New Release: The Rakta Queen

It gives me a thrill to announce the launch of Anantya Tantrist‘s third adventure, The Rakta Queen, yet another rollercoaster dive into the supernatural underworld of Delhi.

Anantya Tantrist is all that stands between Delhi and the forces of darkness.

A Kaula tantrik is brutally murdered by his chandaali slave. The same night, a group of university students lose their minds and perform an orchestrated orgy in front of the Vidhan Sabha metro station. 
To get to the truth, Anantya Tantrist, unofficial consultant with the Central Bureau of Investigation, must navigate her way past muderous sorcerers, deadly chandaalis, an underground betting scam run by jinns, and a renegade aghori teacher.

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This book’s my favourite of Anantya’s adventures so far as it’s where she faces not only a formidable enemy in a fantastic supernatural world, but also her mother’s legacy, an ancient one, that falls heavy upon her shoulders. 

The novel touches upon themes I’ve been thinking upon recently, which include what it means to be a feminist today, what freedom and democracy truly mean to us, and about authoritarian structures and the kind of society we want to become. All this through a rollicking adventure that explores the rich folklore and mythological past of India. I loved writing it every part of this book and hope you enjoy reading it as much.

Media Reviews

Cult of Chaos is a crime-busting story unlike any other’ – Asian Age ‘The terrible, scary and horrific side of society is explored …’ – Economic Times

‘Supernatural thrills, horror tropes and enigmatic women in old havelis’ – Mint

‘Taneja sure knows how to get the readers hooked and hang in anticipation’ – Mail Today

‘Anantya Tantrist combines an illegal tantric, lost figures from Indian mythology and scary villains all battling it out in the Capital’ – The Hindu

‘Her protagonist is so well developed that she can have Twitter discussions with her’ – The New Indian Express

‘…the country’s first tantrik detective novel, which also talks about the key issue of women’s safety’ – Business Standard

‘Anantya is as sassy and independent as they come’ – Factor Daily ‘…engages and piques your interest at every level …’ – Deccan Chronicle

‘Edgy thriller’ – Mid-Day
‘Anantya transports you to another world’ – The Week

‘The series brings alive the subversive and subaltern possibilities of traditional tantrism’ – Deccan Chronicle 

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How research into tantrism helped me find my mojo

“How much of the tantrism mentioned in this book is true?” a woman asked me at an event. She referred to my fantasy thriller series, Anantya Tantrist Mysteries, which has a tantric detective who fights supernatural crimes and is based in a world where tantric organisations run the supernatural world and liaison with the Indian government.

I opted for that cryptic babu reply: “It’s fiction but it reflects what’s real.”

Frankly, I was rather flattered. Here was a lady who had been in the spiritual business of things, attended congregations in ashrams across the country, was exposed to tantrics of all manners and she wondered aloud if the story, a book that calls itself fantasy fiction mind you, was based on true events or not. A whole year of in-depth research into the world of tantrism had paid off. Kaboom.

When Anantya Tantrist first came into my mind, as an urban fantasy series, I knew the 23-year-old was a tantric detective. After all, if you want to base a story in the Indian occult, the first image that comes to you is of a black choga-wearing villain who have an evil laugh, wears skulls while doing badly choreographed jigs and rituals that involve blood. Tantrics, in other words.

“Be careful,” advised my mother, upon hearing my new topic, “Tantrics can do jaadutona.” Continue reading “How research into tantrism helped me find my mojo”

The possibilities of the occult in fiction

How does one research into occult? In the climax of Cult of Chaos, the first novel of my tantric fantasy series ‘Anantya Tantrist Mystery’, the protagonist Anantya and her teacher, Dhuma, an aghori who lives in a cemetery, embark on a complex tantric ritual to call upon a charnel goddess, Shamshana Kalika, to the human plane.

