A Crouching Tiger Hidden Zebra cake sort of year-end

A Crouching Tiger Hidden Zebra cake sort of year-end

With two books out in quick successions – Vikram and the Vampire and Princess Easy Pleasy (to reach bookstores soon), the baking bug has been buzzing around. And while I have been baking every now and then over the last few months, my Facebook page has seen evidence of it, this time cookies and cupcakes wouldn’t be enough. I was just back from Bookaroo in Pune after sessions with these books and with the latest History Mystery from earlier in 2015, Razia and the Pesky Presents. A cake was definitely called for. A cake that had never been attempted by me before. I settled down before the telly with my lunch, switched channels scouting for a cooking program that would make me look even more sorrowfully at my simple bowl of yogurt and pomegranate and chanced upon Lorraine Pascale. There she was with her brilliant smile, just starting off on a new recipe – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Zebra cake. I was sold at the name. THIS! This is what I would bake! Something that lived up to the joy of new books. A fitting nod to my husband’s love for martial art movies and his multi-prowess, kung-fu like support at my readings. A nod also to Princess Easy Pleasy’s travels through much of South East Asia in the new picture book. And a sure winner with the kids if it actually turned out stripy when cut. Woo hoo! Take a look! Not bad, I say. As I set off for my winter break, tremendously pleased with how the past year turned out, here’s a wish for you: May 2016...
What happens when an author visits the setting of her book, Fatehpur Sikri

What happens when an author visits the setting of her book, Fatehpur Sikri

In a recent visit with family to Fatehpur Sikri, our excellent guide was rather befuddled by an over-excited woman, screeching with joy when she saw the Durbar hall, the Anup Talab, Akbar’s bed and the Buland Darwaza. “Yes, yes madam. Would you like a photograph? There as well? And there? And here again? Yes, it is all quite exciting.” As we entered the first garden and space where Akbar would hold his durbar, the guide pointed to a plain, flat platform raised two feet off the ground, against the backdrop of a columned corridor. “That’s where the king and Prince Salim were weighed on their birthday against gold, silver and other items.” “AAAAAHHH!” screeched the woman, madly flipping through a yellow-covered book with a gilded title, Akbar and the Tricky Traitor, to an image of Akbar being weighed against the very items mentioned, beautifully detailed by the illustrator of the book, Vandana Bist. Whipping out trusty phone, she stretched her arm out with book, framing the scene with the platform in the backdrop, and clicked. “And over there is the Darbar-i-Aam where the king held court…” “EEEEHHHH!” yelled the woman, flipping to another page in the book in which Akbar stands holding court while searching for his Super Six amidst the lot. Hand outstretched… click! “That was Akbar’s gigantic bed…” “OOOOH!” Flip flip flip… click! The ten-year-old and the eight-year-old offspring of the woman were soon influenced by the fervor of discovering new facts about the place and of photographing every nook and cranny of Fatehpur Sikri that echoed in the book, having read it multiple times themselves. “What’s...

Superglued fingers, travel and a new season of MasterChef Australia; reasons for hitting pause on my writing.

Summer break begins in ten days. The kids’ school calendar for these last few days looks ready to burst, packed as it is with project submissions, PTMs, book-day preparations and global perspectives day amongst others. I have glue in my hair, superglued fingers and am snipping paper in my sleep. There’s the travel planning, packing and repacking amidst growing anticipation of cooler climes and lovely beaches. Baking urges are back despite the terrible heat resulting, fittingly, in chocolate lava cakes (that turned out awesome). It’s utterly distracting. To add to it all, MasterChef Australia has begun a new season that really seals the deal on giving up on plots and characters and simply putting away my writing tools until my return to routine in August. My ten and eight-year-olds sit glued to MasterChef, drawn in not just by the astounding delicacies that the amateur cooks seem capable of but also by the thrilling rounds of winning and elimination. Weekend re-runs of the show result in hectic, chaotic bouts of cooking by the kids. This weekend, the eight-year-old was yelling out for basil and pepper as the didi rushed about as sous-chef. I was banned from the kitchen. Delicious and healthy plates of bruschetta emerged for evening snack, much to my delight. The ten-year-old (TYO) has his observations and bits of wisdom. As I whipped batter for the lava cakes, he nodded approvingly. TYO: “What are you making?” Me: “Chocolate lava cakes, though this is the first attempt and I’m not sure we’ll have dessert for the guests tonight.” TYO: “We’re making white chocolate and cornflake rocks with bits of gooey marshmallow as well...

Post Manuscript Syndrome and other joys of writing

Post Manuscript Syndrome: Symptoms include twitchy fingers, hand cramps, sleepless nights (nightmares of piles of rejection letters), glazed eyes as you await a revert, fleeting smiles to convince yourself and others that all is well in your world (other than the fact that months of thinking, writing and rewriting now hangs in the balance), acidity and a desire to run each time anyone asks you about your writing. There is no other moment in my writing life as joyous and terrifying, all at once, as the moment I declare to myself that I have a complete manuscript that is ready to submit. I usually drive myself to that point through sheer exhaustion post multiple edits, tweaks and hand-wringing. I hang on to that last line, that last word, that last restructure, that last deletion, addition, substitution… that very last tweak for as long as I can. There’s a finality to the declaration even though the story will go through multiple edits and possible restructures before it takes on its final form. I put it aside for a few days/weeks/months before I take another look at it, all the while biting my nails off and opening and closing the file multiple times. I’ll do all manner of things to fine tune the writing – storyboards, story arcs… even a “state-of-mind graph” (new tool and a rather fun one to do) before I am convinced that I’ve caught inconsistencies and that it is indeed ready to be seen by an editor. There will be the all-important reading by my kids when I’ve learnt to sneak around and watch their expressions as they read, to gauge their instinctive reaction to the...
Books, finances and an appalled ten-year-old

Books, finances and an appalled ten-year-old

My ten-year-old (TYO) has, in the past year, developed a healthy concern for understanding finances. It has resulted in a rather conscientious spender. However, it does lead to funny conversations. Most nights, bed time is the moment when my children remember all the day’s activities and pose questions designed specifically for long conversations. One such discussion happened a couple of nights ago. TYO: “How are your books doing?” Me: “They’re doing well.” TYO: “Are you in profit or loss?” Me: ” I’d say profit since I haven’t travelled for readings at my own cost, as I have done at times in the past. (And because I can’t just let things be) There is the notional cost of time and effort that goes into writing and publishing a book, which is hard to quantify. But yes, profit.” TYO sounding happy: “Great! So of our family income, would the split between what papa and you earn be 70-30?” Me: “Ummm. Not quite.” TYO: “80-20?” Me: “Not really.” TYO, sounding increasingly appalled: “90-10?” Me: “More like 99-1…” TYO, jumping out of bed like a scalded cat: “WHAAAAT? But you’ve written eleven books and you work really hard and and and… it’s not fair!” Me, trying to calm him down: “While that is true, I do have the joy of doing something I love, which is more than what many people can claim. It is a blessing. Also, I get to have all the flexibility to be around you two monkeys. I get to discuss my work with you and hear your opinion, which is quite special.” TYO: “And my friends think you are...