Editor’s Choice Award: The Daughter that Bleeds

Proud to announce that The Daughter That Bleeds, a short story I wrote, that has been published in The Best Asian Speculative Fiction 2018, has been awarded the Editor’s Choice Award. 

All of 2018, as I prepared The Rakta Queen for publishing and moved countries, I’ve been busy typing away hilarious, maddeningly weird feminist speculative fiction stories. The Daughter That Bleeds was one of them and it was a glad moment for me when it got selected for this prestigious anthology. 

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GuestPost: Five tips to smash that writer’s block

Do you suffer from writer’s block? I’ve been thinking of taking a break because writing is coming tougher to me nowadays for various reasons. A friend mentioned maybe it was a writer’s block. Since I’ve never fallen for the whole idea of a wall blocking your creative side, I thought I will write about it. And just then serendipitously I came across my wonderful author friend Andaleeb Wajid’s rather helpful blog on the same subject. Andaleeb is a superstar author who keeps churning out one fantastic book after another, while taking care of a vast family, doing workshops on creative writing and generally being a fantastic person. So if she’s talking about this block-monster-thingy, believe me she knows her stuff.  And this is what she suggests you do.

What’s this Writer’s Block?

If there’s one thing every other writer will tell you or post/tweet is that they’re facing a writer’s block at some point or the other in their writing career. Of course, if you are a writer, you know for a fact that writer’s block can strike you unawares and the novel that you were working on is no longer flowing from your finger tips on to the keyboard. This feeling of being stuck, of not being able to move forward is typical of writer’s block. But here’s a secret. Writer’s block doesn’t exist. What? Yes. It doesn’t. Writer’s block has more to do with your mental disposition at the point of time when you’re trying to write, rather than actually being the thing it is made out to be.
If Calvin and Hobbes can do it, so can you!
Over the past years as I’ve been writing my books there have been times when the words just didn’t seem right. There have been times when I haven’t felt like writing. A typical question that students I speak to, or interviewers ask is how I deal with writer’s block. This is how.

1. It’s in your mind. It doesn’t exist. Believe it.

By acknowledging that it does not exist. I try not to get discouraged and I certainly don’t label it as a writer’s block. Typically you may get this block either when you’re in the middle of writing something or you might find yourself unable to start something new. Continue reading “GuestPost: Five tips to smash that writer’s block”

Anantya in Business Std, DNA, Telegraph….

Bits more of coverage for Cult of Chaos. Business Standard and DNA ran a preview of my book launch with an interview. DC Books Editors added it into their Editor’s Picks. While this is what Telegraph had to say.

The Telegraph, 5 April

While this was sinking in, She The People, a fabulous website on women achievers, approached me to do an interview.

Female authors in India mostly write about other women and their realistic struggles and you rarely find science fiction novels or  murder-mysteries written by women.  One woman to break the mould, follow her passion (and some of ours) and put some life into science fiction writing is Shweta Taneja, who recently wrote India’s first tantric-detective novel: ‘Cult of Chaos’ with a woman protagonist- Anantya Tantrist.

Read the complete interview here.

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The blog BooksAllAroundMe suggests a method to read Cult of Chaos and Anantya’s journey:

All in all if you have to read the book, the mind needs to be ready to accept the absolutely unexpected. It’ll throw a reader’s mind off gear with it’s charismatic story telling and an even effective story line. The book scores and relies heavily on ideas which might sound old and obsolete but that is where the boldness steps in and creates an aura of dominance and darkness. Everything is in equal measure and the scales of good v/s bad have been tipped to the hilt. It’s not everyday you come across stories out of the blue and this is one wonder which can leave you gasping for breath. It’s a deep dark temptation with it’s own set of secrets ready to pounce and devour the eager minds. A book with winner tagged in its own rights.If spice is what you were missing in your life get the book and traverse one of the most treacherous and over exciting path of tantrism and dark magic. Let chaos descend on earth and rule your hearts. 

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Over at Goodreads, here’s what readers are saying:

“Its a part pot boiler, part feminist, part fantasy and just pure fun.”Sonali at Goodreads

“Anantya is a revolution in Indian fiction. She’s a tantric, and is pretty unapologetic of everything she does. She has casual sex, smokes beedis, has a foul mouth and a dirty mind too. In which universe would you have imagined that someone like that would be the heroine in an Indian novel? But she’s indeed the prime attraction of this book, you really take this journey along with her (the first-person narrative helping tremendously) and you really root for her. Her fearlessness is something I think will inspire a lot of young girls.” –  Uday at Goodreads

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Okay, off to jumping up and down with glee now. If you’d like to pick up the book, order from Amazon or Flipkart.

