Popping up around the Internet…

Ahoy!

So been around a month since we launched my first book, Faith of the Nine ( Book One, Wheels of Janani) out in the markets – available online across the Flipkarts and Amazons of the world. And the first few reviews are slowly trickling in…from across the blogosphere and the Internet.

Rahul Rai  rates the book 4 on 5 and compares the reading experience to “One heck of a roller coaster ride at the speed of an F-22 Raptor” !!  Say Wooot. Fist pump moment.

Rahul who pens down brutally honest and heartfelt reviews about the books ( Book reviews from the heart!) he reads actually went on and created posters reflecting quotes from the book and goes on to list his favorite moments and also stresses the need to have a MAP of Janani. ( Something that I am seriously considering adding in a revised version later ! Like one of my old friend has a way of saying, any book that starts with a map, knows where it is going. and so has to be GOOT!)

Read more of the review here : http://goo.gl/6wspQR

Raji, a self proclaimed lover of literature who searches for Magic or Logic in everything about life ( who in reality is an English language specialist working freelance on consulting, education and training programs across India) – is happy to announce that she hit MAGIC with this fantasy novel! and recommends this as a good read to people new to the genre as well!

“The clash between good and evil is presented in all its complexity in an alternate universe, where humans exist along with the supernatural and the demonic. “Faith of the nine” thus provides tasty fare in classy language, making it a good choice for not just fantasy aficionados, but to others who are curious to know what this genre is all about.”

< Allow me a few moments as I do the crazy happy dance routine which I perfected for such moments……>

Read the full review over here: http://goo.gl/FTDUKw

Sachin ( Yup. Another one! We belong to that clan of super meta humans who landed here on Mother Earth eons ago and still roam among you living…) emailed me with this subject line of “WOW! Just WOW!!” – Elated and cautiously curious, I opened it up to read his feedback about Fateh, Ishan, Abhay and the gang.  This is what he says,

“LOVED the book! When I think about it, yours is the first Indian fantasy I have read that isn’t a retelling of the epics. Lovely world with just that whiff of familiarity from the classic Indian mythology stories that you grow up with, perfect magic, rich language where nothing felt forced, brilliantly carved out characters (in somewhat of a first, I don’t have a least favorite character), a subtle tip of the hat to some of the classics like Dune (I may have just imagined that one) and a dizzying pace.” 

< Another break time. A longer one this time. ‘Coz hey this time, I dance and dance, breaking into impromptu routines as well..and then bring the bubblies out…Woohoooo…..!!>

He’s promised to write up a review soon – but this one’s a heartfelt rousing glowing email that he sent out right after he finished the book. Such things go straight to the heart. Just like how we imagined it when we had those glassy eyed dreams about publishing 😀 Ha ha. Thank you so much.

Mr. R V Rajan – acclaimed ad-guru, award-winning rural marketing specialist and hardcore Chennai-vaasi – read my book in three sittings after he was under house-arrest due to the Chennai rains. ( Some silver lining huh?) He is another convert to “fantasy” :) This is what he he had to say about the book :

I read `Faith of the Nine` in three sittings thanks to the enforced house arrest because of rains in Chennai. It was gripping till the end.Though i am not a big reader of books on fantasies or science fiction, your book was different. It showed your vivid imagination and an engaging style of writing. It is bound to appeal to both young and old. i can`t believe that this is your first novel. I am sure the book will get into the Best sellers`s list soon.I am confident that in the not distant future you will become a famous author. i look forward to your next book in the series.”

I will be back – next time hopefully with more reviews in tow. and having mastered a few more wild dance moves of celebration. and bottles of bubbly.  But in the meanwhile, I leave you guys with a message. Consider it a dire warning of things to come 😀

Faith of the Nine

Faith of the Nine – Book Tour (A Look Back)

Blog Tour [Book blast across 49 blogs!! ]

Faith of the Nine

Hello there people!

Been sometime since I managed to pen something down. I know I know – the pressures of trying to market one’s first book in this crowded market, sigh. Add to that a new job that seems to suck the bloody marrow right out of my tailbone, well, let’s just say, the Wheels of Janani as far as I’m concerned is just rolling downhill.

So hey – the start of this month to celebrate my book release, I signed up with the ultra-organized super duper Debdatta Sahay of b00k r3vi3w Tours to host a book tour/ book blast where I hopped across some 49 blogs yapping my head off about the book, the writing process, the big idea etc.

Yeah. It’s that time of the year.

