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.

Bestselling Indian fantasy series

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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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Interview: Sudeshna Shome Ghosh on how to pitch to an editor

If you are a children books author and appreciate editors, you would have heard of Sudeshna Shome Ghosh. A Bangalore-based editor, Sudeshna has worked in the Indian publishing industry for twenty years now. She started her career at Penguin Books India and moved to Rupa Publications and Aleph Book Company thereafter. During this time, she has published authors such as A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty, Subroto Bagchi, Derek O’Brien among many others and was responsible for managing Penguin India’s children’s publishing list, Puffin for four years before she started Rupa Publication’s children’s list Red Turtle. Currently, she is a consultant with Speaking Tiger Books and is building a children’s list for them.

In other words, she’s a treasure trove of inside knowledge of the publishing industry and me being the Curious Cat that I always was, used our friendship by asking her the most delightful personal, almost rude questions over tea at Infinitea in Bangalore. An excerpt

Q) You’ve just completed 20 years in publishing and the thing you said on social media was that you wanted to do it for another 20 years. What about this job keeps you here?

Let me see, where do I start…

There are many things, but the biggest, for me, is the feeling that my work is meaningful, that I am contributing to the creation of a reading culture in children. That the books I commission or edit, are good books that some kid somewhere is going to pick up, enjoy and think about. That, for me, is what keeps me going through some clearly mindnumbing bits, like reading proofs!

Q) Why did you become an editor? Why choose this career?

Continue reading “Interview: Sudeshna Shome Ghosh on how to pitch to an editor”

Interview: Literary agent Kanishka Gupta on publishing

I’ve always found the job of a literary agent very curious. Since as an author I know that most Indian authors don’t make much money, I do not understand how a literary agent, who charges the author 10-20 percent commission on royalty, makes any money in Indian publishing. This curiousity led me to ask these questions to Kanishka Gupta, a friend and my agent in India for YA/A novels.

Kanishka runs the literary agency Writer’s Side and has represented more than 400 authors in his short six years as an agent. I find him superquick in his responses, honest about his feedback and open to debut authors. In this excerpt he answers all those questions about agenting that had got me curious. I haven’t edited the blog, so it’s rather long. Take your time.


Q) A literary agent is rather an unusual profession. People who come into it, either wanted to be writers or publishers. How did you start as a literary agent?


As an out-of-job, out-of-sorts struggling writer in my early twenties, I was deeply perturbed by the lack of a support mechanism for writers in the country. At that time there was just one literary agency ( yes one!) and publishing editors were like inaccessible government bureaucrats. After freelancing briefly for a literary agency and a well-known novelist, I took the entrepreneurial plunge and founded Writer’s Side. In the beginning WS was more of an editorial consultancy but over time we have shifted our primary focus to author representation.

Continue reading “Interview: Literary agent Kanishka Gupta on publishing”

Guest post: Is Vanity Publishing Author Exploitation?

Rasana Atreya is the author of Tell A Thousand Lies (shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia prize), The Temple Is Not My Father and 28 Years a Bachelor.  UK’s Glam magazine calls Tell A Thousand Lies one of their ‘five favourite tales from India.’ Valley Isle Secrets is her first foray into fan fiction set in the USA. Website.


Vanity publishing has arrived at publishing conferences and literary festivals, and this should be of great concern because vanity publishing is less about emulating trade (also called traditional) publishers, and more about convincing gullible authors to pay for services they do not need. Aspiring authors attend these conferences and festivals. The more they hear about these publishers, the more it gets legitimized in their minds.

You, as an author, owe it to yourself to be well informed. There is plenty of good information available on the Internet. Plenty of bad information, too. Learn to tell the difference. If you want to be a published author and have your book available for sale – either submit to trade publishers, or self-publish. If all you want is print copies of your book, go to your local printer. It works out much cheaper, and you also retain rights to your books. Stay away from anyone who wants money to publish you.

