in that area).

On the other hand, traditional publishing really excels in two areas: paperback distribution and having a team behind you.  There are a lot of smart people working in publishing and it feels great to put a book out in the world knowing that professionals have seen it through editing, copyediting, formatting etc.

In short, I don’t think one is better than the other. They both have their advantages.


Thank you so much Karen for graciously sharing your publishing journey with us. I am sure we all learnt a lot from it. And I hope I can bravely say that the moral of the story is, to put it in your words, “…be open-minded. There’s more than one way to get from here to there”

Lessons in Writing: It’s about being brave

Every little happening in the
world comes with its share of danger and risks. Agree or disagree, it’s always
lurking behind you somewhere. And it takes courage, just a good, sensible bit
of it to tackle such circumstances. And what would fiction, the words from the
imagined worlds whose very foundation is reality be without some elements of

I was caught by these words from
this article from ‘The Literary Review’. In the piece, the writer says, “Fiction
is not the place to play safe and, generally, the more risks you are willing to
take the more compelling your work” And I say, “What a great reminder to all
those aspiring writers out there!”

But a lot of things in this world
feature as intersection sets under the ‘easier said than done’ and the ‘morally
right or no’ categories. Now it’s a lot more clear to me why a plethora of
published writers harp upon the ‘Kill your darlings’ concept. And it’s hard to
imagine let alone do it, how one can inflict pain and uncertainty on one’s own
creation just to make the work spicier. I don’t agree that a piece of fiction
can seem adventurous and sophisticated only if the writer is brave enough to
pen down Mr. Chain smoker or Ms. Spoilt. I am now reminded of Frederick Bear,
the benefactor and admirer of Jo March from the book Little Women by Louisa May
Alcott. He tells Jo his opinion on reading her ‘Sinner’s Corpse’ which gets published
after many rejections of her really good but outdated works. And I go with his
opinion. He tells her that she should write only to please herself first. And I
can bravely say that too, to many writers who write what sells.

And then again I am not blind to
the fact that one has to sell as a writer to have audience and buy some pizzas
on weekends. But practising any form of art is about maintaining a balance
between the self and the outer world. And so it’s necessary in writing too. It’s
a challenge and that truly passionate writer triumphs who respects his art as
much as he loves it. Respect for art doesn’t only mean veneration; it also
encompasses the faithfulness of his work to his sentiments.

Then the next question would be
that about being unconventional. But that is the sole aspect of your writing,
as I have understood from my personal experience, which makes your work stand
atop the hill of other manuscripts on the dark circle sporting, pen-tip chewing,
and tired editor’s desk. Being unconventional is being brave too. So, the next
time an unconventional scene pops up in my head, that which is totally in line
with my sentiments, I am going to write it down that instant.

Love of letters

I have never received mail by post. But I have definitely
read and heard a lot about the joy of receiving them. And I am missing
something that I never really had a chance to experience.

I feel that the very word ‘Letter’ has something very
elegant about it. And I am sure it takes a great deal of smartness to write an
elegant letter. After perusing some of my recent mails in my sent folder I am a
bit embarrassed. All those words in there were just matter-of-fact ones or
to-the-point ones. What more can I expect when all of those were words typed
while I waited for my favourite blogs and sites to load. Hmph!

And handwriting is something I fear. It’s one of my deepest
and darkest fears. I got to see some manuscripts by some really good writers a
few years back and I told myself, “You are going to have trouble being a good
writer if you continue with what you do in physics notebooks” It came as a
total reliever, a few months later, when a person who analysed my handwriting
told me that I was very talented and creative (No, really. You should ask her).
Maybe I was not the best judge of myself.

But that apart I really feel for the loss of the art-The art
of writing letters. The yearning heightened when I read these.Now if I
ever get to read the original manuscripts I will certainly be on a high. I must recommend you to
read Rainer Rilke’s ‘Letters to a young poet’. I was completely stumped when I
read it for very many reasons which I now reserve for a different post.

There are several other books where I loved the inclusion of
letters and they were often the parts I most cherished.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call these pieces of live
conversation the most intellectual way of communicating.

Unfortunately that art is gone for good. I sincerely hope
there is a novel way to revive it now.