Five myths about an author

I’ve been writing books for six years now. When I began my journalist career more than a decade ago, I was sure I couldn’t write an article. It took me five years of wanting to write fiction, a Master’s degree, one failed novel and millions of procrastinating moments to finally do something that all blogs, all writers keep suggesting: write. After a year of stalling, I started to write fiction and once I did, I couldn’t stop. In the last five years, I’ve written six books, four of which are published and two lie at various edit levels. The longest of this, my first of Anantya’s series, Cult of Chaos, touched 1,20,000 words at manuscript stage. I became an author when I started to write (and not when I was published). Here are a few myths I’ve come across in my life as an author.

Myth 1: Writing is a hobby for them

If you want to get published, writing fiction is a creative business. Like any other commercial designer, you’re selling your ware in the market. If you look at writing as a hobby, there will be no sales involved, you will write whatever you feel like writing, chuck the rather painful process of editing. It will be pure art, and you won’t care two-hoots if it’s appreciated or understood by anyone else. For those who want to write this way, I suggest heading to a vanity publisher so they can distribute their books to friends and family. For the looners who want to publish a book with a commercial publisher, wake up to the fact that you’re starting a business. It would have all the pains of a new business. You have to present a spectacular product, polish it till it becomes commercially viable and acceptable, take the pains of editing it again and again and yet again at various levels,

Myth 2: Authors earn a lot

While interacting with students at IIT-Kanpur, one of them asked me, how much do I earn from writing book. I gave him a few figures, pittances mostly. He counter question was: ‘Then why do you write?’ I looked at him point blank and said that if he wanted to get into writing for the money of it (in spite of the fact that I think of it as a business), he was choosing wrong. Better to do a start-up and sell it for a few lakhs or millions. For majority of the authors don’t earn anything in comparison to the effort put into the making of the book. In India most publishers give you an advance on the book that’s calculated on how much the publisher thinks it’s going to sell. In hard figures, if you’re not a celebrity author and most are not, the advance is anywhere between Rs 2,000 for a children’s book to Rs 1,00,000 for what they call ‘genre fiction’. Many books never earn beyond the advance, so authors get no royalty beyond it. Each of these labours of love take around one year to write, edit, finish and market. And I am estimating a fast turn around. If you put the same year into a job, any job, even at a call center (which begins at Rs 25,000/month), you will earn much more than this book is going to give you. Keep this in your head so you’re not disappointed later on. If earning royalty is your motivation, most likely you’re headed for the depression pit.

Myth 3: They have it easy

‘Oh you work from home? That’s so nice. I wish I could do that.’: You will get it again and again and yet again. Writing was the hardest thing I took on myself and as you can see from the first sentence, this line of thought gets me burned up. Because I know that being an author is the most difficult person I will be. For one, there’s no security in this work. I can cease to be an author the minute I’m not writing or don’t have another book in my mind. It’s not easy, this constant insecurity I’ve to deal with.

Myth 4: Authors are naturally creative

As a lot of people who write will disagree to this. Creativity is like a friend who makes plans on Whatsapp and never really comes to meet up. It’s unreliable. What makes an author is not creativity, which all of us have to some extent, but hardwork, perseverance and determination to write, to pen down or to draw that spark that the creative soul’s left in us. To scratch that itch. Write everyday, even if you’re sick, busy, have a lot on your mind, stressed, feeling in dumps. Write even if no words come. Being at it constantly, chipping away the stone is what makes an author.

Myth 5: Authors are chaotic

Most of the ones I know are meticulously planned when it comes to the book they’re writing. They might have strewn a few books around, I know I do—papers and books and whatnots, but I know exactly what is there. There’s a method to that madness. Just that you might not see it.

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For more tips on writing, head to this section. Know of any other myths you’ve heard? Please put them in the comment section below.

