Tag Archives: Indian Authors

Book Review of ‘Shades of Sin: Behind the Mask’ by APK Publishers

‘Shades of Sin: Behind the Mask’
By APK Publishers

Shades of Sin

Shades of Sin

Call it my love for short stories but I simply loved this book

An anthology of 25 stories by six authors connected by a single thread: the dark side of human nature in all its hues.

Vices in us, we know, exist and breed. What fans them further and do we tame them (if at all)?

The diverse settings, relatable experiences, and the very humane nature of each story intrigued me. Every single minute of my “me time” was dedicated to the book.

The book is divided in to three portions: Light Grey, Dark Grey and Black. The stories in each section portray/reveal related darkness – not depression. Most of the stories are sure to linger in your mind even after you put the book down. They evoke emotions that we deny ever exist in us.

I appreciate the selection of the stories. I like the way each author has consciously contributed to each section, bringing out the apt “darkness”. It’s not easy to pen out such feelings strongly that stir the reader with each sentence. It reflects maturity – the work of seasoned authors.

The narrative skills of Vivek Banerjee, Upneet Grover, Saksham Agarwal, Aanandita Chawla, Vrinda Baliga, and Shreelatha Chakravarty are praise worthy, offering a different perspective, a refreshing take, a unique outlook towards the different shades of the dark forces within us all.

For anyone who loves short stories, I definitely recommend this book. Pick It Up! No second thoughts!!

This is one book I will keep going back to- just like the Urban Shots series.

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Book Launch of Urban Shots Crossroads and Urban Shots Brightlights

Friday, 20th January, 2012
Landmark, Pune:
I was recently invited to the book launch of two of the most awaited anthologies –  Urban Shots Crossroads and Urban Shots Brightlights.

I walked in to the store, towards the book launch area, recognizing a few familiar faces, and smiling at the new ones.
I could sense the excitement. It reminded me of the launch of the first Urban Shots anthology by Grey Oaks and the launch of Down the Road that followed about a few months thereafter.

The evening began with the screening of a short film, based on a short story written by Paritosh UttamBetween Friends.
After the screening, the contributors of Urban Shots Brightlights took their seat to address the audience. The panel saw (R-L) Jehangir Kerawala, Dr. Roshan Radhakrishnan, Paritosh Uttam and Ahmed Faiyaz, in conversation with Lipi Mehta.
Sharing a few anecdotes and their experience of contributing to the anthology, the writers briefed the audience about the stories they have penned.
The second part of the session saw the launch of Urban Shots Crossroads. On the panel were popular bloggers and contributing writers –(L-R) Rohini Kejriwal, Pranav Mukul, Malcolm Carvalho, Anita Satyajit, Rohan Swamy and Avani Rajesh.
They too shared their thoughts on their stories and the experience of being associated with the Urban Shots series.

The stories in both the books are quite racy, compelling and heart rending. Certainly worth reading/reviewing.

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Interview With Adithi And Chatura Rao

The launch of Growing Up In Pandupur in Mumbai gave us a chance to interact with two very versatile and creative authors – Adithi and Chatura Rao.

Growing Up In Pandupur is a marvelous collection of 13 short stories for children. And parents alike.

The writing is mature and stable, but at no place does it feel commanding or overbearing. So kids will have no difficulty breezing through the stories.

Talking to the author-sisters would really make you feel as if you are talking to a friend…a mature, responsible and a really caring friend, who will always guide you through difficult times.

Yes, the book in a way brings to light certain topics/issues that kids face but are unable to communicate with their folks. The book comes as a friend and a guide to not just children, but parents too.
Well, the sisters are good at hearing you out as well. No wonder kids and parents wouldn’t leave a chance to strike a conversation with them, at the launch. Their observation and insight to finer things, usually overlooked by most, is admirable.
I got a chance to interview the sisters and here’s a bit of the conversation:

How did you chance upon the title of the book?
There is actually a small town by the name of Pandavpur between Bangalore and Mysore. We passed through it many a times and it is quite scenic. While we were penning out the stories, we modified the name to Pandupur.

