Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Canada travelogue 8 - Vancouver, here I come...

Sometimes we have this spur of the moment ideas to swing into action; I have them often when travelling. In the morning I decided to do a bus ride from Calgary to Vancouver; till the previous night I wasn't even thinking of a bus journey! My sister packed some lunch (curd rice and a vegetable), some snacks and juice in a little pouch. She also gave me her mobile.

The Punjabi cab driver made some small talk during the drive to the bus station - he told he'd been here for 20 years, he'd spent time in Vancouver also, he said it was a good city etc. The cab cost was almost equal to a one-way bus ticket!

When we aren't frequent flyers, we always keep wondering if we've forgotten something till we cross immigration in the other country. This was my first bus journey in Canada across cities and I kept wondering if perhaps I had forgotten something, perhaps the online booking had failed, perhaps I had come to the wrong station etc. The fears in our mind are a lot greater than what occurs in reality!
At the counter I got a lengthy ticket for my ride. I was one of the very few passengers travelling light - everyone else had at least 1 or 2 large bags (like check-in luggage which would be put in the luggage compartment). All baggage was physically checked by a security guard.

Ready to go

The Greyhound bus ride was scenic; a bit similar to our trips in India going to hill stations. It started drizzling late in the evening and we got to see a rainbow on the way; the bus had a toilet at the back but I didn't have to use it since we had plenty of stops where I used the pubic restrooms. The bus was comfortable - ample leg space and many of us had the luxury of occupying two seats instead of one.
The drivers announced each stop on the microphone, they said how long we would have and politely mentioned some ground rules (like avoiding conversations during the night etc.) Just like back home the driver would take a count of people in the bus after every stop to ensure everyone was back in. Unlike back home, there was no conductor or 2nd driver on the bus. And I felt that the drivers here had a better schedule than drivers back home; for day time driving they seem to do about 8 hours drive but when it comes to the night they do shorter intervals - a new driver takes over in one of the major bus stops and drives till the next switch.

There was one long halt of 20 minutes late in the evening for us to get dinner. I bought a couple of burgers, chocolate bars and nuts. I find chocolates and nuts very handy in long journeys. During one of the midnight stops I wondered if this was a good idea - I started the journey in a hurry, my phone for some reason wasn't working, I couldn't see where in Canada we were, it was raining hard, the places we stopped at were deserted as if in the middle of nowhere, I was travelling alone and it was a 15 hour bus journey! The reason for taking the bus was because it was cheaper than air fare and you also get to see more of the country on a road trip.

Rise and shine

I was hoping we'd reach Vancouver late so that it would be daytime; but we were early - it was 4:30am! The parking lot where the bus stopped was pitch dark. I was worried of being left in the dark on a road like some bus operators do in Washington. I tend to have an uneasy feeling of fear when I'm alone in a new city abroad for the first time. Up to this point I had a bad feeling about this trip; maybe I should've planned better and come later.

Fortunately the bus station seemed to be an important station and I saw a couple of security guards inside. The station was used by Amtrak trains as well and there were some passengers waiting in the main hall. All shops were closed. I took my time in the station; used the restroom (if you are used to some public toilets in India, I'd say this was super clean; the absence of water in the toilet except for the wash basin definitely makes it easier to keep clean), tried to get the phone working and when I managed to connect to the net I felt a bit better. At least I wasn't disconnected from the world.

My hotel was 2kms away - one of the reasons I picked it was because of proximity. There were some taxis waiting in a line outside the station but I decided to walk since Google said it knew the way. There was a very slight drizzle; temperature was 8 degree centigrade. After walking a few steps, there was a haggard guy with uncombed hair and a scratchy beard who looked me in the eye. You have all these strange thoughts and imaginations running in your head at such moments - the night, a poor looking man but physically bigger than you, no one to call out for help and barely any vehicles moving on the road. What he said was something I least expected. He softly said, "Good morning". The mental fears again! I wished back and moved faster. I had read that in Vancouver there are a lot of homeless people. Further on there were a couple more guys who were busy sorting through some recycling items that they collected in a bag. They also wished me. With every step I gained in confidence. When I crossed the first road, I saw a police car a few meters away. Whether there was any cop inside that vehicle or not I didn't know; but the sight of the car added to my confidence.

Note: My books (a novel and a free ebook) are available online -

Saturday, April 25, 2015

My ebook release - The Fake Mask

My first fiction novel (The Fake Mask) released as an ebook today. Print edition will follow later.

College story. Boy joins college. Girl joins college. Boy and girl see each other for the first time. Both fall in love. Then both fight a little. Both make up. And finally both live happily ever after.
Really? That's not what happens often is it?
Alright. How about this... 

Moorthy joins college. He becomes close friends with Deepu, a strange student with peculiar habits. He wonders what drew him into the friendship?
Moorthy doesn't believe in love but he sees a girl and starts liking her. He is confused about what is love?
Moorthy gets thrashed by seniors for no reason. He wonders what he did to upset them?
As Moorthy unravels the mysteries, his friendship is tested and so are his beliefs.

Experience jealousy, hatred, despair and hope through the eyes of two students - one who is struggling hard to break the ice with the first girl he's ever liked; and the other who is desperately trying to hide his past for fear of lapsing into depression and fear of friends. 

2 teenagers; 2 perspectives; one questioning love and the other questioning life.