I would like to wholeheartedly THANK each and every one of you who signed up on this blog tour. I had tons of fun doing this and hopefully all your readers have got introduced to a new book they are intrigued about <wink!>

So here goes – the list of blogs and the stuff I spoke about trying to get you guys hooked onto my book and my series. [Tried to bucket things up so to keep it in order!]

 

Exclusive Excerpt – Prologue

PROLOGUE: CYCLE OF DEATH & BIRTH

I

Year 967, Third Yuga
Fields of Prayag, Nam-Ehrilitaan, Northern borders of Nam Empire

The only good Andhaka is a dead Andhaka.

Fateh kept chanting this, his teeth chattering like crazy, the shivers racking his young body, the cold leaking through to his very bones. It seemed like an eternity, waiting knee deep in the river waters. This far South, the river was calm enough, but Fateh knew better. He knew that the ice up on the Hindu-Kush ranges could melt and turn these calm eddies into raging, frothing death traps that swept one away into oblivion within a moment’s notice. It wasn’t just the cold. It was also the fear—a nameless presence hovering just over his shoulders. After all, this was his first battle ever.

Not the best of the conditions when you‘re fighting your first major battle. Fateh looked over his shoulders; all around him, soldiers were moving forward, dragging leaden feet through muddy slush and a fast undercurrent that sucked at your boots and swirled all around you. Fateh thought that the man next to him could hear his own heart, hammering away in his chest. The cold only made it worse; it seemed to squeeze the heart to pump blood through his white frozen limbs. ‘How in the name of all the djinns of jahannum am I going to hold that sword properly when the time comes,’ he wondered, fingering the scabbard cinched to his belt.

First visit to the Void! The edge of the known world. Where the fluctuating boundaries of the Nam Empire vanished into nothingness. Excitement pulsed through him, tinged with fear and anxiety as all the rumours he heard about this place rushed through his mind. The Void! The end of the living world. Where traces of Maaya was still alive.

One man brushed past him, a great-axe slung casually over his shoulders, his scarred face split in a wide grin. The grin, if anything, made the man look worse, accentuating that brownish-red welt across his face.

“First battle, huh boy?”

“Y-y-y-y-yes!” The bloody cold made him sound like a sissy about to wet his pants. Graaki’s pox!

“You need to warm up, boy. Get that blood flowing … when those conches sound out and the Andhakas charge over the hill, you need it roaring hot. Like a forge. What happens when you dip that burning, flaming steel into cold water? It becomes stronger! You hear me, stronger! That’s what you need to become, boy—the flaming steel.”

“The f-f-f-flaming steel, yes, Captain. Got it!” Fateh stammered, a vision of red hot steel dipping, hissing and steaming into a channel of cold icy water stamping onto his brains.

He didn’t see the blow coming.

His teeth clattered, his cheeks exploded in a miasma of hot lancing pain and he fell. Gasping and spluttering, his head dunked under the water, limbs floundering in a bid to grasp onto something, anything. He came up, his boots slipping off moss-laden smooth round stones and he went down again.

“Did that warm you up enough, son? Come on, get back up here!”

From beneath the waters, the shout sounded muffled. His ears were ringing, the water rushing all around him. He clenched his teeth to keep them from chattering and roused himself up, straining against the weight of wet clothes and all that armour, his hands coming free. Dappled sunlight glinted from between the clouds, suddenly blinding him. “Arrrghhh!!” He gasped, taking in deep ragged breaths, heaving and coughing. Fateh felt his cheeks sting with the pain; the bastard had slugged him hard!

The anger set in slowly. Fateh had never been a hot-headed boy while growing up and he wasn’t about to start now. But this time he could feel the anger, a beast swelling through his mind, red and hot. A blinding red mist was starting to sway over his eyes. He growled and swung his sword—when did that clear the scabbard, he had no memory of that ever happening—a wild lunge, not a practiced smooth killer’s thrust. It clanged onto a wooden shield reinforced with steel and harmlessly clattered off. Fateh moved forward, a double-handed overhead cut, a strike of wrath aimed for the head, which the soldier neatly sidestepped. Before Fateh knew it, he was sandbagged and lifted clear off his feet, even with the water weighing down his boots and he fell back again, floundering into the river.

This time, when he got up, he stayed put. The water had cleared his head and doused that anger. Save your blood-thirst for the Andhakas. He shook his head, his helmet was off and water had dripped down into his underclothes. It was still cold enough to freeze his balls off, but he felt the suffusing warmth of blood rushing to his head. He felt alright.