 

Ten secrets to marketing your book – 2

After three months of extensive marketing for Cult of Chaos, I am back on the desk, somewhat wiser, somewhat still the novice and definitely a dreamer.  As I move on to various other exciting projects that are brimming up (including the third installment of Anantya Tantrist’s series), I thought I should whisper all the trade secrets I learnt. And in our age, that means writing a blog. So here it is peeps. If these are useful, comment below. If not, comment still!

First five secrets to marketing your book

Look beyond a blog

A personal blog/website is great but online audiences are fractured and each has their own preferred social space. Today, you need to be present on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube, and others. If you know your audience well, try and find where they hang out and be there. There’s no use to be on Facebook if you’ve written a non-fiction and most of your audience hashtags over at Twitter. And be on as many social networks as you can. You don’t need to post separately on anything. But connect them all together, use auto-posts, schedule posts and let it be. I wrote Anantya Tantrist‘s voice over a day, for two months and put it on auto-schedule. She two months, she talked on TumblrFacebook, Twitter or Google+. You’ll need to be efficient with this otherwise your writing time may be eaten into. Another important thing for you to do is have a strong voice across these social networks. It will be a reflection of who you are as a person and as an author. Like I love supernatural/fantasy stuff and I constantly write on folklore, tribal and occult things, which matches my interest in writing supernatural and tantric fiction.

7 Write columns 

Journalists don’t have time to review all books or do interviews of all authors. But you’re a writer, so play on your strength and write free content for as many magazines, papers, blogs, ezines that you can connect with (some of them might pay for it too). Most editors are open to new ideas, especially content from authors (thought being, if you’ve written and published a book, you might be able to write well). Pitch ideas around your book, not things that are directly promotional but things that you feel strongly about, or the themes of your book. I write columns on folklore and tantrism and writing, things I know. (Check out my columns at Swarajya, HuffingtonPost, DailyO, Scroll and Discover India. On each site, I get about a 10-300 shares every time I post something new.)

8 Work with your publisher

Publishers usually have decent marketing teams but they’re really busy people, so keep a track of your marketing representative, give them a call once in a while, send them an email, inform them of all your activities and ideas and thoughts and keep asking what’s happening next. And if you have an idea, always ask if they would do it, even though you feel it’s too expensive or weird. You know what’s best for your book.

9 Do go on bookstore tours

A lot of us go by the recommendations made by the staff of a bookstore. Use that to your advantage. Understand the people who’re selling your book on the ground, for whom it’s just a day’s boring business. Tell them about your book, enthuse them with what you love about your book. Do bookstore tours in your city, speak to groups that sell books and figure out how they do it. Convince them to push your book out.

10 Keep in touch with sales

You don’t need to find out how your book it doing (that dreaded question that is asked one too many times to all of us), but I’ve found it quite useful to understand how your book is being sold. Who is the sales person? Do they read? Do they know about your book? How do they recommend? What kind of pressures does their bosses put on them? What are their targets? It’s essential to understand the business of sales within a publishing house. What kind of distribution do they have? Is your book going to be available in all stores or just a few? Who decides these? I am still figuring out these things myself and you should see a post on it soon enough.


First five secrets to marketing your book

For more tips on writing, head to this section.

 

Ten secrets to marketing your book – 1

After three months of extensive marketing for Cult of Chaos, I am back on the desk, somewhat wiser, somewhat still the novice and definitely a dreamer.  As I move on to various other exciting projects that are brimming up (including the third installment of Anantya Tantrist’s series), I thought I should whisper all the trade secrets I learnt. And in our age, that means writing a blog. So here it is peeps. If these are useful, comment below. If not, comment still!

1 Take a few months off

First of all, for any marketing effort, you will need to take out a couple of months. That’s a couple of months of no-productivity, as in no-writing, AND doing things you might hate – talking to people, connecting, pushing your book, chasing, and all other things that marketing requires. So mentally prepare yourself for that.

2 Connect with people in media

I’ve worked in media houses for more than twelve years now and understand that media (all kinds be it online, offline and blogs) is very useful in disseminating the word about your book. The thing is, the traditional ones (like newspapers and magazines) are usually loaded with books (about 80 a month), so making personal relationships with the journalists who read your kind of genre, might be helpful. Take time out and figure who these journalists are and connect with them and let them know about your book. Your publisher might be doing it separately, but it’s useful for you to do it too. And this includes not only newspapers, but magazines, television, radio, blogs, online sites, Instagram and Facebook people. Build relationships with all kinds of people in traditional, online, or social media. If you can’t do this yourself, hire a PR agency, but keep it personal with whoever you connect with.