How did you think of writing a short story collection for kids?
Between us sisters we have three kids. And we discuss every issue our children are facing or undergoing. There are a lot more challenges you face as a parent. There are times when kids cannot really express what they feel, and this (writing stories of different themes that revolve around kids) was a way of connecting with them.
We already had a few stories around the theme of growing up, and we added a few more to complete the book.

Broadly, what would you say are the diverse topics the stories touch upon?
From sibling love-rivalry, to the loss of a family member, to child sexual abuse, to growing up –most of the stories cater to topics any child can relate to. For that matter, any parent can relate to.

Amongst the stories in this book, which ones are your favorites?
Grandfathers and Trees
Sister’s Song
The River Came Home
The House Painted Blue

Could you name a few of your favorite books?
Chatura: I like fantasy-science fiction work by Ursula K. le Guin, novels by Toni Morrison and John Steinbeck.
In children’s fiction, The Bridge To Terabithia, the Earthsea novels by Ursula K. le GuinJ.R.R Tolkien’s ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’Ruskin Bond and R K Narayan, and Winnie the Pooh, and Huckleberry Finn.
Adithi: I like the work of Harper Lee (To Kill A Mocking Bird). Her ability to get into the psyche of a child is commendable. I also like R.K. Narayan’s  Malgudi Days and The Christmas Miracle by Jonathan Toomey.


What were your growing up days like?
Charuta: We had a typical middle-class childhood. Grew up in south India, moving between Chennai and Bangalore. Played a lot with large groups of kids. Cycled, went for music classes, stole mangoes, befriended stray dogs and adopted their puppies, ran a book library from a friend’s garage, spied on crabby old neighbours, got together and put up plays and dances at Christmas in our grandfather’s garden…
Adithi: Pretty much as Chatu described it! Bangalore was my Pandupur, complete with the magician grandpa and a grandmother who was never too tired to read, cook, feed, sing, play, talk or listen when it came to me…

Would you share an incident (from childhood) that has stayed with you till date?
Chatura: I used to be petrified of having my nails snipped by my grandfather. He was an ex-armyman and believed in crew cuts! So I’d hide around the house, sneak around quietly, until inevitable he’d shout for me, and then i’d go to him like a lamb to slaughter! I remember the undersides of beds and tables a lot because i was often playing behind/ under them with my dolls, and also hiding from people. One time my sister got an injection and while she yelled, i hid behind the bed and cried too 🙂
Adithi: “About Grandfathers and Trees” pretty much tells of my most poignant childhood memory.


What next do we see from you – individually and / or together?

Chatura: I’m working on a collection of stories for adults in the style of magic realism. Nothing being co-written with Adithi right now.
Adithi: Together we haven’t planned anything yet, although we’d love to do a “Pandupur Too”! Individually I’m sure Chatu will come out with a book. As for me, it has to be a film or I’ll burst!


If there was one advice you could give parents today, what would it be?

Chatura: Listen to the kids.
Adithi: That if it’s happening with your kid it is probably happening with lots of others as well, so it can’t be that bad. Let it pass with a sense of humour, things do have a way of working themselves out. This is advice for myself as well as for parents out there… I too forget, more often than not.
Psst: For people who still haven’t picked up a copy of Growing Up In Pandupur, “fie fie!”
Get it here!

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Book Review of “Bombay Rains, Bombay Girls” by Anirban Bose

Bombay Rains, Bombay Girls

By Anirban Bose

 

The unique title made me pick this book from a friend’s bookshelf. Weird funky cover page design.

The story is about Adityaman –a young, small-town lad (with a big inferiority complex) who seeks admission in Bombay’s medical college. When Adi is leaving his hometown, the advice he gets is ““You’ve got to see two things in Bombay: The Bombay Rains and the Bombay Girls.” No wonder the title!

The initial part of the book felt quite Bollywood-ish. But I continued reading.
So, Adi lands in B-town only to face the horrors of ragging, the culture shock, and the new-found hassles of settling in a new environment. His fears, insecurities and naivety are quite heart-felt.
Soon, his natural leadership streak overtakes and he is looked up to by the rest of the batch. Of course he gets good grades, makes good friends, gives good advice to the clueless few, and yeah sure let’s not forget, he does get the girl!

And the two years of college seem to have imparted more than just medicine gyaan to Adi – love, work, politics, religion, morality, friendship –all areas covered!