“Good! Keep your head screwed on, son. Don’t strike out in anger. Keep it cold once you got that fire inside of you. Fire and ice. That’s what you need to be. Tempered steel and not a hot brittle blade, son. You with me?”

“Yes, Captain Humayun. And thank you, Captain.”

Humayun nodded once, the ghastly smile flickering once again. “Try and stay alive. Get that helmet back on, aim for the heart and thrust good. Andhakas are tough bastards, seeds of the demon. Abominations born of Maaya left over in this world, such that they eat the flesh of you and me. So don’t get yo’self killed, okay? The Agha has deemed it an honour that his son joins the fourteenth battalion. And that means my company. And I don’t want to be the one giving him the news of his son’s death. You follow, boy?”

“Yes, Captain Humayun.” Fateh wondered where his father was.

Commander Veer, ‘Agha’ to the famous fighting unit called the First of the Cohort. His inspiration and idol. His father. He must be just beyond that bank, huddled within the grey pine forest, waiting for the Andhakas. Fateh had always dreamed of this day, when he could fight alongside his father. The Nam Empire would be proud of them, the father-son duo, winning wars for the Empire and becoming war heroes. Songs of glory would be sung in all the taverns. Legends of the Empire, History would –

Water exploded somewhere behind him, jerking him back into the grim reality of their situation, shattering his dreams of grandeur. Roars broke out from all around. Men scrambling with their weapons drawn, snarls of rage, cries of pain. Meaningless howls stabbing the world around him. Another whoosh as a second missile fired overhead, a black shadow against the grey ripping clouds in the sky. Some of it landed right next to the group that Fateh was waiting with. Men hastened to get out of the way, as Fateh watched something sizzle and smoke. Chemicals!

Bombs stuffed with Ferro-chemicals that exploded when in contact with water, mostly studded with shreds of broken glass and metal.

His mind recalled lessons of warfare, even as he scrambled out of the water following others, arms floundering wildly, breath hissing in the cold air screaming meaningless words of rage as the world around him disintegrated into deafening explosions of white foaming water, the red of body parts blown beyond recognition against the brown earth. Jagged shrapnel cut into the two men right next to him on the bank, their faces contorted in surprise and pain, as metallic shards bit into their upper body, cutting them to bloody ribbons. Fateh threw himself down, as did many others who were lucky enough to have got out of the water. But for the rest, the water formed a churning foaming white coffin of death, washing over and taking their inert bodies down river.

Fateh’s ears were ringing. He thought he felt blood trickle down his face. The world around him was swaying in swirls of grey and black, shadows dancing in and out of his vision. After a brief moment of terrifying silence that seemed to squeeze in on him, the sounds came back. The furious clang of steel on steel, ringing clatter of shields shattering and above all, the throat-hum of men caught in the battle fever, growling and roaring in rage and frustration. Fateh rolled as he spied a curved scimitar coming his way. It bit into the soft river-bank, spraying brown slush around. The foot next to the scimitar was encased in brown leather, tied up with strips of dried vine. He looked up.

The face that peered down at him was probably the ugliest he had ever seen. Broad forehead, the colour of burnt sienna, a flat snout and a set of canines protruding from beneath, smallish red eyes glaring with unbridled fury as it looked back at him. Swathed in fur and rags, it reeked of blood and urine as it stood this close to him. ‘Somewhere between men and at some point on that tree of evolution, this is how an Andhaka looked,’ thought Fateh as he scrambled to get up. The steel in its hands though looked man-made alright, and it certainly knew how to use it. Fateh realised that in the mad hurry to get out of the waters, he had lost his sword. All he had was a small hand-dagger good for close-combat killing and useless against a scimitar. He scooped up the wet mud and threw it onto the face of the Andhaka. Blinded for the moment, the creature bellowed and flailed, striking blindly with the scimitar. Fateh stepped back, sickened and fascinated as a spear punched through the Andhaka’s chest, dark blood spraying out the front.

The only good Andhaka is a dead Andhaka.

One of the soldiers kicked the dead creature away and nodded once at Fateh. He turned back to join the melee that was unscrambling at the river bank. Fateh pieced together what had happened. The Andhakas had realised that one company was lying in wait for them beyond the killing fields of Rishikesh on the river Prayag, and had decided in turn to waylay them, taking them on with those Ferro-chemical bombs and rushing the confused group in an ambush.

God save us, the whole river bank was overrun by these accursed demons!