The ritual called Shava Sadhana requires Anantya to sit on top of a corpse on a full moon night. I first came across this dramatic ritual in The Calcutta Review Volume XXIV written in 1855. In true Victorian Gothic style, the text explained that the sadhak, or the one who meditates, sits on top of a dead body, preferably a corpse of a chandala who has died a violent death, on a full moon’s night, so as to gain command over impure spirits like danavas, betalas, bhutas, pretas and other paranormal goblins.  

Image of the published article in Open 

While researching this scene, I sat on top of a corpse, all night, in suffocating darkness with Anantya. We touched the cold, clammy flesh of the swollen corpse and we felt blood pounding in our veins and hearts. Sitting on that corpse, waiting to connect with powers beyond the human consciousness, made me realise the ultimate truth of all human lives:   That the day shakti (alternatively meaning energy, prana, life, or soul) stops coursing through our bodies, we will cease to exist and maggots will consume the bodies we call our home. This relationship with death and life, expressed in such a dramatic, dreadfully mesmerising way, stays with me even three years after I wrote it.

Continue reading “The possibilities of the occult in fiction”

Event: Occult quiz and book discussion in British Council, Chennai

I’m finally heading to Chennai with the occult quiz. It’s been a couple of years since friends, fans and quiz enthusiasts are asking me to bring the creepy occult quiz to them. So i’m so so excited to announce this.

It’s tomorrow, 5-6pm at the British Council, Chennai. You can RSVP to Susan: susan.chettri@britishcouncil.org or on the Facebook event page. Needless to say, come over peeps. It’s going to be super fun.

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The Matsya Curse is out for pre-order. Yay!

It’s called The Matsya Curse. And it’s here.

Am superbly thrilled to share the cover of my latest book with you all. Anantya Tantrist is back. And so is this adventure, which is crazier than the last one.  The cover’s been done by the wonderful, wonderful George Mathen. (Read about how I convinced him to do it here). And well, it’s out, it’s coming and I’m going gaga and have lost the art of writing a bit. On preorder now.

Tantrik detective Anantya Tantrist is back, smart-ass comments, dark mantras and all

In Banaras, Bhairava, a black tantrik, sets out to win control of life through mass murder, aided by an army of pretas. In Delhi, a tribal supernatural melts to death in a five-star hotel on the same night that an ancient demonologist is murdered. All this while, the government and the Central Association of Tantriks choose to look the other way and gods, demi-gods, immortals and rakshasas all join Bhairava’s army.

All that stands between the murdering bosses and the hapless masses is unofficial detective Anantya Tantrist, armed with a boneblade, a tote of mandalas and a cocky attitude. Just as she begins to see a pattern between a goddess selling art, a miracle-producing minister, an undead mob attacking a rock concert and her immortal friend throwing a tantrum, Anantya faces her most personal hell: her ex-boyfriend Neel has come back from the dead and is trying to kill her. He’s not the only one, of course. A powerful rakshasi wants her head, a pair of demi-gods wants her blood and the trolls are trying to squash her to pulp.

She cannot even sleep off the exhaustion, because each time she drops off, Bhairava invades her mind, trying to consume it. Join Anantya as she faces her most formidable enemy yet in the ultimate battle for her mind and her city.

“A remarkable tale,” says Anand Neelakanthan, author of Asura and Bahubali.  Please to pre-order and read.

How creating Anantya helped me find my freedom

The plotlines of most action flicks, are all about the hero. The hero rocks the roads, chases goons, tots guns, fights for justice, sows wild oats with white girls, and then heads back to home, to his heroine. All this while, this heroine, the girl, pines away back at home or sits pretty in a café (usually alongside a swimming pool for some reason), waiting for her hero. The only time she’s outdoors, she’s either surrounded by other girls, or is with the hero, or is getting raped or attacked by the goons. The message is loud and clear: The streets are unsafe for an Indian woman: If you’re out there alone, you will be slaughtered, you little lamb.