3 Do something other than a book launch

When was the last time you went to a book launch where you didn’t know the author? A launch works for a celebrity author. If you’re not that, try to do something else in an event. I tried doing an occult quiz for my tantrik book launch and got much more media interest as well as crowd than I would have if it would have been just a humdrum literary type discussion (which wouldn’t have worked for Anantya Tantrist anyway). For my kids mystery, Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, I went to schools and did detective workshops with kids, spreading word about my book. The best way to do an event is to tie-up with something else that’s already happening. Launch your book at a music concert or just before a play or at an art exhibition. Combination events work much better to reach new crowds than your own networks.

Next five secrets to marketing your book

4 Play to your strengths

I am a natural communicator. I love connecting to people, am naturally curious on how they work and what they do and how I can help them as well as take their help in spreading word about my books. For Cult of Chaos, I’ve connected with other authors and musicians and done a giveaway on their websites, connected with event organisers and requested them to put freebies about my book on their ticket boxes. It might or might not work, but my books are being talked about in these different groups, and that helps. (Or so I think and hope). Another author friend of mine is simply lovely at helping others write, so he runs a writing club offline and online (in an extensive email list). It’s organised and fabulous. Think of your strengths and weave a marketing plan around it.

5 Look beyond bookstores

Where do people read books? It’s not only bookstores, it’s cafes, parks and libraries and homes. Readers are everywhere. Can you reach these spaces? How about offices, colleges and apartment complexes? There are reader groups everywhere, try to find them and connect with them. Begin small and continue your efforts.


Next five secrets to marketing your book

For more tips on writing, head to this section.

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”

Fangirling with Samit Basu and litfests

Warning: a bit of gushing ahoy.

Ten year ago, in a small bookstore (which has shut down now) in Delhi, I was introduced to Samit Basu’s first book, the first in the Gameworld trilogy, and was instantly jealous of him. I hadn’t read the book yet. I just stood in the bookstore, remembering that I had flicked through the fantasy novel’s pages, ending up at the first page, with his biography. What made this green-eyed smoky monster rise up through my ears was the fact that he was just 24-years of age when his first book had come out, my peer by age. By that time, I had already been harbouring a dream of writing a novel, but hadn’t started on it. And I wanted to write something in fantasy. (This ‘I want to write a book’ has become something of a fashionable thing now, to do for every bucket list, right there along with dance with the African tribals, click photographs of zebras and jump from high rise buildings and airplanes.)

Me and a friend who was there along with me, bought the book, read it, giggled at the breathless one liners after another, reread it, discussed it, and stayed with the trilogy, anticipating each of the next with as much impatience as Harry Potter fans. It was my first Indian fantasy series that made me as crazy, something I bet that all Game of Thrones fans now will remember. Now when I look back at the trilogy, it was of a new, impatient, foot-tapping author who broke limits and codes and played with myth and mythology and actually had fun doing it. At that time, it was just so much fun! Samit wasn’t looking at prettified language, he just wanted to play with ideas. That’s something that I loved most about the trilogy.

Since that day, all those years ago, I’ve had ‘fan’ moments with Samit: the day he added me on Facebook, the first time in a Facebook group when he commented on my post, and the first time he answered my emails to help and guide me in the Indian comic industry. He was a senior (by experience, if not age) writer, brutally honest in his suggestions to me (Quit if you want to make money), and refreshingly no-bullshit. Everytime an answer from him came into my inbox, my eyes lit up.

Then while working on Cult of Chaos, I did the impossible, and asked him outright, over email if he would like to give me a blurb for the book. He showed interest, I whoopied and sent him my manuscript, hoping, so much, that he would like it, because if you love someone’s stories, you would want them to be proud of you too. (We authors are like this, made of fragile egos and emotion.) No reply. I pinged him again. Poor thing had just taken up a new job and was juggling with far too much. I wondered if he would be able to go through a rough manuscript of 1,00,000 words complete with bad sentences and typos. Another reminder, wait, wait. And finally, he sent me a blurb. And here’s what he said:

Cult of Chaos is racy, rousing, rambunctious and rakshas-ful. Read immediately

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Continue reading “Fangirling with Samit Basu and litfests”