I cringe when vanity publishers call themselves ‘self-publishing’ companies. When you take the ‘self’ out of self-publishing, i.e. you – the author – do not upload the book yourself, it is no longer self-publishing. All that remains is vanity publishing.
I was a panelist on the nuts and bolts of self-publishing on Sept 12, 2015 in PublishingNext, Goa. This post is a combination of my take-away from there (a fabulous conference, btw), my comments as a panelist, and also my own impressions.

It getting harder for UK- and US-based vanity publishers to get naïve authors to fall for their ‘publishing packages’ – which can run into tens of thousands of dollars. This is thanks to activism on behalf of authors by platforms like Writers Beware and Preditors & Editors. As a result, vanity publishers have moved operations to Asia and Africa. That includes India, of course.

Continue reading “Guest post: Is Vanity Publishing Author Exploitation?”

Debut happened with Radio One and Radio City

Super duper excitement happened while I was in Delhi. First of all, I saw spring come into the city after six years. It’s fabulous, by the way, that end of winters before they crash into the searing hot summers of the city. The city was blushing and blooming with colours all over, Fall tussling with Spring. And I can vouch for it, for was driving from one end of the city to the other, meeting people, signing books, talking about the art and craft of writing books (knowledgeably at that!).

RJ Ginnie who is the superstar host of the show Suno Na Dilli over at Radio City 91.1 has this to-die-for-voice. In real life, she’s chilled out, friendly and an efficient producer who rocks her studio without any assistant. This was the first time I’d entered a studio and I was so excited. It’s been a secret dream for me, to be an RJ since AGES. So secret that I didn’t even remember it, till I entered the space. We tested and then crashed onto a single take of the whole show. And here’s what happened. (Disclaimer: Keep volume low for the rather screechy voice. No choice there!)

Post the recording, Ginnie was fascinated by my rather non-authorly behaviour (jumping around, gleefully) when I asked her to click a few pictures of me. But they’re worth it, aren’t they? And she didn’t mind too much, else she wouldn’t have agreed to come to my book launch later in Delhi, where we had an energetic discussion on everything tantrism and Anantya Tantrist. Before the launch, she’d completed the book and loved it too! (Thanks girl, you rock!)

The second radio interview happened at Radio One, 94.3FM with RJ Chris. She’s a darling, soft spoken, genuine and we spoke at length about death. There has been a recent death in the family and we wondered together why we as kids are taught how to dress up, how to cope with homework but not something at nuts as death, which lingers all around us always. But the interview itself is not so dark. It’s about Makaibari tea, my favouritest in the world (I stole a little of it from my friend Kay, after my stash got over) and about why I’m so fascinated by tantrism. Check it out below.

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?)

 

 

Interviews in Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle

Having been part of media for a long time, I know how easily and how fast people working there tend to forget you, moving on to the next thing they haven’t covered. But oh my, isn’t it fabulous to have that 15 seconds of attention? I feel like that now, when I post two really, really good interviews in different papers that came out a week or so back, both talking about chaos and supernatural tales and all things I love about Cult of Chaos. Check them out.

This came out in Deccan Chronicle and I haven’t been able to find a e-link for it. They used photographs from the last year’s coverage when I was doing detective workshops for The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong.

Deccan Chronicle February 2015
Meanwhile at Asian Age, the really polite Rohini who took my interview, told everyone about the book and mentioned my love of folklores. Read the complete article here or below.

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Shweta Taneja’s new book features India’s first woman tantrik crime buster, and marries the author’s twin passions: Detective fiction and fantasy

An adventure based in the “supernatural underworld of Delhi”, featuring India’s first “tantrik woman detective” — Shweta Taneja’s new book Cult of Chaos promises to be a crime-busting story unlike any other. Featuring Anantya Tantrist, a “spunky 23-year-old, gaali-spewing, beedi-smoking fearless tantrik who solves crimes”, Cult of Chaos combines its creator’s twin passions — detective fiction and fantasy.