Talking about the other characters in the book – they all have a story of their own. Toshi, Pheru, Sam, Harsha, Renuka, Isha –all strikingly different personalities sharing the common bond of friendship based on their genuineness and simplicity.

As an individual, Adi faces a tough battle of principles and morality vs. emotional bonds. His personal and professional life experiences turmoil only to be soon restored. It’s nice how every time he walks himself in to any kind of trouble, there seems to be a pretty coincidence waiting round the corner, to get him out of the pangs. Doesn’t that happen to all the main leads? (Bollywood-ish)

Many incidents, descriptions, expressions, and behavioral patterns, portrayed bring it closer to reality. The good thing is that this ain’t a stand-alone story, dragging readers or forcing them to read on. The sub plots and mini stories within come across as small bursts of emotions – mostly fun.
And yes, finally the “happy ending”. (So really Bollywood-ish)

The writing could have been tighter. The number of pages might boggle an put off some readers. The art of storytelling will ripen (I truly hope so) with the author’s further offerings. But as a debut work of fiction, this is quite pleasing.

Good font size, smooth narrative, decent characterization, quite a few relatable incidents, good setting, glimpses of reality, philosophical trips, words of wisdom, a budding love story – all woven together neatly makes this a one-time read.

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Books and Authors that make you laugh.

I like the fact that some young authors are exploring the lost art of humor writing and coming up with funny books. Here are some of the recent few helpings (of books) that I relished.


Horn OK Please – HOPping to Conclusions by Kartik Iyengar, is a fun-tastic read. It chronicles Kartik’s journey across the country with his friends. The book is hilarious. It has anecdotes from the journey and snippets of randomness that end up instigating brain waves to ponder on the reality around us. A great read -to treasure and cherish!

Dork: The Incredible Adventures Of Robin ‘Einstein’ Varghese, by Sidin Vadukut, is a chronicle of a dork. Blunders, mishaps, and errors are a plenty. Robin ‘Einstein’ Varghese becomes more of person than just a character. Absolutely hilarious read.

Pyramid Of Virgin Dreams by Vipul Mittra is a brilliantly written satire that reveals the professional lives of IAS officers and the babus in government offices. The books gives a good insight to the world of babudom – the tongue-n-cheek incidents, the sarcasm, the power play by the ones in higher seats, and the ass-kissing agents (Joshi), are very smartly portrayed.
Corporate Atyaachaar: The Comical Journey Of An Office Doormat by Abhay Nagarajan, tells the story of a twenty four year old financial advisor as he encounters many ‘non-financial’ experiences including a dancing dog which suffers from a memory loss, a revelation that a client enjoys hog body massages, a client who paints nude art for charity, a curious case of a ‘stubborn’ nipple and a house hunt for a missing musical mobile!

May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss by Arnab Ray, GreatBong, is a sarcastic, politically incorrect and totally irreverent look at assorted random stuff including Bollywood C-grade revenge masalas, ribald songs of the people, movie punching, fake educational institutes, stubborn bathroom flushes, unreal reality shows, the benefits of corruption, opulent weddings, brains in toaster ovens, seedy theatres and pompous non-resident Indians.

The Mad, Mad World Of Cricket by Sudhir Dhar, captures the funny side of Cricket. All illustrations depicting the witty style of the artist, take a dig at the state of the country when the Cricket season is in full bloom!

The pioneer R. K. Laxman and his quips on the Indian society through the eyes of the common man make for the best satire.

Who can ever forget P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Blandings Castle novels and short stories? The renowned English humorist is best known for the eccentric characters and humorous plots making his readers laugh at every single opportunity.

Oh! and one of my personal favorites is Bill Watterson‘s Calvin and Hobbes collection. Stupendous.

It sure is a difficult task to make someone smile. But it ain’t impossible. All you need (apart from brains) is a good sense of humor and an eye for details.

(Post by Sanjana Kapoor)

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Interview with Vijayendra Haryal and Anandan Pillai

Social Media Revolution is taking the globe under its stride. A lot has been explored and a lot still needs to be uncovered. In this scenario, “Social Media Simplified” is a great attempt by Vijayendra Haryal and Anandan Pillai that points out key aspects of social media strategies, along with case studies based on Indian brands highlighting their success.