A terrific roar sounded over the din of the battle. Fateh looked up just in time to see one of the mahoganies come crashing down, the dense green branches striking out in all directions. The trap that Commander Veer had originally set for these bloodsuckers! All around him, the forest was coming down—trees, great and tall, to their right, to their left, all around them falling down. The very earth rumbled as the giants struck the ground. From beyond the woods, the cavalry was charging. Veer must have realised the fourteenth was ambushed. Fateh scrambled up the bank, slipping and groping about, leaping past fallen branches and slippery rocks, now slick with mud and blood. The ground sped underneath him as Fateh crashed through the fallen boughs, in an attempt to hit out for the open fields of Rishikesh.

All around him the world had disintegrated to shadows of brown fur and flashing steel, the clang of metal on shields, and the thud of iron against iron. Men cursing and shouting to be heard over the meaningless howls of the Andhakas, blood and gore flying fast all around him.

He saw Humayun hack down a gawping Andhaka with his great axe, dark blood spattering the air around, dark spots against a greyish sky. Fateh ducked below an oncoming swinging scimitar, his knees burying into the slushy mud, creating twin furrows as he slid past. He used the momentum to push himself off and leap onto the next shaggy shadow that loomed past him. The battle fever pulsating through his head like lightning, he jammed his hands into the eyes of the fur-clad Andhaka, all the while screaming incoherently. Digging one hand into its fetid mouth, Fateh yanked forwards hard. The creature howled in pain, and Fateh could feel his nails digging into one small red eye, hot blood surging over his fingers. He rolled off. Two arrows shot through the Andhaka’s chest, spouting red. Fateh stumbled and fell as he tried to get up. A shield smashed into him, knocking him back. His world was an epicentre of pain and wailing. Fateh tried to get back up on wobbly unsteady legs, only to have another fur-clad monster plough into him, full hilt. He flew back, moaning as he thumped against a grey stunted tree; the shadow loomed large, blocking out the weak rays of the sun. The sword whistled as it cut the air.

Slain in his first battle by an ugly Andhaka. Fateh Veer Sikandar, son of the most famous commander of the Nam Empire’s glorious First of the Cohort. Another useless martyr in the border wars against the rakshasas?

A sudden surge of survival instinct caused Fateh to duck and slide away from the tree he was slumped against. The sword sliced into the gnarled bole, the force causing the steel to sink half into the trunk. The tree shook, causing the rotten fruits, ripe and bursting, to rain down. Fateh rolled away, his body sticky with mud and fruit pulp. A boot lashed into his groin, sending shockwaves of pain and agony lancing through him. He curled up, immobile. Waiting for the deathblow—for the blade to come hacking down through his neck.

It never came.

A body slumped down next to him. The dank and fetid odour of flesh-eaters wormed its way into his nostril.

“I will not have my son wallowing in the mud for his first battle. Get up, you whelp!”

The voice cut through, causing him to jerk up. General Veer looked resplendent in his golden armour, splashed dark with blood, the last lights of the day falling in angled spokes behind him. He was sitting easy on his warhorse, the sword in his hand bloody and dripping. The bleeding cut through his forehead and the dishevelled rank hair—which had come undone from underneath a helmet that must have long fallen away—did nothing to take away his splendour. He tossed a sword down at Fateh, his lips curled back in a mocking leer.

“So, how do you like the feel of your first real battle, Fateh?”

Fateh pushed himself off the tree and leaned on the sword, breathing heavy.

Da, all the stories you told me … this is better than all those. I don’t think I will ever regret my decision to join the First of the Cohort. I was born for this.” He raised his sword and uttered a whooping war cry.

Veer laughed, a deep booming sound, in sharp contrast to the snarling and wailing that filled the woods around them.

“It’s the devil that gets inside you. I saw you leap and gouge out the eyes of that bastardly abomination and I knew that I chose right by getting you into the Cohort. You, my son, have got the devil inside you! It’s the soul of Achintya that’s awake inside all of us, and I ain’t ashamed to admit it. I pray to the Gods of my fathers, the Ancient Nine that they give you nine lives and you outlive all of us.”

The Ancient Nine? Fateh shook his head to clear his eyes.

“I don’t understand, Da. I thought we pledged our lives to Circle when we took up the vow; to be a Sworn Elite.”

The Nine was just a myth, wasn’t it? A long forgotten faith of their ancestors? He prayed to the Great Pruksa. They all did. The Bountiful One, who had brought the entire Empire together, bound it in peace. Close to a thousand years of peace while the Empire expanded its borders. What was his father going on about some forgotten legends now?