As a girl who grew up in Delhi, I was fed this message by family, society, school, college and onwards. Every time I walked on the streets of the capital city, as a teenager, as a working woman in her 20s, I had to constantly fight butt slaps, boob pinches, stares and hoots and whistles from strangers. Every time a violent act happened, I was told to not walk alone on streets, to wear looser clothes, not stare back and scream, not confront, not act, but be passive. For that’s how a woman should behave. Wait for someone else, a hero, a guy, the government or the police to react to the aggression that happens to her, to save her. An Indian woman is supposed to be passive, silently take on violence if given by her husband or in-laws, or ask for help from the boyfriend or police or government when faced from an aggressive stranger. Most of all, a woman is supposed to protect herself from all of it, to keep indoors, to make friends carefully in case they turn out to be rapists.

With Anantya Tantrist, the tantrik detective of my latest novel, Cult of Chaos, I decided to take all of these years of imbibed and heard and oft-repeated Indian values of passivity, decorum, rules and ethics meant for women and flip them, turn them on their head. Just to see what happens to the society in the world if I do. For speculative fiction gives you that freedom, to extrapolate, to try and do things differently, make new rules and new societies, explore gender roles and beliefs about gender. And I took it.

Anantya as a result, became a complete opposite to the restrictive idea of an ideal Indian woman.

First of all, she is always in the middle of action, she speaks her mind, there’s no passivity when it comes to her, in fact passivity bores her. She is boisterous, angry, spews gaali, smokes beedi, drinks hard stuff like a fish, hangs out on the streets with all kinds of things and species, doesn’t come home till wee hours, has crud in her kitchen, can’t cook to save her life, but can wield a boneblade to save another’s. She has unapologetic one night stands with all kinds of supernatural species, wears chappals and goes to parties and doesn’t know what a ‘date’ is. Continue reading “How creating Anantya helped me find my freedom”

Tantric Tales: A documentary, real life stories and an occult quiz

The occult quiz is back by popular demand! This time, it’s the kind people at The Beehive who’ve owned up everything tantrism and will be hosting it at The Humming Tree, probably the coolest place in the city to hang out at. We will talk about Cult of Chaos, do an occult quiz (with prizes), a documentary on witch hunting in India and finally, the thing I’m most looking forward to: Everyone who comes there, the audience, the barman, the friends and family, will all sit in a circle and tell a real life story they’ve heard about paranormal, supernatural and tantrism.

VENUE: The Humming Tree, Indiranagar, Bangalore
DATE: 26 April, 2015
TIME: 4-8pm

So come, listen to occult stories! It’s going to be fun. Here’s the fabulous invite made by Aakanksha.

Chillli lemon Beehive final

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THE BEEHIVE
presents
TANTRIC TALES
Exploring the supernatural with Shweta Taneja
author of ‘Cult of Chaos’
In this session of The Beehive, we will explore some secrets of dark magic, tantrism and cults that exist at the fringes of our society with a documentary on witch hunting, a quiz and trivia session and a discussion on tantrism with author Shweta Taneja whose new book, Cult of Chaos has been published by Harper Collins India.
4.00 pm – Documentary
5.00 pm – Trivia and Quiz
6.00 pm – Discussion on Tantrism and Cult of Chaos by Shweta Taneja
6.30 pm – Book Reading by Shweta Taneja
7.00 pm – Story Sharing Circle
We invite all of you to be a part of this and share with us your own personal experiences or stories that you’ve heard from your mother about what happened to your aunt’s daughter’s brother-in law when he was travelling through the Western Ghats on a full moon night.. or the one about the neighbour who took a swim in the village pond and was possessed by the spirits living in the old peepal tree, where she hung her clothes. The best story will get a signed copy by the author!
———————————————
VENUE : THE HUMMING TREE
———————————————The Humming Tree is a concept Live Music and Arts Venue (operating as a bar/café as well) opened in June, 2013 and located in Bangalore, India.———————————————
ORGANISERS : THE BEEHIVE
———————————————

The Beehive is a participatory gathering of all the wonderful pool of talents, dreams, hopes, skills and innovations. We all share, we all learn, we all love. Every month, ‘The Beehive’, at The Humming Tree brings something new.

—————

See you all there this Sunday!

