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Older and wiser…again

24 January 2018
Posted in: Books, Gaming, Reviews, Scratchpad, TV, Web design, Writing | No Comments

It’s stock-taking-of-the-year time and the only thing I can think of is, 2017 was the year I discovered Berena!

Well, in the larger scheme of things, the year that just went by was a horrible one. Right-wing bigots continued to be in power, the digital enslavement of Indian citizens went on, the economy remained effed, human beings found new ways to hurt, kill and maim each other…if I go on in this vein, I’m going to have to crawl back into bed and cry myself to sleep. Thus, I’m choosing selfishness, and will look inwards into the tiny confines of my own life for the moment.

From a personal perspective, fortunately, the past year has been pretty decent. There was reading and writing, travel to old and new destinations, the discovery of new TV content, and there was chocolate. Of course, there were troubled times, but one lived to tell the tale, so let’s chalk all that down to life experience.

How did I do on my to-do list from last year? Let’s see:

  1. Writing:Yes Though I didn’t exactly stick to my resolution of finishing a fantasy novel, this was a good year for writing. Also, Hit for a Six came out almost on the dot of the year end, while the US edition of Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean was published in March. A short story of mine was also accepted in Harper’s Flipped anthology. Finally, I submitted two other shorties for anthologies—one a spec fic collection on India in another 70 years, the other a volume on the theme of exams—both of which have been accepted.
  2. Fitness: Yes Late in 2016, I discovered FitnessBlender.com, and rebuilding my fitness regime ensued with great success.
  3. Gaming: Yes Could have gone better, but it wasn’t too bad. A brand new game, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition is lying in wait for me to inaugurate (early birthday present from Marie). Oh also, a couple of weeks ago, after almost two decades of gaming, I finally managed multiplayer. The grand plans didn’t quite go as anticipated, but still, I’m not hard to please. Sometimes.
  4. Travel: Yes In June 2017, we were invited to the wedding of some friends in Germany. With them, we visited Rathendorf, a village in Saxony; Leipzig; and Mecklenberg, the German “lake district”. On the way back to India, we popped into Prague too.
  5. Website redesign: No Oh, shut up. x-(
  6. Blogging: No Well begun but not even half done. Sigh.
  7. Self-publishing: No To be fair, this was a good year on the writing front and not the right time for self-publishing.

So now on to the list of things I intend to tick off before I turn 43:

  1. Write aforementioned fantasy novel: I wrote a short story in late 2017 that I’m keen to flesh out into a novel. Since the story is already there, I’m hoping this will actually work out pretty quickly. Just the little matter of a publisher saying yes…
  2. Keep up with the fitness regime: Not expecting a problem on that front.
  3. Take up drawing again: Well, yes.
  4. Redo the website: Don’t laugh. I’m really sick of the design.

Check back here in 365 days to see how I did.

~PD

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No.11 of #52Stories: Hit for a Six — The middle-of-the-book test

2 January 2018
Posted in: 52 stories, Books, Writing | No Comments

52 Stories 2017(Criminally late update? Let’s brush that under the carpet, shall we?)

Back in 2010, the Guardian suggested the page-99 test to find out if you want to read a book. In short, you read page 99 of the book in question to decide if it’s worth your time.

Since my new book, Hit for a Six, is a slim 148 pages long, I fear a page-99 test might be too much of a spoiler. Thus, here’s a middle-of-the-book test:

Chapter 8

“I’m not very interesting, I don’t know why you want do a biography of me,” said Laila.

“We are supposed to pick someone ordinary,” replied Samir. His eyes widened in shock immediately as he realized what he’d said. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that you were boring or anything!”

“It’s fine.” But she was slightly stung anyway.

She had agreed to meet him in Chandnisarai’s new coffee shop called Conversations. It was not a very apt name because the music was so loud, you could barely hear yourself think. Also, everything was very expensive. Laila had ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, which turned out to be black coffee and was revolting, even after emptying four sachets of sugar in it.

Sorry it’s such a short excerpt (chapter opening page), but what did you think? Would you buy this book? (Hint: You can get it here.)
~PD

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No.10 of #52Stories: Frances Hardinge

31 August 2017
Posted in: Books, Scratchpad | No Comments

52 Stories 2017Most of my August was spent in the brilliant mind of the British children’s and YA author, Frances Hardinge. I’ve been ploughing through her books and marvelling at the sheer brilliance of her imagination. I believe, like the protagonist of the latest book of hers I read, A Face Like Glass, Hardinge too is a little insane, and that insanity definitely makes her a genius unparalleled in the world of children’s writing. High praise? Yes. And she deserves it. I can’t imagine why the world isn’t talking about her more.

It all started when I need some inspiration to write a horror story for a Scholastic anthology. Horror can be such a versatile and imaginative genre, yet it is riddled with tired, old clichés. While I thoroughly regretted saying yes to attempting a horror story, the other part of me saw it as a challenge to write something “different”. (This might be the right place for a shoutout to Marie and Kate for helping me brainstorm and pin down an idea.) One such inspiration-generating exercises constituted picking up Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song. This is what the blurb said:

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Now tell me that isn’t completely creepy. What I realized from reading Cuckoo Song is that Hardinge is a complete whizz at four things: a) creating atmosphere; b) world building; c) fantastic female protagonists; and d) taking a dig at society. All of this was further underlined by the next two books of hers that I picked up, Fly by Night and A Face Like Glass.

Fly by Night was her first novel, a by-the-seat-of-your-pants fantasy adventure middle-grade novel featuring the irrepressible Mosca Mye, her homicidal gander, Saracen, and a decidedly shady travelling companion called Eponymous Clent. Mosca, all of 12, is a magnet for trouble and tumbles headfirst into political intrigue comprising secret guilds, floating coffeehousees, demented dukes and generally conniving townspeople. Though loosely set on 18th-century England, it is by no means historical fiction.

Next, I picked up A Face Like Glass, which has been my favourite so far. It features another fascinating 12-year-old as the main character, Neverfell, who falls into a vat of cheese as a little girl and is brought up by the reclusive cheesemaker, Grandible. The setting is the underground city of Caverna, where “the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare. They create wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer even as they slit your throat.” Only, the people of Caverna have no expressions; they must, instead, learn Faces to be used depending on the occasion. Neverfell is an exception, for she has a face like glass, completely transparent to whatever she is thinking, and she must wear a mask to keep this horror from her fellow-Cavernans. However, while chasing a rabbit down a hole (yes, really!) Neverfell sets in motion a chain of events that leads to a revolution.

Hardinge has written many more books. Needless to say, they are on my reading list.

~PD

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