There was weariness in his father’s voice as he replied. “Aye, we did, son. That we did—swear to protect the faith, being sworn to Zora’s Order, our masters. And make no mistake, I live and die for the Empire. But Fateh, the legacy of this world is not to be forgotten so fast. It continues to weigh down heavy on us. For now, just remember this: every time you feel that fire coursing through your body and the urge to kill burns in your mind, it’s a piece of an ancient God, Achintya, who’s alive in you. A soldier’s God. The God of Wrath. You follow?”

Fateh nodded mutely. The God of Wrath? Inside of me? He mentally made a note to ask his Da for the details about this myth later. From behind him, he heard a whisper in the wind, leather and iron whistling through the air.

Da, watch out.”

An Andhaka came springing over the trees, like it had launched itself off an arbalest, snarling, fangs dripping, a black shape zipping through the air. The animal cries filling large in his ears, Fateh watched, too shocked to move. But Veer’s sword ripped into it, the force of the leap plunging the sword deep into its side, dark blood spraying out like a smashed water jug. Veer’s sword got stuck and the Andhaka’s hands were wrapped tight around his neck. They fell, crashing heavily onto the slushy mud. They rolled once, with Veer coming out on top. By the time Fateh ran to his father’s aid, Veer had already beaten its head to bloody pulp. He got up and stomped down once more on the bloody ruins of its hideous face. Another one came clambering up from the river, brown refuse sluicing down its body. More surfaced, rising up from the mist that was starting to form over the river bank. Like skyrims drawn to rotting meat.

The rest of the Cohort was busy in the fields, engaged with the enemy. Fateh looked around wildly. The fourteenth had more or less been decimated in the initial attacks by the Andhakas. The General’s own cavalry unit, the First battalion, was nowhere on the scene, busy fighting back hordes from the edges of the Rishikesh. It was left to Fateh and his father. Fateh realised with growing dread that it was just like in his dreams, except that in the dreams, they always made short work of the faceless enemies. Now rising up from the roiling clouds of fog, the enemy had a face—ugly, misshapen, scarred and leering. Uglier than his worst nightmares.

Veer didn’t wait.

Best way to get over your fears is to charge. That adrenaline coursing through your body is the best way to douse that rising dread. Works like nothing else.

Fateh watched his father wade right into the river. Hack snarl and chop. The steel was flying all around, singing its song of death accompanied by an orchestra of bestial screams and animalistic howls of pain and misery as Andhakas fell in scores around him. A spear whizzed past Fateh, missing him by a foot. Some had sighted him and were heading for him now from beyond the waters. Get moving.

Fateh fought off a double strike, two Andhakas having engaged him together. They weren’t skilled and lacked the finesse of a combatant, but they made up for it by brute strength. As Fateh was driven back, up the slippery bank, he realised it wasn’t like the tournament combats he had won during training. These things fought to kill, not to score. Here, you had only one chance to score. Score or get killed. Fateh ducked and pushed away against the first Andhaka, dipping his shoulders, trying to ram against its exposed sides while fighting off frenzied pounding by the other one. He slipped, the ground coming up fast to slam the wheezing breath out of him. The first one had sideswiped him and let him fall, his own force causing him to slip. Bloody seeds of Maaya! Scimitar flashed down and Fateh rolled away. The scimitar followed, hacking down. A brown boot squelched into the mud beside his face, splashing brown muck into his eyes.

Don’t you dare close your eyes, Fateh. Close your eyes and they will carve you worse than a Naming Day pumpkin.

Fateh pushed up hard, kicking out and warding off the scimitar pressing down. The Andhaka’s face was close, the fangs dripping saliva onto Fateh’s face. He released one hand and poked its eyes hard. It bellowed and dropped away. Fateh was up and running, screaming, as he made for the dark shapeless mass that was beginning to form in the middle of the still river. His father was there, trapped in the centre of that Andhaka pyramid, crushed in and fighting to get out.

“Here! You Graaki-damned abominations from Jahannum, take a bite of me now!”

Breath and wind rushing, Fateh charged down the muddy muck towards the frenzied fighting pyramid. He slipped and fell, his blade slashing as he slipped down the slope, chopping into the feet of the first Andhaka that faced him, the soft thud of iron slicing into skin and tendon, followed by the ear-splitting shriek of pain. His breath was roaring inside his head now, as he went down spinning, shouting and screaming, hacking into the fur-clad monsters that rushed him. All that mattered was to reach the river and help his father.

Suddenly the mist lifted away, and a new sound registered in Fateh’s ringing ears; a tiny gurgle that seemed to grow in intensity, slowly growing to form a deafening roar. It was the terrifying sound of water swelling up from beyond the mountain ranges. The ice had melted up on the Hindu-Kush!