I got talking with the two authors to unearth the story behind the book.
Tell us a bit about yourself.

Vijayendra: Vijayendra Haryal is working as a Global Executive Manager with an IT company. He is a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Kharagpur (Class of 2004) and did his MBA from IIM Ahmedabad in 2008. His alternative interests are social media, social enterprise.

Anandan: A PhD student pursuing his doctoral program in the social media domain from Management Development Institute, Gurgaon. He has been in the academic research field for about 5 years. His research interests include social media strategy, brand communities on social media, content strategy on social media, social media RoI etc. He has published about 18 case studies and 3 research papers before co-authoring this book.

Social Media in India is still not as developed as in other countries. What got you interested in social media?

Vijayendra: For quite some time, a thought was triggered at the very basic level- what makes ventures/businesses succeed? One of the key factors for being successful is that a product or a service,  should be timed perfectly, such that the changing behavioral pattern/ attitude of the target audience, B2B or B2C, aligns with the product offering or has high propensity to adapt in reasonably short time. Social Media has captured this to perfection by addressing the Attention Deficit Disorder, increasing individuality etc. of recent times. Though I have been interested in Social Media since college days, it really caught my fancy when I got reconnected to the co-founder of http://www.volstreet.com – a non- profit portal for NGOs /CSRs  via orkut.  Also, I’ve met / worked with quite a few people who I got introduced/ reconnected via social media on interesting projects. Even this book took shape when I got reconnected to Anandan via “People You May Know” at Facebook.

Anandan: Well, be it any technology product / service, Indian users have a lag time in comparison to users in developed countries, which has been inevitable for some business reasons. However, if you notice in the past year or two the lag time has been decreasing substantially, for instance products like iPad are being launched in India almost at the same time as they are introduced in developed countries (which was not the case earlier for many products). So, Indian users have adopted social media comparatively late than their counterparts in developed countries, the growth rate has been substantial and hence we thought to contribute by sharing, with  the social media users, our understanding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Would you like to share the incident that got you two together, to venture into writing a book on social media?
Vijayendra & Anandan: We both met each other first in 2007 at IIM-Ahmedabad, but lost touch in course of life and we hardly exchanged emails. All of a sudden in 2009, we met through Facebook and when we both realized our common interests, I (Vijayendra) pitched the idea of the book to Anandan, which he gradually accepted and thus began the journey of the book.

What according to you is the USP of your book?
Vijayendra & Anandan: Distinct category of readers (on the bases of their background, awareness, etc.) will derive different values from the book. Right from listing down Do’s and Don’t’s on FB and Twitter for individual users as well as organizations, we have also discussed Social Media Strategy and ROI. We believe that facets of social media unknown to you would be unraveled as you read the book and this experience will provide you with more confidence.

We’ve got very good feedback on the case studies of 30 Indian brands, which is the key USP of the book. There are a lot of social media books available in the market, but almost they are all written by authors in developed countries and hence the examples/cases they have covered are all from their geographical locations. The case studies we’ve covered are of brands operating in India and the Indian readers should be able to relate to those situations more effectively.