It was when Shweta was working on a graphic novel called The Skull Rosary (which collated the occult tales of Shiva) that she got deeply interested in tantrism and the occult. “I started to explore tribal folklore, oral stories, goddess cults and non-authoritative tales in our villages. These tales, with their violent, sensually rich content surprised and fascinated me,” recounts Shweta. “Then one day, while reading a detective novel, the idea of creating a tantrik detective suddenly struck me. And I had a name for her: Anantya Tantrist, a leftover from a previous unfinished novel. Before I knew it, I had the beginnings of Cult of Chaos.”

Shweta spent the next year researching practising tantriks, shamans and superstitions. Articles, scholarly books, sensational texts even whispered stories, all of these provided material for her story. Then there was the daily newspaper, which also provided enough fodder for the dark details of her novel. “There’s nothing better than a newspaper to give you ideas. It has enough horror, disgust, hatred, violence, evil in its pages to keep your creativity flowing,” says Shweta. “There were so many scenes in the book that have been inspired by real incidents, things I read in the news. Not only about superstition or witch hunting, but also something that a crass politician would’ve said when yet another woman got raped. Everyday domestic violence, which is reported in a single paragraph, taken verbatim from police notes or crimes of caste and religion which are all about power — there’s no dearth of inspiration in our country, especially when one is writing a thriller.”

With so much material to draw on, Shweta knew Anantya’s adventures wouldn’t be ending with one book. She’s already busy at work on a second story, set among “Delhi’s rich socialites who’re abusing a supernatural species for immortality” and a third, which will see the action shift to Varanasi as Anantya works on a case that will force her to confront her past.

“The more I write about Anantya, the more I continue to be spellbound with her and the world she inhabits,” says Shweta of her protagonist. “She’s completely opposite to all ideas of ‘decent’ women we have as a society… I think she has come from the desires of women of this country, the ones who have had it with restrictions and men keeping them safe. I think she is born from the frustration of being an independent woman and having to protect your choices, defy authorities, families, every step of way. I have tried to break gender boundaries with her character… I am freer, more confident today, because I wrote her. And I am hoping reading about her, has the same effect on other women and girls too. Sort of what Superman or Spiderman or Salman Khan has on boys. We need that for women.”

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As I was saying, isn’t attention so fabulous? Sad that it goes away in those mere 15 seconds. Still, I am rather enjoying the tick-tock in my favour. 🙂

Reviews that made me blush

Reviews of Cult of Chaos are pouring in on Facebook, over at Twitter, Goodreads, in blogs and media. So many places to find little cuddles of happiness for Anantya. These few in particular made me blush with happiness. Some are from friends who have no reason to be nasty or nice for that matter. And some are from strangers.

REVIEW 1: From a kind stranger

Read the complete review here.

If I could only use three alphabets to describe this book, they would be OMG. Oh My God!!! is the only exclamation that comes remotely close to describing my feeling after reading this book. While I have heard of writers having fantastic imaginations and amazing story telling skills, it is very rare that one comes across a writer having both of these, and trust me when I say this Shweta Taneja has both of these in abundance, and Cult of Chaos is surely proof of that.

I could gush on and on about how good the book is, and how wonderfully well it is paced and how it promises to be the start of an exciting new series of Anantya Tantrist mysteries, if she decides to write a sequel and many more books, but I would simply not be able to do any justice to the book itself, and all you readers of this review also would not understand or appreciate the same unless you read the book itself….

…To take a character like Anantya Tantrist and go ahead and put her in a chaotic dystopian future where tantriks, magic, rituals and humans co-exist in a somewhat fragile relationship was a masterstroke by the author. The richness of the author’s imagination clearly shines through in her description of the goings-on without having to resort to time-tried and tested tropes such as providing vivid descriptions of the environment, the cities, the people etc….

There’s more. Read the complete review on the kind fellow’s blog here.