Hissing and foaming, pushing crumbling blocks of stone and broken fragments of trees from up river, the roar of water as it sped down grew to fill Fateh’s world, a frightening transformation of the river Prayag. A white wall was forming high up on the mountains, looming large and growing bigger by the moment, blotting out the grey sky and the ripping clouds overhead, and all that mass was flowing straight down to where Veer was still fighting off the Andhakas, who recklessly kept throwing themselves onto him.

Da, get out of there! The river’s going to flood! Get OUT of the river. NOW!”

The whoosh of swirling water as it surged down in full force registered on Veer’s ears. Fateh saw his father look in the direction of the churning, frothing wall of death as it sped down from the mountain. Then his father looked at him. Fateh saw triumph in those eyes; even in the face of death. Veer was hacking gleefully, chopping, swinging left and right, throwing off Andhakas. There was a whole horde of them, wading knee deep in the blood-filled waters to get to Veer, more slipping in, maddened by the rush of blood and battle-frenzy as they saw their comrades get sliced down and thrown away.

Fateh screamed again, but his voice drowned in the din of the oncoming rush of water as it filled up the space beyond the woods. The bank disappeared under the onslaught of rushing white water. Fateh scrambled up, slipping and screaming incoherently. The water slapped against the fallen tree trunks angrily, exploded against jagged rocks and blocks of crumbling stones, batting them away like flies. It came on, never stopping.

The Andhakas realised that it was futile and a few were now madly scrambling for the upper slopes of the bank. Some of them almost made it, but the river was not to be denied. It yanked them out and slammed them down into the water; into a seething twirling tornado of white water, directly heading for the horde in the middle and Veer, who was right in the centre of that horde.

Fateh was still screaming in frustration and howling with pain as the wall slammed into that mass. Andhakas flew, tumbling over and over, getting tossed around like meagre toys, broken and hurled away. Veer stood in the centre and the last thing Fateh saw was his father laughing like a madman, plunging his sword through the Andhaka before him.

Fateh kept screaming, his shrill voice drowned out by the larger roar of the furious river.

Where are the Gods when you need them? A soldier’s God? The God of Wrath? But even that didn’t count against the wrath of a greater God: Nature.

 

Cover Reveal

Format Image

So people of the world, here’s the first look at the Cover for my first book in the series:

cover_1

And below is the official blurb for Book-One, Faith of the Nine.

The Third Yuga is slowly drawing to a close. Nam – the greatest Empire on Janani – is going to face some fierce winds of change. Seers foresee omens of death and destruction in the return of the Banished One – A God who will claim the ashes of this world as revenge. While out in the streets, rumours abound – of older forgotten powers stirring.

Caught in this maelstrom of a power struggle between Gods are three ordinary lives: General Fateh, the most celebrated soldier in Nam who starts to question his faith, Ishan – a gifted orphan who struggles to comprehend his destiny and Abhaya – a young monk in search of truths about this world. Their choices and actions will shape the destiny of this scarred world that becomes the playground for vindictive Gods.
In a world where Rakshasas arise out of left-over traces of Maaya and twilight forms the portal to countless worlds around us for Daityas and Yakshis to dance through, a God is only as powerful as those who believe.

And when Gods rise, faith of men will be tested…And broken.

Let me know what you think !!

Why do I write Fantasy?

Fantasy_rise

Why do I write Fantasy?

One of my all-time favorite authors, George RR Martin answers this best in his unequivocal style “The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake.” [ Read the rest of the beautiful quote here

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I would rather go to Middle Earth.

Do I share that emotion? Hell yes. So the question comes back as to why do I write Fantasy?

As always there are two sides to this coin. (And putting to use that Massive Brain Adulteration I went through) I will attempt here to present the network effect analysis of the ‘Rise of Fantasy in India’.

A lot of you are probably thinking this boy (me) just wants to ride the wave. That is crashing sky-high right now – with the popularity of small screen adaptation of every possible sci-fi / fantasy story being churned out week after week. (We can never get our glut for blood & magic satisfied huh? It’s Marla from Fight Club all over again. We are ‘Appalled’ and ‘Attracted’ in equal measure.) The mainstream acceptance of Game of Thrones by the young and old alike speaks volumes about how it’s no longer the closet nerd’s internet discussion forum wet-dream. People genuinely love the world of Westeros. And the whole bloody gritty feel to a story so beautifully and intricately woven amidst all that head-chopping and gory backstabbing.