We also have a continuing discussion at the facebook page and twitter handle of the book thus engaging readers beyond the book.
What do you think hamper the growth of social media in India? Does your book suggest ways of overcoming them?
Vijayendra & Anandan: The Internet penetration in India is still less than 10%. This will surely increase with the recent 3 G roll out, but it will still be long way to go. Technology should be seamlessly available for users to get on these innovative technological platforms. The ways to overcome technological challenges is beyond the scope of the book, and hence hasn’t been covered in the book.
The second main reason is awareness of the opportunities for professionals as well as businesses that have evolved due to Social Media. Personal branding has also taken a whole new dimension and ways in which we work have changed. The earnest attempt of the book is to build a holistic perspective on Social Media.
Any experiences during writing the book that you’d like to share? How easy or difficult was the research process?
Vijayendra & Anandan: We both stayed at two ends of the country – Anandan at Gurgaon and Vijayendra at Chennai. So, we could never meet each other and our busy timelines didn’t allow us to interact on mobile too. Hence, the entire research, authoring process was done with the help of Google Documents. Both of us kept adding our thoughts to it and either of us could check them at our convenience and further build on. The technology enabled us to gather our thoughts, in spite of our geographical restrictions. Whenever, either of us got a thought or an idea, we either posted it in Google doc, or dropped a mail or even SMSed. The essence is not ‘losing the thought’ and capturing ‘the moment’. In our case, we ‘asynchronously’ captured ideas. Of course, being well-read and observant in the domain helped.
Any social media strategies that you used to promote your book?
Vijayendra & Anandan: The inspiration was to make the whole process from getting to know about the book, making a purchase decision and feedback ‘interactive’ and ‘transparent’.  We had to cater to the “140 character” generation, which needs ‘something exciting’ all the time.  We had our challenges as the whole country was chanting CRICKET and SACHIN in unison when the book got released. Interestingly people were updating their status messages and tweeting much more than ever before. We buzzed people in our network about the book, created an ‘online event’ launch for our Facebook Page and Twitter handle, launched a ‘ Sneak Peek’  series with very positive feedback . Then for the next thirty days, we did a “Sneak Peek” on the 30 brands that we‘d covered. Now we share different viewpoints/ recent happenings in the Social Media arena.
Technology (and media for that matter) is always first abused, then misused and finally used. What is your take on social media platforms available nowadays to people, especially the youth?
Vijayendra & Anandan: People often fail to appreciate the benefits of a technological advancement in initial stages. The youth in India is very tech savvy and they use these social media platforms extensively. They have evolved from Orkut era to the present era of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn. Apart from the fun of networking and entertainment, we think youth should also try to leverage the utilitarian benefits from these platforms. Every social media platform has a unique feature, which could be milked by the users with respect to their own field of interest and use it judiciously for their benefit.
You book definitely has a niche readership. Was it easy to find a publisher to get to print your manuscript? Any hardships faced during the whole process?
Vijayendra & Anandan: The ideal audience is anyone who wants to be more aware of social media, learn about opportunities in this field and use it to effectively to further his/her profession or business. We think that the academic community – Business Schools especially, marketing professionals, social media enthusiasts should find this interesting. So this makes it a considerable mass depending on propensity of adaptation.
Honestly, we did not have to make extensive pitches to the publishers and the response we received was positive instantaneously. I think the publishing community at large was able to understand the potential of the book and our backgrounds also further added credence.
We see your inclination towards social media. Did you not consider coming out with an e-book only? Is the e-book on its way?
Vijayendra & Anandan: E-publishing is definitely promising but we need to be doubly sure about piracy. As we gather more confidence on E-publishing and distribution, we would surely explore this option.
Any aversions faced from critics that you did not expect? What has been the overall response towards the book?
Vijayendra & Anandan: We are appreciative of all who provided feedback, comments, etc. for taking their time out to share their insights with us. We have started noting down and building on some of the inputs that we got and would like to incorporate these in “Social Media Simplified- 2.0” or an advanced version of the book. We had to and still sometimes bear with some ‘less informed’ critics too, where we do give clarifications, but that’s part of the process! So far, this has been a pretty healthy process must say.
Name the books that have had the most impact on you.

  • Engage by Brian Solis
  • The New Community Rules:  Marketing on the Social Web by Tamar Weinberg
  • Groundswell by Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff


What do we see next from you?

Vijayendra & Anandan: Since this is by far the first most comprehensive book on Social Media in the Indian context and also taking into account the fact that the Social Media space is evolving very fast, we would like to come out with an advanced version of this book. A lot is going to depend on how this book is received by the audience.

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The Long And Short Of It

Walk into a book store and you are sure to find a heap of novels lined up meticulously. But how many are anthologies compared to the full length novels? Hardly a few!

I really can’t say what I like reading more – short stories or a full length novel. Though both have equal, if not less, rewards, they suffer their downfalls too.