If you have an ereader device then download from the respective store for that ereader.
If not, each of the same companies provide a ebook reader app which you can install on your computer/tablet/mobile (like the Kindle, Nook, Kobo etc.) and you can use the links below. If you have some other ereader app, you can use the Smashwords link which provides multiple ebook formats for download.

In case any link doesn't work, just go to the main site of the retailer like or and give a search for 'The Fake Mask'.

Get your copy and do write reviews on the retailer sites/goodreads. The below sites have sample chapters as well. I'm reverting out of other publishers and trying Amazon alone as an experiment to see how their KDP Select program works.

WakeUp - my free ebook

What if you haven't read any of my earlier writings? I put out a free ebook titled 'WakeUp - Food for Thought' which is available in the same stores as 'The Fake Mask'. It's a short collection of poems and articles about life.

You can get this free ebook here:

Friday, April 17, 2015

My tryst with self-publishing

I've been busy lately in experimenting with self-publishing. And that's the reason you haven't seen any blog updates for a while (can't think of any better excuse at the moment!) :-)

Since the novel has been eating my head I thought it better to get it published soon; this novel has been running around my mind for a while. And it gets hard when you have another story also fighting for space and time in your mind. And so I decided, enough with the amount of revisions and let's go for it. Is this novel then a half baked product? Well, I hope not - considering the amount of revisions that have been made.

I decided to do the ebook publishing first and later with the help of my friend Prem will try the print edition (if there is any interest in the book!) eBooks are easy to publish and if you haven't read a book on a eReader device like the Kindle or haven't used the eReader apps to read books then do try it out - it is a lot lot better than reading PDFs.

The reason for this blog - just wanted to list some of the things that new authors might find useful so that they don't struggle like I did for a few small things in the ebook space.

1.) Microsoft Word

Seems to be the most popular document format liked by Smashwords (who can help you distribute your ebook to many retailers like Apple's iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Flipkart etc.) Even Amazon likes Word documents.
What if you don't have MS Word - OpenOffice seems to be a good alternative.
I tried the Apple's Pages but since the format accepted was a *.doc file it is easier to use Word/OpenOffice.

What Smashwords does is take the doc file, run it through their engine to produce multiple ebook formats like epub (very popular with all ereader apps), mobi (used by Amazon's Kindle device) etc.

2.) Follow the rules

I never knew about using styles in word processors; Smashwords has a comprehensive guide that tells you how to format your book, what styles to use, what font sizes to use etc.
If you confirm to that format, it is very likely that Amazon will also be happy with your file - Amazon has a much shorter guide about what they expect.

3.) Beware page breaks

So after editing on OpenOffice and submitting the file to Smashwords I saw one strange output - there were extra blank pages appearing before every chapter. After a lot of trial and error I discovered that after you give a page break, on the new page just hit an Enter and start content from the next line (like the Chapter title). This ensures that no extra pages appear. I assume you might not need to do this if you are using MS Word.

4.) Beware guides on the Kindle

The Kindle reader for every book will provide guide links (called guide items) on the tool bar; like Go to beginning, Go to end, Table of Contents etc.

The Table of Contents requires a TOC bookmark within your file else it will be disabled when people read your book. This is mentioned in the Amazon guide; I didn't notice it when I first when through the short guide.

Table of contents guide item will just link to the TOC page; it won't list all the chapters under the guide list; to get all chapters listed in the guide list I think we need to edit the metadata of the doc which isn't probably worth the effort.

There is a guide item to go to the 'beginning' of the book; I found that when we provide a bookmark for that, Smashwords doesn't like it and throws a formatting error (tried this from OpenOffice by giving the bookmark named 'Start' because that's what Amazon says they look at).
The same file uploads fine in Amazon. No harm even if this particular bookmark isn't given because by default 'Beginning' will take the reader to the first page of the ebook.

5.) Book sales/downloads/marketing

For people who've never read any of my writings, I felt it would be good to give a free ebook. So that they can read that and if they like it then (hopefully) they would purchase my novel. And so I did that on Smashwords - unless you market, don't expect the download count to fly high even if it is a free book. I just saw my download counter for the free book hit 100! Not bad without any marketing having started yet; but that gives you an idea. After around 10 days it's hit 100 and this was a free book. If it is a paid book, the count will surely be at 0! And that was confirmed because my novel 'The Fake Mask' was available for pre-order in Amazon but not one person had ordered it, even though the price was a modest $1.5

6.) Free ebooks on Amazon

Amazon doesn't let you price a ebook at $0. What you need to do is get it published on other sites like iBooks, Barnes & Noble and then inform Amazon saying that it is available for $0 elsewhere. Just drop them a mail from your author account; their customer service is extremely helpful - I never expected quick replies from such a large firm to my queries.

7.) Pre-orders and region differences

Pre-order mechanism is not available in all ebook stores and even within the store it may not be available across countries. Ex: As of now, pre-order is available in Amazon US site but not in Amazon India site.

And from region to region, even your ebook listing might differ; Ex: iBooks India doesn't list any ebook other than literary classics.

Oh yeah; and I obviously should mention about my first couple of ebooks here (marketing!).
  • "WakeUp - Food for Thought" - the free ebook
  • "The Fake Mask" - my first fiction novel as an ebook

Please look at for downloading/ordering them.