But before GRRM became a household name in India and Asia in general, (Among the larger mainstream population that is. He has always been a GOD among us nerd folks!) I personally was hooked on to countless other stories set in either the Malazan Empire (Book) of the Fallen or the Halls of Camelot or the Magical world of Narnia….and many many other worlds. First among all that of course was Middle Earth. But after the rousing popularity of Peter Jackson’s New Zealand inspired Middle Earth on the big screen, I was always on the lookout for new talents. And devour I did – book after book, new authors one after the other in my search for the demi-gods in this genre. This was late 90’s and early 2000’s. Fantasy was shaking off the tag of “a story of a farm boy growing in to his destiny” that saw clones of Tolkien rise up in hordes.

Now Fantasy is a wide genre – and fits in different forms where the setting was one of the following:

a) An alternate form of Earth where mortals lived alongside hunky bloodthirsty vampires/fallen angels/fey/demons (Take your pick. Urban Fantasy. Yawn!! But the good news is there are fantastic new titles by folks like Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series breathing new life back into this staid old genre.)

b) A desolate barren dustbowl of an earth where the sun is not shining anymore and the desert winds howl through empty barnyard doors stretching their dark maws wide open ( Dystopian/post-apocalyptic earth. Yawn. Again.)

c) Medieval Europe. Knights. Queens. Pages. Swords & Lances. Sorcerers. (Epic high fantasy. Featuring magic and a lot of swashbuckling heroes to save the damsel in distress)

d) The exotic eastern fantasy world. Sometimes known as silk road fantasy. A relative minority that is nevertheless picking up interest among global audiences after the thumping success of authors like Guy Gavriel Kay (Under Heaven) and Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky.

There are countless other forms. And we are only limited by our imagination. Now that knows no bounds. Right ?
I wonder if we can add an India flavor to the above list of worlds.

And the other important part of the network effect is the audience. The English reading population in India was on the rise (early 2000) – buoyed on by the fantastic success of a certain Mr. Bhagat and later – this hipster version of Siva who while not getting addled out of his brain by mind-altering substances was busy getting jiggy with Parvati – and countless copycats who pretty much rewrote every possible Hindu mythology, added their own interpretations and imagination to set things on fire – and called it Fantasy. Do you hear the notes of complaining? You do, you perceptive reader, you do.

So yes and no – While I loved this whole new direction of storytelling as there are 333 million gods and goddesses in India and this means we are in for the long haul with such stories being published day after day. Plus the two epics that we Indians swear by, Ramayana and Mahabharata allowed as many interpretations as there are heads in this world. Sure, some gems came out – but still I felt a lot of them were sub-standard retellings of events recorded way back in history or mythology by the fantastic elephant-headed God we revere as the Lord of auspicious beginnings.

Now I remember way back in 2004 I had picked up a book called Simoquin Prophecies. By this little known chap called Samit Basu. I loved it. I loved it to bits. Chuffed. Blown away. It was a bold new direction for Indian writing and I for some reason was incredibly proud. Samit Basu has gone on to international acclaim writing some blockbusters after that. But the Gameworld trilogy in India is a shining example of originality and a crow left of the murder that struck a mud pie of worms early in the morning. I still don’t know whether these books were a commercial success but in India where the English speaking population is only on the rise, three to four thousand copies sold is a big deal. Because hey, this is after all an extremely crowded market that is overflowing with semi-autobiographical stories of “three-point-someone” rip-offs, syrupy love stories with absolutely ridiculous titles having an F* words on the front page or the little known adventures of a character POV from Mahabharata who sadly was neglected by Vyasa.

I am still on the lookout for well written secondary world fantasy stories set in invented worlds that borrows from the incredibly rich Indian mythology or history. That does not fit into the mold I explained above. My story sets out to do something of that sort. It’s an honest attempt. And my paean or love letter to this genre that I love. An attempt to immerse people in a new world that seems at once familiar to an Indian audience brought up on a melting pot of grandma-stories, subjected to the “hairat-angez and thilismedaar” stories of Chandrakanta on Doordarshan and are now slowly getting introduced to the wonderful new world of Westeros packed with the grit and drama.

Welcome to the Wheels of Janani. Where Rakshasas arise out of left-over traces of Maaya and twilight forms the portal to countless worlds around us for beautiful and dangerous Yakshis to dance through. Where a God is only as powerful as the people who believe. A world teetering on the brink of an apocalypse. A world that is the scarred playground of vindictive Gods.