Anantya goes in Femina

Ten years ago, I was working full time in Femina. Ten years later, someone from Femina did an interview about me. It’s a moment of a kind. Femina has shaped the earlier me. I worked three years there, three years full of travel and meeting the most fabulous people I could imagine. So, I’m a bit stumped. And wowed. Here’s a okay photo that someone sent me of the interview.

Femina April 2015

Isn’t this simply the most jiggle-worthy thing? Here’s the original interview, in case you’re the reading type.

Continue reading “Anantya goes in Femina”

Witches and vamps attack Delhi this Saturday

Oh. So much excitement.

It was an experiment to launch Cult of Chaos, an Anantya Tantrist mystery, with an occult quiz in Bangalore. The format worked so well, that my publishers, HarperCollins wanted to do it in Delhi too. So I’m super excited to announce Anantya Tantrist is heading to Oxford Bookstore, Delhi this Saturday to entertain you.

There will be a quiz on everything paranormal and supernatural. There will be freebies like blade-shaped bookmarks and giveaways and book prizes and snacks and laughter during the event. I confidently promise it’s going to be a blast. As much as the book is. So just come over!

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Oxford Bookstore and HarperCollins 
present
WITCHES AND VAMPS
A QUIZ ON PARANORMAL CRIME
to celebrate Shweta Taneja’s
CULT OF CHAOS
an Anantya Tantrist mystery
 
Think you know your supernatural sleuths? 
To celebrate the launch of Cult of Chaos, the first book in the Anantya Tantrist detective series, author Shweta Taneja takes you on a dark mission through detective thrillers, supernatural mysteries and investigators who dabble with devilish crime. So brush up on popular occult shows, comics and books and get ready to stun her with your psychic best. The duel is on!
For all ages.
DAY: 28th March
TIME: 3pm – 5pm
VENUE: Oxford bookstore, Connaught Place, Delhi
A quiz so scary, we had to have it in broad daylight
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To see photos and updates, connect with the event on Facebook or Google+ 
Here’s the invite if you want to download it.
witches and vamps 2
Leaving you with a gallery of photos from the Bangalore event.

Winners and importance of gifting books

As part of spreading the word around about Cult of Chaos and Anantya Tantrist, I’ve been hosting giveaways of the book at various spaces, online and offline. As a result of buying copies of my own book to giveaway to a few people I know or do not know, I’ve realised how important it is to gift books. Till now, I didn’t gift many books as I always thought of books as a personal choice, much more personal than the crockery in your cupboard or even the spectacles you wear. It’s something that each person or kid should pick up on their own (except for me and my brother who always gift each other books on rakhi, the only time we exchange gifts). So I ended up giving something banal, like chocolates. However, gifting is actually a lovely way to explore new authors and adventures that you would never have started on if you hadn’t got a copy. And it also encourages the industry. So from now on, if you call me on a birthday or a party, expect a book. No more flowers/chocolates.

And now for a bit of announcements on winners of various contests.

Over at HarperCollins webpage

These are the two questions we asked. (Answers at the end of the post)

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Winners:

Krishna B, Coimbatore

Aastha Jain, Delhi

Over at author Kiran Manral’s website

Kiran was superbly helpful and did a detailed interview and then a contest. (details)

Aditya Anand, Jaipur

At  The MJ Show

The amazing Mihir Joshi had a Twitter chat and then declared winners in his Youtube show which covers fabulous inde-musicians

Abhishek Prusty, Cuttack

So glad that Anantya will be shipped to all these lovely people and cities. Congratulations all of you! Hope you enjoy the book 🙂

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Didn’t participate? It’s not to late. One contest and one giveaway is still on!

Contest on superstitions

At author Sharath Komarraju’s website.

Giveaway at Goodreads

And if you’re too lazy to write, just apply for this giveaway at Goodreads. And hope you’ll win the copy!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Cult of Chaos by Shweta Taneja

Cult of Chaos

by Shweta Taneja

Giveaway ends March 10, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

(Answers to Harper Collins contest: Answer 1: True Detective. Answer 2: Ouija board. Could you guess?)