My love for short stories began (and somewhat ended) during the school days, where in our “Gul Mohar Reader” had simple short stories that, at least I, used to end up reading even before school started for the particular term.  Stories by O.HenryRoald DahlErnest HemingwayGraham Greene, R. K. NarayanMark TwainLeo Tolstoy,Issac AsimovRuskin Bond, and so many other authors always interested me.
 But that affair lasted a short while. Once out of school, it got somewhat difficult to  track a good collection of short stories. Well, I must confess, I really did not try as hard, due to increasing academic pressures. But whenever I could, I would ask around for anthologies rather than novels.
It’s just that short stories are much easier to interpret, digest, and ponder upon. And the beauty lies in the fact that they could be read easily in one sitting. The restless soul that I am, I tend to get a little impatient reading a really long novel. I jump to a lot of conclusions before reaching the climax. Which in a way is good if the novel is exciting. But it just breaks my heart to see shoddy endings that leave me disappointed.

Also, short stories can be read (and re-read) anytime – while traveling to work, (sometimes at work), while enjoying a relaxed afternoon at home in a comfortable bean-bag, or any week night when sweet slumber deserts you.
Another thing about short stories is that you can pick up any story that you wish to read, without having to worry about the sequence. (Oh, but my OCD to follow a sequence is something I can’t help.)

There is a certain connectivity that is established in the very first paragrah usually, (if it is a well written short story) that takes you through the entire life of the character within those few pages. It’s just that the conectivity has to be established. If it clicks, you know you’re going to like it.

Let me not be completely biased. We cannot rule out the fact that in some anthologies not all stories capture your heart. Some do leave you disappointed. But the pain is bearable, as against spending time and getting involved with a lengthy novel only to be disappointed towards the climax. The effort is futile.

Coming to the writing styles, I must say, both are equally hard.
A well defined beginning, a progressive plot and a convincing climax make up for a well structured story. Be it a short one or a mighty novel.

Where a novel gives you the freedom to elaborate and dive in to the depths of a scene and describe even the sharpness of a harmless pin, a short story needs to deliver the same feeling in a few crisp sentences (or words). Come to think of it, short story writing is more of a challenge. It has the constraints of time and space and words and characters. In those few pages, you have to engage the reader so much that (s)he understands the plot, relates and connects with the characters, and doesn’t lose interest till the last word. That’s when a short story is truly acknowledged.
A novel gives the writer the levy of spinning a beautiful and lavish yarn that the reader is comfortable reading for a few pages before proceeding to the next scene.

Loosely structured sentences, clumsy dialogues, weak descriptions not only repulse the reader but also the publisher. Which brings me to one of the very important points – finding a publisher.
No doubt you can self-publish your work. But it would not gain as much visibility in the market. Social networking sites might help you to a certain extent. But that’s all. Promotions on a few blogging sites, sharing it with friends, family and acquaintances and maybe a few random stumblers is all you’d be able to gather. If you do look at the commercial aspect, finding a good publisher would become one of the priorities.

No doubt, India still has a long way to go when it comes to publishing a short story collection or an anthology. For some reason, publishers prefer full length novels over short stories.
It is only recently that new publishers like Grey Oaks Publications are coming out with continuous series of anthologies, giving budding writers a fair chance. Bigger and renowned players likePenguin, Rupa, Cedar, etc. have opened up more with bigger brands organizing short story competitions that publish deserving stories. Recent offerings that I’ve really appreciated include Urban ShotsDown The RoadSome Of The Whole, etc.

Reading the works of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, and other seasoned authors raise your expectations, no doubt, with the kind of presentation, plot and ideation they offered. Their style is what set them apart. And looking for such gratification today, I confess, is a bit difficult. It is a task. A tough one. Budding authors most give it an honest try, and we readers must appreciate the efforts.

Now, talking about full length novels, they aren’t all that easy either. Definitely more time consuming and involving. The plot needs to be reasonable enough to keep the reader hooked till the last page. A couple of main characters with a few minor characters; a main plot with sub-plots around it; ample amount of research; immense effort and patience; all sum up the process of a decent full length novel writing.
Also, length and quality are not synonyms. Quite a few times, an author, in the zeal to increase the word count ends up sacrificing the structure and quality of the plot.

Though getting a publisher is comparatively easy; and signing off as an author of a novel is more appealing than a short story writer, it is the quality that makes a novel a best seller.

Given a choice, I’d pick up a collection of short stories over a novel. To read as well as to write.

What about you- a short story collection or a full length novel?

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