Welcome to Wheels of Janani.

So you wrote a book, huh?

TheEnd

Congratulations are in order – your labor of love, that nine-months wait ( or perhaps shorter? or longer!) is over and the baby is finally out. Epic. Absolutely well done. You’ve crossed over into those uncharted territories that perhaps ninety percent of “writers” out there haven’t. And for this, you deserve to celebrate. So first order of business, get those sparkling bubblies out. Grab that cork-opener, dial in your close buddies, family and feel good about it.

The Elite Club. Trust me, writing THE END takes a lot of courage and sweat and blood…[ Yeah I heard you screaming, Guts & Glory..include that.]. Nobody gets it right the first time shooting from the gate. Not unless you’re some kind of divine cross between Brandon Sanderson & Joe Abercrombie. Which am assuming you’re definitely not, right?

Heard of the saying – if you love something, set it free, right? That is exactly what you need to be doing now. Take a break and distance yourself from your finished novel. Give it a couple of days. Or even a week.

The WIP Mindset.  As an author, believe that you are the God. Let there be light. Where there is light, there would be shadows. So let there be Monsters. All of this in your book. And so it continues. Always believe that your book is going to be a work-in-progress. You’ll be recreating your entire world, killing off that good-looking hunk who refused to grow some balls and a brain, adding in a cripple with a heart of gold who would lead the armies to glory. And there would professional editors cutting and sniping your book, helping it get in the best shape possible before the big bad world of wolves devour the book. So the End is never truly the end, huh?

Your Baby. Your Call. So if you’re asking me, how many times would I have to do a rewrite, the answer varies from person to person. and hey since you ain’t Brandon Abercrombie, the safest answer is probably as many as it takes. A great article from Writer’s Digest talks about a basic process, putting method to the madness. (Psst..Psst – is a great idea to subscribe to Writer’s Digest mails. Got a lot of gold there!) But you need to recall at the end of the day, it is your baby. you get to call the shots. The clay is still soft, so you decide what shape it takes. Get shaping, get on to that wheel.

And most importantly, before you go bat-shit crazy compiling the list of publishers here in India still open to unsolicited submissions ( which are Many btw!! More on this later), a list of literary agents; whom to hound by spraying them with emails and queries, jot down itineraries of literature fests where you can basically stalk and then bludgeon commissioning editors of top publishing houses with your manuscript until they relent and agree to publish your mardi-gras of literary genius : Remember…. to take things slow. You’re in the game for a long innings not for just this first book of yours but as an author – who’s slowly building his world. Of Words. And otherwise in the real world.

For now, go crazy doing the jhatka-matkas to the ‘Lungi Dance‘ till you drop. Sleep. And then wake up fresh to tackle the world again.

 

Inching Closer!

I can finally see the finish-line….!!

My labor of love, Faith of the Nine – part one of the trilogy Wheels of Janani is finally seeing the light of the day !! To borrow from a big Chinese phone manufacturer: Whoop, whoop! So my book, which I had finished like a year  and half back ( Sometime in Nov 2013!) has finally found a home. It’s been a long arduous journey – from when I first decided to write a short story for a Fantasy Anthology and then I floated it around for feedback – only to lengthen it and write a back story.

And Lo! Behold Faith of the Nine – Book One! I took roughly about six months to write down the first draft – weighing in around 126K words. I always knew my first book was going to be an epic fantasy. It’s the sub-genre that I most love when it comes to speculative fiction – and so with that certainty, I hit the keyboards with a vengeance when I heard from a lot of good friends ( authors and writers included in that) that my short doesn’t stand on its own. There were gaps in the world building, the history behind the characters – Buried secrets in their past that I needed to dig out. And so it came down that I slowly drew up the history and built the premise for that short story in that six months. Most of my writing actually came through in the last couple of months – having decided to do a NaNoWriMo!

And along the way – with the rejections and the endless wait to hear back, I have learnt a lot of good stuff. I might even cash in on my learning and start off an advisory (wink!wink!)- but hark ye wait! For now, I should just bask in the glory of unlocking another milestone, right? :)

Today – after countless redrafts and querying and rejections, I think its finally time to uncork the bubblies! I will soon let you guys in on the names and details but for now – It’s time I put my foot on the table, tilt my head back and take some deep breathes.

The long road home...
The long road home…

For I see the finish line now…Inching closer.

P.S: That pic by the way is of my wife – close to completing the trek up Eravikulam National Park to spot Nilgiri Tahr and the Neelakurinji that carpets the hills in rolling blues once in twelve years.