REVIEW 2: From a friend who’s honest

Kalika read the book in a day, came over for tea and even gifted me a beautiful, beautiful bag. Just like that. And here’s what she said at GoodreadsContinue reading “Reviews that made me blush”

Four reasons your book got rejected

Early morning, you open your email box and out pops yet another rejection from a publisher you had your heart on. You fume, you wither, you get depressed and angry and want to hit someone. Everyone is against your voice. And you feel one of these things:

–       Your writing isn’t good enough.
–       You are not good enough.
–       You have no influence with the editor/publisher.
–       Nothing in India happens without money involved.
–       You should’ve gone to a literary festival and made ‘friends’ and maybe that would’ve helped.
–       No one understands your book. They are all idiots over at the publisher’s.
Sorry, none of the above reasons might be the ones that made your book get a no from the publisher. If they’ve sent you a rejection it means that your pitch actually made it to some editor’s table, got consideration and a refusal. It means it was given a fair chance. I have spoken to a lot of editors and publishers in the last five years and these are the most common reasons I found publishers rejected my work. None of it had to do with me or the book I had written.

1 It didn’t match the publisher’s list

A publisher is a commercial business. Every year, they have a boardroom meeting where they try and figure the trends worldwide, genres and book kinds they think will do well in the market. So each editor already has a list of sorts beginning of their commercial year: Tags in mind like #MetroRead #HighFantasy, #ParanormalRomance, #WarStories, #CelebrityExpose. In comes your book. It doesn’t fit into the boxes they’ve figured. The list they’ve prepared. Only if the editor really, really likes the pitch and then the manuscript will they veer from the list. So if you happen to write the ‘fashionable’ genre of the moment, you’re more likely to be noticed. For example, when Twilight series did well, suddenly all publishers started to take in more fantasy romances. It didn’t mean there weren’t romances being written before, it just meant they started to get a yes from the listmakers.

2 You sent it to the wrong editor

Finding the right editor to pitch your work to is essential in getting it published. There are two things to look out for. First of all, what section is the editor handling? Big publishing houses in India have segregated editors in their editorial team. There’s a Young Adult editor, a Children’s editor, an Adult Fiction editor and a non-Fiction one. So your first step is to find the right genre editor within each publishing house you are targeting. Secondly, editors are hardworking people who are deeply passionate about the books they pick up for their list. Each editor across the industry, loves a particular genre. Do your research for each publishing house, find the right editor and try and connect with them and pitch to them directly. Some of them are open to it. I’ve done is successfully two times in the past.

3 The sales team thought it wasn’t sellable

The decision to publish a book is not of an editor’s alone or even of the editorial team overall. They do sort of a round table conference with their sales and marketing team. The book rights are bought only if the sales team feels confident that it can sell it in the market. Yes, if you’ve got the right editor to vouch for your book and he/she is willing to fight it out in that discussion, your book has a better chance. Which is why the point above is so important. Getting a voice in the publishing house which vouches for you. It helped me get my Anantya Tantrist three-book deal.

4 Your pitch wasn’t focused

We might be great at long form but when it comes to creating the right pitch, many of us fail miserably. In this scenario, the concept of an elevator pitch is quite helpful. If you meet a stranger in an elevator (the speedy ones), what will you say your book is about? You have five seconds. Do this exercise again and again till you cut all the vague meat off your book and know EXACTLY what to say about your book. Then write the email you’re going to send to a publisher. Any good publishing house gets a whopping number of book pitches a day. They call it the slush pile, because a lot of them are badly written emails, unclear and confused. Editors don’t have time to wade through each of them. They go by instinct and a well-written, focused email will always turn them on. It helps to know what each editor is looking for. So instead of a generic email to all, try and send a personalized one to up your chances.

There’s a lot of luck involved in the process and I wish you all the best. If you know of any other reasons of rejections, put them down in the comment box below.

(Also posted over at storywala.blogspot.in as a guest post)

Continue reading “Four reasons your book got rejected”